flowering bulbs garden photography gardening irises spring bulbs trees Winter Gardening winter gardens

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.


flowering bulbs garden photography ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs Winter Gardening winter gardens

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.


flowering bulbs garden photography grasses ornamental grasses roses Winter Gardening winter gardens

12 Christmas Garden Delights

As a Christmas greeting to everyone I thought I would go out into the garden here at Avocet and take 12 photos that depict the delights of our patch on Christmas Day.

A dozen December delights!

xm-15 Out of season – Rosa Raspberry Royal.

xm-10 Cyclamen coum

xm-04 Sarcococca confusa

xm-03 Euphorbia wulfennii

xm-05 Hebe Great Orme

xm-09 Jasminum nudiflorum

xm-06 Cornus Midwinter Fire

xm-08 Carex elata aurea

xm-14 Winter Cyclamen

xm-12 Betula albosinensis Septentronalis.

xm-16 Physalis alkekengi (Chinese Lantern).

xm-17 One of our many ferns, Arachnoides aristata.

We have had a great year in our Avocet Garden with so much to enjoy, so many visitors to share our patch with and plenty of wildlife to share it too!

autumn autumn colours colours flowering bulbs gardening Shrewsbury Shropshire

Cyclamen for Autumn

Jude, aka the Undergardener aka Mrs Greenbench, and I love special plants that give extra interest at their own specific times of the year. The Cyclamen we plant in pots each autumn fall into this category and they give exceptional interest with their flowers and their foliage despite their diminutive size. We also grow their relatives in our open garden. They are all tuberous plants and enjoy being grown in partly shaded patches of our garden. We have to make sure the soil is enriched in organic matter so we ensure the areas around them are well-mulched each spring.


Flowers and foliage are both unusual to look at, with unique colours, shapes and patterns. There are no two leaves the same on any plant, as they vary in shape, size, texture, colour and variegation. Their flowers appear like those of no other plant with fly-back petals giving an inside out look to each flower head. Can-can dancers!


We plant them in all sorts of containers with various partners to give added interest and then position the containers where they can be seen from our windows or doors during the colder months. They are there to cheer the garden up and make us smile!

cyc-14  cyc-03 cyc-08cy-24

Visitors to our garden are greeted by seasonally changing plant boxes and cyclamen always find their way here in the autumn. They partner up with the smaller growing grasses particularly well increasing the beauty of both plants.

cyc-13 cy-22

Again they give warm welcomes to visitors as they arrive at the front door of Avocet.

cyc-10 cyc-09

Alongside the driveway we grow them in galvanised containers with bronze-leaved grasses and variegated leaved ivies.

cyc-11 cyc-12

Where more of our Cyclamen grow than anywhere else is in the Rill Garden where we get good views of them from the garden room double doors. Great big smiles on dull overcast winter days.

cyc-04 cy-07cyc-05 cyc-07 cyc-06

In the borders we grow both Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium in lightly shaded areas to give bright patches of colour, with C.coum blooming in the spring and C. hederifolium in autumn. A few plants will suddenly stop you in your tracks when you realise you now have a spreading patch.

cyc-01 cyc-02cy-26 cy-27 cy-19

Garden Cyclamen have an unusual relationship with our garden ants too, which adds to their mystique. We notice seedlings appear in the strangest places often several feet from parent plants and it is hard to find any pattern to their distribution nor rhyme nor reason to their chosen new homes. Ants are the force behind our moving Cyclamen. The appearance of fresh plants in bizarre places show that some other force is at work as the plant itself could not possible have the power to send their heavy seeds so far. The Cyclamen coats its leaves in a sweet substance that is irresistible to ants who carry them off several metres resulting occasionally in their sudden appearance in hanging baskets, containers and odd corners of the garden. This relationship between ants and cyclamen is called “myrmecochory”, a suitably bizarre word for a bizarre phenomena. The photos below show four of the Cyclamen plants that have been seeded by our garden’s ants.

cy-20 cy-16cy-17 cy-18

Although it is primarily the crazy pinks and reds of the flowers that make us buy them, they are also great garden plants because of their unusual foliage. It is often quoted that no two leaves of these plants are ever the same! Below is an assortment of foliage belonging to our Cyclamen.

cy-10 cy-23cy-14 cy-13 cy-25 cy-11

Sadly the cyclamen growing in the wild are endangered following exploitation by ruthless bulb hunters who flooded the plant markets of Europe and America with them. They are now protected and this wild hunting is banned. New methods of propagation means that we now have so many beautiful variations available to us and the wild populations are increasing once again. So their future is bright – bright pink!



garden photography gardening gardens open to the public grasses hardy perennials light light quality ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs roses Winter Gardening winter gardens

A Garden in February – Trentham

As promised we made our promised return to the gardens at Trentham, near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, right on the edge of The Potteries.

The day promised good weather which would make a welcome change. On our last few visits to this garden we had been subjected to rain and often cold winds. For our February exploration the sky was blue and the car’s dashboard read out told us the temperature was 9 degrees. The aim of this return visit and indeed all the following monthly ones was to see how the garden had progressed, how things had changed, which plants were looking good and which ones were the stars.

