How are you feeling after the holiday season? I hope that you had an enjoyable beano and are not so jaded from over consumption that you couldn’t give a stuff about the garden. The pickings are a little thin in mid winter, I find. In the search for all year round interest, this makes the job more challenging. I want to see robust plants that are visible from the window. Cyclamen leaves are very pretty but if I go outside I risk freezing or drowning and if I bend to inspect them at close quarters, I fear that my head might fall off. I’m in recovery, as you can tell.
Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican hellebore)
The Hellebores (Lenten roses) are budding up already, getting started on a pre-Easter performance. In sheltered positions some are flowering now, well before the worst of the rain and cold. I hope that they know what they are doing. Euphorbias are enlivening the borders with sharp, fresh acid green. Those grasses that I didn’t trim back are waving in the stiff breeze, giving much needed texture and movement. This is the season to welcome such subtle delights as the shine on a holly leaf or dew on the grass.
Laurus nobilis (bay) & Sciadopitys verticillata “Compacta” (Japanese umbrella pine)
Some folk grow red and yellow stemmed Cornus (dogwood) for the splash of winter colour. I find the leafed up shrubs underwhelming in effect and greedy for space; since this is at a premium, they don’t make the cut for me. Cornus kousa (Szechuan strawberry), on the other hand, doesn’t much like my sandy soil and has been a bitch to establish. The leaves are spreedy and the constant trek with watering cans makes me irritable. When it blooms in summer, it is surrounded by other bounty and has to compete in a time of plenty. If I lavish it with fertiliser, mulch, excessive compliments and the occasional massage, the fluttering petals are so utterly lovely that the effort is worthwhile.
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii (Mediterranean spurge)
This is all about truffling for that silver lining. If your garden is a sere brown wasteland or a juicy greasy swamp, it will not remain so for long. Sooth your hungry heart with the sight of each smallest bud and the sway of the bare branches. In no time we will be hacking about in endless sunshine with shears and secateurs, thinking that we need even more brightly lit hours. The shortest day is behind us and summer is so close that it can be tasted. My grateful thanks go to everyone who has rooted through my incessant burble. I appreciate your courage, patience and recklessness. I am indebted to Attila, who has all of these qualities in spades. Wishing you a wonderful New Year full of fun, love and happiness as well as outrageous success with germination.