The hedges and roses remained unpruned for another day. After breakfast I went round to the back garden to see if it was really as cold and damp as I thought it was. The lawn was sodden. Moisture clung to every leaf and branch and surface. Chest tight, skin prickling, and muscles gently aching I had to admit that I still had a respiratory infection. On days when there's some warmth in the sun and the world dries out I can believe I am over it, but the chill of a thoroughly dank January day quickly dispels that illusion.
After lunch I did venture out to sweep the conservatory. It was dry in there compared to outdoors, and protected from the wind (not that there was much. The blades of the wind turbine on the farm on the opposite hill were stationary) and I thought that swaddled in my customary layers of winter gardening clothing I should be alright for a couple of hours. And I was itching to get on with something.
A lot of leaves had dropped, and I wanted to clear them out before the room became a nest of botrytis. The climbing fuchsia 'Lady Boothby' had lost about half of hers but not all, which is a bore as she'll probably discard the rest in stages over the next couple of months so that I have to keep sweeping up. Still, at least fuchsias are supposed to drop their leaves. Her neighbour on the back wall of the conservatory Jasminum mesnyi, a tender jasmine bearing semi-double yellow flowers in late spring, is nominally evergreen but the leaves on half the plant had faded to a nasty papery greyish-brown. I picked them off, hoping that since the stems were still green and healthy it would replace them in due course, and wondering if the loss was due to cold, over watering, under watering, or the aftermath of an attack of red spider mite.
All of the leaves have dropped off the Tibouchina I bought at a Plant Heritage meeting. I can't remember if it did that last winter, or if this is a new development. Tibouchina are tender shrubs from Brazil, with purple flowers for the most part, but I don't know which species mine is because it wasn't labelled. It grew quite vigorously last summer becoming rather lanky and I checked with its former owners at a previous Plant Heritage meeting that I'd be OK trimming it in the spring. Now I've just missed the chance to ask them a supplementary question as to whether it normally loses its leaves or if that is a sign that something has gone badly wrong. According to one post on a forum I found somebody else overwinters theirs in the garage and it loses all its leaves but recovers, but it would be nice to have an answer from somebody that I could be sure knew what they were talking about.
The big fleshy begonia I bought at the Great Dixter plant fair has gone mushy in places but most of it wasn't too bad. Every leaf has dropped from Begonia luxurians but the canes were still standing intact, one now taller than I am, so I expect it will leaf up in the spring. I removed the fabulously mouldy remains of two flower clusters from the top and fished the brown remains of the leaves out of the other plants where they'd fallen.
Some of the Dibleys streptocarpus have died back entirely. I'm afraid that's not a good sign. I normally manage to keep them going through the winter, and I'm not sure what I've done differently this time round, although I did kill one by over watering a couple of seasons back so maybe I've overcompensated the other way.
It was cold in the conservatory, and I didn't quite last to the end of the film review podcast and ended up listening to the last five minutes in the hall. A frost free conservatory is not really a very jolly place in the depths of winter. In fact, some of the plants looked so pathetic that I put the fan heater on as I shut the door for the night. Rather like me they could do with some sunshine.