As you can see the garden has had a dose of winter this weekend albeit short-lived with the majority of the snow having melted by Saturday lunchtime. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that it was too cold to do anything outside as all I wanted to do yesterday was hide inside. I have been overcome with a tidal wave of grief which has crept up on me unexpectedly during the week, just like when you don’t notice the tide coming further up the beach. It left me feeling emotional and close to tears for 48 hours not an ideal state of mind when you have to go to work. It took a while to identify it for what it was, going through all the usual others things, dismissing PMT, depression, concern about changes at work etc. No it was grief, cold and hard and something you just have to accept and wait for it to pass.
I have been getting on with life over recent months, being busy, since Dad died and although I think about him a lot I have felt I was doing OK. But grief has a habit of creeping up on you and engulfing you when you least expect it. I suppose I am lucky in that I learnt to recognise and accept it for what it is about a year after my sister died thanks to a wonderful counsellor. This time it was a book that bought everything to a head. A beautifully written book, if the first chapter or two is to go by, H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. The book is about the author training a Goshawk but it is also about her coming to terms with the loss of her father. Needless to say it starts with her reacting to the news her Dad had died and I suppose it struck at something deep down because I kept obsessing about one paragraph, where they are looking for the father’s car. I can’t even talk about the story without crying but then again I don’t think that is a bad thing because I believe it is better to let these things happen rather than fight them. We do more damage to ourselves with the British stiff upper lip approach.
So the only gardening I did this weekend was to move things around in the greenhouse. Rejigging the pots of bulbs so that those emerging have the best light and the late summer bulbs, such as nerines, are moved under the staging to rest for a while.
Sunday has been a better day. Having recognised the grief for what it was, had a good cry, I woke up feeling like my old self again and ready to battle on. I have been decorating the hall, landing and stairs, which means endless gloss work which I can doing in stages. So after tackling some of the bannisters Mum and I went out for a jaunt to Ashwood Nurseries which is just over an hour from here. My boss had given me some garden vouchers for Christmas and I had earmarked them for some more hellebores and some spring flowering shrubs. A lot of research has been done in recent evenings and a mental wish list drawn up.
The choice at Ashwoods is extensive and always so well displayed. I realised I have only visited at this time of year, the last time for a hellebore talk, so I must try to visit again through the year but if this is the quality of the display in early January I can only imagine how wonderful it will be in a few months.
I came home with 3 hellebores – Anna’s Red, Neon Star and Walbertons Rosemary which has been bred to look upwards, 3 heptica nobilis, a clivia and two dwarf rhododendrons that are part of my new planting plan for the border you can see in the second photograph.
We had a nice lunch, a laugh, talked about Dad, grief, glosswork (Mum is decorating too) and strangely bought a resin tortoise (a gift for my Aunt!). We are going back in March for my birthday so Mum can treat me to something, probably for the border above.
As for the book …. it is safely back on the shelf waiting for such time as I feel more emotional able to read it.
Amongst the gusty wind and grey skies there were moments of still and sunshine this weekend when the garden shone giving me the perfect opportunity to get some horticultural therapy and take photographs.
I get such a thrill seeing plants emerge at any time of year, watching leaves unfurl and buds open but at this time of year there is something particularly special when you see the first shoots of snowdrops, narcissus, crocus and eranthis pushing through the soil. I suspect this is the reason so many plantsmen (and women) end up becoming glanthophiles; in desperate need of some horticultural enjoyment at what is a bleak time of year they turn to the few plants that are showing signs of life. I have snowdrops, both everyday and a few special starting to flower, but for me it was spotting the eranthis pushing through the soil that really thrilled me.
They have such a strange way of emerging with the frill of leaves pulling the flower bud out of the ground all ready to open, they completely intrigue me. Elsewhere the camellia and hellebore buds are still forming but beginning to show some colour so it shouldn’t be too long before they open.
My mother asked me the other day what on earth I found to do for an hour and half in the garden at this time of year which amused me. I can always find something to do. Although I have an editing list, running around in my head, of plants that I want to move or simply remove, this weekend I was feeling a little weary so I indulged in pottering, one of my favourite gardening activities. I worked my way through the Woodland Border weeding, cutting back perennials and generally tidying. This border saw quite a change last year with the death of the Acer and I am still working out how to fill the gap.
As you can see the border is looking very sparse in interest although I know that the border is actually full but everything is sleeping below the soil, there are lots of shoots beginning to push through the ground. But it does need structure and form and I know from looking at it through the past year it needs sorting out so the plants look better. I have just started reading Keith Wiley’s new book ‘Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden’ which has got me thinking. In it he groups plants, aside from shrubs and trees, into one of six groups and he talks about how you use plants from each group with each other. He also says that whilst we are better at taking into account the right growing conditions for a plant we seem to have forgotten to think about how the plants actually work together. I have also been watching a new Alan Titchmarsh series, ‘Britain’s Best Back Garden‘, where he meets everyday gardeners in a rich variety of gardens. I have found the programme fascinating as many of the gardeners are very passionate about their gardens, often with no formal training, and their gardens are amazing; full, lush, floriferous. Between the book and the programme I have found myself reassessing the back garden and my approach and coming up with plans. Nothing drastic but I want to incorporate some more interesting shrubs and remove those that have only a short season of interest and don’t earn their keep. I also want to improve my overall approach to planting to be braver and trust my instincts more rather than worrying about whether the conditions are right, what people will say, how quickly the plant will grow etc.
