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.

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33 thoughts on “A Capricious January

  1. Hi Dan what are the large leaved plant at forefront of first photo, and the plant with variegated leaf on left of last photo please? It looks like an ivy?

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  2. The roundels are fabulous. I could see a staghorn fern and some of those big air plants having a happy home there. The weather here is mental. 40F tomorrow day dorpping, dropping, dropping. -3F Wednesday DURING THE DAY. UGH… And we could use a shot of sunlight too. I feel your pain there. The bowl of cyclamen is such a cheerful sight. I might try growing some in a pot and see what happens. I have tried in the ground and they last about 2 years then disappear. I thought I had given up on them until I saw your pot of plenty.

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    1. Yes, I’m not sure they are very persistent when planted in the ground, unlike species cyclamen. However my mother seems able to keep them alive for decades in tiny little pots! I find they can collapse a bit in very cold weather, although they usually recover.

      Meanwhile hope you are staying safe and warm. Spring will be upon us shortly. Dan

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  3. Luv this post Dan. The garden room looks wonderful…love the roundels..so stylish yet practical. Sooooo hot here. Everything is frying..as opposed to freezing over there…so many days over 40c…even with constant watering I have lost so many of the new perennials I planted 😫.

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    1. Goodness you are having some SUPER HOT weather over there aren’t you? Not good for gardening. How sad to be losing cherished plants like that. Meanwhile we are shivering and expecting a light dusting of snow tonight. I’m on my way back from Germany and the first job I’ll be doing when I get home is covering my exotics with blankets!

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  4. I love your garden room. Also, I know how your houseplants feel with the lack of regular sunshine – with my failing eyesight I could do with some to finish off the decorating I had to abandon in October.

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  5. Just staggered out of Hardy Exotics Nursery near St Ives, following your blog post recently mentioning that gorgeous Cornish paradise! With the help of a burly husband, a campervan and a very nice woman called Julie who runs the place, I have managed to get most (but not all!) of the plants which caught my eye. What a great place! Even in January it was Springtime there with birds singing everywhere and masses of lush foliage both inside the polytunnels and out in the open. Decided to concentrate on buying salvias and other plants with scented foliage. Julie said hello to you Dan, what a lovely man you are and thanks for mentioning Hardy Exotics on your blog😊

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    1. Sorry I am a little late in replying Julia, but I was so thrilled to read your comment whilst away in Germany this week. Hardy Exotics is great isn’t it? Always so many interesting plants, even in winter which is a tough time to have stock looking appealing. You must revisit in the summer when they have even more goodies. The Isoplexis sceptrum I bought there is my pride and joy. I refuse to move it, even though it’s not in an ideal position.

      I hope all your purchases flourish! Dan

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  6. I love the wall art and the idea of putting air plants on it. You have a gift for visuals! I also love the vine by your door. It is similar to my two ‘Angyo Star’ Fatshedera x Fatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’. Southern Living plants is selling them. I love vines and fun leaf shapes that are variegated.Happy for your new relationship!

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  7. One more thing on the subject of Hardy Exotics – everyone do go if you can! Not only is it in the magical faraway kingdom of Cornwall with its soft damp climate but just for one minute – and at the risk of sounding slightly sentimental- I relaxed among the tall palms and bananas like Alice in Wonderland and forgot about the politics outside and our hostility to our friends in Europe and all the duplicity of politicians 😢! Given your tastes in exotic plants Dan I should think Cornwall must be your spiritual home isn’t it? A gorgeous nursery full of gingers, palms, succulents, agaves? And right next to St Ives, apparently famous for its pink light ( not in January but I’ll return!). Must be an absolute marathon to get there from Broadstairs, we live in South Devon and it took us three hours to drive 😊

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    1. My mother is Cornish, from St Agnes, and my father’s family spent many holiday in the same village. Therefore I consider Cornwall home in many respects. Far more so than I do any other location, although I was born in Bath. Cornwall is 100% the retirement plan!

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