Ancient Suffolk. Yews and Puddingstones.

I love old things. My house was built in 1500, that was before Henry viii came to the throne and started chopping off his wives’ heads He was only nine at the time. But there are older buildings in Suffolk. The pretty little Norman church at Wissington was built in the 12th century. When the wool trade enriched this part of Suffolk in the 15th century many of the churches were enlarged and embellished but this little church in the middle of nowhere was overlooked.

St. Mary’s Church, Wissington

The carved tympanum over the south door is beautiful and dates from the early 12th century.

South Door, Wissington Church.

The church even managed to be overlooked by ‘Smasher’ Dowsing, the enthusiastic Puritan iconoclast who was responsible for much of the destruction of pictures and Catholic imagery in East Anglia during the reformation. There are 12th century wall paintings, including one of the earliest depictions of St.Francis of Assisi in England and an early 15th century painting of the dragon which was said to have appeared from the River Stour in 1405 and terrorised the locals.

In these days there appeared lately an evil dragon of excessive length with a huge body, crested head, saw-like teeth and elongated tail in land near the town of Bures near Sudbury, which destroyed and killed a herd of sheep. The servants of Sir Richard Waldegrave who owns the land haunted by the dragon came forth to shoot it with arrows which sprang back from its ribs as if they were metal of hard stone and from the spines if its back with a jangling as if they were hitting bronze plates, and flew far away because its skin was impenetrable. Almost the whole county was summoned to slaughter it but when it saw that it was to be shot at again, it fled into the marsh, hid in the reeds and was seen no more.’

Wall Painting, Wissington Church

It was a joy to find this little clump of Galanthus elwesii nestling in the churchyard when I went to photograph it this afternoon on a bitterly cold January day.

Galanthus elwesii Wisssington Chuurchyard.

But older than any building, yews have always been part of the British landscape. They are one of only three native conifers. Fossil remains show that Taxus baccata is at least 15 million years old. But many living yews are an incredible age. They were venerated by Druids and many of them were planted on sacred sites which Christians then took over. Longbows made of yew were used by English archers at the Battle of Agincourt. In 1911, a yew spear tip was found in Clacton, Essex. It is 420,000 years old and the oldest wooden artifact ever found. Yew trees rot inside with age so you can’t count rings to tell their age, instead you have to measure their girth. There are yews in the UK which are over 1000 years old, they are the oldest living organisms in Europe. They constantly regenerate by rooting from their branch tips when they touch the ground and also roots grow through the hollow centres.

Suffolk doesn’t have the ideal conditions for yews but nevertheless we have one or two old ones. This beautiful tree is in the churchyard of Preston St. Mary quite near to where I live. It is 800 years old and predates the 14th church by a long time so presumably this was always a sacred site. I find it sobering to look at a living tree like this one and imagine that it was there when Genghis Kahn and his Mongol hordes were sweeping across Eurasia and crusaders were on the rampage killing the poor Cathars in south west France and attacking moslems in Jersualem.

Taxus Baccata, Preston St. Mary Churchyard

Irish yew known as Taxus baccata ‘Fastigata’ is an upright form. Irish yews are not ancient at all. Every one dates back to a mutant form of Taxus baccata found in County Fermanagh in 1780. I had one in the middle of my lawn which had to go, as it stuck out like a sore thumb and anyway it got in the way of the croquet.

Taxus baccata ‘Fastigata’

But even older than the oldest yew tree are the amazing puddingstones which are several million years old and the world’s rarest rocks. They are a conglomerate stone which is a mixture of mostly flint pebbles which started off mixed with clay in a river bed. They became bonded together when they were compressed and rolled around by glaciers in the Ice Age. They have the appearance of plum puddings because of all the pebbles bound up in what looks like rough cement. When the Ice Age ended they tumbled into rivers and were scattered round the countryside. Here in Suffolk which is a stoneless countryside apart from flint, they were thought to be magical stones. They were often used in the foundations of churches or as markers at crossroads or fords. There is one in the beautiful village of Kersey which nearly got destroyed a few years ago.

