Witch Hunt

I find February an excruciating month. We are so close to spring, but it is often getting colder rather than warmer. Bulbs have broken the surface of the soil, but their growth is glacial. I feel like each time I visit the garden I am willing it on, but it is like a painfully shy child. The more pressure it feels to perform, the more it hides its head and keeps schtum.

Today I was on a hunt for some colour. I remembered last year going to Sissinghurst for an early visit, before the gardens had opened, and finding some lovely pots of Crocuses and Scilla and Dwarf Irises.

This little hope was enough. Off I went.

It was bitingly cold. I saw a couple of dog-walkers in the car park; we nodded grimly to one another as we wriggled deeper into our hats, scarves and gloves.

There were still patches of snow on the ground, and the temperature was hovering around freezing.

I headed down to the lake. The lake is generally a place of peaceful serenity, but today in its semi-frozen state it looked a little sinister. Especially with these star-shaped cracks stretching across its surface. Is something about to emerge, or have victims already been dragged under the ice?

There was a distinct dearth of colour.

It was all a bit Blair Witch Project. There was a tangle of weird shapes suspended from branches.

Thank goodness! A burst of green! This is wild honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) starting into life. It is warding off the evil!

I took comfort too from the bark of the magnificent oaks. When there is little colour, a texture burst will do.

A short circuit of the woods was enough for me today. I had warmed up from walking, but I could feel my ears and nose glowing red with exposure to the cold.

I didn’t find any pots of bulbs today. It really is too early. Instead, Witch Hazel came to my rescue! These were potted up outside the shop.

Hammamelis mollis

This is Hammamelis mollis, Chinese witch hazel. The petals remind me of a party popper’s twirled tissue paper.

They were great fun to photograph. Some looked like spiders.

Others like cheerleaders’ rustling pom-poms. There are only four tassels per flower, but it looks like more.

As well as the classic lemon-peel yellow, there were a couple of hybrid varieties. This is Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Magic Fire’.

Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Magic Fire’

This was my favourite: Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. I love the graduation of blood-orange petals as they meet the burgundy sepals at the centre.

Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

Also bringing a little bit of winter joy, was flowering quince, Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’.

Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’.

And a more demure white form, Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’

We are, bit by bit, edging closer to spring, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I will try to give my spring bulbs some breathing space. An intense stare is disconcerting to anyone. I will sneak a sideways glance every now and again.

For now, a cup of tea indoors will have to be my comfort.

The Mindful Gardener aims to bring you little pops of wonder as they emerge from the ground this spring. If you want to join the joy, you can ‘follow’ this blog via email. Look for the big ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of the page. You will receive an email notification each time a new post is published. There is no spam, no selling, and you can unsubscribe at any stage.

56 Comments Add yours

  1. Emma Cownie says:

    I love the Chinese witch hazel too. It’s usually Russety Brown bracken that provides the colour round here!

    1. Bracken can be surprisingly vibrant in the sun, can’t it? I love the lovely rich brown. Beech or Hornbeam leaves are another favourite.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        I love Beech trees and I’m off to look up what a Hornbeam looks like right now!

      2. Very similar! They are difficult to tell apart! I think area is one of the easiest ways of knowing – we are in a hornbeam area!

      3. Emma Cownie says:

        I am glad you say that!

  2. Lovely pictures as always … I’m at my in-laws today about to help them in the garden again, but it’s so cold outside of the duvet!

    1. It is still very cold! Definitely a wrap-up-warm kind of a day. I managed half an hour outside, but then needed a Latte!

  3. Chloris says:

    Yes, Witch hazels are a winter joy, but there are plenty of other February delights; snowdrops, aconites, little irises, early crocus, Japanese Apricots. January is the worst month for me, but a sunny day in February obsessing over snowdrops with like-minded nerdy friends is one of life’s pleasures.

    1. That is a lovely thought, Chloris. We are so lucky to have like-minded friends who share our passions!

  4. croftgarden says:

    Thank you, I enjoyed your wintery walk and the Hammamelis and Chaenomeles were quite stunning. Not much colour here yet, but if the weather improves there may be some early daffodils soon.

    1. I find every year that I am waiting and waiting, and is just as I have lost hope, wandered off to do something else, that it suddenly all happens. Yesterday I found Iris reticulata, Crocuses and Pulmonaria. They had all waited until my back was turned!

  5. My first miniature iris came into flower this week!

    1. Mine too! They are such a joy, aren’t they? I am working on a post as we speak!

  6. Ann Mackay says:

    I enjoyed exploring Sissinghurst with you – glad it’s not so cold here! Love ‘Magic Fire’ and ‘Jelena’……wondering if I have space for a witch hazel…

    1. That is exactly what I did after seeing them. The trouble is, I am greedy for spring-flowering and fruiting trees, and all spots are taken! I do love visiting other gardens which have what I don’t have room for.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        Me too – garden visiting is a wonderful way to see the things that won’t grow here, or would take too long to mature, or that I simply can’t shoe-horn into my garden. I am just greedy for plants but my garden isn’t all that big….it needs elastic sides!

      2. I love that! Time for a bit of guerilla gardening? I used to live next door to people who weren’t into gardening at all. My self-seeders accidentally spread across the boundary!

      3. Ann Mackay says:

        LOL, sounds good to me, hehe! I notice that there are a few bronze fennel plants around our area that may just be escapees from our garden….oops! 🙂 (Though we get our fair share of things coming in, too.)

