End of year review 2016: out of the frost came forth sweetness

Apart from a few tweets I’ve barely posted anything during December. I’ve needed some time this month to rest, and to wrap up a few work-related things, and also to try to enjoy the Christmas season. This time last year we’d only just moved, and despite being one of the most Christmassy people I know, I’d missed out on the celebrations, and felt it.

This winter, however, I have a hankering to review the garden during this, the turn of the year. Since Christmas, hard frosts have fallen on Sheffield:


Frosts thick as light snowfall; frosts with imprints in them; frosts not melting all day if the weak, low, daytime sun cannot reach them.

Layout and landscaping

To get some idea of which parts of the back garden are worst hit, I’ve taken another in my occasional series of almost indecipherable photos out of the back window:


Reflections of the curtains aside, you can probably see that the compost corner is frosted, despite being quite a slope. I would expect frosts to form where cold air could sit, but—possibly because the house leaks heat—the lowest point of the patio is entirely unfrosted, despite being walled on three sides. The backdoor decking is also unfrosted, unlike its raised equivalent:


Only a little later in the day, some of the garden does get sunshine:


Making it difficult to work out precisely why the back left corner is unfrosted: is that just this morning’s sun at work? Or does that southwest-facing corner keep heat from night to night:


Here, where the compost bins used to be, is the site for one of the new walls, which I will need to start digging in late winter so I can plant out in mid-spring. All is still in flux, and all provisional; but it’s interesting and somewhat heartening to see the future site of raised beds and greenhouse both, entirely free of frost by mid-morning.

Trees and woody shrubs

Woody structures remain, where I’ve not cut them down yet. There’s the euonymous I’d hacked back, much more visible since the privet has been removed:


I’d thought to hang the bird feeder there, where birds could eat without being seen by the several local cats including our own. But it seems the birds can’t see the nuts either, so I’m about to move it to the acer at the other end (invisible in the photo above, with the glare of the rare sunlight on the back fence.)

Closer up, it’s clear that the acer, so lovely this past year is clearly coming into bud:


I’m in two minds as to whether to hack it back or not. It’s been a lovely tree, but one day I will have to either move it or remove it; as I’ve been told that acers can survive coppicing, maybe I should do that sooner rather than later.

I’ve hacked back the buddleia in two stages, the same as last year:


It’s likely to come back just fine, as it usually survives ill treatment far better than the ill-fated cuttings I took from it. Another candidate to move at some point this next year, but I imagine it will fare much better than the acer.

Flowering, or not

Despite our continuation of the previous owners’ neglect of it, the winter-flowering jasmine is still trying its darnedest to put on a few flowers:


This makes me more determined to move it somewhere more amenable to its health, next season. In comparison, my row of hardy perennial pots (most from this year’s RHS Malvern is largely dormant:


The foliage on Tiarella “Sugar and Spice” and Stipa tenuissima is still hanging in there, but other than that there’s little sign of life.

The autumn-planted pea “Latvian” is surviving remarkably well:


This is despite the row of pots being blown over a few times, most recently by Storm Barbara.

The clearing of the privet and most of the brambles behind the shed has revealed this mystery little plant:


And, despite the weather, and the season, and the darkness, the zonal pelargoniums are still completely earning their keep:


I know some people find them a bit brash—is there a DIY shop that doesn’t stock them every spring?—but they flower some nine months of the year and are very undemanding plants. If we need space-fillers while some of the landscaping work goes on, I’ll definitely pick at least a few of these.

New shoots

Bulbs are shooting all over the place. There are crocus and something else peeping out from under viola in planters around the front:


Different planters have different mixes in them, based on the bulb selection I used last year, but I don’t think I’ve mixed crocus with iris, so I think that stray shoot must be something else.

In other planters, there’s evidence that something eating the shoots:


Which I hope the frost will deter. More crocuses are evident around the Welsh rose’s present from Gwenfar, Lavender “Fathead”:


And in the re-sited growframe, on the upper decking to keep it out of the way of landscaping, weighted and tied down to prevent the storms from knocking it over, are some speciality bulbs:


From left to right: Galanthus “Ophelia”, Iris “Purple gem”, some kind of Scilla, and Iris “Katharine Hodgkin”.

Fingers crossed they escape being nibbled, like they were last year; fingers crossed, indeed, that we all—the bulbs, the acer, the landscaping and me—have a more exciting but less nibbled new year.



  1. Julieanne · December 30, 2016

    Wow, those Latvian are doing well, despite the frosts. Who would have thought? Am curious about your mystery plant. Post it to Twitter & let’s find out what it is. Wishing you good gardening in 2017


    • jpstacey · December 31, 2016

      See comment below: Bergenia? Best of luck for you in 2017 too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Cynical Gardener · December 30, 2016

    Hiya, I think your mystery little plant is a Bergenia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jpstacey · December 31, 2016

      Really? Thanks! It’s a bit of a nothing at the moment but I’ll try not to disturb it (while hacking back the brambles) and see if it improves at all. I’m not sure there’s space for a Bergenia in my garden but whatever it turns out to be, if it ends up healthy enough then I can always pot it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Digging the first trench for wall footings | The next square metre
  4. Pingback: End of Month View July 2017: a wobble, some growth | The next square metre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s