January Jewels

Not a lot happens in my garden in January. I feed the birds. I take the kitchen waste out to the compost heap. That’s about it.

I try to keep in touch with the garden in these little daily tasks. I know I feel good from even the briefest visit. The birdsong is especially uplifting: it seems that when there are no leaves on the trees, the birds are not only more visible, but more audible too.

The changes mainly come from light levels, with the days oh-so-slowly getting a couple of minutes longer each day.

This morning was my favourite kind of winter awakening. Cold, clear, frosty.

There are no more beautiful patterns than those made by nature. Research suggests that we are soothed by natural patterns, such as fractals. I would add the crystalline patterns of frost to this.

There is something mesmerising about observing the microscopic detail of frost. It is easy to lose yourself in the patterns.

There was another surprise for me this morning.

Crocus and daffodil shoots

Bulbs are probably my No.1 source of joy in the garden. They take so little time and effort. All they need is to be planted in the autumn, in a pot of nice loose compost, maybe mixed with a little grit or sand, shoot pointing upwards, at a depth that is double that of the size of the bulb.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

Miniature irises, like this one, Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’ are the earliest of spring bulbs to flower, perhaps with the exception of snowdrops. But they are much easier to grow in pots than snowdrops. Snowdrops like a dampish, woodland situation. I plant snowdrops under shrubs and trees, where they will not be sun-baked in the summer. I have to go out and look for snowdrops in spring, because they are hiding in the leaf litter.

I grow irises in pots, because they can be placed near the front door or gate, where they will peep out one morning and surprise you.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

‘Pauline’ is the earliest little bird. I have planted several varieties of miniature iris in different pots, and I hope this will provide a succession of jewels through January and February.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’, looking fierce.

I adore these little jewels. There is a delicacy; a fragility. But there is also fierceness; determination.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

They have withstood rain, cold, frost. They stand firm where garden furniture has been flung across the garden. Each flower a little miracle, which has come seemingly from nothing.

If you suffer from mid-winter blues, I would encourage you to plant bulbs next autumn. One January or February morning, you will see tiny green shoots, and within a week or two, a little paintbrush smudge of flower. A few days later, as if the flower were spring-loaded, petals will have burst out in all directions, and this gorgeous little warrior will be standing proud.

Stay a moment and gaze at these finest of jewels.

You can see last year’s treats in these posts: Could this be the most photogenic flower ever? and Ice Queen.

If you would like to receive an email notification when I publish a new post, click on the ‘follow’ button below. You will not receive spam; your email address will be stored securely and will not be shared with third parties. I will try to keep you supplied with little pops of joy through the year.

41 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy 2020. Thank you Alison. Love miniature Iris. 👏💜

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read; and happy 2020 to you to! 🌈😀

  2. Kath says:

    So enjoyed your lovely blog Ali.

    1. Thank you, Kath, it is lovely to have you here.

  3. The bulbs seem to have shot up this week and I also noticed this morning that I have one over eager iris that is about to flower ahead of the others!

    1. They are very early aren’t they? Poor Pauline has been getting a little bit battered by wind and rain this week, but is a lovely sight nevertheless.

  4. Martin says:

    Thanks for the post Ali. My first snowdrop appeared yesterday. It brought a smile to my face. 🙂

    1. It is such a perfect flower for early in the year, isn’t it? I love them.

  5. fredgardener says:

    I also grow Irises reticulata but mine is electric blue. Pauline is rather beautiful I must admit!

    1. I have been trying different varieties each year, and I love them all. ‘Pauline’ is especially elegant, I think.

  6. Good Day, Ali and Happy New Year! It was as so nice to wake up and see your post! I wish our bulbs would appear in January and February like yours. I can always use a dash of color by this time. What is your latitude? We are at about 44 degrees. Our bulbs do not peek out until April! You sound well! Thanks for posting!

    1. Hi Carole! I had no idea what our latitude was until I just looked it up: 51 degrees! The irises are very early; we have had a very wet winter, with a few frosty starts but no prolonged cold. That’s not to say it won’t bite in Feb or March! I hope you are well and happy.

