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)




Warm Winter


Lupins in December? Who’d have believed that?


The Hybrid Teas are still producing quite reasonable blooms

What an amazingly mild couple of weeks we’ve had here in Scotland. Temperatures of 14C in Inverness, 13C down here in South East Scotland with the last few nights not dropping lower than 10C! Many summer nights (and days for that matter!) are colder! Very strange weather! Still, it’s to turn colder next week…




Not quite Africa, but these Marigolds are enjoying the winter warmth

We’ve entered a relatively quiet time in the garden, hence fewer posts, with the winter clear-up now underway. The leaf-raking season has run on longer this year but our leafmould box is nearly full now. Last weekend was spent cleaning up after the storms of the previous week. Despite our trampoline ending up lodged against an apple tree, the Greenhouse remained unscathed but there was a mass of twigs and small branches to clear up from the lawn.

This weekend, weather permitting, I’ll be tidying up the borders, removing material that has been broken by the wind or has simply turned into a brown mess. I’ll leave what I can though including all the upright material, including attractive stems and seed-heads which can be quite ornamental in a monochrome sort of way, but, with a zing of frost, a real Christmassy feature!

There’s some strimming to be done, too, under the old apple trees and round the edge of the policies in preparation for the spring bulbs, and with all this warmth we’ve had recently, we may well see these starting to come through much sooner than usual, starting with those marvellous yellow winter aconites!

The Christmas holidays approach – a welcome break from the daily commute, heralding the start of the winter pruning season…


The delicate bloom of a David Austin rose