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Winter Bloomers

January 3, 2018

I am itching to get gardening again but the weather is  definitely not permitting any action either here or on the allotment. It’s cold, wet and windy today so it was necessary to bring the garden inside and these two stems of Helleborus augustifolius are cheering up the sitting room. It’s mixed with flowering hyacinth bulbs that had fallen horizontal in their pot so they were cut and are now flooding the room with scent.

The hellebores are such a great plant for Winter with flowers appearing in late November and continuing until April.  The handsome leaves fill the beds helping to suppress weeds and here they combine really well with Arum italicum as fore-ground cover.

Outside the kitchen door, and in a tall pot, sits Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. It’s a lanky, deciduous shrub with little in terms of form to recommend it. But flowers appear sporadically from late summer before it sheds its leaves then gloriously scented, pink flowers appear in full force in Winter on bare stems.

Next to it and outside the kitchen door, Sarcococca’ Sweet box’ is also in flower. Again it is quite a boring plant although it does have shiny, evergreen leaves in its favour. However the scent of the tiny insignificant flowers make it well worth finding a place for and preferably near a path or door.

Vinca major is useful for bringing a little light to shady corners. It provides simple white flowers all Winter  for cutting and will be chopped back hard in Spring to neaten its sprawling habit.

Aside from flowers and scent which is so welcome at this time of year, there’s pleasure to be had in the frame of bare trees in the wider landscape. On a Thames estuary walk at Christmas this tree had such presence against the blue Winter sky.  Surrounded on both shores by massive apartment block construction it was a good reminder of the importance of nature in the built environment.

In the countryside a birch tree was glimmering with pale orange leaves until the wind stripped them.  It will be bare for the coming months but retains a soft copper orange on the wispy stems.

There’s a big hungry gap on the allotment (I offer a bad back problem that went on for twelve weeks, pigeons, badges and gale force winds as my excuse). Cropping will be limited to leeks, Spring cabbages and kale over the next few months. But looking in the freezer there are surplus frozen beans, cooked spinach, butternut squash and cooked tomatoes from Summer. So I made a Gujerati-style green bean side dish to a curry.

Recipe for 2

225 of French beans defrosted and cut to 2.5cm

2 large chopped and cooked tomatoes de-frosted

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil heated and when hot 1 tablespoon of whole black mustard seeds added

When the seeds popped 2 crushed garlic cloves and half a dried red chilli chopped were added

Green beans and tomatoes plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar were stirred in and cooked for 8-10 minutes.












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