Kersey, Suffolk

Workers from Suffolk Highways department were just about to start attacking it with pickaxes when a local man spotted them and it was saved. It has sat there since the Pleistocene Age bothering nobody and it’s not until the 21st century that it’s suddenly considered to be a ‘tripping hazard’.

Puddingstone, Kersey

I am not surprised that stones have been venerated. I am sure I’m not the only one who loves them and carries stones back in their pocket from wherever they visit. I grew up in the Peak District of Derbyshire and miss having rocks to clamber on here. In my previous garden I had a massive rock installed with great difficulty and planted birch trees in a circle round it. I used to wash the birch trees every year so they were gleaming white; they could do with a wash now. I moved away 16 years ago and I have since heard that local gossip has it that I was a Druid. I don’t know if they thought I sacrificed goats and cockerels or what. Actually nobody knows exactly what Druids did or believed as they left no written records. Anyway, I am not a Druid; I am just someone who loves ancient buildings, rocks and trees. And that is why I decided to write this post.

My previous Garden.
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Six on Saturday. Twigs, Bark and Leaves in the Winter Garden.

We have had some beautiful January sun this week which cheers the spirits and lights up the foliage and coloured stems in the winter garden. The trees I planted down here are now mature enough to make a show.

This is one of my favourite birches. It is Betula albosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’. You can see a bit of the pinkish tinged bark to the left of the tree. It is so beautiful I feel I ought to make something out of it; maybe wrap it round a jam jar for winter arrangements.

The conifer to the left is one of my favourites, it is Abies koreana. Now it is mature it has upright cones which look like candles .

Abies koreana

I also have Cryptomeria elegans which usually looks wonderful in winter as it turns a lovely bronze colour. This year it has been so mild that it has stayed green.

Cryptomeria elegans on the left.

Of course coloured stems are an important part of the winter garden. The red stems behind the Abies koreana belong to Acer conspicuum ‘Red Flamingo’, this wonderful tree looks good all year round. In summer it has pink, green and white variegated leaves.

Acer conspicuum ‘Pink Flamingo’

Another acer with fabulous winter stems is Acer ‘Bi Hoo” this is planted in the newest part of the winter garden which isn’t mature yet. I have planted Box along the stepping stone path which will eventually be trimmed into a round shape so they look like snowballs if we get any snow.

Acer palmatum ‘Bi Hoo’

Cornus stems are vital for the winter garden, I have them in black, golden-green, red and orange. Here is my newest cornus, it is even brighter than ‘Winter Fire’, it is called Cornus ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’.

Cornus ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’

Prunus serrula should be in every winter garden, it has such lovely shiny bark which peels off in ribbons as it matures. I grow it with the matching brown Muehlenbeckia astonii which looks like copper wire netting. Behind you can see green and red dogwoods.

Prunus serrula with Muehlenbergia astonii

I think I have reached my six which is a shame as there is so much else looking good in the winter garden and whilst we are talking about leaves I am going to have to include a sneaky number seven which is too good to miss out. I was never very good at either keeping rules or counting. This little shrub looks wonderful all year round. It is called Lophomyrtus x ralphii ‘Magic Dragon’.

Lophomyrtus ‘Magic Dragon’

We’ll be going back to the winter garden again soon, I am so pleased with it and each day there is more to look at down here. I have just checked some early photos and I realise that I started this seven years ago, it seems like yesterday. I have gradually made it bigger over the course of the last few years and I have gobbled up all the lawn down here.

Here are a few photos of how it started and developed. I started seven years ago by digging up the turf, I must have been mad. Here it is dug over and waiting for some manure to be spread.

All this lawn disappeared in 2019. No more digging though, I just covered it up with a membrane.

Now the lawn has all gone and there is a gravel path through the winter garden. Winter goes on for a long time, it is worth creating something lovely to keep you going through the murkiest months. Anyway, I seem to be digressing so much that it is a bit cheeky to call this Six on Saturday, nevertheless this is what it is, give or take a plant or two. I need some discipline or I would keep you here all day whilst I showed you every plant in my lovely winter garden. As it is some of them will have to wait for next time. I haven’t even started on the snowdrops.

