Winter aconites, snowdrops and plans

Cold damp weather is deterring all but the most enthusiastic of gardeners but there are bright spots. My winter aconites, Eranthis hyemalis, are appearing. They just about hang on in my heavy clay. The dainty yellow buttercup-like flowers are surround by an Elizabethan ruff of green. I must plant more where the soil is to their taste (light humus in dappled shade).

Winter aconites forcing their way up through my claggy soil.

Plenty of snowdrops have opened including John Gray, Diggory, Atkinsii, Hippolyta, Lady Beatrice Stanley and Ophelia. Best of all, the clump of Trumps, with striking green markings on the petals, has increased. The strulch (or frost) seems to have done the trick, so most snowdrops are intact this year.

Iris reticulata are beginning to appear and I am particularly please that it looks as if I am going to have  great display in my fire pit. Iris unguicularis (Iris stylosa) has 3 flowers (but lots of untidy leaves). Mahonia × media ‘Lionel Fortescue’ and wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) are also providing both winter colour and scent.

Now is the time to take stock, plan and, best of all, order new plants. I want to redo a small bed that used to be home to a large Daphne pontica which turned up its toes last year. I filled the gap with a couple of salvias but they do not look right so I am going to move them to the drive bed. The hardy fuschia ‘Mrs Popple’  will go with them. According to that informative small book ‘Who does your garden grow?’ by Alex Pankhurst,  Mrs Popple lived in Stevenage. An astute nurseryman (Clarence Elliot) noticed  a particularly vigorous and free-flowering  fuschia in her garden. When he asked her about it, he found to his surprise that it survived outside in the winter. He took cuttings and in 1934 Fuschia ‘Mrs Popple’ was exhibited at an RHS show where it won an Award of Merit. She has been a firm favourite with gardeners ever since. I wonder if  Popple descendants still grow her?




Anti-freeze in the garden and birds on Otmoor

I hope this cold frosty snap will “do for” slugs and snails. The snowdrops with their anti-freeze proteins survive. The stems lose turgor and collapse to the ground overnight but by mid-afternoon the plants have perked up – a miraculous resurrection.

The fat flower buds on the camellias seem to be equally resilient, but the shell- pink scented flowers that are covering the Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’  only remain intact if they are in a sheltered spot.

The birds are enjoying the apples on the lawn. We visited the Otmoor RSPB reserve this afternoon and to our delight saw a short-eared owl roosting in a distant bush – a real treat. Needless to say we did not find it ourselves.

We also enjoyed the snipe, so well camouflaged with their stripy backs. Winter has its perks.