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Friday, 17 January 2014

January ramblings

January always seems such a long and boring month. I alternate between feeling full of beans and wanting to get outside and get on with loads of winter gardening jobs.....

"I want to go out to play! But it's raining :-("

.....and then feeling totally lethargic and blah, and even trying to write a blog post seems interminable.


There are always indoor jobs to do, like sorting through my apples which are going off rapidly due to the mild weather. It's just not cold enough in the garage. I should be stewing up the ones that are going off but it took me an entire day to prep and cook double quantities for this mammoth cauldron of chutney so I'm a bit sick of apples! I even did some housework rather than peel and chop apples again, which is almost unheard of!

Apple, date and walnut chutney.

Most of what I've been doing outside has been ripping out brambles and chopping back saplings which always threaten to take over. I have wild patches in the garden but there's a limit to how much I want to be completely impregnable jungle! It's actually a job that I really enjoy despite thorns still getting through my thick gloves. The veg patch is still a mess as it's rather soggy for digging and weeding so that will have to wait. 

One job I did finally get round to doing in there was to dig up the dahlias that I grew from seed. Yes, seed! I didn't even know you could sow dahlia seeds and get mature flowering plants in one season! They came from a packet of Thomson & Morgan seeds, a mix of flowers 'for butterflies'. Well they were a pretty poor selection for butterflies (no Verbena bonariensis?!) and was a rather odd mix of flowers, many of which I didn't know at all. It wasn't anywhere near as popular with bees and hoverflies as the plants that grew from the 'pollinator mix' that I saved seed from and resowed last year. Probably the most popular plants were the dahlias and cosmos, which were also the plants which flowered the longest. Anyhow I now have 5 healthy dahlia tubers for the price of a packet of seed, so it did work out to be worthwhile after all! There's a garish pink, a garish orange, a lemon and a couple of creamy ones. I'm assuming they are dwarf ones but who knows, maybe they will be bigger next year? 

Lemon Dahlia in the middle with garish pink with yellow centre
on the right towards the background. The orange one was very similar.

Pink Dahlia again, amongst pretty Cosmos
that I forgot to save seed of!

Here it is again attracting a bumble bee,
and a Pisaura mirabilis spider. Don't worry, the bee wasn't harmed!

Back to January in the garden and the weather has been so mild that we've only had one frost since well before Christmas! Some overnight lows have been around the 11C-12C mark, which is ridiculously warm. I've seen a blackbird with a twig in its beak, and although the only birds actually singing are the robins, which do sing in winter, there seems to be more lively twittering going on when I go out in the mornings to let out the chickens. Yet as far as flowers go, my snowdrops and hellebores are only in bud and nothing seems more advanced than normal for this time of year.

Prunus subhirtella, my spindly ornamental cherry, is enjoying the mild weather.
The only thing is that the blooms are a bit wasted unless we have blue sky to show them up!

A close up of one of the flowers.

Some buggy thing has been nibbling my Primrose!

In the absence of flowers (or bugs), when we do get some sunshine after a shower, there are always droplets to use as photography subjects.

Little mossy forest.

Euphorbia myrsinitis (one of the earliest to bloom).

Another Euphorbia (probably wulfenii characias), self seeded.

And I keep being drawn back to those Hydrangea petals!


  1. Nice mixture of shots for a January cheer-up. My favourite is the Euphorbia myrsinitis and the bright drops, cos I like the geometric shapes. :-)

    1. Thanks Nick! Those Euphorbias always catch droplets on the top of the plant where the bud will emerge, but mostly I'm unsuccessful shooting them. These ones are growing beside steps and it's the first time I tried shooting droplets hanging off the 'leaves', as they are dangly plants and at ground level I can't get under them! I need to get out and do some more, but dressed in waterproofs so I can lie down/kneel down/lean on steps. :-)

  2. Very nice Mandy and yes please to the chutney!

    1. Thank you Miss Lady Bug but we won't know for a month or two whether the chutney is any good! I added dates to it this year (it's an old recipe which I've adapted a bit) so wondering whether it will be any different. It was hard not to eat the dates as I was chopping them.... :-)

  3. Ah, I enjoyed this again, Mandy! You being "bored" provides lots of adorable pictures! Love that prune flower close up and all those magnificent drops! And those cosmos do provide a pastel delightfulness in your image! Lol, that naughty little spider, who does it think it is?
    I'd love to taste that chutney, even though you seem to prepare it in an bucket;-) Hope you rinced it out well when you got it from the stable! (Just a joke, Mandy!)

    1. Hi Jan, glad you enjoyed my bored winter witterings! That 'bucket' is my mother's old preserving pan! It has made many chutneys in its time. :-)

      To save you looking in a dictionary :-)

      witter (ˈwɪtə)
      1. (often foll by: on) to chatter or babble pointlessly or at unnecessary length
      2. pointless chat; chatter

  4. I love your ramblings and pictures, Mandy :-)))

  5. Great post and photos, not minding January ,sill finding lots of things out and about but I am looking forward to having the back door open and the sun shinning in...

    1. Hi Amanda, thanks for visiting! There's always something interesting when you take the time to really look for it. The sun is shining right now after a misty morning - might just have to take my camera outside! Thanks again and I enjoyed looking at your blog as we seem to like the same sorts of things. :-)

  6. You take amazing photos. After seeing that close up of Prunus subhirtella I'm going to have to go out and look at mine with a magnifying glass tomorrow. I love this tree the flowers are so much daintier than those big blowsy sprring flowering Japanese cherries.

    1. Hi Chloris and thank you for the compliment! I didn't know for many years what kind of ornamental cherry it was until someone saw a picture and suggested it was P. subhirtella, which does have flowers during mild autumn/winter spells. I also saw one recently in a public park which was labelled and looks exactly the same as mine, so I'm 99% certain that's what it is! The flowers in spring are a bit bigger and a bit more pink, but yes I agree, very dainty and pretty.

  7. Always so enjoyable walking through your garden with you! Wonderful images and I could almost smell the chutney :-) Thanks for taking the time to share with us. Instagram has made me lazy. So quick and easy that I'm not motivated to spend the time blogging :-)

    We've had incredibly mild weather and I'm seeing a lot of new growth in my garden. Aloes are blooming like crazy all over town. I have several species with my favorite being a Aloe Ferox which is absolutely spectacular right now. AND we're starting to see the beginnings of wildflowers! Much, much too early. I'm SO tempted to start trimming things in my garden but we always get a hard frost in Feb so I won't go crazy, I might trim the Lantanas and some other flowering shrubs, though. I just need to be prepared with frost cloths.

    Happy gardening!

    1. Hi Marianne and thanks very much for finding the time to visit! I've found it hard to blog this month. I'm just into my 3rd year of blogging and need some inspiration - not easy to find in January. Not even any snow to take photos of! :-) But I am about to do another post. I guess once a week at this time of year is fine.

      Your aloe flowers must look lovely and it's hard for me to imagine Lantanas that can grow outside all year round. I still have a few weeds/wildflowers flowering in the veg patch which shows how mild it has been here too, but who knows what February will bring. I might just join Instagram so I can comment on your pics occasionally to keep in touch. No mobile phone with camera so can't join in, but I do have a Kindle Fire now which can surf the internet so I am slowly joining the modern world. ;-)