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Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 30 January 2018 by Tim Ingram

January - 'Under the Cobnut'.

January - 'Under the Cobnut'.

In late December, as this photograph shows, few snowdrops are visible and only two flowering in our garden - both early forms of Galanthus elwesii, one from Avon Bulbs pictured and the second a stronger and more robust plant originally from Kath Dryden. This scene is the prelude for what is to come.

Most hellebores have still to begin emerging but elsewhere the young shoots and flowers of H. viridis catch the winter light.

A couple of weeks later in mid-January many more snowdrops are in bud and the delightful early 'Mrs McNamara' is flowering in front of the grassy-green foliage of an ophiopogon (just right of centre). Preparing for our Snowdrop Day later in February for the Kent National Gardens Scheme the paths are being refreshed with shredded brambles - a satisfying use of material from clearing and renovating another part of the garden (which I will come back to at the end).

Though not so much is in flower, the foliage of Cyclamen hederifolium provides a lot of interest and variation right through winter.

Two weeks on again by late-January this scene is now filling with more obvious signs of growth, and particularly with Eranthis hyemalis - which eventually will fill the centre foreground of this picture. 

Closer up the snowdrops in view are our own hybrid G. x valentinei 'Copton Trym', G. plicatus 'Diggory', and G. elwesii 'Hunton Giant' (selected by David Way from the village he lived in close to Maidstone). In the background is the classic and reliable 'Galatea'.

The fresh new growth of Sanicula europaea is also forming good groundcover as the Eranthis is growing away too, perfect in combination with emerging snowdrops.

Facing the other way, with the cobnut in the background, several hellebores are beginning to flower by the path, and Galanthus plicatus 'Augustus' is in bud beneath the Medlar to the left.

Whilst the ground is still clear of growth the oppportunity is taken to weed and spread compost elsewhere.

Under the apples a few of the earliest hellebores are now flowering - this form of H. odorus (ex. David Stephens from Will McLewin seed), and a large flowered H. x hybridus seedling of our own.

Various snowdrops are flowering in other parts of the garden - this is quite an early year for them with little frost - here several different G. gracilis growing under an old cherry.

And here in a narrow bed beneath a row of cordon crab-apples, one of the first places we planted snowdrops a decade and a more ago, is the large flowered rather striking G. plicatus 'Gerard Parker' and G. ikariae (both of which self seed very reliably), and G. 'Brian Mathew', named for one of the most eminent of botanists and plants-people in recent times, an indication of the significance of snowdrops in gardens.

In the bulb bed in the middle of the lawn (which I will also continue to describe as it lights up through winter and spring), it is really pleasing to see Iris 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'.


Through the last autumn and winter we have been making concerted efforts to clear a badly overgrown part of the garden where a large weeping willow was blown down in a gale in 2009. This central part of the garden had become an impenetrable wilderness of brambles and nettles over the past six or seven years.

The area in the background is destined to become part of the nursery with polytunnels and beds for raising young plants, but in the foreground - a sunny and sheltered glade overlooked by a young specimen of Magnolia 'Star Wars' - the intention is to plant up with dryland shrubs and perennials, continuing a Mediterranean-theme which is out of view.

A lot of work is still to do but of interest is this area to the right in the above picture which is full of snowdrops, hellebores and some Cyclamen coum from an earlier time a decade or more ago, and which has now come into its own again. This cries out for planting with many more cyclamen and probably drifts of Crocus tommasinianus, and will lead the way in making the new planting beyond.


Just finally this month are several pictures taken at the Ultimate Snowdrop Sale at Myddelton House in late January, which attracted visitors from far and wide.

The influence of E.A. Bowles continues as strongly as ever, 60 years after his death, and the meadow at the bottom of the garden gives a planting for anyone to aspire to, whatever situation allows.

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