Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Year Resolution

       After the terrible weather of 2012, as a gardener, I am fervently hoping for something better in 2013. The best guess so far, on searching those sites which still predict our weather patterns, the Met. Office having now stopped doing this in embarrassment, is that we will have a drier than average January followed by a damp February, although the overall picture is that of a drier year to come, as if it could be anything else. 

January garden looking like a bomb-site after being neglected due to the weather, half of it was under water at times.
      Looking out over a sodden garden in the murky twilight, which substitutes for daylight at this time of the year, makes the splashes of colour from the winter flowering shrubs truly worthwhile.

Viburnum bodnantse
       First of the stalwarts is Viburnum bodnantse - developed at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales the perfume from the delicate pink flowers, born on bare branches, can pervade quite a sizeable area, particularly if there is any warmth in the day. The older stems of the framework can be very coarse which rather detracts from the overall although the deeply veined deciduous leaves can be quite attractive especially as the young ones can be a striking deep red before turning to green. Prune back after flowering to generate new wood. Popular cultivar Viburnum bodnantse 'Dawn' is an improved version.

Mahonia japonica

        A great all-rounder which will tolerate quite shady and dry conditions is Mahonia japonica. Flowering through the winter months this shrub is invaluable although, unfortunately, the small birds eat most of the flowers on mine, I think they go for the nectar. This mahonia will stand very hard pruning if it gets out of hand but don't leave it too late or you will lose flowers in the following year. Do not hand weed within 10' of it without wearing stout gloves, the spines on the dried leaves are vicious. Scented.

Hamamelis mollis
           Known as Witch Hazel this is a beautiful architectural deciduous winter flowering shrub, which looks better as a free standing specimen in grass but only in a large scheme as the foliage is not that interesting for the greater part of the growing season although the autumn colour is pleasing for a short time. Prune to shape immediately after flowering.

Lonicera fragrantissima
      Another classic beauty is the Winter Flowering Honeysuckle. The clusters of tiny white flowers exude a stunning fragrance. Like many winter flowering plants the rest of the year it is not too exciting and, unlike the more traditional trailing plant we are used to, has a very lax, semi-evergreen, shrubby habit which can be kept under control by judicious pruning after flowering although it does well grown against a fence, wall or other support. Hails from China.

       As long as we can experience colour and fragrance in the garden at this time of the year, it seems to make the advent of spring seem closer. I planted the last of the tulip bulbs in tubs on the second, it will be interesting to see what happens as a lot of research has shown that with tulips the later the better. A late planting is meant to provide less vulnerability to disease plus sturdier plants because they do not tend to go leggy.

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