In a Vase on Monday. January Jewels.

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Winter Bark, Leaves and Twigs.

One of the joys of winter is the black tracery of the branches of naked trees against a violet sky. But for the garden I wanted something more colourful. The muted palette of the winter countryside has its charm but I need a bit of pizzazz to help me through the long winter days.With our fickle climate we have to seize our horticultural pleasures where we can. I first made a winter garden twenty years ago after being bowled over by the one at Cambridge Botanical Garden. It is fun to do, it makes you look at shrubs and trees with new eyes as you assess how they will look in winter, either as foliage or bark.

Four years ago I started to create one here although on a smaller scale. I wrote about it on my blog. This is what it looked like once the turf was removed and it was all dug over. The pile is well rotted manure from Pickles up the road.

I am so pleased with how it has matured. I planted trees and shrubs with gorgeous stems and bark which form a lovely skeleton to the garden. They stand out against the shape and texture of evergreens. Many people won’t plant conifers, but a few well chosen ones are lovely in winter. I wouldn’t be without Abies koreana which has upright cones like candles along its stiff branches. This is the first year that it has had cones, I am hoping that next year they will be on all the branches. Here it is surrounded by the colourful stems of dogwood. The red one is Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ and the orange one is Cornus Sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’.

I also love Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ because it has feathery foliage which turns from green to bronzey -red in winter.

Bronze foliage of Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ on the left.

Cornus should be cut back in the spring so that the new shoots with the best colour are on show the following winter. I don’t cut back all the stems of  ‘Midwinter Fire’ because it is not such a strong grower as some of the others. But the greenish-gold  stemmed Cornus  sericea ‘Flaviramea’ is very robust and quickly recovers from its annual haircut.

The white stemmed bramble Rubus thibetanus has a lovely ghostly appearance. It can be invasive but I control it by cutting it back each year and making sure it is not wandering about the bed.

The two trees I planted already look quite mature with lovely bark.  Betula albosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’ has pink peeling bark with a white bloom. The little shrub on the left is  Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’, a compact dogwood with fine, lacy reddish  brown stems.

Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’  with Betula albosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’

Every winter garden has to have a Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrrula because of the gorgeous shiny, cinnamon -coloured bark.

Prunus serrula

Red cornus is lovely, I have  both Cornus siberica ‘Westonbirt’ and ‘Baton Rouge’, but nothing can match acers for the reddest of red stems.

Acer conspicuous ”Red Flamingo’

The hose in the next picture is marking out the latest bit of lawn which will soon disappear. I leave it out for a few days until I am satisfied with the shape.

Acer pensylvaticum ‘Erythrocladum’

Soon I will have lovely catkins, the first ones are on the corkscrew hazel which Bowles grew in the area of his garden called the ‘lunatic asylum’.

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

I don’t know whether Bowles knew it, but I should think Muelenbeckia astoni is also a candidate for his lunatic asylum, its crazy wire-like stems look like tangled twine.

Muelenbeckia astoni

I shall probably regret planting a phormium, I once tried to dig up a mature one and it nearly killed me. Having said that I saw a bright, shocking pink one the other day and I was almost tempted.

Phormium on the right.

I love the holly like foliage of  Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Koshiki’ with its cream speckled leaves.

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’

For bright foliage I have the unusual Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’.

Photina xfraseri ‘Pink Marble’

The shrub to the right is Mahonia eurbracteata ‘Soft Caress’ which makes a change from the more usual prickly one.

The rather bare appearance of the soil in front is where I have recently enlarged the bed. As you can see I took a nice large chunk out of the lawn and got rid of this silly curve.

I have started the planting. To my delight I got this delightful weeping crab apple for £10.50 because it had lost its label. I think it might be ‘Red Sentinel’ and a crab apple that hangs on to its fruit into January is just what is needed here.


Oh but wait a minute, no sooner had I planted it then this happened. A hungry blackbird.

 I have also enlarged the bed here to give a better shape and more room. I took a good chunk off the lawn and enclosed my special white flowered Japanese Apricot safely inside the bed away from the mad man on the lawn mower.

 This is what it looks like now.

I have planted the black Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii with white heathers.

Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’

There are plenty of jewel like winter flowers already in bloom and lots more to come as we go into the spring. But they are for another post.

