Garden Views-01-January 2022

January 2022 began with a gloomy damp day, remarkable only for setting a new (record high) minimum January daily temperature for Wales of 12.8 degrees C at Trawsgoed (Dyfed). Here, waking early at 6.00a.m. I registered a ridiculously balmy 9.5 degrees C outside the front door, as the UK was washed with warm air from The Azores. Last January, 2021, we woke to significant snow cover, and subzero temperatures.

The very first flowers opened on the Daphne bholua ‘Jacquline Postil’ on the first day of the year, later than in most years, and we only had 22 different snowdrop cultivars with flowers dropped past 90 degrees. Again, well behind where we often are at the start of a New Year.

The balmy conditions didn’t last more than a couple of days, and then apart from some typically glorious January sunrises, most days were generally grey, with either rain or hail showers.

Gradually the snowdrops began to get into their stride, and without significant frosts, I was able to start my annual lifting and potting on of more vigorous forms, to have a few available for later NGS snowdrop garden open days.

However the mild, damp and almost continually grey days continued to mid-month. Thank goodness for some hedge laying, snowdrop emergence and the emerging Cyclamen coum to raise the spirits, along with regular dusk time fly pasts by several woodcock, even visible from our back door – though impossible to photograph well from this vantage point in dim light, as they appeared, then were gone, in a blurry black flash!

By the 10th, the scent of the hundreds of tiny Daphne bholua flowers was becoming so powerful, it even hit us as we struggled back up the track after a good work out on the e-bikes. It’s also the first year when the distinct forms, habit and flowering times of the 3 seedling Daphne we acquired about 4 years ago is becoming more obvious, one in particular having lovely pale rose pink flowers with cinnamon stems, in contrast to the deeper, purple pink of the original D. bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, which now grow as large thickets, in several places around the garden, reaching up to 9 feet in height..With a marked absence of large starling flocks this year, either at dawn or dusk, some glorious sunrises continued to hold out hopes of better weather to come, and compensate for days like the 10th, when it was variations of oppressive grey, all day.

Mid month, as the PV inverter output record illustrates below, we enjoyed a few sunnier days, before another run of very grey gloomy days held sway over both garden and spirits, but a couple of lovely sunny days towards the end of the month, and a rush of flowers opening lifted the spirits.

At their peak towards the end of January as many as 25 different snowdrops opened their first flowers on the same day. A challenge to monitor, and a task I always both hate recording for its tedium, but also value for the discipline in forcing me to slowly walk around the garden on a daily basis.

This January ended up being milder and dryer than many with a sub 100mm rainfall total, which is one of the lowest I’ve recorded. I was convinced that it had been a gloomier than normal, but the Met Office records for the month confirm that although our corner of South West Wales was indeed much less sunny than the rest of the UK, it was the sunniest January ever in the UK, and the third sunniest in the UK as a whole.

I’m fairly convinced that the dullness of this winter, and late autumn, combined with the overall mild temperatures, are the main factors in our snowdrop emergence still running around 7 to 10 days behind where it has been in recent years.

I continued to see more woodcock, including a wonderful experience when I nipped out at 6.30 a.m. in minus 5 degrees C temperatures to photograph the setting wolf moon, only to have a woodcock fly into the viewfinder image, as the camera was held to my eye. A wonderful few, distant photos resulted.

By the end of the month we were gearing up for our very first garden visitors due on February 1st, with enough flowers to be interesting, and the garden as filled with Daphne scent as it ever has been. The final rainfall total for January was 86.1mm, and the PV output 77 KWH. For comparison, my sequence of previous rainfall records for January reads: 332, 204, 295, 123, 191, 120, 206, 218 and now 86. The other striking feature was how few harsh frosts we had, and almost no snowy images. What will February have in store for us?