Christmas Eve Flower Count.

Each year I pick a posy of flowers on Christmas Eve and count how many different blooms I can find to cheer up the dark days of winter. This year we are all in particular need of cheer, as many of us have to cancel our Christmas plans to be with our loved ones so as not to risk killing each other. Here, on Plague Island, we are about to have the much vaunted ‘sovereignty’ as the dreaded ‘B’ word is coming to pass, but nobody wants to come here, or let us out anyway. So we are left to stew in our own sovereign juices. I imagine the rest of the world is enjoying a bit of schadenfreude right now. And by next week when fresh vegetables and fruit are hard to find, people are going to have to eat their hoarded toilet paper. And if they voted for Brexit, it serves them right.

But it is Christmas Eve and not the time for a rant and I do try and avoid all things personal and political on this blog and confine myself to horticultural matters. So here is my Christmas Eve posy. I didn’t include all the flowers in bloom because I couldn’t bring myself to pick either of my two witch hazels, ‘Orange Peel’ or ‘Diane’ and I couldn’t spare a single bloom of lovely Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ which keeps on flowering for weeks in the garden. But although they are not in the posy I shall include them in the count.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’
Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

This posy-finding ritual always reminds me of the late Tony Venison who was the oracle of our garden club. For many years Tony was the gardening editor of Country Life. I first met him many years ago when he turned up to my garden with Lady Barbirolli of all people. Tony told me years ago that his Christmas Eve treat was to pick a bunch of whatever flowers were in bloom and count them and I have done the same thing ever since. His count always exceeded mine which is not surprising as his garden was filled with such rare treasures.

There are usually quite a few roses hanging on bravely and looking a bit dishevelled, like revellers who have stayed too long at the party. This pink one is looking a bit better than most. It is fun at this time of the year to mix up the seasons, so along with the rose, I have a pure white Christmas rose, Helleborus niger. This sometimes gets a bit mud- splattered outside so maybe next year I will dig up a few for a pot in the greenhouse. I also have a couple of snowdrops; one is called Galanthus ”Farringdon’s Double’ and the other, aptly named for Christmas is Galanthus ‘Three Ships’.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ which started blooming in November is still hanging on and lightly fragrant, smelling of lily of the valley. But for wonderful, spicy fragrance my favourite just now is Chimonanthus praecox. It has little, yellow, waxy claws of deliciousness stained with red inside.

Chimonanthus praecox

It is nice to have some blue at this time of the year and all my clumps of Iris unguicularis are full of blooms. It is a good idea to pick them in bud and watch them unfurling in water.

The little white flower tucked in beside the iris is not a snowdrop it is a very early Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum. For some reason this tall snowflake always blooms before the shorter Spring one; Leucojum vernum.

Iris unguicularis

I have an even sweeter fragrance with Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ which blooms almost non-stop.

Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’

Fragrance is one of the great delights of many winter blooms and the winter- flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera standishii is delicious.

Viburnums are useful at this time of the year. I have a soft pale pink one, Viburnum farreri which starts blooming in November and the deep pink Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ which has larger flowers. The third is Viburnum tinus which has pretty flowers in winter but I don’t love it and I have grubbed up several bushes because the foliage smells disgusting when it is wet.

Still in pink and white, we have a couple of bits of winter -flowering cherry, the white Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ and the pink form ‘Rosea’.

Skimmia flowers are still in bud but the buds of Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ are a lovely dark red.

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

Most of my chrysanthemums are over now but lovely late-flowering golden, Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ still goes on.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

I also have some sprigs of winter-flowering heather, Erica carnea , some winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum and a little flower of Helleborus x hybridus in my vase. But I couldn’t bear to pick beautiful Hellebore ‘Phoebe’.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Phooebe’

I just checked last year’s count and there were only 19 blooms then so I have a few more today. And my last year’s vase which was done a little later on New Year’s Eve because we had such awful colds at Christmas, reminds me that I have forgotten to include Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ or ‘Freckles’ and I am surprised at myself for forgetting dear little Cyclamen coum. In 2018 there were 29 bloom, including quite a few summer lingerers, so it does vary from year to year.

