February Flowers

Last Saturday I was over in West Suffolk visiting Bury St Edmunds. It was a cold winter’s day with a freezing wind, but the sun was out and so were the snowdrops in the cathedral grounds.

Snowdrops in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Heading into the historic part of the town we turned up Honey Hill and what a delightful surprise for February. All along the railings of St Mary’s Church black containers had been secured and filled with a winter display of flowers and foliage. The black railings with black boxes were repeated up the hill against the backdrop of the flint and stone south wall of the church. It looked elegantly beautiful. And, definitely much better in real life than in these photographs.

Winter flowers decorate the railings of St Mary’s Church along Honey Hill, Bury St Edmunds.

Of course being south-facing the hardy wallflowers were blooming beautifully and positioned at the top of the railings meant with a slight tilt forward of one’s head their sweet fragrance was easily caught. It is relatively uncommon to see urban winter plantings work so well and bringing delicate charm to a rather grand setting. After all, King Henry VIII’s favourite sister and a past Queen of France, Mary, was buried next door in the church.

Hardy biennial dark red wallflowers (variety possibly ‘Vulcan’), trailing variegated ivy and silver ragwort (senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’) fill the black planters.

The next floral gem we noticed was as we walked past the properties 1, 1a, 2 and 3 West Front and Samson’s Tower. These amazing houses have been built within and using the old West Front of the original Benedictine abbey church.

The reuse/incorporation of the old abbey church’s West Front and Samson’s Tower.

And, the floral gem was a white cyclamen and flint arrangement in a metal dish at the doorway of one of the West Front residences.

The very useful magnifier helps to locate the arrangement.

I took quite a few photos of this arrangement and will keep them and maybe will have a go at copying this idea. I think the combination of the white flowers, the black and white flints and the weathered metal is very appealing especially at this time of year.

White cyclamen possibly the variety ‘Picasso’.

As we walked past and around the east end of St Edmundsbury Cathedral we came to the Appleby Rose Garden. The rose garden is named after John Appleby, an American serviceman who served in the Second World War with the 487th Bomb Group in Lavenham, Suffolk. Within the walled garden there is also a garden seat crafted out of a wing of an American  ‘Flying Fortress Bomber’, but at the time of my visit an elderly gentleman was sat on the bench enjoying the tranquility and winter sun.

Clipped lavender in the Appleby Rose Garden, Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds.

Well, there are flowers in bloom in Bury St Edmunds, but what about at home in my backyard in Ipswich. We have my favourite February flower, iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ still making a showing despite five years in a pot fighting it out with a monster agapanthus.

Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’

And, there are the dainty and reliable hellebores flourishing with the paler pink type already flowering . . .

Helleborus orientalis in bloom a little early.

and the very dark red variety full of buds just about to burst into bloom.

Helleborus orientalis in bud.

Finally, I can’t resist here’s another picture of Honey Hill.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

18 thoughts on “February Flowers”

  1. There’s something immensely uplifting about winter flowers, with their – on the whole – muted and somewhat chaste shades. I hope they offer you fantastic inspiration.

    1. I think the sheer paucity of winter blooms makes us appreciate anything flowering at the moment, but looks like much of it is going to be bashed about by Eunice.

    1. Yes, flowering in Feb is the upside of the predominantly ‘unsettled’ temperate weather of the UK (fancy way of saying windy and changeable!). The downside is (as I type) we have a RED warning for East Anglia with over 160 schools in our county closed. Hopefully, the snow won’t last too long and your flowers will make their much awaited arrival.

    1. Thank you. My sister was visiting and she had never been to Bury St Edmunds so we took the opportunity to drive over. Those irises are from my old Norfolk garden. As they die back quite quickly after flowering I tend to forget about them and then it’s a welcome surprise when they pop up in February. I hope you’re keeping safe in this dreadful weather. I see even London has been assigned a Red Weather warning today. Although it’s not going to be as bad as the hurricane of 1987 when I was living in London, slept through the storm and was amazed at the chaos when I struggled in to work from East Dulwich.

  2. I have been hearing a bit lately from England of both snowdrops and wild weather, with Eunice being the latest. I was interested to read about winter flowers in England as I currently have an English character in my novel marvelling at what flowers bloom in the bush here in that season, especially, in her case, the Cootamundra Wattle. I had her comparing it to the die back of Bradford in winter. Might have to revisit that.

    1. Mmm, the Bradford weather is generally more tough than here in Suffolk probably far more like your Lake District experiences with less rain. It be pretty bleak up North in winter with nowt flowery stuff about. Incidentally, my sister has another type of acacia, a mimosa, just blooming, but she lives way down in Devon where they even have palm trees.

      1. You know I’ve not worked with yellow for years. Not sure I’m quite ready for it yet, although I am using more orange recently. Good luck with the Bradford Victorian plantings quest.

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