We love December
for its festive red-and-green finery
This month is, like many football matches, a game of two halves. The first half (BC – before Christmas) is a frenzy of anticipation, sparkly lights, shopping, parties and the marshalling of hyper-excitable children. The second part (AC – after Christmas) is mostly spent lolling around in armchairs, regretting that final mince pie and wishing your relatives knew when to go home. The only certainty is that, like a steadfast friend, your garden will be out there just waiting for all the celebrations to subside and will welcome you back, at your leisure, to sort the compost heap.
I adore a Siberian dogwood: they are, I think, a bit like porcupines rattling their crimson spines at the watery winter light. Behind them looms the Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’: as dark and sultry as a little black storm cloud. The contrast will bring a bit of December zip into your shrubbery.
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
Will grow in most soil types, in sun or partial shade. Cut back the older, thicker stems in spring as the youngest stems are always the brightest. H x S 2.5m x 2.5m
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘ Tom Thumb’
Propagate from softwood or semi-ripe cuttings in summer. Good in pots or raised beds. Mulch well for winter protection. H x S 100cm x 60cm
The amaryllis bulb originates from the steaming jungles of southern Brazil. This variety is a particularly alluring colour that manages to be both traditional and yet deeply exotic. One flowering on a sideboard in, say, Sidmouth or Sunderland, can transport us to a late-night caper as the sun sets over Ipanema Beach. Suddenly the chills of winter are shrugged off and we find ourselves reaching for skimpy swimwear.
Hippeastrum ‘Royal Velvet’
It is not too late to plant a hippeastrum. Plant in good compost with the top half of the bulb exposed. HxS 50cm x 10cm
A SYMPHONY IN WHITE
If I close my eyes and inhale deeply I imagine that I can smell these paper-white daffodils through the pages of this magazine. It is always tricky to describe a scent but I reckon that those pure white flowers smell of every loving feeling that you have ever felt: love for a partner, love for a child, love for a parent or love for a puppy. Especially love for a puppy.
Narcissus papyraceus ‘Ziva’
The best narcissus for forcing. Keep in the dark for eight weeks after planting in bowls then gradually bring into the light. Will need support. HxS 40cm x 10m