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That Was January 2012


Work and weather have been so varied over the past few weeks, that the cold, vague title pretty much sums up what’s going to be written here.

Where to begin? Well, where I left off, raving about Sarcococca confusa. Those deliciously fragrant shrubs are still blooming away.

Now we have witch hazel too. I can’t smell it! I keep reading and hearing of how wonderful its “spicy scent” is, and despite sniffing from afar and sticking my nose right into those yellow ribbon flowers, nothing. There were 5 different cultivars out at Kew, I smelled every one, and still nothing.

They look lovely though, and I’m pleased to see the shrub we transplanted late last year is blooming:

Some of our hawthorn hedging, is showing its delicate white blossoms early:

Some shrubs are sprouting along the avenue:
This unknown, maybe philadelphus:

And this lonicera:

A clump of vinca minor, after leaves cleared from its base:

And the Prunus laurocerasus have flower buds:

And this unknown ribes is in bloom – they smell like ribena!

I see these things when clearing the last of the leaves – mostly oak, which fell later than the chestnuts – which has been the main focus these past few weeks. Uninspiring, but actually rather satisfying, and must be done. As long as there is dry weather and good company, it’s a lot of fun.

I pruned this berberis last year as it was affected by mildew, and now am able to prevent this happening again by clearing organic material from its base:

Eventually there was an end to that long avenue, and crawling on hands and knees to get the last bits out from under the hedge, I saw a variegated vinca major flowering:

A reward was the joy of mowing this great expanse:

It’s part of the field where dogs can be off leads, we call it the “dog field”. Last year excavation work was done and that patch was bare. Then we seeded and watered in late summer, and the grass grew. I think now it’s been mowed 5 times.

That was the first cut of the year, taking advantage of above zero temperatures, and look, the first green compost in a very long time!

Up in the nursery we were making it all nice for the mayor’s visit next week. The mayor of Lewisham (Sir Steve Bullock) is actually coming to see me, and work with me for the afternoon. This is because I am Lewisham Council’s newest apprentice. I’m terrified, I don’t think I’ve met a sir before.

I cleared leaves from around our tea (yes, Camellia sinensis) plants, which are still flowering:

Here is some rue, which is beautiful. It’s for our medicinal plants display:

And we have washed so many modules. Unfortunately now I can smell the Jeye’s Fluid again, and it’s foul. There is a radio up there, and I’m never alone for that task.

There have been hundreds of plants delivered, including these Phyllostachys bambusoides, for the textiles display:

And 8 tubers of Dioscorea batatas have been sown! No one has any idea how excited I am. I’ve been sneaking up to the nursery to check them most days (also to water last year’s unused bedding geranium F1 Bullseyes, which I’ve taken under my wing as they’re lovely, and cuttings I’ve taken from pruned water shoots and herbaceous plants). It’s partly that the whole display garden endeavour has finally commenced on the greenhouse side, and partly that the plant itself is a relative of my favourite plant, Dioscorea elephantipes.
Also known as Hottentot Bread, it is an african yam (Dioscoreas are yams). Here is a splndid caudex in Kew Gardens:

And here is my own lovely thing, which was fresh and fab with just one stem last summer, died down after I brought it in in winter (it’s deciduous) and sprouted immediately 3 new stems. It’s looking a wee bit light starved at the moment, but it’s on the brightest windowsil, and will have to wait for spring.

Oh yes, and here are the Horniman’s tubers in propagators:

It’s warm in the heated greenhouse, but it’s effin’ cold outside! Freezing, in fact. Come and take a look at the frost with me.

In the quiet garden, on the snowdrops:

In the nursery, on potted hellebores and Italian arums:

Through the loquat, it begins to snow:

On the leaves of cyclamen and viburnum, you can see that it was really tiny hail, but that made a lovely sound as it pitter pattered through the trees:

It settled for a while.
On the herbaceous border:

And on the terrace:

And I tried to capture how it hung in a spider web in the corrugated bark of this weeping ash:

And drawing this journal to a close, some other random stuff.

I replanted some hedging that had been destroyed by a fallen poplar just after New Year’s:

A gardener’s friend:

(also, I saw my first thrush ever eating cotoneaster berries yesterday! Huge and speckled, I was thrilled.)

And while I used the real, boring privet for that hedge, here is its trunked relative, Ligustrum lucidum:

20 tonnes of good soil to spread over the next however long:

Azure skies over the bandstand and laurel bank:

I still love my job, and I hope the forecast snow doesn’t stop me doing it next week!

/edit: I almost left the title as “That Was january 2011”, one day I’ll start writing dates properly!

More blog posts by tralamander

Previous post: Sarcococca confusa



I think everyone must have totally different "scent" mechanisms, Tralamander - I can smell witch hazel very clearly, but ribes flowers always smell like slightly perfumed cats' pee to me!
Surely that wasn't the first thrush you ever saw? EVER?
I dread to think what all the snow and frost is going to do to all those healthy, happy buds and leaves. Let's hope the damage is minimal!

4 Feb, 2012


Great blog, Tralamander. Good to see everything coming to life again. Good luck on Mayor's day.

4 Feb, 2012


Wow loads going on there. Its nice to see things comming back to life, a very welcome sign that spring is on the way. Hope the freezing cold doesn't do any damage.

I don't envy you working out there in this weather. I was out potting up plants in the garage last night and cor blimey was I cold. Think I had about 6 layers on lol.

4 Feb, 2012


Fab blog as usual Trala. wonderful pics and I love that Vinca in the dappled sun. gorgeous. I agree with Gat.. that Ribes smells like cats pee!!!! Yuk. but it is so pretty and i adore Hamamelis, might get one for myself one day. Keep up the good work and put some thermals on!!

4 Feb, 2012


Fascinating blog, Trala... great mix of pics....

Keep warm and safe in this chilly weather... :o)

4 Feb, 2012


A joy to read and look at, Tralamander - in fact, it's given me a strong urge to revisit that side of London where I lived years ago and have a look at Hornimans again...

4 Feb, 2012


Lovely blog Tralamander...enjoyed it :)
Good luck with your VIP - he will be the apprentice for that day :)

4 Feb, 2012


Great blog Tralamandera, I understand your frustration at not getting the scent of witchhazel,my sense of smell is poor - not a good thing if you are a gardener. I did a double take when I saw the picture of Diorscorea elephantipes with the Euphorbia behind;I thought I reconised it from somewhere! That's a small specimen, I will post a picture of the largest one at Kew.

5 Feb, 2012


A lovely mix of pics there, Tralamander! I had to search for your favourite plant: Diorscorea elephantipes on the web, what an amazing plant it makes! Looking forward to seeing the one at Kew Gardens that Rbtkew says he will post a picture of! I expect you're even more excited about seeing it!!!

I see you are getting ready to welcome the mayor of Lewisham (Sir Steve Bullock) you being the newest Lewisham trainee! Don't be worried about meeting a "Sir", they are the same as any other human being, just try & forget his position & try & be yourself as much as possible.

Perhaps the snow that fell over night will make it more difficult to get to see you, though you don't say when the "adventure" is taking place. It could all be over if it's mid-week or later.

You can document the snow that's fallen for your next blog! That is if you can get into work when the rush hour begins on Monday!

5 Feb, 2012


Just come across your blog - what a lot of interesting material - I'll be tuning in for future editions!

Dioscorea elephantipes - never seen this before - I think it looks remarkably like a tortoise carapace?

9 Feb, 2012

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