March Garden

The beginning of Spring 2021 was a notably cold one, keeping many plants tucked-up in the soil when they might otherwise be showing-off their blooms in some Spring sunshine ! The Hellebores kept going throughout and remain a joy even as their flowers fade into April, when they take on a slightly metallic sheen, and are also then at their best as cut-flowers. One of my favourites has to be the seemingly endless ‘Anna’s Red’ belonging to the wonderful ‘Rodney Davey Marbled Group’ of Hellebores, having distinct, large and outward-facing flowers complimented by beautifully marbled, large and healthy, dark-green, veined foliage.

Beautiful Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) ‘Anna’s Red’ catching some Spring sunshine in my Client’s Woodland Garden.

I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting John Massey’s Private Garden at Ashwood Nurseries in early March, and was able to meet-up with my Client, who, understandably, fell in love with so many of the Hellebores in John’s Garden and in the Nurseries. My Client’s selections were, by chance, all Ashwood Garden Hybrids, some of which can be seen in the photo below, where she has cleverly displayed their flowers in tiny glasses, along with the fabulous Narcissus ‘Replete’.

Fabulous Ashwood Garden Hybrids Hellebores and Narcissus ‘Replete’, displayed beautifully in little glasses by my Client.

I have been experimenting with some different Muscari cultivars this year, and they have proven to be quite magical ! I planted each of three, en-masse, in separate pots that sit outside on my Client’s windowsill, from where they could be admired from inside as well as out. I chose ‘Pink Sunrise’, ‘Esther’ and ‘Mountain Lady’. They were a joy and I have now planted them out in my Client’s Rose Garden, where they can naturalise and increase in even more numbers ! I also planted a mix of ‘Blue Magic’, ‘Ocean Magic’ and ‘White Magic’ in one pot, which was absolutely lovely, and planted more of each of these out in the Garden too, so I’m hoping that all will clump-up, as has the beautiful pale-blue and green ‘Peppermint’ in my Client’s Woodland Glade.

Speaking of naturalising beautifully, another of my Clients has the most glorious display of naturalised Spring bulbs, including Dog’s-Tooth Violets (Erythronium dens-canis) that follow-on from Snowdrops to join the Narcissi just before the Snakeshead Fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris), it is a truly glorious sight.

So many early Spring delights in the Garden to enjoy !

February Garden

As the days lengthen and we move ever closer to Spring, the Snowdrops, Cyclamen coum and Winter Aconites that started to appear in January put on their best displays beneath deciduous trees and more heavenly Hellebore flowers unfurl. These brave flowers then begin to be joined by other beauties such as the early Crocuses and Dwarf Irises.

Crocus tommasinianus creating colourful carpets beneath the Beech Trees at Ballyrobert Gardens in County Antrim, NI (

Whilst Crocus tommasinianus is happy to self-seed and spread beneath the trees, I prefer to appreciate Iris reticulata and Iris histrioides close-up, planted en-masse in gorgeous pots on display for all to enjoy, as so beautifully done at Ashwood Nurseries and in John Massey’s Private Garden, always gracing his patio in February. The Dwarf Irises come in so many glorious colours and shades; from the vibrant purples and blues of e.g. ‘Harmony’, ‘Pauline’, ‘Blue Note’ and ‘George’, to the much paler and demure ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, ‘Katharine’s Gold’ and ‘Painted Lady’. I would like to acknowledge Dan Cooper, aka The Frustrated Gardener, whose glorious photographs I have used here and whose wonderful blogs have taught me so much about these glorious plants. I highly recommend spending some regular time reading Dan’s articles (

Other than the heavenly Hellebores, must-have Winter evergreens for me are the glossy-leaved Skimmias and Sarcococcas. These are both such fabulous groups of plants, being relatively unfussy in a moist, shady area and providing interest all-year-round with their gorgeous foliage, scented-flowers and berries. Skimmia buds are attractive during Winter before opening into sweet-scented flowers in Spring. The flowers can be followed by berries on self-fertile cultivars such as S. japonica subsp. reevesiana, or on female plants if you also have a male plant, as they are known as ‘dioecious plants’ , meaning they have female and male flowers on separate plants. Sarcococca often produce glossy, dark berries following their Winter, scented-flowers.

Possibly my favourite February shrub is Cornus mas (the Cornelian Cherry). This can be grown in the form of a small tree by removing lower branches, its bark is an attractive silver-grey and, if the new shoots are kept in trim, it should provide you with a mass of small, golden flowers borne in clusters, with attractive, protruding stamens, that somehow allow it to sparkle and shine in the February light.

So February gradually brings more colour into the Garden , enjoy it whilst it is with us and welcome the heralding of Spring !

Enjoy your Garden x .

January Garden

A glorious carpet of Snowdrops at Colesbourne Gardens in Gloucestershire

One of the most welcome plants to brighten our January days is surely the humble Snowdrop (Galanthus species), be they in a clump hiding in a shady-spot or as a carpet naturalised in grass and under trees, such as these beauties at Colesbourne Gardens ; one of the best places to visit in the UK for the most delightful displays of different Galanthus species and cultivars.

Add in some colourful Cyclamen coum and Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) , and you can have these beautiful ground-cover displays colouring your January days !

Beautiful flowers and foliage of winter-flowering Cyclamen Coum at Colesbourne Gardens.
Golden, glowing Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) self-seeding nicely beneath deciduous trees at Colesbourne Gardens.

Heavenly-Hellebores are possibly the must-have herbaceous, flowering plants for January, The hybrids of Helleborus orientalis come in numerous forms and beautiful colours, and a lovely way to display their nodding-heads is to float their flowers in a dish of water such as John Massey often does in his Private Garden at Ashwood Nurseries. A visit to John’s Garden and, indeed, to the Nurseries themselves, is a real treat at any time of the year, to see wonderful displays of seasonal plants to inspire and entice. Sadly, the seasonal Hellebore Tours are not available during 2021 due to Covid legislation.

A beautiful display of floating Hellebore flowers at Ashwood Nurseries.

As well as these glorious displays by the winter bulbs and Hellebores, colour can also be provided by shrubs and trees displaying vibrant tones in their stems and bark.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ lighting-up the grounds at Ashwoods Nurseries in the West Midlands.

Coloured-stem Dogwoods, e.g. cultivars of Cornus sanguinea, bring fiery tones to the January Garden, such as these of ‘Midwinter Fire’ at Ashwoods Nurseries. I like to under-plant these shrubs with Snowdrops and dwarf Narcissi , just to enhance the beauty of both the shrubs’ stems and the bulbs’ flowers, for a colourful display during Winter and early Spring. Other colourful stems in January and throughout Winter can be provided by the coral-bark cultivars of Acer palmatum, such as ‘Winter Flame’, which has winter-stems of vibrant-coral preceded by fiery, orange and red tones of its autumn-foliage.

Blending in and complimenting the colourful stems of Cornus sanguinea , and also providing wonderful, winter-scent, are the Witch-Hazels (Hamamelis spp.). The Chinese Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) is crossed with the Japanese Witch-Hazel (H. japonica) to breed the many different cultivars of H. x intermedia, that are available with such stunning displays of flowers in shades of yellow, red and orange, releasing the most welcome warm, honey scent to enjoy too.

So, as you can see, January need not be dull in the Garden, indeed, I relish the Snowdrops, Cyclamens and Winter Aconites returning; like welcoming back old Friends. While the colourful stems of Cornus sanguinea and warm tones and scent of Witch-Hazels compliment each other wonderfully on a sunny, winter’s day.

Enjoy your Garden x.