Hello winter! I thought it would never arrive. Some days in the garden in December and early January felt more like early spring – birds singing, bulbs coming through, no coat. I was weeding, mulching, pruning and trying not to get lulled into a false sense of security. It was great to be out and doing proper gardening in the middle of winter (I was even spreading mushroom compost on Christmas Day!), but when the serious and regular frosts arrived it did feel like the natural order of things had returned. A rather comforting thought now I am well into my middle age. I hope you all got your tender plants safely into the warm before it descended? My little greenhouse is stuffed full of cuttings, dahlia tubers, agave and tender perennials such as agapanthus, salvia and galtonia.
Gazing at the seed catalogues and planning wonderful planting schemes for the summer is one of my favourite winter activities. White Cosmos ‘purity’ is a must: it is a lovely, elegant filler for the border, growing to over a metre in good conditions. Cosmos look lovely mingling with perennials and roses and they flowers for ages. They come in other colours, predominantly in the pink to red range, and they will seed around when happy. Last year I bought some plug plants of a gorgeous tobacco plant so I may try them from seed this year. They too come in a range of colours and heights; some are deliciously fragrant and they seem to look good pretty much everywhere in the garden. One of the best and most dramatic is Nicotiana sylvestris (pictured) with fantastically scented white flowers; it makes a good dot plant. Like cosmos, tobacco plants are great gap fillers, easy to pop in after the spring bedding plants and bulbs are over. Be warned though, both are beloved by slugs especially when they are little and tender; it is one of the few times I get the slug pellets out. I may even have a go at growing more edible plants as well – I have my eye on an amazing looking Basil called ‘Crimson King’. Aptly named, it has deep purple leaves and is described as having a ‘spicy clove aroma’. I’ll let you know if it lives up to its name and description!
We have a new project for 2012. If any of you know where I can get reasonably priced, really big animal sculptures, I would love to hear from you. With luck the next time you visit ‘Charnwood’ (we are open again through the NGS on 6/7 May) you may think you are on safari. But I’m still working on it! I have also taken the plunge under some pressure from family and friends to embrace some modern technology. So you can now follow me on Twitter at @katescuttings for yet more garden ramblings. There are some real gardeners to follow too, including Monty Don and Chris Beardshaw.
Next month is a very special one for me. It is 10 years since the first Kate’s Cuttings appeared in this great village newsletter. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to share my rather eclectic gardening thoughts with you – but more on that next month.