Dismal Days.

‘The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked woods and meadows brown and sear.’

William Cullen Bryant.

I have had a blogging break recently, I have not been away or ill, but I dislike this time of the year in the garden, where all is soggy and dark and dank. We have had frost to blacken the dahlias, endless rain and three storms, Abigail, Barney and Clodagh. We now give them names as they do in the States. This makes them sound rather cosy, as if they were lovable, but naughty children throwing tantrums. In fact they howl round the house, whistling constantly down the chimney and  wreaking havoc with the fencing and the climbing roses.  Not much keeps me in the house, but constant wind and days that don’t get properly light do. On a recent post, Flighty told us that this November has been the dullest for 60 years.

Friends of wildlife leave seedheads for the birds and small creatures to enjoy in winter. We all hope that these seedheads will be transformed into things of beauty when they are rimed with hoar-frost. This actually  happens here, about once every three years, for  one day. Meanwhile they look dismal and neglected.

DSC_1037My tree Dahlia which had escaped from the greenhouse and was Icarus-like soaring skywards, has been burnt and shriveled by frost, rather than the sun.

But yesterday was sunny and I decided to look for things to be cheerful about.   Inside,  I always have loads of Phalaeonopsis orchids in bloom, (seven at the moment and four in bud.) They are cheap as chips, they bloom for weeks and after a  short rest,  off they go again. They last for years. But more exciting, is the fat bud on my slipper orchid, Paphiopedelum.










Talking about buds, they are swelling, plump and pink, on the lovely Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill,’ on Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis rosea’ and the peerless Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori.’

We have some jolly, cheerful seasonal berries on the holly and also the Cotoneaster horizontalis and the Skimmia.

I don’t like looking at the ‘withered moths’ (as Farrer called them) of last summer’ s flowers. But hydrangeas take on lovely antique shades as they mature.
And it is difficult to remain gloomy when this cheery Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica looks so fresh and sunny.

Meconopsis cambrica

Meconopsis cambrica

The Abutilon  megapotamicum growing against the wall is still blooming away, despite the weather, with her yellow petticoats showing flirtatiously from under her red skirts.

Abutilon megapotamicum

Abutilon megapotamicum

By the  kitchen door, the hardy Cineraria  Pericallis senetti ,which I bought three years ago, is blooming yet again in its pot, and has been doing so for weeks. I never expected it to be frost hardy, last so long and give so much pleasure.

Pericallis senetti

Pericallis senetti

Spring flowers are showing everywhere; the early flowering hellebore I showed a while ago is now taking on pinkish shades as it matures.

Helleborus niger


In the winter garden, slugs have nibbled Helleborus niger and they are not looking as pristine as they should. Still I am glad to see them.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger

Those lovely little harbingers of spring; primroses are out.

Primula veris

Primula veris

I showed you my autumn- flowering snowdrop Galanthus ‘Barnes’ last month. It is still going strong. Every year somebody writes to the newspapers , very excitedly to say that they have seen snowdrops in bloom in November or December. Last week there was another of these letters in The Guardian marvelling about the topsy-turvy seasons. Some snowdrops bloom in November and ‘Barnes’ is one of them.  I suppose the staff and readers of  a metrocentric newpaper  like The Guardian, can’t be expected to  know this. Anyway, here it is still looking gorgeous.

Galanthus 'Barnes'

Galanthus ‘Barnes’

If you want a snowdrop in bloom for Christmas Day, the aptly named ‘Three Ships’ is the one to go for. In fact it is already flowering. The first flower got attacked by slugs and so it is looking a bit tattered.

Gaalanthus 'Three Ships'

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’

I have saved my most exciting flower until the last. Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ is usually in bloom for Christmas. This year the first flowers of this diminutive treasure have opened early. If that’s not a sight to rejoice a gardener’s heart, I don’t know what is.

Narcissus minor 'Cedric Morris'

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

Recently, Allison at Frogend Dweller Blog did a beautiful post about silhouettes. She is right, of course, admiring the silhouettes of the naked branches and buds is one of the joys of winter.



Even on a dismal, foggy day there are beauties to be seen in the garden such as this spider’s web wrapped round the Cryptomeria japonica like a filigree shawl.

Cryptomeria japonica

Cryptomeria japonica

When we actually do get a sunny day at this time of the year, the sunsets are stunning. This was the view from my window yesterday afternoon.
So there we are, this is not a Bloom Day post, it is a ‘Reasons to be Cheerful when the Weather is Awful and the Garden is a Soggy Mess’ post.

