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After the snow

After a week of polar temperatures, snow and ice, it's so refreshing to see the green garden emerge once more. After the mercury bounced up to 12C on Monday, the lawns have reverted to a reassuringly healthy green, perhaps protected by the soft layer of snow that preceded the harsh overnights of -8C last week.

The borders don't look too bad although the snow has crushed some of the dried ornamental stems we left in the ground, and many of the really late tender flowers, such as the gladioli, Verbena bonariensis and, yes, even some very late dahlias, have called it a day! Time will tell to see how the Hybrid Tea buds have fared as we had a good late autumn flowering from the rose beds, but hopefully one or two will make it to the Christmas table. The Mahonia is however looking resplendent with its racemes of yellow, honey-scented flowers standing out from its spikey foliage! Happily also the bamboo has lost its snow-induced centre- parting, so we can now walk past it again!

Hopefully the hearts of the tree ferns will be fine, having wrapped them in straw a couple of weeks ago. Slightly worryingly, the visible fronds from last year have blackened but this is not unusual, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Nearby, though, the Hellebore 'Christmas Carol' have emerged from their snowy blankets, seemingly fine, on cue for the big day!

Happily the ice has just about cleared from the ponds. The goldfish are all patrolling once again, seemingly none the worse, having spent last week huddled near the pond heater. We were a bit worried about the newts in the lily pond, though. Each morning we were met with a sea of faces under the ice where we had melted 'portholes' the previous day. They seemed to know that the ice would be melted here, which indeed it was, very gently, using pans of hot water. Over the course of the week, more and more newts of all ages appeared, presumably as natural air pockets under the ice started to disappear. They were very sluggish, though, so we hoped they would pull through, which they appear to have, as they have all once again disappeared into the dark depths to continue their hibernation. Reassuring to know that the colony is still there, though, as we need to do our bit for native amphibians. The 'ponds and pans' defrosting exercise took a lot of time last week, particularly on the coldest days, but it was so worthwhile to know that we've helped save so many lives.

Not all last week was spent outside, though. We managed to clear the leaves from the Black Hamburgh grape and kiwi vines in the greenhouse, taking a little more time to prune and tie in next years shoots than I've done in previous years - a benefit of having a little more time to spend in the garden than previously. Time will tell to see how the pelargoniums have fared, as tge mercury dropped well below zero here; so far they look alright but the challenge we have is preventing them developing blackened stems with consequent rotting. The Agapanthus, all overwintering here, looked a little cold too, but should be fine.

But now the mild weather has returned, much to the delight of The 4 Ladies, our hens, and it will remain such for a little while, so it's back up the steps to continue the fruit tree pruning!

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