Six on Saturday. December Delights.

I think I have already said in this blog that I think it is important to have something to look forward to each month in the garden. Something that makes your heart beat faster and that you anticipate with delight. When I mentioned this to my friend Anne, she said, ‘Well, what about December?’ She is quite right, December is a tricky one. Yesterday we woke up to this.

You might wonder what could be looking good after this? Well, there are blooms still out there and in particular my much anticipated little special Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’. This little rarity is usually my Christmas treat and I watch anxiously every day to see if the buds will open in time. Some years it just misses, but when the flowers do open they last for weeks and are quite undeterred by bad weather. Yes, I do grow it outside. This year it broke all records by opening up its buds on 28th November.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

This is a diminutive little daffodil, but perfectly formed. It is tricky too. For some reason it is particularly susceptible to narcissus fly and over the years I have lost quite a few clumps which appeared to be flourishing one year and then disappeared without trace. It is difficult to get hold off and if you do track it down it is always expensive. I wrote here about its history and how it was found in the Pyrenees by a friend of Cedric Morris. He ripped up the whole clump and nobody seemed to be appalled by the vandalism. In those days you could still wander the planet helping yourself to the native flora.

Jasminum nudiflorum, winter jasmine doesn’t set the pulse racing and I don’t appreciate it as I should. After all, it flowers prolifically and covers itself in bloom But it has no scent and a jasmine should smell wonderful. And it is ubiquitous and roots wherever it touches the ground. Is it perhaps the plant snob in me that makes me rather contemptuous of it? Perhaps if it was rare I would be overwhelmed by a cascade of sunshine yellow in December. It grows on the south-facing front of my house, not because I planted it in such a privileged position, but my predecessor did and I have been too idle to dig it out. Perhaps I will let it stay. Exuberance such as this is rare in the December garden.

Jasminum nudiflorum

Again in yellow, blooming with happy abandon I have mahonias all round the garden. The previous owner must have been inordinately fond of them. I have dug some up but they are fiendishly hard to get rid of and I do love them when they start blooming in November and filling the garden with the scent of lily of the valley. The most fragrant mahonia is Mahonia japonica which blooms in early spring here. The ones in bloom now are labelled ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’. I cannot see any difference at all between the two. I quite like the spiky, evergreen foliage even when they are not in bloom they add structure to the garden. To make them bushy they do need to be cut down after flowering to just above a knobbly bud. If you don’t cut them down you get tall, spindly bushes like these. Look how leggy they are.

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

The next one is cut down each year; it is bushy and its knobbly legs are decently covered.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

The flowers are held in erect racemes .

Mahonia x mediaCharity’

But maybe all this yellow is a bit too unrefined for your taste. I have several friends who say they won’t have yellow in the garden. I think they are missing out on a lot of beauties. But nobody could find the delicate blossoms of the winter-flowering cherry Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ vulgar. I have the pink version too but this one blooms much earlier.

Prunus x subhirttella ‘Autumnalis’

This tree will bloom sporadically right through the winter into early spring. If I only had room for one cherry tree this would be it.

I was astonished to see chunky, cinnamon brown buds on my Tetrapanax papyrifer Rexthis year. It has never bloomed before and I don’t suppose it will bloom now that winter has set in.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

But still the buds are very eye- catching and they survived yesterday’s snow.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

I started with a special treasure and I will finish with another. It is my autumn- flowering snowdrop Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’. This is not blooming early or out of season, it starts flowering every year in November and carries on in December. It is always a lovely moment when the first snowdrops of the season come into bloom. In my garden they start off in October with Galanthus Reginae-olgae and then on Armistice day there is Galanthus ‘Remember, Remember’. I am ashamed to say that even with a name like that I forgot to check ‘Remember, Remember’ and I missed the best of it. But never mind, I am not going to miss ‘Barnes’ and I go down the garden to gloat over it every day.

Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’

So there we have it, six plants to keep me enjoying the December garden. I hope you enjoy them too. Do go over to the Propagator to find the many and varied things horticultural that the multitude of devotees of ‘Six on Saturday’ are finding to enjoy. now it is December.

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52 Responses to Six on Saturday. December Delights.

  1. bcparkison says:

    How can someone not like yellow?

  2. Jim Stephens says:

    Jimi Blake started his online talk the other day with the quote, allegedly from Picasso, that taste is the enemy of creativity. People who don’t like yellow in the garden are convinced they have good taste. Perhaps they do.

    • Chloris says:

      I suppose Picasso meant that what we call good taste is just the aesthetic standard that society agrees upon. It varies culturally and geographically. Great to be able to think out of the box and see plants with new eyes. I think we would be bowled over by old clichéd plants such as winter jasmine, laburnum, forsythia and flowering currant if we had never seen them before and they hadn’t been overused and become despised.

