Mea culpa, I’ve been very late getting the garden to bed this winter. Normally the first frosts hit the Dahlias around November and I dig them up (because they don’t over-winter well in my clay soil), dry them out in the greenhouse, and then store them in an old laundry basket in newspaper and straw in the shed.  I also plant any new daffodil and tulip bulbs in beds and pots and try to do this by December at the latest.

For a variety of exceptionally boring reasons, none of this happened in 2013. Luckily, we’ve only had one mild frost in SW London to date (though horrible rains and winds), so the dahlias were still not blackened by Christmas. As I left for a family holiday time in Worcestershire, I felt guilty......but not very. “It’s been mild” I told myself.

                                                    Dahlia tubers drying in the bubble-wrapped greenhouse

So, I have just come in having finally bubble-wrapped the greenhouse, dug up the Dahlias and planted the tulips. I’ve also re-done my North-facing front window pots (simple blue and lavender shades winter pansies) and kitchen window pot (Hellebore ‘Christmas Carol’ - which has lovely, large, white, upward-held flowers - with two variegated Japanese rushes, Acorus Ogon, whose light green and yellow colours contrast with the dark green leaves of the Hellebore). The Hellebore was very expensive (£10.99), hence only the one, but its large, open flowers sparkle at me through the kitchen window as I write and cheer me, so it was well worth it.

                                                   The Hellebore and rushes in the kitchen window pot

I bought some tulip bulbs months ago but most went mouldy in the shed so I just had two, more recent, packets left – one of orange doubles called ‘Chameleon’ (because apparently they turn red from orange) and one of the statuesque, dark purple ‘Queen of the Night’ given to me by my friend Victoria. Both had started sprouting in their bags in the shed but looked fine. I have planted them together, in two pots, (in John Innes No 2 compost with lots of gravel and a bit of multipurpose on top) in the hope that they will flourish despite being planted so late. I hadn’t planned it like this but, if they flower, they will provide a striking homage to the colour palette of the late, great Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter fame.

Which is a happy coincidence because I am now reading the new edition of the charming and informative “Dear Friend and Gardener”, the book of letters between him and Beth Chatto. For fear of losing an eye or two I can only read it when out of bed because it’s a hardback.  I've discovered I also need an Encyclopaedia of Plants at my side as I read so I know exactly what they are talking about. I thought I was pretty good for an amateur. I’m only a couple of chapters in but already I now know I know nothing!


I digress.

I have also just given "Marie Antoinette" a severe wig cut (ie hard pruned the roses Ghislaine de Feligonde and Phyllis Bide over the gated arch), and have yet to do the same to R. Graham Thomas and his covering of Clematis macropetala. I have also not yet swept up the fallen leaves. I anyway tend not to sweep them all, I only clear the paths, pond and major piles. In the flower beds I like the worms to pull the leaves down into the clay to add organic matter, even if it looks a bit unkempt for a few months. It’s amazing how quickly they disappear. They provide natural mulch, heat and protection for the soil and insects (so food for birds) and they protect hibernating frogs and toads under the shed. The only downside of this approach is that dog poo is much harder to spot! But the truth is the gravel area by the greenhouse and shed needs clearing of leaves so I shall do this when the rain stops.

                                             View from the end of the garden with the gate arch roses cut back

Talking of tulips (if you are following closely), the blog has just been found by a Dutch gardener and cook and her Tweet has brought lots of welcome new interest in the site from The Netherlands. As it happens I have family in Holland, indeed a have a real Dutch Uncle. My maternal aunt married a lovely, sailing Dutchman and I have two great Dutch cousins and extended family there. So, “dus van harte welkom om de nieuwe lezers en kijkers in Nederland” – though of course this is fairly unnecessary since you all speak impeccable English!

As you will have realised by now, this is a fairly ‘random’ blog with no video. My excuse is it’s winter and there’s not much happening in the garden yet, though there are a few plants in flower and the Daphne is now out again, scenting the air and keeping my spirits up. The birds are still around and feeding, the fish have disappeared to the bottom of the pond, and the frogs and toads are hibernating.

                                     Top from L to R: Abutilon 'Kentish Belle'; Cobea scandens; Sarcocca confusa
              Bottom from L to R: Jasminium nudiflorum; Chrysanthemum frutescens; Daphne bhuloa 'Sir Peter Smithers'

Apart from those of you in The Netherlands, I’d love to know where the rest of you are. Each blog gets between 600 and 3,000 hits so it would be great to know where you are living. We’ve still got a real problem with Google analytics on this site so it would be great if you could either leave a comment and tell me who and where you are (I promise to keep your details secret) or let me know via Twitter @RosiesBG or on Facebook at RosiesBackGarden. Many thanks and Happy New Year to you all.

 

I love this plant for the scent in winter, the fact that it is a pretty evergreen and has black berries. I have two, an established one in the back and a new one in the front.