With thanks to our host, The Propagator and apologies for bending the rules yet again.

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Six on Saturday. Winter Cheer.

Over Christmas I enjoy early snowdrops and adorable Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ shining out in the bleakness of the December garden. But I try not to look at the little noses of bulbs appearing everywhere and I avoid my winter garden. Once we are into January then I can revel in the delights down here and if I haven’t cheated by peeping earlier I get to enjoy the full impact of the winter treasures. I knew the witch hazels were coming out but I wanted to wait until they were at their best before I saw them. So earlier this week when the sun was shining I went down for my January treat and worked in the winter garden which has come to life and is going to look at its best for the next four months. And the witch hazels are looking wonderful.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

‘Jelena’ looks wonderful with a backdrop of Cornus ‘Winter Fire’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

I think my favourite is the well-named ‘Marmalade’.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Marmalade’

The scent of Witch Hazels is bewitching but is quite elusive, they really need to be brought indoors for the full impact. But never mind, I have two very fragrant shrubs at their best right now. The first is Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ I say it is at its best, but this lovely daphne is rarely not blooming, although winter into spring is its prime time.

Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’

Chimonanthus praecox is rather a nondescript shrub and is boring in summer. But in winter it comes alive with yellow claw-like flowers with maroon centres. The scent is exquisite and I have a couple of bushes so I always have enough to pick for fragrant posies in the house.

Chimonanthus praecox

Two winter flowering cherries are looking lovely right now. They have such dainty flowers that I like them much better than some of the blowsier spring ones. They are the white Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ and the pink form ‘Rosea’

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

I always thought that sasanqua camellias were supposed to bloom in late autumn and when I bought the lovely red ‘Yuletide’ I hoped it would bloom for Christmas. But I read that this camellia is a hybrid between Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua, it should be called Camellia x vernalis. I don’t mind what its called because this little camellia is a beauty and it brightens up a January day in my garden with its bright red flowers, yellow stamens and glossy leaves.

Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’

I have quite a few snowdrops out and I am sure some of them will make their way onto my blog this season but I have some early hellebores out and one which is looking particularly good is ‘Helleborus ‘Leona.’ So I will finish with this. This one has very large flowers and unlike so many of her sisters she faces you instead of looking down at the ground.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Leona’
Hellleborus x hybridus ‘Leona’

The winter garden has matured nicely since I established it a few years ago and there is so much else to enjoy out here; not just flowers but beautiful coloured stems as well. I shall be revisiting it very soon to show you more of my winter treasures. In the meantime I am joining The Propagator with his popular meme, Six on Saturday. In case you think I still haven’t mastered counting up to six (I know I usually slip in too many) but this week, I am counting the Witch Hazels as one and so that makes it six. I think.

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New Year’s Day Dreams.

Sometimes I dream about having manicured acres with topiary and an army of gardeners.

Trentham Gardens

I would love beautiful, original art work in the garden.

Trentham Gardens

A big, fat, stone frog perhaps.

Biddulph Grange

A Japanese tea house…

Bidddulph Grange

And a flock of pink flamingos.

I would love an ancient tower to write in.

Sissinghurst

A wild flower meadow full of native orchids would be wonderful.

Wild flowers Meadow, Great Dixter

And a beautifully maintained walled garden to supply vegetables all year round.

Walled garden, Gravetye Manor

And I would really love a rill and an arboretum of rare and ancient trees. And a long drive lined with lime trees and an infinity swimming pond. And I yearn for an orangery and a massive greenhouse.

But then I look back at the pictures of my house and garden, and I realise I wouldn’t swap them for any of these things. My funny, higgledy- piggledy house was built more than 500 years ago. Upstairs, there are sloping, oak floors and nothing anywhere is even or level. It is a quirky little house, full of character and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And the garden is my creation and my dream. Some of the trees and plants were planted before our time here and I am grateful for them, but I have redesigned every inch of the garden and made it my own.  Most of the plants have been carefully chosen by me and many of them grown from seed or cuttings.  And it gives me great joy; this is where I belong.