      4. That is a lovely one to share!

      5. Ann Mackay says:

        Well, I sure hope my neighbours think so! 🙂

  7. Christina says:

    Today it really is like spring here; it’s really warm, coffee outside sort of day. We haven’t had many days like this, this winter. But beware, there’s a lot of winter still to come. I was able to amuse myself by sowing some seeds in the greenhouse.

    1. Oh, that sounds heavenly. The first coffee outside is so special, isn’t it? I am going to indulge myself with your blog just as soon as I have replied to comments!

  8. bcparkison says:

    She is out there…..Spring that is.Quince and Daffodils are all I have to remind me she is coming.

    1. Oh, lovely! I have seen my first daff on the roadside, but the ones I have in the garden are a little reticent. Maybe in a couple of weeks… But other things have suddenly sprung into action: Iris reticulata and Crocuses, especially. The creative juices are once again flowing!

  9. I love your Witch Hazel! We don’t have anything like that in our growing zone. I would gladly take it’s small explosion of color at this point of the year.

    1. That is the perfect description, Cindy! I wish I had thought of that!

  10. Heyjude says:

    The Hammamelis and Chaenomeles are delightful. I am lucky in that here in Cornwall we have so many Camellias to brighten up the winter months. Can’t say I have seen any witches though. I have a few pots of colour – hyacinths and irises and some dwarf daffs. A shame it has been too wet and windy to go out and admire them. And the poor crocuses are looking very bedraggled.

    And yes. Not nice to stare. 😉

    1. We had a few hours of sunshine yesterday and it made such a difference! Iris reticulata springing open, and Crocuses! I was so excited! It’s dull and windy again today, but I feel hopeful now that it is all happening.

      1. Heyjude says:

        February is a month of anticipation. I just hope it doesn’t turn nasty like it did last year.

      2. No, I keep looking at the snow pictures from the end of Feb and beginning of March. I love snow, but I love spring more!

      3. Heyjude says:

        I love snow if it is not in my garden!!

  11. The only color here in the Pacific Northwest (Washington state) are the snow-covered greens of Colorado Spruce, my neighbor’s pine tree, a long juniper hedge and a short yew hedge, and the herb garden’s boxwood enclosure. Sometimes early crocus will poke up through snow or snowless bracken beside the front entry, but not today. We’re experiencing near-blizzard conditions. However, Ali, you give me hope!

    1. Oh gosh! I really hope you are keeping warm and cosy! I love the excitement of a snowfall because it is a novelty for us, but yours sounds serious. Stay safe!

    1. Thank you! These witches made it easy!

  12. I find these pictures inspirational and always love the uniqueness each season brings. I am so looking forward to spring. I especially love the picture of the ice. Imagination can take it so many ways. I absolutely love this blog and look forward to the next post 💗😊

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa, you made my day! I have lots coming – we had some sunshine yesterday and everything sprang open when my back was turned! I am feeling the spring vibe now!

  13. Cathy says:

    Yes, it’s unusual for the south to be colder than us here in the Midlands – it has been 10 or 11 degrees here yesterday and today, highlighting any evidence of new shoots appearing throughout the garden. I had to smile at you trying not to stare at your emerging bulbs – I think of it as gazing which doesn’t sound quite so threatening!! ps my H Magic Fire isn’t quite as vibrant as the one that you have shown us

    1. Oh blow! I thought I might have muddled them, and then was trying to check against pictures online, but that is notoriously unreliable, isn’t it? I will try to pop back to Siss and get my story straight! We had some sunshine yesterday, though I think it was colder than 10 degrees. It made all the difference though – bulbs popping all over the place! I feel like it has happened – we’ve made it through.

      1. Cathy says:

        Oh Ali, I wasn’t suggesting you got it wrong – mine could have been mislabelled or the camera may have interpreted the colour differently. Here, there were noticeable patches of daylight in the sky when I went swimming just before 7 – the first time this year (the daylight, not the swim!). The seasons are definitely moving on!

  14. Anonymous says:

    A winter story… nice presentation!!

  15. Witch Hazel to the rescue! This is the time of winter where any sign of spring is welcomed, and you have captured them beautifully. Thank you for sharing your winter’s walk.

  16. bittster says:

    Glad to hear you made it safely through your witch hunt! It’s still a little dark out for my taste but at least there are a few stirrings in the garden, and that’s what makes this time of year so exciting!

    1. You are right. I felt that excitement right after I published this post. Things are popping open all over the place now. Perfectly timed!

  17. Spring is nearly here Ali😊💕. It has definitely been warmer here in the north this week. I saw numerous Witch Hazels in the gardens at Myerscough college yesterday and I do like them. I feel our soil is too alkaline for them at home though.

    Loved your photos as always.

    1. Thank you Darren. I have really enjoyed your exotic flowers! I love that everyone does slightly different things and we all get to share.

  18. I love witch hazel – wish we could grow it in our chalk soil. Beautiful pictures as ever from lovely Sissinghurst.

    1. It’s interesting isn’t it, that we are fairly close geographically, but with geological differences!

  19. Oh Ali how fortunate you are to have Sissinghurst on your doorstep. A fabulous close up of ‘Jelena’. There is a most appealing saying that advises that we can take great comfort from the fact ‘that February is only temporary’ 🙂

    1. I LOVE that saying! That is going to be my February mantra from now on!

  20. Wow those star-shaped cracks on the lake sure are intriguing! Beautiful photos!

    1. They gave me a little shudder!

  21. congruityyoga says:

    Winter can be so dismal. Thank you for your pops of life.

    1. I’m glad it helped a little.

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