Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


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February brings the rain …

The first poetry book I ever owned was called something like A Child’s Treasury of Verse and it included a poem by Sara Coleridge called The Garden Year.  It always springs to mind at the start of the year when it’s hard to forget the first stanza …

January brings the snow, 
Makes our feet and fingers glow

It may have been forecast for London and the south-east a few times during January but suddenly this weekend it delivered and the garden turned white extremely rapidly!

Outside the back door on 24 January 2021 (c) Elizabeth Malone

As well as the snow, earlier in the month we had a Sunday morning with a stunning hoar-frost that looked like imitation snow!.  Not wanting to miss out on the garden looking so magical, with every blade of grass and every twig outlined in white, I wrapped up and headed outside, camera (or rather phone) in hand.  It was absolutely freezing and although I moved around as swiftly as I could, the lack of gloves certainly made me fear frost-bite!!

Frosted rose-hips (c) Elizabeth Malone

So what does February have lined up for us?

February brings the rain, 
Thaws the frozen lake again.

With the amount of rain we had pre-Christmas and then again during January, you might not wish to read this! That said, I think this poem is ‘of an era’. Glancing back through my trusty gardening diary, I don’t feel that February brings the rain anymore. Instead, it’s often quite dry and I’ve been caught unawares having failed to water pots outside the back door, only to find them drooping due to lack of moisture.

February has a surprising amount of colour for us to look forward to and I’m rather assuming that everyone would like a bit of an uplift as we continue to slog our way through Lockdown 3!

First to make an appearance in our garden is likely to be the snowdrop. You will note that it is singular, ‘snowdrop’ and not ‘drops’. That’s because snowdrops don’t’ seem to like our garden and, after numerous attempts, both in bulb form and ‘in the green’, I can still only boast one small clump! I have already seen a few popping their heads up around Hampton on our daily walks so I shall be keeping a close eye out for ours to make sure I don’t miss them!

My one lonely snowdrop (c) Elizabeth Malone

The flower I probably most look forward to in February is Iris Reticulata. One day they’re still just a mass of thin strappy leaves and then the next they provide this very welcome zing of vivid blue or purple splashed with sunshine yellow. However, don’t make the mistake I did one year when, in eagerness to add more to an existing pot, I squished in more bulbs in the autumn only to discover the following spring that I’d planted a different colour and I now had violet blues interspersed with beetroot purple and they clashed horribly!

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ (c) Elizabeth Malone

Our Christmas hellebores are now giving way to the spring or Lenten hellebores. We have literally hundreds of these thanks to them self-seeding freely all over the place. Every time I go out to the recycling bin at the moment, I’m terrified that I’m going to step on a rather gorgeous deep red one that’s emerging through the gravel! So which are my favourite hellebores? I think the answer has to be ‘all of them!’ And that’s because I like the surprise of turning up their heads to face me to see what sort of flower they are – plain, speckled, dark centred? It’s always a surprise and delight.

Self-set hellebore (c) Elizabeth Malone

Along with snowdrops, crocuses are the other bulb that I most identify with February. We only have a small clump or two under our hawthorn tree but they seem to have improved year on year. I always remember planting them as one of our cats was determined to dig them up every time I turned my back. I’m amazed we have any at all!

Purple crocus – not sure which variety (c) Elizabeth Malone

Back in the autumn, I also planted up a pot of very early daffodils called February Gold. It was part of my plan to brighten up the late winter which, I guessed, might be a bit strange. Well, it turns out that I was spot on there! That said, looking back over last year’s garden photos (and lockdown meant that there were many of them), I discovered that my favourite daffodil from last year was already flowering on the 15 February. This was Jet-fire. For a small daffodil, Jet-fire is taller that the well-known tete-a-tete and has gold, thrown back petals with a deep orange trumpet. It really performed, with flowers lasting for several weeks.

Narcissus ‘Jet-fire’ (c) Elizabeth Malone

I shall have to wait to see if February Gold lives up to its name! As we continue to progress through these very grim months of pandemic, I encourage you to keep looking outside at what’s around you. February isn’t the dull, grey month that we often think of. There’s plenty of colour awaiting for us!