This must be the mildest early winter I have known in the eight years that I have worked at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. In fact, it doesn’t feel like winter at all, with daily temperatures in double figures.
Spring in December
The mild temperatures have encouraged plants into early growth. One of the earliest daffodils to flower is Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a couple of buds fully open two weeks before Christmas.
Underneath a mahonia, the green shoots of the arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica Crowborough’, were prominently poking through the soil, although the spathes do not normally appear until late spring.
As I walked past Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill’ in the Farmhouse Garden, a familiar fragrance tickled my nose. This winter flowering shrub wouldn't normally fill the air with its scent until January.
The yellow daisy-like flowers of Euryops chrysanthemoides – a tender summer-flowering perennial – are still going strong; a teasing reminder of sunny days.
In the Dry Garden a clump of California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is displaying its cream coloured blooms and even Euphorbia rigida is still producing clusters flowers.
Yet, it is reassuring to see some winter plants behaving as they should. The fiery stems of Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Britzensis’ add great colour, as well as the vivid red berries and variegated foliage of the holly, Ilex × altaclerensis ‘Lawsoniana’. Mahonias and winter flowering honeysuckles are now in flower and their sweet scent permeates the air.
For me, it is the distinct Christmas tree shape of Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica ‘Compacta’ that gives the garden a festive feel even if we are lacking frost and snow.
So what season are we in? With the forecast remaining mild, at least for the next couple of weeks, seasonal confusion amongst the plants may continue for some time. I will be keeping a close eye on what happens.