  3. bittster says:

    I’d be quite happy to see all that yellow in my brown garden!
    Funny how the winter jasmine is always admired by most yet loved by few. It’s such a nice winter bloomer, yet gardeners so frequently just give it a ‘meh’ when asked about it.
    Of course I’m envious for the Mahonia and Tetrapanax. Both would be annuals here although I wouldn’t think twice about bringing them in and out of the garage all winter if I thought they had a chance of surviving that way. Most likely I’d get the to March and then let them dry out just a bit too far.

  4. Good for you having so many flowers in December! I think I have a couple of dandelions in bloom…..

    • Chloris says:

      I do seek out winter blooming plants, after all winter goes on for months. We are lucky with the climate here, periods of hard frost and snow rarely last too long.

  5. I love yellow flowers but not yellow leaves … a bit strange now I come to think of it. These are wonderful pictures and an absolute delight to see.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you. I suppose yellow leaves can look chlorotic and diseased. Maybe if you called it golden foliage you could like it better. I don’t like its overuse but a bit of yellow here and there can brighten up the garden.

  6. fredgardener says:

    Superb mahonia flowers!
    Regarding tetrapanax, this is also the first year that I see flower spikes. Mine are a bit ahead of yours and luckily no snow so far. I have read that the plant is hardy to -4°C (for leaves and flowers), -10° or even -12° C (for the roots). Last year I only had a very small flower spike which was hit by frost. Fingers crossed for ours …

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, the mahonia flowers are pretty and on a sunny day the bees love them.Strange that our tetrapanaxes have decided to bloom this year. Does yours have pups? Mine appear everywhere. So far my leaves are hanging on but they all came off last year.

      • fredgardener says:

        The leaves are still there and last year I only had 1 or 2 at this time of the year. A weird mild year.
        No I don’t have pups yet, ( but I have a few that have appeared on my cordyline trunks…)

  7. Colour and how people respond to it is so dependent on light (I mentioned it in my Six). I love the yellows of early spring as the light gets stronger but is still a little soft; I love yellow in combination with mellow oranges and lime green. And yellow can definitely inject energy into a dull December day! Like your Mahonias! But in my garden I inherited a Forsythia planted bang next to a red camellia, both flowered at the same time and I had to avert my eyes each time I looked that way! The camellia came out. I sometimes wonder if the problem with winter jasmine is the lack of softening foliage? I have been given one, so let’s see if it ever makes it on my SOS list.

    • Chloris says:

      Yellow is the colour of spring for me. And yes, how beautiful with orange and lime green. I find forsythia can be a bit brash but I keep it as it is wonderful for picking armfuls in bud.

  8. Anna says:

    Now that looks rather cold Chloris! Glad that it hasn’t ventured to this neck of the woods. Oh Cedric is such a beauty. I’m so glad that I invested in three bulbs and that they are rewarding me coming into flower shortly before yours and finally showing evidence of multiplying. I’m weeping the loss of our mature winter flowering cherry this autumn 😢 It has been removed but will be replaced soon although going for a year without it will be a testing time.

    • Chloris says:

      Today was better thank goodness, yes frost and ice was a nasty shock. I saw your Cedric on your blog, isn’t he a delight? Sad to hear about your cherry, I feel your pain. My Japanese cherry, ‘Beni-chi-dori’ is dead and I don’t know how to face February without it.

  9. Paddy Tobin says:

    Oh, drool, drool, drool with envy! Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ is one of those very, very special daffodils. As many a gardener may say, I had it and lost it. It is one I must go for again.

  10. You’ve shown several of my favorites from my former garden..I do miss the Autumnalis Cherry and the Mahonias..and Narcissus but, frozen precipitation, no..Happy December, Liz..

  11. Yellow is a harbinger of spring! Especially those first crocus blooms poking up through brown bracken on a misty morning. And sunflowers for summer and yellow leaves for fall. Who can neglect daffodils? Of course, I love the pink/purple/blue/white theme in my English borders here.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, yellow daffodils make me feel that spring can’t be too far away. And cycling in France through fields of yellow sunflowers is an unforgettable experience.

  12. Kris P says:

    I love yellow flowers and would like to have more of them in my own garden. My own Mahonia ‘Charity’ is blooming now but the blooms aren’t abundant. It’s become a bit lanky so perhaps I’ll follow your lead and cut mine down to the ground at the end of its season. I’m envious of your Tetrapanax. A friend in the Pacific Northwest sent me a seedling years ago but it didn’t survive long here.

    • Chloris says:

      Oh no, don’t cut the mahonia right to the ground Kris. Cut above the knobbly buds so it will branch out. Is it too dry for tetrapanax? What a shame, the leaves are so impressive.

