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.
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’.
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.
Also bringing a little bit of winter joy, was Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’.
And a more demure white form, 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.
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