Frosted leaves of Hellebore, January 2002

Above: Frosted leaves of Hellebore, January 2002.

Garden diary: December

20 January 2004

The garden, I realised, must be out there somewhere, under the debris from the golden hop and other deciduous plants that finally gave up their leaves in the recent winds and severe frosts. Much of the hop hangs on still, a mass of twisted dried brown stems covering the top of the forsythias in Kitchen Corner, with many of the dried papery hops themselves also remaining. The plant is so vast it can lose a gardenful of decaying foliage and fruit and still cover a wide area.

I decided to do some tidying and also check what had become of the less hardy plants during the frosts. I could see already, just looking from the window, that an unidentified fern in a pot, which I'd wondered whether I should protect from frost - and hadn't - was looking really sorry for itself. A week before the frosts I'd noticed several times how healthy and splendid it looked. Annoying in the extreme to think about that, as I snipped off all its frost-damaged fronds, leaving only about three that were still green.

Winter's damaging effects aside - it was good to be working out in the garden for the first time in 2004. Close up, I can see what I can't see from the windows of the house, that small points of growth are everywhere already, from the flower buds of the emerging hellebores to the first green shoots on the clematis.

The overall picture is rather drab to a casual observer, not enhanced by the old bath that still stands in the garden just outside the back door. The ground is wet and the paths muddy, and in general things are brown. So I'm glad that there are so many evergreens out there, in all their different hues. The Choisya ternata "Sundance" is bright lime green, and next to it the blue leaves of two potted Eucalyptus gunnii.

Flowering near the back door, trying perhaps to draw attention away from the old bath, is the hellebore "Potter's Wheel", which began flowering around Christmas and continues now to lighten the dark January days with its beautiful white flowers.

On the windowsill, with white blooms that are less showy, indeed barely noticeable, is the small sarcococca, which I think is Sarcococca confusa. On milder days like today, when I can open the kitchen window without an icy gale blowing in, it fills the air with the scent from its small flowers.

Back to January highlights and diaries

Garden diary: February

Hellebore 'Potter's Wheel'

Above: Hellebore "Potter's Wheel".

Garden diary: February