Friday 17th January 2020


A pale and pining girl, head bowed, heart gnawed,

 whose figure nods and shivers in a shawl

of fine white wool, has suddenly appeared

in the damp woods, as mild and mute as snowfall.

(‘Snowdrop’ by Alice Oswald)

It’s started!  The new year, and sightings of the first flowers are in.

Scented Plants To Look Out For In Winter / Spring

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ (Winter-flowering Cherry); Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’; Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ (Witch hazel); Iris unguicularis; Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle); Viola odorata (Sweet violet); Osmanthus burkwoodii; Sarcococca hookeriana; Viburnum farreri; Mahonia japonica

Iris unguicularis


Mahonia japonica


All smell delicious.  Let your nose lead you to them

We spent some time trying to identify the plants from photos… only to find out later that the answers were on the reverse.  Next time we’ll all get 100%.









Then on to the Plant Ident.

Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’


Ivy comes in so many forms. On the R.H.S. website, this variegated type is called Hedera helix ‘Oro di Bogliasco’ – but we know it better as ‘Goldheart’.  (The Italian sounds more romantic.)  Best in full sun where it can develop its wonderful yellow colouring, but will be fine in partial shade.  Can also deal with dry situations.  Lovely red/purple stems, yellow/green autumn flowers and then small black spherical fruits.  Ivy is a fantastic plant for those wishing to encourage wildlife. That would be all of us then.

Cornus mas


Cornelian Cherry has an attractive (and silent) bark.  A great tree for a small garden.  January brings clusters of scented, soft-yellow flowers on bare wood – stunning when lit by the sun and seen against a winter-blue sky. Good shape. Produces glossy, red, cherry-like fruits in the spring.  Edible? Yes, but not particularly good to taste. Autumn foliage is purple. This tree delivers!20200117_125841-1

Acanthus mollis


With its huge leaves, the herbaceous Acanthus is an impressive, decorative foliage plant.  A touch of the imperial about it. That’s why the ancients incorporated their design into their architecture. Unfortunately, it’s not only attractive to us, it’s also beloved by slugs and snails. They love it so much they could eat it. And do. And therein lies the difficulty.  Will grow in shade or sun, though hot, dry conditions suit it best. Acanthus will spread, so beware. Can look amazing grown in massive pots.

Rubus thibetanus


Spiky, difficult, idiosyncratic, challenging.  We all have friends like this.  And we need them, as they are attractive, fascinating and offer something different.  A member of the Rosaceae family, and sometimes referred to as ‘ghost bramble’, it takes on a white bloom in winter and looks startling in large numbers and lit by the sun. Wisley has a spectacular planting of them. Benefits from being cut down at the end of February.  The plants, not the friends.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’


What a beauty!  Narrow, erect, green leaves set off the deep purple flowers of this dwarf bulbous iris.  The ‘falls’ look and feel like velvet, and speckled markings indicate landing points for early bees in their search for pollen. Scented. Good in pots or rockeries.


Galanthis nivalis


The Snowdrop.  Exquisite.  An early precursor of spring and such a hopeful sign.  Green markings brand the nodding white flowers which appear in late winter. They look lovely when seen in formal arrangements in little terracotta pots – ‘Snowdrop Theatres’, but arguably they’re at their best when seen in a natural setting, in self-sown drifts, in great quantity.  For those of us learning French-in-a-year-the-Garden-House-way, they are known as ‘Perce-neige’.  C’est charmant, n’est-ce pas?

Jobs for the week:

Borders – rake, remove, restore 

Rake leaves off, remove to compost bin, loosen the soil and add compost as required, restoring order and beauty.  Remove leaves on hellebores to prevent leaf spot disease and to better appreciate the new buds coming through.


Cut down the Clematis in the Tulip Tree bed

Then refer to above work detail for further instructions


Got it!


Here we go!


Weed terrace beds and cut back Sambucus nigra


The Black Elder (any relation to Darth Vader?) now needs to be pruned hard in order to encourage growth for the coming year.  Propagate the hardwood cuttings – we’ll have a forest of them soon.  The Salix ‘Nancy Saunders’ also needs cutting back.  “Cut Nancy right down to the ground,” comes the instruction.  Seems harsh.

Cut back herbaceous perennials. Prune Lonicera ‘Lemon and Lime’ to shape


Er, what kind of shape?

Propagate hardwood cuttings of Lonicera and Hebe

Use sharp, clean secateurs

Plant Rose and two Clematis near the top terrace sun-seat

Or, ‘The Bus Stop’ as some unkindly call it. We tell the Rambling Rose to hold on very tight, please.  Plant all three deeply.

Continue pruning roses in the top garden

Potting on in the greenhouse.  

Those plants won’t do it by themselves, you know


There are plenty of pots everywhere.

Seek out, find, identify and label the roses.  

Your mission. Should you choose to accept it. Bare stems. No flowers. Good luck with that.


A twig with thorns?

I’m guessing it’s a rose

Plant up large boxes with Hyacinth and Tulip bulbs

Make drainage holes in the box bases. And it would be good to finish off the look with some moss.


Easy. I can do this with my eyes shut


Properly professional

And this piece of creativity went down very well too…


Meanwhile…. someone has to keep an eye on things


There’s no need to be scared.  It’s just quality control…


Perhaps I’ll just take five….


…or ten

Go through the seeds in the shed and put them into packets

Maybe take some to Brighton’s Seedy Sunday to sell/swap




Looks good enough to eat.  But don’t.

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