It’s too cold to linger in the garden today so I picked a few treasures to bring inside for my French porcelain egg. And because I love fragrance many of them smell nice. Their are two kinds of skimmias here, ‘Rubella’ and ‘Kew Green’. There is a hyacinth and several small narcissi, all fragrant .And I picked one of the wild Cyclamen persicum from a pot in the greenhouse. So the dining room smells lovely.
I also picked one flower of my Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ which is looking wonderful right now. Goodness knows what it will look like after a few nights of frost.
The pussy willow in the above photo is a delightful one called Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders.’ It makes a very elegant little bush and looks good all year; the miniature catkins which appear in spring are so dainty. The wine coloured anemone is Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’ and it is my current favourite, it looks nice with the deep pink corydalis.
The wine- coloured Akebia quinata is also a good match for the dark anemone. It is supposed to smell of chocolate but I can’t detect it. The snake’s head fritillary, Fritlliaria melagris picks up the colour.
I used three or four different Grape Hyacinths, Muscari including the pale ‘Peppermint’ and the chunky ‘Blue Spike’. The blue is picked up with a few flowers of Chinodoxa luciliae. The Iris looks like Iris unguicularis but it is in fact Iris lazica from the Black Sea. This iris blooms prolifically and it has shiny green leaves.
The shrubs I used are common Forsythia intermedia which was all over my garden but there is now just one for picking. Osmanthus burkwoodii is evergreen with small white highly fragrant flowers. For foliage I used the marbled leaves of Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’.
So this is my Easter egg arrangement. I hope you are enjoying the Easter abundance in your gardens and if it is a bit too chilly to linger outside then why not pick a posy of something lovely and link in with Cathy’s meme In a Vase on Monday at Rambling in the Garden so we can all enjoy it too.
Oh, and if you think the title Easter Eggs means we have lots of lovely chocolate eggs, there is no such decadence in this house. The other eggs are made of Tiger Eye and Amethyst. But I rather wish they were chocolate.
Well the clocks go forward to night so at last we can really say that it is spring. Yippee! But the sharp wind doesn’t feel very spring-like and it has created rather fuzzy photos, but never mind we have to celebrate the garden in its spring party finery and if the photos are a bit blurry it is because the flowers are dancing.
My number one is this really pretty little peach tree.
When I was a child my grandmother grew a peach tree from a stone and every year it was laden with luscious fruit. My endeavours to grow peach trees have all ended dismally until I found this wonderful Prunus persica ‘Meldred’. The reason for my failures have all been because of peach leaf curl, caused by the fungus Tafrina deformans. This fungus is caused by rain falling on the tree in spring and the leave curling disease weakens the tree each year until it dies. This tree is dwarf and lives in a pot in the greenhouse where spring rains can’t get at it. I brought it out today to photograph it and to give the bees a chance to pollinate the flower. I would grow this tree for the lovely dark pink blossom alone but in late summer it gives me small but very juicy fruit.
Flowering currants are ubiquitous and I have kept one of the shocking pink one which seeds everywhere and was all over the garden and I also grow several different sorts which are more sophisticated. But I am very fond of this white flowering one which blooms before the buds on the pink one open up. It is called Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ which seems a good name for it.
I love early cherry blossom and I also love dainty blossom rather than the big blowsy ones that bloom later. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ fits the bill perfectly. The name means ‘Flight of Butterflies’ which is a beautiful description for the masses of delicate little flowers. This is a dwarf shrub and it sits perfectly in my winter garden because even when it is not in bloom the zigzag twigs of the bare branches look lovely.
A favourite shrub in March is the lovely Stachyurus praecox which has racemes of primrose yellow, bell -shaped flowers like strings of beads dangling from each bare branch. I believe Americans call this ‘Spiketail’ but I wish they wouldn’t, it is such an ugly name for such delicate beauty. In a previous garden I had a stachyurus with beautifully variegated leaves in summer after it had finished blooming. It was called Stachyurus ‘Magpie’ and I have never been able to find it since I left. I am still trying to hunt it down.
I love any sort of sweet pea type flower and the little perennial spring- flowering one is a gem. It is called Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus. The flowers are pink and white and the clump gets bigger every year. I also have the purple Lathyurus vernus but it always blooms a bit later. Occasionally, you get seedlings. Bees love this plant and so do I.
