Hasn’t it been a confusing month! While gardeners in some parts of the country have complained of the bitter cold and the lateness of their bulbs, those in other parts have been basking in clement, agreeable, if not exactly seasonable, weather. Here in Edinburgh, I am not sure what to make of the alternating balmy days of 11 or 12 degrees, and the frozen days of one or two below zero. But my bulbs are appearing just as they should, with Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop, already flowering in some of the more sheltered spots.
The mild days have brought on some unseasonable growth from all sorts of plants besides the bulbs. Here are the brand new leaves, good enough almost to eat, of my Acanthus mollis. (As you can see, these clement days have also brought out the molluscs from hibernation.)
New buds are appearing on the honeysuckle beside the front door and the Hydrangea petiolaris:
And the raindrops look especially becoming on new foliage of Aquilegia:
The Scarcococca flowered briefly, and quickly produced its shining berries:
And the seedheads of the hostas are providing elegant hidey-houses for overwintering insects:
But the stars of the garden are the hellebores:
1) I have no greenhouse, and there is no room in the cold frame for tender plants, so I have wrapped hessian protection around my potted pelargoniums and alstromeria to ward off the worst of the frosts.
2) To prevent blackspot, last year’s hellebore leaves can be cut back and composted, allowing the new buds to shine through.
3) Squirrels just love to nip off the buds of emerging bulbs, and I have already found buds of my Iris ‘George’ on the ground. I like to paint on an unappetising concoction of garlic and paprika or cayenne pepper (but not chilli pepper, which can be harmful to wildlife) to put the squirrels off.
4) With all of summer’s growth dead and gone, now is a wonderful time to assess the garden and make any architectural or structural adjustments. I am building an extension to the brick terrace at the back of the house, and thinking hard about which shrubs to add for winter interest and structure.
5) I do not keep the garden too tidy, as a scruffy garden is best for wildlife, and though the jury is out on tidying up dead leaves, I err on the side of messy and leave them where they lie. However, where they are lying too thickly or have formed a mat over new growth, it is good to tidy up the leaves, and any dead or rotting stems that are not providing winter interest.
6) Having tidied up the garden and planned the garden’s permanent structure, now is also an excellent time to order seed for the coming year and make a sowing plan. I have ordered cornflowers, ammi, and sweetpeas, and will start sowing in early to mid February.
7) This is almost the last chance to trim hedges before birds start nesting. In the UK, it is illegal to cut a hedge that might contain nesting birds, which is usually from early spring until mid to late summer.
January garden view
The following photos show views of the front garden in mid-January, as the first bulbs were emerging from both ground and pots.
And a view of the back garden, which is still something of a building site, so I have cropped in close!
So that is it for January, and not a moment too soon, some might say. Things start ramping up in February, with snowdrops and irises in full bloom, and pots just bursting with emerging bulbs. Which jobs have you been getting up to in the garden this month, and what have been your favourite sights?