My garden this week – 13/1/2013

Melianthus major
Melianthus major

I find this time of year challenging in the sense that I don’t see my garden Monday to Friday due to it being dark when I leave for and return from work.  I have no idea if the witch hazel is flowering, whether the snowdrops are emerging but also blessedly I have no idea what damage the tulip crazed badger has done.  This means that weekends, regardless of the weather, are very important to me.

I find myself scrutinising all the borders looking for changes, bulbs emerging, buds plumping up.  There is often a little squeak of joy as a special plant is spotted to be showing signs of life but at the moment the groans of disappear seem to outweigh them as I find more holes with the remains of tulip bulbs.  I am really going to have to rethink tulips next year, maybe plant them in plastic pots so I can plant them out in the border when they are substantial and less at risk from tulip junky badgers.

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This morning the sun was shining and despite it being very chilly (3C/37F) I found myself quite distracted examining the bluebells and snowdrops pushing through the mulch I applied over the Christmas break. The snowdrops seem to be further behind than normal with hardly any sign of flowers, last year they were definitely in flower on the 15th January.  The bluebells seem to be ahead with lots of lush strong foliage.

Helleborus Argustifolius ‘Janet Starnes’
Helleborus Argustifolius ‘Janet Starnes’

The various hellebores are budding up well and are really becoming quite substantial clumps.  I have one, Helleborus argustifolius ‘Janet Starnes’ whose silvery foliage has more impact than its flower which is quite  nondescript. However, there seems to be more flowers on it this year so it has improved a little on previous years.  Don’t get me wrong the foliage is lovely, as you can see, but to me hellebores are really all about the flowers.

Hamamelis mollis 'Arnold Promise'
Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’

The witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’) is  just beginning to open its flowers.  I do hope  that  the flowers stay a while so I get a chance to enjoy it in its finery next weekend.  There are also Primulas in flower which does seem a little early and I can only assume the mild weather we had over Christmas and the start of the new year has contributed to this.  But my favourites are the Eranthis and Cyclamen coum which are really brightening up the spring/patio border at the moment.  I am thrilled that the Eranthis has four flowers on it this year.  Not a huge achievement you might think but it means it is beginning to spread finally.

I have been through a difficult patch in recent month, challenging mentally and emotionally and the garden and writing this blog about it has been a helpful distraction.  I am trying to be a better gardener as I have said before, to really focus on what I am doing and not be distracted by other peripheral things.  This focusing is beginning to really help.  My head is clearer and I am really seeing the garden and the plants in a more thoughtful way, instead of my previous rushing with a 101 other things crashing around in my head.  One of the things I am trying to do is to be more methodical in keeping a garden diary.  I originally started this blog as a garden diary but it soon digressed so now I have a journal which I write in during the evening after gardening.  It helps me sort the ideas that have occurred to me, to organise the ridiculous plant moving that always seems to plausible when first thought of, to make a note of things/plants I would like to try.  More importantly when I read back to earlier in the season I realise how much I have achieved or am reminded of some great idea that has slipped from my vague mind.  I know it seems old-fashioned but I find it more comforting than sitting typing on a laptop or scrolling back through blog posts.

The other thing I am attempting to do, and I suspect if past experience is anything to go on I will fail at, is to keep better record of what I sow and how.  I want to learn more about plants and how they grow and what environments they need etc, so I decided that I had to teach myself and to do that I need to keep records.  Also if I ever pluck up the courage to exhibit something in the distant future at an Alpine Garden Society show I need to be able to say when it was sown and where the seed came from.

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Talking of seed sowing, this weekend it was the turn of the tender annuals to be sown.  I had some really really good news this week which has gone a long way to helping me overcome my demons and so I decided to treat myself to a new propagator.  This one is narrow so will fit on a windowsill.   Today I sowed a variety of tenders including hibiscus and ricinus.  My son was a little perplexed at the increasing amount of compost that I am sterilizing in the oven, it is certainly an interesting smell.  We tested the propagator for 24 hours with a greenhouse thermometer to see how hot it actually got and it has reached 25/28C which is just right. I only sowed half of each packet, keeping the second half for a later sowing if needed.

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Outside I have decided to get another compost bin so I have a bank of three wooden ones and I am determined to rotate the compost properly and in a timely fashion!.  This will mean that I can get rid of the horrid ugly green plastic one which is currently near the back of the house.  This will then mean that I can move the two cold frames to behind the garage and free up the patio for somewhere to actually sit and have nice pots of flowers on – who’d a thought!!

So it might be cold, the ground might be frozen but I end the weekend feeling refreshed and connected with the garden; with things to research for next weekend and items to order – after all retail therapy, especially online, is always good for you!

 

 

 

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    Your New Years’s resolutions are going well! I, too, am going to try hard to make notes about my seed sowing this year. Christina

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christina – well it is only the 14th January and there isnt that much else i can do in the garden. I suspect some about March it will all go pear shaped!

