First sight of bulbs

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The best thing about January is seeing the first green tips of bulbs appearing through the bare earth. I could spend hours crouching down, scanning for a sight of these precious tiny signs of the year ahead. It makes the hard work of planting them all even more worthwhile.

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Can you spot the bulb?

What with the short days and being so busy during December, this weekend was the first weekend I saw the garden in daylight. At first I could see only a handful of eager muscari (always the first to show, months before flowering). Where were my snowdrops? Had they been eaten? It took some time for my eyes to adjust, and then I started spotting them everywhere, their tiny white heads so desperate to open before half-way out of the ground.

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Snowdrops

My faithful Iris ‘George’ has also come up again, for the third year running. I wonder if they have multiplied?

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Iris ‘George’

Watching the first bulbs appear in January is just about my favourite gardening thing. What’s yours?

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End of Month View: January 2016

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t see much difference between January and December in my front garden.

This was December 2015:

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And this is January 2016:

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The only discernible difference is the three new sacks of horse manure, courtesy of the ever-obliging Emily. And, if you look with a microscope, you can see my three purple Iris ‘George’s blooming away in the centre of the nearest bed.

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It could almost be the same photo. I am wondering if I might not bother to take one at the end of February, and just reuse this one again! You must excuse the blurriness of the photos: they were taking at about 8am, not quite sunrise, this morning as I dashed on my way to a class. I needed the ISO on my camera right up at 3200 and still only acheived a maximum shutter speed of 1/30s, hence the rather vague outlines.

If you missed those irises, as I imagine most of you did, here they are up close:

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And an eager I. reticulata ‘Clairette’, whose bedmates are not such early risers:

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Not much else in bloom at the moment in this garden, although one of my helebores is showing a lot of buds and I shall try to capture it at its best in a couple of weeks’ time.

The photos above were the first I took on my new camera (a secondhand Canon 50D, if you are interested). Until now, all the photos on this blog were taken with my old 40D, which finally died a sad, tremulous death three weeks ago after many years of faithful service. This is the last photo I took with that old 40D, a suitably gloomy and wintery scene of raindrops on withering crocosmia foliage.

RIP Canon 40D, you will be sadly missed.

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End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener. Do visit her page and see hers and many other EOMVs for January.

End of Month View: December 2015

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Bare soil, the bare bones of the garden: winter is when your skills as a gardener are revealed. Anyone can fill a garden with flowers in July, but it’s not so easy to keep the garden interesting through the damp, dark winter months. My main criticism of mine is a lack of structure, which I could easily create with judicious placing of a few evergreen or otherwise interesting shrubs. On the other hand, since the winter months have been so mild, nature has lent a hand at keeping the garden alive. Look closely, and you can see spots of colour all over the garden.

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This little primrose has been flowering for months, ever since I brought it back from my grandmother’s Derbyshire garden in the summer.

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This cyclamen hasn’t quite found its home; this current spot beside the path and next to the rock lily is a placemarker until a better home turns up. I can see its cheery raspberry ripple flowers from the sitting room window.

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I was thrilled to find these shining berries on my Sarcococca confusa, ranging from deep red to chocolate brown.

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Bulbs have been shooting up relentlessly. Last year I planted three iris ‘George’ bulbs, and this year I am hugely lucky that they have divided themselves into six. Elsewhere, snowdrops, daffodils and and hyacinths are poking their way cautiously through the soil. My pots of bulbs are looking promising.

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And here, a good two or three months early, is the bright pink nose of a peony ‘Avalanche’!

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Jobs have been stacking up during the month. My dahlia tubers are at last uplifted, and hanging upside-down on the inside of the shed door. After two weeks of this treatment I will cover the tubers in vermiculite and store them out of harm’s way till March, when they can be planted up again. (Many gardeners, especially in mild areas, don’t bother to uplift their dahlia tubers, but I am in fact planning to move mine to a sunnier spot. Besides, Scottish winters last just a month or two too long for me to wish to experiment with this.)

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I have taken cuttings of my favourite salvia, and have lined up all the plants destined for my next project. Now is a fantastic time to go to the local garden centre and pick up bargains!

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Finally, one way of bringing colour to a drab winter garden is by planting up beautiful pots of the many plants that are at their festive best at this time of year. One of the many lovely Christmas gifts I received this year was a tiny hellebore from my uncle and aunt, and when I saw it I immediately remembered this page about planting pots for winter colour, which I’d bookmarked from one of my favourite blogs, The Frustrated Gardener. Greatly inspired by the gorgeous, homely arrangements therein, I made several of my own using similar plants: my little Christmas rose, Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, variagated azalea (which will have the added bonus of pink flowers in spring), winter heather, white cyclamen, and finished off with trailing ivy. Pushing their way through this are some shoots of muscari to help extend the pots into spring time.

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End of Month View is hosted by Helen Johnston at The Patient Gardener, and I find it both wonderful and useful to visit the other gardeners who link in with Helen to see how they have managed the challenges that come at different times of the year.