Welcome to this weeks Monday Flowers when I am linking up with Cathy from Rambling In The Garden to join in her challenge to find something from the garden to bring into the house every week.
After last weeks joyous hellebores the weather here has taken a turn for the worse and my beautiful hellebores have been hanging their heads even lower than usual, hit hard by the freezing temperatures. I am not concerned – the flowers will recover as soon as the temperatures rise a little, but it has put an end to my hellebore arranging for a week or two!
In the absence of hellebores January is the month for the first snowdrops in my garden. They will really get into their stride in February, but for now I have plenty of early blooms to enjoy. At this time of year I like to dig a few clumps up and bring them inside to enjoy in the slightly warmer indoor temperatures (this is after all a Victorian rectory – move far from the Aga or the wood burner in the winter and you will need your thermals and a coat!).
I had a spare hour yesterday so braved the cold with my trowel and dug myself a small clump of snowdrops – these will flower happily inside for a few days and as the flowers go over I can move the bulbs back into a new spot in the garden. Looking at the sunshine in my kitchen it could be spring – only the flowers give away the real season. If you would like to grow snowdrops in your garden this is an excellent time to order bulbs “in the green’. These are snowdrops which are lifted after they have flowered and are ready to plant straight into the garden – freshly lifted bulbs settle in so much better than the dry bulbs you can buy in garden centres in the autumn.
Although often called ‘the heralds of spring’ snowdrops flower very firmly in the winter – in many ways they are the last flowers of the gardening year, although I think we all prefer to think of them as the first. Frozen ground and even a light covering of snow do not deter the snowdrop from flowering – each flower has a reinforced sheath above it that allows it to push through the frozen ground and delight us with its beauty even in the coldest of winters.
Such is the joy brought by this little winter flower that many gardeners are driven to become passionate collectors. Galanthophile’s as they are known spend the winter months at snowdrop fairs, auctions, lunches and talks looking for the next variety of snowdrop to add to their growing collections. Whilst I am far from being a collector I can understand the joy that such a passion must bring to what can otherwise be a difficult few months for the dedicated gardener. My winter passion is usually found in the many spring bulbs that flower early in my greenhouse, but after a bad autumn I am without such joys this year. There is much pleasure to be found in a daily trip out to view the snowdrops and hellebores flowering in the garden though and not having the distraction of the greenhouse bulbs is certainly focusing my mind on plans to improve my winter garden.
Although I was a spring baby in many ways I am a child of the winter. Whilst I will love the long days and warm temperatures when they arrive, I am in no hurry for these cold dark months to end. I relish the somber architectural mood that takes over the garden in these post Christmas months and the opportunity to really enjoy and appreciate the few flowers that are brightening the empty beds. I particularly like the end of each day, tucking up the chickens and rabbits for the night, taking the dogs for a last walk around the garden boundary as dusk falls, lighting the lamps, putting a match to the logs in the woodturner and preparing some vegetables to accompany a slowly simmered stew waiting in the bottom of the Aga. This is a slow routine that I miss in the hurly burly of the summer months when gardening jobs mount up and dinner is often a last minute affair thrown together as I realise the lateness of the hour.
Tending the greenhouse has once again become a daily routine. Although there are only a few bulbs growing inside this year, the autumn sown annuals are doing very well. They have almost all been potted on and are gradually being moved out into the cold frames to harden off. The heated propagator has been turned on again this week to encourage my summer sweet pea seeds to germinate and the winter sweet peas have been planted into the greenhouse bed and are nearly a metre up the netting already. Next week I will start sowing the first of the hardy annuals, so this week I need to make sure that I finalise my orders for seeds, summer bulbs and dahlias.
As a result of losing the whole of the autumn I am very behind on my gardening jobs this year and feel the need to make a little time to play catch up. So for this year I have taken the momentous decision not to grow vegetables. This is a tough one – I have been growing my own vegetables for 12 years now and it feels very strange not to be planning my early sowings. I do need more time, however, both to catch up on jobs that were missed in the autumn and to concentrate not just on growing annual flowers in my Cutting Garden, but to carry on planting, improving and maintaining the beds in the main garden. Already I can feel myself wavering – what about my broad beans? You just cannot buy tiny broad beans picked before their outer skins grow tough and then there is the taste of freshly podded peas, new potatoes straight from the ground and tomatoes hot and sweet from the greenhouse. Perhaps these un-buyable flavours will tempt me into a little growing this year, but I am determined to avoid committing too much time to vegetable growing for now – we will see how I go on.
I will be back later this week with my photographs from the stunning garden at Glemham Hall taken in December and also my annual review of growing sweet peas – sweet peas are a Cutting Garden essential for me and I will be sharing all my sowing and growing tips with you.
Thank you as ever to Cathy for hosting this lovely weekly challenge – if the temperatures rise I might be sharing my first daffodils very soon!