The long month ends…


Yellow aconites (Eranthis) under an old apple tree in the Walled Garden

While we’ve had a lot of rain and a fair amount of wind since Christmas, one thing we haven’t had during January is excessive cold. Very few frosty nights and no snow (so far) have meant that the early bulbs have come through probably ahead of schedule. The cheery yellow cone-shaped heads of the aconites popped through in the Walled Garden shortly after New Year, with the rest under the sycamores in the more exposed Policies following 10 days or so later. These are the earliest-flowering bulbs we have here in the Garden.


Snowdrops in the Walled Garden

The snowdrops too have started to appear, under the largest apple tree in the Walled Garden and in sheltered patches in the Woodland.  We thinned quite a few clumps in the woodland last year and I am anticipating that these may take longer to poke their heads through the leaf-litter than the established clumps. I’m no galanthophile but these early harbingers of spring always lift the spirits with their dainty blooms. Our snowdrops are mainly Galanthus nivalis as far as I can tell, but we do have quite a few  double-flowering ones too, and very beautiful they are if you take the trouble to get close enough! The daffodils and hyacinths are surging through as well, so we may be in for an earlier spring show than usual.


Winter Jasmine

The winter flowering shrubs have been looking very good too, with no snow-related damage. The Viburnum  bodnantense have been flowering in the Woodland and the Policies since the late autumn, beautiful scented light- and dark-pink blooms on bare stems. In the Walled Garden, the yellow florets of the Mahonia x ‘Charity’ have coped well with the high winds the garden has experienced; this is a tall shrub which we have left unpruned, so it now exceeds the height of the walls and is therefore quite exposed. The winter-flowering Jamine (J.nudiflorum) too has been its usual reliable self with a mass of yellow blooms.


Climbing rose (on south facing wall of the house)

But some of the summer-flowering shrubs have been pretty good too! Some of the  Hybrid T, climbing and David Austin roses are still pushing out blooms. They are not so large as those seen in the summer but they are still most welcome! Because we have had no snow, a lot of the structure in the herbaceous borders has remained from last summer, providing a bit more interest than we normally get at this time of the year. This structure is principally in the form of old, dried, seed-heads; not as impressive as the ‘live’ version, and somewhat monochrome, but still very ornamental.


Newly-pruned apple trees with aconites underneath


Early-flowering polyanthus

Since Christmas, we have been concentrating on the trees, chain-sawing timber in the Woodland and the Secret Garden and hand-pruning the apple and pear trees round the walls. The fruit trees are done annually with secateurs and, depending on the vigour of the tree, necessitate the removal of last year’s growth, which can be up to 3’ long. This effectively keeps the trees the same size, forcing the sap into flower and fruit production the following spring.

We are now on to the 7 free standing apple trees (some of which are very old and likely date back to the time when the Walled Garden was in full production) which take longer than the ‘2-D’ fan-traineds, espaliers and pillars round the walls. Hopefully, we will complete these in the next couple of weekends or so, allowing us to move on to the black-, white- and red currants and the gooseberries. That will, of course, depend on the weather, which traditionally unleashes its worst during February and early March!



Dogwood (Cornus alba sibirica)



22 thoughts on “The long month ends…

  1. It seems we have swapped weather this year. Our camellias, which are usually full of blooms by now, are still closed tight. Seeing your garden is a treat. Fingers crossed spring is coming…sooner rather than later.


  2. Beautiful. I, too, am astonished by the rose. It must truly be a mild winter for you. My aconites never bloom until March and I am intrigued by the differences in bloom time from region to region. I’m in a much warmer and sunnier climate than you and I wonder if our late-arriving autumns and mild winters are the cause of the relatively late bloom. Another research project to embark upon!

    Keep the photos coming; you have a lovely garden and I always find it daydream-worthy.


    • Thank you so much for your kind comments! Aconites in March, now that’s very interesting! That would be very late for us. I’m not sure our winters are as cold as yours, though, although your summers are very much warmer. When your aconites come into bloom, how many weeks do they last for, or do they go over quite quickly. Ours started flowering about a month ago, I suppose, and are still flowering…


  3. Lovely snowdrops. Our winter jasmine has been really good this year- a great splash of yellow for the grey days we’ve been having. It sounds like you’ve been really busy and I feel like a lazy gardener in contrast!


  4. I’m still having trouble understanding the great differences between your “winter” and the cold we’re having here in the US this season! Another 10 inches of snow this morning and well below freezing for the next few days….. I love the aconite, and the snowdrops look so promising, but it’s the rose that amazes me the most! Mine are just brown winterkilled twigs 🙂


    • Yes, what an amazing contrast, isn’t it? This has been a very unusual winter here in the UK. We haven’t had the floods seen down in England but it has been very wet, very windy and generally well above zero, hence the roses! And the grass is growing too!


    • Your Prayer garden sounds a lovely idea GGP! Our secret garden is what you might call work in progress! It is an area outside the walled garden, south facing with the garden walls to its north so potentially a real sun trap. Two years ago we reduced in height a beech hedge to the south of the secret garden that had become overgrown and which had closed the whole area in, resulting in deep shade all day and preventing the wall trained fruit trees from flourishing. Last year, for the first time for many years, those fruit trees flowered and bore fruit- very exciting! Last year we let the grasses and wild flowers grow in this area with mown paths through it. This year, we might mow it short and start to plant flowering shrubs round its perimeter to partially enclose the area. The area currently has a mature laburnum down its west side and a beautiful variegated holly tree within so we have some existing structure to start with. Thanks for asking!


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