Your unseasonal bloomers

'Jospeh Rock'
'Jospeh Rock'
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I for one am quite glad that we are finally getting a touch of wintry weather. This is not to say that I am a lover of the cold, but it may get our plants back on track so we can enjoy Spring when it should be here – which is not for a few weeks yet!

Thanks for the lovely emails received telling me of your New Year gardens. I trust that, as in Manea, some of your ‘freak bloomers’ may have now gone underground, or at least dropped their petals! Many of the plants which saw the New Year in had continued on from the autumn.

A couple of really quite cold nights back in October would normally have been sufficient to put an end to the summer flowers. It certainly blackened the foliage of Dahlias and Hydrangeas here in Manea.

Yet other plants which we would normally consider a little more ‘tender’, including Salvias, Pelargoniums, Marguerites, Hebes and Cannas, bounced back and continued to bloom.

Autumn foliage and berries always give good value for money, but this year many have exceeded all expectations.

One of my favourite small trees, Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ (illustrated), is still holding on to its last few fruits, even after the wintry showers of the last few days. These were joined by our proper, seasonal, winter flowers – Mahonia, Garrya and winter forms of heather, honeysuckle, jasmine and viburnum. Quite enough to brighten up a garden in December. Normally.

But no, even before Christmas, they were being joined by some early arrivals. I know some of you reported daffodils before Christmas – ours finally opened two days into the New Year. I have been in Manea for 30 years and have never had daffs in flower this early.

So what else jumped the gun, thinking that spring had sprung? Well, we had buds open on Rhododendrons, Camellia and Magnolia. Dwarf Iris, Primroses, Violets and Hellebores are in bloom, and the Roses don’t know whether to have a rest this winter or not!

Sue from Wisbech has a thriving clump of one of my favourite plants in flower a good two months early; Comfrey. The dark leaves set off the creamy flowers which are loved by bees – who, like the comfrey, are completely confused, so need all the flowers they can get.

At Manea, we have a comfrey patch near the bee meadow, and also use it to make a ‘plant tea’ which is high in potassium. Our comfrey is not in flower yet, but has some good fresh growth which we added to the wormery the other day.

Sue also reported that her Spindle tree, Euonymus europaeus, has a large branch in flower – whilst still bearing its autumn fruits. The timber of this wonderful native plant is extremely hard and can be cut to a sharp point – hence being used to make wool spindles.

Patricia reports that she has a Ceanothus in flower in her south-facing back garden, along with Welsh poppies, heathers, hostas and roses, whilst one of our students had Leucojum, spring snowflakes, out along with her snowdrops well before Christmas – both of which would normally be at their best in February.

But after seeing a flurry or two of snow today, I think we may be back on course. So let us NOW look forward to Spring and the wonderful flowers that herald the season ahead.

- Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)

www.maneaschool
ofgardening.org

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