January 2022

In this, the centenary year of Furzey Gardens, volunteer Catherine Brightwood will be writing a monthly blog to share her experience of working here.  Join her as she highlights some of her favourite plants and photographs throughout the coming year.

Hello!  My name is Catherine and I’ve been visiting Furzey Gardens for a decade, since my daughters were small.

We loved going out to find the fairy doors and enjoy the beautiful views.  As a keen photographer and gardener, I relished the opportunity to photograph as many of the lovely plants as I could.

Towards the end of 2019, I heard that Furzey Gardens were looking for volunteers to support the work they do.  Being a garden volunteer felt like the perfect fit for me and in January 2020, I joined the team.

Catherine Brightwood / Blue sky over the lake

I have loved my time volunteering as a gardener, especially the fulfilling sense of being part of a dedicated team working towards a positive outcome.

It has improved my physical fitness and helped me to manage my mental health by spending time outdoors in mindful activity.  I also love the opportunity to continue taking lots of photographs.

January is a quiet month in the garden in terms of visitors, but we are hard at work preparing for the coming season.  While the weather may not always be kind, I really love the anticipation of the arrival of spring.

Witch hazel and Leucojum

A wonderful experience this month was finding unexpected bursts of colour.  As I rounded a corner in the first week of January, pushing my wheel barrow full of swept leaves, I was captivated by the beautiful golden curls of the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis) – sweetly scented and brightly coloured against the muted browns and greens of the sleeping garden.

In the few weeks that followed, I was fortunate enough to see the first glimpses of spring bulbs pushing through the fallen leaves of last season.  I absolutely loved spotting the first leucojum (spring snowflake) which is often mistaken for a snowdrop.  Seeing its white bell-like flowers sparkling like little gems made me smile.

The joy of the first purple crocus and bright yellow daffodil followed shortly behind.

Early splashes of colour - crocus and daffodil

One of my main tasks in January has been clearing the ivy that was smothering the ground beneath some rhododendrons and around delicate cyclamens.  I am always joined by robins and blackbirds who are delighted to pinch a worm from under my feet.

Furzey Gardens supports people with learning disabilities and I really enjoy working alongside them.  Last week, we were busy raking leaves.  I am always guaranteed a friendly chorus of ‘Hello Catherine!’ from across the gardens.

Elf Bower and clearing ivy

I am happiest in nature, so whether I’m working with the sun shining on the peaceful pond or hiding from the rain under one of our thatched shelters, it is always a delight to be in the gardens.

One unexpected benefit of working at Furzey has been meeting the other lovely volunteers and making new friendships.  I especially enjoyed chatting about plants and garden centres over tea and panettone during our break last week.

I am really looking forward to February with the swathes of crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils.  The gardens are getting ready to burst into colour over the coming months and I can’t wait to share it with you.

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