A Bit Of January Cheer

Iris reticulata 'Carolina'


The first bloomer of the year chez duck: Iris reticulata ‘Carolina’


It’s grim outside. Torrential rain, coming in sideways, and gale force winds for the third day out of the last four. For many of us January is a test of endurance. Indeed next Monday, January 20th, is billed as the most depressing day of the year. A combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of the first post-holidays credit card bill allegedly provide the perfect storm. As a gardener the worst thing for me is the wretchedly long time we still have to wait for Spring.

There are ways to beat the January blues. Try growing them instead. True blue can be a difficult thing to find in a flower, but irises provide it in spades. The bulbs above were bought as a pack of ten last autumn for less than a fiver but the benefit in raised spirits during the depths of winter is priceless.


Galanthus plicatus subsp. byzantius


Galanthus plicatus subsp. byzantius

Snowdrops may be pushing up their noses all over the garden already but some of the ‘specials’ are even earlier, like this one with its gorgeous seersucker petals. I have it growing outside in a pot protected from the wind and rain in a niche formed by part of the house wall. It’s tempting to bring it into the greenhouse permanently but the flowers do seem to last longer outside if you can find a sheltered enough spot.


Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane'


Narcissus romieuxii ‘Julia Jane’

More new (to me) miniature narcissi find a home here each year. I can’t get enough of them. In my dreams I’d have enough bulbs to form huge drifts under the trees but as you might expect they’re more difficult to establish than their bigger and blowsy relations. This one might yet need rescuing. Slugs have made their mark which is odd given that all parts of the plant are supposed to be poisonous. I’ve moved the pot twice now but it didn’t take the slimy nemesis more than a day to find it each time. The slugs have had an easy run (slither?) of it so far this winter and there are plenty still about. Frost forecast for this weekend though, a possible -5C down here in the depths of the valley. Mollusc comeuppance.

Grevillea 'Canberra Gem'

The greenhouse is the place to be in January. Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ is coming into bloom


There’s plenty to be getting on with in January and February too. I await something like 50 packets of seeds, due any day, 40 of them from the Hardy Plant Society. I joined in Spring last year and on a moment’s whim signed Himself up alongside me mostly, it has to be said, for provision of chauffeuring and portering services at the local group plant fairs and talks. And oh what a bonus come seed ordering time to find that together with a joint member I now receive a double allocation of seeds.

Of course that was back in November and we all know what seed catalogue madness can do. It’s in January that the practicalities hit home. Like the fact that the greenhouse is already full to bursting with overwintering cuttings and tender plants. As are all three coldframes. And also every inch of the workbench next to the window in the potting shed, the only other area of light filled, flat, covered space that I have.


Fuchsia arborescens


Fuchsia arborescens

Blooms in July and August. Hmmmm.


I have long since given up with New Year’s resolutions. Rather I settle upon a set of loose objectives. That way I have a full year in which to achieve them and there isn’t the inevitable motivation total fail when it all falls apart on January 2nd.  There is still work to do on the house and there always will be. The sitting room needs the few last tweaks although whether Mike would consider the total reconstruction of the wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookcase a ‘tweak’ is a matter of conjecture. The dining room still needs its two coats of paint on both walls and ceiling and everything which follows thereafter. And of course it wouldn’t be chez duck if there wasn’t at least the inkling of a new project on the horizon. But in life, and in the blog, I hope this year will let more of the green stuff back in.

It certainly needs to. For me. And for the garden. With 2019 given over to the chaos reigning inside the house the gardener has let things slip. Big time.


Banksia blechnifolia


Banksia blechnifolia. This Australian native was always going to be a challenge in a British winter.

I’m not counting chickens. Or even my fluffy pink buds. But..


Plan ahead, sow and enjoy the precious moments of calm before the hard work starts again in earnest. Spring will come.