In many ways, not exactly the best time of year to get to know your new garden. There’s not much to do, most things are in stasis, waiting. The leaves have dropped, perennials have died back, the chance for identifying things is gone for now. It’s a waiting game.

But dig under the surface a little bit (well, more like move leaves and the rotted leaves from the cold snap), and you’ll find signs of life.

So I donned my new gardening gloves that I had as a gift for Christmas and headed out to do some winter tidying – thinning the hedge and pleaching, raking leaves and cutting back properly dead stuff.

A small aside on the gloves, I have two challenges with gloves. I have stupidly small hands. Child sized. And I’ve yet to find a gardening glove that keeps my hands entirely dry (and warm). Until I got these babies. Farmer endorsed.

The BEST gardening gloves I’ve ever found.

They are 100% waterproof, lined and insulated with fleece and they fit my tiny lady hands. A whole day wearing these and I did not get wet or feel even a tingle of cold.

Signs of life

Rake the leaves back and you’ll find the first signs of crocus and snowdrops poking through. Their emergence keeps me going through this worst of winter months.

And this garden has not skimped on early spring bulbs.

The whole lawn has things poking through. Literally everywhere. I’m desperately trying not to step on the lawn anywhere at the moment.

As yet unidentified bulbs.
Snowdrops

And not just in the lawn but in all the beds, under all the trees, all the shrubs, along the hedge, along the shed. In the raised beds. In pots.

Literally EVERYWHERE. EVERY. WHERE.

The other thing this garden has in abundance is hellebores. And it being January, the new growth is coming out. Last year’s hadn’t been cut back so I cut them all back in the front garden and back. That’s how I know just how many there are.

Leaves and old hellebore growth
Emerging hellebores

And you never know what you’ll find when you clear stuff out.

I found these three old horseshoes, a sign of what this house used to be.

Three horseshoes

And the final abundance is cyclamen. And how glorious are they as they emerge from the ground?

Coils of cyclamen

Winter garden waste

Helpfully (not), Monmouthshire stops collecting garden waste between December and March. And there isn’t much space, how things are laid out now, for a leaf pile or a compost space. So what to do with buckets of leaves and cut back, rotted stuff?

We’re using it to bulk out the base of the hedge, build it up where it’s low and mulch it. Also great for wildlife.

We’ve got ivy, bamboo and bramble waste that we’ll burn outside on a clear, dry day. Don’t want to risk any of that taking hold in the hedge.

What’s next?

Frustratingly, despite the unseasonal warm weather we’re having, winter isn’t over. Next week isn’t going to be spring. There’s not a whole lot to do outside at this time of winter.

On decent days we can still do a few things outside:

  • work on the hedge: thinning and pleaching. Planting in-fill.
  • hack away at several patches of ivy that are damaging a wall and growing up the side of the house
  • plant bare-root roses

But the main thing for these hideously wet winter days is to stay inside and plan.

I have to balance my urge to plant and change things this year with waiting to see what is already there. Where can I make an impact without disturbing things or making too violent of changes?

I’m giving myself a number of raised beds to change. Three which should be for veg which currently have raspberry canes, shrubs and other non-vegetable things in them. I won’t be touching non-raised beds this year.

What do I need to buy to be ready to plant? My current list looks like:

  • dahlia tubers
  • sweet peas
  • vegetable seeds
  • roses
  • maybe some hostas for pots…

Must fight all urges to get carried away….I need to see what unexpected surprises this garden has in store for me.

And I’ll keep checking outside to watch the bulbs emerge from the ground this month.