Like most people who live in the northern hemisphere in less than balmy conditions, most of my gardening is currently being done indoors. The veg seed order is nearly ready to place, I just have to decide what broad beans to grow this year, pick shallots, and prune my salad leaves order. It doesn’t help that I finally persuaded myself that buying Charles Dowding’s “Salads for all Seasons” book was a justifiable investment rather than pure indulgence…

Mostly, though, I have been pondering about the front garden – how to landscape it, what plants to grow, what feeling I want it to evoke. I’ll post more about that another day, but suffice to say that I had got to the point when thinking about border edgings meant that I needed to work out what length of edging I could get out of my circle bed. Which meant braving the 5C outdoors. So I got all my clobber on and decided to grab my camera too, so that I could look for signs of Spring bulbs.

It has been one of the more tantalising aspects of inheriting a new garden, wondering what bulbs might pop up, and where. I started in the back, with the border that runs alongside the kitchen garden. Nowt, not even signs of growth from the bulbs I had planted myself, although given that these are species tulips and anenomes, it would be surprising to see them this early. Moving further along, I was surprised and heartened to see that there are small clumps of bulbs pushing up around the base of the stumps of the large conifers we removed.

I doubt I would have been able to see them had the conifers still been in residence, so yet another reason to be glad to have got rid of them.

The back border has surprisingly few signs of bulbs, something I plan to change over time, and there is no sign of the tete-a-tete dwarf daffs I planted around the bamboo as yet. There are a couple of clumps though, and once I move the large fern that is smothering some of the primulas I inherited they should be very visible from the house, which will be lovely.

Wandering up the path through the side garden, home of the rockery that I plan to turn in to the raspberry bed, I can see quite a few bulbs popping up, along with what looks like some pulmonarias.


At least, I think these are pulmonarias, they are one of those plants that I have always wondered about trying but never got around to.

There is one clump of bulbs on the other side of the path too, but what really pleased me was that I appear to have some crocuses after all.

They are popping up in the rather unprepossessing bed that runs along the edge of the driveway between us and next door. It is mostly full of a worryingly large sycamore seedling, some hydrangeas and some fuchsias. Very little ivy, which is surprising, but in one bare patch under a hydrandea that utterly failed to flower last year, definite signs of what I am hoping are crocuses. I haven’t given this bed any real thought at all, not least because the bins and a boat make it hard to get to. The crocuses could redeem it in my eyes though, and award it some attention this year after all!

Moving in to the front garden, there are the inevitable signs that I failed to clear all the crocosmia from the corner that is meant to be all white, purple and blue, which I expected, but I was interested to see what looks like some tulips popping up, though clearly something has been unearthing them for me too.

A neighbour told me that the previous owners had lots of red and yellow tulips out the front, so I am not expecting anything that I will want to keep out there, but at least there might be some flowers for cutting, and I am sure I can find space for them in the back somewhere. An even better surprise was to spot new growth on the fuchsia that is growing above them.

This is one of the plants I moved last Autumn, along with a ceanothus. I knew the latter hate to be moved, so was unsurprised to lose it, but the fuchsia wilted terribly once transplanted, despite plenty of a water and a good trim. It probably won’t stay there long term, but it will fill the space made by the removal of a rather boring conifer while I work out what I really want to do there. I’m glad it seems to have survived after all, and even more glad that I let it be “just in case, I came very close to yanking it out!

It is a shame that there appear to be no bulbs in the gravel area around the pond, it seems like such an obvious place to have some spring colour to me, but who knows, maybe something will pop up later. There isn’t much showing in the fence border either, just a couple of small clumps of what might be daffs, all but smothered by the ivy I have yet to clear.

Up near the house, amongst the abundance of chippings in the gaps where shrubs have been removed, clumps of Spannish bluebells are emerging. I know what these are thanks to the photos on the property particulars and the shots I took myself when we first viewed the house. They will make a welcome splash of colour but it is a shame that they aren’t our native bluebells. I just hope there are no native bluebells over the fence in the park, I would hate for my lot to pollute the gene pool!