A friend gave me a tea cloth which I have hanging in the kitchen. It is a quotation from Cicero, who knew a thing or two.

I would add hot water, sanitation and lavatory paper, but Cicero couldn’t be expected to know about such modern day necessities. Apart from that he is quite right. And I am very lucky, I do have a large garden and a large library. I have everything I need.

So now I’ m going to see what you have all been writing about whilst  I have been feeling fed up, because it is so dismal and I haven’ t finished planting my tulips or done things like tidying up the garden and aerating the lawn. You’ d think the lawn had had enough air; after all it lives outside and it has been very windy.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Dismal Days.

  1. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Thank you for the morning humor, a great way to start my day! I agree that this time of year is fairly bleak but you’ve shown a lot of beautiful garden blessings for which we can be thankful. How many more days until spring?

    • Chloris says:

      I think November and December are so gloomy because it is so long to wait until spring. I quite like January and February because they bring their own special blooms, very often scented ones.

  2. Torrington Tina says:

    Well, that cheered up my day, lovely to see all the flowers you have in bloom. I tried to tidy some of the straggly and tatty herbaceous foliage here yesterday (making sure to leave plenty for the wildlife) and I too have not yet planted all my tulip bulbs!

  3. Chloris says:

    I am glad I am not the only one who is dilatory with the tulip planting. I got a bit disheartened because the squirrels seem to have their own ideas about tulip planting and keep digging them up. Some of them are planted elsewhere. They have decided that I am not to have any new crocuses this year. Every single one has been confiscated

  4. Brian Skeys says:

    You have some lovely cheerful pictures from the garden for this time of year Chloris.
    We have a copy of that tea towel hanging above our garden books, bookcase. The books take care of winter and the garden the rest of the year.

  5. rusty duck says:

    I do so agree. November and December are the worst months. Come the new year when the days are getting noticeably longer I feel better however cold it gets. It’s easier to kid yourself then that Spring is just around the corner. You have far more in bloom than me though, must try harder!

  6. Julie says:

    I love your post, I found it cheerful and uplifting, despite the gloomy start. Oh for a decent frost on those seed heads, with a sparkling sun to set them off, we have such a dank murky climate that I feel just as you do. The wind has blown many of mine into a jaunty angle or over completely, it would be better if all wildlife could be more organised and go single file into the neat and tidy insect hotels kindly provided. Cedric Morris is enough to warm any heart, I haven’t planted my tulips yet either nor the alliums, but I am in denial thats its December so think all will be fine. Cicero was clearly very wise too! I worked in garden today with two Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis rosea’ both in full flower, the owner does not like either of them, but earlier today they were a very good reason to be cheerful.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Julie. Your insects are well provided for with an insect hotel and a well stocked bird table. How often do we get a hoar frost to decorate seedheads? Hardly ever.
      I have seen Prunus subhirtella in full bloom in other gardens, mine seems quite late. Glad to hear you haven’ t planted your bulbs either.

  7. November was rather dire wasn’t it? The Bryant quotes sums it up wonderfully well, thank you. What a lovely description and image of the spider’s web, we haven’t seen so many strewing the hedges this year – maybe the strong winds have put them off.

  8. I always liked to think of November and December as rest periods for me and the garden – after the Winter Solstice it is all uphill until Spring.

    The naming winter storms thing just started here in the past couple of years – I think naming hurricanes is quite enough. Now they are branding storms, ugh!

    If it makes you feel any happier I am sitting outside and the biting flies are devouring me.

    • Chloris says:

      So it’ s good and bad for you. Sitting outside- wonderful. Biting flies- ugh. And then of course, you have all those tomato hornworms to deal with. We have wind and dismal, dark days. So it’ s swings and roundabouts.

  9. AnnetteM says:

    I am quite grateful that we haven’t had these storms up here, named or not – they sound awful. I know some snowdrops are very early varieties, but I was surprised to see the primroses and especially the narcissus. How lovely. I think it is great that the buds for next year start to plump up just as the summer ends – there is always that hope for the next year before the last one has really finished.

    • Chloris says:

      It is amazing how we notice all the plump buds once we have leaf fall. The bulbs are showing nice fat shoots too, but I try not to look at them until after Christmas. I work on the principle of deferred gratification and saving something to get excited about in the depths of winter.

      • AnnetteM says:

        That is a good plan though I don’t have many bulbs showing yet. I think the daffodils are usually showing by now – oh well plenty of time.

