Always good to get to the end of January – a long, cold, damp, dark month in Scotland, but as we turn the corner into February, we see the days start to lengthen, certainly at the end of the day and stronger, brighter sunlight during the day… when the sun comes out, which it did yesterday.
Very cold it was first thing, though, so I started the day in the warmth of the greenhouse finishing the annual glass-washing. We do this once a year at the start of the season and it makes quite a difference to the quality of the seedlings and young plants. The glass gets dirtier on the inside than on the outside, due to algae build-up, the deposits associated with regular condensation, cobwebs and old leaves from the vines last year. For the last couple of years, I haven’t bothered with the outsides; the rain usually makes a pretty good job, but with all the damp of last year, quite a lot of algae built up on the north side. All ready now for the early sowings of sweet peas and lettuce!
The shrub pruning continues. We have now started on the wall-trained ornamentals – the quince (Chaenomeles) near the gate gets an annual haircut, shortening all the side shoots to a couple of buds to allow a decent show of early spring flowers. We also have a few climbing roses growing up the south side of the house. I find that it pays to be quite merciless here – think hybrid-tea rose when you’re pruning climbers and you won’t go far wrong!
Since the snow departed last week, the Viburnum bodnantenses, ‘Dawn’ and ‘Deben’ (lighter pink than ‘Dawn’), growing beside the house, seem to have taken on a new lease of life, with a whole array of lovely, lightly-scented, new buds. These shrubs we don’t prune, as they don’t get too big and keep themselves tidy. I’ve noticed that many bloggers have been celebrating their bodnantenses recently with their non-stop flowering from late autumn to early spring. Another shrub I’m really pleased with this year is our Mahonia. Not sure which variety we have but think it might be Charity. Ours is around 10 feet, the height of the walls. It has marvellous snakey-bark trunks, those spikey glossy glaucous-green leaves and flowers over a long period; ours has been gradually coming into flower since before Christmas and will do for another few weeks, I suspect. The bulbs too are on the move, although I’m surprised that not more of the snowdrops are out yet – held back by the recent snow, I shouldn’t wonder, but something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks.
The good weather hadn’t just brought the gardener out! Down in the field at the foot of the Glen, the Good Lady and I witnessed a couple of Roebuck rutting this morning and the mice-like Tree Creepers with their buff-coloured undersides and grey backs raced up and down the limes, holding on upside down to its capacious branches with seeming effortlessness. Meanwhile, the woodpeckers were out, their staccato, hollow drumming reverberating in the woods outside the walled garden.
February is here. Nature is preparing for the spring…