Some Winter Colour (But Frankly Not Much)

I know that things are a little bleak for us global northerners at the moment. But, on the positive, here in jolly Sussex, each day is a little longer than the one before and step by tiny incremental step, signs of life are shyly, (oh, so shyly), showing themselves.
And a  little winter sunshine can do wonders with what can otherwise be drab, dismal, dark, dingy, disagreeable, desolate, dispiriting, (help! can’t stop), dolorous, dead, dim, (running out of synonyms here), despondent, discouraging, doleful and dull.  Phew.   Oh, and depressing.  And disheartening.  (That’s enough now – Ed).  Dreary.  (Stop it – Ed).  Demoralising?  (Eeek – Ed).
A beam or two of sunlight illuminates a couple of large oak trees on the river bank.  It almost looks warm out there.

And a flash of sun ignites the beech hedging into the warmest russet.  It draws you closer and invites you to huddle round it and warm your chilled cockles.  Like a fiery brazier.  A bit.

Similarly, the dead stems and leaves of yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) suddenly look magical when back-lit by that same low winter sun.  Bergenia in the foreground provides some seasonally rare verdancy.

Some facets of beauty are far more subtle.  That winter cliche, the ivy, is no less perfect, no less a miracle of shape and form for all that it is such a prevalent and common or garden plant.

And there is the odd flower basking (!) in the Sussex winter.

This unkindly named stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)  is not so very colourful.  But it is nevertheless very welcome.  I have planted ordinary hellebores (Helleborus sp.) at the Priory too but they are slow to get established.

Some colour is less obvious and generally goes unnoticed even though it is there all year round.  Doing it’s thing.  Quietly.  I for one am a great fan of the little things:

the lichens, the mosses, the liverworts, the tiny ferns.  As a boy I used to plant up miniature gardens with liverwort, moss lawns and mini fern trees, ardently spraying them with water to keep them moist and alive. (This was before I discovered cider and cigarettes).  Well worth getting up close and personal;

Lichen and moss growing on one of the Priory statues.

Yes, at this time of year some beauty needs to be sought out.  A close up of the east lawn (more moss than grass) was captivating (at least to me) in its lushness and vitality

and whilst whooing over this shot of grass, moss and acorn (“whoo whoo whoo”.  I don’t get out much)

I noticed that the daffodil, February Gold, which I planted here three years ago is already emerging.  Hoorah!

The silver seed heads of Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’ are reminiscent of tribbles on a stalk; merrily dancing on a light breeze.  (Did tribbles dance?  I don’t suppose it matters).

And the buds of Photinia are pumped up and a’quivering on the blocks.  They’ll be up, off and away before you know it.

Some plants simply shouldn’t be in flower at this time of year.

This Erysimum bicolor ‘Bowles Mauve’ for instance but gosh, I’m not complaining.  Such perfect flowers are thin on the ground.

Elsewhere are winter stalwarts, like Viburnam bodnantense ‘Dawn.’  She grabs hold of (and tugs me in by) my nose every time I pass.  The scent blows my socks off.

Another January dependable, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) cloaks much of the east wall of the house.  It is a massive amalgamation of several plants, twice my height (and in places taller still), 30 or 40 feet wide and currently smothered in flowers.

Flower buds on a lichen encrusted Magnolia stellata

After a short slumber, the gardens seem to be on a long, slow, deep inhale.  Things are stirring and about to get interesting.

Hold onto your hat.

16 thoughts on “Some Winter Colour (But Frankly Not Much)

  1. Hi Liz, after Mark and Gaz's comment I made a point of crushing a stinking hellebore leaf. To me it just smelt 'green,' rather like elder. Perhaps I crushed the wrong bit?!



  2. Hi,

    Garden??? What's that??!! I can't remember what mine looks like at the moment!

    My winter Jasmine has been blooming since November or December??!!! Crazy.

    I recently got myself some stinking Hellebores and am really looking forward to their blooms in the years to come – although I'll try my hardest not to crush their leaves 😀


  3. Hi Holley, having said hold onto your hat, we'll probably now have six foot of snow.

    Hi Sara, a bright sunny, cold, crisp winters day is probably my favourite kind of all. It is silly how excited I can get at a tiny showing of daffodil.



  4. I really like this time of year for the little details that draw you in. Winter makes a fine backdrop for quiet surprises. Amazing how much beauty we see in an inch or two of green nosing out of the dark earth, that would be lost amid the summer splendours.


  5. Hi Stacy, would never have guessed that you might like the small stuff, hehehe. The winter jasmine is an amazing sight on the east wall but it wasn't looking at it's best when I was hurriedly taking these photos the other day.

    You seriously don't need to be a hobbit if you wish to run barefoot over the Priory lawns. Please feel free whenever the fancy takes you.

    And as for the editor. Well. What can I say? The man is a tyrant. Really, you have no idea. He nips me you know. Hard.



  6. Hi Linda, thanks for dropping by and kind words. Oh and the twitter follow too!

    I wondered that too, Luton Boys. I read that they give off an unpleasant smell if crushed (as, I imagine, I would too). Must try and remember to try it (the hellebore not me).

    Poor Jane. I'm so sorry. I would never have related the sad tale of Elgin if I'd known it was going to emotionally scar you. Forgive me.

    Thanks Janet. This sun is helping isn't it? I've got loads done this week and even contemplated mowing – it's been that dry.

    Hi Jason, actually I've just been chopping down all the grasses (doing a post about it soon). But there is still some structure in the garden certainly and a huge number of bulbs showing. Even saw my first few crocuses today.

    Hi Faisal, hehe the grass is always greener, I suspect. I have to say a week or three in sunny Oz wouldn't go amiss right now. But as much as I moan about the English winter I don't think I would live anywhere else. And I guess you would never leave lovely Melbourne either.

    Light is a funny thing. Sunlight often lifts a scene but can also be far too strong for taking plant photos – leaching out the colour. The last four photos above were all taken on a grey overcast day.

    Thanks Elaine, you're right it was hard. But after I'd taken a couple of shots, the rest became obvious.



  7. Yay for the little things! Beautiful photos as always, Dave. I'm smitten by all those mosses and lichens, especially in the lawn. If I were a hobbit I'd want to run barefoot over it, even in January (but I'm not, so I don't).

    The jasmine must be quite a sight! It doesn't usually start blooming here until around the first of February. I've never tried to grow it but it seems like a tricky one to get to show to advantage. Btw, glad you're keeping your editor in check.


  8. Beautiful photos, Dave. You have fine camera/photographic skills.
    We've had here the longest day of the year, a Christmas season blazing with light, so much you want to shrink…it may all be too dingy and dark up north, but it is over-lit here, with everything…exposed.
    You have, in England, the most beautiful colours, possibly more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. Here, everything can be very strong, or the surrounding world is so lacklustre it fades before your eyes.
    We all gravitate towards normality.


  9. You've got some nice colour going on there Dave; I know there isn't so much of it about at this time of year but we do have the compensation of some great architectural elements in the garden with seed heads and grasses etc., much of which is fascinating and often lends a golden glow to the garden (when the sun is permitted a moment to peek from behind the clouds!).


  10. Your blog is always good for a giggle, Dave… and some wonderful photos. Like Mark and Gaz I love the lichens and mosses. I've been taking lots of photos of wee things too. Good to have a bit of sun…encourages us all to get out in the garden!


  11. Yep! The garden's def' stirring…Woop! Woop! No more references of 'chilled cockle warming' please… I still haven't gotten over the demise of poor ol' Elgin with his kinked manhood. I'm still in therapy! 🙂


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