Winter Gardening

My old body is tired and aching. Today was our first 9 to 5 day in the garden for ages. Winter gardening is by and large a case of snatching an hour here and there, a half day if the weather allows but a full day in the garden during the winter is very rare. The last few days have been dry and milder than we have experienced for some time so we took advantage and headed to the garden with purpose.

Snowdrops are the plants of interest in the garden at the moment. Here are some snowdrop views:

Allow me to digress for a moment to say there are no photographs of any of the work done in the garden. Work and photography don’t go hand in hand so you can imagine the work described and I’ll fill in the need for illustrations with some plants in flower at the moment, lots of snowdrops at the moment but a sprinkle of other things as well.

It’s not all white in the garden; there are some other colours! Here is a little patch of Cyclamen coum with a Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis ‘Schwefelglanz’ which is a beautiful pale yellow and, even better, has self-seeded generously. Reports from other gardeners lead me to believe it will come true from seed so there should be lots of Winter Aconites with these coloured flowers in the future.

Some other spots of colour in the garden at the moment:

We had replaced a rose/clematis arch in the garden recently as the previous one had succumbed to rust after only twenty or so years. Imagine that! Anyway, this was the Head Gardener’s chosen work for the day, a tidying up of the rose bed, tying in the roses to the arch and further work on the beds in the front garden where there was still some cutting down of old herbaceous plants, an attack on the weeds which had taken advantage of the winter to infiltrate and a general freshening up of the area.

Windy conditions had brought down or driven leaves onto the drive and I gave those a quick blow to clear up around the house and a similarly quick run along footpaths through the beds to clear them of leave as well before getting to the main job of the day which was to tidy up after putting up two new poles for a washing line and, of course, attach the line! The grass in the garden has become quite unruly and untidy as there has been growth through the winter. Poor weather in last autumn stopped grass cutting earlier than usual this year and, as this was followed by regular heavy rain, it was impossible to run the lawnmower as the ground was so soft. With hopes of putting some little sense of tidiness on the grass I ran along the verges with a push mower and then trimmed the edges with a strimmer, a bit along the lines of giving your face a quick wash to freshen up, I suppose. It has helped the general appearance of the garden a little. I finished my day in the garden with a bout of shredding as we had cut down a hedge of hypericum last week so a good bit done today and I’m not surprised that I feel tired at the end of the day.

Winter sunsets are a good time to see which trees need attention, which need pruning etc.

Winter is often described as an inactive time for the gardener but gardening work doesn’t stop for the winter and several important tasks are traditionally carried out over the winter period. The usual autumn clean-up, the cutting down of herbaceous material, dragged on this year as it was interrupted by bad weather and the last of that clearance was only done today. The roses were pruned and one rose was moved; it was only planted in this past year and a better spot had been chosen for it – Rosa ‘Tottering By Gently’, which has a beautiful single yellow flower. Winter is also the best time for pruning trees. This is not heavy cutting but the removal of lower branches and damaged or badly-shaped branches so as to allow light in below trees. It’s a job I enjoy though it leads to a lot of chipping and shredding afterwards.

Spring is with us – the first of February has always been regarded as the first day of spring in Ireland – so we will be gardening more regularly from now on which will be a treat after such a miserable autumn and winter. Happy gardening!

Finally, a little round-up of snowdrops, photographs taken today:

Galanthus ‘Phil Cornish’ which I though I had lost – had been killed by disease or pest – but which has come back strongly this year with seven flowers in the group.
It’s out of the question to post photographs of all snowdrops in flower at the moment but I wouldn’t wish to omit this one as it is a special favourite. This is Galanthus ‘Don Armstrong’ which arose in Don Armstrong’s garden in British Columbia and found its was to my garden some years ago. It is a “poculiform” snowdrop – rather than having three small inner segments and three larger outers, it has six outer segments which give an attractive shape to the flower.

17 thoughts on “Winter Gardening

  1. What a great idea! Illustrating your blog with pretty pictures instead of the “before and after” pictures I sometimes resort to! I worked myself to a standstill yesterday with clearing up the borders and catching up on a massive pile of shredding! For the first time I had to give in before all the shredding was finished!

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  2. As usual, loads of beautiful photos and amazing snowdrops. I usually hate windy days but I was glad it was windy yesterday and was inspecting the grass every hour. At 3pm I decided it was dry enough to cut and rushed out to mow. It seems madly early but it was just about dry enough and the mower was set to maximum height. Like you, we couldn’t do a usual last cut in autumn because of the weather. I feel a lot better for having at least topped and evened out the growth. I still have some tidying to do but the ground is drying out so I can really crack on if the weather and my aches allow

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    1. I’m going to leave the rest of the grass for another while as the ground is still too soft in places. A week’s drying would do the trick.


  3. What joy1 At least I can look at your snowdrops, having so few myself. And they are gorgeous. (‘Wasp’ is weird and rather wonderful isn’t it – only became aware of it this year via another gardener…) My (Irish) husband has misinformed me! He always tells me that 2nd of Feb (his birthday/St Brigid’s) is the first of spring in Ireland. Well … and I always believed everything he said! You work so hard – I do wish I could manage long days in the garden still, but I get so very tired – perhaps I need to work up to it a bit? Have a lovely week – sorry I’m so late to read this!

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    1. Certainly spring starts at the first of February. It’s just what we have always thought; has always been part of our lives. ‘Wasp’ is a very nice snowdrop with a wonderful habit.

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      1. Well – you know what the problem is (just looked it up)? Nick thinks that St Brigid’s is 2nd Feb – which of course you know it’s not! I shall leave him to his happiness and his snowdrops!

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