Moe's Winter Newsletter
‘Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today’ Will Rogers
Dear fellow gardeners,
As I write this Winter Newsletter I am conscious of all the ups and downs we have all faced during 2022. What a year we have had (again)! It has been a struggle in many ways. Keeping our society going was challenging after COVID but in the great scheme of things, our unexpected move to a new venue has been nothing compared to what has been happening with the rest of our lives! The change for our society has meant that we have all had to get used to new surroundings and a different ambience. We all know how difficult change is to accommodate and I sometimes miss the welcoming warmth of the cricket club! However I can now say that the extra parking space, bigger kitchen and better seating arrangement of our new ‘home’ have enabled the society to move forward in a very positive way. We are welcoming many new members and hope that they, along with regular supporters, have enjoyed the speakers, trips, competitions and shows during 2022 and will wish to remain with the club in 2023. There are still some fully paid- up members who have not yet joined us and we have to say that WE MISS YOU! So, if you are a one of them and haven’t been to club since we moved, why not come and join the Christmas meeting on December 20th when you will be greeted to an atmosphere (and room) that will be warm and cheery? After that, in 2023 we have another packed programme to tempt you, starting on January 17th with the AGM and then February 21st when we welcome back Steve Halliwell.
I am sure many of you, along with me, sometimes think of our gardens with the same nostalgic longing for how it looked yesterday, last week or last year! Have you ever had a certain excitement come over you when you look at a photograph of a beautiful planting combination you achieved many moons ago only to then get a rapid decline in mood when you realise it didn’t look quite the same this year? Logical thinking tells us we will probably never achieve exactly the same ‘picture’ again but that doesn’t stop the emotional side of us wanting to. That’s gardening for you! Things are never the same two years, two days or for that matter, two hours running but we mustn’t let yesterday take up too much of our thinking today. The garden grows and with it, so must we. To coin a phrase, we can pick ourselves up, brush ourselves down and start all over again. Mistakes can be rectified and new ‘pictures’ created and………. there are so many to create! I will be putting my thinking cap on and trying to make a decision about what I will plant to replace the box that has been devastated by the box leaf caterpillar I spoke of in the autumn newsletter. I have started to make a list of possible candidates and the removal of plants may even spark a redesign of part of the Mediterranean garden. Watch this space! What started as a terribly upsetting occurrence has turned into an exciting new project. Improving our plots is a positive move forward and one way to do this is to plant something new. My thoughts will be for summer interest but late winter and early spring are always the times when we need to get excited about what we have growing in the garden so, being a winter flowering plant, some new hellebores would be a good choice if you have space to spare. We all grow snowdrops, crocus, cyclamen and narcissus but many of us don’t grow hellebores. If you haven’t, give it a go. Some would say that the range of hybrid hellebores available to the gardener has become even more alluring over the past 35years and from the simple shapes and colours of the essential forms have come an incredible range of doubles, multi- coloured and multi -patterned forms you can find in the specialist nurseries! I have to say that I prefer the single coloured varieties that still have a charm of their own when seen in a winter garden. However if you are of a different opinion, and want to be truly excited, there are (I’m of no doubt) many beautiful hellebores that would grace any woodland garden with shade and moisture retaining soil.
You can purchase these from a number of nurseries on - line. A most lovely collection can be obtained from Lorna Jones of Herefordshire. Lorna has been developing hybrid hellebores for well over 30 years now and a look at her collection will leave you spoilt for choice! If you like dark colours then the hybrid ‘Purple Picotee Double’ won’t disappoint. The apple- green foliage sets off the deep colour really well. On the lighter side Helleborus x Hybridus ‘Pink Red’ is burgundy in colour and ‘Pink Spotted’ has round symmetrical sepals of deep pink edged with a softer lighter shade of pink that blends together nicely. Others to tempt are the pink Helleborus x hybridus ‘Picotee Semi –double’ and Helleborus x hybridus ‘Double Picotee veining’, ‘Picotee Anemone’, ‘Pink Red speckled double’ ‘Apricot Double’ and ‘White Anemone’. I suspect they will not be cheap but they will certainly have the wow factor at a time when we all need a boost.
