Category Archives: Winter

The small to the tall

Today was always going to be a rose pruning day.  In this particular garden there are over 200 roses of all shapes and sizes and they take the best part of winter to prune. It’s an enjoyable job at this time of year and can be both creative (the climbing roses) and rewarding.

However first I have to check the greenhouse, water the seedlings and pot on those needing more room to grow.

Before Christmas we sowed Broad beans, mostly outdoors but we kept a few inside in pots. To our surprise they are already flowering away and are the prettiest little plants. I just love the blue green paddle-like leaves with their white and purple flowers. So fresh. There aren’t any pollinators in the greenhouse right now so experimentally I’m just tickling each flower to see if we can grow beans. It’s only February…

Walking around the garden dodging the showers and checking on what is in bloom I discovered our Tete a tete Narcissi brightening up a small corner

It reminded me of the drive into work where I pass the same flowers planted on the verge in front of the house and how absurd and out of scale they look by a big Beech hedge. I wonder if they meant to plant regular sized ones?



In between pruning roses Im disposing of the clippings on the other side of the garden and it’s an opportunity to ponder further on the views from the garden. Designers often suggest growing plenty of evergreen shrubs and trees to give a garden structure in the winter. But it’s the framework of the deciduous trees in this garden that create a dramatic backdrop against the blue sky that gives it an intensity worthy of cinematic interest.

These pics were taken at 2.30pm

Gardening is hope

It’s grey, it’s wet and on a regular basis, just grim outside. Here in the UK we’ve had storm after storm, we batten down the hatches and try to stay warm and dry indoors. We are at the end of winter and slightly despairing about spending so much time indoors. But in my heart, as in every gardeners heart, is pure hope and optimism.

It starts with holding a small packet of seed or noticing through the window a bare branch or twig with little swelling green buds. I step outside and stare at my plants one by one. Some I know exactly what they are and recall their leaves and blooms from previous years immediately. Others I can’t remember at all and I search for some piece of evidence that might jog my memory. It doesn’t matter because I know, in just a couple of months time, as buds burst and leaves grow, all will be revealed.

I’ve sown some sweet peas in pots and I look longingly at the plain brown soil waiting for a glimmer of life, a tiny green shoot that has all the promise of warm summer evenings filled with sweet scent and a small posy of colourful flowers adorning the kitchen table.

The journey begins now, the rushing memories of years past and the burgeoning of hope for another year to come.

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.



Day of the long shadows…

I couldn’t resist sharing with you more winter garden photos and the reason why we leave some grasses and perennials still standing through the winter…


IMG_2597 IMG_2590





And let that be a lesson to you

IMG_2547The day started so well.  I hopped out of bed, made myself a nice cup of tea and had plenty of time for breakfast and organising lunch.  I receive a text from gardener Emma ‘It’s snowing! – Still wanna meet at 8?’. I look out the window and it’s still pretty dark.  I live by the sea – doesn’t look too bad.  It’s so easy to be put off and actually miss a good day’s gardening. ‘Yep’ I reply, and off we go.


The sky and views were pretty amazing on the way.  We decided it was definitely worth getting out of bed for…

Our 30 minute journey took an hour and by the time we had crawled along the country lanes, slipping and sliding along the way, we were both relieved to reach our destination and not end up in a ditch.  In fact Emma was quite impressed with my ‘ice driving’ – her knuckles were white upon arrival.

On a day like today, the only job we felt comfortable doing was pruning roses – but which ones? We decided to stick close to the house where the snow had melted – in fact prune the roses on the house.


Safety measures were discussed and soon Emma was up on the platform, two hands free, bucket and loppers beside her, accessory belt with secateurs, scissors and string, and phone all easily accessible.




Radio on and happily pruning away.

I had two feet firmly on the ground. pruning the lower roses.

Morning passed into afternoon all the snow had melted and phew we were in a heady 4 degrees and we had nearly finished. I brought out the longer ladder to do the tops of the roses by the guttering.

Safety first.. Emma stood at the foot of my ladder as I wrestled with the rose in the guttering and tied in some new growth. Back down again, chatting I noticed I had left a long end of string dangling and as I nipped up to cut it off, the bottom of the ladder started sliding away from the wall…

The next couple of seconds seemed to go so slowly as I tried to work out what to do whilst clinging to the ladder as it was going down.

