The dead of Winter

January already. I have been thinking there seems to be no such thing as “the dead of Winter”. Not these days, at least. Of course, the previous years have taught us that the coldest part of Winter might very well be hugging Spring rather than Autumn, and there are plenty of weeks left for the Great Jack to come and choke plants still in his glistening hands. However, if “the dead of Winter”, that silent, darkest heart of Winter, exists, it must be have been very discreetly hiding between two sighs in a night when I slept soundly.

I have laid down manure sometime in November, on two thirds of the flower beds. I intended to wait for some vegetation to die back, which would facilitate the mulching of the rest of the garden. But death took its time, and Advent and Christmas preparations filled the days (how many school shows ?). To be honest, the thought of clay squelching under my shoes wasn’t too enticing either : we don’t have a garden path and the “lawn” is basically worm-cast with a bit of green in between. So here I am, nearing mid-January, with a half-mulched not-yet-asleep garden. Some plants haven’t even had time to die back that others are awakening already : if snowdrops and winter aconites are sadly missing from my garden, a few hellebores are getting ready to show off. Unfortunately, I noticed the other day that something has been boring into some of the flower buds. Whether snails and slugs are to blame, I decided last year to forfeit the use of slug pellets (and have heard they might become illegal anyway), so I’ll have to bite the bullet, hoping the culprits leave me enough flowers to enjoy. On this topic, the cover of this book amused me greatly when I found it in the local bookshop :

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I wonder if anybody has read it ? I suspect the answer to the title is a simple NO. And where would the fun be otherwise ?

These pictures are out of season (and of bad quality) but I would like to share them anyway. This is what the maples looked like last November (where you can see the new fence replacing the rotten one where the old ivy lived. I am hoping it will weather down quickly).

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Confused primroses.

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My camellia sasanqua Rainbow – the flower of my wedding (in October).

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How I am looking forward to this Spring, which will be the first in which I will enjoy the fruit of my gardening efforts since coming back from France !

 

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Of Winter, and November foliage

I have been a bit busy in the garden, as recorded in my Gardening Diary page. Winter finally seems on its way, and I should be planting the last tulips, had I not run out of decent containers and compost. I have bought a few oxalis corms which also need to be planted. When I left Paris, I had to part with an oxalis triangularis which was not doing very well, to be honest, but that I loved as it was offered to me by my best friend after one such plant featured in a novel I wrote.

I don’t do Winter bedding. I tend to (try to) appreciate enthusiasm in gardening regardless of how the outcome suits my taste. However, although I feel appropriately amused and cheered, walking along the garden centre’s shelves of colourful pansies, dainty cyclamens and ornemental cabbage, I dislike the artificial coating they give to winter gardens.

Winter’s beauty stems from bleakness, starkness (of course, this statement comes from a person priviledged enough to have shelter, central heating and so on, I appreciate that). I admire gardens which understand and celebrate Winter’s bare grace instead of trying to conceal it or dress it up. In their contemplation, I find a gripping emotion related to the acceptance of truth. Stripped of all adornment, what is there left ? Bare stems, barks, seedheads, structures, skeletons, decay – death, and life within it. There is such power in the darkness of winter. Sleep and hibernation are for plants a gathering of strength. As for beauty, I don’t think anything can beat the glory of a silver birch against a winter sky.

But I am getting ahead of myself, it is only November after all. A few pictures of some treasures found in my garden or near my house.

Acer palmatum Osakazuki

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Acer palmatum Redwine

Forsythia

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Anemone japonica Honorine Jobert

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Cornus alba

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Hosta Canadian Blue

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Hydrangea (can you spot the snail ?)

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Fagus sylvatica purpurea

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And a felled tree in the field, death’s ever open eye.

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Back in business (already ?)

So, thanks to this very mild (though very wet) winter, a number of things have been happening in my little garden in spite of the season ! Some of them were expected, as the coming of the snowdrops :

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and the flowering of the hellebores (Blue Metallic Lady):

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By the way, I am quite satisfied with the result. This is what the website promised :

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and this is what I get :

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Pretty good, I reckon, for an ignorant like me.

The other hellebore is saving its good looks for later :

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OK, so the daffs and the hyacinths are also going to flower quite soon. I get it.

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The iris are up, and I understand that is orderly behaviour.

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What seems a bit strange to me is the fact that alliums and even tulips are also peeking through.

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That may be perfectly normal, I don’t know, this is my first garden-observing winter, but if my memories are not too treacherous, last year, those bulbs woke up a lot later.

Other plants which seem to be a bit confused are the ranunculus :

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For those of you who are not dead of boredom and have made it this far, let’s continue this tour of my garden in early February :

– first, muscari eaten by snails and slugs. And there I was, imagining that the enemies would be at rest during Winter ! (Yes, this is why you don’t see much on the picture, apart from dead leaves. It’s not just because I am a rubbish photographer, it also illustrates my point. A strike if you answer back !)

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– first shoots of the paeonies (is this the year when I’ll get a flower ?)

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– tiny green leaves on the Sedum. He might still be alive !

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– under the salad bowl is the Hepatica Transsilvanica which is probably going to die of the rain. That would be a big shame, because this is what they should look like when in flower :

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– … and euh… yes, still here… (missed the collection day again, didn’t I ?)

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Oh, all those little nothings (do you say that in English ?) which make my day ! 🙂