“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realise that we can stay out of doors in a twighlight lasting for another quarter of an hour.”
As we near the end of January I can feel the hours of daylight stretching day by day. My afternoon pot of tea can now be taken at 4pm without the need for a table lamp to be turned on, the chickens and rabbits can be fed just in the daylight at 5pm and the fire can wait until late afternoon to be lit. The mornings are noticeably lighter and last weeks sunny skies and freezing temperatures have passed away to be replaced by grey skies and damp drizzle that chills to the bone if you stay outside for very long.
Gardening days have been few and far between this month and there is a noticeable absence of the flowers that I have come to expect in January over the last few winters. The birds can sense a change though – birdsong fills my hedgerows throughout the day and the rooks have returned to nest in the tall trees at the end of my garden. My earliest snowdrops are finally in flower – I was expecting them way back in early January – and the hellebore buds are rising daily. The garden has very much a feel of winter – collapsed borders that are waiting to be cleared, grass that is looking the worse for wear and the beautiful bare skeletons of the trees and deciduous shrubs to admire. I am still holding off from sowing seeds – just a few trays are tucked up in my propogator but I know there will be much to catch up on as soon as the daylight stretches a little more. In the case of hardy seeds it is daylight rather than temperature that prompts germination so seeds will germinate and grow more quickly as the equinox approaches.
In the absence of any new flowers to share today I fell back on my greenhouse narcissi which are bringing a much needed touch of spring to my house. I am using up the last of my first batch of Paperwhite bulbs which were planted in the greenhouse at the end of November – usually these bulbs would have flowered and gone over by now but even these reliable indoor bulbs have been slow to flower in my greenhouse this year. The second batch were planted in mid December and are still a week or two away from flowering – it will be some time before I am without Paperwhites!
Fortunately I never tire of these pretty blooms – whilst I am happy to display them on their own when there is little else in flower, as my options increase I will add just one or two stems to other arrangements to provide a pop of fragrance and pure white freshness. Even when all is bare outside a few stems of Paperwhites in the house reassures me that spring is just around the corner.
To add some texture to my vase this week I added a few stems of this lovely evergreen that has beautiful cones at its tips at this time of year. I am not sure what kind of tree this is so any help with identification would be very welcome.
Last weeks dried hydrangea arrangement is still looking good. One of my readers commented that her dried hydrangeas had lost their colour whilst displayed in a vase. She wondered if it was because hers were exposed to the light whilst mine had been stored in a dark cupboard. I do have some hydrangea heads that I dried in the autumn that have been on display since then and they have kept their colour very well (although they are not in direct sunlight) so I don’t think storing them should make any difference.
Hydrangea heads that are picked just as the colour starts to fade and the petals start to dry out make the best dried flowers. Try and pick heads with the deepest colours as these will fade to a lovely muted shade. I cut the heads on long stems and put them into a large deep vase with just an inch or two of water in the bottom. As that water disappears I do not replace it, but just leave the flowers in a cool spot out of direct sunlight to slowly dry over two to three weeks. Once dry I find they keep indefinitely.
I put the two arrangements together for my final photo – although this weeks arrangement is full of zest and scent these arrangements are both very much of the winter and represent January in my house . Next week as we ease into February I will be using the first of my spring flowers and I am looking forward to that already!!
I am sorry that I have not been here as often as I had planned this month – a combination of the wintery temperatures and my sombre mood has kept me away. I am looking forward to finding some hints of spring in my borders and perhaps a few slightly warmer days to tempt me out to do a little gardening.
Thank you Cathy for this weekly routine which motivates me to cut some things from the garden, pick up my camera and think of a few words to share with you all – in this difficult time I am finding it very therapeutic. I hope that you will pop over to Cathy’s lovely garden blog ‘Rambling In The Garden‘ to see what other treasures have been snipped from January gardens around the world.