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Happy New Year to everybody and thank you for reading my blog. It gives me so much pleasure to share my garden with you, and I enjoy reading all about yours. I hope you will stay with me through 2022 as I have an exciting new project to share with you later in the year. I hope all your new year’s day dreams come true.  And I wish you health and happiness and continued joy in your gardens.

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Christmas Tussie -Mussies.

Every Christmas Eve, I like to count how many flowers there are in bloom in my garden. I stroll around and pick a posy for the Christmas table. On a mild, sunny day like today, this is very enjoyable. At first glance there is nothing much to see, but if you poke about there are brave spring flowers popping up too soon as well as summer malingerers, so you end up with representatives from all seasons. I don’t allow any flowers from the greenhouse for this festive vase, that would be cheating.

Here are my two little porcelain, German Heutschenreuther Christmas boots full of little treasures.

This is what I found. In the boot on the right I have a little Christmas rose, Helleborus niger with white heather, Erica carnea , Skimmia ‘Kew Green’, Skimmia rubella and blue Rosemary. White flowered Choisya ternata often blooms in winter, although its main season is May. I don’t know why it is known as Mexican Orange Blossom because it smells quite unpleasant. I have three snowdrops in bloom, ‘Santa Claus’, ‘Three Ships’ and this one ‘Farringdon’s Double’. I could only bear to pick one.

Along with these winter bloomers I have a large lilac flower of Abutilon x Suntense which is definitely out of season. The starry flowers behind the Christmas rose are the stragglers of the climber, Solanum laxum ‘Album’

In the next shot you can see a little purple viola and the unusual green flowers of Rosa viridiflora Some people hate this rose for being so unrose-like but it is very useful for arrangements and blooms for months on end.

In the other boot I have three viburnums, all blooming in their proper season. First my favourite, the dark pink: Viburnum bodnantense ‘ Deben’. Viburnum farreri is paler pink but still pretty and Viburnum tinus is only in my garden under sufferance, but as long as you remove the dingy leaves which smell of dog when wet, the flowers are quite useful for winter arrangements.

I have three yellow flowers here, the spike you can see is Genista spachiana which is still blooming bravely. On the right is the primrose- coloured flower of Coronilla glauca, both of these are fragrant. Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum blooms abundantly and is very useful for Christmas arrangements. The peachy rose you can see is Rosa ‘Perle d’Or’ which is a little beauty and perfectly formed. I also have a bud of Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’ in this boot.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ is behind the bud of ‘Bengal Beauty’. It is still looking good in the garden and I picked a vase full last week. It is the only Chrysanthemum which carries on until Christmas, I wouldn’t be without it. On the left you can see Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ which doesn’t seem to have noticed that it is winter. And the purple is a lingering penstemon The dainty little pink flowers are Prunus subhirtella autumnalis ‘Rosea’. I hadn’t even noticed that this lovely winter flowering cherry is already in bloom.

So my count this Christmas is 23, it would be 24. but I can’t bear to pick my Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ which I showed in my last post.

You might think that you have nothing in bloom in the garden but it is amazing what you find if you hunt around. Vita Sackville West delighted in the old fashioned word ‘Tussie -Mussie’ for a posy and I love it too and what better time to use it than for an old fashioned posy on Christmas Eve?

Christmas this year is pared down for many of us and we are all still under the shadow of this awful pandemic. But I do hope you all have a wonderful, healthy and happy Christmas with your loved ones and all my best wishes for the coming year.

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Winter Solstice

It’s always a relief to know that even as the days get colder they won’t get any darker and we will gradually get a bit more afternoon back. This is a dreary time for gardeners when everything looks dank and decaying in the garden and we need a bit of cheering up. And for all of us it is going to be difficult to negotiate Christmas, as once again the pandemic rages. Like many other people, we have had to cancel Christmas as The Pianist has Covid. But we are lucky, because thanks to the double vaccination plus the booster, he only has it mildly. Conspiracy theorists may believe that he has had micro chips implanted by Bill Gates and his DNA has been interfered with. I haven’t checked out all the lunatic theories, so for all I know he will probably be expected to turn into a giant lizard in three months. But we believe in science and we are very grateful for the vaccine.