Anyway, whatever you are doing this Christmas, whether it is counting your winter blooms or eating too many mince pies, I hope it is a good one. I wish you every happiness, and fingers crossed for a happy and above all, a healthy New Year.

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38 Responses to Christmas Eve Flower Count.

  1. Pádraig says:

    That’s a fantastic array of blooms, Chloris. No wonder it’s from the Blooming Garden! Have a lovely peaceful Christmas over there. We are all watching & waiting.

  2. veronica says:

    Lovely to be reminded of fragrances of mahonia and vibernum which I had in my Victoria Ggrove garden. I hope the new year is as fruitful as your garden ab and we have plenty of good experiences to look forward to .
    Love from Veronica

  3. What a great idea. I am from a northern climate and my hometown is under 25″ of snow. I am always thrilled to have blooming flowers this time of year in the South where I now live. I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we (the whole world) will all be through this by the end of summer or sooner.

    • Chloris says:

      It must be lovely to have Christmas blooms after growing up in the snowy north. I am always interested to see what you can grow in your part of the world. Let us hope that things will be better by the summer..

  4. croftgarden says:

    Thank you. The flowers are lovely, but the fragrance is what produces the Proustian memories of former gardens.

  5. Anna greentapestry says:

    It is hard to comprehend what is going on in the so called name of sovereignty Chloris along with everything else is happening but as you say it’s Christmas. Thanks for some much needed Christmas cheer. All gems. I picked the very last rose of the year this morning from ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ as it would only be frosted tonight. It’s not quite open yet. Wishing you and the Pianist a most peaceful and joyous Christmas xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I don’t seem to have as many late roses as usual this year. But you and I have snowdrops to keep our spirits up for the rest of the winter. I am looking forward to seeing more of yours. Thank you for your good wishes Anna and I wish the same for you.

  6. bcparkison says:

    It mus be lovely to have garden flowers at Christmas. None here I’m afraid..I must work to add late blooming flowers to my pitiful bit of ground.

  7. tonytomeo says:

    Still, I do not understand the allure of Viburnum tinus. It seems to be so pretty everywhere else, and people appreciate the bloom in winter. Nonetheless, it does not look so pretty here.Perhaps it prefers more humidity. I suppose I should plant one in my own garden, and prune it down so that I can experience the bloom more intimately. It must be prettier on more vigorous plants. I actually planted hedges of them at work, but just for the easy greenery. They were recycled from where they grew into inappropriate situation.

    • Chloris says:

      I don’t like Viburnum tinus either, it has nasty, dowdy foliage which sits there looking dull for most of the year and it smells horrible when wet. And yet, when there is nothing much else around the flowers are lovely in a vase. I have seen it growing wild in the south of France and it looks straggly and unattractive. It needs to be kept to shape.

      • tonytomeo says:

        Perhaps that is why I do not appreciate it like others do. There is plenty of other bloom about while it blooms. As much as I dislike Acacia dealbata, the bloom is spectacular, and I actually like the fragrance that others find to be objectionable. It is easy to ignore the Viburnum tinus bloom with all that going on. I would not have planted so much of it, but did so because there were so many that grew from roots and maybe seed. It works as an easy hedge, even if I am not impressed with it. It does not need irrigation, which is important here.

  8. Cathy says:

    An amazing number of flowers for December! But I suppose your part of the country is fairly mild and your garden is very established. Your vase full of colour is indeed cheering. Merry Christmas Chloris, and all the best for 2021!

  9. Kris P says:

    I think Americans would be among the last to take pleasure in the UK’s current challenges as we’ve plenty enough of our own, chief among them the dark shadows cast by the egomaniacal child still asserting an utterly unfounded position that he won an election. Hopefully, the last-minute Brexit deal will limit some of its most worrisome aspects for the UK. I love your annual Christmas count. I don’t blame you for refusing to cut any of your wonderful witch hazel flowers and I envy you the early blooms on your hellebores.

    • Chloris says:

      I know, the world has been anxiously watching the crazy antics. Let’s hope the would-be dictator will soon be nothing but a nasty memory. Here there is no escape from Brexit and it is devastating for those of who like being European. Hapy New Year dear Kris.