In June I become so besotted with roses that I want to fill the garden with them. But in the winter I become just as excited by my winter garden. And it keeps on giving for six months and  more. And look at my last grotty corner under the trees here, just waiting for me to expand into.

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Losing Tools.

I lose hours of gardening time a year searching for my garden tools. Back and forwards to the shed I go for things I’ve forgotten. Scouring the flower beds and the wheelbarrow for my trowel or secateurs takes years off my life. It drives me nuts. I have had my favourite secateurs for about 20 years and always managed to find them eventually when they were mislaid – until now. Now they seem to have gone to their final resting place wherever that is. And I am in mourning. I can’t mention the make, you are not allowed to advertise on a free WordPress blog, but they were red and shiny and came with a lifetime’s guarantee. But that’s no good if you lose them.

I went to the hairdressers recently and sat there with water dripping down my neck whilst Sharon hunted for her comb. She got all her girls hunting for it and all the customers shouting out useful suggestions about where it might be. I had things I needed to do and lots of things I much preferred to be doing, so eventually I said a tad impatiently: ‘Sharon, you are a hairdresser, surely you have more than one comb!‘ Of course she has more than one, but apparently that was her special comb. She couldn’t think of using any other. I can understand this because I have plenty of secateurs, but these were my special ones and the only ones I used.

So I have bought myself some new, special ones for Christmas. They are Japanese and very expensive.  I spent ages researching and reading reviews which is fun to do. I chose bypass secateurs which are good for precision work. They have one side with a sharp blade which cuts against the metal surface on the other side.

I also bought some new ratchet secateurs which have an anvil action which means the blades are sharp on both sides which is better for thicker stems. The ratchet action means you can open them wide to cut quite thick stems. I do have some ratchet secateurs but their 6 month holiday in the bowels of the compost heap didn’t improve them. They were never very good anyway.

I also bought 2 new trowels and a new hand fork and a claw-thing.  I know this is rather extravagant but apart from my red secateurs, for years I have gardened with tools which are little better than a pointy stick. My grandfather was a cutler who manufactured and even patented horticultural tools.  If you have old tools you still use they may well say W.Saynor’ on them and lucky you. I am like the cobbler’s granddaughter who has no shoes. Or with just cheap nasty shoes that she keeps losing.( Actually I do still have the border fork that my grandmother got for her 98th birthday present.) Anyway I am well equipped now so my grandfather would approve. He died before I was born and his factory is long gone but I found this advert for it on eBay.

After  buying these shiny new tools, I had to address the problem of  possibly, (or most likely) putting them down somewhere and losing them. I think I have found the solution,  I hope so anyway.  I have bought a garden tote bag with a pocket for everything and plenty of room in the centre for everything else. Apart from my secateurs, trowels, and hand fork, I can carry round  string, wire, scissors, seed packets and my lovely hori-hori or Japanese weeding knife. There is room for labels and gardening gloves.

I have bone meal and chicken pellets in two of my little tins. I love old tins almost as much as I love jugs so I have quite a collection. Anyway, from now on I won’t need to go back to the shed whenever I think a plant could do with a bit of dinner.

I have antiseptic wipes in sealed packets and plasters because I am clumsy and I am always injuring myself. The Japanese secateurs are very sharp…

And here is my smart new bag. Now I shall not have to waste hours looking for things because they are all here and wherever I go the bag goes too.

And thanks to my lovely daughter’s Christmas present I shan’t need to stake my floppy perennials with cunningly concealed bamboo canes and risk impaling an eyeball every time I do a bit of weeding.

So 2019 is going to be the year when I am organised and efficient. I can spend all that searching time actually gardening with my shiny new tools.  And all my propped up plants will stay propped and not have to be retied after each windy day.  A bright new gardening dawn.

I hope  2019 will be a wonderful one for you and your gardens.  I hope all your plants will flourish and bloom and all your garden pests go next door. I am looking forward to sharing  more of  your garden stories in the coming year.

Happy New Year!

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In a Vase on Monday. Christmas Eve Flower Count.

Every year, my Christmas Eve treat is to stroll round the garden and pick a posy of whatever is in bloom for the table. This year as Christmas Eve falls on a Monday, I can join in with Cathy’s meme and share my vase with you. It is a beautiful day today so the treat has been extra pleasurable. I grow  as many winter flowering plants as I can but the count varies from year to year because you never know which ghosts of summer will surprise by lingering on or putting in a precocious appearance.

