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Last Month in My Garden, December 2017

Foliage becomes increasingly important in winter, as the number of flowers decreases. The photo shows a cyclamen in the border I created in spring 2016 and I am pleased with the ground-cover it is now providing. Variegation stands out and colour comes also from stems of shrubs. Frost can make plants more interesting, sometimes giving leaves a border of rime. Fortunately, last month was not always cold and there were opportunities to clear some borders. I started with those that had snowdrops in and where I could work in the sun; I always hope to weed before the snowdrops break through but never succeed everywhere. This year the snowdrops have been extra early to defeat me!

Cyclamen hederifolium

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’

Frosted Pyracantha

10.12.17 10 am fruit-cages sagging

10.12.17 8.30 am

11.12.17 Bay tree (centre) and leylandii

Snow came on Sunday 10th. Malvern (much higher) had had some on the Friday but there was none here and I did not expect to get much. How wrong I was! It was snowing when I got up; already everything was covered. I went out to clear a path to the bird-table and log-shed; when I finished, the path was already white again. The flakes got bigger and heavier. I have two fruit cages and the netting roofs sagged. I have had fruit-cages wrecked by snow before so my conscience prompted me to go out again to move some of the snow from them; just as well because the depth elsewhere increased to about eight inches. It thawed a little on the Monday but then froze; Wednesday was warmer and slowly the white blanket thinned; after a week it was almost all gone. Evergreens were most affected because their leaves held the snow. The photo shows my bay tree, Laurus nobilis, with its branches bent down; after a few days it was recovering but is still not fully upright. A Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureus’ was even less lucky: the top was completely broken. The end of my garden has a row of large x Cuprocyparis leylandii; some pruning was done last winter and I was planning some more. When I inspected the area that Wednesday, I found that on the far side the trees had several broken branches, the longest ~30’. All had fallen across the boundary but, luckily, in a safe place . I do not remember so much snow-damage to plants.

Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureus’

13.12.17 Bay recovering

Broken branches

I have two ponds in the garden. The smaller one, near the house, is formal with a surrounding wall; it contains water-lilies and goldfish. At least once a year, it is visited by a heron. I had netting across it last winter but that came off when the plants started to grow (particularly Iris pseudacorus ‘Flore Pleno’). The water lily leaves covered most of the surface this year and I resolved to thin the plants next spring; meanwhile, they protected the fish. By early December the leaves had died back (I should really remove them) and water became visible, particularly after the snow. One day I was in the kitchen and had an excellent view of a heron flying over; a few days later, I looked out of an upstairs window and it took off from the pond. The long canes that had been across the pond, as defence, had been pulled down by the snow so I retrieved and replaced them. Next morning, I was working outside when I saw the heron fly off from the far side of the pond, just a few yards away; I felt superior because of my canes. However, two hours later, I saw the heron standing in the pond. It was a magnificent bird but I was determined to outwit it so have added more canes and now keep watching the space! The heron has flown over but I have not seen it land. Meanwhile, on Boxing Day, my view from the kitchen window included a pheasant. It stepped boldly onto a clump of Galanthuimperati and headed towards some pots of Helleborus x hybridus. Now I have another problem because pheasants attack snowdrop and hellebore flowers.

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

Vist Margaret's garden on one of the NGS open days.

1 Comments To "Last Month in My Garden, December 2017"

Louise Sims On 16.01.2018
Thanks for alerting me to pheasants Margaret, I had not realised that these were the problem with my hellebores! Louise Reply to this comment
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