Having looked at the photos again, I wonder if actually all the blubs I can see popping up in the fence border are bluebells. Can’t wait to find out…

It isn’t just the possibility of bulbs that I have been wondering about since I moved here. There is a hamamelis at the centre of the circle bed. I only know what it is thanks to gardening-sil, who said “oh, how lovely to have a witch hazel” when she first saw the garden, but ever since I have been wondering what colour it would turn out to be. Given the red theme that runs through the established planting in the front garden, from azaleas and rhododendrons to bedding plants and, apparently, tulips, I rather assumed it would be red too. When we left to visit family for New Year it was a mass of fat buds but no flowers. When we returned, it was a mass of…

…lovely pale yellow flowers. Which blend in perfectly without stealing the eye like the stronger colours do. The reds and yellows that had been in the circle bed really distracted from rather than enhanced the view beyond, so I definitely want to keep the colour palette soft and subtle.

I’m delighted, though I have no idea what cultivar it is, and therefore have no clue how large it will get. At the moment I plan to leave it where it is and keep it from obscuring the view from the dining room by regular pruning. I would like to credit the person who planted it with knowing that the morning light in winter would strike it just like a spotlight…

…but somehow I suspect it is a happy accident, one that I am delighted to embrace, provided I can work out what to plant with it. I have no idea what it smells like, it is far too cold at the moment, and the shape is lovely so I don’t want to prune off a branch for the house to find out.

Where was I. Oh yes, measuring the circle bed.

All done, though it started to rain, and then hail, just as I finished running the ribbon round it, which rather put paid to the other thing I wanted to do, which was measure up possible borders so that I could work out whether I could use the stone to edge them. Ah well, a task for another day, but the circumference measured 11m, longer than I had guessed, and since I think I only want edges half the height of the current wall, that should give me 22m of edging to play with. I’m rather looking forward to trying my hand at some dry stone walling, and to cramming some of the nooks and crannies with sedums and some daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus). For now, it is back to the indoor gardening, and wondering what colour the crocuses will prove to be.

53 thoughts on “Winter wondering…

    1. Hi Sue, I already feel really lucky to have pulmonarias, and I think I may have spotted ajuga too, again choked by ivy. Looking forward to the crocuses though…

  1. Those bulbs are bonus plants, to give some colour and cheer this coming spring before you get the chance to sort them out to your liking (as well as an improvement to the red and yellow colour scheme). I hope the fuchsia re-establishes itself this year, after having had the shock of being transplanted. Looking forward to seeing what you will do with the circular bed, and the rest of the garden!

    I find indoor gardening quite fulfilling in its own right, even if it’s mainly mental gardening, planning, designing etc. Anticipation is sweet :)

    1. Hi guys, I’m with you on the winter gardening front, I love the planning and dreaming phase and having time to do it without the call of “proper” outside gardening jobs. I like your persepctive on the relative paucity of bulbs too, though I admit to having harboured hopes of snowdrops… The circle bed is definitely on notice to quit!

  2. Hi Janet,

    It’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of bulbs – perhaps there once was but like the garden had become a little overgrown, perhaps a lot of the bulbs died? Anyway, it looks like you’ll get the chance to play with lots of bulbs next autumn or perhaps buy some in the green over the coming weeks – b&q is often quite cheap for bulbs at this time of year.

    Have our first Bluebells coming up now – they come up quite a bit later than the spanish ones as far as I can tell and also flower a few weeks later.

    Lovely Witch Hazel, another plant I’d love to have the space for; one day maybe. And looking forward to seeing your ‘fetching’ circle bed with fleabane and sedums amongst the slate – perhaps try some cute little ferns too?? Not wet enough perhaps?

    1. Hi Liz, I think there are ferns happy in dry rock crevices, in fact I am sure there are, but I’m not sure they would be in keeping with the feeling I want, which is “hint of beach and cliff”. We’ll see! I’m still struggling to accept my Spannish bluebells, they always seem so stiff to me, but at least I will get a good splash of blue, which is definitely going to be part of the front garden palette, and apparently they are almost as hard to get rid of as crocosmia, so I had better get used to them! Good idea on the bargain bulbs front, if I get out of the village I will look out for bargains, but the van is off the road at the moment… ENjoy your bluebells when they appear – and in the mean time, get better!

