Winter has been mild so far. It has been wet and very windy but it has not been cold, so far. That means that some plants have been slowly growing. I have some daff shoots up and the garden does not look like it has been sprayed with glyphosate. This may not seem that remarkable but I am discovering that this plot is very windswept and open, meaning that plants do not dare make a move before they are certain warmer weather is on its way. And this discovery put paid to my plans to make a winter garden at the west side of the house, to be viewed from the conservatory. Last year, although the poor thing survived in less than ideal conditions, the witch hazel ‘Aphrodite’ did not bother to open her spidery blooms until April. I don’t blame her but it did not give me much hope for a winter garden. The prunus ‘February Pink’ hid her small pink blossom until May.
But this year there is hope. It is probably because I changed my plans and have planted several evergreens, including a nice collection of seven different hollies, not far from the back door, so I can see them while washing up. Life is like that. They were only put in just before Christmas, in a spurt of horticultural festiveness so I could always move them. I got a mix of male and females including the lovely, yellow-berried ‘Bacciflava’ but, for some reason did not pick a I. x koehneana ‘Chestnut Leaf’. I kept passing it and almost picking it out and knew there was a reason why I should have it. Then, when home, I remembered why I kept being drawn to it – it is Roy Lancaster’s favourite holly. Is there a better reason for planting it? I think not. You may as well say the Pope has one on his balcony. I need to go back – soon.
But, for now, ‘Aphrodite’ has begun to bloom.
Not only that but the small Lonicera x purpusii has a few flowers open too. They are very near the ground, it is still a pup, so close that it would involve a forklift to get me up again if I went to sniff them. But there they are, perfuming the air for passing meadow pippits. In years to come I will enjoy them too. Though not a beauty to look at this hardy shrub has flowers that match the sweetness of the finest daphne.
And yes, even the Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ is in bloom, with more buds to come. OK, she didn’t manage the autumn fling but I am grateful for anything right now.
And the male catkins of Alnus incana ‘Aurea’ are opening. I have a real fondness for this tree, the yellow-leaved form of the grey alder. It will grow in the thickest clay, tolerates wet soil and even fixes nitrogen in the soil. The male catkins are pretty in spring and the females ripen into small black ‘cones’. ‘Aurea’ has the added bonus of soft yellow leaves and although they are not vibrant, they are the better for that, looking good in summer but not looking artificial like some coloured-leaf trees that really do not look nice in a rural setting. And the twigs are a showy orange in winter.