A Capricious January


This winter’s weather is turning out to be a bit of tease. We experience a short spell of cold, then it’s back to mild again. When it does get cold, my garden escapes the frost, even if cars in the street are encrusted with ice. The winds gets up for a few hours and then calm descends once more, unlike last year when it blew for weeks on end. I am not complaining; indeed I am very happy for benign conditions to prevail until spring. Alas I suspect they might not.

The biggest irritation this January has been the dull weather. Lack of winter sunlight is is a major challenge for houseplants. Even in my garden room, which is sufficiently bright for nine months of the year, many plants are beginning to look a little sallow. Feeding and watering is not the answer. They simply need to be kept on the dry side and free from pests and diseases. Whitefly, greenfly and red spider mite can become a complete nuisance if left unchecked.

This weekend The Beau and I attached two wire plant supports to the back wall of the garden room. They are sold as wall art and have a very appealing rust finish. I had toyed with a system of high-tensile wires, but decided this would not be decorative enough, so saved up and purchased two handcrafted wire roundels instead. The largest is over a metre in diameter. I may add a third in due course. While I source appropriate climbers I have attached a few airplants (tillandsia) to the wires and hope they will enjoy the conditions. I am wondering whether orchids and staghorn ferns might be appropriate companions in due course.

Outside, The Jungle Garden is keeping tight hold of its green mantle. This is quite usual for the time of year. I enjoy the relative simplicity of The Jungle Garden in winter, not to mention the generous space. Just three months ago there was barely room to swing a cat in front of the house. A glazed pot filled with magenta-flowered cyclamen provides the only focal point and can be relied upon to continue doing so until narcissi and tulips take over in March. The brilliant flowers dim to a plummy-purple colour as they fade: I pull them off regularly to ensure that more follow.

In my pots, three quarters of which are still sheltering in the workshop, there are signs of life. Little green duck-bills push up through coarse grit in search of light. As they appear I stand the pots outside and make sure they are kept watered, but not waterlogged. It will only be a matter of weeks before flowers begin to appear in earnest. Before that there will be snowdrops and miniature irises, as well as a smattering of early daffodils.

Meanwhile a break from physical gardening is doing me good, freeing up time for book buying and reading. I enjoy trawling the books on Amazon that are being sold off for £1 – a great opportunity to pick up old and specialist titles that one might otherwise have missed out on. Recently I was very happy to find a copy of Nori and Sandra Pope’s Planting With Colour, as well as Roger Phillips’ Herbs. Both arrived this week in mint condition, perfect books for browsing in front of a roaring fire whilst the capricious weather makes up its mind. TFG.