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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 06 February 2014 by Tim Ingram

February begins to unfold

February begins to unfold

After the Christmas gales it is good to see so many snowdrops and early flowers beginning to show. A few more twigs remain to be cleared up but there is also fragrance in the wilderness! Daphne bholua 'Gurkha' is the only form of this wonderful winter-flowering shrub that has survived the last two cold winters in our garden. It grows here with Epimedium wushanense, one of the most striking of all Barren-worts, which can grow in flower to 4ft or more and has the most arresting of foliage of almost all species. Before long some of the earliest epimediums will be starting to flower and I am steadily removing last year's leaves as I see the flowering stems developing.

February begins to unfold

Foliage, as well as flowers, makes a strong impression early in the year before the much more burgeoning perennials of summer. Amongst the snowdrops, under dwarf apple trees planted over 30 years ago, is a wide range of plants, including this striking form of Geraniumoxonianum perhaps slightly tardily named 'Spring Fling'.

The contrasts between early foliage of plants can be even more attractive, here with Corydalis quantmeyeriana 'Chocolate Stars', Cyclamen hederifolium and Astelia nervosa. This last, sometimes regarded as relatively tender, has grown for many years in the garden, even through a low of -14°C two winters ago, but never flowered.

Nearby is a superb winter fern for the garden, Polypodium australe 'Pulcherrimum'. Elsewhere I have picked out two particular plants as a reminder of the fine French nurseryman, Jean-Pierre Jolivot, who with his sister Natalie, runs the Jardin d'en Face, near to St. Malo. Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold', a kind gift when I last visited some years ago, really catches the low winter sun and brightens a rather shady border. Jean-Pierre for many years has organised a fascinating Plant Show (Vue sur Vert) at a renowned restaurant on the north coast not far from St. Malo, where the climate is mild enough for Melianthus major to grow and flower freely. This spectacular plant has never succeeded in our colder garden, but a relative, M. comosus does, and is a very exotic foliage plant carrying striking red flowers in the summer.

There is so much more to see of snowdrops and hellebores flowering now that I will continue with the early February garden over the next few days. One of the great delights of gardening is the reminders plants give you of people, and both snowdrops and hellebores are pre-eminent in this regard, and also could hardly make a better pairing in the garden.

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