Bloody January Again!!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Struggling to find a headline for the first News item of the year, I remembered a line from a song by Flanders and Swann from the 1960's. It is called a "Song of the Weather" and encapsulates just how I feel about  the miserable month we have just experienced. To find out more about the indominatable pair,  in your search engine type Flanders and Swann singing "A song of the weather." I am sorry I just could not get the link to work. It is really worth listening to and will make you smile!



Every kind of weather you can imagine, but most of all incessant rain which has soaked the gardens and fields making it difficult to get on with essential tasks. There are small signs of better things to come, with some early flowers, and daylight lasting until 5.30 pm. A few lambs too in neighbouring fields





In the New Year Sales I made a timely purchase of a rudimentary rain gauge just in time to record the exceptionally heavy rain we have experienced. Should have done this years ago.

20 rain days 5.6" in total, wettest day 18th 1.5"

8 days below zero lowest -4 on 12th

Only one day time temperature in double figures   10.9C on 2nd






 Super Blue Blood Moon!

You can guess if there is an evening astronimcal event here then cloud will spoil it for us! And so it happened this week just as the moon was rising that deep blood red that didn't last long enough to get the camera. So this is the best I captured!!







Garden update

There was one job above all others that I wanted to complete this month  and that was the borders tidy up and removal of masses of cut back haulms. Important to do this before the new growth starts to come and especially in those borders underplanted with early spring bulbs.

 Thanks to my very good friend Richard Bramley who kindly supplied some of his staff to do the tidying up for us all the borders were cleared up in a day. From left to right Scott and the 2 Matts. What it is like to be young!


 The product of all their efforts


 And really tidy borders ready for weeding!



This task brings it home to me how labour intensive is management of large mixed borders. Although I had always wanted to grow a wide range of flowering perennials in classic borders set off by well maintained lawns, at times now I wished I had planted more trees and shrubs which are easier to look after. Garden friends like Liz and Paul and Helen and John who have impresssive collections of some choice selections set out arboretum style in their outstanding NGS gardens, show how efective this can be. We do however  have a range of less than choice trees and shrubs some have which have grown large during the 42 years we have lived here. It is always sad to lose one of them due to disease or bad weather

One of the largest trees we had was a wild cherry which had started to split in the main trunk and become a danger to us and the passing traffic on an adjoining country road. It was time for it to go and at a height of 50 - 60 feet tall it was a job for the professionals














 And from the remains of the trunk the boys fashioned an amazing tree seat,, or as Moira calls it, her throne!!



A sad end for a tree that only once in 2007 put on the best autumn colour it ever had done.


And this dead alder in a difficult position was removed pice by piece using ropes and crampons. It was an absolute eyesore and we are glad to see it go.



What's looking good?

Some years ago I was given by my friend Tony a snowdrop labelled as "Pusey Green Tips" which is a double form.When it flowered for me it was a large very early single form with all the features of Galanthus elwessii. Many of my galanthophile friends have tried by various means to idntify it for me but with no success. If anyone has any ideas what it might be I would be most grateful to hear from you. Please E mail to






All my old herbaceous and bulbous favourites have been putting on a limited show since early in the month, which has accelerated since the arrival of milder weather and longer day lengths. After dullness all around us for so long it is marvellous to have some vibrant colour and new growth to look forward to at last.

 Nothing finer than the first bowl of floated hellebore flowers


Cyclamen coum have multiplied very well since being planted in the Beech Hedge Winter garden


Helleborus Foetidus


One of my current favourite forms is hellebores from the Rodney Davey Marbled Group. This one is "Penny's Pink", look out too for "Anna's Red. Also cultivars from the helleborus "Eric Smithii" Group


 You will observe that whereas I normally remove all the leaves from the majority of our 250+ hellebores there are occasions if the leaves are particulary attactive and not too badly affected by black spot, This yellow leaved form maches its yellow flowers and contrasts well with the other foliage plants around it.



Part of the Beech Hedge Walk which is always difficult to capture because of very low light levels. Even my really capable photographer friends have struggled to capture a perfect picture!


