The January garden always feels like something of an enigma. The sleeping beds are still wearing their austere winter clothes and yet, softly softly, the whispers of reawakening are stirring beneath the surface. While the winds remain high, the temperatures low and the hours of sunlight short, there is no moment in the year that I feel more cheered by the sight of green shoots poking through the soil than now. The first paperwhites of the year have already bloomed, and they really do feel like beacons of hope amidst the cold and damp. But while spring is discernibly around the corner, the relics of winter still hold their own delights, most particularly the beautiful skeletons of our Hydrangea Annabelles, which I always enjoy both inside and out at this time of year. It really is a very curious and strangely beautiful time, heralding joys to come while reminding us too of those past.
At the end of last year, we gave some of our more established Hellebores a robust cutting back, stripping them of their more brittle leaves to make space for them to flourish. Under the fragile rays of the winter sun, their jewel-like petals are now beginning to unfold, bringing a dose of much-needed colour amidst the muted, mid-winter palette. Meanwhile, the sun has been working its wonders inside the greenhouse too, its beams giving a boost to my Cobae vines, which are climbing ever higher in the most wonderful deep and plummy tones.
This week, I snuck a peek beneath the rhubarb forcer and, thrillingly, there are already some candy pink shoots starting to sprout. Last year brought a welcome early crop that delivered delight to the whole household in the form of comforting crumbles, each hearty bowlful devoured quickly and swiftly followed up with enthusiastic demands for seconds. It’s safe to say, then, that we’re all keeping our fingers crossed for the same this year, especially while crumble season is still in full swing.
Most of last year’s annuals have long gone, but the last of my beloved Strawflowers are still clinging valiantly on. I can't quite bring myself to cut them back, their gorgeous silvery florals atop dry and brittle stalks both beautiful and somehow poignant in their noble determination to stay standing. When the last ones do finally drop, it will signal the moment for me to clear the bed in readiness for fresh planting in the spring.