Lilac Abutilon vitifolum ‘Suntense’, Yellow Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ and Chimonanthus praecox, Rosemarinus officionalis and red  Skimmia japonica berries

Iris unguicularis, Abutilon ‘Nabob’, Jasminum nudifolium

Erica darleyensis ‘Silberschmelze’, Knautia macedonia

When counting, I only allow myself one rose, the one I selected this year is reliable long flowering ‘Sally Holmes’. I have just one hellebore although I suppose I could have included Helleborus niger as well as Helleborus orientalis. I have one primrose although I have them out in different colours. I have three abutilons because they are all so different. I love big, bright red Abutilon Nabob’ and variegated Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’ with orange flowers. They are both blooming merrily away outside although they are not hardy, they are too big to bring inside. Lovely lilac Abutilon vitifolium ‘Suntense’ is reasonably hardy, at least mine has survived outside for years.I counted the three viburnums separately because they are so different.

Winter flowers.

1 Jasminum nudiflorum.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’.

Lonicera pupusii ‘Winter Beauty’.

4. Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’.

Viburnum tenax ‘Eve Price’

6 Skimma x confusa ‘Kew Green’

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Deben’

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’.

10 Chimonanthus praecox 

11 Galanthus ‘Three Ships’.

12 Erica darleyensis ‘Silberschmelze’

13 Helleborus orientalis.

14 Primula (Primrose)

Ghosts of  Summer.

15 Abutilon ‘Nabob.

16 Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’

17 Abutilon vitifolium ‘Suntense’.

18 Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’.

19 Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’.

20. Nicotiana ‘Whispers’.

21 Knautia macedonia

22 Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappucino’.

23 Hesperantha coccinea ‘Sunrise’

24 Pericallis senetti.

25 Iberis sempervirens

26 Erigeron karvinskianus.

27 Viola  (Pansy.)

28 Ferula officianalis. (Fennel.)

I thought it would be cheating to use flowers from the greenhouse so these are all from the garden. It is amazing what you find if you have a proper search.  And it is such fun. The total varies each year according to the weather but there are always some surprises. I’ve just remembered I forgot Cyclamen coum so the total should be 29.

I put my flowers in my Wedgwood Silver lustre jug to give a bit of Christmas sparkle.

Thank you Cathy at Rambling in the Garden  for providing such fun all year round to everyone who joins in with the compulsive meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’.

A very happy Christmas  to all my lovely blogging friends.

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Top Ten December Blooms.

Here we are at the Winter Solstice and from now on the afternoons will slowly start to get longer and I suppose the winter will start to bite in the next week or two. But never mind there are some lovely blooms to help us through the winter and many of them are deliciously fragrant.   Many viburnums are fragrant but Viburnum tinus is not amongst them. I am starting with my least favourite December bloom, in fact I have dug at least four of them up as when they are not in bloom they are quite offensive, with dull unattractive foliage which smells revolting when it is wet. So I can’t say it is a plant that I like . But as it blooms bravely right through the winter and is useful for winter flower arrangements I will give it a mention. I have never bought one because every garden I have had always seemed to be full of them. I used to think that ‘Eve Price’ was the best choice because it is compact and has lovely pink buds. I have changed my mind now though because I recently saw one that is new to me called ‘Lisarose’ and I was impressed by its deep carmine buds and pink flowers. I might even have to buy one for my winter garden. The one I saw was used as a clipped hedge and actually looked rather nice. I wouldn’t like to walk past it when it has been raining though.

Viburnum tinus

All the winter flowering viburnums make large, rather untidy, suckering bushes so you can always give bits away. I have the pink Viburnum x bodantense ”Dawn’.

Viburnum x bodantense ‘Dawn’

Viburnum x bodantense ‘Deben’ is white tinged with pink and it starts blooming in late autumn. Both these two are deliciously fragrant so they are nice for picking.

Viburnum x bodantense ‘Dawn’

One of my favourite winter flowering shrubs has started blooming. It is Chimonanthus praecox. I love its little yellow claws with their maroon centres and they smell absolutely gorgeous. This shrub likes a nice, warm, sunny spot and many people don’t grow it because it is rather undistinguished in the summer. I get round this by growing a viticella clematis up it. A little spray of it  will make a whole room smell gorgeous.

