Winter’s Relentless Grip

18 February 2021

This winter I have discovered that the ultimate in extreme gardening is no gardening at all. Despite the fact that most nights I am woken by the wind and rain pounding the house I am always optimistic that the next day will be fine. So far, my optimism has been misplaced. In the last three weeks I have ventured into the garden on two occasions to try and do some work in preparation for the arrival of my trees and shrubs. To my credit I have ignored the bitterly cold winds, although my bones have not, but I don’t last long. I draw the line when torrential rain is thrown into the mix which means that most days I get a brief glimpse of the garden as I feed the birds and exercise the dogs and then retreat to my warm house.

23 February

The early miniature daffodils and primroses look very cheerful, but this year most of my camellias are holding fire so it is hard to find much colour in the garden. The hebe are always to be relied on for a few flowers but even my rosemary has stopped flowering. I have completely given up on the hellebores, as whatever is eating them has now knocked down all of the fences and scoffed the lot including the leaves. I can now only recognise them by their positions in the garden as I have never had to identify plants by their stalks before and am not an expert.

What is left of my hellebores

At the moment the meteorological office is providing more colour in my life than the garden itself. Today is unusual, as the storm warnings are in two colours – orange for rainfall and yellow for wind. I have my own way of measuring the wind, so today I take issue with the yellow wind warning. As far as I am concerned, if you can’t walk upright and have to force yourself through the wind to get anywhere it is at least an orange storm. My other gauges are the dogs, but as two of them have voted with their feet all winter it is hard to use them to make accurate differentiations now. Brodie, the third collie, was abandoned in his early life and spent some time living in the wild so his view of the weather is very different to mine. In fact, he is happy to be outside all of the time and has to be coaxed in in bad weather. I think that he would only voluntarily come into the house during the day if there was a thunderstorm brewing.

Windfall after the recent storms provides an even more colourful picture of the weather fronts around the world as it uses the rainbow to identify the different wind speeds. The colours make it very easy to decipher and I usually enjoy watching the fronts grow and recede as they cross the Atlantic or move in from the south east. Recently, it has become a bit tedious as I would love to see a mild ‘warm’ front on the charts for a change.

An early flowering Camellia Bushfield’s yellow in full flower despite the weather.

I am rather envious of my friends who are able to work in their greenhouses or polytunnels at the moment. I can now supplement my potatoes and leeks with salad greens and pak choi from the local market but would love to be able to grow my own and start bringing on some plants for the garden. To have either of the above I would require a combination of shelter and a relatively flat surface. After 10 years there are now areas where I have one but not the other, so I have to wait the weather out before I can start planting any vegetables.

I planted this succulent ten years ago when I moved here and sadly cannot remember its name. It has flowered constantly since then and provides rare colour at this time of the year.

Wild flowers

Teasles have started to appear all over the garden and the finches will be happy to see them. Having covered the top drive and paths with gravel I was interested to see which wild flowers would be the first to appear there. To my surprise it is dandelions. It is even more surprising that there are so many, as I have had very few in the garden in the past. Soon I will have to decide what I will do with this area. I am delighted that it is so neat after ten years of neglect. However, I also like the abundance of wild flowers that turn it into a colourful place all spring and summer. I don’t use pesticide and have not had much success with the application of salt, so hand weeding is the only option. I suspect that inertia will win the day.

My driveway left to its own devices

Spurge grows throughout the year and I have a number of varieties. I presume that it is related to the Euphorbia martini pictured below which has just started flowering.

26 February 2021

Finally, there has been a break in the weather even if there is still a strong cold wind. The garden will take some time to dry out but I have enjoyed being out of doors ‘pottering’. I have been coppicing the willows and am enjoying practicing weaving fences with them in the area that I have sectioned off in the field. The results are not pretty, but my first small fence has survived three weeks of gales despite being directly in their path. I consider no small achievement.

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