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  • Writer's pictureHelene Latey

December Garden Highlights

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

We’re having a very wet December. The soil is dark and soggy and I’m grateful, now, for all those handfuls of grit I dropped into the planting holes beneath each bulb only a month or so ago. The tulips should survive this wet, resting on top of their little drainage beds, and emerge unscathed the other side of winter.

Despite the rain, I still enjoy gardening at this time of year – although it does take a lot for me to not enjoy gardening. In contrast to the snug, heated warmth of indoors, there’s a feeling of expansiveness when I step out into a garden in December, a compulsion to take a deep appreciative breath of the cooling air.

Deciduous trees have lost their final leaves by now and the snaking forms of their branches are stark and beautiful against the now larger expanse of sky. Many herbaceous plants are now cut back or lie resting, waiting, beneath the soil and the patches of bare earth that mark their absence allows the persistent evergreens and winter flowering plants to take our full attention.

Gardening one morning last week, one such plant particularly drew my focus – the common primrose, Primula vulgaris. A native wildflower, it thrives in a semi shaded spot and enjoys the moisture of London clay. Primroses can flower from late December through to May, particularly in the warmer micro-climate of an urban garden. This specimen, covered in the distinctive buttery yellow fragrant flowers, simply glowed, jewel like, in the low December sunlight (the sun had finally appeared!).

Another winter favourite, and so well suited to our often shady and sheltered urban gardens, is the evergreen and hardy Viburnum tinus. The pink and white buds of my Viburnum tinus ‘Purpureum’ remind me of those tiny origami lucky stars, so delicate and sweet. Then the brilliant white flowers burst bright against the deep green foliage all through the winter and spring. These are then followed by shining blue berries. With all of this going for it, this plant really is an invaluable part of the winter garden.

Radar, my one year old Bedlington Terrier, has been enjoying investigating the garden with me, nose first of course. As I inhale the delicate scent of the primroses, I wonder what Radar’s attuned senses can smell that I never could. Then again, looking at the colour and state of his snout, I’m grateful for my inadequate human nose!

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