As we passed over the gentle arch of the suspension bridge we could see the “River of Grasses” with the golden stubble of the grasses which had been trimmed down low. In contrast the close mown grass areas along the riverside were bright green decorated with strips of sparkling white snowdrops. I realise the life buoy is a safety requirement and realise it has to be red so that it is easily spotted in an emergency but it is really distracting!

2014 02 20_6498 2014 02 20_6497 2014 02 20_6496

As always the gently curving line of River Birches looked wonderful, with the bark peeling more than when we saw them in January. I liked the meandering line where the dried grass area joins the deep green foliage of the evergreen Euphorbia robbiae with pale green highlights created by their flowering bracts.

2014 02 20_6500

Once beyond the birches the perennial borders designed by Piet Oudolf looked very flat having been trimmed tight to the ground. This was in strong contrast to all the interesting seedheads and stems that decorated it in January. But with the clear view over the area we did spot this lovely wooden seat which we had totally missed in January. The bright green new growth of the Hemerocallis has progressed well since our January visit.

2014 02 20_6501 2014 02 20_6503

2014 02 20_6509 2014 02 20_6502

We enjoyed seeing that the rings of cyclamen were still flowering away happily beneath the Yews. They looked good in the sunshine, their colours seeming richer.

2014 02 20_6508   2014 02 20_6506 2014 02 20_6505 2014 02 20_6504

There was little change to be seen at the Hornbeam arbor but we did notice a few white sparkling Snowdrops around the base of their trunks. The trimmed box alongside is most noticeable at this time of year when such green sculptures become one of the stars of the garden. Some other stars of the Trentham gardens on this visit waited for us close by -Hellobores and Cyclamen in full colourful bloom. The Hellebores impressed with more than the colour range however, for they had really proud upright habit. They lit up the shade beneath an allee of Hornbeam.

2014 02 20_6510 2014 02 20_6520 2014 02 20_6515 2014 02 20_6516 2014 02 20_6513 2014 02 20_6517 2014 02 20_6518 2014 02 20_6519 2014 02 20_6521

Leaving the Hornbeam allee we entered the old Italian Garden, with its rigidly symmetrical patterns of short cut grass, white chipping and smartly trimmed box edging. The low winter light emphasised this structure. It is not our favourite part of the garden but we always admire the skill taken to keep it looking so neat.

2014 02 20_6522

From here we could look out across the huge Italian Garden, re-designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Since our last visit the perennials and grasses have been neatly and closely cut ready for the new growth that is sitting just below the soil surface ready to burst out.

2014 02 20_6523 2014 02 20_6524 2014 02 20_6525 2014 02 20_6526 2014 02 20_6527 2014 02 20_6529

Then after walking through these borders in waiting, we went off into the parkland where mature trees tower above the grassed slopes. Under the trees sits the coffee shop where we stopped for our statutory break. Some slopes appeared a bluer green than others and we discovered that the leaves here were of daffodils already with flower buds fit to burst.

Near the coffee house are areas for children and it was noticeable how busy they were. When here in January this area was deserted but on this visit there were lots of families with young children. It was the school half term holiday.

2014 02 20_6539 2014 02 20_6540

On the lake the swan sculptures presented sharp silhouettes taking off over the water.

2014 02 20_6538

Over in the display gardens the low bright light made the colours in foliage, flowers, stem and bark look extra bright.

2014 02 20_6541 2014 02 20_6542 2014 02 20_6543 2014 02 20_6547 2014 02 20_6548 2014 02 20_6550 2014 02 20_6551

We returned through the Tom Stuart-Smith gardens and walked along the rose pergola. The gardeners were busy pruning the roses, weeding and freshening up the soil surface.

2014 02 20_6566 2014 02 20_6568 2014 02 20_6569 2014 02 20_6571 2014 02 20_6573 2014 02 20_6575

The shrub borders at the end of the rose pergola were showing signs of interesting things happening, the Witch Hazels were shining yellow and the scented but subtle winter flowering honeysuckle sitting along side it looked rather drab. So that finished our February visit to Trentham. The next blog in this monthly series will be in March. Things should be really livening up then.

2014 02 20_6576 2014 02 20_6577

colours garden design garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public grasses hardy perennials light light quality meadows ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs photography trees Winter Gardening winter gardens

A Garden in January – Trentham – Part One

Since I began my blog a few years ago I have written monthly features with photos about our own garden on Greenbenchramblings but for a change this year I decided to visit another favourite garden, Trentham. So every month throughout 2014 we shall take you on a journey around these unique gardens so that you can enjoy them in all their different guises. Different plants will become the stars throughout the year.

