The only chink of colour in a fairly bleak gardening picture appeared in my cold frame this week - in December, Spalding sent me some free bulbs to blog about, and my first daffs of the year have finally emerged from the ones I planted in the greenhouse on Boxing Day. It is nice to have something to brighten up the house for Easter even though these little tete a tete daffodils are usually out by the end of February. The fact that they are late arrivals makes them all the more welcome. Not a single outdoor daffodil is in bloom yet, though some are resolutely starting to fill out their buds.
I'm also having a go at forcing magnolia branches, having rescued a heap of them from a recent local casualty. The heavy, pearlescent white and pink flowers of the gorgeous spreading magnolia tree just around the corner put on a stunning show every spring but some of its heavily budded boughs have succumbed to the weight of the accumulated snow. On seeing piles of branches on the lawn, I thought what a shame it was, but after chatting with the owner and collecting some of them up, I realised the full extent of the tree's injuries - perhaps not life-threatening, but still fairly major - one of the branches which came off must be about a foot in diameter.
I got buckets of beautiful lichen-covered branches with furry buds which look like pussy-willow on steroids. Lovely in their own right, but if I can get encourage them to open, they'll be magnificent. Don't know if they are really far along enough to develop, but I'll give them a few weeks to have a go. In the meantime, their sculptural form adds a little interest to the mantlepiece.
While I envy Monty his primroses in the current conditions, he has at least inspired me to go out an get some more corrugated plastic sheeting to construct a temporary cold frame in the corridor between the garage and the greenhouse - at least its the kind of project which makes you feel like you are moving forward in the growing stakes despite the eternal winter.