Winter isn’t the traditional time of year to have plants in flower, but we do and I can’t help but be rather smug over it.
I’m still not sure whether we did have a flowering gap sometime in December, but the garden started 2019 in flower with this unassuming gem:
The Chimonanthus Praecox or “Wintersweet” is a woody shrub that is green and forgettable over the summer months. Even its leaves don’t have any notable characteristics, but in winter the bare stems produce unusual, waxy and highly fragrant pale yellow flowers. The fragrance is so strong that it can be detected in the air on a calm day from a few metres away. It’s a strongly sweet smell that also contains clove and spice like some Dianthus can. It’s the equivalent of mulled wine in flower.
In the greenhouse we have Zantedeschia about to flower (just the one flower stem though) and in the other greenhouse we have lobelia in flower. These lobelia are self-seeded from when we had them in patio pots and I’ve just left them to grow in the seed trays. The winter has currently been mild enough that most of the herbaceous plants in the greenhouses haven’t died back yet and are kind of just hanging around, doing the equivalent of twiddling thumbs.
Elsewhere in the garden, Christmas Box (Sarcococa Confusa) is in flower, though it is somewhat late. It’s regularly late actually and this is probably because it’s planted in the shadow of the beech hedge. In winter, the hedge casts a long shadow as the sun doesn’t get high enough, the Christmas Box falls into its shadow at that time and so a colder and darker environment means it takes longer for it to come into flower.
At the very bottom of the garden are some brightly coloured gems. The Cyclamen that we planted last year have survived (they weren’t labelled as terribly hardy) and are gradually coming into flower.
Inadvertently, they’re in one of the most sheltered areas of the garden. I’ve left the leaf litter around them as some protection, the compost heap in front of them diverts any blasting winds and they’re directly underneath the large trees, which seem to hold the warm air to the ground like a blanket.
Ironically, it’s the Winter flowering pansies that are not flowering at the moment. They always do this though, I buy them in flower from the garden centre and plant them up into the six trugs at the front. The existing flowers eventually fade and new ones don’t come until the weather starts to warm up in Spring again, at which point they suddenly grow and burst into a mass of flower, not too long before they need to be turfed out for the summer planting of sweet peas.
Coming up next should be the crocuses and the snowdrops. The snowdrops are from a couple of congested clumps from the parents’ garden and so it may take a year or two before they all start reflowering again and that carries us over nicely into March, when the Camellias erupt into flower. The Camellias are the traditional “starting gun” for the main flowering stretch in this garden and with the firing of the gun, the coast is clear right the way through the new gardening season – for which I need to make plans for…