Above is the woodland border from the patio and you can see that there is a bit of winter interest at this end but there is also so much potential and scope for me to really improve it. I think I might feature this area in the End of Month View although it is quite hard to find a good angle to photograph it from, but then again yo can say that about most of the garden.
This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is Yellow and being a gardener yellow obviously means flowers so here are some yellow highlights from the garden this year.
At this time of year any flower is a welcome addition to the garden although many of them you really have to seek out. Viburnum rhytidophyllum (above) surprised me this weekend with its flowers which are just opening. This poor plant has suffered from my indecision and is in its third location in the garden, I blame my son’s workshop. This is the first time it has flowered since 2010 and although it was relocated this year I think its new location is much better for it and is similar to the location it was originally bought for. Hopefully the flowers are a sign it is happy and as I have no intention on relocating the shrub it should get a chance to thrive now.
Cyclamen are bringing most of the colour highlights to the garden at the moment. I bought a batch of the above cyclamen which were being sold as winter bedding to brighten up a bare patch created my removing the dead Acer. I don’t know what variety of Cyclamen they are as they weren’t labelled but they have been flowering for well over a month now and there are lots more buds to come. Although they were sold as winter bedding I won’t discard them come the spring as they may flower again next year. I did the same with some other bedding cyclamen below last winter and they are smothered in flowers.
I don’t think they are hedrifolium or coum as they seem to be much larger plants so if anyone has any ideas I would love to know. Of course if we have a very hard winter then I am sure they won’t survive but for a couple of pounds they are value for money.
I always have some primroses flowering at this time of year although the slugs seem to be very good at getting to the flowers before me.
Primrose ‘Jack in the Green’ has been again been flowering for month possibly since October and probably due to the mild Autumn we have had it seems to have an endless supply for flower buds. It is such a pretty plant with the white flower surrounded by a green ruff of small leaves at the top of the stem.
And here we have signs of another primrose about to put on a small but perfect show.
For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol over at May Dreams.
It seems a while since I have done a ‘My Garden this Weekend’ post partly due to bad weather but also due to other demands on my time. However, this weekend I had the luxury of a weekend with no plans and despite the weather being changeable with sudden showers I still managed to steal a few hours both days to potter.
I think my favourite activity in the garden is pottering. I have tasks that really need doing and also things I would like to do and finding a balance is often a challenge. However the rain which made some areas of the garden difficult to work in meant my choices were restricted to working in areas close to the house were the ground was firm under foot and so a combination of tasks and plans were achieved.
Picking up dead leaves and pulling up weeds is so satisfying; from a jumbled mess signs of spring are uncovered and left on show to cheer you through the cold grey days. I was particularly delighted to see that my one remaining Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has at least three flower buds emerging. I planted 3 or 4 some years back and I am thrilled that one has established tucked in between a rhododendron and box pyramid. Last year there were two flowers so to see an extra one emerging is very rewarding.
There are swelling buds on the rhododendrons and one of the camellias. Strangely the second camellia which is planted alongside only has a couple of buds which look quite under developed. This will be its second year in this location and it was moved here as it was very weak looking in its original location. The plant has put on growth so maybe its new location is better but the leaves still look a little chlorotic so I might try giving it a feed in the spring.
Another plant showing yellowing leaves is the Sarcococca. It seems to dislike being planted by the black bamboo in the front garden and its dark green leaves have become more yellow. Although it is covered in berries from last year’s flowers there is a lack of new young leaves and not too many obvious flowers. I wonder if the soil is just to damp for it. So I have dug it up and potted it up in a large pot with the hope that this be a better environment for it and it will recover. If it does then it will have a winter home adjacent to the front door so we can benefit from the scent of the flowers.
There is evidence of all sorts of bulbs pushing their leaves up through the ground and in one case, Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ is even showing signs of flowering soon. I frequently come across bulbs, particularly snowdrop, which seem to have pushed themselves up onto the surface of the soil and I have no idea why. I haven’t dug them up and they haven’t been disturbed by anything else but there they are lying on the edge of the border, ready for me to dutiful replant them – very strange.
A couple of Hippeastrum bulbs arrived this week; purchased on a whim having read an article in The Garden magazine. Strangely the information sheet that came with them advised that the bases and roots should be immersed in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting. I suspect this is to rehydrate the roots but it’s not advice I have come across before. I dutiful followed the advice and we shall see how they do compared to the very cheap one I bought at the local supermarket that came wrapped in some dry compost.
I finished off by tidying the patio borders where again lots of snowdrops are starting to appear. I tied in the winter jasmine which has been flowering for weeks and cut back the clematis which occupies the same bit of wall. I have decided that the clematis and jasmine are not a good combination so the clematis will come out in the spring and will be trained up the house wall which I think will be a preferable location and it should flower better.
What could be better to sit down on a Sunday evening having spent some hours outside on a cool bright winter’s day and to look out at a border all neat and tidy and ready for Spring.