//Philippa’s Newsletter December 2016

Philippa’s Newsletter December 2016

MY GARDEN by Philippa Thomas

Isn’t there a stark beauty in a Winter Garden that has been frosted? It’s almost like A Winter Magic…..  Our Winter Magic in winter, is the bare bones of our gardens.  Plants are already in January responding to lengthening days with their first signs of New Life.  Who cannot be thrilled by the detail of one simple crocus, miniature daffodil, clump of snowdrops or the small yet brave winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis) emerging from a frost glinted lawn or the way sunlight throws a warm glow behind a tree trunk.   EACH NEW YEAR brings a new canvas on which to paint our dreams.

There are 35 distinctfully different Birch Trees, betula, some with the most incredible bark. Maybe stop on your walking tracks and admire one up closely.

Sometimes, the most successful winter combinations are those with the most contrast, such as cream against dark ivy leaves, etc.


Did you know that purple is associated with power and nobility since ancient times, purple is a strong foliage colour and when carefully placed can add extra pizzazz to planting combinations, such as being placed near silvery or gold tinged foliage, ideally of different shape, size and texture, the contrast can be magical. Infusions of bronze or maroon and dark foliage can also play a trump or wild card in winter containers and create quite a masterpiece.

I heard someone say recently, that “Gardening teaches us to nurture and then nurtures us right back”. We can be drawn by energy, love, obsession for we may be, plain simply, duty bound.  How our plants are put together comes into sharp focus and our winter gardens rely mainly on the colour, texture and forms of stems and foliage, not forgetting scents and flowers, and an absolute winter beauty right now is Daphne Bholus ‘Jacqueline Pastill’, from Nepal & S. China, generally an evergreen shrub.  It is intoxicatingly fragrant, deep pink buds in January, followed by purple black berries, in fact its scent can travel for several metres.  Imagine, following this most powerful scent as you walk, before you actually lay your eyes on it to admire this beautiful specimen.


Sprouted seeds grown for a few days are easy to raise on windowsills and are a great way to pop up weary winter lettuce. Seed can be sown directly onto damp kitchen roll cut to fit base of your tray.  Sow approx every fortnight for a continuous supply.  Maybe try fast growing oriental leaves such as mizuna, fiery mustards such as red giant and ‘Sheuri-fong’, pale green mibuna and red frills – then rocket, water cress, kales such as red Russian and nero di toscana


Might Do, Maybe December Jobs

 January is usually a difficult month for garden wildlife as seeds and berries become scarce so continue feeding birds. Flashes of life, (birds) hopping from stem to stem, then the crunchy rustling sound of tossed leaves as our avian friends search earnestly for a juicy worm, beetle, seed or wizened berry.  If we encourage them in our arctic conditions we may well enjoy the reward with springtime nests of eggs and clutches of chirping birds – not to talk of their incredible pest control.

Fascinating: Did you know that the most desirable spice, saffron is made from stigmas of beautiful autumn flowering crocus sativus, a species that can even grow in the UK and perhaps, Ireland too?

Many houseplants originate from brighter, more humid climates, so best now, not to overwater and maybe stop feeding as most plants grow little during winter, maybe use warm water.

  1. Check evergreens in containers; do not dry out as cold winds desiccate some foliage.
  2. Tulips are one of the most cheerful of spring flowers as they flaunt themselves so glamorously. Maybe consider an early, mid and later flowering selection, then you’ll get a good 6-8 weeks more of colour.
  3. Definitely, a job for right now, indoors. Make newspaper or ‘loo roll’ seed pots.  A great way of recycling, possibly more absorbingly suitable than plastic pots and then, ultimately saves those Euros.
  4. As long as the soil is not frozen or water logged, bare root trees and shrubs can be planted.
  5. Watch out for signs of downy mildew and leaf spot on pansies and violas and remove affected leaves A.S.A.P.
  6. Maybe, move pots to a more sheltered area and huddle them together for stability.
  7. Soaking aconite tubers for 24 hours may help but better to acquire growing plants and they grow ever so well under deciduous trees.
  8. Best not to leave indoor plants behind curtains at night where cold air is trapped, even leaves touching glass can be damaging for plants.

If you want something quirky and colourful then you might consider Ophiopogen, lily turf and small leaved, just love this plant. In fact at one such stage, I had this plant in teensy very old Victorian terracotta 2½ pots, sitting on vividly coloured felt mats, on each child’s table in my Montessori class.  I had 38, 3 – 6 year old children at the time, wish I had a photo!

Warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family and wishing each one of you, every possible happiness for 2017.


2018-01-22T18:17:01+00:00November 12th, 2016|