Winter started with a fair amount of rain and high winds but was fairly mild. It was warm enough for the last of the summer annuals to give a little show of colour before the days got cooler. The Autumn flowering cyclamen started to flower a lot earlier than usual and were still in flower by the end of November, when the Spring flowering cyclamen had started to flower in mid November and continued to flower up to the end of February. I cannot remember if we have had both types of cyclamen flowering at the same time before.
The month of December was said to have been the warmest month since 1948 which may well be correct because the extreme mildness may explain the early and late flowering of many plants. Much rain fell in late November and most of December. Plants like dahlias were dug up out of the garden in that month (extremely late) as we had not had any frosts. The Lake District and Cumbria were well flooded.
Leaves, the best being beech and oak, were swept up off the grass and paths and placed in a leaf bin. The herbaceous perennial plants had started to be cut down in late October and continued until late January 2016. We have had such a lot of heavy rain, strong winds and bad storms with many dull, dark and gloomy days and during January and February some quite hard frosts. The hardest frost was -6C then back to mild temperatures of 5C with more rain and wind.
The clumps of cornus (which I have mentioned in an earlier blog in 2015) have put on a wonderful show of brightly coloured stems this year. With regular “stooling” (pruning back every other year) the clumps have thickened up making more stems so we have clumps of red stems and yellow stems. The purple stemmed one has not made a lot of growth, then we have a new plant of cornus with brilliant red stems. We also have a relatively new clump of willow - Salix Vitillina - which has bright yellow stems and bright egg yolk yellow on the tips of the stems, with the dormant buds lying along the stems that are a lovely rusty red. Viburnum Opulus - Guelder Rose, has kept its scarlet translucent berries this year. It still has berries in late February.
A tiny shrub that was originally in a mixed basket about 10 years ago and was left by my garden shed, was planted in the shrubbery near to the two yew trees. It has just been growing very slowly for a long time, then suddenly this year I noticed a splash of red. When I looked the plant is covered in fat red berries and it looks brilliant. It’s name is Butcher’s Broom - Ruscus Aculeatus, Daphne Odora Marginata - was in bud in late November, in flower from December to mid January, then was heavily frosted but is now in bud again. The perfume is of a citrus smell and very sweet. Lovely. We have now a good show of snowdrops, and the primroses which were out in flower before the snowdrops, and they looked stunning. Another winter flowering plant we have in the garden is Wintersweet - Chimonanthus Praecox. This shrub is deciduous (loses its leaves in Winter) and can be found on the wall near the first Lollipop tree on the road border and had masses of buds at mid November. It started to flower at the end of November and the rich strong perfume was breathtaking, until it was seriously frosted in December. The flowers have thin spidery petals which are a wishy washy yellow and white colour and which sparkle in the sunshine. It now has lots more buds and flowers that have the same delicious perfume. Other plants that are winter flowering are Jasminum nudiflorium, Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera purpusii.
Plants in flower December 2015 to February 2016
Periwinkle, Rosemary, Honesty, Pot Marigold, Daphne odora - marginata, Daphne mezureum, Geranium phaeum, Cyclamen coum, C.C. Alba, Helleborus orientalis, Helleborus orientalis alba plena, Helleborus foetidus, Celandine, Feverfew, Sweet Violet, Anemone blanda, various Crocus and Narcissus, Primroses, Cowslip, Hyacinth orientalis, Grape Hyacinth, Snowdrops, Winter aconite, Viburnum tinus, Prunus purpurea, Ornamental Quince, Kerrya, Mahonia aquifolium, Iris reticulata.
Jobs in the Winter months
To empty the oldest compost bin. This peat like compost has gone around all the roses in the rose garden, all roses in the rest of the garden, all paeonias, the fig tree and the climbing plant at the back of the mint bed and any other plants that need it. Pruning of roses can be done as long as there is no frost forecast. New plants that have just arrived can be potted up then ultimately can be planted into the garden when they have good roots. Seeds can be sorted for spring sowing. Plants in the cutting garden can be trimmed and weeded. Potted shrubs can be planted in the shrubbery. Weeding, when there is no frost on the ground. The Ground Elder weed does not seem to have died down this year which makes it much easier to see where the plants are, for digging up and burning if possible.
The days are getting longer and soon it will be Easter and Spring, with much work to be done. Watch out for the Spring Blog - March to June.
Celia Simpson - Head Gardener