Chimonanthus praecox

Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum makes an untidy tangle and has to be thinned after flowering. It is welcome  because of its abundance of starry, yellow flowers in the middle of winter and it is useful for flower arrangements. Funny to have a jasmine with no fragrance though. When it was introduced from China in 1845 it was believed to be tender and was grown in greenhouses. It is of course bone -hardy and you are never without it because wherever it touches the soil it roots.

Jasminum nudiflorum

The pink form of the winter flowering cherry with a big name is not yet in bloom. It is Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. But in my garden the white form, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ starts blooming in December. The flowers are so delicate and indeed if we have a hard frost it will give up flowering for a while but it starts again as soon as the extreme weather stops.

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

Winter flowering honeysuckle is always welcome because it smells so delicious it is great for picking. It does make rather a large bush but you can prune it by cutting a third of the flowering shoots out in March. If you do it any later you will lose next year’s blooms. The one I grow is Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’.

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty

I have a lovely winter flowering clematis which it is full of bloom right now. It is Clematis cirrhosa  ”Wisley Cream’. It sounds more like a liver disease than a delicate flower.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’


Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’

In my front garden I have a lovely clump of the Algerian Iris unguicularis. The name is rather a mouthful, I preferred it when it was called Iris stylosa. It is enjoying its position in front of the wall where it can get baked in the sun. The ones in the winter garden are not yet in bloom. I always give it a good soaking and some bonemeal in August and September. The flowers can be picked in bud just before they unfurl.

Iris unguicularis

The first of the dear little Cyclamen coum has opened and soon there will be carpets of them growing with snowdrops and yellow winter aconites, looking like bacon and eggs.

Cyclamen coum

My Christmas snowdrop is called appropriately enough ‘Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’. This is a reliable snowdrop which soon makes a nice little clump so there are always one or two to pick for  a Christmas posy.

Galantthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’

Hellebores bring delight to the winter garden from now until April. I have lots in bud but these two are properly open very early this year. They are both real beauties. The first, ‘Sheryl’s Shine’ has lovely marbled leaves.

Helleborus ‘Cheryl’s Shine’

The second is ‘Phoebe’ and she is already wearing her party dress ready for Christmas Day.

Helleborus ‘Phoebe’

Do you have any December blooms to share? It doesn’t have to be ten, even one would be lovely. It is great to get ideas for this time of the year when blooms have become scarce.

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Six on Saturday 8.12.18

Well as it’s December my Six on Saturday will start with some festive holly berries. I’m a bit ‘Bah Humbug!’ when it comes to tinsel and flashing lights, but shiny red berries are always lovely. The trouble is that the birds have usually eaten  all the holly berries by Christmas. Also, it is a fact that because of global warming holly berries ripen at least 17 days earlier than they used to. There were loads last week but most of them seem to have gone now. And of course that old chestnut about lots of holly berries foretelling a cold winter is nonsense, it is a result of a mild spring and enough moisture at the right time. I have Ilex aquifolium coming up everywhere, they are a pest in my garden; as fast as I get rid of them they come back like Hydra’s heads.   But I was taken with this really unusual Ilex verticillata when I saw it recently at our local farm shop. Of course it had to come home along with the potatoes and sprouts. It actually doesn’t look anything like a holly and it is very jolly with all these bright red berries on bare branches. The trouble is that hollies are dioecious,  (you need a female and a male plant to get berries,) so I will have to find a male if I want a display like this next year.

Ilex verticillata

Holly berries are poisonous but I still have some luscious raspberries to pick, I can’t remember picking raspberries in December before. The variety is ‘Autumn Bliss’ but perhaps they should be renamed ‘Winter Bliss’. I have a few yellow ones still ripening too. They will go very well with tomorrow’s porridge.

Jerusalem Artichokes are of course not artichokes at all but a kind of Sunflower. They are incredibly invasive and have run wild amongst my raspberry canes. If you plant them it is a good idea to plant them where they can romp away without being a nuisance. As everyone knows they are very anti-social because our gut can’t digest the starch inulin and the resulting flatulence can be impressive. But the flavour is divine so we roast just a few at a time along with other root vegetables. They make a lovely soup and I once made it when friends came round for dinner. I thought as the soup was liquidised there would be no problems digesting it. I was clearly wrong as by the end of dinner people were squirming in their chairs and looking very preoccupied; conversation didn’t flow and the party came to an end rather early.  So the soup is probably best eaten alone when you have no appointments. Still, it is delicious.

