Garden Views-01-January 2019

After the wet, grey and mild end to 2018, it was a huge delight to start the New Year with some more typically wintry weather. The high pressure continued to dominate our weather for many days, but with light winds, and after this initial hit of some sunshine and frosts down to minus 5 degrees C for the first 3 nights of 2019, we were back to quite a lot of grey, damp quiet weather.

Wintry birds at dawn and dusk. And Cyclamen coum providing carpets of colour. All that time spent hand pollinating, paying dividends with delight, years later.

Evergreens, like our Skimmias, are also proving their worth in this month of short day length.

And the first Crocus and Scillas starting to back up the snowdrops for floral interest in this first week of the New Year – exceptionally early for a C. tomassinianus flower to open here.

The snowdrop flower emergence also continued to be very early up until about the 20th, when colder weather returned, and meant that by January 22nd, nearly 200 different forms have “opened” flowers already.

The generally more benign weather – little wind, mainly grey skies, and lack of much heavy rain has also meant it’s been much easier to photograph different snowdrop cultivars, and begin to sift through recording the many different forms collected from my Welsh Historic Snowdrop Hunt project over the last few years, most of which take a good 3 years to settle in properly.

The weather began to change into a more wintry pattern, around mid-month, when our first snow arrived – by chance at dawn as I was up in the hut, so witnessed a fantastic one hour sequence of changing clouds and light.

Frosts returned, and a couple of days later we had about 5 cm of snowfall.

The sheep grazed our top hay meadow continuously, (intentionally), for nearly 4 weeks with ad-lib hay from the shed from Christmas Eve onwards, so that other fields had a complete break, and the hay meadow was cropped really short. This will now be left to regrow through the summer. This should be the ideal management approach for a wildflower meadow, but we’ll need to wait and see just what this year will now bring us in the way of floral displays.By the third week of January, David and Valentine’s bed was singing, with Cyclamen coum, and Crocus sieberi  ‘Firefly’, looking wonderful, even after the snowfalls.

Honeybees were briefly active on several days, even with air temperatures as low as about 5 degrees C, behind the house.Although, only one was actually seen visiting a snowdrop on the 6th.The many other suitable flowers open really early this year – Hellebores, Pulmonaria, occasional Crocus, all stood expectant, but unvisited.  However I took my cue from the bees’ activity to hand pollinate Cyclamen and early snowdrops only when there was evidence of them actually flying. 

Light was often stunning with clear distant views, and clarity of air, and the lack of any wind on many days meant that birdsong – robins, blackbirds and even a very early territorial yaffle from a Green woodpecker, Picus viridis, were the only sounds to be heard.

The month finished on a cold note, with a couple of sharp frosts (minus 7 degrees C), with more hail and snow showers.A relief therefore that most of the lifting and potting on of named snowdrops had already been completed.

There was still a chance to do a bit of final holly pruning and general garden tidying, but mainly keeping warm and enjoying the views, as light levels begin to pick up, (slightly!) and one waits for a little more warmth to get the early flowers to open more generally.   

The PV inverter record for the month shows another poor January total – it’s very rare to get many completely sunny days in the month, even if we managed some good sunrises in 2019.

A rainfall total for the month of 120.6 mm was on the low side, compared with recent years, which made the low light levels more disappointing – there were just too many dull grey days.