Ah, the New Foilage

Torrents of rain in January and wild and windy to boot. At month end there are clear night skies and frosty mornings. It's still rather too wet to get anything done - the ground is sodden and foliage dripping. The skies are brightening though and there's enough sun to warm the greenhouse for a few hours each day; the days are getting just a little longer.

New recreation

There are a few snowdrops in flower here and there and the borders closest to the cottage show new buds of narcissi, tulips and bright green bluebell shoots. Cyclamen coum is in flower at the base of the larch trees, and in the shady borders, the first buds of helleborus orientalis are opening their gorgeous flowers beneath last season' s foliage.

There's plenty of new foliage - dicentras, pulmonarias, forget-me-nots, aquilegias, violas, verbascums, foxgloves, and oriental poppies all showing healthy crowns despite the claggy wet soil around them. Some perennials aren't yet ready to waken from winter slumber though; Artemisia ludoviciana is a sorry black mess, having been hard hit by the frosts.

The early evergreen shrubs seem primed and ready to burst into flower - viburnum tinus, osmanthus delavayii, sarcocca and the potted lemon azalia all with buds. All that's needed is a good dry, warm spell and spring really will be coming.

There's a haul of seeds from the RHS and Cottage Garden Society distributions waiting to be sown, augmented by a few choice perennials from Witton Lane Seeds and Plant World - including Veratrum nigrum, Thalictrum decorum, Phacelia campanularia and Lychnis yunnanensis.

In the kitchen garden, last year's sowing of leeks have stood the winter reasonably well and in the brassica bed the black kale and sprouting broccoli don't seem to have attracted quite as much pest attention this year.

Shallot and onion sets are standing by for planting and there'll be potatoes to chit soon. New this year in the vegetable plots will be broccoli Romanesco (delicious lime-green heads) and tomato Summer Cider (yellow fleshed cherry type) from Marshalls, and herbs perilla and Korean mint from Halcyon Seeds.

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