Crocus tommasinianus

The big reward for me gardening in January, is not only getting ahead of things while it’s relatively quiet, but also coming across all the tiny signs that spring is just around the corner. My special plant today may seem an obvious choice, but it never fails to stop me in my tracks with its delicate lilac flowers and their brilliant orange anthers. It never fails to stop the bumble bees either, being a rich source of early pollen. Frail as the flowers may look, it is a resilient little plant and copes well in quite tough surroundings. We...

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Parrotia persica AGM – Persian Ironwood

I first saw Parrotia persica (a group of three) in the winter garden at Polesden Lacey and wanted one immediately: the sight of those deep crimson flowers erupting from bare branches was captivating. As with many flowers at this time of year you must get up close to appreciate their beauty, but then that is the enjoyment of being in the winter garden; it is a stroll of discovery of tiny details on a cold day, as opposed to a blast of unmissable colour in the heat of summer. The Persian ironwood is a hardy, deciduous, upwardly spreading tree...

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Nandina domestica

Otherwise known as the sacred or heavenly bamboo, it is in fact a member of the same family as Berbers and Mahonia. It is the eastern equivalent of holly, being widespread in India, Japan and China. In Japan (where it is often grown in a pot outside the front door), it is said that if you have a nightmare you should go and tell your nandina, so as to dispel any harm that might otherwise follow. A bit like our European equivalent of telling the bees (if you’re a beekeeper) about the important events in your life. Who knows where these customs...

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Euphorbia x pasteurii ‘John Phillips’ AGM

In the summer months, they are mostly background, but when winter comes, they are backbone. From now on, evergreen shrubs become more and more important as the last remaining leaves of deciduous plants fall to earth. Coloured stems, bare twigs, and silhouettes of trees, all play their part in the winter garden, as do the many highly scented flowers that come into their own as the new year unfolds; but right now, the evergreen shrubs hold centre stage, and none does it better than my special plant this week. It is a truly garden–worthy plant: architectural, robust and vigorous, and...

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