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Winter Flowering Shrubs

We have been slowly building up winter interest in our garden here at Avocet for some time now. We are approaching mid-February enjoying the colours provided by flowering shrubs and trees. I decided I would take a wander with my camera to see what there was to impress us and to attract any insects out and about in search of nectar.

The first set of photos illustrates our Daphnes, D. bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’, which I think emits the best aroma of all winter flowering shrubs. This year it is flowering better than ever with bigger clusters of flowers and far more of them. we grow it in the Winter Garden close to the conservatory and alongside a path to get best value!

Below this trio of pictures are of our three Witch Hazels, Hamamelis ‘Jelena’, H. ‘Harry’ and H. ‘Diane’ which are lightly and sweetly scented.

We grow lots of different willows in our garden which look good in the garden in winter, either for their coloured stems or for their beautiful catkins. My favourite is Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ with catkins of dusky pink and grey as featured in the first 3 photos below. I took these photo just as a shower stopped and the catkins caught droplets on their hairs adding an extra dimension to this willow’s beauty

Another Salix gracilistyla variety that we grow around our wildlife pond is S. g. ‘Melanostachys’ which has stumpy catkins like Mount Aso but these are red and black. So dramatic when caught in the winter sunlight! My photos of it below show the catkins half formed but already looking good.

A willow of very different stature and differently shaped is our ‘Violet Willow’, Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak, although several other salix share this common name. Its catkins are the purist white and much more pointed than the two willows featured above. Later on the catkins will become more rounded and the stems dark purple-black covered in white meal. We grow ours as a pollard with a main trunk about six feet tall and from here long whippy stems emerge each spring. We pollard this willow in March each year and its stems grow a good ten feet long.

A winter flowering shrub not very often seen is Edgeworthia chrysantha which has buds showing and looking fit to open soon, when we can appreciate its yellow scented clusters of blooms on the very end of each and every stem. But for now a photo showing it in mid-February to ‘whet your appetite’.

Probably the heaviest scent of all shrubs in winter in our garden is the Sarcococca confusa. I planted one opposite the Winter Garden and right by the greenhouse door much to Jude, the Undergardener’s disgust as she hates the smell. It is a scent that is a bit of a marmite aroma – love it or hate it. Those who love it say it smells of honey while those who dislike it claim it smells of cat pee! It does however have beautiful white blooms, almost like miniature Witch Hazels, and they are followed by black and very glossy berries the size of Blackcurrants.

When we are washing up we can look out of the kitchen window and see the wonderful Cornus mas, commonly known as the Cornelian Cherry. It is such a cheerful flowering shrub with its bright yellow-green scented flowers which open on bare stems and give us weeks of interest. Later in the year these flowers are followed by red coloured grape-like berries, which once fallen to the ground re loved by blackbirds. It has the extra bonus of beautifully textured bark too.

I will finish this look at our winter-flowering shrubs in our garden with an unusual Ribes or flowering currant. Ribes laurifolium is an evergreen with deep green leathery foliage and in winter is graced with racemes of white flowers. On closer inspection you can see that the flowers are a greenish-cream rather than pure white. It is commonly known as the laurel leaved currant. We find it very slow growing in our garden so it is still a small specimen.

In my next post I shall take a wander with my camera to hand to see what winter interest climbers are putting on a performance.

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My Garden Journal 2020 – February

Okay, it’s February in this leap year so we will gain a day, and it is time for another visit to my garden journal. Weather has been interesting this month just because it has been so extreme and variable, wild and wet, with gales, hail, snow, sleet and rain!

On the first page I wrote,“February’s flowering plant of the month, Iris reticulata.” at the page top above a photograph of Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ and two of my watercolour sketches of the same iris plus one called ‘George. I used Japanese brush pens.

Over the page I painted two Cyclamen growing in our Arabella Garden, which were planted as a clump of five small plants and have now become a lovely ground-hugging patch in shades of pink with a few whites. The foliage is as interesting as the flowers.

On the page opposite I feature a beautiful brown-bronze foliage evergreen shrub, my “Foliage plant of the month. Coprosma ‘Pacific Night!”

More sketches created using Japanese brush pens appear on the next page where I selected a few branches of some of my favourite Salix shrubs, willows, Salix daphnoides, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ and Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’. We love these for their unusually coloured catkins.

On the opposite page is my “Stem and bark plant of the month, Euonymus alata ‘Blade Runner’, so called because it sports long thin wings alongside each stem and these become a real feature in the winter months.

 

I finished off my February journal entries with a double page spread of photogrsaphs illustrating our “Gardening tasks for February”.

These tasks included pruning hydrangeas, pollarding our contorted willow, attempting to repair a leak that has appeared in our wildlife pond and beginning the time-consuming task of adding a 2 inch layer of organic compost as a mulch over every border. The most fiddly job was trying to repair our woven willow fence panel that the wild dog from next door decided to break through and create a hole right through.

We also began to create a new water feature for our front garden, a large fibreglass bowl finished in a granite effect ready to become a miniature water feature. We took up a square of turf up and filled the area with a few inches of gravel to sit the bowl in. We now wait until the right time to plant suitable plants.

So that is my February entries for my 2020 Garden Journal. In next month we might be able to report a few early signs of spring.

