Garden Blog - Blog Post

And So it Starts Again


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.

Crocus Chrysanthus Goldilocks flowers early

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.

Light and Shade in winter

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.

Cyclamen “Rose Shades” is not really winter hardy, but it’s OK so far

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.

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Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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Susan Maclean 11/01/2018 - 10:10 am

Happy New Year, Sunil – good to see you (and the little crocus!). I too had a spot of yellow in the middle of winter…… a wallflower (not planted by me!) suddenly blossomed from nowhere, so that was a cheery sight. And now I have 70 tulip bulbs to get in the ground a bit sharpish. They were given to me at the end of October, but somehow time got away from me…… but very shortly they will be scattered around the garden… various shades and heights for April and May. Looking foward to seeing what you are doing next my friend.

Sunil 12/01/2018 - 10:01 am

Happy New Year to you too, Mrs Mac and the same to Mr Mac. I regret not doing an Autumn mass-bulb planting, but I was so taken up with the work at the back of the garden that I ran out of energy. While this time is for winter clear-up, I do have two trees I need to plant out in the garden, the trouble is that I need to prepare the ground first and it’s too wet at the moment!

lynngator 11/01/2018 - 6:46 pm

What a treat to see your first flower of 2018! We won’t see much of anything till late March, probably. In the meantime I will buy those mini roses at the grocery store that never survive transplanting but keep me sane during these cold, bleak months. When we were across the year I came to your garden I saw all kinds of Cyclamen growing under trees at the Chelsea Physic Garden. I did not know there were hardy types that could survive the cold (I’ve never grown them at all.) Here’s hoping spring will come soon for us all.

Sunil 12/01/2018 - 10:09 am

Hello Lynn, we rely much more on the house plants this time of year, but we mainly have orchids and their flowering is unpredictable. The hardy cyclamen go by the names of Cyclamen Hederifolium and Cyclamen Coum, I think, I don’t know how hardy they are but they pass though a UK winter, which admittedly isn’t that harsh. I thought only the large flowering cyclamen were for indoors. I’ll look forward to spring as soon as I get the winter jobs done first!

gardeninacity 13/01/2018 - 5:16 pm

Crocus chrysanthus might just be my favorite Crocus. I love that bright golden yellow in early spring!

Sunil Patel 15/01/2018 - 10:44 am

Hello Jason, these are particularly early, there are other colours and varieties also due but not for several weeks.

Alistair 21/01/2018 - 10:56 am

Sunil, what a treat to see early signs of Spring in your garden. We are a couple of weeks behind you, but can’t wait to get stuck in.

Sunil Patel 22/01/2018 - 1:13 pm

Hello Alistair, we’re at the “green tips poking through the soil” stage and many of the Clematis have buds on etc. but it will be slow going as there’s still February to get through and the garden takes a pause for the worst of the weather.

Jean 03/02/2018 - 2:41 am

Those crocuses really make me smile.Something to look forward to in my own garden. Your cyclamen ‘Rose Shades’ looks very much like one of the potted ones I bought over the holidays. (Mine didn’t have any variety labels). It’s a beauty.

Sunil 05/02/2018 - 9:49 am

Hello Jean, the Cyclamen “Rose Shades” have small flowers – the same size as the outdoor hardy ones, which is why we thought these were of a similar ilk. I last checked on them a few days ago and they were fine, just the odd flower left but we have a cold week this week so it will be interesting to see if they can make it through the winter, otherwise we do have a backup replacement. The crocuses are still somewhat sparse, they really need to get on and multiply) but lovely all the same, with three different types appearing in succession to extend the interest. They’re just in one border at the moment, with plans to add them elsewhere too at some point.


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