I can’t think of anything more depressing than putting the garden to bed for the winter and having nothing to look at until the spring. We are lucky in the UK to have a climate which enables us to have beauties to enjoy all year round. The winter garden can be a special delight full of rare treasures. I love the tracery of bare black branches against a violet sky. Evergreens come into their own and winter flowers are a not big and showy but delicate and often scented. And of course, as it is the 23rd of the month, it is the flowers we are looking at today. It is time to choose my Top Ten and as it is the darkest month of the year they are a bit thin on the ground. But come with me and let’s see what we can find.
We associate daffodils with spring but I have a precious little narcissus which often blooms on Christmas Day. It is Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ and I have told the story of it before. You can see it again here. It is quite difficult to get hold of and always very expensive. But to have a perfect little daffodil in bloom for Christmas is a very special treat. It is showing yellow and nearly open and with a bit of luck it might just make it by Wednesday.
This is one I prepared earlier; I cheated by bringing it on in the greenhouse, but you can see what a little darling it is.
My December snowdrops are in bloom. I thought I had lost little Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’ but here it is blooming bravely.
Galanthus ‘Barnes’ usually blooms in November and I thought it had gone AWOL this year but here it is blooming a bit later but looking very well alongside an early primrose.
I have had Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’ for a while and it has clumped up nicely.
To go with the snowdrops I have the first of my Cyclamen coum in bloom, soon there will be plenty more of these dear little pink helicopters all round the winter garden. I will probably be showing more next month. They have such pretty marbled leaves too.
It is fun to have a clematis in bloom each month of the year and the one which reliably blooms in December is Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’. It looks far too delicate to bloom in the middle of winter. My only complaint about this lovely clematis is that it hangs its heads a little so it doesn’t make as much immediate impact as it should.
Blossom in December is a special treat. The small white blooms of the tree Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ are delicate and charming. They bloom on bare branches and they start much earlier than those on the pink form.
Viburnum is a large family of attractive shrubs. The one most often found in winter gardens is the ubiquitous Viburnum tinus. It is useful and blooms throughout the winter no matter what the weather throws at it. Even though I pick it for winter vases I really can’t love it. I have said before that when it gets wet the foliage of this shrub smells disgusting, like wet dog or worse.
Viburnum farreri starts blooming in November is is looking beautiful now. Reginald Farrer found it growing wild in Shi-hoi in the Kansu area of China.He sent home plenty of seed and would have sent more but he quarreled with his Highness Yang Tusa, Prince of Joni who had promised to save him seed. Apparently this plant produces edible fruit in China and to spite him the Prince ate up all the fruit and threw away the seed. I love this story as I enjoy reading about Farrer’s larger- than- life personality which comes out so well in his books. He was gloriously eccentric and seems to have quarreled with many people, I would love to know what he did to upset the Prince.
A beautiful descendant of Viburnum farreri is Viburnum x bodnantense raised by Lord Aberconway at Bodnant. It has much darker and larger clusters of flowers but I think the habit is a bit rigid. I like the more rambling Viburnum farreri because it looks more natural.
I have Christmas rose, Helleborus niger out in the garden but I think they are better in pots really. The flowers always seemed to get spoilt in the ground.
I have a lovely apple green Corsican hellebore, Helleborous argutifolius out in the urn by my door.
I always look forward to my Witch Hazels coming into bloom. This year the first one into flower is the lovely Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’. I love those red spidery flowers.
I hope it’s not cheating to pop into the greenhouse for my next bloom. I daren’t risk it outside. It is Grevillea rosmarinifolia. I like its little pink claws and of course anything in bloom in December is welcome. I think this needs an acid soil and it may be hardy in Devon and Cornwall but I have never seen it outside round here.
And now for a rose. I do try to choose seasonal flowers for my top ten blooms and roses are certainly not seasonal now although there are always a few hanging on. But heavens, we must take what blooms we can find in December. I have written before how Reginald Farrer despised winter roses, calling them ‘withered moths‘. But I have a rose in bloom which doesn’t look anything like a withered moth. You may not like it, many people don’t; it is a strange looking rose but I grow it because I like it in vases. It is the green rose, Rosa viridiflora and this one is destined for my Christmas vase.
And talking about Christmas I hope you will all have a wonderful one, full of love and joy and beautiful December flowers. If you have any special blooms, please share them.