 

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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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My Garden Journal 2019 – December

My Garden Journal 2019 comes to an end this month, so here are the entries for December.

On the first page I wrote, “December sees most of the berries stripped from our shrubs and trees by dozens of  thrushes including migrants who like our winter weather. A few berries remain to enhance he odd flowers, the grasses, seed-heads and evergreen shrubs.”

Over onto the next page I feature some of the more unusual and very subtle coloured foliage in our December patch.

I wrote, “Unusual coloured foliage of our evergreen shrubs come to the fore even on the dullest of days. Bronzes, browns, blushes, purples, blues, greys and greens with flecks of yellow.”

 

Over onto the third page for December and I talk of how much there is to see in our garden if you look down at your feet! “In our garden in winter it pays to look down. Silver glows and glistens at our feet. Silver leaf markings take on so many shapes and patterns.”

     

So just one final page for my December entries for 2019! Maybe my next year’s garden journal will be completely different?

 

For the last page of my 2019 Garden Journal I wrote, “I love sunny winter days when the low sun catches the colour and texture of twig and bark.” Then I featured a collection of ten photos of the light doing just that to a few of our trees and shrubs.

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Grasses at the year’s end.

The growth of interest in grasses has given a whole new dimension to gardening allowing us to soften our borders, listen to their sounds, enjoy their movement and the special way they catch the light.

These three photos were taken in our garden in late December to show how important they are in our gardens.

 

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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 – December

Here we are with the final visit to my Garden Journal 2018, as we discover what has been going on at out Avocet patch in December. It has been a year of difficult weather for us gardeners with freezing winds, a wet spring followed by a drought in the summer. It has been a bit of a trial really encouraging things to grow and struggling to get new plants established. But of course none of this spoilt our enjoyment of our garden and gardening itself.

I began my entries for December by writing, “December arrived on the scene feeling milder but certainly not brighter than November. Thankfully the winds were gentle and had turned from the cold air carrying Easterlies to the warmer, wetter Westerlies. The winter sun sends low rays of light that capture the colours and textures of our trees especially Betulas and Prunus serrula.” I then featured photographs of our Prunus serrula and some of our Betulas.

Over the page I moved on to look at our ferns and then small shrubs with many coloured foliage.

I wrote, “Ferns are so useful in the garden mostly in places of shade or partial shade. In December they still look fresh and vibrant. A few though show browning of leaf edges and some die right down turning a rich gingery-brown.” Then I shared a selection of photos of some of our ferns.

On the opposite page it was our small shrubs that sport interesting foliage that featured. We have only recently started using low growing shrubs for their foliage as we are discovering how much interest they can add to a border when flowers are lacking. I wrote, “Winter is the season when evergreen broadleaved shrubs come to the fore, leaf surfaces get glossier, colours darken and extra colour appears especially pinks, creams and rubies. Here is a selection of shrubs we have just bought especially for their foliage, although some will also flower and fruit.”

 

Turning over the page we can see glaucous foliage being featured. I wrote, “As the last leaves fall from our deciduous trees and shrubs, we can appreciate their skeletal shapes. At the same time evergreens come to the centre stage. But I am going to show our evergreys in my December journal entries.”

Here is a selection of photos of some of our many glaucous foliaged plants, a climber, some shrubs and some herbaceous perennials.

One of our recent plant discoveries that we have been absolutely deilghted with is Coronilla glauca Citrina, a wonderful shrub that we grow as a climber on the trellis around our oil tank. In my journal I wrote, “Coronilla glauca Citrina is an underated winter flowering shrub with glaucous foliage and citrous coloured pea-like scented flowers. Grey and lemon together is a beautiful partnership. Equally underated are all the members of the Cotoneaster family.”

 

And here are a few of our many Cotoneasters, a family of shrubs we have grown in every garden we have ever had.

    

Turning over once more we discover two pages concerning our ongoing garden projects whch we started in the autumn.

We were forced by circumstances to rebuild our Seaside Garden when gale force winter winds broke the fence behind it. With our next door neighbours we soon got new ones back up. Seeing every negative happening as an opportunity we saw this new longer fence as a great place for interesting climbers and we decided to start the Seaside Border all over again. So at the end of the month we got started, but there is lots more to keep us occupied through part of January. I wrote, “Strong December winds destroyed a section of fence, the one backing the Seaside Garden. To repair it we had to strip out the area, plants and artefacts, but this did afford us the opportunity of refurbishing it.”

 

Here are some of the new plants waiting to go into the “new” Seaside Garden to join those we saved.

On the opposite page I talk about carrying on with our other editing jobs that we started in the autumn. I wrote, “As December draws to a close and the holiday times approach we take advantage of any dry days to catch up with our projects, new steps for the Chicken Garden, planting hundreds of bulbs and replanting the Hot Garden in its new position.”

      

And so to the last page of my 2018 Garden Journal, when I wrote, “December ended frost free. Sunshine caught special features of plants while raindrops hung on leaves, twigs and sculptures.”

Here is the final selection of photos for 2018, showing winter sunshine working its magic on foliage and droplets of rain caught after a shower.

  

“The end of my 2018 Garden Journal.”