  3. Full of intrigue! How lovely to inherit a mature witchhazel – and fortuitous (or well planned!) placement indeed.
    We have lots of pulmonarias spreading here from some plants my mum gave me from her garden early on – they do self-seed very happily. I’ve just added a named one that she gave me recently too, in a different bed: it will be interesting to see if it seeds as happily as the species ones… they are all so cheerful in winter and early spring, though, regardles of colours. And easy to remove if they spring up in the wrong place.
    In a way perhaps it is a good thing if not too many bulbs appear, giving you more of a clean canvas to add your own in the next few years.
    I am really excited to watch all the shoots pushing up at the minute (not to mention our crazy early daffodils).

    1. Hi Sara, I know, I really have lucked out on the witch hazel, given how pricey a good size plant is. And the “spotlight” effect is very amusing – the same happens from the other side in the evening, so perhaps a designer had a hand in the placement?

      Good to know that pulmonarias happily self seed, I will almost certainly move most of mine, as they are currently where the raspberries and alpine strawberries are going to be, assuming I can clear the rockery in time to plant them this year.

      Is it you that has lots of “Tenby” daffs? They are on my autumn wishlist as I like the idea of having some welsh daffs in the garden.

      1. I keep finding the little spotted leaves of young pulmonarias popping up all over the garden. I hope our named one is as prolific!

        Alas, not me. We have but a single pot of Tenby daffodils – that my mum gave me (coals to Newcastle? :) ) They are lovely, and I do intend to acquire more – as you say it seems most fitting to have welsh daffs in a welsh garden…

  4. Lovely to see new things coming up in your garden, I love pulmonarias.
    Thats a great picture of your circle garden and the sunlight highlighting the witch hazel. How perfect. I’ve got a dark orange witch hazel in my garden, but I actually think the ones with yellow flowers stand out better.

    1. Hi Annie, that’s funny, as I think if I had been picking a witch hazel I would have chosen a burnt orange one! I do think the yellow shows up remarkably well in the low winter light levels though, so I am doubly lucky. Am looking forward to getting to know pulmonarias first hand.

  5. Seeing all your bulb plants poking up is so encouraging! Thanks for the hopeful signs of spring–it’s so far off here, so I appreciate blogs that show it will eventually happen!

    1. Glad to help you out in the middle of your bleak winter… I have to admit it has been a little disconcerting not to have had a period of no growth in the garden, there have been bulbs and new leaves, even flowers, ever since the autumn leaves started dropping, there is something rather comforting about a “proper” winter pause, although I doubt you share that feeling at the moment!

  6. How exciting to see some bulbs emerging Janet. Doubtless they will not all be to your liking but there are bound to be some that make you smile. Now that’s definitely a pulmonaria as already said and do try some more. Great for colour in early spring – pink, blues and purple and foliage which looks good for most of the year as long as they are in a relatively shady spot. Above all the bees are most partial to those flowers :) Have fun winter wondering before the wandering takes off in earnest.

    1. Hi Anna, it is rather tantalising waiting to see what colour flowers will accompany the pulmonaria leaves, which I am really enjoying, despite not normally liking variegation. I might well find myself sowing some seed for different kinds… It was the bees that had me adding pulmonarias to my wishlist a couple of years ago, so I am doubly glad to see them here, my last garden was never terribly good for early nectar sources.

  7. This is the fun side of taking over a mature garden! Seeing what bulbs come up is exciting and even if they turn out to be the wrong colours or types, you’ll have some flowers to cut for the house this year and know what grows where for next year. ENJOY! Christina

    1. Hi Christina, yes, it really is fun, I was so thrilled to see the colour of the witch hazel, and even red and yellow tulips are welcome in the house!

  8. Wonderful waiting to see what comes up, a very special time of year at the moment in the garden. The witch hazel is really gorgeous, I have found the perfume to be wonderful on the yellow flowered ones, but notice it more when the weather is a bit warmer and the sun is shining! Love the fact that your head is so full of wonderful ideas for your new garden, will look forward to the photos!

    1. Hi Pauline, I’m looking forward to a warmer day when hopefully I will be able to catch a whiff from the witch hazel, although looking at the forecast…

  9. Hi Janet, Pulmonaria would have been my first thought when seeing those spotted leaves. The flowers on our Hamamelis are just starting to show, coping well with the snow that just started yesterday, very wet stuff thinking it wont last long. I think your Hamamelis is Arnolds Promise, blooms are a more pleasing lemon shade compared to those on Mollis. They are slow growing, I think this is what makes them so expensive, they also don’t like being pruned, maybe just take out a wayward stem now and again.

