The white fantastic: The first snowdrops mean spring is on its way
PUBLISHED: 10:12 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:30 14 January 2019
Our gardening columnist Debbie McMorran is delighted to welcome the first signs of the new season.
The first snowdrop has appeared in my garden, and I feel like I can breathe again. Although the period since the last rose petals fell to this first sacred sighting of pure white doesn’t feel as though it was as long this year, it is still a huge relief to know that spring is on the way.
I shouldn’t be surprised to find the bulbs peeking through the soil at this time of year, but it never fails to give me a thrill.
It always seems as though I miss it until it’s in full flow - I never catch the first one peeping through the soil, but rather I spot one clump of shoots, and look around to find hundreds of them surrounding me - all in their own little clusters, like penguins huddling together to keep warm.
After spotting the one singular snowdrop, I scoured the rest of the garden to see if there were any more, and I could only see that one, lone flower, braving the cold above ground to shine in solitary beauty before all of the others join it.
There are other plants in flower of course, all of which I had also managed to overlook in the bud stage. Surrounding the clumps of spring shoots are several hellebore plants which are starting to flower - their beautiful colours always take my breath away.
The range of pure whites through to the deepest purple, and every shade in between - some which look like the faintest hint of a bruise blushing on pure cream skin, and others tinged the green hue of fresh morning grass.
Of all the spring flowers, I think there must be a hellebore that everyone would love - with such variety available, there is something for every taste.
Looking through the window directly in front of my writing desk, there isn’t a single shred of colour other than green. Green in all different shades and tones. Looking at this vista, I am struck by two things: firstly that I am lucky to have a stretch of lawn, bordered by hedging and trees, which retain such a vivid green even in the depths of winter. There is never a point when I don’t have some kind of living garden to look out on.
Secondly, that we so often ignore the backdrop of a garden, instead focusing on the individual plants and bright colours that they bring to the landscape.
I often neglect the actual stage upon which these plants make their entrances and exits, but without the surrounding structural trees, shrubs and architectural plants, the ‘showstoppers’ that it is so easy to get carried away about would be far less impressive than they are in the balance of their background.
This year I resolve to try to look a little more at the bigger picture of my garden and - like Capability Brown - to consider the garden as a landscape rather than getting too hung up on the individual plants.
Seeing them as a collective and appreciating the part that they each play in the wider vision will hopefully allow me to plan better for the coming year, and to make decisions about whether there are any larger changes that we want to make in the garden.
There is little point in planning to dig in a new flower bed, or to extend an existing one, without first deciding how we want the outlook to be as a whole.
If you are planning any big changes to your garden it’s always a good idea to mock it up first.
If you can, buy a can of grass marker from a DIY store so that you can paint the area before you go cutting it out - it’s much easier to cut a bit more than it is to reseed and replant parts of a lawn if you find that you have been overzealous with the edging tool and spade!
Whatever else you get up to in the garden this month, I wish you all a very happy new gardening year, and hope that you all get a great deal of enjoyment out of your gardens or allotments in the coming months.
Things to do in the garden this month
- Make sure if you have been feeding the birds that you keep doing so - they come to rely on extra sources of food, and if they have found a food source in your garden, they will come to expect it to be there. It’s similarly important to ensure a supply of fresh water especially when the temperatures drop below freezing and ponds and puddles get frozen over during the cold evenings and overnight.
- Use the warm evenings sat in front of the fire to plan your growing and planting for the year ahead. There is nothing so satisfying as sitting with a hot cup of tea and drawing out the plans for a new flower bed, or what crops you are planning to plant in your vegetable garden in the coming season. Not only does it feel super-productive when you can’t be doing much physical work in the garden, but it will also leave you far better prepared when the time comes to actually get on with the planting.
- If you have any parts of the garden which need digging over which haven’t already been done, now is the time to do it in preparation for the coming year.