A SUNNY JANUARY DAY
We have put 2012 behind us and hope to move into a new and better year. The rain has stopped, the sun is shining, there is a wee bit frost, but nothing too severe and the snow has not yet arrived, as I write this in early January. However we know that things could change with very little warning so let’s just enjoy the winter sunshine. Early flowering bulbs are either completely fooled by this mild winter or know what is happening and take full advantage of the sunshine.
Both aconites and snowdrops have started to flower and the winter jasmine is at its best. My tubs and hanging baskets are planted up with winter flowering pansies which are really spring flowering though can last well into summer. These were grown from seed sown last summer and kept cool. They are often prone to greenfly and leafspot fungus, but maybe the 2012 cool wet summer discouraged these so they have grown very sturdy and clean. They just can’t wait to get flowering so almost every tub has some plants with the first large brightly coloured blooms in flower.
A wander around the garden
Take the opportunity every sunny day to enjoy early flowers and other plants that are grown for winter beauty.
A batch of polyanthus which flowered last spring in my tubs and then got planted out in a border have continued to flower ever since, and even in winter when we get a few sunny days together the flowers open up. The winter flowering heather Erica carnea has now started to flower to add to my winter garden of cornus, kerria, red stemmed maples and orange coloured willows.
This is their moment for the next two months.
A drift of black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens, planted in the front of the border adds to the drama as it is low growing and forms a thick black clump. They form a great background for snowdrops.
The white stemmed silver birch Betula jacquemontii absolutely dazzles in the winter sunshine and as there are no leaves on the tree the branch framework is really eye catching against the deep blue sky. This small garden tree is growing in the middle of my heather harden where several golden and bronze leaved callunas put on their best show after a few frosts have sharpened up the leaf colour.
Now for some garden tasks
There is always plenty of leaves around to sweep up and add to the compost heap, and digging continues on the allotment provided the soil surface is not wet.
Pruning bush and climbing roses can be tackled any time now, and if we continue to get a mild winter it is better to be well ahead just in case there is an early start to spring growth.
Pruning grape vines under glass should now be completed, though there is time yet for the outdoor vines.
Plant of the week
Hamamelis mollis the Witch Hazel comes into flower in January and continues for several weeks. The numerous spidery shaped flowers are yellow and slightly scented, brightening up the winter garden with a bold splash of colour. Their autumn colour is also dazzling. The plant needs space as it can grow quite large preferring a slightly acid free draining rich soil, placed in full sunshine. Do not plant deeply as most Hamamelis are grafted and the rootstocks are prone to suckering.
They do not need any pruning other than to remove suckers, broken or overcrowded shoots and removal of an occasion shoot if they get too large for their space.
Painting of the month
Cold Day in Glenshee is a winter landscape painting. Artists gather ideas for painting in series or projects. Spring and summer are great for flowers and landscapes, autumn for figurative studies and winter for snow scenes. Whilst it is nice to paint local scenes around your town, the rest of Scotland offers so much variety that trips into the country are always very worthwhile provided the roads are passable. Glenshee was one of my winter landscape projects, and a one day trip with my camera up as far as the closed snow gates at the Spittal of Glenshee got me nearly twenty perfect snow scene images. However if the weather proves to be a bit gray with not much sunshine the artist is allowed a wee bit of artistic licence as paintings can last for hundreds of years and it is nice to look back onto the sunny side of Scottish landscapes.