A FEW WINTER FLOWERS
January is the dark winter month when we are reluctant to venture into the garden as it is usually cold and frosty, or snow covered with an icy wind howling and the days are very short. However jobs still need attention so we just put on layers of warm clothes and hope for a wee bit of sunshine to keep us cheery. It does help though if we catch site of a few flowers bravely pushing up through the ground. I have one south facing sheltered border where a drift of snowdrops will be in flower every January. This winter has been so mild early on that they started to flower in December.
Aconites are also on the move and one or two flowers appear whenever we get a few sunny days together, though the main display is normally in mid February.
The yellow flowered climbing Jasminum nudiflorum has been in flower from November and will continue till the end of February. It is really tough and even covered in snow the flowers are still determined to open up. Crocus is another tough winter flower that starts to appear in late January in sunny sheltered borders and is often seen to emerge as the snow melts.
Roses are another odd plant that we rely on for our summer flower display, but then they continue to send up more flowers at every opportunity right into winter. Although most of my bushes have now been pruned I have a few that the secateurs have not reached including my very vigorous climber Mme Alfred Carrier. We have had quite a few frosts this winter but still these roses have attractive flowers on them.
Flower tubs planted with polyanthus have also decided to join in the flower display, and although the best is still to come it is great to see all these flowers in the garden in January.
Flowers are very welcome in winter but outdoors there are many other attractive plants. Up at City Road allotments my bright red Swiss chard looks terrific though we keep spoiling the display by eating the young leaves in our stir fries. Sometimes you just can’t win.
Numerous types of Cotoneaster are still full of berries including horizontalis, simmonsii and frigidus. The latter makes a small tree and can keep birds in food for months.
Back in the house there is always some plant with a bit of colour on the windowsill. The Zygocactus finished flowering in December, but was then replaced with some cyclamen. The last of these finished early January, but now Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) cuttings taken in autumn have matured and started to flower. These will continue to flower all winter as long as the sun shines, but go a bit quieter during dull days.
The poinsettia bought in just before Christmas for a festive display is still at its best and is a real show stopper. I keep mine on a sunny windowsill, but take it in at night and keep the compost moist, but never waterlogged. It should be fine till spring when it will want to start to grow and lose its coloured bracts.
Another good festive plant is the winter cherry, Solanum capsicastrum, bought in when fully formed with cherries. Treat it like the poinsettias and it should retain the fruit for a few weeks.
However our best festive fruiting bush is our orange tree now full of young oranges. They are edible, but are not very sweet as we just don’t get enough sun or warmth to ripen up the fruit.
Wee jobs around the garden
Check tree ties and stakes on ornamental and fruit trees and renew or adjust them. Keep the top of the stake well away from the stem to prevent bark damage in winds.
Tie in summer raspberry canes with a running knot. Allow about four inches between each cane.
Dig in any green manure crops such as clover that have died after a severe frost. The foliage should be trampled down to make it easier to completely bury it when digging it in, and leave the soil surface as rough as possible to expose a large surface area to weathering by frost.