There was nothing either Emma or I could do. I landed still holding the ladder taking all the weight on my arms and as it turns out, on my left hand.

A little bit shaken, we packed up – well Emma packed us up and I had a hot cup of tea and a sit down.

I’m home now, my hand is very sore and rather bruised…



I’m just glad it didn’t end worse than it did, as it easily could have done.

Thank you lucky stars. Thank you M & D for my ‘Bones of Steel’

Next time it snows I’m staying in bed.

The Winter Garden

One of my favourite sights in a winter garden is seeing the formation of the swan-neck like flowerhead on the Euphorbia chariacas ‘Wulfenii’:





I imagine they develop the flowerhead upside down like that to protect themselves from possible frost and snow before they boldly and brightly light up our Spring gardens…


Those stems with leaves below this canopy, without the ‘hanging heads’ are the shoots that will grow up this year and will flower in 2016:


Casting my eye around this small area of garden I notice other jobs that we could busy ourselves with today like:


Cutting back the Fuchsia  to about 30cm from the ground, and the same with the Gaura:


Leaving some growth to protect the base of the plant from snow and frost, from which new shoots will emerge later on.


We are growing this adorable little Cotula hispida to fill in around the paving stones. To speed up the process, I am going to divide it today and plant it over a wider area.


There were foxglove seedlings dotted all around this area in the garden too, at the base of roses and under shrubs, places they will just not grow well in. So we dug those up and moved them to a shady spot at the foot of a hedge where they will thrive with little other competition and a beautiful dark green backdrop.

The Cotinus coggygria always benefits from a prune at this time of year. Not too dramatic… we took about a third off. The leaves will then be much bigger this year than if we didn’t prune it.


The framework is not that easy to see here unfortunately.

After all these jobs we found ourselves pruning more roses again – and so they keep going and we’re still not bored with them yet…


Happy New Year 2015 and it feels like the sap is rising already…

My wish for this gardening year is for it to be at least as fulfilling as the last – which I’m sure won’t be difficult-  and my challenge is to have the courage to experiment more with planting times, cuttings and growing new plants. Watch this space!

So let’s jump in with the first gardening week of the year:

Pruning roses tends to be the back bone of our winter work.  because there are so many to fit in to a few months we start at the end of November and continue through to February/March supplemented by other jobs.  Other jobs at the moment still include weeding as the weather is still relatively mild here in the south East of England.

Yesterday I pruned one of the Wild roses in the garden.  I have no idea which kind of rose it is, but think it may be a rambler.  What I love about it most is it has the habit of a bouquet.


Winter after pruning



Today we checked up on the dahlia tubers that were dug up at the first frost and left to dry out in the shed



We stood them upside down and left quite a lot of the soil to dry out on them.  Normally by now we would have wrapped them in newspaper to insulate, and then store  in boxes.  Again, it has been so mild,  that we have decided to skip this step and pot them up in fresh reasonably dry compost today. We would usually leave this until March.




They still need protection from frost so they are back in the shed.

Those that were too big to fit in pots we gradually teased apart to create smaller plants.  As long as the tuber has some stem attached it will be fine. If the tuber breaks off without stem, I find these rarely grow again.

Today we were…

Pruning the Wisteria.  There are 3 in this garden, all very established plants that flower well and grow like monsters.  One is trained up the front of the house, one trained as a hedge (much like at Sissinghurst), and one trained up a post on the pergola in the shape of a tree.

Wisteria needs pruning twice a year, in the summer and winter.

Last year, when I didn’t prune one of the Wisterias as we simply ran out of time, the flowers and the leaves came together.  The reason for pruning now is that a flowering spur also contains leaf buds.  By pruning the spur back to 2 buds now should promote flowering before leaf growth.

We shall see.


An ice early start..

Please forgive me for my fortnight break – but you know how it is when the festivities and their organisation interrupt the gardeners’ journey and put pay to taking stock of  British beauty at it’s alternative best.

That doesn’t actually mean we stopped gardening at all though, just the recording of the days have gone amiss.

I couldn’t resist returning to my blog IMG_2406

on a day of opportunity to capture Jack Frost working his fingers of magic





I finally remembered some food for the robin today, in the form of crumbs of cheddar cheese.  I hope that and the mealworms we dug for him keep him going through these lean days.