Winter Wonderland

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What a delight to have some snow as Christmas festivities were beginning build up; all day it came on Sunday 10th to a depth of 3 inches (not as much as many parts of Wales) followed by some sharp frosts over 5 nights. As usual in the final news item of the year it can be difficult to find enough topics to write about and sufficient photo opportunties but not this year. Although the snow was very wet no damage was caused to plants or structures in the garden but the netting on the fruit cage was hanging precariously for a few days!














Every time we have a good snowfall my thoughts go back to 1963 which if you are of a certain age, you will remember as one of the most severe in our living memory, lasting for 3 months It was then I came across for the first time, a poem by Robert Bridges  called "London Snow": highly evocative  for his well chosen words to express the magic of snowfall, the same experience whether it be in the metropolis or the Welsh countryside (minus all the traffic of course!) To read the poem go to


Weather Up to and including 19th Dec

Snow cover for 5 days

10 frosts min -9C on 12th, no days above 9C which was the max on 3 occasions. 6 raindays,  Sun on 7 days.  




Garden update and what is looking good?!

One of the good things about lying snow is that it hides all the jobs that are waiting to be done all over the garden! 


 Sedum seedheads create a lovely structure when covered in snow- one of the benefits of not cutting back herbaceous perennials too soon



As soon as it cleared the first priority was to cut off all the old leaves from the 250+ hellebores which by this time of year are starting to look very tatty. It isn't absolutely essential of course and it doesn't happen in the wild, but if you pay up to £20 or even more for some of your best hellebores you want to show them at their best. There are other reasons too, such as to reduce the spread of blackspot from the leaves to the flowers and to give more space for border companions like snowdops and cyclamen coum to reach their full potential. One final reason  I discovered by chance a few years ago when I didn't cut off the leaves; is they provide cover for rodents to completely destroy the emerging flower buds which are poisonous but it doesn't  seem to put them off. That year we lost about half our potential flowers.


 Many wheelbarrow loads to cart away



I am always glad of a helping hand in the garden but Kit Kat hasn't yet got the idea of the wheelbarrow!


Once the leaves are cut off new buds are soon revealed



There are already a few hellebores in bloom, the earliest being h.liguricus, a species  from Northern Italy. it has the additional benefit of being lightly scented on warmer days. H.cyclophyllus and h, odorus are 2 other scented forms but later into bloom.


 This white helleborus x hybridus is the first of the large flowered forms in bloom. As usual h. niger (the so called Christmas Rose) rarely ever flowers in time for the event and this year is no exception.



Plenty of snowdrop pips showing through especially this early galanthus elwesii cross which no one has yet been able to name for me. Look out for the January news to see the flowers and your identification would be very welcome by e-mai. Some lucky friends were gifted with bulbs last spring in the hope they may be able to come up with a name! and to keep the strain alive.



At this time of year there is always a very early stand of daffodils in a friends garden just down the lane. They came to them in a mixed bag of un named bulbs and my guess is that they can only be n. "Rijnveld's Early Sensation"


The other main job left  in all the borders is to remove all the metal stakes and to cut back the spent foliage, which aways reveals a massive amount of weeding to be done!

 Our winter nemesis is always the dreaded bittercress, just one of the many large patches that need urgent attention



Winter hardy vegetables can cope with cold spells of weather:  parsnips in the ground, swedes and sprouts all sweeten up as the starches turn to sugar, and leeks seem totally indestructable as are stalwart cabbages like savoys which are a favourite of ours matched only by the first of the "sweetheart" type late spring cabbage.




 When there is so little freshness in the gardens, the tunnels are the best place to be especially the succulents



Wildlife and countryside

In a cold and frosty month it was very much a case of winter creeps, nature sleeps, with one notable exception. An unwelcome nightime visit to the Paddock Pond by an otter or otters. Scales on the bank and the large tail section of one of our few carp gave the game away as did upturned water lilies. I have seen otters occasionally especially early in the morning and they are large, powerful beasts that will keep coming back to the pond night after night, The only way of stopping them is to put up the electric fence which stays in place until the spring. As we have a visit every early winter I should have learned by now to put the fence up sooner!!




 By a pure coincidence the following day there was an article in a national newspaper about one of the finest carp fisheries in Britain that has had hoardes of otters visit its large lakes filled with specimen fish up to 70 lb and far in excess of that in £'s sterling. There was a controlled otter release programme some years ago in the part of Kent where the fisheries are sited, without too much consideration given to  the impact upon the surrounding wildlife. A stout fence at great expense was the only way to keep the otters at bay. Fancy all this lot visiting your ponds. It put our minor problem into stark contrast.




A much more welcome visitor creating a classic Christmas card scene!



Just before the snow melted we took a trip east along the A 40 corridor to see the Brecon Beacons at their wintry best.







And in Abergavenny the cleared snow in this car park was 4 feet tall!



Well friends another year comes to an end and from a gardening perspective it wasn't the best of years, but when you are living with cancer as I have been for almost 2 years, you take everything that comes your way,  and just to still be here is a good enough reason to rejoice.   Next month for the first time I have elected to have treament with a course of chemotherapy which could slow down the recent progression of the cancer and improve my overall condition. I can however still put in a shift in the garden, albeit slower than previously, and I hope to be able to look forward to spring and my beloved hellebores and all the other pleasures of that special time of year,  and the hope of new life returning to the gardens. 

To finish on a brighter note, Christmas wreaths on the Farmyard Nurseries market stall in Carmarthen are always a highlight throughout the month, all made at the nursery to a very high standard


And a rather tipsy snowman at the Penpont Estate near Sennybridge where we always buy our Christmas tree every year.


Moira and I wish you an enjoyable Christmas, and the best of health and happiness in 2018. Thanks for reading our website news every month, and for the kind comments that we receive from time to time. I will do my best to keep it going, and look forward to many newsworthy items to share with you.

Keith and Moira XX