Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, A Dwarf Winter Iris With Stripes

Dwarf winter iris with blue stripes and spots on a yellow fall

Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ has barely even ankle high flowers that are a muddy mix of pale blue, cream and yellow. It can be identified by the unusual colour, and the beautiful veins on the falls. Blue stripes radiate from a yellow blotch that is spotted blue. Three standards (upper petals) are striped and veined too.
Continue reading “Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, A Dwarf Winter Iris With Stripes”

January Squares: Snowdrops Glisten

Snowy landscape with snowdrops backlit by the fading sun
Snowdrops glisten under silver birch trees in a snowy winter garden

Interaction between the camera lens and the sun’s rays has sent rainbows tumbling from the top right. I’m not sure if that’s a feature or a flaw… perhaps a bit of both.

Pockets of snowdrops are barely distinguishable from the snow at first glance but, once your eye tunes in, they seem illuminated like tiny, ankle-high lamps. Long, narrow tree shadows accentuate the ray effect while the shade and golden rays together capture that feeling of warmth and exposure we Northerners associate with winter… the lucky ones, that is, who have the means of keeping warm. Continue reading “January Squares: Snowdrops Glisten”

Winter Walk Around Bodnant Garden in Wales

Bodnant House dwarfed by a large cedar tree

Only last week I was bemoaning the lack of a Tardis to transport me to a snow-covered Bodnant Garden, near Tal-y-Cafn, Conwy, Wales. The universe did not send me a Tardis, but it did the next best thing. A friend asked us to check out the place his family came from – Dolgellau – and Bodnant just happened to be on our way home.

While the snow in the garden had long gone, heavy white shawls on the Snowdonia mountain range opposite gave Bodnant a wintry feeling. The 130 acres of garden give plenty of scope for walking: you really need some form of season ticket* to make the most of it all. Continue reading “Winter Walk Around Bodnant Garden in Wales”

In Praise Of Winter Gardens, Plus A Tip Or Two

Wooden bench amongst winter plants and grasses
Bodnant Garden’s colourful winter garden

I’m a big fan of winter gardens that make the most of plants that look good when herbaceous borders are expanses of mulch-covered dirt. Trees with white trunks such as this Betula utilis var jacquemontii (Himalayan birch) often feature, together with evergreens, light-reflecting grasses, red stemmed Cornus (dogwood), Skimmia, Hamamelis (witch hazel), flowering heather, hellebores, Bergenia, Cyclamen and winter flowering bulbs.

Plants like this seem to shrug off winter weather, but the current cold spell means that the hardiness of plants of all types is being tested in many UK and American gardens.

Some gardeners go to great lengths to keep tender plants alive, wrapping their pots up, covering them with some form of plant blanket, or moving them indoors. Others will only plant what grows. Many of us are somewhere in-between, willing to offer our plant treasures a helping hand if conditions are unusually bad, provided we know what to do.

Overhead view of a pot protected from the frost
A pot of bulbs wrapped in burlap, with a double layer of netting to deter squirrels

Continue reading “In Praise Of Winter Gardens, Plus A Tip Or Two”

Witch Hazel In Winter Gardens

Bare branches with red spidery flowers

Here’s a closer look at witch hazel (Hamamelis). Ancient lore accords these flowering shrubs medicinal, cultural and even religious value, but here I’m focusing on their decorative quality. In the UK, witch hazels drop their leaves in autumn, then produce colourful flowers that are particularly welcome in the winter garden.

Bare branches with orange flowers

The flowers appear to float, held up in the air on slender stems that would otherwise go unnoticed in deciduous plantings. The rusty orange one particularly attracted me. Rich purple calyces provide a beautiful contrast, and the colour palette just seems to get better as the older petals wither.  Continue reading “Witch Hazel In Winter Gardens”

Two Hellebores At Ness Botanic Gardens

Velvety hellebore hybrid with a blurred sea of snowdrops

The first shot is a variation on a theme. You may remember the purple hellebore bowing its head in homage to snowdrops towards the end of my recent post about snowdrops. This flower was nearby. I bent down, half automatically, and turned the flower up to take a look inside. The darker spotting on a rich, purple background created an effect somewhere between velvet and silk. Very regal. It may be just my imagination, but in this shot, it’s the snowdrops that seem to be paying homage, like fans at a concert.  Continue reading “Two Hellebores At Ness Botanic Gardens”