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