Fritillaries are amongst my favourite spring flowers and I have quite a few different varieties but the first one into bloom is Fritillaria imperialis ‘Early Fantasy’ I love Crown Imperials and I have clumps of them round the garden in red, orange or yellow but this peachy one is new to to me this year. I just bought the one to see what it is like but next year I shall have to empty out the piggy bank and have a big clump of them. It is so pretty.
I like it against the cinammon -coloured bark of Acer griseum with a pool of apricot violets at its feet.
So here are my six on Saturday to join in with The Propagator and his ever growing band of enthusiastic followers who find interesting horticultural things to share with us each Saturday. Do go and see.
Spring has come screaming in like an unruly ten year child crashing about and slamming doors and generally being very annoying. You get so irritated by the constant noise and buffeting that you forget to notice the glories the wind is bringing with it. It is not just Shakespeare’s daffodils which are taking the month of March with beauty, every day there are exciting things to enjoy. Everywhere in my garden hellebores look as if they are doing the cancan with their frilly dresses whirling and the spring beds are beginning to look like Botticelli ‘s Primavera. But constrained by the requirements of the meme ‘Six on Saturday’ , I’ll show you some special treats which I braved the gales to look at, although the photographs will probably be a bit blurry.
First of all is the rhododendronwhich I grow in a pot by the pond. It is early flowering but not as early as its name suggests. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ blooms in March but it used to be forced in heated greenhouses and brought inside to bloom at Christmas so that is how it got its inappropriate name. I’m not a great fan of rhododendrons possibly because I don’t have the right soil for them, but I love this early beauty.
I have a pretty little shrub which has starry white flowers on naked stems in February and March. It is called Abeliophyllum distichum. I don’t know why it is so rarely grown because anything which blooms so early is welcome and these little flowers are deliciously fragrant. It needs a nice sunny spot and perhaps mine should be in a better position but still it blooms well and I like it flowering in front of the grey trunk of my walnut tree which always reminds me of an elephant.
One of my favourite March shrubs is Edgeworthia chrysantha which comes from China where its bark is used for paper. The flowers emerge from silky white buttons which hang tantalisingly on the shrub all winter and are a constant worry if you forget to cover the bush up as I did this year. One night when we had a particularly bad night I hurried down the garden in my dressing gown to cover it with a tablecloth. But despite this neglect it is blooming happily and shows no sign of frost damage so perhaps it is hardier than I thought. The clusters of flowers are the colour of cheap custard and they are fragrant. I think these shrubs grow well on the edge of woodlands and they don’t like to dry out.
I have grown the pretty Pieris ‘Valley Valentine’ in a pot for a couple of years and after complaining that I can’t grow rhododendrons you will probably be surprised to hear that I have planted this shrub which is a calcifuge (plant which grows in an acid soil.) in my new woodland garden. But I have a clump of old pine tree, or I did have, I have just got two of them now, but the soil underneath has been mulched with pine needles for years. So far my lovely Pieris looks very happy here. This particular variety has panicles of deep red bell-shaped flowers.
Japanese apricots have been in bloom for a few weeks now and Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ blooms intermittently throughout the winter but the first cherry blossom in my garden comes on the pretty dark pink single flowers of Prunus ‘Kursar’. This is a small, neat tree and as well as early pink blossom you get lovely foliage.
So far I have just talked about shrubs and trees so let’s finish off with one of the stars of the Primavera beds. It is the pretty, little corydalis which spreads everywhere in shades of pink, red and purple. I started with named varieties but I am more than happy to let nature have its way and produce flowers in a whole range of shades.
So there we have my six on this windy, March Saturday, I would like to go on but we have to obey the Propagator‘s rules, I believe he is very strict about it. Do go and check him out and see other Six on Saturday posts.
St. David’s Day marks the end of the winter and what an interminable one it has been this year. But after a weekend of sun, exciting and beautiful things are happening in the garden.
But to celebrate St. David’s Day and the advent of March today’s vase has to have daffodils, which according to the Bard ‘come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
To introduce my vase here is my grand- dog, Hector who no longer gets to spend every Tuesday helping me to dig the garden. Lovely Beatrice has captured his soulful expression beautifully.
The earliest daffodil in the garden is ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’. It is a tall daffodil with a large trumpet and it starts blooming in January. It is still going strong and tides us over until the main March ones get going.
