Thank goodness we are done with January. The days are getting longer, and signs of growth are beginning to encourage us. Apart from the generous hazel catkins in the hedgerows and the slightest white tips of snowdrops, January has few signs of garden life.
Snowdrops will soon pull themselves up from the ground; a few can be up to 6 inches tall, and glisten in the winter sun. Did you know that they have a distinct honey scent? To be honest, you probably won’t notice the smell unless you have picked a goodly handful and brought them into the warmth and have them beside you. It’s easy to increase your crop of snowdrops – they propagate easily by lifting the plants as soon as flowering is finished and dividing the clumps of little bulbs. Replant them in groups of two or three in turf or under shrubs and hedges; you will soon have masses.
If you would like to see the stunning effect of millions of snowdrops, pay a visit to nearby Welford Park gardens (Wednesday to Sunday during February): www.welfordpark.co.uk. Further afield, between Cirencester and Cheltenham, Colesbourne Park bills itself as England’s greatest snowdrop garden. The Elwes family nurture many rare and special forms of snowdrop here. Notably, Henry Elwes discovered the perfect large snowdrop in Turkey in 1874, brought it home, and allowed it to be named Galanthus elwesii. Colesbourne Park is a magical place with massed snowdrops and fine collections of over 200 different forms: www.colesbournegardens.org.uk Both gardens are awe-inspiring (rather than the overused ‘awesome’).
At home, it is still too early to start sowing seeds even in the propagator or warm windowsill; there is not enough sunlight to stop seedlings growing tall and leggy. However, outdoors, the shrubs are still dormant, so winter pruning is one of the pressing jobs that needs to be done. For most of us this means pruning fruit bushes, trees and all the roses. Apple trees should have last year’s new growth cut back to a few buds (few inches) unless you need your tree to get bigger. Although rose-pruning is meant to be an exact science, I find rose bushes to be quite forgiving if over- or under-pruned but remember you trying to encourage maximum flowers and growth to make the rose bush or climber grow as tall, short, wide, narrow as you want. I confess that plants often seem more in control of their own destiny than any imposed by the gardener. But that is gardening.
Do consider coming along to the March talk on Shrubs of distinction and be encouraged to grow uncommon, distinctive and rare shrubs in Chieveley. With Penwood Nurseries nearby, we are blessed with a first-class supply at modest prices.
Happy Gardening, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Tuesday 12 February 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. The Vegetable Garden Year. James Bunn will explain and illustrate the seasonal and monthly tasks to make your vegetable plot or allotment as productive as possible. Those of us who like to feed our families with a few healthy home-grown veggies or who aspire to be self-sufficient can all learn from James. Please join us to share your vegetable successes and failures. Guests and non-members (both £2) are always welcome.
Tuesday 12 March 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Shrubs of distinction. Shrubs are the ‘bones’ of our gardens giving structure and depth. James Bunn will show slides and talk about the range of shrubs we can use and inspire us to choose things other than ‘the run of the mill’. Please join us to share your vegetable successes and failures. Guests and non-members (both £2) are always welcome.