Below is the list of our favourite plants in the garden in the first half of January 2023. I’ve updated these pages after my first effort in 2017 since some plants (including all our Hamamelis) have died and many newish snowdrops feature. I don’t tend to repeat plants that have featured in the previous fortnight, so it’s an attempt to show how there is always something new in the garden to tempt us out, whatever the weather. In early January many of December’s stalwarts are even better now, like early snowdrops and Cyclamen coum, so do have a look at the last 2 plant palette pages from December. Spring is on its way. Well, at least that’s what all this new activity is telling us. And the nadir of late November when flowers are few and far between seems a very long time ago.
1: Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’. This could be one of our top 12 plants for the year. Originally we’d heard about its famed perfume and found 2 scrawny plants lurking at the back of a local nursery’s polytunnel, for about a fiver apiece. We planted them in our amphitheatre area, and they sulked, so (and all the experts say you’re not meant to do this with Daphne), we moved them to 2 locations beneath the mature larch on a more South facing slope. What we didn’t know at the time was that they were on their own roots (probably originally micro-propagated). Gradually they both grew and flowered and we started to appreciate the magic perfume. In some years, like in 2015, the flowers opened in early December, sometimes not until mid-February. This year we had a month of watching the rose lilac buds until the scent fills the air for yards away from just the very first few opened buds. How powerful is that?But now there are thousands of buds on shrubby thickets 8 feet tall. And better still they like our conditions so much that they run, and pop up new shoots every foot or so, rather like our native nuisance hedgerow wild cherries. So now we have 7 or 8 developing thickets around the garden which ensure that in most parts of the garden, whatever the wind direction, you experience that sublime scent. It’s only partially evergreen and usually sheds most of the leaves after flowering, which often continues into early April. A star plant.
2: Galanthus plicatus ‘Colossus’. Now a favourite early season snowdrop with classic plicatus folded leaf margins, and often 2 flowers per bulb, which bulks up well, once settled down. One of our ‘Twelfth Night Snowdrops’, which is reliably in flower in the first week in January – at least here!
3: Galanthus ‘Castlegar’. Another favourite very early snowdrop, which doesn’t bulk up quite as fast as some others, but always catches the eye with llong-lasting very early flowers held well above the foliage for several weeks before the leaves catch up.
4: Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’. This was the snowdrop which got me going as a galanthophile. I originally bought a few from Broadleigh bulbs, grew them in a raised bed in our Bristol garden and then moved them down to Wales before we relocated permanently. They existed between the apple’s tyre pillars, and eventually ,I got raroundto shifting them into other areas of the garden. C onsistently an early snowdrop, though not now in our real vanguard, they’re tall, elegant, recover well from frosts and because they’re sterile, the flowers usually last at least 6 weeks.T he sterility issue means that to create drifts you have to be prepared to split and divide them every 3 years or so – always a wrench to do this, but given vigorous snowdrops’ insistence on multiplying at least as well as the Fibonacci progression predicts, just a few bulbs initially can become hundreds within a decade.
5: Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’. A more recent snowdrop in our collection, originating from the Anglesey Abbey gardens in Cambridgeshire, this is another very early, llarge-flowered and erect form. Not as vigorous as ‘Atkinsii’, it nevertheless bulks up quite well.6: Daphne bholua – un-named seedling. This is one of 3 seedlings we bought as small plants from Pan-global plants. They’re all different, but this has become a firm favourite with its very pale rrose-pinkflower cluster, with no hint of purple. It also seems to have many more flowers per cluster than our other D. bholua – typically 16- 20 compared with 10 – 14. It retains its leaves well and it’s also the first to flower with a gorgeous scent too. 7: Daphne bholua ‘Darjeeling’. Another lovely scented Daphne bholua, very similar to D. ‘Jacqueline Postill’, but it tends to hang onto its leaves better after flowering, and also doesn’t seem to grow quite as tall – more like 4 to 5 feet.
However being again bought, by chance, growing on its own roots, it’s also running and suckering, so in future ,we should be able to have a few more plants ainthe garden for free.
8: Daphne ‘Spring Herald’. This is a grafted plant which again flowers at a similar time to the two Daphne bholua listed above. The flower clusters are almost pure white, and the scent is different, but equally appealing. It is a hybrid between D. bholua and D. acutilobaIt forms a smaller bush, than the bholua, and of course being grafted it won’t generate thickets and will have a more limited life, as most Daphne tend to have.
9: Galanthus ‘Shropshire Queen’. A very attractive and vigorous snowdrop cultivar, with amazing root systems – always a sign of a good-doer, if not even an extra set of chromosomes? One of our more recent snowdrops, but one of the best for quickly bulking up here.
10: Galanthus un-named double form. This was acquired a few years ago from an amazing lady Margaret Bide, who I’ve written about occasionally. She was given the bulbs by the late great galanthophile Ruby Baker, from Farnham, as a swap for some plants Ruby had spotted growing in Margaret’s front garden. It may have a name, but I don’t know it, and it’s one of our earliest and most vigorous double forms, quickly recovering after moving and forming huge clumps.
11: Moss. In our copse garden, a very early idea which was key to its development was to take advantage of the mossy sub-layer which was obvious beneath the weak, rank long grass which covered the ground beneath the mature Larch trees. Originally, painting the whole area on hands and knees with glyphosate (which we no longer use in the garden!) using a wallpaper brush, enabled us to kill the grass but leave the moss layer intact. A lot of hand weeding later and mossy paths now wind through this part of the garden. There are several forms, which I’m afraid I haven’t got around to identifying, which complement each other in form and colour of green.But this clump/tuft forming variety is a favourite, in part because this one is spared in the at least annual event, hen blackbirds rip the moss up searching for grubs. You can also take a lawn mower over it, to keep the paths open.
12: Ilex aquifolium ‘Elegantissima’. I think that this is the correct name for this holly – as mentioned in other “palette pages”, several of our hollies got moved and possibly muddled years ago before we recorded things in more detail. This is a male form, and so produces no berries, but it’s vigorous and easy for me to shape into one of my holly mushrooms, though it will take a couple more years to be how I’d like it.