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Old News

Hazel catkins - harbingers of the  new year to come.

Hazel catkins

Walking in the countryside after Christmas doing my best to shake off the excesses I was delighted to see a great bank of hazel bursting with catkins. 

At a distance they form a delicate golden haze, and closer up, especially on a fine sunny day they really look wonderful - a great reminder that even in the dead of winter, the grow cycle is about to start again.



Cyclamen coum - a treat at Christmas

Cyclamen coum in flower

Forget Christmas trees and holly - my favourite treat at Christmas is the blooms of that pepper scented treasure, Cyclamen coum.

They are tough, weatherproof and wonderfully cheerful. They happily go on flowering through the winter months and they don't cast needles and look sad by Twelfth Night!



Iris unguicularis - the Algerian Iris flowering in mid December

Iris flowering in December

Another erratic early flowerer is the Algerian Iris, Iris unguicularis.

Given a sheltered sunny spot, it isn't at all unusual to see one of these delicate blooms in mid to late December. 

Microclimate can make a great deal of difference to when plants flower.



Frozen Primrose yet flowering could start anytime.

Frozen primrose

Out walking on a frosty morning I saw this primrose (P. vulgaris) frozen stiff with frost, in the grip of midwinter. 

Yet a few days later there were one or two primroses just starting to show some early flower. Like many of the primulas, the timing of their flowering can certainly be a bit erratic.  Which means you often get a midwinter bonus!



Tidying up herbaceous plants

Cut back herbaceous plant

Now that the winter cold is with us, it is time to ponder the question of when to cut back herbaceous plants - now or in the spring.

There are a couple of schools of thought - one that leaving the top growth provides cover for the growth to come plus a bit of cover for wildlife as well as winter interest.  The other view is that 'border hygiene' is served by not providing protection for the bugs and grubs that will eat your plants next year.

I'm not sure which way I fall.  Certainly if the top growth is providing good stem and seed head structure, I would leave until the spring.  However if things look messy and look like they need sorting out - I'm tempted to go ahead and tidy it up!


The cold of Winter has arrived.

Frozen ground

Winter has started with some genuine cold. It is actually helpful to get a bit of frost to set some plants for the year ahead, however I'm hoping we are not in for a long cold few months ahead.  Everything in moderation!



Bold winter variegation in the garden - Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'

Arum italicum subsp italicum 'Marmoratum' in leaf

Out in a garden late this afternoon I suddenly caught sight of this handsome stand of that winter garden favourite, Arum italicum subsp italicum 'Marmoratum' (to give the plant its full Latin name).

Given the mild and wet weather we have had recently it is now growing rapidly after its summer dormancy and will produce a great stand of finely marbled leaves prior to its spathe and berries which will come next year.  While it is a lovely garden plant it can spread - nearly as vigorously as its native cousin, Arum maculatum (Lords and Ladies / Cuckoo pint). However when it is in its fully glory in the middle of the winter months this excessive enthusiasm is easy to forgive!



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