Winter Solstice Blooms.

Tis the years’s midnight’ as John Donne said in his  not very cheery poem ‘A Nocturnal on St.Lucie’s Day.’ St.Lucie’s Day  falls on the 13th December which before the Gregorian calendar reform was the winter solstice. This year the winter solstice falls on the 21 December, so today is the first official day of winter.

‘The sun is spent and now his flasks

Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

The world’s whole  sap is sunk.

The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk.

Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk.

Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh

Compared with me who am their epitaph.’

OK, the shortest day can be depressing, specially for a gardener,  but I think John Donne should pull himself together, it’s not that bad. There are a few blooms to cheer us.

The winter jasmine provides  a wall of sunshine and is great for picking.

Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum

The winter flowering mahonias are gorgeous. The blue tits like to peck their buds but that’s fine, I like to watch their antics.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Near this mahonia there is a variegated laurel and a Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n’ Gold’. I would never have planted them, they are not my favourite shrubs,  but at this time of the year they are a welcome sight and brighten up this corner, specially with the Garrya elliptica behind, with its jade green tassels.
I pruned the Mahonia x media ‘Charity’  and so it is nice and bushy. If left unpruned, they can be very gawky with their flowers way too high to enjoy.

I have several bushes of Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, I didn’t get round to pruning this next one and you can see how leggy it looks. I will cut down each stem when it has finished flowering, to just above a knobbly bit . As it is, only the birds get to enjoy the flowers.

The next one has been pruned, it is lovely and bushy and I can enjoy the lovely flowers which are slightly fragrant. The flowers are more erect than the ones on M. ‘Charity’. I love the glossy, green  leaves which look good all year round. Sometimes you see mahonias with leaves which have turned red. This looks pretty, but unfortunately it is a sign of stress.

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden has witch hazels in bloom already. Mine have just a tiny bit of colour showing on their buds hinting at the delights to come. There are also plenty of buds on the chimonanthus and my daphnes, so there is plenty to look forward to. Abutilons seem to bloom on and on. This one is outside so I was  surprised to see it has flowers looking unscathed by the cold.

Abutilon megapotamicum

Abutilon megapotamicum

The incomparable Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ starts blooming in December and is full of buds so it will cheer up the darkest January days.

Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’

Kris at Latetothegardenparty blog has Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’ in her Monday vase this week. Well, that’s not amazing in Los Angeles. But here it is blooming away in my December garden.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’

At this time of the year we start to get excited about hellebores and snowdrops which will be delighting us soon.
This Helleborus niger is living up to its name of Christmas rose. The black grass is Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ which I love to grow with snowdrops and snowy white hellebores.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger

And there are Christmas snowdrops just starting to bloom. Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ has been trying to grow through a carpet of leaves, but now I have rescued it so I hope the stems will straighten out.

Galanthus 'Three Ships'

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’

Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’ shows no signs of blooming in time for Christmas, but you can always rely on Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ to be nice and early. In fact it is the first double snowdrop in bloom. I know it is still only a bud and totally underwhelming unless you are one of those strange people whose heart beats faster at the sight of a snowdrop in December.

Galanthus 'Faringdon Double'

Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’

I don’t think my little Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ is going to open in time for Christmas although it often does. Still it won’t be long.

Narcissus minor 'Cedric Morris'

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

It is nice to think that after today the days will start to get longer again and we can start to dream about spring. In the meantime I thought I would try and get Hector in a Christmassy mood. But it’s not working. He’s saving himself for the big day.
I shan’ t say Happy Christmas today because in a few days it will be Christmas Eve. Traditionally this is a time to sit round the fire with a glass of something nice and tell stories. And my Christmas Eve post is a story. See you then.

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42 Responses to Winter Solstice Blooms.

  1. Brian Skeys says:

    Hector looks suitable uninterested. I love the winter solstice, warming fires, food and drink, but mainly because from now on things can only get better.

  2. Cathy says:

    I’m sure Hector will be more in the mood by the weekend, but perhaps he is just not keen on those reindeer ears?! John Donne clearly didn’t have such a pretty garden as yours Chloris. The white hellebores next to the black grass are most effective. Look forward to your Christmas Eve story!

    • Chloris says:

      You are right about Hector, the reindeer-look is a little undignified for a dog of his pedigree. Those lovely white hellebores have been chewed by slugs and look awful now. I suppose we need some really cold weather to get rid of them.

  3. Lovely – a reminder to have more of these solstice joys in my garden – on next year’s list

    • Chloris says:

      It is important to have some blooms to carry you through the winter or the garden becomes a bit monochrome and depressing. Mahonia brings a splash of sunshine into the gloomiest day.

  4. mamadeyoung2012 says:

    Yes we’ll my floral joy must come from the posts of others…An ice storm encapsulated my beautiful witch hazel blossoms, then yesterday a killingly hard frost put the kabosh on all else! Not to complain though because!! After today our days will be getting longer! And that means we are one day closer to spring!!

    • Chloris says:

      I hope your witch hazel blooms have survived their freezing. They are pretty hardy even though they look quite fragile. Mine are just coming out now.

  5. mamadeyoung2012 says:

    Love the pics!

  6. Oh, poor down hearted John Donne – he just needed a tour of the sunny yellow winter blooms in your garden and a few minutes chilling with Hector. Good tips re pruning mahonia, thank you, I now know why the leaves of my leggy specimen is blushing (with shame).

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, poor John Donne was a bit down in the mouth. It is a great poem though and does sum up midwinter gloom. Mahonia does bring a bit of winter sunshine to the garden and I like its architectural foliage all year round.

  7. Kris P says:

    I always think of the solstice as the point when daylight turns and begins its march in the opposite direction. Your photos show the brightness to be found even in our darkest days (and serve as notice that I must keep my new Mahonia properly pruned). As to Hector, he’s a very tolerant fellow!