Jerusalem artichokes

Another winter treat, but one with no unpleasant side effects is the glorious butternut squash. The plants roam around rather and mine only produced one or two fruits each, but they are delicious, either in a soup or cut into halves and roasted with thyme and butter. I like them with blue cheese in a bake too. If you resist the urge to pick them too soon and leave them on the plant until the end of September they will develop a nice thick skin and you can store them for 6 months so they are a very useful winter vegetable.

Butternut Squash

Whilst we are enjoying the berries and fruit of the past year’s bounty, I already have new seeds sprouting in the propagator. Lilium regale produces plenty of seeds which germinate readily and it is really fast growing, it can bloom in as little as two years. Here are the seedlings  after only 3 or 4 weeks.

Lilium regale

Lilium regale is gorgeous with incredibly fragrant white trumpets opening from pink buds. It was discovered in the mountains of Sichuan, China in 1903 by E.H. Wilson. He was  badly injured in an avalanche when he later tried to collect it. He set his broken leg with his camera tripod and from then on he walked with what he called his ‘lily limp‘. These plant collectors were made of strong stuff. As you can see this gorgeous lily is perfect for growing amongst roses; this is something to dream of on a cold December day.

Lilium regale

The glorious technicolour pageant of Autumn leaves is over now as we are certainly in the grip of winter. And yet we still do have some leaves to enjoy so I will finish with some lovely December leaves. Here is where I bend the rules of the meme, Six on Saturday, a bit because one leaf would be silly, so with a little sleight of hand I have several leaves coming in at number six. The acer with the best autumn leaf colour of all is Acer osakazuki and amazingly it still has a few leaves clinging on.

Acer osakazuki

My next acer is in the winter garden. It has nearly lost all its leaves but the remaining ones set off the pink stems beautifully. I think it is ‘Pink Flamingo’. Behind it I have Cryptomeria  japonica ‘Elegans’ which turns a gorgeous bronze in winter.

Acer ‘Pink Flamingo’

Nandina ‘Blush Pink’ is still looking as good as ever.

Nandina domestica ‘Blush Pink’

A friend of mine really hates this next plant because she thinks it looks diseased. In fact I wouldn’t give it a second glance in summer, but in winter I appreciate a range of colours and a plant delicately traced as if with ice suits the season, it is Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

As I started with a holly I will finish with one. I don’t know what sort of berries this one has but I grow it because it has such pretty, delicate foliage in pink and white so is a perfect candidate for my winter garden.  As it has purple stems I think it looks lovely with Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. And on that festive note I will end my Six on Saturday.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Ingramii’

Ok, it seems to be more like Ten on Saturday but I am hoping the Propagator who hosts this meme won’t notice. Everybody who participates in this meme seems to be in such awe of him, one feels one can’t be too careful. So think of my last item as just December Leaf with a few little sub-leaflets. Anyway, do check out the Propagator and all the Six on Saturdayers.

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Sunshine and Flowers.

We wanted to escape the damp and dismal days of November. Four of us all wanted sunshine and mountains and I wanted flowers. So we went to Madeira.


We walked the levadas, which are canals bringing water to the crops planted on the precipitous mountainsides.


There were dramatic views.


And scary tunnels.

And the flowers fulfilled all my expectations.  There are so many beautiful flowers endemic to Madeira but there are also many garden escapes that thrive and spread in the sub- tropical climate. These Amaryllis belladonna were spreading all over the rocks.

Amaryllis belladonna

Gorgeous Aloe arborescens, an introduction from South Africa seems very invasive. I wish it would invade my garden.

Aloe arborescens

This next plant is a Ligularia. I have never seen one like this  before. It is Ligularia tussilaginea. I wonder if it is hardy.

Ligularia tussilaginea

There were some gorgeous succulents, particularly this Agave attenuata which comes from Mexico but grows everywhere here. It has huge arched flower heads.

Agave attenuata

This diminutive native marigold grows wild. It is so pretty, I wish I could get seeds of it.

