Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica’

6 ways your garden can make you smile in January

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Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica’

Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica’


Heale Gardens near Salisbury


Hidcote Gardens near Chipping Camden

The tree has been dismantled, the decorations put away and many of us (me included!) are facing a self-imposed, austere January. The days seem long and dark and the cold is creeping round the doorstep but there’s life and hope around the corner and the garden can always give you something to smile about...

  • Buy a few small pots of ‘Tete-a-Tete’ or ‘February Gold’ narcissus and put them in a bowl with some moss to disguise the tops of the pots; put them somewhere fairly cool and light (they will flower for longer and not go as leggy) and keep them watered (but not too well; plants suffer much more from over-watering than dryness). Once they have finished flowering, plant them out in the garden to give you joy over years to come. As you plant them out, don’t forget to put in a short stake to mark the place – the leaves will die back in late spring.

  • Make sure you have one of the many sarcococca shrubs in your garden (as near to the door as you can). On still, warm days, the sudden citrus scent of the tiny flowers will cheer you up; pick a few sprigs and put them in a small vase with some snowdrops on your desk where you can admire them closely.

  • I go out and look at my pots and borders every day and there is always something to see – much more so than in summer when everything is burgeoning and shouting for attention. The green spathes of snowdrops and early narcissus; iris unguicularis with its pale mauve flowers; catkins beginning to lengthen; pot-planted tulips and bulbs greening the soil with their shoots (always so exciting to see a new shoot – and, yes, I do tell my plants how clever they are); early crocus are always cheering (Crocus ‘Tommasinianus’ is my favourite as it will naturalise well, although I read somewhere that it doesn’t like my Cotswold clay!).

  • Hellebores: I could never be without them! They are among the earliest and most exquisite flowers in the spring garden. Advances in propagation now mean that there is a wide variety of shades and markings to choose from - I love the deep bluish-charcoal of some of the Harvington Hybrids – and they will self-seed, although they are promiscuous and new plants can end up producing sludgy pink flowers.

  • Don’t forget winter stems: now is the time when Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Fire’ come into their own with scarlet and yellow/orange stems that lift the winter border – wonderful in vases, too, with a few early daffodils or branches of Pittisporum ‘Tom Thumb’.

Morton Hall

Morton Hall Gardens in Worcestershire


A spectacular winter sunrise over our garden

When the weather’s cold and wet it’s a good time to get planning summer visits. These are 3 gardens that I visit time and again as there is always something to delight the eye and to learn from them:

Sure to charm, Heale Gardens surround a seventeenth century house with eight acres of Arts & Crafts gardens which lie beside the River Avon at Middle Woodford, just north of Salisbury.
The gardens are a magical and varied tapestry of running water and exuberant planting that offer the visitor different moods as the seasons pass. The authentic Japanese tea house and a red Nikko bridge spanning the stream offer perfect spots for contemplation while late summer sees an explosion of unusual planting. From the garden’s opening in March to the end of its season in October it is a continual source of inspiration to visitor.

Any garden visitor to the Cotswolds will know Hidcote Manor near Chipping Camden – one of the most visited Arts and Crafts gardens in England.
I vividly remember walking into the first of the garden ‘rooms’ one grey spring day and being cheered by a sweep of yellow and white lily-flowered tulips.

Morton Hall Gardens in Worcestershire look out over the Vale of Evesham. The eight acres of garden began for me with a walk across the Parkland Meadow to the Tea House and Stroll Garden and on through a series of garden rooms. I was delighted to see an unusual use of Muntons’ Clematis & Rose Obelisks in the Kitchen Garden where they are used to great effect to hold up the long stems of cultivated blackberries which spill over the top.

Finally, even in the darkest depths of winter, there are spectacular sunrises to enjoy.

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