Top Ten January Blooms.

Here we are, the 23rd has come rushing round yet again with unseemly haste and it is time for my monthly Top Ten Bloom update. January has been mild but very wet and all my favourite winter blooms are looking wonderful.

I have to start off with my all time winter favourite, Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. I know I am a Jacqueline bore, but she is stunning and the scent is sweetly delicious and outstanding amongst all the fragrant winter flowers. Mine is in quite an exposed space in full sun in my windy front garden and so it loses all its leaves in winter, but I think the masses of pink starry flowers stand out better on bare branches. It is a tall, upright bush growing to at least  2 metres in height.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

This is the view looking into it from overhead and if you were standing here I’d have to restrain you from diving nose first into it because it is so intoxicating.

Daphnes are short-lived and can suffer from sudden death and as I couldn’t face January without Jacqueline I have planted another one in a sheltered spot. This one keeps all its leaves in winter but the flowers don’t stand out quite as well. By the way, never move a daphne once it is planted, it will certainly die if you do.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ in a sheltered spot.

I also have Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ and it is sweetly fragrant too but not nearly as floriferous and it comes into bloom a bit later, you can see in the photograph that it is still in bud. It makes a rounded shrub and doesn’t grow tall. It is all very pretty but once you’ve seen ‘Jacqueline Postill’ no other daphne will do.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Snowdrops are popping up all over and I know they are the marmite of the floral world, some people are besotted and others wonder what all the fuss is about and why galanthophiles spend hours with their bottoms in the air counting green spots.  So I will just show a few to try to convince you they are not all the same. Take Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’ for instance. He is a whopper, a robust snowdrop which can grow to 30 cm tall.

Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’

Galanthus ‘Corrin’ has green spots on the outer petals and is a pretty shape.

Galanthus ‘Corrin’

The earliest January snowdrops in my garden are normally the  elwesii hybrids. These are ones with the broad glaucous leaves.

Galanthus elwesii

But this year they are all coming at once. Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’ with the strong green cross on the inner segment is usually a bit later in bloom.

Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’

Galanthus ‘Anglesey Abbey’ has apple green leaves.

Galanthus ‘Anglesey Abbey’

And Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’ is certainly different as he has six inner segments and six outer segments giving him a rounded shape. I’ll stop now as I know not everybody shares my enthusiasm for snowdrops but I hope I have shown enough to see that they are not all the same. I’m afraid there will be more in February.

Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’

The first of my little irises are out. In the greenhouse I have a yellow one, Iris ‘Katharine’s Gold’. It is a sister of the fabulous Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’

Iris ‘Katharine’s Gold’

Some of the Iris reticulata bulbs break up and disappear after a year or two in the garden but this little clump of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ is long lasting and blooms early outside. Next month there will be lots more of these little reticulated irises. They are called this because they have net like covering on their corms.

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

Clumps of the Algerian Iris unguicularis throw up there delicate flowers throughout the winter. If you pick them in bud they will unfurl in water.

Iris unguicularis

It is always a treat when the first little yellow buttons of the winter aconites open up their buttercup flowers. If they are happy they seed around everywhere. They have put themselves all along this old, brick  path.


Eranthis hyemalis

I like to try to include a clematis for every month of the year and this month I have Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ It might sound like an unpleasant liver disease but its cream flowers are a wonderful sight on a January day. I thought it had died from drought in the summer because its leaves dried up but it is absolutely fine and looking splendid.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘‘Wisley Cream’

Little Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ which I showed in December is still in flower and in January it is joined by egg-yellow Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which people are always amazed to see so early. It is a full size daffodil which always blooms in January or February and unlike Cedric Morris it is readily available and not expensive.

Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’

For carpets of winter colour you can’t beat heathers. I know they are unfashionable nowadays and I notice there are none in the winter garden at Anglesey Abbey. I think it is a shame because Erica carnea does not need an acid soil and comes in lovely shades of pink and white. It must not dry out in summer though.  Here is a photo of part of my winter garden taken more than twenty years ago in my previous garden. Sorry about the quality, it is a photo of a slide.

I love the effect and on a sunny day it is alive with bees so I have introduced some to my winter garden here although they don’t do so well as the soil is lighter and dries out quicker in summer. The pale paler one is ‘Erica carnea ‘Darley Dale’ and the darker one is ‘Kramer’s Red’, it’s not really red at all but it makes a nice contrast.

Erica carnea ‘Kramer’s Red’

Erica carnea ‘Darley Dale’

I showed some of my Witch Hazels last month and they are still looking good although the yellow ones haven’t really got going yet so these will extend the season into February.

