Waterford, south-east Ireland, 16th January 2021
These last few days have been beautifully dry and mild and we have been able to get out into the garden. Each day’s walk-around tell me that the plants are into growth for each days shows changes from the day before. At this time of the year, I am especially watching the snowdrops as they emerge and come into flower. At the start of the week there was a handful of snowdrops in flower and by the end of the week there were 40 – 50 different cultivars in flowers here. The snowdrop season is well under way, a time of the year I like very much.
Although the snowdrops are drawing me into the coming gardening year, the new year, there are aspects of the old gardening year still with us. I suppose I am drawn to the new flowers but the winter hangs on and reminds us regularly that it has not yet passed. We have had frost on most nights and some days when the temperature didn’t rise above freezing. Perhaps, it is such conditions which have me enjoy the emerging snowdrops all the more. It is the contrast with those conditions which we don’t like and the daring of the snowdrops to defy these conditions to open and flower long ahead of other spring species which leads us to appreciate them so much.
Despite the fact that we have been married now over forty years, the Head Gardener can still surprise with the good gardening ideas which come into her head so regularly. We have an hydrangea border in the garden which backs onto another border running alongside the drive into the house. Up to twenty or so years ago, the boundary of our garden was at the back of the border beside the drive with the hydrangea border being put in later. Between them they made a very deep area, 6 – 7 metres at the narrowest and up to 10 at the widest (estimated depths!). During the summer, Mary suggested putting in a path at the back of the hydrangea bed. At first mention, it didn’t seem possible but when I walked it I found it only demanded that one hydrangea be moved and the spread of Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ be curtailed. The work was begun in September but only completed around Christmas with the moving of that hydrangea – H. ‘Preziosa’. The edges of the path are very simple, field stones laid as an edging and bark used as a surface. Of late, we haven’t been able to get bark to cover the last part of the path so I have used shredded prunings from several shrubs. This gives a clean surface for walking and can be topped with bark at some stage. It has been a special delight that Mary has suggested the sides of the path would be ideal for planting snowdrops. It was Mary who first began our interest in snowdrops but she passed their care to me when their numbers ballooned from the generosity of friends. Her interest has been rekindled, it seems, and she has even ordered a few new cultivars in the last week.
We have a hedge of Hypericum around a section of our patio. We cut it down around this time each year but this year we have – on the instruction of the Head Gardener – given it a hard cut back, a scairting, as we used call it in my childhood, one of many Irish words which were part of daily use in English in my childhood – in areas where Irish was no longer spoken, many Irish words continued in common usage. It was a day’s work with cutting, cleaning up, shredding and piling onto the compost heap – which, I am delighted to report, is steaming away even in mid-winter. The hedge looks bare at the moment but hypericum responds to being cut back and will regrow strongly over the summer.
One shrub which defies the seasons is Anisodontea capensis ‘El Rayo’. It is generally described as being a little tender but has shown no sign of distress following recent nights of frost and continues to flower right through the winter. In late spring we will cut it back well, to 50-60cm. At present it is almost 2metres high and there is a danger of it being blown over in high winds as it doesn’t have the strongest of root systems. It is the easiest to propagate from cuttings so there is never any difficulty in producing new plants for the garden.
There are some plants which don’t catch our eye or out attention in summer where there is so much colour in the garden but, when much is bare in winter, they provide form, colour and interest. Those with evergreen variegated foliage have their time in the winter – Euonymous, Pittosporum, Griselinia, Eleagnus and Ilex among them.
Pots continue to give form and mass to the winter garden. Usually, they are simply receptacles for plants and the plants are the stars, not the pots. However, in the winter, it is the shape and form of the pots themselves which catches our eye.
Finally, a slideshow of snowdrops which were open midweek – the mild weather has meant that more and more have opened in the meantime.
Finally, the potatoes are set out on the garage windowsill to begin chitting – British Queens, a favourite potatoes here. They will be set in mid March at the latest and ready to eat in early July. So, for now, I can dream of new potatoes and fried mackerel. There’s the taste of summer for you!
I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!