Calendula maderense

I have never seen this plant, Gomphocarpus physocarpus before with its huge seedheads.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I have no idea what these berries are.

The wild flowers everywhere were amazing but a trip to the Botanical Gardens at Funchal was the highlight. Specially as we arrived there by cable car.

I love this  huge Madeiran Scilla, I think it would look lovely in a pot. It is Scilla maderensis.

Scilla maderensis

I was intoxicated by the abundance of flowers. Here are some more beauties.

Madeira really is the island of flowers. Now I can’t wait to go back and see it at other times of the year. Meanwhile it is nice to be home. It would be even nicer if only it would stop raining,

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Top Ten November Blooms.

I am rather late with my top ten blooms this month as I have been away to find some sunshine and flowers elsewhere in this, the gloomiest of months. Clearly, there has been frost here whilst I was away, as the dahlias are blackened and the garden is looking tired and a bit black and squishy.

But let’s look back at the month to see what November had to offer. My favourite November blooms are chrysanthemums and I dedicated a post to them recently. But for some reason I left out one of my favourites and here it is. It is a semi-double in a lovely pale gold colour.

Chrysanthemum ‘Golden Greenheart’

Talking about favourites, I adore nerines and November brought some more delicate blooms in the greenhouse. I have two whites, both very similar. Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ and Nerine ‘Ella K’. My largest flowering is Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ and the darkest colour is ‘Mr John’. None of these nerines are hardy but they brighten up the greenhouse on a gloomy day.

Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ (top)with Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba


Nerine ‘Mr. John’

Outside, my November snowdrop is the dear little Galanthus ‘Barnes’  which I believe belongs to the elwesii  group.

Galanthus ‘Barnes’

I am very fond of daisy flowers and there are some lovely ones in the senecio family. I believe the word ‘senecio‘ means old man and I can’t think why this word should be used for fresh, daisy flowers. Some of those dusty old grey -leaved shrubs that used to be called senecio are now brachyglottis, an ugly name for an ugly plant, in my opinion. Anyway, I don’t want to confuse you, but my next flower is an orange daisy called Senecio confusus. It is a tender climber and has spent the summer in my new exotic bed. Just like last year it has grown beautifully but it didn’t start blooming until late September and it is still blooming away in a pot in the dining room with the rest of the jungle which I brought inside.

Senecio confusus

If you are not confused then perhaps you will be after my next plant. I always thought it was a Cineraria which belongs to the senecio family. You know the sort of daisy plant you buy in winter and then discard when it has finished blooming. But this one is perennial and reasonably hardy, it has lived in a pot outside my back door for a couple of years. It is called Senecio or sometimes you will see it as ‘Senetti’ and sometimes Pericallis. I think the correct name is Pericallis x hybrida. But whatever it is called it makes a lovely bushy plant with delightful daisy flowers.

Pericallis x hybrida

And now for a November flowering shrub which a previous owner has planted all round the garden. It is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. I like it because the upright flares of yellow flowers bloom when there is not much else about and they are fragrant and abuzz with bees. It is evergreen and I appreciate its glossy leaves when the rest of my trees are shivering en déshabillé. I found labels on some of my bushes which said ‘Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ but they look exactly like ‘Charity’ to me. They are not to be confused with the low growing, revolting Mahonia aquifolium which sprawls and suckers and seeds and is a brute to get rid of. The flowers of Mahonia media ‘Charity’ are not as fragrant as Mahonia japonica which blooms in late winter and early spring and has  flowers which grow in whorls rather than upright.  The flowers  of Mahonia japonica smell of lily in the valley and I love it. But never mind, ‘Charity’ has flowers in November which are very welcome. The shrub tends to grow very tall and displays its blooms to the birds unless you cut it back each spring to just above a knobbly bit.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Mahonia media ‘Winter Sun’

Ceratostigma plumbaginiodes is a low growing shrub which I have mixed feelings about. It comes into leaf very late and it sits in the front of the bed looking dead and ugly amongst all my spring beauties and I chop it right back and threaten it with eviction. In late summer it gets its gentian blue flowers but they are small and sparse. It is only in November when the flowers sit amongst bright red leaves that I feel a bit more friendly towards it. Maybe if I moved it I would enjoy it more somewhere else.

