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My Garden Journal 2020 – January

A new year starts here and along with it a new garden journal in a new book. This year I will restructure the format of my journal so that it includes fewer photos and written reports but more paintings. For my title page I wrote, “A year in the life of our garden in drawings, paintings, photos and maybe a few words.”

Each month I will include paintings and sketches, a flowering plant of the month, a foliage plant of the month and a ‘bark and stem’ plant of the month. So enjoy the January pages of my 2020 garden journal.

The first page of my January entries featured two watercolour paintings of our Witch Hazels, Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ and H ‘Diane’.

Page two sees me looking at the amazing winter flowering shrub, Cornus mas. Each month I will feature a “Flowering plant of the month” and this Cornus is my January choice.

“Scented flowers. Deep red berries. Deeply textured bark.”

I then created two more watercolours of flowering winter plants, one shrub and one climber, Daphne bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and Jasminum nudiflorum.

I moved onto look at my ‘Foliage plant of the month” and my choice for January is our little collection of Arum italicum.

My final plant of the month is Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, January’s plant of the month for stems and bark, with its “Orange stems, orange ‘snake-bark’ trunks, small white flowers and primrose-yellow autumn colour.”

My January entries in my garden journal end with our “Garden tasks for the month”, so it was “Heads down to lay seep hose through borders, prune large branches of Mahonia and pruning Hypericums.”

So that is our January in our garden. We will visit my garden journal in February to see what went on in that month.

 

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Simply Beautiful – no 29 – winter yellow

At the beginning of every year we are treated to the amazing display of flowers on our Cornus mas. The shrub gets covered in its citr us yellow unusual flowers. The flowers have to be looked at very close up to appreciate the details of its structure. The bees love it as an early food source.

I hope you enjoy sharing ours through my photos.

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My Garden Journal 2019 – February

Here we are visiting my garden journal for the second time in 2019 with my February entries. My first double page spread was all about the week that spanned the last few days of January which delivered snowfall and the first few days of February which gave us a heavy frost.

The photos on the left hand page illustrated some of our winter flowering scented shrubs topped off with a layer of deep frost. I wrote, The last few days of January shared a week with the first few days of February. It was a cold week cheered greatly by the appearance of flowers on our winter shrubs, which also delighted with their rich scents.”

“The delights of scented winter shrubs. Food for winter flying moths.”

   

Opposite my photos showed the effects of snow on our sculpture, both man-made and created by Mother Nature, the seedleads of grasses and perennials.

“The snowfall that came and went all within a day.”

       

Over the page my next two pages concerned with a period of strong winds and the earliest of bulbs to flower in our patch.

I wrote, “February 9th delivered gale force winds overnight so firstjob on the 10th was inspecting for damage. Luckily very little was to be found just a few minor happenings.” 

  

“One broken stake of a support trio. Plant labels blown around the garden. 

“Part of an insect home blown down. Plant protection bags blown off delicate shrub Loropetala.”

 “Collapsed Calamagrostis”

On the opposite page I wrote, “February sees the first of our bulbs coming into flower.”

 

“A pale crocus and an deep purple Iris reticulata.”

  

“Snowdrops have bulked up nicely.”

 “Winter Aconite give winter gold”  

“Cyclamen at the base of our Field Maple.”

The next double page spread is all about Hellebores and we have so many.

I wrote, “Hellebore hybrids and self-seeders are blooming throughout our garden.”

    

“Euphorbia foetidus grows to small shrub proportions in the rich soil in our patch. Its acid-yellow bracts sit well against its deep green deeply cut foliage. It has a rather unfortunate common name of “Stinking Hellebore”, but is also called “Barfoot”.

“Even more of our Hellebore hybrids.”

     

Turning over the page one more time I looked at some indoor gardening related jobs and wrote, “Wet days in February afford us the opportunity to catch up on indoor tasks such as chitting potatoes, starting off Dahlias and Cannas as well as sowing seeds of perennials and a few annuals.”

      

I continued, “Meanwhile outside we continue to tidy up border by border. Sorting our gravel garden, the Chatto Border, is a major task so we do that work on days when Ian, our part-time gardener is around to help us. We also dug up and divided Day Lilies.”

   

About Crocus I wrote, “Whatever the weather, sunny or overcast, the gold of Crocus shines through, even the purple coloured varieties have spots of deep yellow, almost orange.”

Turn over and I share the surprise of a wildlife visitor, about which I wrote, “There is a surprising amount of wildlife activity in our February garden. Recent sunny, warmer than average days have encouraged our resident birds to start singing and calling. The Song Thrush calls loudly from first light along with Robins, Dunnock and Wren while overhead Buzzards and Red Kite mewl as they soar. As the light levels drop Tawny Owls called for long periods of time. Sunshine also brings out Bumble Bees and Honey Bees to feed off early flowers of bulbs and the first butterfly of the year makes its appearance. A stunningly beautiful Red Admiral rests on a wall taking in the extra warmth of the sun on the bricks.

