Does Absence Make The Heart Grow Fonder?

Saxifrage in snow

Modern day air travel may have much to commend it but to be lifted out of a record heatwave only to be deposited into bleak midwinter does come as something of a shock. Not least when it then gets cold enough to snow.


Galanthus nivalis


Galanthus nivalis, the woodland snowdrop

Fortunately there are compensations. The snowdrops were already fully open when we arrived back mid January and probably the best I’ve ever seen them too, carpeting the woodland floor in places. Deep and crisp and even. The trip away was carefully timed to spare us the darkest months of the year, enabling a return as the days are getting longer and signs of Spring burst forth in the strengthening light. With everything that’s happening in the garden at the moment it’s a plan that worked out better than I ever dared hope.


Galanthus plicatus 'Byzantius'


Galanthus plicatus ‘Byzantius’

But you know me, I hate the cold. And I was dreading coming home to it. Without trying to milk the situation, heaven forbid, a small conciliatory purchase didn’t seem inappropriate. It’s the first time I’ve had a puckered petal snowdrop and isn’t she just gorgeous. Now I want them all. Oh dear.


Galanthus x hybridus 'Merlin'


Galanthus x hybridus ‘Merlin’

One of last year’s specials. ‘Wendy’s Gold’ was out as well but sadly just going over before plant, photographer and camera found themselves in suitable alignment. I have learned something about snowdrops this year, namely that there is shade.. and then there is deep shade. The first specials to grace chez duck didn’t do so well but these last two have enjoyed a few more rays of sunshine since planting and they’ve fared much better.

Of course no scientific discovery can by fully accepted into fact until it can be reliably replicated. And with a larger sample size..


Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'


 Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

The winter garden isn’t just about snowdrops, glorious though they are. The witch hazels were occupying my thoughts on the plane home too. For weeks I’d been seeing photos in other bloggers’ gardens. Would I have missed my own? Almost, was the answer.


Hamamelis x intermedia 'Robert'


Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Robert’

But they’ve clearly had an exceedingly good year. Though they may be fading now all have been covered in blooms.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primavera'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Primavera’




The earliest Chaenomeles for me is always an inherited red one. I have no idea of the name.


Hydrangea petiolaris


Hydrangea petiolaris

We’ve certainly had our fair share of wind and rain over the last couple of months but amazingly the garden is much as I left it, with the dried blooms and seedheads from last year still holding firm.


Phlomis russeliana


Phlomis russeliana


Panicum virgatum 'Squaw'


 Panicum virgatum ‘Squaw’

Even the taller grasses are for the most part still upright, wafting gently in the breeze and providing essential structure in borders that would otherwise be laid bare.




Inherited Erica hybrid, against a backdrop of lower growing Sesleria autumnalis.

Is there anything that grasses don’t enhance? Even the humble heather looks trendy again once suitably entwined. I see this combo at eye level from the kitchen window and it will go on providing cheer for months yet. The flowers darken as they mature.


Erica carnea 'Nathalie'


Erica carnea ‘Nathalie’, underplanted with crocus


Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'


Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’


Cyclamen coum


Cyclamen coum, quietly spreading out under the Davidia tree


Helleborus 'Penny's Pink'


Helleborus ‘Penny’s Pink’

First out of the traps in any ‘normal’ year. Not this year though..


Helleborus orientalis 'Anja Oudolf'


Helleborus orientalis ‘Anja Oudolf’

This year the prize must go to Anja. And she’s usually one of the last. Hellebores do take a while to get established. ‘Sleep, creep, leap’ applies particularly well here. But when they do get going there’s really no stopping them.



I hope that eventually hellebores will join the snowdrops in covering the woodland floor and make a real winter impact. Note the daffodil, bottom left, almost in bloom. In this garden, normally, I never see a daff this side of March.


Helleborus orientalis 'Harvington Double Chocolate'


Helleborus orientalis ‘Harvington Double Chocolate’

Presumably in support of the cause this lovely thing leapt into my basket at the same time I bought the snowdrop. Much as I always appreciate such a gesture it can make life difficult on the walk back to the checkout. The trick is to wait until time is short or (more likely) Mike is itching to leave. That way he won’t have the patience to wait for stowaways to be returned to the bench..


Wherever you look now there are signs of good things just waiting to happen, like this Pieris preparing to bloom.


Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Rex'


Tetrapanax papyrifera ‘Rex’, planted last autumn.

Way to go to reach maturity perhaps. But it’s still alive. Always a good sign.


Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel'


Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

Masses of buds! So does absence make the heart grow fonder? Perhaps. Winter may not be over yet. But with the solstice behind us a corner has most definitely been turned.


And finally..



Stakes in the ground.. woo hoo!

Keeping busy. That’s the key.


Linking to Sarah, Down By The Sea (here), who has plenty of winter colour of her own.

And in the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to the roaring fire!