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Last Month in My Garden: January 2012

‘Jottings from Bolam’ January 2012

I find it very re-assuring, to see signs of new growth in the January garden. Many bulbs pushing up, and even seed of Tulipa sprengeri, responding to cold conditioning, germinating on the surface. Scattered in late summer, and tough as old boots, this delightful perennial tulip has colonised in several places in the garden. I will tell you more about it in the future. I am pleased that I removed all the Hellebore leaves in November, for the big fat buds are now well up and some even flowering.

Cutting off the old leaves avoids a black spot fungus developing and avoids decapitating precious buds, but cutting flowers heads to float in a shallow bowl of water allows you to examine their beauty indoors.

In the gravel garden, Chionochloa rubra, the tactile New Zealand tussock grass, delights by flowing in the wind and glowing in the winter sun. The fine, rust coloured foliage works well with neighbouring Libertia peregrinans with similar coloured but sharply erect evergreen leaves, a hardy clump forming plant bearing small white flowers in late summer.

Allium shoots are showing now but they start to produce very vigorous roots in early autumn. A. ‘Globemaster’ is an excellent tall drumstick allium, with glossy leaves and large, long lasting flower heads in June. Being a hybrid, it does not set seed but multiplies by bulb division. I remember the excitement of digging up the 7/8yr old clump resulting from my first bulb that was producing an increasing number of flower heads each year. The clump was so big that the drumsticks were splaying out – not unsightly but I really wanted to see what was going on down below. One September, carefully using a trencher spade I unearthed a huge ball of tightly packed bulbs. I felt like a miner finding a nugget of gold!

I separated the bulbs using a large hod of water, plunging them in and out as I gently pulled them apart. There were 34 bulbs, most a good size! Some of those bulbs were re planted and I have been able to repeat the experience this year. I reckon that most bulbs divide each year - you do the maths.

Don’t let anyone tell you that gardening is boring.

Heather Russell

Text and photographs by Heather Russell of the HPS North East Group.
You can visit her own website at


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