As I looked out of the kitchen window on an unusually sunny winter morning, a glint of bright yellow among a sea of brown caught my attention. Dressed but still donning a dressing gown over jeans and jumper, I stepped outside to find it pleasantly mild in the sun. For January the weather was most civilised. I walked round the corner border to discover the beacon-yellow dot as-viewed from the kitchen was actually pair of yellow crocuses nestled together surrounded by a fringe of green leaves. Looking around, they weren’t the first ones out, but they were the most visible.
More crocus leaves and flower buds came into view as I scanned the soil and I got the distinct sense that the new season had already begun, signalled by the crocus flowering. There were signs of life elsewhere too; the buds on the trees were fattening, there was sporadic flowering of the Aubretia and the faintest sweet fragrance from some young Christmas Box. Winter is a dull and often miserable time in the garden but there was a surprising amount of activity going on and no shortage of odd-jobs to do.
The days are gradually becoming longer but the sun is still low in the sky and combined with the tall beech hedge, divides the garden into two long halves, the left side, which gets the sun (when it is shining) and the right side that is in permanent shade, the sun unable to rise high enough to draw back the shadow. Taller plants manage to have their finger tips briefly lit on these sunny but short days.
Elsewhere in the garden, well, under the trees at the back, the recent storms and high winds have brought down several small tree bits and some larger branches. It won’t take too long to clean up, thankfully and both corners of the garden are still very-much reachable. There has been some planting right at the very back towards the end of last year and this included Japanese Anemones, Arum Italicums, Chionodoxa and cyclamen. Two types of cyclamen were planted, the first set was from a ready-flowering mix sold at Garden Centres in winter and which we found out weren’t entirely winter hardy. The flowers were beautiful but we were expecting them to perish in the hard frosts that we have had. Thankfully this hasn’t happened yet and while most of these cyclamen have stopped flowering, there are some that are still going and so have bridged the flowering year from 2017 into 2018.
I appreciate this is tip-of-the-fingernails stuff, but a flower is a flower, now matter how small and delicate. The cyclamen leaves look bright and healthy, no sign of frost wilt. We’ll have to see what happens in February. As an insurance policy, we also purchased hardy cyclamen corms and also have hardy cyclamen from my parents’ garden should these non-hardy varieties fail. I’m hoping these cyclamen will remain protected by the trees, surrounding compost heap and shed as well as the thick layer of mulch that I put down to make a planting zone. As always, time will tell, at least I have plenty of back-up.
Winter clean-up, pruning and mulching make up the majority of the jobs of my list at the moment and I know I did a winter clean up, round of pruning and mulching this time last year, and the year before that and some of it the year before that too but the season is so long and varied and there are such a variety of things to do that it doesn’t feel like I’m replaying a broken record, it feels more like a fresh start, where all the work last year means I can move onto a new area of the garden to create, reclaim or clear this coming season. Soon the pace of change will accelerate and the garden will explode into a riot of foliage and flower, there’ll be so much to do that I’ll just let the garden run away with itself, unable to keep control and so the cycle starts again but it’s always a different thrill ride every time, like a rollercoaster whose track changes each time it sets off from the station. It’s part of the excitement of gardening.