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Dark Picotee’
H. x Hybridus ‘Picotee Double Anemone’
In my last newsletter I mentioned including more climbing plants in the garden so why not include a winter flowering clematis? Clematis paniculata is a vigorous plant that, in a sheltered site can grow to 4metres. It’s main flush of white star shape flowers come in early spring but when the weather is mild it will flower in January. It can be a bit spindly in its first few years so after planting cut it back to 60cm from the ground. Once it has filled its allotted space simply trim it back after flowering each year. Clematis Cirrhosa all flower in winter and early spring, some with the added advantage of gorgeous perfume. Clematis Cirrhosa var. Balearica AGM and C. Cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’ are both perfumed. They are pale lemon in colour but the former has dark speckles on the flowers. C.Cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ is white.
Another strongly perfumed clematis is C. ‘Fragrant Oberon’. Most clematis like rich soil, a cool root run and moist conditions but Clematis Cirrhosa must be kept dry especially during winter. The ideal place to plant it is on a south or west facing house wall where the eves of the roof protect the soil from heavy downpours. It will need some support at first but when established it will tie itself around posts and wires. For later blossom, those in the Armandii genus will give flowers from February to March. C. Armandii ‘Snowdrift’ though lovely with its’ vigorous growth and abundant, sweetly scented narrow white flowers needs a south –facing sunny situation away from cold winds. Planting any of these will really give you something to look forward to in late winter and early spring.
Clematis Cirrhosa var. Balearica AGM
Clematis Cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
Of course, in addition to planting something new we can look after that which we already have. I don’t really finish ‘organising’ the garden for its winter respite until the beginning of December but there will still be things to do after that. Manuring and mulching goes on throughout the winter. Other tasks:
Prune fruit trees (Apples and pears) and soft fruit (blackcurrants, autumn fruiting raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and blueberries).
Pots outside will need bubble wrapping to keep plant roots from freezing and may need to be covered with fleece bags if susceptible to frost damage.
On wet days use the time indoors to clean pots removing pests and diseases
If you have a water butt in the greenhouse, empty it to stop excess condensation.
Check ties on roses to ensure stems don’t rock about in winter winds
Keep compost bins covered to ensure heat stays in for maximum breakdown of contents
Net your pond/s to stop leaves falling into and fouling the water
Continue to rake up leaves to make leaf mould in a wire bin (or perforated black bin bags)
Feed small birds. If you have brassicas the pigeons will help themselves!
Cut the edges of the lawn to keep a tidy appearance
January is a month for looking through the seed catalogues and ordering favourites and a few newcomers. The summer bulb catalogues land on the door mat too at this time of year and I love looking through them to find new varieties of eucomis, alliums and lilies to send for. They won’t arrive until March and April 2023 but one can dream in the meantime. I’ve grown the beautiful, almost indestructible hybrid Lillium ’ Black Beauty’ in a large pot on the terrace for a couple of years now. It is a cross between Lillium speciosum var. rubrum and Lillium henryi. What a magnificent sight it is when in full fettle in late summer, with its bamboo – like stems that can hold as many as fifty dark – purple flowers with a green and black centre. They like the humus rich but well drained conditions I have given them i.e. soil based compost, manure and course grit. Slow release fertilizer pellets add to the nourishment and a good watering regime ensures they don’t dry out. In winter I bubble wrap the pot and cover its surface with a large saucer to keep the bulbs dry. They will rot off if they get wet. I used to grow Lillium Regale too. Lillium Pink Perfection and ‘Stargazer’ also superb candidates for pots. These are highly fragrant and disease resistant lilies and grow in the same conditions as those mentioned earlier. Of course there are many that will grow extremely well in the garden when they should be planted from October to March. If you have catalogues delivered and don’t use them, why not bring them to club? There will be someone who will be happy to take them away.
Lillium ‘Black Beauty’
We will all be taking a break from the garden to enjoy the festivities and Christmas dinner will be even nicer with fresh sprouts, carrots and parsnips from the garden together with sauces and desserts made with stored apples and frozen berries. As gardeners we can reap the rewards, enjoy the fruits of our labours in the winter months and look forward positively to another busy 2023 in our gardens and at our Society!
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.