January and a New Start!

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!

37 thoughts on “January and a New Start!

    1. It has been good to be able to get gardening again during this past week. We have stopped our walks as the Waterford Greenway, right beside us, is thronged each day and we think it a risk to walk there. Waterford/Tramore has a frightfully high number of Covid19 cases at the moment so we are inclined to be cautious. In these circumstances the garden becomes more and more important to us.

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  1. Always very pretty pictures, Paddy, there are so many choices in your garden of foliage and plants that can be enjoyed in winter and are very eye-catching.
    Thank you for making me think of potatoes, I will have to start chitting them

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  2. Getting back out in the garden is the best cure for Covid blues. I really love your new path and I also use my willow shreddings as an informal path surface and sometimes just spread them where I need to walk on the borders for maintenance!

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  3. The new path looks great, and the snowdrops fringing it will make a lovely reason to walk along it. What a good idea it was. I enjoyed seeing all the different snowdrops, but how do you remember which is which? You must have a reliable labelling system.
    I love the use of pots in your garden, to provide a focal point or lead the eye along a border.

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  4. I’m very fond of a nice pot, and you have a lovely collection. It’s really nice that as a gardening couple you both enjoy the snowdrops, and you must have a great eye for detail to be able to tell them all apart.

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  5. Lo vely to see snowdrops coming up again. Mine haven’t quite made it yet it there are Hellebores and Primrose s out at present. Primrose s have always been my favouri tes. We used to live in Donagadee and used to go to the woods to pick them every Spring. I wasn’t very old at the time. Weather hasn’t been great here recently. Rain wind frost etc. Jeffreys birthday today.We will celebrate at home as we are all under lockdown at present. Hope you are all well and keeping safe.
    Hilary

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    1. Best wishes to Jeffrey on his birthday. We are like you staying very much in lockdown and only going out to the garden, no further. The numbers are very high here so it is best be careful.

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  6. You seem in better spirits now that the weather has turned. Glad to hear it, this seems to be the time of year filled with ups and downs and this winter seems more extreme than usual. Fortunately the weather has been calm, even if not perfect.
    There were so many things covered in your post and I really enjoyed the read. Its interesting to see how even as we’re stuck on the day to day and season to season tasks there are more projects finished than we realize. I love the new path! Of course when you said it would be home to many new snowdrops, I do admit to being slightly biased from that point forward.
    Loved the variegated plants. I can rarely resist anything with a little variegation, fortunately many of the best are not hardy here… although I do like to dream of some of the best variegated English hollies.
    I won’t mention what I thought of the snowdrops. This comment has already gone on for too long and I could easily add something for nearly each one!
    All the best

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    1. I had a call from a snowdrop supplier today to arrange postage of some snowdrops to us and he very kindly will include some that he thinks I might like – just like that! Wasn’t that kind of him! The path will be lines with them very easily.

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  7. The snowdrop slideshow was a real treat! I think Mary’s path brainwave was a great one – it looks fabulous.

    As you know I shared a pic of my anisodontea last year and you reassured me of its robustness in the frost. Mine hasn’t suffered at all so far but as you say it is unsteady on its pins and had rocked back in the wind. I need to get it a proper stake!

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    1. I think regular propagation and planting out in various places in the garden is the secret of success. A cut-back to the base will give a new flush of new growth.

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  8. The new path sets off the snowdrops really well. I haven’t ever been very successful with snowdrops. They don’t seem to survive in our soil and my greenhouse isn’t big enough to propagate and have plants in it but I do love to look at those that you have – and all with remembered names!

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  9. The new path looks like a major improvement. So lovely that you have a gardening collaborator with brilliant recommendations for improvement. Your snowdrop collection is truly staggering. You are absolutely right that we notice different plants in the winter garden.

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    1. “Collaborator” is an inaccurate word for the Head Gardener. She leads the way and I provide support. Granted, I have autonomy in some areas but, generally speaking, I play second fiddle!

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  10. Great post Paddy. The first snowdrop picture in the post is just magical. Happy gardening to you & Mary. I very much look forward to visiting your garden again in the future ?? Much appreciate ALL your posts & photographs. Thank you.

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    1. Yes, I’m delighted with the new path and I have moved a few snowdrops there already but I think this is destined to be Mary’s snowdrop patch and I may be told to go elsewhere. She is awaiting delivery of five news snowdrops at the moment and I expect they will be planted there.

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  11. Hello again Paddy,
    What a wonderful time to have discovered your lovely blog, and the fabulous snowdrop photo gallery in this post. I’m very impressed too with the blog layout and am guessing you’re using the WP block editor, which I’ve never managed to get on with. Perhaps I should have another go sometime.
    One snowdrop which struck me from your images was ‘Anne’s Millenium Giant’, which seems to be in the Atkinsii vein of vigour? I wonder what your annual rainfall is?
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    1. I’m not sure of the background breeding of ‘Anne’s Millennium Giant’ but I don’t think it lacks the length of outer segment we see in Atkinsii. It is also shorter in stature with a smaller but fuller flower. Individually, the flowers are not special but it grows well and makes a good spread.

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