New Year’s day flowers

January 4th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula and Cerinthe

Nights below freezing this week have, perhaps, finally announced the arrival of winter but the end-of-the-year mildness led to a longer than usual list of plants in flower on New Year’s Day.

Shrubs including mahonias and viburnums and winter jasmine we expect, hellebores too and the early snowdrops, but garden pinks? They were a surprise and two of mine yielded flowers to cut for a little jug on the kitchen table (sorry, my picture was terrible!). Two different Shasta daisies, too, have been flowering for weeks and although wet weather has spoiled the open flowers, picked as the buds open they develop well indoors.

Self sown hardy annuals can usually be relied on and this year is no exception. Germinating at different times through the late summer and autumn, there always seems to be a plant in flower and calendulas and blue cornflowers plus cerinthes have all carried at least a few flowers for many weeks.

The other dependables are polyanthus, often developing flowers months ahead of their traditional season.

Surprisingly, a perennial salvia that was cut down hard after its summer flowers had faded promptly burst into growth and has been flowering for weeks. The buds of Japanese honeysuckle opened indoors and the mice and birds have left alone the bright berries of the misleadingly named stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) to add sparkle.

None of these plants are growing in especially cosy situations, they’re growing on my trial garden which is similar to regular back gardens around the country although it has good fences to keep the wind off. True, they don’t look as pristine or have long stems as they do in summer – but who cares!

Of course, it’s been mild but leaving in place self sown seedlings of annuals at various stages of development is a big help. Good drainage and a dark mulch helps keep the soil warm, cutting away dead and dying shoots of annuals opens them up and avoids winter rots and clearing away what really is past it allows good air movement and, again, reduces rots.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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