January & February in the garden

An Instagram retrospective of January and February 2018

From a dull grey start to a bitter, snowy end, winter has been topsy-turvy, and is now in the throes of a tantrum at being asked to go home. We may struggle to keep up; the garden, of course, takes all this in its stride.
January and February in the garden. Yellow crocuses

2018 began as most years do here in the south east corner of the UK, under dull, grey skies, but after two weeks away from my gardens and feeling a bit like a prune from too much exposure to central heating and stove, I was delighted to get back outside.

Christmas money burning a hole in our pockets, we dashed to the garden centre and loaded up with ferns...

...which we've spent the past two months watching slowly dessicate in the arid conditions in the house, in spite of being constantly doused and misted. Most ferns do really like humidity, though they can put up with the cold. We thought the bathroom might be the best place, but even here all bets are off as to whether they can make it through to the longer days of spring, and put on enough new growth to offset the fronds that have copped it, or whether they'll just turn up their toes and we have to admit we're not good at keeping ferns inside, which would be a shame. Iβ€˜ll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, the tropical greenery seems to be more than happy, with new growth on the monstera and the schefflera...

...and the wider houseplant family is doing quite well, thank you. 

With perhaps the odd exception, inevitably, from the pelargoniums. 

Books on houseplants have been arriving with similar alacrity to the vegetation.

Inexplicable levels of joy from this recent acquisition, one from a batch of four or five old Observer's Guides I went trawling the second hand books on Amazon for the other day. Why should this be? Of course they're delightful little objects, dinky, pocket sized volumes with cloth bindings and titles embossed into the coverboards. And a wealth of topics to choose from, so of course mine are all plant and nature related – I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of them on my grid from hereon in. So I don't know if it's partly smugness at finding a new collection so pleasing, and so pleasingly inexpensive, to begin to acquire, or the sympathy between this book's title and one of our other household collections (the #houseplants). Or whether it's just the outrageous yellowness of this particular title. But I can't stop smiling. βœ¨πŸŒ±πŸŒΏπŸŒ΅πŸ’› #observerguides #observersbooks #cacti #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter

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...while beyond the back door, the perfume of the Christmas box wafted it’s way towards the house, 

...ushering in that transitional time between winter and spring, and prompting me to launch the hashtag #thatwinterspringthing on Instagram. 

Naturally, there have been hellebores...

...and snowdrops, of course...

...and crocuses have appeared by now.

More scented shrubs...

...and seedheads...

Seedheads of solidago (DAY-go? Or DAH-go? I never know, and always mispronounce everything. Which I've heard you shouldn't judge someone for, as it means they learned the word from a book). Anyway, it's golden rod, which is kind of like a mad tiny-flowered aster with sprays of golden flowers like Ken Dodd's tickling stick that seeds and runs and … why ever did I plant it? Cos it gives instant height, and movement as it sways, and looks pretty splendid, that's why. And if it gets where you don't want it, just hoik it out. Can't tell you the exact variety as I bought it off eBay years ago! Anyway, must go, four tonnes of steaming manure to get on the beds… happy Friday! πŸ’©πŸŒΌπŸŒΌ #thatwinterspringthing β›„οΈπŸŒ±βœ¨ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #penepl7 #fb

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We all know about leaving the seedheads for the birds over the colder months. But you might want to resist tidying away to quickly for other reasons.… 🌱 They remind you exactly where plants are. Chop then down early and you may well find yourself trying to plant bulbs in the middle of your hidden perennial. 🌱 They create a canopy which protects the soil from the worst of the heavy rain, making the ground beneath workable when bare ground is too soggy. Strange but true. 🌱 They give you a instant winter time reminder of the height and scale of your plants when you're planning next year's border. 🌱 You can see from the thickness of the stems when a clump of perennials would benefit from splitting. ----- Oh, I do love gardening. Always so much to learn! Cold snap on the way again, wrap up, folks, and keep those tender things covered. (I'm talking about plants! What were you thinking?) β›„οΈπŸŒ±βœ¨ #thatwinterspringthing #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter

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...and sunshine...

...and now, just as winter should be going, snow. 

Hawthorn, Huath, Queen of the May, the Faerie Tree. 🌳 Winter reveals the individual trees in our hedgerows, and this hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a favourite of mine with its beautiful silhouette, like an etching of the Tree of Life. It's considered deeply bad luck to fell a hawthorn, so, if you're keen to remain on the right side of the Grey Folk, I'd advise against any such reckless inclination. And anyway, why would you want to? Deep red berries like clusters of garnets, leaves you can eat, and May blossom whose appearance, in spite of what the calendar might tell you, indicates the final departure of winter. Take my advice, and make room in your life (and your garden) for the Queen of the May. β€οΈπŸ’š #blessedbe #thatwinterspringthing #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter

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The first full week of March promises to be milder, and soggy. Just as well. Snow’s all very well at the appropriate time, but it needs go. We’ve seeds to sow, and a gardening year to get under way. 

How has the beginning of the year been for you and your garden? Let me know on twitter, or in the comments below.