  10. That’s an impressive variety and number of blooms. I didn’t count, so how does it compare to 2018? I’ve grubbed most of our viburnum tinus out too for the same reasons as you. I love chimonanthus praecox. I am growing one from seed, but this is its first year, so there’s a bit to wait until I see flowers like yours. Merry Christmas. Wishing you health and happiness going forwards.

    • Chloris says:

      The total is about the same as 2018 if you include the flowers that I forgot to pick for the vase. I grew my Chimonanthus praecox from seed too, it took 7 years to bloom so be patient. Happy New Year Allison.

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, our winter has barely started and it is spring in your garden! Merry Christmas, Liz.

  12. I loved your rant, and I’m with you all the way! My brother and his family in The Netherlands watch on in disbelief and all I can do is blush with the shame of it. On a brighter note – YOUR FLOWERS! Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you my friend, here is to a much better one x

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Gill. It’s no use ranting now, we are stuck with it, it is so depressing. But we have our lovely gardens and what a good thing too. Yes, let’s look forward to better things now we have a shiny new year.

  13. pbmgarden says:

    An amazing feat to have lovely things blooming at Christmas. Perhaps it’s the appropriateness of red for this season but I am smitten by your Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’. Gorgeous. And your Iris!❤️
    Hope you had a nice Christmas.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, the Skimmia rubella is lovely. But nothing beats the bright red of lovely Camellia ‘Yuletide’. I keep mine in the greenhouse but I am very glad you introduced me to it. Christmas was lovely thank you, we all isolated ourselves so we could spend Christmas en famille. What a treat to dine together indoors. Back to our own houses though because from Boxing Day we were shut up again. I hope yours was a good one.

  14. snowbird says:

    What a stunning variety of blooms! You had me checking I have about six plants blooming! Fantastic vase!xxx

  15. rusty duck says:

    Don’t get me started on Brexit. The reality will hit hard in the months to come.
    I love the idea of a Christmas posy although I doubt I could pull together anything quite so colourful. There would also be the challenge of reaching anything in bloom in the first place, given that the garden is a swamp.
    With very best wishes for 2021, Brexit or no. Stay safe.

    • Chloris says:

      I agree Jessica, all those people who are so pleased now will live to regret it. We have certainly had a lot of rain, my garden is a bit boggy too. And on top of that freezing fog makes the garden rather inhospitable. So we are tucked up inside like little moles and I wonder when we will be able to emerge and mix with people. Happy New Year to you Jessica, let’s hope for better things in 2021.

  16. Cathy says:

    It was lovely to read through this on Christmas Eve and share your delightful posy – and I am sure most of your readers read your first paragraph with a wry smile of recognition… It always surprises just what IS flowering in December, and also how much it varies from year to year. I am so with you on ensuring there are plants of winter interest in the garden, and have some new ones on order as I write (although admittedly two are replacements…) – I was even wondering whether I might turn a blind eye to my dislike of mahonia…but I didn’t! Thank you for sharing all your floral delights, Chloris.

    • Chloris says:

      I know you are a keen convert to the joys of a winter garden Cathy. I am looking forward to seeing your new plants. Surely no more witch hazels? I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

  17. Lavinia Ross says:

    I have enjoyed looking at all these gorgeous blooms! It’s 29 degrees here this morning, and frosty!

    • Chloris says:

      It’s very cold here too now, Winter usually gets going here in January. But still we get some decent days and there is alwaqys something to look at.

  18. Frog says:

    What an impressive number of flowers ! I think all I could find in my garden now is a few fuchsia buds. I won’t say anything about Brexit but I thank you for your tiny rant. It warms my heart to hear English people’s anger about it. Unlike many EU citizens I know, I don’t have the will nor the money to acquire British citizenship for the moment and feel like I am sitting on the very edge of an unstable seat. Thank God for gardens and for people like you.

    • Chloris says:

      I am still European whatever the fancy new passports say. I hope new laws won’t make things difficult for you. Yes, our gardens have been a life saver this last crazy year.

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