Sunday, 21 January 2007

Winter's the New Spring

Winter's the new spring: well, it seems so here. We've had days of very wild weather - gale-force winds and driving rain - but the climate is still so mild that the plants think it's spring.

Whether designing gardens or writing about them I like to encourage the use of scented plants in the garden. Especially around doorways and especially in winter; it's often all we see of the garden when the weather is bad.

Outside my front door at the moment I'm greeted by the most wonderful fragrances: a large untidy shrub of winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) and a small neat one of Christmas Box (Sarcococca confusa)are so covered in blossom that the air is laden with scent. (And covered with bees - their clocks are up the creek)

The scent dominates the more discreet perfume of the pale mauve iris (I.ungularis) that bloom below them. Their leaves looked so tatty before Christmas (and so similar to grass) that I nearly dug them up. Luckily, I'm not only a fair-weather gardener but a lazy one too. Result: iris in flower.

By the back door clumps of golden winter aconites are open, accompanied by purple violets; the one such a cheery sight, the other so charming. The aconites I expect at this time of year but violets - don't they know it's January. And those pesky weeds are still growing, darn it.

Above them are the strongly scented sulphur-yellow racemes of mahonia - the blue tits love them - and nearby the battlement of pyracantha is covered in orange berries; no scent but such a vibrant colour. It's also a favourite refuge for the blackbirds, enough provisions for any siege an added bonus.

But beside them what will be deliciously perfumed narcissi and daffodils are showing through; six weeks early at least. I like my seasons to be distinct: I want snowdrops in January, crocus in February, daffodils in March. Then I'm ready for spring: bluebells and tulips. The same with the shrubs. I love warm weather but enough is enough: bring on the snow.


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