Winter colour to delight the soul

We may have been busy at the beginning of the month with keeping the paths clear of snow and ice, but there are already signs that spring is around the corner.

We spotted our first crocus flower bud on January 4 on the Aviary Lawn – it is early in the season, of course, but still a welcome sight. We’ll be looking out for the winter aconites, early daffodils and snowdrops, which are promising to peep through soon, too.

In the meantime, we’ve been appreciating the wonderfully scented winter shrubs, such as Hamamelis (witch hazel), Daphne and Sarcococca (Christmas box). These will continue to flower throughout January – if you are able to visit us this month, head to the Wilson Border, The Aviary Winter Bed and the Winter Border, where you’ll be able to delight in the fragrance.

We gardeners are also looking forward to the return of the song thrush and woodpeckers this month – both birds mark their territories before the arrival of spring. It’s lovely to sit and listen to the distinctive song thrush call and the woodpeckers’ “drumming” – and if you are lucky, you may also spot the shy redwings, which spend the winter in the UK before flying off to Scandinavia, that will be stripping off the hollies in the Woodland Walk.

Although January can be fairly quiet in the gardening calendar, we can always find something that needs to be done in the grounds. If the ground isn’t frozen, we’ll start to aerate the grass and we can dig over the beds and borders in readiness for our homemade compost, which will improve the structure of the soil.

This is also the time of year to check tree ties – it’s important to make sure there is enough room for this year’s growth. If any trees are doing well and you think you can remove the stakes, do so because leaving them on for too long can prevent their growth and development. It’s also worth noting that if trees rely too long on stakes, they don’t develop a basal flare, which helps them to sway in the wind.

We’ve plenty to do in the potting shed and we’ll also be checking the inventories and pruning some species in the glasshouses to encourage spring flowering and to let in as much light as possible. Although our glasshouses are not yet able to welcome visitors, we hope you are able to come to the Gardens to take in the fresh air and have a bracing walk around the grounds – appreciating nature has never been so crucial to our wellbeing.