In the dining room, I have decorated the Christmas tree and made a table arrangement and every day I sit in solitary splendour eating my dinner, which horror of horrors I have to cook, because as well as being a Pianist he is also our chef and normally cooks all our meals. And they are always delicious. He is now confined to the library during the day and gets his meals on trays . It does feel odd keeping him in the other end of the house and spending days apart, but so far I haven’t caught it so I suppose it is worth it.

But outside, I do have something to cheer me up. I thought I had lost my little Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ because they are very susceptible to Narcissus fly and the shoots were hidden by leaves. But here they are in all the glory bringing little dabs of sunshine into the garden and into my heart. They can usually be relied upon to bloom for Christmas and they haven’t let me down this year. These little daffodils are difficult to find and always expensive. But they are worth every penny. I have written about their history before and you can read it here.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

Every year on Christmas Eve I pick as many different flowers as possible for the table and it is always interesting to find how the flower count varies from year to year. So I shall be back on Friday to share my Christmas flowers with you.

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Six on Saturday. Stormy Weather.

As storm Arwen rages bringing chaos to many area we are lucky here in Suffolk to have escaped the worst of its horrors. But still, it’s a horrible day. I nipped out between showers to take some photos.

Every autumn I look at the tan flower buds which appear so late on my Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ and think how nice it would be if I could see the white, honey-scented flowers opening. But of course hard frosts come before they get the chance. But never mind, the suede- coloured buds look good for now. Tetrapanax papyrifer comes from Taiwan. It is a very impressive plant with huge deeply lobed leaves. It looks very exotic; I grow it next to my hardy banana, Musa basjoo. Most years I wrap up the stems of the banana even though it is supposed to be reasonably hardy. But it has got far too big now so it will have to take a chance.

Tetrapabax papyrifer ‘Rex’

This week I have made a start on cutting back roses, wisteria, jasmine and clematis on the trellis round my secret garden. Here it is in spring with a white wisteria, and in summer with one of my favourite roses, ‘Phyllis Bide’.

It’s

It’s probably the wrong time of year for everything to be cut back but I have a big garden so everything has to be dealt with when I get round to it. This haircut was long overdue; I call it my secret garden but I have to be able to get into it. The bench is nearly hidden by the golden jasmine.

My strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo is covered in clusters of pretty lily-of -the valley type flowers. Anything that blooms in November is extra welcome in my garden.

Arbutus unedo

I have a very pretty broom in the garden which is supposed to be for the conservatory as it is a bit tender. But I forgot to take it in a couple of years ago so here it stays. I hope it will survive another winter as I love it. It is called Genista x spachiana and it is sometimes known as the Easter Broom, it usually flowers in late winter and spring but this year it is coming into flower in November. The flowers are deliciously scented.

It’s too miserable to linger outside so let’s go into the far unheated greenhouse. The tomatoes have been cleared away and the vine cut back. The mimosa won’t be out until February. But I keep my growing collection of cyclamen here. I grow a few varieties from seed each year, but unfortunately the labels seem to go AWOL and it is quite hard to sort them all out. But never mind their names, they all have dainty, helicopter flower and beautiful leaves. And because I have different varieties there is usually something in bloom, many of them are sweetly fragrant. I think the first is Cyclamen purpurescens

Cyclamen purpurescens?

The next is probably Cyclamen mirabile, it has very pretty leaves.

Cyclamen mirabile?

I have some with huge leaves which are very eye-catcning, so far they haven’t flowered, but they are worth growing for their beautiful leaves. They could possibly be Cyclamen africanum because I remember sowing some seeds for this variety.

As I am counting all the cyclamen as just one item, I have one left to complete my Six on Saturday. I have one or two exciting plants coming on in my heated greenhouse and I am looking forward to sharing them with you but they are not quite ready yet. So meanwhile here is my beautiful Fantasy Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’. I have to thank to Cathy at Rambling in The Garden who very kindly sent me a cutting a couple of years ago. I am very grateful. I have never grown tender chrysanthemums before and I was delighted to be introduced to the Fantasy series. I am not keen on chrysanthemums with recurved petals which look as if they have spent too much time with an old fashioned hairdresser. But these Fantasy Chrysanthemums are really quirky with their mad Catherine wheel flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’
Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’

Here in the UK, it is certainly not a day for lingering in the garden but you will find some horticultural stalwarts bravely facing storms and mayhem outside to bring you their Six on Saturday. Do go over to our host The Propagator to see.

