January can seem but a colourless month - yet all one must do is seek out winter's flowers. There may be few, but few there are still --- unknown.
Spindly and arachnoid is the Hamamelis (or Witch Hazel to most), a winter flowering shrub that provides colour and fragrance for gardeners every year. The Witch Hazel brightens up those dull January days when the winter is harsh and gardens lie bare. Other-worldy in appearance, red and yellow tentacles dazzle and provide a spiced fragrance for passers-by to sniff at.
All varieties of Hamamelis are relatively easy to grow, just avoid excessively wet soils and plant somewhere that gets sunshine at least for part of the day. They do prefer neutral soils (although will put up with slightly acidic soils). Hamamelis will flower for long periods - ranging up to six weeks - which in the cold and dark months of winter is rather remarkable. Few other winter flowering plants have flowers that can survive such extremes.
Young saplings will grow to small trees of around 4-7ft over a period of 6-10 years, but will take quickly to their surroundings. Trim and maintain regularly if concerned about space invaders.
Cut a branch or two and place in a vase indoors for free perfume that lasts longer than incense sticks and is far more pungent than any candle. Even in the darkest and coldest months, nature still puts on a spectacular display, don't you think?
The bizarre yet beautiful carnivorous 'fanged pitcher plant' (Nepenthes Bicalcarata) - native to forests in Borneo - is a lethal operator. A foe to those insects who fly too close, lured in by the sweet smell of a delicious nectar. Deep reds, sap greens and unusual patterns make for an interesting species.
Insects who do fall inside the tubular pitcher will rarely escape. They will drown inside the pitcher in a liquid of the plants own making, where they are then broken down by digestive enzymes into nutrients that become available for use by the plant. A means of survival.
I also think they share a marked similarity to the praying mantas? The lips around the rim of the pitcher appear like forearms, praying for an insect to pass by. Killers of the forest, praying for food. Is seems wrong to fascinate over such a deadly plant, doesn't it? I will stop there.