Another early-flowering daffodil is ‘Spring Dawn’ and I love this one, it has pale lemon cups and a creamy white perianth.
But perhaps my favourite early- flowering daffodil in the garden is the dainty ‘February Gold’ which doesn’t loll about as ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ sometimes does, but who can blame it after a week of snow? But ‘February Gold’ came into bloom after the snow and it stands up beautifully straight and has lovely swept back outer petals.
To go with these early daffodils I used some Summer Snowflakes, Leucojum aestivum which always bloom in winter despite the name. I have clumps of this all over the garden and although it is not dramatic it is useful for vases. The drama is in the sinister- looking black claws of the pussy willow, Salix melanostachys.
It is nice to start off the month with flowers from the garden but there is something worth celebrating in the greenhouse too. It is my mimosa, Acacia deabalta which is in full bloom and filling the air with its warm, powdery scent. The fragrance takes me right back to the south of France where we spent one magical February roaming the mimosa forests of the Massif du Tanneron.
I know that mimosa can become invasive in certain climates and indeed it has become so in the south of France where it threatens the native flora. But here in Suffolk it rarely survives outside although I have occasionally seen it thriving in sheltered corners. Mine lives in a pot in the unheated greenhouse. I am going to have to give it a short back and sides or it will have to take its chance outside next year. But there is no chance of it becoming a nuisance here. I snipped a bit for today’s IAVOM and put it in an old ink pot.
The lemony yellow is a perfect match for the daffodils.
I see that Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts in a ‘Vase on Monday’ has found herself looking towards spring too with some early daffodils. So do go and see. What a lovely and appropriate way to celebrate spring and for me it is a chance to say Happy Birthday to my Welsh friend, David who was appropriately enough born on St. David’s day. Plen-blwydd hapus David. And a very hapus day to everyone now that March is here with all its floral delights.
And so it goes on, this is not what we are used to in Suffolk. The snow plough had to clear the top of the lane. We bravely ventured out, and even the Pianist wore his bear suit, his is a fetching shade of blue but it has no ears. I think bear suits should have ears. To make up for this he wears a furry hat. One of the great advantages of getting older is not caring what you look like.
I don’t know whether we are being singled out here in the East, but if we are I think it’s a poor show. Talking about bear suits, I was very taken by an item of news the other day in the Derbyshire Times with the headline ‘Lockdown fine for naked man’. Presumably, it is not so cold in Derbyshire. A man was fined £200 for breaking lockdown and parking in a closed car park. He said his journey was necessary to buy wet wipes and he took some wrong turnings and got lost. I don’t know whether wet wipes are essential items. He didn’t explain why he was sitting in his car completely naked but the story cheered me up enormously. I am not sure whether the fine was for going out, for being in a closed car park or forgetting to put his clothes on, but presumably £200 covers the lot and is a lesson to us all.
But I digress, let’s rewind to last Friday when the sun shone, the birds sang and my winter garden sparkled. Spring was really in the air or so we thought. Here we are at the winter garden. If you look carefully you will see a ghost lurking in the top left of the photo, but never mind that, here is Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ looking wonderful with Cornus ‘Winter Fire’.
The witch hazels are the best they have ever been this year.
‘Jelena’ looks fabulous with the orange cornus and to the right, the ghostly white stems of Rubus thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’ which is not quite as invasive as the more common, Rubus cockburnianus. But still I keep it firmly under control
The coloured stems of cornus are wonderful for the winter garden and I have them in red, orange, yellowy green and black. The best orange one is ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ but I forgot to take a photo of it and it doesn’t look very orange right now. The next one is the very vigorous Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ which is supposed to be golden but it is more yellowy green. Behind it is the holly-like ‘Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki Tricolour’ and behind that a phormium. I am very keen on lots of contrasting shape and form in the winter garden.
The black Cornus kesselringii is a good foil for the white blossom of my Japanese Apricot.
The thin stems to the right of the birch tree belong to another cornus, this one is a low growing suckering one called Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyii’. To the right of the birch is Abies koreana which I love for its shape and its wonderful cones which stand like candles on the tips of the branches.
Cornus stolonifera ‘Kelseyii’ is a neat, thin stemmed cornus which suckers and makes a nice dense bush. The stems are reddish brown.
To the right of the little cornus is Betula albosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’.
