The challenge I set myself this year was each day to find a new plant flowering in our garden or in the surrounding countryside of East Clare and talk about it. And here I am on day 3 and I've already run out of plants in flower.
We get used to blaming the weather for lots of things in Ireland - usually because it's raining. But with the warm (ha ha) waters of the Atlantic bathing our coasts we aren't usually troubled by extreme cold. But here we are three weeks into a spell where temperatures have rarely risen above freezing point.
Just a month ago we were stunned to see a narcissus in flower (it was actually December 10). We should have realised it meant that this was going to be no ordinary winter. And so it's proving to be. Who says climate change is a myth.
Dwarf narcissus in flower on December 10 2009
The upshot for this blog is that I come to a grinding halt .... or I change the rules a bit.
So today's plant, the appropriately named Siberian dogwood, is offered for the beauty, not of its flowers, but its stems. And what a stunning display it's making this year. The one we have is a selection with particularly vivid red stems - Cornus alba 'Sibirica'.
Siberian dogwood on January 3
This cultivar also has strong green foliage that turns a deep red in the autumn so you get the benefit of autumn as well as winter colour. It loves wet ground - so it loves Ireland - and it propagates itself by layers. In the photograph above, the main plant is to the left and the collection of shoots in the middle is a new plant produced from a shoot laying on the ground and rooting. We've already moved a number of clumps to other parts of land where we want to introduce some winter colour.
You can just as easily stick some of the prunings in the ground or in pots in the early spring and they're pretty well guaranteed to root. Mind you, the way this year's going I should be very wary about saying that anything's a certainty.