Ceratostigma plumbaginiodes

I love the winter flowering Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’, its flowers look so fragile but they start blooming in November and carry on whatever the weather. You have to hold the little bells up to see the freckles properly.

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Plenty of salvias are still blooming in the greenhouse.

Salvia guaranitica ‘Blue and Black’

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

I rather like this red flowered one. It has yellow leaves so it looks decorative even when it’s not in bloom. It is a pineapple sage so it has fragrant leaves.

Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious.’

I try to keep to blooms that are in season for my monthly top ten but this month I am cheating a bit because I have a couple of delphiniums that were burnt to a crisp in the July drought and I thought they were dead, But here they are in November looking as if this was their proper season to look gorgeous. The white one is standing in front of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which I think sets it off very well.

Delphinium ‘Magic Fountain’

So there we are, I just made it in time to show my Top Ten November Blooms. Next month, December, it is going to be tricky to produce ten blooms which are blooming in season, but I shall see what I can do. Meanwhile, what has been cheering up the stygian dark of your November days?

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Six on Saturday, 17.11.18. Getting Ready for Winter.

Winter is definitely coming but still we have lovely autumn colour just about hanging on. So number one is Autumn Colour.

Cotinus coggyria

Liquidamber, Acer and Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’


These lovely leaves will soon be gone but the fruit of Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ hang on into the depths of winter so this tree sits in my winter garden.

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

Tree Removal.
I have been preparing for next year’s improved landscape by having George, the tree surgeon here to remove a line of ancient and massive laurel and hollies. He is coming back soon to get rid of the stumps and this hazel which totally defeated him last time he came. It is obviously very, very old and goodness knows what we will find at the centre of it, maybe a lost civilisation.

Ancient hazel


Autumn is a good time to thin the bamboo stands. It’s a tedious job,  but they look better for it . The upside is we have loads of bamboo canes which will come in handy next year.


Vegetable Boxes.
At last I have cleared the veggie boxes ready for their blanket of manure which comes courtesy of my friend, Francesca’s beloved Pickle. I just have to persuade the Pianist to collect it for me. I think this is a blue job although the Pianist is a Feminist and refuses to acknowledge that there are such things as blue and pink jobs. Still I might be able to bribe him with mince pies. In  the centre is a standard gooseberry with a frill of chamomile rounds its foot.

You might notice that Chloris, the scarecrow is no longer with us. Here she is a couple of years ago; even with the blonde wig and a stuffed bra, she still looks terrible. She had to go, she was an embarrassment. She looked so disreputable that I was ashamed of her and put her on the bonfire. It was like having a picture of Dorian Grey in the garden which was deteriorating even faster than yourself.

Wrapping up for Winter.
I have the ghostly forms all over the garden of tender plants wrapped in a fleece overcoat. Here are my tree ferns.They have a scarf of straw and I hope they will be happy.

Bringing things in for Winter
The most tedious job of preparing for winter is bringing all my tender plants in.  No mean feat now I have a tropical area full of tender plants.

My lovely greenhouse which I acquired last year to display plants in winter is now totally stuffed.


Window sills and spare bedrooms are fully occupied with plants. The dining room looks like a forest. But what can you do? A girl needs her plants.



And that’s my six, but I haven’t mentioned bulb planting. Another tedious job and I still have a box full of tulips waiting.  But if I start on all the autumn jobs still to be done, I’ll on end up with 36 on Saturday, and that’s breaking the rules  so we’ll leave it there.

Thanks to The Propagator for hosting the meme of Six on Saturday.

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( Not) in a Vase on Monday. Armistice Day.

Today is the anniversary of Cathy’s meme, In a Vase on Monday. To celebrate she invites us to bring flowers into the house and display them in a different sort of container, so it is actually Not in a Vase on Monday’. Last year I chose a Victorian potty. Somebody else went a step further and arranged their flowers in the lavatory.

But yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day so I thought something more sombre is called for. I used my grandmother’s gas mask tin. Although this tin is from the Second World War, mustard gas was first used in the First World War and this is a grim reminder.

