The cold hard winter continues

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It is exactly 8 years since we first launched our website, in a similarly cold and very snowy winter, memorable for the lowest temperatures we have ever recorded here. It is interesting to read through all the posts we have made since then and to note that although we no longer open the garden, however much things change, the more they stay the same, with the exception of my cancer which has plagued me for the last 2 years. I continue to have chemotherapy in the hope that my condition will improve. I will use the website to periodically update readers about my progress, but otherwise as always, our intention is to inform our many readers about what is going on in the gardens, the plants we grow and the joys of country life.

At times it can be difficult to find original topics to write about especially in a challenging month like this February has been, but one event was definitely a first for us. It isn't very often that we experience an earthquake in South Wales! Over a hundred years to be precise. Sadly I missed it as I was 30 miles away at the Winter Gardening Weekend. Moira was at home however and likened the tremors to being hit by an aircraft, Fortunately no damage was done but it took us 24 hours to realise that it was an earthquake! - thanks to the local Press. It was rated as 4.4 on the Richter Scale

The map shows by a black arrow the  epicentre and by a black cross the relative position of Cilgwyn Lodge.


There is a fault line running from Swansea Bay northwards along the coalfield to the Black Mountain and at its epicentre is the village of Cwmllynfell which gives its name to the fault line.  

 The previous earthquake occurred in 1906 and was 5.2 in magnitude Unlike the current eathquake it  did cause some damage across a wide section of west Wales



For the most part it has been a snowy month  becoming more severe as the month has progressed. Particularly notable for strong persistent south easterly gales

Min -9C on 28/2, 18 consecutive nights of frost

No single day time temperature above 7.8 highest on 8/2

5 Rain days 1.6" rain recorded all month




 There was thick snow on the Powys Black Mountains for most of the month


Garden Update

It has been too cold at times for me to get out and do essential weeding chores which has not been easy given the frosted soil. Most work has been concentrated in the warmth of the tunnels with seeds to sow and plants to pot on. Cuttings of pelargoniums taken in early January have struck very well and are growing away strongly. It is the earliest I have taken them

All month it has felt that that the garden has battened down the hatches and like the rest of us is waiting for the prospect of spring. This is particularly evident in regard to daffodils of which just a very few are in flower. "February Gold" is always an early one for us but it has remained resolutely in bud.

 Euphphorbia characias with no signs of flower makes a lovely picture with its coating of snow


An upside is that the cold weather has extended the season of snowdrops, hellebores and cyclamen coum some of which appear to be struggling for lack of water, especially those which have been planted in the last few weeks.


A nice surprise in the Beech Hedge walk was this self sown hybrid hellebore which appears to have come from a species form called h. purpurascens of which we have several forms in this part of the garden


An unusual helleborus hybridus from Farmyard Nurseries, part of a breeding programme from some years ago to produce flowers like a Fritillary


 A problem this year has been the destruction of emerging hellebore flowers by rodents which eat the nectaries. Lighter coloured forms are particularly susceptible to these attacks


 We have lost so many flowers in the woodland area alongside the road that there are few left. Pulmonarias have come to the rescue!





What's looking good?

No surprise that there isn't a great deal to admire! I have mentioned in previous news items my admiration for the growing range of hellebores in the "EricSmithii" section, particularly those in the "Rodney Davey Marbled Group" some so recently introduced that they do not feature in the 2017 "RHS Plant Finder" Thanks to a tip off from a friend we  fortunately came across a local garden centre which had a good choice of cultivars at reasonable prices.

They don't appear to be everyone's taste, perhaps because there isn't a wide colour range, but they are tall robust plants with  intricately patterned leaves. "Pippas Purple" on the left, "Annas Red" in the middle and "Sally's Shell" on the right



They look good planted together


 A scene familiar to hellebore growers in winter - a sharp frost flattens them but within a few hours they are back again



Flowers take on a different sheen when backlit by the sun.



In the January News I posted pictures of a mystery snowdrop we have had in the garden for a long time under the misapplied name of "Pusey Green Tips" but have not been able to name correctly. Several readers were kind enough to offer suggestions of what it might be, which can be quite difficult from pictures alone, Sadly none of them turned out to match closely the mystery snowdrop.. I was able to verify this with galanthophile friends who had the suggested forms in their own collections



What appears to be the defining issue is the green markings  on the inner petals which are substantially different from all the others we have seen.




We have been particularly grateful to our friend Julian Wormald who has done a great deal of research for us and trawled the galanthus forums


Latterly another friend Richard Williams from the HPS called to see the main plant and brought a selection of similar green tipped  g. elwesii cultivars and hybrids for comparison

There are numerous named green tipped forms all of which seem to stem from galanthus elwesii caucasicus but none have those tell tale interior green markings



Wildlife and countryside

Lambing season is now in full swing, most of our neighbours now lamb in barns to avoid the losses that can occur when lambing outdoors. Nothing lifts your spirits like a field full of lambs gambolling together and enjoying their short lives.

In a mild, moist spell of weather mid month, the frogs returned to the Paddock Pond for the annual ritual, as always their presence is given away by the loud croaking they make which can be heard 100 yards away from the house, a sound like a distant train. Next morning masses of spawn on the surface of the pond showed how busy they had been. Sadly within a couple of days the cold weather came and all the embryo eggs in the spawn were frosted A few sometimes survive to hatch






Badly frozen frogspawn 


 And in the middle of the frozen pond is the evidence of the otter predation last November with numerous large upturned waterlilies showing just how powerful this king predator is.



Starlings are ever presents in the fields but never in sufficient quantaties to set up the sort of mass murmurations you often see along the coast or large upland areas. There was however in the middle of a snowstorm a murmuration with a difference - a black and white form!





The Winter Gardening Weekend in Llandysul was the usual enjoyable event, very well attended over the 3 days with talks, plenty of plants and crafts for sale and best of all perhaps the chance to meet up with many  friends we have not seen for a long time, some from as far away as Mid and West Wales,  Herefordshire and Cardiff.

 The stage display arranged by Richard Bramley of Farmyard Nurseries is always a highlight and every year he manages to come up with something different





 Richard and some of his team take a well earned refreshment break at the end of a long day







Finally and an early date for your diaries,  after an absence of some years, Farmyard Nurseries will be attending RHS Flower Show Cardiff in Bute Park, Cardiff Castle, Cardiff CF10 1BJ from 13 -15 April. Richard will be setting up a show garden alongside the wide range of plants he will have for sale.