Frost Proof


The weather in the South East has continued to be bitterly cold this week. Our seaside garden, normally sheltered from frost, must have succumbed during the week. The leaves of Geranium maderense have gone limp at the tips, which is a tell-tale sign that the mercury has dropped below zero. They flap around forlornly in the wind and will eventually turn yellow. However the crowns of these magnificent plants are in rude health and will produce new foliage before they flower explosively in April.

Despite the sadness caused by seeing plants blighted by frost, I am always fascinated to observe which come off unscathed, which look sorry for themselves and which give up the ghost completely. Plectranthus argentatus and Streptocarpus saxorum have, perhaps unsurprisingly, done the latter. Their felted foliage hangs as limp as a mole in a trap once the ice crystals thaw. Both are easily replaced and were never expected to survive. Geranium maderense and Fuchsia arboresecens simply look jaded and will recover themselves provided we don’t get further freezing weather. In the ‘I’m alright Jack’ camp are Isoplexis sceptrum and Echium wildprettii, neither of which appear remotely troubled by subzero temperatures. I may have spoken too soon. Being on the dry side certainly seems to help.

Whilst I consider myself a fairly fastidious gardener, I do not go to the bother of wrapping outdoor plants in fleece or straw to protect them over winter. If they are tender they have the option of going down in the cellar or finding a tiny space in our unheated greenhouse. Everything else must remain outside and take its chances. It’s natural selection at its most rudimentary and a crude method of ensuring I always have space to try something new in spring. To that end I have had a big clear out of all my surplus 2016 plant and seed catalogues to make space for the 2017 editions. They started to arrive immediately after Christmas and have been pouring through the letter box ever since. I am very tempted by Broadleigh Bulbs’ extended selection of nerines, and several of Sarah Raven’s new dahlia introductions. There are countless climbers on my wish list (clematis and Hardenbergia violacea among them), as well as materials to start renovating both gardens. Our cleaner is off sick at the moment. Since I am having to do all the cleaning myself I am putting the money I would have paid her towards the orders I will start placing next weekend. I enjoy cleaning, but I am not doing it for free.

Stay warm. TFG.

Top of post: Helleborus niger (Christmas rose). Bottom of post: Acacia dealbata ‘Gaulois Astier’ (Mimosa) in bud.