February already, and the garden is quietly beginning to slough off its slumbers as the days draw out once more.
It’s almost time to cut back those stems that have valiantly stood through the winter, to make way for the new growth that will soon erupt through the borders.
Even the most ragged of stems and seedheads take on a magic of their own, sparkling in the low winter light of a frosty morning – as does an otherwise unremarkable wooden gate.
Beneath the burnished copper foliage of the beech hedge, a glimpse of gold amid those muted winter colours and textures announced the arrival of our earliest daffodils (Rijnveld’s Early Sensation), bursting into bloom along the front boundary.
A few weeks later than last year, but a very welcome sight as they began to open early in January; these daffodils are really bulking up now. While there are still some gaps between clumps I am determined this year to mark them, so that when the foliage has died back later in the year I can safely interplant a later variety to carry on the show in future years once these flowers fade.
Other old friends are also making their return; the first hellebores include the short-lived apple-green corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, and Metallic Red Lady.
A glimpse of primrose yellow gleaming deep in the field border though was the one to make my heart soar. On a dull day (of which there are still sadly quite a number), these flowers really sing out amid the rough tangle of drab browns in this border.
I bought this beautiful Harvington clear yellow-flowered hellebore in bloom a couple of years ago, and was sad not to find any flowers on it upon its reappearance last year (though the new foliage was a welcome sight.) I hoped it was simply resting after being forced into bloom for retail the previous year, and thankfully this would seem to be the case. Whew!
I’m also pleased to see the return of all three dark-leaved ‘Brazen Hussy’ celandines, bought cheaply last year as they went over. Somewhere there should also be some winter aconites, but I have yet to spot these. They’ll be hard to miss if they flower!
With the first snowdrops opening, there is something new appearing in the garden almost every time I look – and new lambs in the neighbouring field. What a marvellous time of year this is.