"There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues." - Hal Borland
This year the Japanesque garden will continue to be a work in progress – that means, for the months ahead, more expense on hard landscaping. The seed catalogues therefore offer the only affordable plant spending sprees and already my sister has gifted me several assorted packets of flower seeds.
In the unheated greenhouse, withstanding some frosts and snows, a tray of ‘lucky dip’ perennials are just sprouting. Also surviving are some tender, scented pelargonium cuttings, just in case the parent plants alongside do not make it through. All the outdoor winter stratified tree and shrub seeds though are as reluctant to make an appearance as this fair weather gardener.
Having said that, I’ve not been totally indolent. Beyond the greenhouse is an area that eventually leads into woodland. It was completely covered in ivy, leaning downhill, above the open precipice of a steep part-wooded slope of my daughter’s garden. The soil on her there is loose and very unstable and so I’ve begun anchoring the top with a plateau of compost heaps, whilst she is terracing below with woven dead hedges and planting several rhododendrons.
“Dead hedges are upright paired stakes, woven parallel, and/or in-filled with branches and twigs to form a barrier. Made from woodland material, after thinning or clearing”.
With shears, loppers, mattock and rake I’ve cleared a significant garden space here (including more bricks and large stones) It will become an area for Japanese woodland plants The little green bush above will be relocated.
Beyond this and just where the trees begin, I’m continuing to cut a swathe through the ivy, and undergrowth, for a levelled path into my small piece of woodland, with seated area and some discernible steps leading to a boundary with my daughter’s garden.
As more of the woodland floor is cleared, I plan to scatter relevant wildflower seeds and/or sow and grow on, our tall sylvan foxgloves (digitalis purpurea). Native bulbs will be a further addition. Already resident in some part of the woods here are unadulterated English bluebells, so more of these mixed with the demure Welsh daffodil.
Meanwhile, the front garden is and will continue to be this year an all-together motley collection of both the Japanese plants and a planned mix of Cottage garden style plants. The annuals will help fill out this latter theme. Although this is not as sunny a spot as many cottage garden plants prefer, some, like the salvias, make the most of the south-west facing aspect at the far end.
Though these drab months, I appreciate having some shrubby evergreens. Many of them have understated foliage and inconspicuous flowers but as with the sarcococcas, osmanthus, choisya, the blooms are highly fragrant which draws our attention. So much so I have brought a pot of the purple stemmed sarcococca (S. hookeriana) into my porch, to complement the sweet fragrance of some paperwhite daffodils.
And aside from the shrubs, there are a number of evergreen perennials adding colour to the scene, including ajugas, euphorbias, thrift, and lysimachia. I’m surprised that the Gazanias are still in foliage despite some very frosty nights here in Derbyshire.
As we approach February, my thoughts turn impatiently to the nearness of Spring. It’s partly due to the sight of Autumn planted bulbs with their heads well above soil level, including muscari, small tulips, and alliums. And especially the pussy willow, now busting out on the Japanese Salix ‘mount Aso’. Named after the active volcano on Kyushu island, the male catkins are appropriately hot pink with a silvery sheen
A scrolling view of the front garden in January