 

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My Garden Journal 2018 – February

Part two of my 2018 Garden Journal sees us still freezing cold and struggling to get time in the garden.

I opened my February entries by noting, “February is the month when we feel that the quality of the light improves and makes us feel better and there are definite signs of the days lengthening. Early bulbs begin flowering and others are showing strong leaf growth.”

  

I next sought out another quote from Dan Pearson’s book, “Natural Selection” and was pleased to find this one, “Making room for the winter garden is every bit as important as managing a garden that draws your attention in the dark months.”

 

Turning over to the next double page spread I write about newly acquired plants.

 

“It is always an enjoyable time planting newly acquired plants but it is an extra-special experience doing so in February. We were delighted to find good healthy specimens of two fastigiate plants, a Taxus baccata “Fastigiata Robusta” and an Ilex crenata “Fastigiata”. The only two fastigiate plants we have already established at Avocet are a Berberis and an Oak, Berberis thunbergia fastigiata atropurpurea “Helmond Pillar” , (a tall thin shrub  with a long thin name!” and Quercus palustris “Green Pillar” which despite its name is grown for its deep red autumn colour.”

  

We also recently planted a Viburnum with a very different growth habit to our fastigiate purchases. It is a low growing shrub with a very open, airy growth and sweetly scented flowers in April. It is also described as “almost evergreen”, so we will wait and see exactly how ours behaves. We already have a good collection of Viburnums around our Avocet patch.”

 

Some of my watercolour sketches of Hellebores and details of their petals feature on the next page.

 

“Hellebores peak in February adding a richness with the deep reds and purples as well as cheeriness with their yellow flowers.”

“I love turning up each flower to reveal its beauty, its colours and markings of spots and streaks.”

 

On the opposite page I looked at some of our grasses with winter interest and share some photos of them.

“In late February we begin to cut down “deciduous” grasses, choosing the right time to avoid cutting through this year’s new growth. Evergreen grasses especially varieties of Carex  come into their own especially when partnered with evergreen foliage plants such as ferns, bergenias and arums.”

 

Moving on to the final double page spread for February, I considered coloured stemmed Dogwoods and a look at roses as they give their final points of interest before they are pruned and begin to grow anew for this year.

“The coloured stems of Dogwoods add so much colour to the winter borders. We use them to catch the rays of the low sun which helps them to glow and liven up our garden.”

 

I finished off my February journal entries by featuring roses and a very special plant, special because it is a dogwood that occurred in our garden as a chance seedling of Midwinter Fire crossed with one of our other Cornus plants. We have grown it on and now take lots of cuttings hoping to bulk it up. We hope to be able then to sell them at our open days. Very exciting!

I wrote, “Our Cornus Midwinter Fire throws up new plants from runners and occasionally a few from seed. The runners are identical to the parent plant but the seedlings can vary a lot. We pot the seedlings on and then plant them out on our allotment plot to allow us to identify “star plants”. We have one which is far redder than its parents and has better autumn colour. We are propagating these (see below). We have named it Cornus “Arabella’s Crimson” after our granddaughter.”

My final page is about roses and yellow flowers of the February garden. The yellow flowers are Jasminum nudiflorum, Cornus mas and a pale yellow rose bud. I wrote “Sparkling spots of yellow flowers brighten up the February weather, fighting against this month’s greys.”

“Late February is the time when we begin  pruning our bush roses in readiness for the new growing season. We always find wrinkled rose hips and even the odd flower bud.

 

“Next month is one we really look forward to. Already by mid-February light values have improved, but soon Spring may begin to creep in!”

 

 

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Winter Wonderland at Dunham Massey – part two

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Welcome back to the National Trust property Dunham Massey in Cheshire where earlier this year we enjoyed our annual exploration of their wonderful Winter Gardens. No winter flowering plant can have more presence than Cornus mas, the Cornellian Cherry.

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Better known perhaps are the Witch Hazels with their flowers of yellow, orange and red which glow like fire in the slightest brightness of the winter sun.

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Deep inside their brightest of ribbons of petals deep secrets hide, revealed only when the petals fall.

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In part one of this two part visit to Dunham Massey I shared with you my love of the biscuits and browns, the last of life from the previous seasons. Now I will share some more beautiful details in close up, using a close-up attachment on my Nikon. It really brings out the importance of structure and the richness hidden in these modest colours.

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Amazingly exactly the same colours are there to be found in the bark of a winter garden’s trees.

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On some old flowerheads from last year, especially the Hydrangeas, the dominant colour is bone white which does look good too!

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As we wandered around the Winter Garden paths which meander among the borders we kept getting glimpses of a shrub which looked to be still in its Autumn coat. We couldn’t get close enough to see what it was so before leaving we sought it out and discovered it to be a Mahonia of the japonica/bealii type but we were not sure which one and it wasn’t labeled. Below is the photo I took to show its bright “autumn” colours against the intense dark greens of surrounding evergreens.

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Naturally I must finish off this double dose of winter beauty where I began, singing the praises of white barked birches! Singing their praises through the lens of my camera!

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