Heart of Flowers

Where would we be without Hellebores at this time of year?

The race is on and I’m still trying to grab all those little weed seedlings, springing up right before my very eyes.  In between some more major jobs, I can be found kneeling down and combing over the ground, patiently removing them with my hand fork.  I remember an old allotmenteer commenting once on my weeding stance ‘What are you doing scrabbling around down there like a chicken in dirt? You need a hoe’  Well, he had a point.  If the garden plants were set out in nice neat rows like his vegetable patch, I’d be the first one to grab a hoe.  As it is,  I have to be more discerning..

For example, we enjoy growing forget-me-nots which are annual self seeders. At this time of year they look like this:

for the last couple of years we have been inundated with this:

Valerianella locusta, otherwise known as Lamb’s lettuce.

Close up you can see the differences in colour, leaf shape and veining but faced with a patch of both, you have to get really quite close to tell them apart:

Weeding them out can  drive you crazy if you allow it, I actually find the process quite meditative.

When we were not scrabbling around like chickens last week, we were doing this:

Still pruning roses

Cutting down Miscanthus

and transplanting snowdrops around…

 

Coppicing the willows and dogwood

and taking cuttings.  Making bundles for later use as plant supports

and most importantly enjoying the garden, both outside

Cornus mas

Hellebore foetidus

AND IN… (all very fragrant)

Rosemary

Euphorbia myrsinites

Juniper

Spotted laurel

Thyme

 

 

Coming back to Winter

I’ve just got back from a fabulous month long trip to the Antipodes – +30degreesC temperatures- and wearing my plant-hunter hat, the wonderful Lord Howe Island gave me all a ‘palm loving’ gardener could ask for. Forests of Kentia Palms (indigenous to the Island) and others – featured on the stamps below – only growing on the top of the these two mountains with their very specific climates.

Such a wonderful holiday, I was sad to leave, but my small bag tells the story!

Home I came, to a very different world of icy cold grey days and garden neglect..

Last year’s perennials strewn across the borders and Hellebore leaves obscuring the delicate new flowers.  For some gardeners this winter abandonment is absolutely fine as the coverage provides hiding places for wildlife. This is an excellent excuse to stay indoors and do nothing.  However I firmly believe that there are plenty of alternative hiding spots around the garden for the newts and frogs and if we stumble across a hedgehog nestled in some grasses we just tuck them back in again.

So with my trusty gardening colleagues Emma and Chris

we set about putting the gardens right.

With these two cheeky chappies, the jet lag was forgotten and the fun began.

the old hellebore leaves now no longer detract from the glory of these mid-winter beauties:

The dead fern leaves were cut back to the ground

and old flower spikes went too…

The hedges and Bay tree were trimmed before birds start nesting

and the weeds – yes the weeds are still growing – have been carefully disposed of (at least for now).

Aaaaaah, now that feels better and looks just great! The perfect antidote to coming back to winter.