I like to have lots of coloured stems in the winter garden but I also include a few conifers. On the photo below you can see the red stemmed Acer pensylvaticum ‘Erythrocladum’ in the foreground and red Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ behind the abies. The conifer to the left is Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ which usually turns a coppery bronze in winter but this year is staying stubbornly green.
I love rich chestnut brown stems too and the peeling bark of Prunus serrula looks fabulous with Meulenbergia astonii which is like tangled copper wire.
Evergreens are an important part of the winter garden. The native daphne laureola pops up all over my garden and I value it for the shiny, evergreen leaves. The epimedium in front of it will have its leaves cut off soon so that the flowers stand out.
Photinia fraseri ‘Pink Marble’ is another evergreen and I love the way the leaves are variegated with pink and cream.
Another shrub with pink leaves which looks good all year round is Lophomyrtus x ralphii from New Zealand.
Sarcococcas are evergreen and the smell when you walk past them is wonderful.
The shrub Edgeworthia chrysantha has little yellow button flowers which are fragrant. Before the snow arrived the buds were just about to come out. I am worried about it tonight though because the temperature is supposed to be going below -7 c.
I am also very worried about the flowers on my white Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Omoi -no-mama’, it is my pride and joy.
I have shown you several witch hazels in recent posts and now my first yellow one is in bloom. It is called Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Westerstede’ and like most of the yellow flowered ones its leaves go buttery yellow in the autumn.
Nearby I have a yellow leaved choisya called Choisya ternata ‘Goldfingers’. As I said, I like contrasting foliage and texture so this is planted with the silver hedgehog holly, Ilex ferox ‘Argentea’ and a curly hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
And then we come to the the stumpery and beyond this is where I have been working for weeks developing a new part of the garden. But that is for another day.
Of course there are many different snowdrops down here, I know quite a few bloggers don’t quite get the snowdrop obsession, so I will show you just a few to try and convince you that they don’t all look the same.
I might have to show you some more another day when the snow has gone. And then there are the hellebores too but they will have to wait. The winter garden is worth another visit because it looks better and better as the spring comes on.
Well here we go again. The Beast from the East Mark 2 or Darcy as we have to call her this time. I was going to write about my winter garden today and now the whole thing is a winter garden; white, icy, cold and monochrome. The Pianist thinks it looks beautiful and asks me where my aesthetic sense is. So to please him I put on my bear suit onesie and went out and looked at it, on the condition that there would be no snowballs, snowmen, snow angels or any of the fatuous things grown people find to do in the snow. Actually, wearing four thick jumpers, two pairs of trousers and a furry bear suit ensured he didn’t suggest we went walking out of the garden because I look like an ursine Michelin man. So, here it is, my first appearance on my blog, My neighbours don’t get to see this sartorial vision but you do. Maybe the look will catch on. But perhaps not, as you can see I am not a happy bear.
This is supposed to last all week and beyond. What with endless lockdown, combined with arctic conditions, we will all end up as white-eyed troglodytes, specially if like me you loathe the stuff. I for one will be a very unhappy bear.
Anyway, we made our way down the garden. As you can see, nothing but white stuff.
And here is the actual winter garden looking very wintery indeed.
I designed my garden for colour and interest all year round so that there is always something exciting and beautiful to enjoy even in the depths of winter. On Friday my Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ was looking and smelling divine.
Today she looks like this.
Beautiful Hamamelis ‘Vesna’ was looking fabulous too.
But now she is encased in snow.
But I pride myself on having something to pick all year round, there must be something. I thought I would pick some dainty Pussy willow, Salix ‘Nancy Saunders’ but the pond has risen so high after constant rain that I would have had to swim out to her on Friday, and today I would need skates. This pond has never been so full. I didn’t go near in case I fell in and was never seen again.
But I managed to get a few catkins and some sprigs of the pink pussy willow, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’.
I knew there was a pink hyacinth buried in the snow so I dug her out.
Somebody asked me if my Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica ‘Wisley Cream’ is hardy. She seems to be coping so far under her roof of snow. So I picked a couple of sprigs.
And then after cutting a few sprigs of the red stemmed Cornus Baton Rouge’ I had to admit defeat and go and see what I could find to pick in the greenhouse. I picked a liiac flower of my carnivorous plant which is a butterwort, or Pinguicula vulgaris and to match it I picked one little Iris reticulata ‘Painted Lady’. And then I picked a few hoop petticoat narcissus and that is all I could manage today.
