Hellebores, snowdrops and a nuthatch

The mild weather persists and finding a Helleborus orientalis actually in flower prompted me to remove the leaves from all the hellebores. I was just in time as their fat buds are already well up and in another week the whole exercise would have been more tricky and would probably have resulted in some collateral damage. It seems a shame to sheer off healthy green leaves but in theory this both reduces the risk of the fungus to which hellebores are prone and ensures that the flowers will have more impact. However for many years I left the leaves untouched – the plants came to no harm and the flowers were perfectly visible. The British native, Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) is also about to open.

The striking marbled leaves on Helleborus × ericsmithii ‘Winter Moonbeam’ do not need to be removed.

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Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘Winter Moonbeam’

More and more snowdrops are emerging including Atkinsii, David Shackleton, Lady Beatrice Stanley, Merlin, Mrs Macnamara (almost in flower) and large clumps of Galanthus nivalis. It is always a thrill when the snowdrops faithfully reappear. I put yet more leaves into the new leaf mould compost bin, cleared away a lot of old plant material and mulched with Mr B’s excellent compost. The tidied beds are full of promise.

A nuthatch called from the ash tree above my head and I watched it moving down the trunk. A pair of robins joined me in the flower bed, delighted that I was revealing such tasty morsels under the leaves, and blackbirds, starlings and fieldfares are quarrelling over the apples on the lawn. It was a good day to be outside.

 

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First snowdrops, winter scent and colour

Some of the snowdrops are up and to my delight I came upon Peter Gatehouse in full flower this afternoon. I suspect it has been out for some time. Apparently it usually flowers in November and may even be out in October.

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Galanthus elwesii ‘Peter Gatehouse’

Clusters of sweetly scented pink flowers on Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ are just opening and Jasminum nudiflorum is in full flower on the walls of the house. Small flowers on winter box, both Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna and Sarcococca confusa are also sweetly perfumed.

Berries on Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’, cotoneasters and holly, especially Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C. van Tol’, add more colour. I have covered some of the holly berries with carrier bags this year so that the birds will leave me some to bring into the house for Christmas. Not sightly but practical.

The hard frosts and cold winter that were promised have not materialised. I met a frisky (well, frisky for a slug) hungry looking slug in my gravel bed the other evening about to attack the last leaves on my Acis autumnale.

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Mr B has collected leaves, chopped them with the lawn mower and filled a compost bin to make leaf mould. Should one remove all the leaves from the flower beds, as some experts recommend, so slugs and snails have nowhere to lurk or leave a cosy blanket of leaves for the plants (and toads) as I have done in previous years? The worms eventually pull them down into the soil. I feel the beds look unnaturally bear if all the leaves are raked off so I have left the protective cover untouched in most areas except for a few trial beds where I have snowdrops. In an attempt to combat the molluscs, I have removed leaves and mulched these beds with Strulch, which, the marketing promises “deters slugs and snails”. Not sure if I believe it.  I may have to resort to a more destructive method of control if I want to preserve the snowdrop flowers this year.