2014 01 07_5836    2014 01 07_5884_edited-1

So enjoy a visit with us as we enjoy a winter wander in mid-January. The garden’s major features are huge areas designed by two of my favourite garden designers, Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith, both of whom have appeared before on Greenbenchramblings. These two new areas fit well within a huge parkland area created by Capability Brown including a mile-long lake with woodland all around, open grassland and specimen trees. There is also an Italianate Parterre designed by Charles Barry and an area where small show gardens display good modern designs full of ideas for visitors to take home with them. A huge maze with a viewing mound, a rose walk featuring David Austin roses and areas specially designed for children make Trentham one of the best days out in the Midlands where it is possible to indulge oneself whatever your age.

A beautifully designed modern suspension bridge welcomes you into the garden where Piet Oudolf’s “Rivers of Grass” greets you. Massed plantings of grasses dotted with patches of perennials are full of the colours of all sorts of tasty biscuits. Wide mown grass paths wind sinuously throughout providing plenty of choices of ways through. The atmosphere is one of complete calm, a place to be quiet and listen to the rustling of the grasses as they move in the slightest breezes.

2014 01 07_5884_edited-1 2014 01 07_5796 2014 01 07_5797

Seedheads on perennials cleverly left by the gardeners draw the visitor in for a closer look where the rich gingers, browns, greys and russets can by fully appreciated. No doubt the resident finches enjoy the seeds too and bugs such as ladybird and lacewing larvae shelter in their hollow stems.

2014 01 07_5798 2014 01 07_5799 2014 01 07_5800 2014 01 07_5801 2014 01 07_5802 2014 01 07_5804

A row of River Birch act as an open barrier cutting across between the River of Grasses and Oudolf’s “Floral Labyrinth” which we entered next. The pink, silver and peach coloured bark of these Betula come to life with its peeling strips of orange paper.

2014 01 07_5805 2014 01 07_5806

The Floral Labyrinth is explored from winding gravel paths and wider expanses of mown grass. This is in the style now called “New Wave Perennial Planting” featuring tall prairie style plants mixed with grasses especially miscanthus and pennisetum. Again the seedheads are key elements at this time of year.

2014 01 07_5811 2014 01 07_5812

2014 01 07_5813 2014 01 07_5814

2014 01 07_5816 2014 01 07_5817

Where many plants have fallen or suffered from rotting in the winter deluges the gardeners have cleared up and signs of new growth are appearing. Here Day Lillies look raring to go!

2014 01 07_5819

This fallen leaf has curled up into the shape of a Woodlouse or Pill Bug.

2014 01 07_5821

Many of the seedheads when studied as individuals are like constellations of tiny stars.

2014 01 07_5807 2014 01 07_5808 2014 01 07_5809  2014 01 07_5820

Others are like thin church spires.

2014 01 07_5810

Many of the taller stems are now falling after all our strong winds.

2014 01 07_5815 2014 01 07_5818

Under large mature Yew trees, cyclamen have been planted in circles. The leaves shine in the low sun and the little swept back petals of the flowers give so many shades of pink as well as a few white.

2014 01 07_5825 2014 01 07_5823

2014 01 07_5824 2014 01 07_5826_edited-1

Moving on from Piet Oudolf’s pair of gardens we wander through an area of open lawns with features of the older gardens and get views of the derelict buildings which must at one time have been impressive and dominating in the landscape. Pioneer plants such as Buddleja and Cotoneaster are gaining a foothold on the masonry as it crumbles. Try to spot them near the top of the ruins.

2014 01 07_5833 2014 01 07_5834

2014 01 07_5842_edited-1

As we finish the first half of our tour we can look forward to more startling planting creations but these have been created within the old structure of the Italian Gardens. These will be featured in part two, my next post.

2014 01 07_5841

What a wonderful way to spend a cold January day!

allotments colours community gardening garden photography gardening meadows winter gardens

Lottie Bulbs

A mid-February walk around our lottie site on a dull grey day was much improved by the colour of the earliest bulbs. Each autumn we invite donations of bulbs from members and now we are seeing and appreciating the results of our members’ efforts.

We grow lots of these early bulbs as they provide very early pollen for any bees that come out on mild days. We need to look after our bee friends as they help pollinate our fruit, peas and beans and many more crops.

The gold of crocuses (or should that be croci or perhaps simply just crocus?) brightens the orchard meadow.

lottie bulbs 1 lottie bulbs 2 lottie bulbs 3 lottie bulbs 4 lottie bulbs 5

Snowdrops and Winter Aconites go together like chalk and cheese. Together they light up the Winter Garden.

lottie bulbs 7 lottie bulbs 12 lottie bulbs 13

Even in the Summer Garden spring bulbs have a place. These beautiful blue iris cheer everyone up as they pass by.

lottie bulb 20 lottie bulbs 21

The tiniest and most delicate flowers of February are those of the cyclamen which mingle with the bark and fallen leaves in the Sensory Garden. The leaves have fallen from the nearby old Oak tree.

lottie bulbs 22 lottie bulbs 23

Accidental juxtaposition of plants often give the best combinations. These crocus surprised us when they chose to flower above the bronze leaves of a Saxifraga.

lottie bulbs 26 lottie bulbs 28

We now eagerly await the masses of Daffodils planted around the site and on the grass verges outside our gates. They will be closely followed by the Tulips in their myriad colours.