We each have two gardens, that garden that our eye sees and that garden of our mind and of our imagination. There are days through the year, generally in summer, when these two versions of our gardens align and we look at our work with a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness. However, this aligning of the planets rarely happens in winter. At this time of year we have to be happy with our dreams and recollections of better days but, with that gardener’s unfailing optimism, we walk the garden and search for those little treasures which keep our dreams alive and give us reassurance that the brighter and warmer days will return again with fullness, colour and fragrance to delight us.
In these leaner days it is good to be happy with little and to search out the beauty in our gardens – and it is there for us to find – a combination of survivors from better times, some things in season and others which hail the turn in the year, the ever-moving cycle of regrowth, and defiantly display that the show is still on the road and that mid-winter is a time for hope, a time to look ahead and a time to shake the dust off that dream garden and get out there and make it a reality – once again!
Here is my mid-winter miscellany for your enjoyment:
The old flowers on hydrangeas can take on especially pleasant colours at this time of the year and I have found that those with red flowers seems to transform best into a deeper winter hue. The first line of this gallery shows two shots from ‘Red Baron’ with ‘Lady in Red’ in the centre. Bother are still very attractive at this moment.
There are some other “hangers-on” with a sprinkle of flowers at the moment and these come as a surprise and a delight for they are reminders of warmer and brighter days.
Two bergenias are giving contrasting displays, one as it goes into winter decline but does so with a beautiful deep burgundy colouring, Bergenia ‘Irish Crimson’, and the other, the commonplace Bergenia cordifolia, as it precociously begins to flower in the depths of winter, impatient for spring – a little like ourselves, I suppose.
We may need to put our thinking caps on if we were asked to list those plants which are at their best in mid-winter but there are some:
The berries of Butcher’s Broom, Ruscus aculeatus, seem especially bright and attractive at the moment. It is an uncomfortable plant as it is so completely spiky and very difficult to handle. If you take a closer look – the centre photograph below would be best – you can see the tiny flower emerging from the centres of “leaves”. These are not true leaves but modified stems, a quite peculiar way of producing flowers.
In mid-winter our thoughts turn to the birds in our gardens and we put out food for them and observe them a little more closely than at other times of the year. Pheasants have been part of the garden here for many years now. This began when we used keep hens and the pheasants came to enjoy their food. The hens are long gone but I have continued to supply the food for the pheasants – rolled barley is the staple diet but peanuts are what they really want. One of the hens has become very tame and runs to us whenever we arrive home in the car and will eat from my hand. They are wonderful company in the garden.
Goldfinches have arrived in extra high numbers this year and have also taken to eating peanuts far more than previously. Linnets fly along the trees on the garden boundary but rarely come to the feeders. One flew into a window during the week and was stunned for a while but recovered and went on its way shortly afterwards.
I can hardly neglect to mention snowdrops as they are a special interest of mine and are coming into their season just now. They certainly brighten up the winter garden and will continue to provide flowers up to the end of March. These are in flower at the moment: Galanthus ‘Castlegar’ is one of Irish origin and especially treasured. Galanthus ‘Hoggets Narrow’ was sent to me as a kind gift only last year and is a beautifully elegant snowdrop while snowdrops enthusiasts all wish for an announce the flowering of Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ with its Christmassy name.
Finally, to your great relief as I have gone on more than a little, a beautiful potful of Amaryllis which Mary has grown for Christmas. They are Amaryllis ‘Green Valley’ and the three bulbs she planted in this pot have produced seven flower spikes, a wonderful display which is set to be even better in the coming days.
Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year to everybody who has visited my blog over the year. Many thanks to those who have left a comment – they have all been greatly appreciated – and, remember, when you see the primroses coming into flower, spring is well on its way.