My grandmother used this tin for storing a muddle of needles, pins, thimbles, threads, knicker elastic and goodness knows what else. Like all her generation she always sewed; I suppose living through the war made everyone make do and mend. But she hated sewing and whenever you saw the gas mask tin brought out you knew that grandmother would be in a really bad mood. Eventually I inherited the tin and its jumble of contents along with my grandmother’s distaste for anything to do with sewing.  A couple of years ago I discarded the contents and decided to use the tin to store seeds in. Today, it seems a fitting receptacle for flowers to pay tribute to the millions of men who were maimed or who died horribly in an obscenely pointless war.

Chrysanthemums have traditionally been associated with death. Christina at My Hesperides Garden says no one has them in the house in Italy. But I love them and I am always glad to have a cheery vase full of them on a gloomy November day. I am not too keen on the mopheads which look like over-lacquered hair styles and need to be fussed over with hairnets and disbudding. But I love the bright daisy or pompom types. Many of them start blooming in October but as the garden is full of so much else at this time I don’t take any notice of them until November. It’s one of my rules, like doing the garden tour in a certain order after a holiday, instead of rushing straight over to look at something eagerly awaited, or refusing to notice plump spring bulbs appearing until after Christmas.

Blooms are getting scarce in November so we need chrysanthemums not as memento mori, but as little patches of sunshine in the garden. My collection is growing but next year I hope to have even more.

Here are some of the ones I put in my tin. Pretty in pink we have the lovely, old,  double, dusty pink Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’. This blooms late  and its leaves turn red  too.

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ centre. ‘Mei Kyo’ right.

Another double pink is the cute little ‘Mei Kyo’ which is a pompom rather than quilled like the Emperor.

Chrysanthemum ”Mei Kyo’

The peachy pompom is ‘Picasso’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’ right corner. ‘Picasso’ centre.

I have several single pinks, this one is called ‘Stratford Pink’, I like it because it has a white halo in the centre.

Chrysanthemum ‘Stratford Pink’

I have to have ‘Suffolk Pink’ of course because it is local and I am also very fond of this shaggy pink which a neighbour gave me.

The most vivid pink is ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs’Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’ is a lovely peachy colour and blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

Dazzling white ‘Edelweiss’ is quite rare.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Other rare ones include gorgeous ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ which is late blooming and one of my favourites. It is double and deep orange with bronze on the backs of the petals.

Chrysanthemum‘ Chelsea Physic’ Garden’

‘Chelsea Physic Garden ‘ centre

‘Margery Fish’ is lemony yellow.

Chrysanthemum ‘Margery Fish’

This next one has a red label which means it is on the Plant Heritage Red List for Endangered Plants. I can’t remember its name so I am going to have to do some research. It’s possibly ‘Cottage Lemon’ It has terracotta buds opening to deep yellow flowers, so not really lemony. But it’s gorgeous.

I love this one which is called ‘Cottage Apricot’. It becomes deeper apricot with age and it has a lovely honey scent.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

The rest of the ones in the tin are nameless passalongs. Now I have complied with Cathy’s rules I think I will put them into a vase. I don’t want to look at a gas mask tin all week.

The BBC’s Antiques Road Show did a wonderful programme to mark Armistice Day. It was very moving as people brought in artifacts and told heart-breaking stories about family members who had lost their lives and shown great courage and fortitude. A friend of mine was amongst those with a tale to tell.

I don’t have any stories to tell or medals to show, but after my grandparents passed away I inherited a beautiful gold hunter watch and chain. My son has it now. Inside the case, carefully preserved, was a white feather. I know that white feathers were sent to many of the 16,000 Conscientious Objectors who were vilified and treated incredibly harshly during the First World War. Some of them were sentenced to prison or hard labour. People who  refused to be complicit in killing their fellow men were mocked at and ostracised. My ancestor was clearly not ashamed of his white feather and he carefully preserved it so it would tell its own tale today.










I have to admit to getting angry when we are told that millions of young men ‘gave’ their lives for their country. In fact they had their lives cynically stolen; a whole generation died, were maimed, or had their lives blighted. And all because as Wilfred Own said, they were told and believed: ‘… The old lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria mori

But as well as marking Remembrance Day, this  is a celebration  of the fifth year of Cathy’s enormously popular meme, In a Vase on Monday. So  thank you Cathy for bringing us all together and encouraging us to enjoy flowers in the house all year round. Do pop over to Rambling in the Garden to see how Cathy and all her followers are celebrating the occasion.

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