A damp blanket

Fog today, with not very much visibility. It catches in the fine network of birch branches and drips silently down. The blanket of fog makes it feel mild and damp, even though there was a low of -3 last night. It neutralises colour, leaving everything looking flat and dull. IMG_0664

The fog rounds the edges off things so that sharp objects like the seed heads of these Leonotis leonurus look soft and spongy (they really aren’t though).IMG_0656

In the gloom of this foggy day there’s many reasons for celebration; for instance the dogwoods and salix are looking amazing. At this time of year when growth is starting to stir the stem colour reaches ultimate intensity. Of course it would be a lot more impressive on a brighter day.IMG_3315IMG_3314IMG_3312

And there’s snowdrops. Al brought some inside and they opened up immediately in the warmth.IMG_0652

The excellent Mahonia x media (hopefully I have got that name right) fills the surrounding area with a lemony fragrance.IMG_0655

And suddenly there’s lots more dwarf iris too; things are starting to look better already.IMG_0663

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Growing for borders

There’s 2 greenhouses at Snakesbury. They were inherited from previous owners, and although they are within the walled garden they have taken the brunt of all of the storms . The cool greenhouse (without a door) is used mainly for potting and nurturing newly hardened plants, whereas the warm greenhouse (with a door) is used for seeds in autumn/winter/spring and then for tomatoes in the summer. IMG_3297Here’s a view from the warm greenhouse. The wind has blown the whole structure sideways – cracking some of the panes in the process. Doesn’t seem to be too detrimental to the plants – here’s some Stipa tenuissima and Morina longifolia that were sown in the autumn and have been patiently waiting out the winter since germinating.IMG_3299IMG_3300These will all go out into the borders – probably around March or April.

I started work on the borders today – a little early but I think a good time for moving the massive Cephalaria gigantea to a bed for giants in the driveway. I also took the opportunity to cut back some of the taller remnants of last year’s perennials. Again, this is early but I noticed that a few of them were rocking themselves out of the ground – a combination of high winds and wet soil. Its amazing what you reveal when cutting back – strong growth is very evident everywhere. I’m sure it is early for spring growth, but then maybe not?IMG_3305.jpgI have left the grasses and most of the other perennials alone for now – they continue to look fantastic.IMG_3304

Making tracks

Recent works on the railway line at the top of our field has resulted in deep vehicle tracks across the damp fields. The works consultants are very apologetic and have promised to return things to the way they were. I’m sceptical. I think these tracks can probably be seen from the international space station by now, and I don’t know if covering them up will work. Another option may be to use recycled road (not the technical term – I know), which is crushed and compacted into the channels, leaving a semi-permanent hard standing that the grass will eventually grow into. I’m coming around to this idea, especially as it seems like the access is going to be needed on a regular basis when the nursery takes shape.

Did I just say nursery??

IMG_3259Vehicle tracks as they were on Friday – they’re a lot worse now..

A warm day in January

Yesterday was a day of horizontal sleet, blustering cold winds and dark skies. Today is the opposite; blue skies, warm sunshine and no wind. The perfect chance to see what has changed in the garden, make some decisions about configurations and to do some general moving around. Time flies in the garden and all too soon it was too dark to continue outside. Longer days: bring them on.

IMG_3275The first snowflake Leucojum vernum – a very welcome sight

IMG_3284The first dwarf iris Iris reticulata emerging through fallen beech leaves

IMG_3277I’m not usually a massive fan of double blooms but this hellebore is quite impressive

New plants from seed

I have always been fascinated with seeds; to me they are packages of hope. I’ve gone slightly obsessive this year, starting this year’s seeds off in October – the best time for some perennials and grasses. Now there’s a whole fridge drawer full of stratifying tree seeds. Then there’s the cold frame and the cool greenhouse. The heated propagator is in action too. One of the most exciting things is the daily checking to see what has germinated. The only drawback of early germinations is keeping them from becoming etiolated or ‘leggy’. Daytime storage in the poly tunnel seems to be working, keeping the new seedlings out of direct light, although they have to be brought inside from the cold overnight. Nurturing seeds while they grow into new plants is an incredibly rewarding experience.

LeeksLeek

DeschampsiaDeschampsia

Stone pineStone pine

CosmosCosmos

BidensBidens

AnthirinumAntirrhinum

Late winter surprises

On the coldest, darkest, wettest days of winter it is really uplifting to see changes happening – and sometimes a relief to see that the plants are still alive. Changes take me by surprise at this time of year; suddenly things are starting to happen and if I’m not attentive they will pass unobserved.

Saxifraga cespitosaTufted saxifrage, Saxifraga cespitosa – a favourite species, covered in buds

Iris unguicularis (Algerian Iris)Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis – very happily flowering at the base of a wall, as recommended by my plant guru Nick

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'Daphne bholua fills the area with an exotic scent – like most winter flowers the scent is much intensified by sunshine on the flowers

Helleborus niger (hybrid)Helleborus niger (hybrid) buds have emerged. Which reminds me that I need to plant some of these where they can be seen from below – their best aspect.