So there we have it my Beast from the East posy. And thank you to my friend, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for encouraging us to go out and find something for a vase even on the bleakest of days. Very soon I shall post about my winter garden, not as it is now, covered in horrible snow, but as it was on Friday when the sun shone and spring seemed to be in the air.
This January seems to be limping by with unparalleled bleakness . I have created a winter garden to give colour and pleasure though the long winter days, but now we are all under house arrest because of an out of control plague, counting the spots on your snowdrops is not the same, because you can’t share them with like-minded friends. And Pip who used to share my garden adventures is long gone.
Snowdrops have to be first on the list because they are the highlights of the season, bravely putting up with storms and snow. I have rather a lot of different snowdrops, but I know that people who don’t share my addiction will say that they are not different at all. I could go on at length about all my snowdrops and I very often do, but today I will show you just a few, so as not to bore those of you who are not affected with seasonal galanthomania.
Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’ is the tallest one I have with the most enormous flowers.
And the green markings on the outer petals make ‘Corrin’ stand out from the crowd.
Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’ is a justly popular one, it is nowhere near as big and substantial as the good Reverend Hailstone’ but it bulks up quickly to make nice clumps.
There will be more snowdrops in future posts but for now we will move on to number two which is something lovely in the greenhouse. I have a pot of serenely beautiful Narcisssus bulbodicum ‘Mary Poppins’. This is a creamy white hoop petticoat daffodil and you can see how it got its name, the flowers are just like little petticoats.
Coming in at number three we have hellebores. They do very well in my garden and seed everywhere so I have thousands. I have read that you should not let them seed because the seedlings will be inferior, but this is rubbish, I have never come across an ugly hellebore. But having them everywhere has its drawbacks when it comes to cutting off their leaves each year, Don’t try it on a windy day as they fly everywhere. It’s best done before the flowers emerge, otherwise you cut the flower stalks off too, as I did last week. Cutting off the leaves means your flowers stand out well. But the main reason for doing it is to protect the plants from the dreaded blackspot which often starts on the leaves and damages the plants. You should burn the leaves rather than composting them to prevent the spores of leaf spot spreading. The correct name is microsphaeropsis hellebori although you probably don’t want to know that, it’s not a word you can drop casually into conversation very often. Anyway here are just a few hellebores, there will be lots more before the end of the season.
The next one is Helleborus argutifolius which means ‘holly- leaved’. It used to be called Helleborus corsicus because that is where it comes from. I love it for its cup -shaped apple-green flowers.
Not all the plants in the winter garden are about flowers, many of them are grown for their interesting or colourful bark. Acer griseum is one of the most eye-catching of these. Who could resist this cinnamon-coloured peeling bark? I noticed last year that some of these trees in Angelsey Abbey winter garden had been peeled which destroyed the whole point of them. Having said this, I have been known to peel my birches but this is because it is a childish pleasure like popping fuchsia flowers, I don’t think it does them any harm, but it doesn’t do them any good either. Anyway, I wouldn’t dream of doing it to my Acer griseum.
Fragrance is one of the pleasures of the winter garden and I love the spicy scent of the sarcococcas. Sarcococca confusa has shiny green leaves all year round and deliciously scented, white flowers.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. Digyna is a suckering plant with tufts of fragrant creamy flowers and just as lovely.
I suppose these shrubs would be overlooked if it wasn’t for the amazing scent but they are useful for shady places all year . I would like a hedge of them like the one along the footpath to the car park at Anglesey Abbey but they are expensive to buy.
Last, but not least, I have to mention the witch hazels which are another winter passion of mine. I have quite a few, but not quite as many as Cathy at the Rambling in the Garden blog. But then nobody has quite as many as Cathy who has a passion for witches. Mine are all hybrids between the Chinese Hamamelis mollis and the Japanese Hamamelis japonica. They come in a wonderful range of flowers like spangled spiders. They have an elusive fragrance which is dispersed by the wind very quickly. If you bring a few sprigs into the house though, they smell delicious.
I have several yellow ones too but they always bloom a little later.
So January and pandemics may be depressing, but that doesn’t have to mean you have a gloomy garden. Actually, it does at the moment because it is snowing, but it won’t last long and in another post where I am not constrained by the number six ordained by the host of this meme, The Propagator, I will show you the winter garden. It may involve snowdrops, but at least you don’t have to get on your hands and knees as you would if you could come round the garden with me.
