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Calm Winter Hues

January 4, 2017

The quieter colours at this time of year suit my mood and I find I am more than happy to wait for a change in temperature to stimulate the next stage in the garden. So I rounded up the only flowers I could find: the spent heads of Hydrangea petiolaris still clinging to the walls and some over-looked hydrangea flowers from late-summer found lurking under the bush. The burnt-out colours perfectly suited these copper-toned lustre ware jugs.


There are  small signs of Spring with Helleborus argutifolius about to burst into life. It would be cruel to pick the flowers but the foliage is a huge plus and makes me aware of the contribution leaves make to a garden.1-imgp1420

It’s the same with this Mahonia ‘Charity’ growing in the university grounds. Handsome, upright dramatic foliage with the added plus of scent similar to Lily of the Valley. Great for pollinating insects in Winter and followed by deep purple berries to attract birds in Spring. I really want to find room for this in my garden but it’s huge and deserves a generous space to show off its architectural beauty. No room here sadly so I shall take daily walks and admire it whilst inhaling deeply.


And although Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box) isn’t very dramatic the scent from the tiny cream flowers certainly is. It makes it worthy of a space by the kitchen door and this year the black berries are enormously fat, shiny and juicy.


I have a drawer full of torn out recipes saved from the weekend papers and I plan to make one recipe a week for the coming year. My reckoning is that if I felt they were worthy of keeping then they are worthy of making so here we go. I am starting with Dan Lepard’s  Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup) to improve a very bad cold. I substituted sourdough bread for his soup bread and it’s delicious but I now can’t wait to make his over-night bread recipe on the same page.1-imgp1441

Talking of garlic January is a good month to plant providing the ground isn’t frozen solid. I experimented late-summer with a huge bunch of purple garlic brought back from the South of France but there’s no sign of life.

Image result for garlic plants

Using a culinary garlic sometimes works but it depends on the source. Turkish or Eastern European bulbs might have adapted to cold weather but Southern French will have relied on baking sun and a drier climate.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2017 3:25 pm

    I must try another Sarcococca, the last two have died but I really want to succeed as I love that shiny foliage and as you say the perfume of the tiny flowers is lovely. I love your Hydrangea flowers I definitely think I prefer them dried to living!

  2. January 4, 2017 3:53 pm

    Yes the detail of dried hydrangea flowers is exquisite-I’m rather surprised that florists don’t sell them.

  3. January 6, 2017 3:00 pm

    I’ve been trying to establish a path edging with sarcococca cuttings someone gave me for four long years, it has seemed so very slow to establish. But, this year, for the first time, ‘ve just had the first whiff of its beautiful perfume and suddenly the effort is so worthwhile!

  4. January 6, 2017 3:31 pm

    Yes it can be slow. I now try to take cuttings in order to have several plants in different parts of the garden. It means it can be quietly establishing and getting bigger then when someone says ‘what is that fabulous scent?’ I can lift a plant and pass it on.

  5. January 11, 2017 1:13 am

    Happy new year, Sue! I’m keeping fingers crossed for hellebore flowers this year as the transplanted seedlings from last year don’t seem to be doing much (too early, perhaps?) and I’ve cut the leaves back on the more established ones. I read that doing that gave the flowers more light and energy, I can only hope! I planted a lovely purple stemmed sarco in a client garden a few years ago and I’m now thinking I should get one for the new garden here to boost winter interest. I gave up on garlic after a few failures but may well give it another go this year, particularly as a cold snap is forecast for the next few weeks!

  6. January 11, 2017 10:16 am

    Hi Caro. H.argutifolius is one of the early ones and mine went to the size in the image from a small plant in one year. It will be too early for H.Niger and others that tend to flower in March and April. Yes worth having another go with garlic!!

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