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End of Autumn

I can’t remember a November as beautiful as this one. The leaves have hung on longer than usual and we have been living in a golden, red and russet world. And we have had plenty of blue sky to enjoy, quite unlike the usual foggy, dismal November. Now it has turned cold and the trees will soon be bare. So with thanks for Paul’s photos which are so much better than mine, this is a last glance of the glorious autumn I have been enjoying in my garden.

Cotinus is invaluable for autumn colour.

Cotinus ‘Grace’
Cotinus coggyria

Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’ always looks good in autumn.

Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’

The new part of the garden which was reclaimed a couple of years ago now has trees and shrubs which look quite mature.

I have kept a wide path along the fence to get round to the top part of the garden. It has a carpet of gold at the moment.

But this part of the garden really belongs to the wildlife. Mr. and Mrs. Muntjac have made themselves quite at home down here. I wish they would find somewhere else to live, they chew everything and they are particularly partial to my roses. They look at me as if to say: ‘What are you doing here?’ when I go down the garden.

Mrs. Muntjac sunning herself

We have a wild life camera and it is amazing what a very busy highway this is at night with deer, badgers and foxes making nightly visits.

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Six on Saturday. 20.11.21.

We have had a beautiful, extended autumn here with hardly any frost and the wonderful colours hanging on for weeks. Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’ in the background to the right is living up to its name, but the liquidamber has barely started its annual bonfire of colours.

So I will be seasonal and start my six with some bright berries. The brightest is of course, Callicarpa bodinieri with its profusion of long lasting, shiny amethyst- coloured berries.

Callicarpa bodinieri

Callicarpa is a bit boring when it is not bearing its astonishing berries, but my next berry bush, Clerodendron trichotomum var. Fargesii has fragrant starry flowers in summer. This shrub comes from China and I am not sure if I like the strong scent of the flowers, but I love its jolly turquoise blue berries which are revealed when the scarlet calyces split open. Actually, to be pedantic, I think we should call these berries drupes. But whatever they are called, they are very eye-catching.

Clerodendron trichotomum var. Fargesii

I have already given my Euonymus hamiltonianus ‘Miss Pinkie’ an airing on this blog but she is still looking very pretty in pink, specially now the leaves have fallen off. She looks lovely against the silvery leaves of Cistus creticus which started its life here as a cutting; an illegal immigrant from Crete. As ‘Miss Pinkie’ was born from a found berry, I should call this corner of the garden ‘Crook’s Corner’ .

Euonymus hamiltonianus ‘Miss Pinkie’

As I have several other November beauties to share today I shall bend the rules a bit and put all three berries into number one. Frost is threatened for next week so perhaps we should celebrate some hangers on from summer. Salvias are still going strong all round the garden and there are plenty of roses. Farrer called roses that hang on into winter ‘withered moths‘ but nobody could call the wonderful China roses that are barely out of bloom ‘withered moths’ . I think flights of butterflies would be more appropriate. I have two China roses, both of them with beautiful single flowers. It is difficult to choose a favourite, but the superb ‘Bengal Beauty’ has masses of red flowers which right now look lovely in front of the fiery autumn colours of Cotinus coggyria. Unfortunately, today is a dull day so that it doesn’t shine as it did yesterday.

Rosa x odorata ‘Bengal Beauty”
Rosa x odorata ‘Bengal Beauty’

For some reason that I don’t understand, roses that I always knew as Rosa chinensis now seem to be known as Rosa x odorata so I must have missed something. The next one is called ‘Mutabilis’ which is a good name as the colour of the flowers range from honey-yellow to apricot to pink.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’

I grow several alstroemerias and most of them are long gone. But my favourite seems to pump out flowers until the first frost. It is called Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’; it has dark foliage and flowers which are lovely sunset colours. This makes an excellent cut flower, so next year I shall get some more, a bed of them would be lovely.

