I had to take this photograph. This was, 2 days ago, the first official day in my book that felt like just the merest stirrings of Spring. It was all down to the light- not pale and translucent as in winter, but with a bit of a glow about it. We spent some time last year restoring the pig shed, fixing the roof, varnishing the wood trellis area where the chickens would have been, and painting the pig doors. We actually really only store wood and whatnot, quite a bit of whatnot, in it- but it is part of the heritage of the house and there aren’t many of these left in the village.
I love this shrub. It only has a short period of interest between February and April when the leaves come out, but it nicely sandwiches the brown period of winter and the blooming of Magnolia stellata, which is see-through at this time of year, just in front of this Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’. The cheery, single flowers are a bright white. The rest of the year it blends into the woodwork- but the wasabi green of the football-shaped buds makes me smile.
A bit further along in the wild, woodland bit of the garden that has the canal at the back, are the literally ‘wild’ daffodils that I rescued from a nearby field. I am not prone to stealing plants from the wild at all. Honestly. But having seen these bloom early every year, I noticed that the farmer was strimming and clearing the edge of the field, and approaching these clumps. I wasn’t going to let them be demolished, so Andy and I raided them and brought into the calm of our only woodland area. They have taken about 3 years to calm down from the shock of it all, but are now slowly spreading underneath the bigger shrubs. They are short-arses, only 15-20 cms tall, and from these fat buds, there appear double/treble/frilled flowers which are a slightly dotty delight- though not long-lasting. I love them.
The sun hit these Helleborus foetidus and all was golden- fabulous. They have had a rough few weeks with the rain and the frost, but they will only get taller and better, lasting for two months usually. The charming red tinging of the bells will get stronger. Beth Chatto loved these plants and introduced me to them- not literally, you understand.
Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ is another statuesque shrub that has many moments of glory between December and late March with sprays of bright yellow scented flowers- and after that, it is just, well, statuesque. Not bad though at all. And I forgot to mention the blue berries after the flowers…
I grew Penstemon pinifolius from seed the year before last. These seeds took ‘tiny’ to a new dimension and I was sure that most of them had blown away. These make small, thready plants and haven’t flowered yet- this year will be the year. They are so small that I put them in a shallow pot with a gritty compost, and sat them on top of the lovely pot that Andy bought me last year. They should sparkle with tiny, bright red flowers in the summer.
Now this shrub could qualify as dull. But. Those dark, twining stems, coupled with the pearly-green Japanese look of the tiny leaves- they got to me. It is making a nice, upright, delicate presence in the front garden- a statement plant that doesn’t get in your face. It is Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Green Elf’
The villains for later this year are getting ready. We have a big problem with processionary caterpillars. Very nasty things- bad all round. if you have pets or small children, they are dangerously fascinating. We have got rid of them, touch wood, in our garden, but only by chopping half our pine tree away. These are too close for comfort, just behind the pigshed in our neighbour’s garden.
And the banana looks as if it has had it. But it hasn’t. In a month or so, we can chop away all the brown stuff, and there is a lot of it, and it will spring back looking fabulous by May. This is Andy’s favourite plant, I think.
I love the moss. Only on show for the winter months, it fries away in the summer and then comes back, looking velvety and lustrous in the winter. One of the good things about the winter.