  10. Luckily you still have some flowers to look at. On the flip side, I volunteer at a botanical garden and we complain about weeding 365 days a year. There are weeds for every season here.

    • Chloris says:

      I never come to the end of my weeds either. I have an acre here to look after single handed and I never quite catch up. In winter I fool myself that this year will be different, but then I make more flower beds.

  11. gardenfancyblog says:

    Chloris, you have so much interest in your garden still — those red berries are beautiful! And I still can’t believe that bulbs will bloom for anyone anywhere as early as this. It will be three and a half months until anything even looks like it will bloom around here. But I understand, not having sunshine makes everything dreary. It’s been overcast for the past week here too, plus it gets dark so early — it looks like dusk all day. But the solstice approaches, and from then on it’s all progress. Enjoy a cozy holiday season indoors! -Beth

  12. Kris P says:

    I’m glad you got out in your garden to take a closer look about. There is almost always beauty to be found – it’s our outlooks, not nature, that needs adjusting. Southern California doesn’t have many of the gray, soggy days you complain of – and when they do occur, we rejoice because rain has become such a precious commodity – but I do experience some of the same desolation during late summer when it’s still hot enough to fry an egg, as the saying goes, there hasn’t been a drop of rain in months, and the garden withers even when we throw caution and water regulations aside and turn on the hose. Our winter days here are shorter too, if not as short as yours, but we pack so much activity into the light-filled hours that we’re happy to head inside when darkness falls. I’d tell you to pack your bags and head to California now but we’re sad here at the moment for reasons that have nothing to do with the weather or day length so a visit during happier times is recommended.

    • Chloris says:

      It must be lovely to be able to work outside in the warm all year round and not to have to worry about trying to devise little houses for your plants against frost.
      Indeed you have had reasons to be sad recently, and our thoughts are with you. But we all live in dangerous times now and nowhere is safe from violence and savagery.

  13. Gosh, I don’t think I would be moody with all those blooms still going on! I have nothing outside, after the temps dipped down to -12C/9F one night recently. Now we’re back up to mild temps, but for us in December, that means highs in the 4C/40F to 10C/50F range. Everything’s dormant until March. Love your sunset photo and the Pericallis.

  14. pbmgarden says:

    Seeing your flowers gives me courage this morning!

  15. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures, I especially like the cineraria.
    Thanks for the mention, it’s much appreciated.
    Regarding that quote I would say not quite everything…what about the tea and biscuits! xx

  16. Chloris says:

    Of course, I should have mentioned a nice fire and tea and biscuits . Or even better, a slice of cake or a warm, home made scone.

  17. Sam says:

    Gosh, your sunset is glorious. I’m totally with you on the gloom. So happy to see the sun today.

  18. when our season matches where you are right now, the end of winter. I am depressed too. Sometimes i don’t realize it until its almost over…hang in there. TAKE LOTS OF VITAMIN d. and enjoy reading and lounging about while you can!!

  19. Linda says:

    How lovely! I struggle with depression but thankfully mine is more circumstantial and not seasonal. Please take good care of yourself and you can get Vitamin D once a week from your doctor, or you can purchase it at your local pharmacy. Make sure you talk with the doctor or pharmacist beforehand to make sure you get the proper dosage. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Linda, but I’ m not really depressed, just a little glum because I like to be outside. I dislike the soggy dark winter days of November and December.

  20. You have so much color and so many flowers in your garden! 🙂 And oh my goodness — snowdrops in December?? I’m lucky to see any in February. I have now bookmarked/noted ‘Three Ships’ for the next garden not only because of the flowering time but also that is my favorite holiday song!

  21. Well, the weather may have been depressing (I especially hate wailing wind too), but your garden is a fantastic oasis filled with treasures. I am only venturing out into mine when the winds drop. I still have bulbs to plant sitting on my shelf, but I am making progress and hopefully by the end of next week they will be in. At least the ground hasn’t frozen yet. Thanks for mentioning my post by the way. I had to laugh at the bedraggled silhouettes of some of the seedheads. You are exactly right that we wait and wait for those exact sparkling conditions that transform them into glory. Meanwhile I am sure that the local wildlfe enjoy them whatever the weather, in fact I as sure there are more birds around on murky days (never seems to be enough light to take photos!).

    • Chloris says:

      And we have yet more wind now with Desmond throwing his weight about. It is always cheering to hear that I am not alone with bulbs waiting to be planted.