    1. Hi Alistair, hope your snow doesn’t persist enough to break or damage anything. I think you may well be right about the hamamelis being ‘Arnold’s Promise’, looking at the photographs I think the leaves give it away.

  10. Oh course your predecessors might not have been as keen a gardener as you. I think it is pulmonaria, the leaves look like mine but I am no expert. I wonder if the bulbs would have appeared under the conifers if you hadnt cut them down, they might have been sitting there dormant just waiting.
    The witch hazel would be Pallida or maybe Arnold Promise which I have and it looks similar

    1. Hi Helen, I wondered whether the bulbs had appeared sighing with relief now that the conifers were gone, I just couldn’t work out how they would “know” there was less shade above them, maybe it is to do with the ground around them being damper as the conifers are no longer sucking all the moisture out of it? I think the hamamelis is ‘Arnold’s Promise’ since ‘Pallida’ is described as having bright green leaves and the leaves on mine are dark and quite “flat” in colour, if that makes any sense. Whatever it is, I am delighted to have inherited it, as I doubt I would have bought anything quite a pricey!

  11. I recognise those spotted leaves as they are invading my mother’s garden. The flowers are pretty though, alternating pink and blue.

    1. An invasion of pulmonarias! Could be worse, I suppose. Am looking forward to seeing the flowers – and working out where best to move them too, since they are in the way of the raspberries I want to plant…

  12. Janet I know you are considerably south of me but lots of my bulbs have not pushed through yet, so it is possible you have many more to come through, your witch hazel with the sun on it is beautiful, it’s exciting seeing what is there and planning ahead, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I hope you are right and more bulbs show themselves, but I think if I had inherited any snowdrops they would have made themselves known by now. Still, the witch hazel is magical!

  13. What fun to have bulbs popping up, a cheery spring surprise. I too was delighted with your witch hazel, especially with the light hitting it just so, right at center stage so to speak.

    1. “Center Stage” is exactly right Marguerite, and it is lovely to have something right in the middle of the front garden that shines out at this time of year, without being too gharish.

  14. The previous gardener is lucky that you’ll be appreciating and considering keeping some of their bulb choices. I see some good things coming up for a not-too-distant future. I worry about my own occasionally-placed bulbs, planted more as one-of-a-kind gardener’s curiosities than big displays for the general garden-viewing public. And personally I’m envious of any clime that allows tulips to return one year to the next without digging and refrigerating them as we need to do here…

    1. Hi James, goodness, bad enough to have to dig tulips up and dry them out, as many do here if they have heavy soils, but having to refrigerate them?! High maintenance! Actually lots of people here use them as bedding plants, discarding them each year. That gets expensive. I am hoping that, on such well drained soil, I will be able to plant the ones I have in pots out and keep them going. As to single specimens vs. large displays, I think one-off specials have their own magic when you suddenly come across them, but by Spring I am so hungry for colour that I must admit I crave large swathes, rivers even, running through my borders.

  15. I think all the appropriate comments have been made already, Janet – not sure I can add anything new! What an exciting time for you, discovering what is growing in growing in your garden – when did you take it over? I hope there will be lots more surprises – mostly pleasant ones!

    1. Hi Cathy, we move here almost 6 months ago now, although it feels as if we have always lived here. We first saw the place in May, so from now until then it is all mysterious…

  16. It is great that your garden is still a voyage of discovery – who know what will pop up in the coming weeks.

  17. Your Witchhazel looks lovely – and ideally placed. Are you going to be able to keep track of your bulbs once they pop up. I am always missing my chance and find they have died back when I come to move them – so they get left year after year. I know I should get more organised!

    1. Keeping track… Mmmm… That is one of the reasons I took lots of photos, and then saved them with suggestive titles, but it is a near certainty that come Autumn when I am moving things – and planting more bulbs – I will find myself wondering exactly what bulbs I have just excavated and whether I want to re-bury them where they are or move them… I am hoping to take lots of photos once they are in flower and make notes, but my track record is not exactly stellar when it comes to being able to find said notes later when I need them…

  18. Your first spring in this new garden will be very exciting. I know I have some things popping up and others still haven’t emerged…. so in your garden perhaps you will continue to be surprised by some more great plants. How lucky to have some pulmonaria coming up!!! Hope mine reseeds some!!!

