The shortest day 2016

Cyclamen coum flowering in December

Cyclamen coum album

Typical run-up to Christmas weather, relatively warm, damp, often grey. Our village is living up to its squelchy name, particularly the green and the parish field.

Today shafts of midday sun cut through elder and hawthorn trunks along the by-way. The low light shimmered off gently clattering mature ivy leaves fanned by the light breeze; glanced along the sturdy mid green blades of Hart’s Tongue Ferns and highlighted the broken and yellowed fronds of the now sleeping Male Ferns. To me, some evergreens look stronger and healthier now than in high summer.

Things they are a-growing

Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus foetidus

In the garden the usual suspects are waking up, more Arum creticum leaves are emerging, Cyclamen coum bravely unfurls its stubby skirts and Helleborus foetidus is opening lime green petals.

The hellebores just appeared as seedlings in another part of the garden, but the dark, dull almost metallic leaves jarred somehow, so they were re-located to the copse. The Stinking Hellebore is a British native plant so they look far better in a more natural setting. Some of the plants seem to be particularly susceptible to foliage blackening and total collapse. I’m hoping the hellebores will start to self-seed in the copse and keep the show rolling.

Other evergreens in the copse include the native Daphne laureola, Stinking iris, I foetidissima, and way too much Carex pendula, plus Euphorbia robbiae and various ferns, including the Hart’s Tongue Fern.

I have to stop walking in the copse as clumps of snowdrops are starting to emerge under the covering of fallen hazel leaves – I can’t go on crunching over them now without causing too much damage.

Some of the knobbly brown furred Witch Hazel buds have shown a tiny slip of yellow for weeks but not yet committing to coming out!

Today I sowed some Pepper Saxifrage, a pale and interesting native umbel. The pot has joined other umbel seeds which will hopefully respond to cold treatment with lots of little twin leaves popping up enthusiastically in March.

Not counting chickens

The hard cold few days we had a few weeks ago are now sorting the tenders and the younger growth out, plants that appeared to have toughed it out are now showing crisped soft foliage or ‘bruising’. Amongst them Myrtus communis and Anisodontia El Royo, Hoheria Stardust has dropped all its leaves.

In the conservatory where the temperature isn’t allowed to fall below 5C, whitefly are stealthily increasing and mystery caterpillars nibble away at my pelargoniums.

We may have turned the year today but there are at least another 9 weeks of potentially harsh weather to go – tuck up me lovelies!

Sad to read in Hortus that Mirabel Ostler is no longer with us. Her book, A Gentle Plea for Chaos, was a good kick up the gardening backside in its time!

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