Slim Pickings

I hate the fact that Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of February. For an event centred on giving flowers (and chocolates), why on earth couldn’t it be in any other month; any but February. February is month where the garden is barely ticking over, let alone in flower. It would be so much easier in summer; all I would have to do to fulfil my Valentine’s obligation is to:

  1. Step out of the kitchen doors into the garden
  2. Wave shears in the vague direction of plants
  3. Fill a vase with results
  4. Present to other half
  5. Receive compliments and fawning over beautiful cut flower arrangement

Instead, this is what happens:

  1. Step out of the kitchen doors into the garden
  2. Begin to freeze in the cold weather
  3. Try and find some plants to wave shears at
  4. Try and detach handle of shears, which has become frozen to wet gloves
  5. Generally fail
  6. Retreat indoors
  7. Order a take out as consolation and watch old re-runs of “Gardeners’ World”

What’s been generally agreed between us in the past is a compromise in the form of an IOU to have a vase of flowers from the garden in Summer as a deferred Valentine’s day gift. Going out to eat is optional and if we do, at least the price will be half and we won’t have to book.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to wait for signs of life:

Iris Sibirica in WinterIt’s not ready for cut flowers, yet.

Things are stirring though. Despite it being “deep” winter, there is real heat in the sun. A clear day makes the temperatures rocket in the sunshine and plants in the greenhouses risk baking. Those planted out in full sun are starting to wake up and flashes of colour are beginning to appear:

Red Flash on CamelliaSpot the red.

As part of investing in that IOU, a “pick and mix” lily border was planted. This a very small and short strip of border that used to be filled with carex grass, stumps of dead buddleia and weeds. I cleared it out last summer and left it “fallow”, intending to do something with it at some point. It was after a trip to the supermarket only recently that I was given a bag of mixed lily bulbs and that small strip was the perfect place to plant them. I actually had to go and ask for another bag since ten bulbs didn’t quite fit the space.

Pick and Mix Lily BorderThere are lily bulbs under there, I hope.

Finally, there’s the front border, the one planted with seven new bare-root roses. The grand plan all along was to have roses to pick in the summer and this “David Austin Border” will hopefully supply that. This should be the ultimate vase-filler, should all else fail – at least, it should do in a few years. At the moment, there’s a long way to go to get from planted sticks to fully laden flowering shrubs.

Planted Front BorderI’m perhaps being a little too optimistic with the secateurs.

At the moment I feel as though I’m on tenterhooks; glimpses of Spring are all around, plants are gradually waking up and I’m looking forward to the first full season in the garden. The bare root roses, the lily bulbs and all the other plants in the garden are a promise away from flowering, just like my Valentine IOU.

12 Comments


  1. Dear Sunil, just be thankful there are glimpses of Spring are all around. It was -25 degrees here this morning! No setting out in the garden with secateurs, but only tulips bought at the market. Still the sun is very bight and days are longer so there is hope. I look forward to your pictures of the rose and the lily borders when they flaunt their splendor next summer!

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    1. Hello Alain, I know I should be thankful but it doesn’t help much. I am noticing the days becoming longer and there are signs of buds beginning to open up. We’re tilting back towards the sun and it’s getting me all excited about the season ahead and seeing the rewards from all the hard work that went on last year.

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  2. Spring is in hiding here and deep winter won’t leave although she let spring tease us a bit last weekend. Maybe you should put those tight shorts on and not worry about a bouquet….. 😉

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    1. Hi Tammy, I might have to wait for the weather to warm up before I put the short on, meanwhile, I’m sure I can find something just as good in the wardrobe…

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  3. Bah, Humbug my man! Valentine’s is not really all about flowers and chocs, that’s what the big boys have made it and why d’you think they have all the money?!!! A card is enough in this house, and just the thought that out there, under the chilly soil, things are waking up. (Although I am sure that whenever flowers come in from the garden you will both enjoy them!)

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, I could print a card out (only 15p per colour page A4 on the inkjet instead of £2.50 in the shops!) but we tend to share one between us!

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  4. Keep your pecker up Sunil, .Looks like you will have Camellias in bloom very soon I will also be glad to see the back of February..

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    1. Hello Alistair, the Camellias are coming on – they’re quite an attraction; both the shrubs outside as well as cuttings I took last summer – which may have taken, or maybe not; they’ve done virtually nothing all winter, we’ll see whether I’ve been successful with any as the weather starts warming up.

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  5. There is never anything to bring in from the garden for Valentine’s Day here, which is probably a good thing. And so I always fall back on a bunch of tulips from the grocery store, plus a mystery book or two. Winter here is on a counteroffensive – looks like it will be very cold through the end of the month.

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    1. Hello Jason, I remember the numerous pots of tulips on the steps on the way to your door that are always stunning and put any of my efforts to shame. I shall look forward to seeing the display this year – once the weather has turned civil in your part of the planet!

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  6. I think perfume makes a very nice gift too, Sunil! But from your garden, I would surely be glad to wait for a hand picked bouquet – I am sure your wife is delighted!

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    1. Hello Jane, I always go for the hand-picked bouquet, as I get such a sense of satisfaction from picking the very flowers that I’ve grown to put together into an arrangement. There’s much more meaning and emotion behind that than simply ordering one online and having it delivered. A few months wait is worth it.

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