End of Winter

23 February, 2013

Spring was on its way until about 3 days ago. All the hellebores are up and flowering, and continue to flower for about three months.. We cut all the leaves off round about Christmas time, and do not put them on the compost heap. We have a mixture of yellow, blue, white, various shades of pink, and green. They will not pick to put in a vase, but you can float the heads in a shallow bowl of water which looks very pretty on a dining room table. Digging them up and you need a huge amount of strength. When it is really cold the hellebores lie down flat which I can hardly bear to look at, but they then stand up again as if nothing has happened. The ones near the house we have surrounded with named snowdrops, which have nearly all done well. Polly has worked very hard to improve this bit, and really for the end of February this looks very pretty with a lot going on. It is important to try and achieve this as otherwise winter seems so long. We have a lot of aconites which have seeded around, and the crocus tommasinianus are showing on the crocus lawn at the bottom of the steps. When you are near the parterre you get a strong scent of the sarcoccoca of which we have two huge bushes.

Last weekend James and I went to Colesbourne Park, near Cirencester,which was inspirational. Acres of snowdrops under deciduous trees, it has taken over a hundred years to achieve this marvellous garden. It made me long to rush home and start dividing all my snowdrops. We bumped into John Grimshaw there who has written the definitive book on snowdrops and used to be in charge of Colesbourne.. I bought 4 called James Backhouse, which he said was a very good doer.

It has taken about 10 days to cut down the autumn border, it must be much bigger than I realised. We have lost all the poppies in it, and it shows how plants hate to be covered up by other things. In the Burgundy border allium Globemaster has taken over, and one has turned into about 30. The leaf is very attractive, and this is my favourite allium. There is an article on alliums coming out in The English Garden in May, and quite a lot of them are in my garden. The eremurus out the front are coming up, and some have increased from one to seven. There we have put all the Rosa mutabilis together, and just hope that they will do better than last year and that there will be some sun. The exciting thing about gardening is you always look forward to next year being better, and if not better it is usually different.

My little dog Tensing has been very ill for about 2 weeks, but finally with antibiotics and a change of diet he is much better. It is such a relief. All the grasses are cut down now except the cortaderia. We are longing for the cortaderia richardii to flower on the right hand side as the two plants look very healthy, but did not produce a flower plume last year.

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Winter Update 10 December

I felt very happy today as not only was it very mild and the sun shone, but my eldest son Dominic has got engaged to a girl called Hettie Harvey.
I have only met her once and she is deputy editor of the Evening Standard Magazine. She is pretty and clever and Dominic is in a state of euphoria.

I am at the bottom of the garden cutting down herbaceous plants in the autumn border. Polly likes them cut into small pieces, as because this takes a long time they rot down quicker on the compost heap. This is really a huge border as I have already been two days on it accompanied by Tensing and Classic FM. I think next year I am going to add coreopsis tripteris to this bed which is soft yellow and up to 8ft tall, as I have not made any changes here for sometime. It is not a dense plant and would look good at the back, once if not twice.

Polly says she has found a wriggling nest of baby grass snakes in the compost heap. I am glad it was not me as I am terrified by snakes, even grass ones. I always think that December and January are the two bleakest months in the garden. There are several shades of green, yellow and beige, and it is then that the structure you have got is important. The winter light can be beautiful, and it is now that you start to cut off the hellebore leaves as you do not want mice nesting in them eating the emerging flowers.

After Christmas the days slowly start to get longer, and since it has been mild several of my snowdrops have started to emerge. There is a large clump of Reginae- Olgae subsp. vernalis in the circle in the paddock. I must remember to divide them in the New Year. I picked a few and put them in Dominic’s and Hetty’s room.

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