During last December I wrote about daffodil ‘Golden Bells’ whose foliage was already three inches, 7.5cm tall and that I thought it might be in flower for Christmas. Now I must report that although the foliage is still the same height, there are still no flowers, so I now expect it to flower at its normal time during late March.

During late January and February, the tiny white flowers of Sarcoccoca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’ fill the garden with their fragrance. This low growing, evergreen shrub will eventually form a dense, weed suppressing clump, and as its name suggests, the young stems are flushed with purple. Whilst on the subject of low growing evergreen shrubs, on a recent visit to Goscote Nurseries I came across Nandina domestica ‘Obsessed’ whose pinnate foliage was a dusky red. Apparently, the spring foliage is a brighter red, which fades to green by June, then during August; it produces spires of creamy-white flowers. As autumn approaches, the foliage then turns a dusky-red. The common name for Nandina is ‘Sacred Bamboo’, why this is I shall never know, as it is not even related to the Bamboo family. I have decided to plant ‘Obsessed’ close to Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ whose bright yellow foliage will act as a backdrop to the red foliage of ‘Obsessed’, see photograph above.

Hellebore 'Walburtons Rosemary'In my front garden I have a ten feet, 3m tall shrub of Magnolia ‘Susan’, this is over 20 years old and last year she decided to spread her wings so the branches were overhanging low growing plants beneath. During mid January I sawed off a number of the lower branches, some may say it is the wrong time to prune a Magnolia as you are removing branches carrying flower buds, but I occasionally sacrifice flower buds to keep my trees and shrubs in a more convenient shape. Helleborus ‘Walbertons Rosemary’ is one of the perennials growing beneath the Magnolia and this will produce a lovely show of deep pink flowers from late January until March, see photograph above. Incidentally, I remove all of the evergreen foliage from my hybrid Helleborus, this not only removes all of the foliage that is marked with leaf spotting fungus, but also it helps to produce a far better floral display.

Last year my Hamamellis (Witch Hazels) were in flower during the first week in January, this year, although it is on the west side of my house, the first to open its bright yellow flowers was ‘Barmstedt Gold’, this will stay in flower until early March.

During mid January when walking around Wilkinsons store I came across seed potatoes in 2 kilo nets, so I purchased 2 kilos each of ‘Rocket’, which is a first early and ‘Maris Peer’ a second early. The seed potatoes have now been set up in cell trays on my garage bench. When they have produced firm growing chits, I shall plant them out in my greenhouse in 50 litre black plastic tree tubs.

I have a number of bird feeders in my garden and three of these are cylinder shaped plastic with metal ports on which the birds stand to feed. The only problem with this type of feeder is that the holes that allow the seed to come out also allow the rain to get in. Consequently, the seed becomes so wet that it starts to rot and attract a type of fungus that is harmful to birds. I dismantled the three bird feeders and using a large, bottlebrush type brush, scrubbed them out with warm, soapy water. I have once more refilled the feeders with fresh bird food so there should be more birds are coming into the garden.