Last Sunday, a blaze of sunshine lured me – and my furry helpers – into the garden from breakfast until dusk.

Long border ready for tidying

Our ground is saturated from this winter’s heavy rainfall, and the previous day had exacerbated this, but with new shoots emerging throughout the garden I was determined to start tidying up to make way for the spring shoots, working carefully to minimise compaction of the heavy wet ground. Armed with a hand-fork and a pair of secateurs, I tidied away much of last year’s old herbaceous growth in the long border, though I left less hardy salvias, penstemon, gaura and miscanthus still standing for a month or two longer, in case a sudden cold spell should descend on us still.

Long border before tidying

Long border after tidying

The before and after shots don’t quite reflect the difference that a day’s work has made to this border – and I was rather surprised that it took so long to work this fairly modest length of planting, leaving the other borders as yet untouched. It was a great pleasure to be working outside all day, revealing the garden’s subtle activity at close quarters: white buds on the winter honeysuckle about to erupt; shoots of daffodils, crocus and snowdrops nosing above the wet soil; hellebore buds fattening and beginning to colour; the scarlet spidery flowers on our small witch-hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia Diane witch hazel red flowers

Winter colour: Cornus midwinter fire. Stipa aruninacea, Hamamelis Diane flowersFrom further away, these low-slung flowers are rather eclipsed by the glowing foliage of the pheasant tail grass, Stipa arundinacea, and stems of Cornus ‘Mid Winter Fire’, but as this slow-growing shrub matures through the coming years they should give more impact. I’d love to add a yellow witch hazel to the garden too, if I can just find a little more space.

Cornus 'MidWinter Fire' lit by winter sunAs the sun fled around the front of the house, the Cornus stems sung out against the encroaching shadows: such a burst of colour on a sunny winter’s day.

Magenta primrose in flowerBeneath our bench, at the foot of the horse chestnut tree, the magenta flowers of this primrose seem too saturated to be true, far removed from the delicate yellow of its siblings. Yet this primrose has self-sown here, appearing last year with no cultivated polyanthus in the garden in our five-year curation, leaving me pondering whether this colour could naturally spring from such gentle parents, or has been flung here from further afield by wind or birds…

In the front garden last weekend, buds were pushing up on our earliest daffodils, Rijnveld’s Early Sensation – some three weeks behind last year. All week since, I have watched the development of one fat bud, lit only by car headlights at the start or end of my working day, until yesterday’s respite from work gave me the chance to see the newly opened flower in daylight – our first daffodil is in bloom! All along this narrow border and the grass verge outside our front fence, further buds are in various stages of unfurlment.

First daffodils emerging

There has been little opportunity for work in the garden this weekend, but I hope to continue tidying up the remaining vegetation over the weekends ahead – and revelling in the golden cheer of these first daffodils; a delight on grey January days.


23 thoughts on “Cheer

  1. As ever, you are way ahead of me on the daff front, Sara. This last week has been great hasn’t it? After weeks of kicking my heels I’ve managed to get loads done. Why I’ve almost felt like a gardener. Dave

    • You’ll have to get some Rijnveld’s Early Sensation, Dave! Sadly this past week was one of my busiest work weeks of the year so last Sunday was the only chance I had to enjoy it, but glad that it lifted your spirits so, when you have no choice but to be immersed in the weather regardless!

  2. Thank you for the time and effort to share your beautiful garden. Interesting to follow your daffodils half-way around the world from ours. We are at about 48º latitude, surrounded by the warming waters of Puget Sound. And you are at about latitude 52º. You are further North, for sure, yet several weeks ahead in the Daffodil Department. Thank you again for sharing your garden. – The Healing Garden gardener

      • Clever is as clever does. From the Healing Garden, we have looked closely now at Rijnveld’s Early Sensation and find nothing fraudulent in your choice of bulbs. We are grateful for your courage. These will be available for planting from our local bulb farms this Autumn. You may help us make a hillwards’ healing dedication. – The Healling Garden gardener

  3. This is the first time I have seen the view beyond your garden, its absolutely lovely. No Daffodil flowers for us yet, not even a bud!

    • Thanks, we’re lucky to have such stunning views from here.
      Only these very early daffs are emerging so far, others around the garden are just an inch or two of green if that!

  4. Breakfast until dusk? That’s good going indeed, and a concept I must have erased from my post-retirement memory! You must be well-pleased with your achievements – and of course Rijnveld’s Early Sensation isn’t cheating!! 🙂

  5. Daffodils are the real sign of spring, even though I have other bulbs I miss all the mass planting of daffodils one sees everywhere in England and Wales too of course! I do have a few in the garden here but strangely they flower very late so more a sign of summer than spring, so not the same at all.

  6. I don’t know why more people don’t grow this wonderful daffodil, it always starts in January and people always think you have worked some green-fingered alchemy to make it bloom so early. How nice to be able to get out in the garden and have a nice long session. The trouble here is everything is so wet.

    • Lovely daff to grow isn’t it? Yes I hear people exclaim over them at this time of year as they pass, great to bring a smile to others too with the daffs doing all the hard work!

  7. That must have been some burst of sunshine Sara 🙂 Glad to read that you were able to spend a day pottering to your heart’s content. Will have to be a few degrees warmer to tempt me to do the same. The spirit is willing but the hands get cold too quickly. Intriguing to read that your ‘ Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ are three weeks behind despite the mild winter. Maybe a knock on effect of last year’s late spring?

    • I wonder whether the wet winter has held them back – I wouldn’t want to put my head up in a deluge?! Lovely to be out in the sun, and almost warm at times!

  8. I haven’t got into the garden at all. It’s just so wet. And raining again as I write. 😦 Do you think we need to do some sort of sacrificial offering or something to stop this rain? 😉 I can’t wait to feel a hint of warmth in the sun and get my hands into the soil again. No daffs here yet, although February Gold look like they’re on their way.

    • Last weekend, the sun did seem to hold a little warmth, but yes I too look forward to warmer and definitely drier days ahead! Hmm wonder what sacrifice would appease … 😉

  9. “Early Sensation” is going you proud again Sara, quite shocking to see the yellow of daffodils so early. I think you do yourself a disservice, I can certainly see how much work you put in clearing that border, and so satisfying to be able to spend the day outside in sunshine, and to be able to spot the new growth up close. The witch hazel will look wonderful against those dogwoods eventually, a good combination to have planned, you have such a great eye.

    • Thanks, Janet. The photos didn’t seem to give the same sense that standing in front of the border does, but I’m glad they do convey some tidiness! Just need another day or two of sunshine to do the same to the remaining borders, hmmm.

      I really look forward to our witch hazel growing big enough to really pack a punch at this time of year! And yes, the Early Sensations are wonderfully reliable for a burst of brazen colour at this time of year, I can’t recommend them enough!

  10. You do yourself down – I think your ‘after’ shot does reflect the work you’ve done. I am impressed (and wish my garden looked like that at the mo). I really must get some Early Sensation, though this year it looks as though my ordinary, unnamed, inherited daffs will be joining in soon. Lovely things, daffodils. Sigh… thanks!

    • Ah thanks, Kate. The border changed from ‘shaggy’ to almost ‘bald’ in real life, I didn’t think it came across so in the pictures: glad I was wrong! So satisfying, only wish I’d found the opportunity to do some more this weekend. In between the hail showers and gusts of wind. Somehow the fireside was more inviting…

      The first daffs to show are always such a delight, glad yours are almost through too.

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