Iris danfordiae

Above: Iris danfordiae

Garden diary: January

The Iris danfordiae are fully in flower now, and are beautiful. I've brought one inside, and a few snowdrops, and these are in a vase by the computer.

I've been doing some clematis pruning and general clearing up when I've had the chance. Working out there late afternoon as the days visibly lengthen, I try to find any reason I can to mess about in the soil. The soil, I think, is smelling healthy and fertile, (though I realise that's a strange impression to have, perhaps (!))

Buds are lengthening on many of the clematis, particularly the early-flowering and well-established Clematis macropetala (which I didn't prune, as they'll be flowering soon. I think I've got the hang of this clematis thing now.)

The first time I saw this garden was in February, five years ago. A good comparison point. I can picture the estate agents' photo of the garden, and how it was mainly grass and trees. Now there's no grass, as I had to get rid of it to make room for all the plants.

This is the first February that I can see some success in my plan to have a garden with some year-round interest. This year is the first that flowerbuds have appeared on the Hellebore orientalis plants I grew from seeds I collected from the established plant a couple of years ago. These are all ruby-red, like the parent. With them are the Arum italicum 'Pictum', now in good-sized clumps, and other hellebores, and snowdrops, and pulmonaria just about to flower. Epimediums and Dicentra spectabilis are pushing up fat promising buds.

In pots near the house I've got some handsome evergreens, including the Garrya elliptica, bought in Autumn 1999, and last winter catkin-less. This winter it has a fine display of long tasselly catkins that were moving nicely in a slight breeze yesterday, and distracted me from website work as I watched them through the window (thereby giving my eyes a much-needed rest).

I'm really appreciating anything green, as winter has been going on too long.

Another welcome addition to my winter garden is the now-flowering Sarcococca confusa (Christmas box). It's only small, but is flowering properly this year for the first time. It's in a pot on the windowsill here, and has a lovely delicate scent, as do the Iris danfordiae in the pot next to it. I would have a whole row of pots on the windowsill, but have to leave room for the cats to jump up there when they want to ask to come in (which they do by putting huge muddy paw prints all over the glass).

The bird life is varied still, with coal tits and blue tits in evidence, plus the usual gang of sparrows. And as happened last year, the pigeons have become a problem, a huge flock of them hanging about on the roof and no doubt upsetting the neighbours. I counted 12 today, but they make such a racket when they take off it sounds like there's about fifty of them.

At least one morning recently the sun has been noticeably warm, and the cats noticed this too. Both of them headed for the sunny stretch of wall. One of my highlights of the month, seeing them sitting a few feet apart in the morning sunshine. Leaps has a tumour, and "the long-term prognosis isn't good". In October we were told she would be dead within a few weeks, so I didn't think I'd see her still sitting in the garden now, and I feel very thankful that she still can. The more chance she gets to sit in the sunshine the better.

I've noticed birdsong increasing from the more tuneful birds. Noticed a blackbird, and earlier one of the pigeons, picking up a bit of nesting material momentarily. These signs tell me that spring is on its way.

Back to February highlights and diaries


Iris reticulata

Above: Iris reticulata

Garden diary: March