Not the biggest clump of winter aconites you will ever see but it represents some years of sowing seed by hand so that it infills the gaps in the bearded iris rhizomes, which disappear by the time the iris are ready to flower.


Thanks to an array of winter flowering shrubs there is also some heady scent on warmer days. We would like grow more of the really choice forms that have never done well here in the past because of our frost pocket location,  that gardeners in a milder climate can grow, including daphne Bohlua, Drimys winteri, chimonanthus praecox, edgewothia chrysantha and even hamemalis struggle here.

Sarcocca does very well in numerous forms such as s. confusa which later on has blue black berries which last until late autumn


 S. hookeriana has larger more attrractive flowers with later black berries



A particularly fine form with red berries is s. ruscifolia and large green leaves.

All sarcococca are easy to grow in shade or part shade in humus rich or relatively dry soil.

Another "good doer" here is winter honeysuckle lonicera X purpusii  "Winter Beauty" which has ageeable scent on milder days  but is even more effective when picked and brought into a warm room (something I would not recommend with sacococca which have a too overpowering scent close up)


 Coloured stems of cornus sanguinea "Midwinter Fire"



 Elegance in the large tunnel comes from this terrific form of Zanteschia aethiopica "Glencoe". A giant form from seed 2 years ago and already over 6 feet tall



Wildlife and Countryside

Dorset lambs are always the first here, an unusual choice perhaps for rugged terrain but they cope well and get to market earlier than any others. It would not be the advance of spring without their joyous behaviour. And in the hedgerows the so called lambs tails flowers of hazel are beginning to colour up with their lemon yellow pollen.


Foxes are calling across the valley on a regular basis, an eerie sound on a cold misty night, and another call just at twilight is that of the drama queen blackbirds which create quite a din with their high pitched calls as they look for safe roosts in the taller trees and hedgerows.  


None so far for us this month,   but a forthcoming event in February is the long established Winter Gardening Weekend in the Tysul Hall in the Teifi valley town of Llandysul. 16th, 17th and 18th February. Talks, A stage floral display by Richard Bramley a gold medal winner at Chelsea Flower Show and other high profile RHS Shows. Refreshments in the hall and cafes and restaurants in the attractive town. A huge range of quality plants for sale featuring Farmyard Nurseries strain of quality hellebores all hand pollinated at the nursery. An event not to be missed. For further details go to www.farmyardnurseries, co, uk and click on the Events and Shows tab


Health Update

Almost 2 years since my cancer was diagnosed I underwent my first treatment at the beginning of the month. There had been some progression so I decided that it was time to undergo Chemotherapy as there are no other options open to me. It was not something I was particularly looking forward to but if successful there is a 50% chance of my general health improving and a longer prognosis. At present there is no cure for Mesothelioma, my form of cancer, but new trials are making good headway and after 6 lines of  the chemo I may well qualify for one of these trials. I have to say I have been most impressed with the treatment I have received at our local hospital Day Unit and I have had few of the really serious side effects.

 Here I am all tubed up for treatment - it is not as bad as I am making it look! I have my current favourite book to indulge me.



I am  pleased to be able to do some gardening work on most days, weather permitting. And because I have had to slow down a bit it has been a marvellous opportunity to dive into all those garden books I have purchased over the years. Current favourite without a doubt is this one. As it is in diary format it is easy to pick up and put down and absolutely packed with a massive amount of horticultural information, anecdotes and a travelogue of many gardens and countries visited. No pictures or colour but so well written and commanding of attention pictures are not required.

The writer under the name of Tradescant wrote for every monthly edition of the RHS Journal from 1993 - 2008 until the articles were ceased on a new edition of the Journal. For me and many others it was like the loss of a friend. Never stuffy or stuck up there is plenty of humour and affection to enjoy.  I can't recomend it enough and it is still available on Amazon and other book web sites



Moira and I are so very grateful for all the cards and messages we have received from so many friends and acquaintances, which means such a great deal to us. And believe me the theraputic effects of gardening are keenly felt when you can get out and about to admire all the  joys of the approaching spring and new life all around you.

With love and all good wishes for a marvellous gardening year and the best of health

Keith and Moira XX