Cold, wet weather arrived on cue for the 21st December Solstice (first day of winter); and the low temperatures along with heavy rain continued into January.
But already there is a slight but noticeable increase in daylight hours; and little green spears have begun to push their way above ground – Snowdrops are in bloom and Crocus and Daffodils will soon follow.
There is colour and interest in the winter garden. Cotoneaster, Holly and Pyracantha are laden with dazzling red or orange berries. The seasonal shrubs – Chimonanthus (winter sweet) has exquisite perfume; you are likely to smell the spicy aroma before you see the little white flowers. Daphne mezereum produces purple-pinkish perfumed flowers in late January. Mahonia with its holly-like leaves and golden-yellow scented blooms seems to be in every open space and garden. The Witch hazel comes into flower from December onwards – a star act during the winter months; tiny spidery flowers range from pale yellow to gold or in purply shades to reds and orange – most with a heady perfume. Every green space needs a Witch Hazel!
Work in the garden is at a standstill; the ground is water-logged and the raw cold makes it hard to spend time outside pruning and tidying. Planning planting schemes for the borders and vegetable plot, ordering seeds and shrubs are indoor tasks to do when the weather is inclement.
Don’t forget – Houseplants need attention during winter; dust leaves, remove dead foliage and check for signs of pests such as scale (little sap sucking insects which look like spots) and diseases like powdery mildew. Watering should be kept to a minimum depending on whether plants are situated in a heated or unheated room. Succulents and cacti hardly need water until March. Add more plants to your collection – they lift the spirits, boost productivity (useful if you are working from home) and improve humidity levels in a centrally heated space. Three to consider are – Sansevieria, a handsome plant with variegated long sword-shaped leaves. Chlorophytum (Spider plant) is almost indestructible, and grows quickly if given the right conditions (on a window sill out of direct sun); in no time it will produce lots of little plantlets on arched stems. The Peace Lily has glossy, deep green leaves and produces a white spathe that holds a curious looking flower – which lasts for weeks.