I have always prided myself on being an all year round gardener but the last few days have found me lurking inside. Freezing fog and icy ground is a bit of a challenge to the keenest gardeners. I made a quick sortie to see if anything was looking good in the greenhouse and then came back in to sit by the wood burner. I am going to paint the kitchen sometime soon, but I have to steal myself to it. I’m not one of those people who treat the pandemic like a competitive sport. All that bread baking and making things, I feel tired at the thought of it. I can work six hours in the garden without turning a hair but I can’t get involved with this crafty or earth -mother stuff. Of course we walk and cycle, but I don’t keep a record of it. I met a couple of neighbours recently who told me gleefully that they had walked over a thousand miles during the pandemic, he’d painted the house throughout and she’s done loads of sewing, including making all her Christmas presents. I had to come in and sit down with a cup of tea at the very thought of it all. And why have they counted all those miles? Is it just so they could tell people like me and make me feel lazy and inadequate? Maybe I shall invent a few skills to boast about. I’ll tell them I’ve been very busy with my macramé wall hangings and crocheting covers for all my lavatory seats and all my friends’ lavatory seats. Actually what I have been doing lately is the biggest time waster of all. But when I’ve finished my jigsaw, I’ll write a novel and yes, I’ll paint the kitchen. But not yet.
On the way, to the greenhouse, I snapped a little primrose, Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ and Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ but that is as far as I got. It is just too cold for flower spotting. If you put your nose right into ‘Wisley Cream’ it is fragrant, I’d never noticed that before.
In the greenhouse Camellia ‘Yuletide’ is glowing bright.
And I love the little hoops of this Narcisssus bulbodicum.
The house is usually full of flowering plants for the festive season, pots full of hyacinths, hippeastrums, little daffodils, cyclamen and colourful primroses. But this year as I don’t go into shops for fear of catching the dreaded lurgy, I rely on my trusty orchids which never let me down, they bloom year after year.
This is at least the fourth consecutive year that this beautiful slipper orchid has bloomed for me.
Next to it I have this pretty Cambria orchid.
And this is a gorgeous dark-flowered Odontoglossumorchid.
Cymbidium orchids take up a lot of room and they don’t always reward you with blooms. They live outside in a shady spot in summer and have a root trim and a new pot . The flowers are worth waiting for.
Another reliable plant which blooms every year is the lovely Veltheimia bracteata. It has glossy leaves and flowers like pink red hot pokers. It is a bulbous plant which produces offsets so you get free plants. It lives in the greenhouse but I bring it inside whilst it is in bloom.
So no festive poinsettias for me this year but that is no loss, I dislike them anyway. I much prefer my lovely orchids which bloom for ages.
So that’s all for now, I have to get back to my macramé. I wish you all the best my friends, with good health and what we all long for – our lives back with all the richness of family, friends, travel and adventure. And lots of gardening fun. A big thank you to all my blogging friends for joining me here at the blooming garden and for sharing your gardens. Our shared interest, your blogs and all your comments have been a big help in getting through this annus horribilis.
Each year I pick a posy of flowers on Christmas Eve and count how many different blooms I can find to cheer up the dark days of winter. This year we are all in particular need of cheer, as many of us have to cancel our Christmas plans to be with our loved ones so as not to risk killing each other. Here, on Plague Island, we are about to have the much vaunted ‘sovereignty’ as the dreaded ‘B’ word is coming to pass, but nobody wants to come here, or let us out anyway. So we are left to stew in our own sovereign juices. I imagine the rest of the world is enjoying a bit of schadenfreude right now. And by next week when fresh vegetables and fruit are hard to find, people are going to have to eat their hoarded toilet paper. And if they voted for Brexit, it serves them right.
But it is Christmas Eve and not the time for a rant and I do try and avoid all things personal and political on this blog and confine myself to horticultural matters. So here is my Christmas Eve posy. I didn’t include all the flowers in bloom because I couldn’t bring myself to pick either of my two witch hazels, ‘Orange Peel’ or ‘Diane’ and I couldn’t spare a single bloom of lovely Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ which keeps on flowering for weeks in the garden. But although they are not in the posy I shall include them in the count.