  13. janesmudgeegarden says:

    As a person who never experiences snow, I find your first photo entrancing!

  14. Heyjude says:

    Always a delight to visit your garden Chloris. I wish my winter jasmine would flower. Haven’t seen a single one since moving it to Cornwall. Maybe it needs colder weather than we get here.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jude. Winter jasmine starts blooming before the frosts here so I don’t know if it needs cold. I think it needs a sunny spot to flower well though.

      • Heyjude says:

        Ah, well that might explain it then as it was north facing but I have moved it this year to a sunnier spot. I’ll have to check on it.

  15. I rather like the look of the wild, spindly mahonias. They look more prehistoric and atmospheric, but the pruned one is spectacular! Well done with your tetrapanax. I’ve seen them loaded with flowers on the Kent coast, but it is good to know that they might do reasonably here too. It looks like you had more snow than us.

  16. tonytomeo says:

    That jasmine grows on an embankment of Highway 17 in Campbell, near San Jose. It seems like an odd choice to me. In this region, there are so many other species that would be more visually appealing from a distance, and not need to be irrigated through summer.

  17. Annette says:

    Oh look at your Tetrapanax! I hope you’ll get to see the flowers still as they’re not open yet and severe frost will put an end to the show. I like Jasminum nudiflorum and Mahonia, less of a plant snob maybe 😉 . I’ve got M. japonica and I’m tempted to get Charity, quite like them when they show their knobbly knees. They look lovely when underplanted too.

    • Chloris says:

      I though those were the flowers until I looked it up and found that they are just the buds. I don’t think they will open with this frosty weather but never mind, they look nice as they are in their brown suede jackets.
      Mahonia japonica is certainly much more fragrant than ‘Charity’ but it is lovely to have the flowers starting in dull November so it is worth getting ‘Charity’ too.

  18. snowbird says:

    Like your reader I too have a few dandelions! Snow! Not a flake here just more of the wet stuff. Bless Cedric Morris, what a trouper. I rather like your leggy Mahonia, it looks elegant to me. Oh, thst delightful little

    • Chloris says:

      No snow! What about freezing fog? We’ve had plenty of that too. Bone-chilling cold. Cedric Morris is a trouper, but I think I am too, grubbing out there in such appalling weather. Still, it could have been worse, I could have been making candles.

      • So, what’s wrong with making candles? (chuckle) I’ll be piercing a couple of oranges for inserting whole cloves for a bowl on the kitchen table. Bone-chilling cold here, too, but my gardens look at least pleasing in their browns and, well, browns. It’s the shapes and forms now, and once snow covers all that it’ll be a winter delight for me to look at out my library windows.

      • Chloris says:

        There’s nothing wrong with candles but if you look at Dina’s blog: you will see that Dina’s attempt at candle-making ended in chaos. Very funny though.

  19. I would be thrilled to have blooms in December! For me, the phrase would be “What about February?” That’s the month when the winter simply drags on way too long in my part of the world. Mahonia blooming in the winter…very nice!

  20. Brian Skeys says:

    I like to see the Mahonia with it’s December flowers especially with the bees working it on sunny days.

  21. Cathy says:

    I am late responding to this, sorry. I am aware you know I am not the hugest fan of certain yellows, but I do try to keep an open mind, and admittedly your pruned mahonia looks a different kettle of fish altogether, but then so does your knobbly one, with space around it and looking rather like a sculpture. The jasmine is stunning in its abundance despite its ordinariness and I am definitely going to get a Cedric of my own! Love the prunus – there are buds on my Beni, which seems early

    • Chloris says:

      I always seem to be late with most of my comments, in fact I never seem to quite catch up. My horticultural tragedy of the year is the death of my fabulous ‘Beni’. I suspect from summer drought although these gorgeous trees can be short lived. I have just taken delivery of a new one, it’s a nice shaped little tree but it will be several years before it gets as splendid. Every winter garden should have one. My white one ‘Omoi-na-wama’ is going to be wonderful too. I believe there are other Japanese apricots, I wish I could track them down.

      • Cathy says:

        Oh no – Beni is no more! What a shame 🙄 – although I am sorry to hear they can be short-lived. Mine came as a half standard and has branched out nicely, although I did prune it back last year to keep it compact – definitely no room for another one here, however pretty (she says…)!

  22. Sadly, the only yellow I have in my Zone 7 garden now is from a stray dandelion, and that will be buried under 6″ of snow on Wednesday if the forecast is to be believed. A Japanese apricot has been on my wantlist this year but with the pandemic shortages/delays. I did find a dwarf cherry, Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai’, though I have had to cage it to keep it safe from rabbits. Nobody seems to sell P. mume ‘Beni-Chidori’ in the USA at the moment.

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