Garden and landscape design

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January Mood-Lifters

No sooner than Christmas is behind us, there is almost straight away something to look forward to outside. This reminds me that spring is near, and when we are blessed with clear, sunny, winter skies it can really lift spirits. In fact it’s been proven that getting out to enjoy a walk or do some gardening during the winter months can really help seasonally low moods.

This is particularly true this year as, bizarrely, there are daffodils up nearly a month early which I must admit is slightly disconcerting. Does this mean that by the end of February they’ll be all gone??

Anyway, here are some of my favourite January mood-lifters, to remind me that spring is around the corner:-

If you can get out onto the Surrey Heathland, of which there is plenty to be found around Esher, Oxshott, Chobham, Horsell and so on, the native Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is already out. Look out for the blazing yellow flowers and amazing coconut smell (most obvious when en masse in a sheltered, sunny spot). This gorse flowers from late autumn through to late spring, and together with the other native form, Dwarf Gorse, flowers can be found nearly all year, hence the old adage “When the gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion”.

My very favourite garden shrub to cheer up the winter months is a form of Winter Heather, Erica x darleyensis ‘Kramer's Rote’:-

This cheery, tolerant shrub flowers from late autumn through to May – about half the year! It is reasonably tolerant of different soil types as long as it is well-drained and receives a bit of sun; give it a haircut after flowering to prevent it getting too woody. ‘White Perfection’ is a nice white form.

My final ‘mood-lifter’ is Pulmonaria (Lungwort). The most common, blue forms of this are also known as Blue Cowslip, but pinks, reds and whites are also available, as well as forms with varying leaf shapes and many with attractive silver markings to the semi-evergreen leaves. My flowers have already started popping up, but they are most prolific in spring. They are very shade tolerant and need a moist soil. Invariably the leaves get a bit tatty after flowering, but fresh foliage will adorn the plants a few weeks later if kept moist, and this will remain until Christmas time when the plants can be tidied up ready for the first flowers of the New Year. The earliest form is the coral-red ‘Redstart’, but my favourites are the blues: Pulmonaria ‘Lewis Palmer’ (top photo), 'Blue Ensign’ and the pure white ‘Sissinghurst White’.

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Images: Harmony Green