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;
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)
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.
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.