    • Chloris says:

      We need a bit of brightness in the garden right now in gloomy January. That is why galanthophiles develop their peculiar winter obsession. There isn’ t much else to get excited about.

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Your Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ is delightful. I have luck only with Jackmanii, the first clematis I ever planted. My others seem to languish, but I’d love a December one. Hope Hector got a reward for participating.

  9. I don’t know, I think Hector looks very festive. Those Hellebore niger flowers are exceptionally nice – at least compared to mine – both the pure white color and the way they face upward. Very nice Clematis also. No outdoor flowers here in December. I remember reading something about winter flowers by an English author from the 1920s or thereabouts – can’t remember his name.

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Your mahonia is spectacular and Hector is so cute! 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      The mahonias are wonderful, someone has planted them all over the garden. Yes, Hector is a cutie pie, he is my daughter’ s dog and comes here every Tuesday.

  11. Cathy says:

    At least your single bud on Faringdon Double is still intact – and good to your Three Shrips getting ready to sail in at he appropriate time! Not sure if my own 3S is going to sail anywhere this year… Good to see your winter bloomers and the late stragglers too – and I like Donne’s description of the winter solstice as ‘the year’s midnight’. Look forward to your Christmas Eve story – I shall be there with my glass of something nice…

    • Chloris says:

      Faringdon Double is looking wonderful now and full of blooms. Three Ships is looking great too. I am a bit disappointed by the non- appearance of Santa Claus. The most exciting thing in the garden right now, apart from snowdrops is Freckles. I know you are a fan too, what a beauty it is.

      • Cathy says:

        I updated the ticks on my snowdrop list this morning and there are still about a dozen (of those that survived till last year) that haven’t so much as poked a tiny single shoot above ground. I am resisting scuffing around too much though and hopefully more will emerge in time. Mixed emotions at this time of year as far as snowdrops are concerned 😦 Only Rev Hailstone and Mrs Mac in bloom here and neither have actually opened yet… Hey ho

  12. Bodger says:

    Tell Hector not to let the side down with a glum face, when your garden is full of cheer no matter what the season. The Mahonias are spectacular and I like the multi layered effect that you have achieved with the different heights. Merry Xmas Chloris, hoping that the New Year brings you continuing success in your fabulous garden.

    • Chloris says:

      I think Hector thought I was making a fool of him, a dog has his dignity. All the mahonias in this garden do cheer up the gloomiest days. But now the snowdrops are getting going so there is plenty to get down on your hands and knees and obsess about.
      A wonderful 2017 to you too, I am looking forward to being entertained by your horticultural adventures this year and particularly your wonderfully eccentric and idiosyncratic descriptions.

  13. I used to tell clients only a true gardener appreciates Mahonias, yours are just gorgeous! A bit devilish to prune, though. When I lived further north, mine never bloomed in December, usually February. What an amazing Clematis, I would not have considered the possibility of a flower in December.
    I have tried for years to put reindeer antlers on my greyhounds, to no avail. I think Hector deserves a treat by the fire! Happy Solstice passing!

    • Chloris says:

      I love mahonias for their evergreen architectural foliage and the lovely flowers. ‘Charity’ starts blooming in November, ‘Winter Sun’ is gorgeous in December. My favourite is the early spring flowering Mahonia japonica which smells divine. I have a couple of winter flowering clematis but ‘ Freckles’ is by far the best. It is always full of bloom.

  14. Oh my goodness–your Mahonia plants are so lush and healthy! That is one plant I didn’t know much about until recently. You have so many amazing blooms. Everything is dead and dormant in my garden. Only a few indoor blooms, which is nice. I’ll look forward to your Christmas story. 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I have several mahonias and they really light up the winter garden. First Mahonia ‘ Charity’ starts in November, then ‘Winter Sun’ and in early spring there will be the gloriously fragrant Mahonia japonica.

  15. Annette says:

    beautiful poem and pictures of your winter gems – makes winter a lot more pleasant if one has such treasures to look at. have a merry christmas, Liz, and thanks for your inspirational blog posts throughout the year xx

  16. Hoe hoe grow says:

    That is my favourer poem of all, I adore it, and read it every year , around 13th December. It really sums up the bleak midwinter for me. However, your garden looks anything but bleak! So many lovely things to feast the eyes upon. Is your Abutilon Megapotamicum outside ? I have some outside and they have coped with around minus two, but have not dared to chance Megapotamicum.

    • Chloris says:

      The poem really does sum up this gloomy time of year doesn’t​ t it? The Abutilon megapotamicum has survived outside for about 4 years now but it does have the protection of a wall.

  17. snowbird says:

    Hector has me smiling! It’s so wonderful to think the days are going to gradually get longer now…and marvelous to see freckles and Helleborus niger. Looking forward to your Christmas eve story…I shall make sure I’m settled with a glass of something nice in front of the fire when I read

    • Chloris says:

      And your dogs all joined in with the Christmas spirit too. The days are getting a bit longer now, it won’ t be long and and the rest of the hellebores will be out.

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  19. bittster says:

    The clematis is beautiful and I wish mahonia were hardy enough for this cold northern garden.
    I found the snowdrop photos to be fascinating, and it was only after your comment that I realized not everyone would share this impression. People can be strange, but I’m glad to see all the buds coming!

    • Chloris says:

      Faringdon Double, Three Ships and Mrs Macnamara are all looking wonderful right now. What would we do without snowdrops at the gloomiest time of the year? I don’ t know what gardeners do in winter if they don’ t get snowdrops.

  20. Mona lisa says:

    I don’t recognise, I think Hector looks very festive. those Hellebore niger flora are fairly high-quality…

  21. You have a gift for words I will give you that. If only I had the same gift

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