First full week in lockdown again and hasn’t it been a very cold one? Even with a heater, my greenhouse went down to one degree through the night one day this week.

I even had to put a second, domestic, unit in there which also has a thermostat on it to ensure my plants would get through the cold spell. It is a good job I have a maximum and minimum thermometer in there to record the temperature for me.

One of the plants in there, along with a much larger specimen in the back porch of the house, is a Brazilian fuchsia. It is an exquisite winter flowering shrub that will brighten up the winter months with its tropical, two-tone, tubular flowers.

The dangling blooms are borne in profusion from winter to early spring, against a background of dark, evergreen foliage. Some of its other names are Justicia rizzinii, firecracker flower, Jacobinia pauciflora, firefly and water willow to name but a few. It requires a frost-free position all year round and makes a really neat and compact container plant – perfect for a warm conservatory or heated greenhouse.

In extremely mild and frost-free locations, it may be grown outdoors in a sheltered and sunny border. It is a member of the acanthus family. I’ve had mine several years now and they have flowered regularly through the winter.

One thing we all need to try and remember to do in this really cold spell is to feed the birds that come to the garden.

Their survival can be challenging at any time of year, but in particular during these cold winter months. Small birds especially struggle due to having a large surface area and comparably small volume. They lose heat to their surroundings quickly and must eat a lot to replace the energy lost. The ground during winter is too hard for birds to dig for worms, and caterpillars, aphids, beetles and grubs stay well hidden, hibernating in thick vegetation. These factors combined with the limited hours of light in which birds can search for food causes them to become very vulnerable.

Food can be placed on feeding tables, inside hanging feeders or scattered at ground level. Sunflower seeds are good as they are rich in protein and unsaturated fats. I use fat balls, perfect for providing protein. Remember to remove the nylon mesh casing as it can trap and injure birds. Leftover materials can be a welcome contribution to any bird during winter, so put out some breadcrumbs and grated cheese to give additional protein to the birds.

Read more of Geoff’s garden at