A dash of winter colour...

The shrub commonly known as Daphne
The shrub commonly known as Daphne
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The first gardening article of the New Year. I cannot say it is the beginning of the gardening year, though, as it is difficult to set a date for that.

Many say it begins in March, on the Spring, or Vernal Equinox (March 20). But with the recent mild weather we have plants in bloom that we cannot always rely on to bloom in time for a March Easter, let alone New Year.

Due to the holidays, I am writing this before my New Year’s Day plant count. But, unless this puts a jinx on the temperatures over the next few days, with Roses and Hebes, as well as a number of ‘tender perennials’ such as Salvia, Pelargoniums and Felicia still in bloom, it promises to be a record floral count. Do please let me know of anything unusual flowering in your garden on January 1.

Regardless of the weather, though, we have many plants which can always be relied on to brighten up the winter months. As well as brightly coloured winter twigs, interesting bark, evergreen foliage and berries in every hue, there is a wonderful assortment of plants that actually bloom during the winter months. The ‘winter flowering cherry’, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ , has been looking especially good this year and will do so for many weeks to come. The male catkin flowers of a mature Garrya elliptica can only be described as impressive and really should be more widely grown.

Winter forms of Jasmine, Clematis, Viburnum, Mahonia, Iris and Hellebore, to name a few. Add to this the winter bedding Pansies, Primulas and Polyanthus, the winter flowering heathers and the bulbs which start to appear as soon as the days draw out, the garden has no excuse to look drab in winter.

January takes its name from Roman mythology, with Janus being the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces since he looks to the future and to the past. As gardeners we do the same; looking forward to the new gardening year whilst considering what did not do so well in the garden in the year that has just passed. Last week I encouraged all to consider making their garden more wildlife friendly this year. You may however be considering putting on a more dramatic floral display this summer, or growing a wider selection of home grown produce.

Gardens are well known for their ‘elastic sides’. There is always room for a new plant -or two…. interplanting, under-planting, adding obelisks and other structures to increase the available space – yes, we gardeners know all the tricks if we want to find a home for another ‘must-have’ plant.

My must-have for this week – Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’. A delightful evergreen shrub, neat 1m by 1m, with gold-edged dark green leaves and clusters of the most deliciously scented pale pink flowers. Happy in sun or light shade, but it must be positioned where you can appreciate its intoxicating fragrance, such as near a path. Normally in flower from late January to April, this year its waxy purple-pink buds were ready to burst well before Christmas. Just one sprig in a small vase has provided a delicious fragrance to our cloakroom throughout the Christmas season. Wonderful.

n Wishing all readers a Happy and Heathy New Year from all at Manea School of Gardening

Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)