Growing plants, comparing plants, writing about plants.
The world of plants is vast and can be daunting, but the pleasure of gardening is in learning what works; for you, for your garden and for the natural world around you. There’s no right or wrong, no better or worse, you’re free to decide for yourself what to grow.
Join me in an exploration of plants. I’ll be making visits to different gardens, nurseries, trade and public plant shows throughout the year, where I’ll be looking at the plants being grown and sold so that I can share ideas that you might want to try in your own garden. I’ll also be writing about vegetable growing on my allotment, and I’ll be taking a look at some of the many new plant introductions that come onto the market.
January and February
The days are getting longer now, but it can be hard to tell. In fact sunset starts to get later before sunrise gets earlier, which might explain why it’s still so hard to get up in the morning in January. These are also the months when we might get some hard frosts and snow which can make gardening a bit of a non-starter. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that nothing is going on in the garden because the progress of nature isn’t stopped by a bit of cold weather and the plants are already gearing up for the year ahead.
The key thing is to get outside if you possibly can to make the most of the daylight and any good weather we do get. Last year in January and February, when we were in lockdown and being asked to stay local, I really missed being able to get out to public gardens to see what was happening. And there is plenty to see.
A surprising number of shrubs flower in winter, many of them highly scented, so a visit to a winter garden is a great, all-round sensory experience (see my blog on the Visits with Interesting Plants page for more on winter gardens). On the purely visual side the coloured stems of cornus and willows catch the sun, the dried heads of grasses hold their shape creating dramatic drifts of biscuity-coloured structure, evergreens catch the light and shine in the sun and the leaves of bulbs are poking through the soil promising colour to come – or flowering already when it comes to the winter irises, snowdrops and winter aconites. It’s the perfect way to shake off the post Christmas slump.
These photos were taken at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex in January
In my own garden everything looks quiet but the early signs of spring are there, too, as the bulb shoots shuffle upwards. and the buds of the camellia swell. Many of the changes I’d planned to make in December are still not underway though. At the start of the month I tripped over something in the house and managed to injure my foot, which has made me a bit less mobile than usual. Digging wasn’t really possible so the miscanthus I want to get out is still there. I did manage to move a few things into different pots and plant some bulbs though – it would take more than a broken toe to stop me gardening completely!
There have been some cold nights so I’m hoping the bubble wrap and fleece combination in the greenhouse will be enough protection. There isn’t anything really tender in there, but I move some of the less hardy salvias, evergreen agapanthus, begonia tubers and a couple of pelargoniums in there for the winter, along with a few succulents that are normally hardy enough to survive if they’re under cover. Keeping things dry really helps so I never water the succulents in winter and only very occasionally water the other plants. On milder days I take the fleece off and leave the door open to keep it ventilated, and I check the plants over regularly, removing anything with grey fuzzy mould on it because botrytis can spread quickly if you don’t keep on top of it.
The frost can be very pretty though!
The copyright of all images and text used in this website belongs to Janice Shipp unless otherwise stated.