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Gardening review of 2017: January and February

Amaryllis Dancing Queen

1A smattering of snow, January 13

This ‘heavy snowfall’ barely covered the gravel by the pond

January and February were a damp squib for me, falling ill on Christmas Day, followed by an operation on January 17, so no outdoor work (boo – love being the only one out in winter). That’s why there are so few pictures. Nevertheless, here are my high (and low) lights from the start of 2017…

2Geraniums battle on, January 13

Geraniums flowering in the sunny conservatory

Geraniums really are persistent little blighters, refusing to rest in all but the coldest weather in the conservatory. Two even survived being left outdoors, completely uncovered, by accident.

3Evergreens save the day, January 13

The wonder of evergreens…. holly

I dislike this holly’s full name, Ilex x altaclerensis Lawsoniana, almost as much as I hate mine (Amanda) –  it reminds me of the taxman and getting wrong at school. However, this lovely lady (hollies are male or female) has spineless leaves, and vibrant, shiny variegation, which makes her a true winter star. She’s also allowing herself to be trained along the fence with good grace. Heuchera Silver Blush valiantly grovels at her feet.

4Storm damage, January 13

Storm damage… again

It’s hard to see here, but that another £107 worth of damage to my poor little greenhouse. Looking back at weather reports, it appears we got off lightly with high winds and a dusting of snow – there were big tidal surges and flood warnings.

5Bananas overwintering, January 13

Bananas in gentle heat

My red Abyssinian banana keeps on growing during winter, despite being hacked back in autumn, thanks to the heated mat it lives on in an old tomato grow house in the conservatory. It has to be kept above 15°C to fruit but that’s unrealistic – I grow it for the leaves. They do lose much of their redness in the colder months but are still impressive. Also here are the dwarf Cavendish bananas.

6First Amaryllis bursts forth, February 2

Terrible pic, lovely flower… Amaryllis Mont Blanc

A testament to the terrible camera on my archaic phone, this picture doesn’t do justice to the huge blooms of Amaryllis Mont Blanc. It raced ahead of the others, so much so I thought the other four bulbs were duds! Like a total showgirl, Amaryllis Dancing Queen started to flower just in time to squeeze into the February lists (featured image) not as big as Mont Blanc, but a double dose of petals.

7George ‘helps’ sow sweet peas, February 4

‘Help’ from George

He can’t resist that warm black plastic potting tray. The first meaningful job of the year for me, sowing sweet peas. All flowered well (Night Sky, Prince of Orange, Parfumiere Mix) but I was stunned to find Night Sky still flowering on the coldest day of the year in December!

8A taste of the tropics, February 4

I really live in the tropics…

Sunny skies, painted Tunisian birdcage, yuccas, cacti, palms… this is February in Gateshead. OK, it’s in my conservatory, which is a fully functioning greenhouse for overwintering, not a home for rattan furniture. I’m a little concerned about the big yucca – it was too heavy to move back upstairs so is toughing it out in the greenhouse in fleece.

9Valentine’s Day gift, February 14

Bargain basement bamboo Fargesia Pingwu

Ever the romantic, I ditched the offer of dinner, etc, choosing instead a half-price bamboo for my planned ‘tropical’ garden revamp. (You’ll find more planning than action went on, although the bed is there now). Was £40, bought for £20 and not an invasive runner. Spot on.

10Primroses light up the garden, February 22

Primrose Moonstone

I’m not a great fan of this type of primrose, especially when they’re sold in random mixed Jelly Belly colours, but Moonstone on its own is a decent winter bedding plant.

11A hint of spring: new Sorbaria foliage, February 22

New Sorbaria sem foliage

What a tremendous little deciduous shrub Sorbaria is – foliage this delicate and pretty in February! It does fade towards summer but there’s the bonus of white flowers mid-season.

12Daffodil Tete a Tete blooms, February 22

Very early flowering daffodil Tete a Tete

I know they’re early bloomers but these spring bulbs were a couple of weeks earlier than normal. Interesting to see when they’ll appear this spring after a proper winter (the early part of it, anyway).



  1. Interesting plants Mandy and I’ve made a note of the Sorbaria which I have never heard of but looks just my kind of thing. Also the ivy looks great – I’m wondering if it’s a fast or slow grower. I need a fast one. Best wishes for 2018, Julie at londoncottagegarden.com

    • Thanks Julie, Sorbaria is great – it does spread by suckers but is not too badly behaved! Is it the holly you mean, Ilex x altaclerensis Lawsoniana? It’s not fast, I wish it would hurry up! Golden King’s a bit faster.

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