Mud, Glorious Mud


I try very hard not to envy other people, but it is a battle at the moment especially when someone mentions spending a day in the garden in sunshine. For the last few months I have experienced torrential rain, everyday rain, blustery winds sea fog and sea mists. Sunshine has been hard to find and I have only been able to work in the garden twice in the last month. The ground is sodden and thanks to the dogs, like skating rink. If it was not so cold, I would go barefoot and dig my nails in as they do. The Camellia are a welcome, cheerful sight in all of this mud and rain and seem impervious to everything the weather has to throw at them.

Camellia Japonica ‘Lady Campbell’

My seven visiting pheasants have all survived the winter so far. The females are generally shyer than the males but these two siblings were happy enough with my presence as I dispensed bird food in the early morning. I always throw some into the hedgerow for them. Initially they all fed together on the driveway but they now favour different parts of the garden. This is a bit concerning as some of the males like the top garden where the dogs have free rein. So far all is well and once the breeding season starts they will dissappear into the surrounding country.

Until this year I have had just fleeting glimpses of long tailed tits in the garden and usually just one at a time. However, a small flock have over-wintered in the garden and have been very active at the peanut feeders. I have managed to find a position where I can hang the feeder and get a good view of it without disturbing the birds and this little group is a pleasure to watch as are their  acrobatics.

Camellia ‘Bushfield’s Yellow’ – as it should be, unblemished by frost.

For the first time in many years the various Rosemary plants stopped flowering in the New Year. I am glad to say that they are back in force despite the weather. These are tickling the nostrils of my moss-covered monster.

Berberis Darwini is usually the first berberis to flower here and in fact is often in full bloom in December. This year it is struggling, but Berberis Juliana is flourishing. On the one sunny morning this month it was alive with honey bees and other insects.

I have three Berberis Juliana in the garden. One is in full sun and in a sheltered position. It is covered in flowers. One is in full sun with some exposure and while the flowers are starting to blossom it is lagging behind its companion. The third has become overshadowed somewhat by neighbouring shrubs and does not even have leaves on it. Time for a move.

I am particularly fond of double flowering Hellebores. Hellebores Orientalis ‘Double White Anna’ is particularly beautiful. As usual, it is growing close to an old dry-stone wall and is almost completely hidden by shrubs. However, all of my healthy successful Hellebores grow in this area and rather than move them to a place where I can see them I am planning to give them some more companions.

The shrub Drimys aromatica is responsible for hiding and protecting some of the hellebores. Its small flowers are often described as insignificant but the buds are very attractive especially against the deep pink of their stems.

I never have time to plant bulbs and I have no memory of planting these. However, they are a welcome, cheerful sight on a dull day.

This is not the most exciting picture but represents my everlasting admiration for the Correa shrubs. The flowers my not be very dramatic but they have lasted all winter despite the endless rain. Even better they are very happy in the often ‘dead’ space below my pine trees.

This is my first attempt at making Hawthorn berry syrup. It looks dreadful but as it tastes divine, I don’t really care. Of course, the flavour is enhanced by soaking the berries for a month in a good quality brandy. The tincture is just as ugly and just as tasty and although I know that I boiled the alcohol away I suspect that addiction is setting in.


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