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’

November is a bit niggardly when it comes to flowering shrubs, but you can always depend on the yellow racemes of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. I love the shrub for its architectural, shiny foliage and abundance of fragrant flowers which lighten up the gloomiest day. It needs to have a haircut in the spring after flowering to keep it compact, otherwise it can get a bit leggy.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

For my last two plants I am going into the greenhouse. People are always surprised to see snowdrops in the autumn, but there are several which bloom in October and December and they are always welcome. My October one, Galanthus reginae-olgae has been and gone and my November-blooming Galanthus ‘Barnes’ was looking lovely a few days ago with nice plump flowers but it has been eaten by some horrible gastropod. But in the greenhouse I have a pot of dainty Galanthus peshmenii looking lovely. This snowdrop comes from the Aegean and our winters are probably too wet for it to survive outside.

Galanthus peshmenii

Also still going strong in the greenhouse, I have the climbing Mimulus aurantiacus I think this plant comes from California, it blooms for months on end and I love its little monkey faces. It has sticky leaves and used to be called Mimulus glutinosus. Trying to keep up with these name changes is a full time job.

Mimulus aurantiacus

So there we have my Six on Saturday on this gloomy November day. I know there are probably nine in fact, but I never was any good at counting. Do go over to the Propagator who hosts Six on Saturday and you will find plenty of keen gardeners who have plenty to show us even though our gardens are winding down for the winter.

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In a Vase on Monday. Mum’s the Word.

November seems more like October this year with the glorious autumn colours carrying on well into what is usually a dismal month. I always used to dislike this gloomy time of the year in the garden, but that was before I discovered hardy chrysanthemums. They start blooming in September but I seek out the later-flowering ones which start in October and carry on into November. They light up the garden in rainbow colours, but they are also long lasting in a vase. I still have dahlias in bloom but most years I rely on chrysanthemums for vibrant late colour.

I set them off with a few plumes of various grasses. This rare Chrysanthemum ‘Buxton Ruby’ is the darkest one I have. It has sprays of frilly little flowers with a yellow daisy centre.

Chrysanthemum ‘Buxton Ruby’

Autumn colours are here with the apricots, orange and yellows. Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’ is rather rare. It is fully double with masses of small apricot flowers. It makes quite a compact plant .

Chrysanthemum Picasso’
Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

As well as oranges and bronzes I have quite a few yellow chrysanthemums, the one I used here is Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Lemon’. It is still going strong although the asters in the photo which I took a few weeks ago are over now. So the clump no longer looks like a fried egg, sunny side up.

Chrysanthemum Cottage Lemon’
Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Lemon’ Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

The vibrant bronze one in the centre is perhaps my favourite chrysanthemum of all. It is the peerless Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ which has double flowers with golden lights on the backs of the petals. It lasts late into the year and I sometimes pick it on Christmas Day.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

I have popped a few pinks in the vase; I probably wouldn’t mix these colours in summer but at this time of the year I am happy to have a kaleidoscope of clashing colours. One of my favourite pinks has quilled pink flowers and was discovered in a garden here in Suffolk. It is called ‘Mavis Smith’ and makes very vigourous plant.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’

I have just one white chrysanthemum and it has lovely raggy white double flowers. It is called ‘Edelweiss’. It really lights up the vase.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

For the dining table I made a little arrangement in a little Danish vase which I am rather fond of .

I used some sprigs of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ which always blooms in November and various salvias which are still lingering

Chrysanthemum ‘Marion’ has a lovely, semi-double coppery-orange flower with a yellow ring round the centre

The pink double one in the above photo is a Jaapanese chrysanthemum called ‘Kei Kyo’. It looks lovely growing with blue Salvia uliginosa annd the red butterfy flowers of the China Rose ‘Bengal Beauty’ which is in bloom for months on end.

If I still haven’t persuaded you to try growing chrysanthemums to fill up your October and November vases, then here are a few more.

Many thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for encouraging us to go out on a gloomy day looking for flowers to put In a Vase on Monday.

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