      1. Ah, so you are a little further South than us at 45 degrees. Not much though! Our winter has had a lot of snow cover this year. As you probably know, that’s good for what lies beneath the ground such as bulbs. We’ve had a few frigid days but in genernal it’s been mild. Good for winter hikes, snow shoeing, and dog walking! Thanks for checking in! I am well and happy – hope the same for you!

  7. susurrus says:

    The frost looks like blades of grass. Thanks for sharing your surprise!

    1. That’s what I thought too; or a magical spiky forest!

  8. bcparkison says:

    Oh…I should check my pots to see if there is movement.

    1. My favourite pastime in late winter!

  9. Ann Mackay says:

    Seeing the first bulbs come through is such a treat – I’m keeping an eye on a pot of crocuses by my front door. 🙂

    1. I love it, don’t you? It’s like the excitement building up to Christmas.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        Or even better! 🙂

  10. Anna Higgins says:

    Oh the markings on ‘Pauline’ are exquisite. My irises are almost there but not quite yet. There is so much to look forward to in the garden at this time of year 😄

    1. They are, aren’t they? The markings on the outside of the petals are gorgeous too. Yes, I agree; I love the anticipation as much as the process.

  11. Pauline is a stunning iris. Looking forward to mine flowering.

    1. They are a real treat, aren’t they? I’ve come to them late but I wouldn’t be without them now.

  12. Cathy says:

    A paintbrush smudge of a flower is the perfect description of an emerging little iris 😊 Interesting to read that link to fractals – thank you

  13. Emma Cownie says:

    Beautiful photos as always. I especially like the tiny fingers of frost!

    1. Thank you Emma. I have so been enjoying your paintings on Instagram; they are the best.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Thank you so much, Ali

  14. I was hoping for some ice today for pictures, but to no avail! A lovely post.

    1. Thank you; I am very happy to be able to share.

  15. Happy New Year, Ali! Another beautiful post. Love the way you write….”little paintbrush smudge”! I have one bulb in my window and it is giving me so much joy! I do believe I’ll have more next year!

    1. Happy New Year Michele! I am so pleased to hear that; easy reach flowers are so good for a little burst of gratitude. ❤️🌈

  16. Svetla says:

    Thank you for your post! I am staring my garden in the Midwest and your blog is a true inspiration!

    1. Thank you Svetla, that is a lovely comment to receive. Starting a garden is so exciting; I hope you have lots of fun along the way.

  17. Heyjude says:

    I seem to have missed this post in the Reader! So glad I was checking the blogs I follow which led me here. Super frost macros. There has even been some frosty mornings here, but nothing worth a photo. ‘Pauline’ is open in my pots as is ‘George’ and ‘D.S.Dijit/Dyt’ and my favourite of all the summer blue ‘Alida’. Earlier this year I think. But oh, so welcome. Have a fab 2020 Ali – hope we get to see more of your garden when you have the time 🙂

    1. Lovely to hear from you, Jude! I am growing JS Digit too. It looks like I will have a nice succession as Pauline is ahead of the others.

  18. The variety of pictures in this post is especially delightful, Ali, although to be fair: I love the pics in all your posts. I love the feeling I got reading this post about how your daily tips to your garden keep you grounded, in touch with the earth, and noticing small miracles you wouldn’t have otherwise. I have noticed this so much about my own regular walks in nature. It reminds me to keep going! I love that idea of planting bulbs in Autumn. Do you have to do anything to protect them from the winter elements?

    1. Hi Shelly! No; all the bulbs I grow will be fine through our winters, which get down to -5 generally. From reading other blogs from North America, I think they just flower a bit later if you have longer, colder winters.

      1. Thanks, Ali! That is good to know!

  19. I always mean to plant bulbs in autum and always forget. I get really annoye with myself come January when they start poppin their little heads through the earth. I must remember next year.

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