Welcome signs of spring at the beginning of February

It is always very exciting to see the first blooms of the year begin to emerge with all the promise of a full year back out in the garden again.

So far the 2019/2020 winter has not been particularly cold although it has been very wet and our boots gather the mud and chew up the grass as we walk around the garden.  Throughout the garden the snowdrops are in full swing and the small pink flowers of the spring Cyclamen (Cyclamen coum) are emerging in the woodland areas.

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Elsewhere the spring show of hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) is beginning to start.  We have taken the old, over-wintering leaves off the hellebores to allow the flowers to be seen at their best.  They seem to sit so well among the drifts of snowdrops .  Although we have purchased specific varieties over the years they inter-breed freely and self seed in the moist and shady areas.  We now have a delightful range of colours from very pale pink to almost black.

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One of my favourites at this time of year (and a true indication that spring is around the corner) are the small Iris denticulata.  We have tried to grow this directly in the ground in the past but with little success.  This is probably because during the winter the soil here is always very wet due to the high water table.  In recent years we have grown them in terracota bowls of gritty compost and they now seem to be reliably perennial.

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In addition to the newly emerging spring bulbs and perennials there are a also range of shrubs in full flower.     The winter flowering cherry that we planted some twenty-plus years ago in memory of our first German Shepherd ‘Lenka’ has not grown much but does come into flower reliably each year.  A lovely annual reminder of fun times together when it comes into flower.

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One of the great pleasures at the moment is wandering around the garden and enjoying the heavily scented winter flowering shrubs that perform at this time of year.  The Viburnum bodnantense has been producing clusters of fragrant pink flowers for months now.   Originally grown from a cutting this shrub is now over 8ft high and creates a wonderful show.

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You do need to position these fragrant winter flowering shrubs carefully so that they are close to a path that you use regularly.  Our Daphne odora is directly by the back door and can be enjoyed by taking a few deep breadths each time you leave the kitchen.

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The final shrub to mention is Sarcococca confusa.  The flowers on this bushy evergreen shrub are not spectacular to look at but the scent is so strong and so lovely.  Once again we have positioned this close to the house so that it can be enjoyed in these colder days of spring.

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It is so nice to see these first signs of spring but it does also concentrate the mind on all those winter jobs that you promised yourself you would do but have not yet been completed.  Pruning the roses is nearly complete and the greenhouse has been cleaned although we do still have some apple trees in the orchard which need to be pruned before they break into leaf.  Whenever we get dry days from now on I expect you will find us out in the garden!

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