    1. Hi Janet, I am certainly hoping that some more bulbs are yet to show their heads above ground, it is early yet. I do indeed feel very lucky with the pulmonarias, can’t wait to see what the flowers look like, likewise on the epimediums. At the moment everying this covered in a thick blanket of snow though…

  19. I’m feeling your anticipation. I agree re the pulmonaria too! Wish I had inherited a lovely garden like this. Good luck with your plans.
    Aspleniums are good ferns for crevices. They can often be seen naturalised in walls like yours they are evergreen too so a bonus there!

    1. Hi Angie, I do like aspleniums, maybe I should look in to getting some small plants when I come to build the wall. I will give it some thought.

  20. How fun to go on a hunt for the bulbs in your new garden..one surprise after another. I love the hunt when the snow melts as it just did and then again in spring as the bulbs really start to emerge…love the picture of the spotlighted witch hazel.

    1. Hi Donna, I too have always enjoyed the looking out for new bulb leaves popping their heads up, but this is the first time I haven’t been looking out for things I planted, it is rather tantalising.

  21. I love the moss forming between the stones….so lovely. I went out earlier this week and spotted a few daffodils peeking through the soil, so I am excited to see those. Their growth may be slowed for a time because we may get some snow. Your garden is lovely in winter.

    1. We have snow at the moment too, which is a little unexpected, but 4″ and it is still falling, so who knows what I will find once it all melts again!

  22. It’s all been said, Janet but how exciting and I’m sure there’ll be more bulbs appearing. I lost my Arnold’s Promise last year so am a little green looking at yours bathing in midwinter sun. And gosh, aren’t you close to the sea? You could slip on your bikini and after a hop, skip and a jump be frolicking in the waves. Perhaps not just yet though. Dave

    1. Definitely not just yet, and definitely not in a bikini unless I wanted to give the local populace a real shock! But come summer, yes, delightfully easy to pop down for a swim, or take the kayak out. In the mean time, we have 4″ of snow and it is still falling. Sorry about your ‘Arnold’s Promise’, I do feel extraordinarily lucky, as I am not sure I would have bought one left to myself. It looks rather lovely part covered in snow.

  23. It must be exciting to see the bulbs poking through and wondering what they’ll be. There wasn’t a single bulb in this garden when we moved in. It gives me great pleasure every spring when I see new shoots pushing through to think that we’ve turned a blank and uninspiring space into somewhere with lots of plants. I love the witch hazel. A plant I don’t have the space for unfortunately. I’m not sure I’d much gardening done with that view at the bottom of my garden. ;)

    1. The view can certainly be distracting at times – well, all the time, to be honest… I was in the same position as you in my last garden, everything there I had planted. This is a very different experience, but I am enjoying it. But I definitely need to put aside some money for a large Autumn bulb order, as there aren’t nearly enough bulbs popping up, and no snowdrops at all. And only two, very sad looking, hellebores…

  24. There lots of bulbs appearing which will prove interesting as they flower. Those and all the other plants will provide you with lots of interest later this year.
    Lovely photos as usual, and an enjoyable post. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, I spotted even more bulbs pushing their way up above ground yesterday, I think clearing the conifers has encouraged some that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Am now waiting to see what they all are…

  25. Darn it alistair beat me to it with the name for the witch hazel! Beautiful Janet! So close to seeing what’s coming is exciting. Will you relegate the red tulips to a red are or completely recycled them to a local group or plant sale?

    Sounds like you’ll need to up the bulb stakes in the coming months and get some snow drops in there too.

    :-) lovely thinking about it all isn’t it?

    1. Hi Fay, my bulb order for the Autumn is getting longer every day! I might get some snowdrops in the green, it depends on the budget, may have to wait until next year too, as need to work out where best to put them. Not sure about the red and yellow tulips, depends on how read and yellow I think, I am not a fan of the very flat red and flat yellow you get. Spotted more tulips pushing themselves up in the salad bed yesterday when I was planting out the raspberries, lots to look forward to!

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