...but, in fact, anything but bleak. Blissful sunshine, and days on-end of perfect gardening weather. I'm a little concerned that some plants will be foolishly persuaded that the cold weather is over for good, and throw caution to the winds as they come into flower - it happens ever year around this time, and since we risk frosts right through until the beginning of March, invariably some plant or other ends up being frost-burnt and looking sorry for itself at the real start of spring. I can understand why they do it, though - today felt glorious, as I hacked the tangled branches of the Cachi trees into shape, and it was difficult to think it wasn't going to be like this in general from now on...
The camellia japonicas ( camellias japonica ?) behind the church are starting to flower (at the right time for them, thankfully), with luxuriantly creamy blooms - they're a range of varieties, and flower in series, so we should have some camellia action in some part of the garden from now right through until the end of March; some of the later flowering bushes are a beautifully pure white, which is positively ethereal.
I was surprised that the dwarf purple irises along the sides of the causeway have suddenly poked their heads above ground - I wasn't expecting them for another few weeks, at least. Delicately patterned, they look like oriental silks; there are bulbs of a lighter-coloured variety planted with them as well, but they seem to be a bit more reserved, and are perhaps waiting for more sustained warmer weather before they come out.
Much of the winter garden chores have now been done - most of the transplanting is complete (roses, agapanthus, a few small trees) although I still have to move some of the raspberry canes, as well as a flaming-red chaenomeles, which needs a cooler position than it's had so far. Other than that, I have to finish pruning the fruit trees, sort out the grape vines, and get the fruit cage sorted out for this coming year before I can consider we're in good shape. The weather looks good for the remainder of the week, so perhaps I might get it all done by the weekend...before sod's law says the weather will close in and I find myself sitting beside the fire again curled up with a book for the whole of February!
Fiorentina, with Parmesan and Arugula.