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China Girl blog 16th January 2019

The days that linger in the mind are evocative of small pleasures, especially in the cold and damp days of January. January is the month of Janus, an ancient Italian deity, represented with two faces, looking both forwards and backwards. Despite being an Aquarian born in January, Ma does not like the month.

Suddenly, everywhere snowdrops appear as if by magic overnight. The winter honeysuckle is in full bloom, the sweet scent carried in the still air; against the warm south-facing wall, Iris unguicularis, flowering from November until March. From Algeria, it adds cheer with its beautiful blue flowers.

It is in winter that the evergreen trees make their presence felt. The tall Scots pines seem to touch the sky. They can be seen as far as a mile away when you wind your way past Greenham up the winding lanes to Ashbrittle, where in the churchyard is an ancient yew tree, said to be the oldest in England, at 3800 years old, which takes us back to the Iron Age.

Planted by Mother’s beloved husband nearly three decades ago are specimen evergreen trees, many of them now fine mature trees. Amongst her favourite, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, native of North America. It is without doubt the most desirable of the cypresses; the leaves are strongly pungent when crushed, easy to distinguish by reason of its very pendulous sprays. Picea breweriana, Brewer’s weeping spruce; again a native of North America, where it is one of the rarest on the continent.

Cedrus deodara, Cedrus atlantica, with its blue needles, Thuja Plicata, the Western red cedar, which if you rub its fronds, smells of oranges. These are a few of the mighty evergreen trees which march like a string of pearls through the garden.

Arboricare returned for a day, reducing the tulip tree by 20%; necessary as it is very brittle and the slightest puff of wind tear its branches, sending them crashing to the ground. We watched the young tree surgeon climb high into the tree; when he came down, Ma asked it he liked climbing, to which he replied “If you love your job, you never do a day’s work in your life.” Ma said she wished she felt the same!

And so as January days slip by, each day brings us closer to spring and the warmth of life-giving sun.