The Original Garden Visitor's Guide

Sue's Garden – January Jottings

A happy new year to you all and here's to a brand new year of gardening.

Well-done to anyone who has managed to get out there and do some gardening, despite the wet, inclement weather. So, if you have managed a few hours in the garden since Christmas, what have you done?

I've been clearing the tops of pots of all the debris that can build up, moss and leaves, that sort of thing, then topping up the pots with some fresh compost. The pots look great after this little make over. Everyone has leaves which have collected in the corners of the garden or lay decomposing on top of the lawn. They may be soggy from the rain, but are full of plant nutrition and could be collected up, bagged and stored to create leaf mould. It takes a little while to compost down, about a year, but at the end you will have some lovely rich leaf mould to use in the garden. It only takes a general tidy and sweep up of twigs and debris and the garden soon starts to look a lot better. Just spending half an hour each day outside will make a lot of difference to the garden and will most definitely be beneficial to you, both mentally and physically and of course, spring is just around the corner.

The mild temperatures so far this winter have certainly had an impact on the growth of plants. I've seen Daffodils in bloom; Snowdrops have made an early appearance too and Daphnes are in flower at the National Trust Nymans garden. Has anyone had to stop cutting their grass? - mine seems to have kept on growing!! I have a Camellia transnokoensis in a pot in my garden and it has been in flower now for some three weeks or so, with many more buds ready to open. I saw this Camellia in a container in the conservatory at Chiswick House Camellia Sow in 2015. What I loved about the plant was its very small foliage and its delicate white flowers, which are slightly fragrant. I visited the show last year and it is spectacular. The Camellias growing in the conservatory are very old, rare and extremely beautiful. My plant of the month for January is the snowdrop or Galanthus nivalis. It is such a beautiful plant and there are many different species and cultivars. Check out the National Gardens Scheme - for details of the Snowdrop Festival 2016. This is kicking off their 'Year of the English Garden 2016' campaign. You will find details of all the gardens which open early to dazzle you with their carpets of snowdrops. My favourite tree at this time of year because of its amazing coloured bark is the birch Betula utilis var. jacquemontii 'Doorenbos'. It is ghostly white. Beautiful examples can be seen at Anglesey Abbey Gardens in Cambridgeshire and Marwood Hill in Devon. These trees look stunning in a winter garden.

What about some warming colour for your garden at this time of year? In January cotoneasters are normally covered in bright red berries; Sarcococcas (winter box) will be in flower; the foliage is a gorgeous glossy evergreen and the flowers are small, white and have a very sweet scent; Mahonias will give you evergreen unusual foliage and have a beautiful bright yellow cascading flower. For something smaller, Hellebores look stunning planted under trees and shrubs, they have single or double flower heads and there are some very beautiful colours available. Cornus (dogwood) can bring a garden to life in the winter with their bright red, orange or yellow stems and Rubus cockburnianus has ghostly white prickly stems. Planted together they look fabulous in a winter garden. Cyclamens will always be a cheerful sight in any garden, planted under trees and shrubs they will add a dash of colour.

There are many gardens to visit which have beautiful winter gardens, showcasing colourful stems, topiaried box and skeletal trees in all their beauty. Visiting a garden at this time of year will undoubtedly lift your spirits and get you in the mood for gardening. One of my favourite gardens to visit at this time of year is the RHS Wisley garden in Surrey. They have some spectacular winter colours to see and a special winter walk which guides you round the garden to see the beautiful winter stems, colours and textures found in the garden in January. The Beauty of Bark trail, guides you round Wisley's beautiful trees to admire the different types of bark, and how very beautiful they are. For more information on winter gardens to visit, click on the Gardens tab on the menu.

Happy gardening everyone.


Sue Liassides

Sue Liassides

Gardener, Garden Designer & Writer

Camellia transnokoensis

In Flower - Sussex, January 2016.

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