Hooray for hellebores! As I tidied up my potted plant standing area, I noticed the hellebores were in bud. How cheering was that! Showing promise a couple of weeks before the little white spikes of snowdrops started to peer out of the ground. Looking further around the garden I found a few more harbingers of spring. Tiny pink hardy cyclamen flowers, the occasional primrose in the borders and the blue of the trailing rosemary, which is hardly ever out of flower. I don’t know when primroses started coming out in December; traditionally I’ve associated them with Easter. Its not a new phenomenon though, I seem to remember this happening for ten years or more.

I did get round to planting the broad beans in pots, and was rather pleased with my latest anti mouse or vole device, a length of plastic guttering suspended from the greenhouse roof, with the row of pots lined up within. It isn’t quite level as it was hard to get at, the greenhouse floor being covered in pots of plants with just two small spaces to put your feet. It was very tiring trying to tie knots in strings up above your head without losing balance and trampling pots all around! Cold fingers wouldn’t thread the string through the tiny hole in the metal support. Patience was in short supply! Who cared if it was at a bit of a slope as long as the pots didn’t fall out! My husband would have made a much better job, but the whole greenhouse floor would have had to be cleared so he could do the job properly.

Knowing what to buy for parents at Christmas can be a problem, so I thought I would help my son out by suggesting a pair of steps for the greenhouse. Before that, my husband and I shared a pair of steps and whoever needed them at the time, would find the other person had them in use!

So my son duly came up with the goods, impressively wrapped in Christmas paper despite the size!

My husband got a similar practical request and I now have a new cold frame which I have been able to move some bulbs into, as stacking pots on top of each other is no longer as option as they start to shoot.

The sweet peas remained a problem though. Having lost twenty or so pots to mice, they had to be moved to the garden room where unfortunately the temperature at 10 degrees encouraged lanky and weak growth. Even though at times it had been 10 degrees in the greenhouse in December, the night time temperature and the extra light kept them stocky. I came across a website which suggested pinching them out and using the pinchings as cuttings. This seemed a good use of the shoots and a back up if the pinched plant didn’t branch out as it is supposed to. I lost a lot last year after pinching them out in the winter, but perhaps they would succeed in a warmer environment. So I have hedged my bets, pinching out half and leaving the others to climb on up their twiggy supports until I see some results!

The hives have been “hefted” to see if there is enough stored honey to feed through the winter. A couple of hives seemed light, and they had sugar fondant added although in mid January they didn’t seem to have taken any. The hive rooves had to be secured with bungee cord during those stormy winds to deter them from sailing off to the next village!

We can only wait for the warmer weather now to see what we have left after the winter. There were so many bees in the colonies at the end of last year, with both summer and winter bees in residence, that it was difficult to confirm with any confidence the viability of the queens. Time will tell!