  2. alison rayner says:

    Helen, I have to say I’ve felt more and more inspired by your posts. You are so honest about your aspirations and plans for your garden, pretty well all of which you attain by dint of hard work and commitment. I have just completed a ‘garden journal’ covering Jan-Dec 2012 and now started on one for 2013, which is why I so enjoy hearing about your garden through the year.
    By the way, your photo of buds on your Hellebores made me go out and look at mine – and hey presto, there they were, nestling under the old leaves. Alison

  3. Diana Studer says:

    We have 2 nasty green plastic compost bins. One is crumbling to death. Somehow in the Camps Bay garden I kept up with the compost-making. Now, blogging has distracted me from some gardening chores. We’ll need a smaller more eye candy solution for the next garden. I remember a very pretty compost bin on a blog post (but the gardener confessed she didn’t actually USE it)

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Diana – I have seen some beautiful compost bins like bee hives but they are terribly expensive and actually dont contain that much. It is a challenge isnt it

  4. Helen, I lost my melianthus a couple of years ago, It was beautiful, it had flowered and I loved the shape of it. I am really struggling sorting my blog, I have taken some photos of my hellibores today and out on a walk this morning I found an incredible red fugus, can I get it onto my blog.. No.
    I am planning sewing some seeds very soon, you inspire me every time you post.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Nel – I haver three melianthus grown from seed 2 or 3 years ago. This is their first year outside in the winter. I have covered the roots with thick mulch and straw so fingers crossed. If not I will just have to sow some more

    2. You really have given me the push I need…. more seed sowing.. Thank you Helen

  5. Mark and Gaz says:

    Hi Helen, glad to hear you’re feeling more positive and enlightened at the end of the weekend. Keeping a personal diary and a log of your seed sowing and propagation are good ideas, amazing how making notes come in really handy in the future.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi guys
      Yes I always the start the year with good notes that prove beneficial at some point in the future but then it sort of fades come about March – am determined this year!

  6. Christie says:

    My son and his partner gave me a beautiful journal book for Christmas so I decided to use it for one of my favourite things – gardening. I hoped it would keep me on track and encourage me when I lost momentum. I made a good start but nature intervened in the form of 35 plus degree days. It’s been a bit disheartening getting nothing done but maybe I can do a bit of night gardening to escape the sun. Thanks for your very interesting posts Helen.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christie – I have many beautiful journals all half full. I do well until something stops the habit of filling it in regularly and then it just stops!!

  7. I know exactly what you mean about the comfort of writing in a paper journal, I have one myself, and find it invaluable, the scribblings of past weeks/months sometimes transport me back to the mood I was in when I was plotting and planning or simply recording. I find the blog really useful for keeping a good pictorial record of the garden as it progresses through the seasons, but would never stop writing in endless notebooks as well. So glad the garden and gardening are anchoring you and that the focus on plants and growing is really working. Fab new propagator too, what a great present. As to keeping notes on sowing, I havne’t started that so well. Another thing the blog didn’t really work for, but I have a dozen seed trays on the go and only know what is in two of them and that’s beacuase they have all germinated and need pricking out! Happy gardening and note taking for 2013.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi janet – you have stuff that needs pricking out already, goodness.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Love your thoughts, Helen… Your reflections suggest that you are indeed a very “Patient Gardener. Something I aspire to be as well. I agree that putting pencil to paper can be much more enjoyable. I just don’t do it enough. You’ve inspired me. I do have a scarcely used garden journal…now, where did I put it?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Carolyn
      I find writing in a book increasingly theraputic – must be getting old

  9. elaine says:

    I always start off with good intentions but they gradually fade as I become more busy in the garden – then it all becomes a bit hit and miss. Maybe this year …

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Elaine – me too but this year, this year will be different. She says with fingers crossed

  10. hillwards says:

    I managed a few hours in the garden this weekend too, it is so pleasurable to reacquaint myself with it closely each weekend after a week of darkness, as you say. I must confess I am rather taken by the flowers of the corsican hellebore; not so showy as the hybrids, and hard to spot them at all from a distance, but a pleasure to stumble upon. Your silver foliage is particularly splendid. Love your witchhazel too – ours is so small, we have just a handful of red flowers a foot above the ground still, but one day…
    I am determined to keep better records this year too!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sara
      My Hamamelis is only about 4ft tall, bought it two years ago but have been amazingly lucky at how quickly it hs established. I read somewhere that they can take a while to flower after being planted.

  11. sophiecussen says:

    Great post & photos. Its nice to see things in the garden start to grow and flower, slow but surely. I also didn’t know you can grow hibiscus from seed so I’ve learnt something new 🙂

  12. Helen, you’re an inspiration. I’m just blogging about much the same things, but there is definitely much less evidence of growth in my garden than in yours. Also, we have bulb-addicted squirrels, so I do sympathise re the badger, our bulbs are dug up in a strict order of preference: purple crocus, yellow crocus, iris, daffodils, white crocus. It’s bizarre!

  13. Gardening is sometime filled with mixed emotions especially towards the tail end of the cold months. Joy over plants that have survived and continue to thrive. Sadness for those that didn’t make it. Looking forward to spring.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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