January can be a hard month to love. A cold, dark, post-celebratory descent where the first hint of spring feels far too far away. But in times of scarcity even the smallest signs of life punctuate the gloom, creating little moments of January delight. Over the past couple of weeks, writing, design work and an inflamed hip have kept me mostly inside. But from my work space (the kitchen table) I can see the redwings eating next door’s cotoneaster berries and there’s just the merest hint of acid yellow – could it be the primroses in the lawn starting to emerge?
My Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ are flowering and I’m pleased I planted them near enough to the window to be able to see the swaying bells – some creamy white, the others cream above and splotched with purple beneath. Flocks of long-tailed tits have been passing through, voleries of cheerful pompoms on sticks, bouncing in the birch canopy outside my daughter’s bedroom. Today the wren was watching me quizzically from the fence, head on one side, perhaps wondering why I wasn’t out working in the garden.
The buds on the Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ are beginning to break and as it’s in a pot I’ve brought it right up close to the window – flowers in January are to be treasured. Not to be outdone by the viburnum, my witch hazels (Hamamellis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ and ‘Diane’) have been flowering for several weeks with their vibrant copper and red curled petals like delicately zested orange peel, their warmth defrosting any sombre winter moods.
But the natural world isn’t deterred by a mere sheet of glass – it seeps into the house and surrounds us, even in the coldest months. In our bedrooms, chillies, lemongrass, physalis, coffee, tea, Vietnamese coriander, cucamelon and yacon are all overwintering. So many chillies have ripened this winter that we’ve been making chilli jam – in January. Our oyster mushrooms have proved their worth by growing a second crop. We made them into a spicy broth with frozen stock and meat from our Christmas turkey and, of course, a couple of chillies for good measure.
We’ve been planting indoor bulbs to bring us colour and fragrance before the end of winter and in the propagator, chilli and sweet pea seeds are slowly waking up. Whether I look outwards or inwards, I can feel life stirring. Winter, darkness and even thundersnow might be upon us, but bowls of warming broth, trays and propagators full of plants in waiting and the ebullient winter flowers and birds outside my window provide a series of January delights to help us hang on until spring.
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