  22. Cathy says:

    We’ve had rather lovely weather this November and I did manage to get my tulips planting – then came to a grinding halt after falling off a chair and (I think) cracking a rib. Your pictures cheered an early December day which has been exactly as miserable as the picture you’ve painted. I, too, will be looking out for ‘Three Ships’. The Cicero quote must have warmed many of us today …

    • Chloris says:

      Oh you poor thing, but how did you manage to fall off a chair? I am always falling over things, including my own feet, but I don” t think I have ever fallen off a chair. Take care, the bulbs can wait. Put your feet up and enjoy a good book.

  23. hoehoegrow says:

    I know exactly how you feel Chloris, as I too have had a break away from blogging, mainly because there seems so little to celebrate in the garden at this dreary time of year. There is a point when the winter tips, and begins to be full of hope for spring, but we are not there yet. Time to relish the indolent pleasures of ‘indoors’ I think!

    • Chloris says:

      You are right Jane, sometime after Xmas, there seem to be nice plump bulbs showing everywhere and filling us with anticipation. They are probably there already but I try not to look until after Xmas. I like to save them up and enjoy them once the nights start getting lighter. Meanwhile, it’s books and seed catalogues and planning by a nice fire.

  24. Anna says:

    Now it’s the turn of Desmond to have a stroppy tantrum tonight 😦 Still not long to go to that shortest day Chloris and there’s light on the horizon. I don’t mind cold but its dull, wet and windy that gets me down and we’ve had a lot of that of late. Still there’s still much in your garden both in and out to bring joy to your heart. That little narcissus is a gem.

    • Chloris says:

      It is dull, wet and windy that I hate too. Desmond is a noisy fellow, but I believe it is much worse in Scotland.
      You are right that everything looks better once we have passed the winter solstice. Do you have any early snowdrops?

  25. you have some lovely blooms in your garden and that is a beautiful sunset, I am feeling better about the weather, despite the storms, it’s blowing a gale outside now but it is only 17 days to the winter solstice and the light starts to return, you are not alone with bulbs not planted I have quite a few, if not planted by the end of the year I put them into pots, I love all your red berries,
    hmm I am assuming if you have a garden and library it’s a taken that you have a home, but for me I would need to add chocolate, Frances a chocoholic,

    • Chloris says:

      I hope Desmond isn’ t giving you a bad time Frances. I believe it is worse up there than here. We have had quite enough wind lately.
      Oh yes, I should have added a house, you’ d think Cicero might have mentioned that. I do have a house, a nice old Tudor one, built in 1500.
      Chocolate is addictive, I know. Whenever I have any it takes weeks to wean myself off it.

  26. Cathy says:

    I’d say anything but dismal Chloris! How lovely to see not only snowdrops, but a Narcissus too. Not to mention a Welsh poppy! Love that photo of the cobweb. I hope your berries last longer then mine and that you have some sunny days again soon. It has been quite dismal here too but the solstice will be here soon and then its just a spring and a hop till spring! 😉 (Well, nearly….)

    • Chloris says:

      You are right we are close to the solstice now and then we can start planning and dreaming about spring. Meanwhile it would be good if the wind would stop and we could have a few more sunny days.

  27. Pauline says:

    You have so many brave little flowers, in no time at all it will be spring once more. December is the only break we have from the garden, as there are so many other jobs to be tackled. Our weather is very grey at the moment, the gales have brought most of the leaves down early, which is a blessing as the sun, when it shines, comes through the huge deciduous trees once more.

    • Chloris says:

      You are right there are advantages to every season and having a rest in December is a nice idea. The trouble is I haven’ t finished all the jobs I wanted to do. It is grey here too and now we have Desmond blowing everything around.

  28. bittster says:

    So there are still bulbs to plant, oh well. Forcing would work too.
    I’m only just now getting over my end of year disgust, it follows the dropping of the autumn leaves more than the gray and gloom. Most likely because I only see my garden on weekends unless I hook a light up to my hat.
    The new year will bring lengthening days and brisker weather which make me forget the sogginess, and then it’s tally-ho from there on!

  29. Chloris says:

    Well said, in just a few short weeks, it will be tally- ho! What an inspiring thought. And in the meantime you have all your little treasures in your garage to croon over.