This posy-finding ritual always reminds me of the late Tony Venison who was the oracle of our garden club. For many years Tony was the gardening editor of Country Life. I first met him many years ago when he turned up to my garden with Lady Barbirolli of all people. Tony told me years ago that his Christmas Eve treat was to pick a bunch of whatever flowers were in bloom and count them and I have done the same thing ever since. His count always exceeded mine which is not surprising as his garden was filled with such rare treasures.
There are usually quite a few roses hanging on bravely and looking a bit dishevelled, like revellers who have stayed too long at the party. This pink one is looking a bit better than most. It is fun at this time of the year to mix up the seasons, so along with the rose, I have a pure white Christmas rose, Helleborus niger. This sometimes gets a bit mud- splattered outside so maybe next year I will dig up a few for a pot in the greenhouse. I also have a couple of snowdrops; one is called Galanthus ”Farringdon’s Double’ and the other, aptly named for Christmas is Galanthus ‘Three Ships’.
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ which started blooming in November is still hanging on and lightly fragrant, smelling of lily of the valley. But for wonderful, spicy fragrance my favourite just now is Chimonanthus praecox. It has little, yellow, waxy claws of deliciousness stained with red inside.
It is nice to have some blue at this time of the year and all my clumps of Iris unguicularis are full of blooms. It is a good idea to pick them in bud and watch them unfurling in water.
The little white flower tucked in beside the iris is not a snowdrop it is a very early Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum. For some reason this tall snowflake always blooms before the shorter Spring one; Leucojum vernum.
I have an even sweeter fragrance with Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ which blooms almost non-stop.
Fragrance is one of the great delights of many winter blooms and the winter- flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera standishii is delicious.
Viburnums are useful at this time of the year. I have a soft pale pink one, Viburnum farreri which starts blooming in November and the deep pink Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ which has larger flowers. The third is Viburnum tinus which has pretty flowers in winter but I don’t love it and I have grubbed up several bushes because the foliage smells disgusting when it is wet.
Still in pink and white, we have a couple of bits of winter -flowering cherry, the white Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ and the pink form ‘Rosea’.
Skimmia flowers are still in bud but the buds of Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ are a lovely dark red.
Most of my chrysanthemums are over now but lovely late-flowering golden, Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ still goes on.
I also have some sprigs of winter-flowering heather, Erica carnea , some winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum and a little flower of Helleborus x hybridus in my vase. But I couldn’t bear to pick beautiful Hellebore ‘Phoebe’.
I just checked last year’s count and there were only 19 blooms then so I have a few more today. And my last year’s vase which was done a little later on New Year’s Eve because we had such awful colds at Christmas, reminds me that I have forgotten to include Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ or ‘Freckles’ and I am surprised at myself for forgetting dear little Cyclamen coum. In 2018 there were 29 bloom, including quite a few summer lingerers, so it does vary from year to year.
Anyway, whatever you are doing this Christmas, whether it is counting your winter blooms or eating too many mince pies, I hope it is a good one. I wish you every happiness, and fingers crossed for a happy and above all, a healthy New Year.
My offering for In a Vase on Monday is an eryngium. You are probably more familiar with the metallic blue prickly sea holly and its relatives which all bloom in summer. This one is the giant sea holly, Eryngium pandanifolium ‘Physic Purple’. I have grown Eryngium pandanifolium before in my dry gravel garden for its dramatic rosettes of spiky leaves and masses of tall stems with clusters of little egg -shaped, dove- coloured flowers. This one, Eryngium pandanifolium ‘Chelsea Purple’ was new to my garden last year and is blooming for the first time. What has surprised me is how late the flowers appear. It was looking fabulous until the snow on Friday broke its stem. I am always looking for new and unusual candidates for my winter garden so if this is going to make a habit of blooming so late it will certainly find a place there.
This is a dramatic plant and as you see the stem is large, but as the plant matures it will get much bigger and more imposing and the branching flower stems will reach 7 feet. It was found in Chelsea Physic Garden by Christopher Lloyd and that along with the purple colour of the flowers gave it its name. He felt that this is a plant with star quality.
So I have no carefully arranged vase today, I just plonked the stem in a large white jug. I really think this is a stand -alone plant. I shall be interested to see how long it lasts in water.
And here is the spiky foliage sitting in the snow on Friday. The leaves are narrow, serrated and ever-green.
Do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, she never lacks inspiration to find something to interest us in her Monday vases.