Gelli Uchaf Plant Palette – Late December

Below are our 12 favourite plants from the garden in late December 2016. Late December always feels like the new gardening year has already begun, though weather vagaries will alter some flowering times from one year to the next. Although most of winter’s worst weather is still ahead of us, the days are about to lengthen again, and as a confirmed snowdrop nut, or galanthophile, there’s the prospect of increasing numbers of different cultivars about to emerge over the weeks ahead. There are so few other flowers about, it’s one of times of the year when I shall mention specific cultivars, since variety selection is critical if you want the boost that such early flowers give you in the depths of winter. Evergreen trees or perennials, bark interest and tree or shrub form, are again invaluable for tempting you out into the garden to see how much things can change in a few days, even at this time of the year, and of course Cyclamen coum which made it into early December’s favourite dozen are even better now. ( See the previous Palette page)

  1. Hamamelis “Vesna”  In 2016 this was the second of our Hamamelis into flower, and when sun catches the gold/brass flowers, they really glow. It’s taken about 7 or 8 years for it to settle in, beneath a large Oak tree, and every year I prune the growing tips back after flowering, and cut out any crossing over branches.sdim0756-2At last it is a pleasing, expanding  and open goblet form with more flowers each year.sdim0938-2The flowers even look attractive under grey skies and after minus 8 degrees C below. Autumn leaf colour is a pleasant yellow, but the leaves don’t hang for long once coloured up.p1010652-2
  2. Hamamelis “Robert”  One of the very few flowers to make it into 2 different fortnightly palettes, since in addition to fabulous autumn colour in late October, it’s often our first cultivar to bloom in mid December, with rich red flowers…sdim0759-2sdim0940-2 … which again stand up really well even after severe frosts (below)…p1010649-3
  3. Galanthus Sutton Courtenay. Quite a recent snowdrop in our collection, originating from an Oxfordshire garden of this name, and it’s thought to be a hybrid of G. gracilis. It has a distinctive olive green/yellow ovary and attractive inner segment markings when fully open, and seems to bulk up quite quickly. sdim0876-2
  4. Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light” An attractive, quite tall grass, which has fabulous subtle multicoloured stem colours in late December with pinks, tans and greens .sdim0789-2sdim0787-3
  5. Betula albosinensis “Fascination”  A named, and grafted Birch cultivar with attractive spring catkins and some autumn leaf colour, but really coming into its own in late December when the peeling cinnamon and pink coloured bark becomes prominent.sdim0677-2 sdim0679-2
  6. Galanthus “Lapwing”. One of my favourite early snowdrop forms. This is a variant of G. nivalis which was found in a wood in Warwickshire in the late 1990’s, and is vigorous, with strong wide foliage and once the flowers open a really pretty and distinctive green mark on the inner segments.sdim0892-2p1000280-2
  7. Erica carnea “December Red”. Quite late in our garden making, we thought we’d try a few heathers as extra flower appeal for native insects. Of course there are very few around in late December, which is when this cultivar flowers, but it grows in the impossibly tough conditions of the shale bank behind the house, and rewards us with these charming white, fading to blush pink, flowers in late December and into January. A low growing form with attractive green foliage – I must propagate it and bulk it up! p1010641-2p1010643-2
  8. Sarcococca ruscifolia v. chinensis ‘Dragon Gate’ For years the 3 or 4 varieties of Sarcococca which we have planted have sulked. I suspect they find it a little dry beneath the mature Larch trees. But for some reason in 2016 ( which has been relatively dry here) a few of them have looked a little healthier, and flowered quite well. Frankly the flowers and foliage are both quite insignificant, though the leaves are evergreen. But the scent of these “sweet box” shrubs is delightful, and a bonus for late December.sdim0824-2
  9. Galanthus “Ding Dong” Not the most vigorous early snowdrop, but it does have a very distinctive and appealing two tone olive green/deep green inner segment markings, olive ovary and long pointed outer segments. It was acquired by Avon bulbs as one of a batch of G. “Robin Hood”, which flowers quite a bit later with us.sdim1006-2
  10. Skimmia japonica “Rubella” If you want to have berries on your female Skimmia forms, then you need to grow a few male forms to pollinate them. This is one of the most widely available and attractive, with deep claret flower buds forming in late December to set off the mid green evergreen foliage. Grows well with us in shade beneath mature Larch trees.sdim0665-2sdim0568-2
  11. Ilex Rubricaulis Aurea. Our holly names might be a little mixed up since several have been moved at least once as the garden has developed. This is one of our favourites, now clipped annually into a broad, vaguely mushroom shape, with purple stems, red berries and attractive dark green prickly leaves edged in creamy yellow.sdim0646-2 sdim0645-2sdim0647-2
  12. Galanthus Bess. Every year Bess is in our first half dozen or so snowdrops to flower – usually about a week after Mrs. Macnamara. Not quite as imposing as Mrs. Mac, with more slender grey green foliage, but the flowers are still elegant, upright, and tall and it seems to be a very vigorous form, with us, with similar rich green inner segment markings to Mrs. Mac. Bess was apparently found in a Gloucestershire garden in 1990.sdim0729-2p1000276-2 Thanks for reading.