  30. snowbird says:

    I loved that opening quote..how apt, especially as we now have Desmond rattling the house and trashing the garden. I am utterly, utterly sick of wind and rain.
    Oh, your poor tree Dahlia, it looks exactly how I feel. Seeing your flowers and lovely berries has cheered me up though, Cedric is a wonder… as is that spiders web. Now…I really must insist you write an article for The Guardian….they do need to know these things and you are the perfect gal to set them straight. A smashin’ post, as always!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you, Dina. It is a miserable time of the year, no getting away from it. A bit of sun would be good. But you have been keeping nice and busy as a TV celebrity. Is there a YouTube of your latest appearance?

      • snowbird says:

        When you write an article for The Guardian, I’ll let you know….lol…fair exchange! Yes??? And I aint…and never will be comfy with those god darn cameras…you saw it for yourself….grim it was….thankfully, you are the ONLY blogger friend who did!!!xxxx

  31. Christina says:

    Your post was anything but dismal Liz, a smile in every line and your garden is full of treasures to cheer you up, anyway we are nearly at the shortest day and then there is only dismal February to get through. Joking aside I do know what you mean about the light; I have been here a week and I haven’t seen the sky once just endless white. There are huge amounts of daffodils out here which was quite a shock.

    • Chloris says:

      It’ s November and December that I loathe. It is so wet and dismal and spring seems so far away. I have just got back from Northern France and it was just as dismal as it is here. I like February though. The birds sing, the afternoons are light and signs of spring are everywhere.

  32. Well, you do have quite a lot of cheerful color still around. I especially like your Primula and various red berries. How normal is it to have Snowdrops blooming in December? Here the only blooms are indoors. I am counting the hours until the winter solstice, when the days will begin to lengthen again.

    • Chloris says:

      If you could get hold of Galanthus Barnes and Three Ships, you could have snowdrops in bloom now. Not long to the Solstice and we can began to emerge from the Stygian dark December days..

  33. Now I remember you told me Galanthus ‘Barnes’ blooms in November, so I gather it blooms in December also?

  34. Annette says:

    Poor thing, I’m sorry to learn about your weather, Liz, but looking at all the little treasures in your garden I think there’s so much to cheer you up. My tree dahlia cutting rooted first and then died so I think I shall order a proper one by post next year. Weather here has been so mild and beautiful, not dull at all. The few frosty days turned the seedheads into little works of art – I guess the river below contributes to our hoar frost magic. Bon courage, the days will sonn be getting longer again.

    • Chloris says:

      The tree dahlia is an amazing plant. Even if it doesn’ t get to bloom, it is a very dramatic foliage plant.
      It is not cold here, but it is so gloomy. I bet your garden looks amazing in winter shimmering with hoar frost on a sunny day.

  35. Hey Chloris: You went and found some blooms to cheer yourself, and sent me some cheer too! That tree dahlia was a sad sight, and I can well imagine you needed some cheering up after that.

  36. Cathy says:

    Good to know that you have blooms and berries to brink a chink of joy into the grey days – that cineraria is amazing – and your sunset was stupendous! My early primroses are always nibbled but yours look so pristine. I can’t imagine life without a garden or books either and it’s interesting to read what other people wouldn’t want to live without…

    • Chloris says:

      I put coffee grounds round my primroses. It’ s funny they don’ t get nibbled in spring. At this time of the year the snowdrops, primroses and my precious Cedric Morris Narcissi get nibbled unless they have a ‘ cordon sanitaire’ of coffee grounds.

      • Cathy says:

        Nibbled by slugs you think? I assumed it was pigeons or collared doves who enjoy my primroses at this time of year. Would they not like coffee grounds either?

  37. Sarah says:

    Books and a garden are my two must haves as well. I saw your comment on Flighty’s post about sitting and reading in front of the fire and I’m excited about being able to do the same in my own little cottage next year. Hearing about you tending your acre on your own also makes me think I’ll be able to cope with a third of an acre, a full allotment and my tiny patch here without losing the plot! Lovely uplifting post Chloris, thank you.

  38. There seems to be an awful lot going on in your garden for such harsh weather. We have had lots of rain too, but all of a sudden it is warm and sunny. The forecast for today is a not very Christmasy 72 degrees F. Hope you have flown the coop and gone someplace warm.

  39. Chloris says:

    72 degrees for Xmas? Wow, I can’ t imagine it. Nowhere warm, but I have been to France for a few days. The beach at Le Touquet is bracing at this time of the year.

  40. I am a bit late and catching up….but here it has been gray and wet but warm for winter….and now a few surprise blooms happening as well. I like a bit of snow in winter here but we have not even had an inch…just a dusting. Strange season!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s