Hamamelis x intermedia ”Livia’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’


Hamamelis x intermedia ”Vesna’

In the above photo you can see one of the native hellebores,  Helleborus foetidus which seeds all round the garden. If you go a little further down here you will find a part of the garden that you haven’t seen before. It is the pond area and I don’t usually show it because it needs a good tidy up but I am working round here at the moment. The gravel path that goes all round it is clear now and the banks of the path will soon be tidy too. The big tree in the centre is a weeping willow.

Here it is from the other side. The pond is about 4 feet deep at the moment after all the rain we have had.

But I digress. I was talking about hellebores. They are coming into bloom everywhere as I have them all over the garden but they will be at their best in February.

And now I have only one flower to go so I will have to miss out my favourite sarcococcas , and anyway I  have already mentioned them this year. So I will choose the rare and beautiful Lonicera elisae which blooms later than the more common winter flowering honeysuckles. It is an upright shrub and doesn’t sprawl like the other ones. The fragrant flowers hang down and  are slightly furry, pinkish and funnel – shaped.

Lonicera elisae

Lonicera elisae

So there we have my ten. What are you enjoying in the garden this month? Please share your favourite January blooms and link to this post.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. Bonkers!

I have been rereading E.A. Bowles and his book ‘My Garden in Spring’  is a wonderful reminder that my favourite season is on its way. Bowles dedicated a whole chapter to what he called ‘The Lunatic Asylum‘ corner of his garden where he grew his ‘demented plants’. I was going to use ‘Lunatic Asylum ‘as the title for this post but my daughter is a Clinical Psychologist and she would be appalled if she saw it. Nowadays we have done away with these awful places and we are more caring and understanding about mental health issues. I hope I get away with using the word ‘bonkers’. Bowles first intended making a Japanese garden but then he realised that such gardens bristling with ‘bronze cranes and stone lanterns…giant toads and pagodas‘ had become fashionable. I am sympathetic with his horror at the idea of having a fashionable garden, after all which serious horticulturalist relishes the idea of being trendy? So then he decided to collect plants with abnormal and weird characteristics instead.

His first and most crazy occupant was the twisted hazel, Corylus avallana ‘Contorta’ which was then quite new. It was found growing in a hedgerow by Canon Ellecombe in 1863 and he gave a piece to Bowles. He added quite a few elders and trees with Witch’s Brooms. He grew strange or stunted forms of laburnum, ash and viburnum. I don’t know if they are still available but I am not interested in seeking out plants just because they are weird. But I love the corkscrew hazel in winter. It has lovely long catkins and looks beautiful backlit by the sun. Unfortunately its twisted leaves look awful in summer.

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

I am sure Bowles would have included Meuhlenbeckia astoni in his lunatic asylum if he had seen it.  This shrub comes into its own in winter when it looks like  shiny tangled copper wire.

Meuhlenbeckia astonii

Meuhlenbeckia astonii comes from New Zealand. It is a mass of  thin wildly zigzag bare branches and I love it. It is even crazier than the hazel.

Meuhlenbeckia astonii

Bowles included a dwarf form of the native Daphne laureola in his lunatic asylum and as I have this popping up all over the garden it is a good one to put in my vase. The little yellow flowers are not highly fragrant but I love the shiny, green leaves.

Daphne laureola

I looked round the garden but the rest of my plants seem quite sane so I finished off with a rose to add a bit of panache. After all a rose in January is bonkers.

My jug, a rather eccentric present from lovely, but eccentric friends, is peculiar as the pouring lip and the handle are on the same side making it useless for pouring.  Given the person represented on the jug this is perhaps intentional.

He is clearly having a bad hair day  but it is a bit windy.

Thank you Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday. If you pop over there you will find lots of creative January vases with no lunacy involved.

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. Winter Fragrance.

There are so many plants to give interest and distinction to the winter garden and I am always seeking out new ones. I have several books on winter gardening and they have chapters on winter colour, interesting plant structure, leaves, bark and berries. But none of my books say much about the most exciting thing in the winter garden. One of the great pleasures of January is sniffing out the various delicious scents that plants use to entice early bees.  The flowers  all have a delicate, fragile beauty, they don’t use gaudy dress to entice pollinators, just delicious scents that waft round the garden on the breeze, intoxicating any passing bees and me. So my vase today is dedicated entirely to fragrant flowers.

At last the queen of the winter garden is opening her dark pink buds to reveal a sophisticated, sweet perfume which stops visitors to my house in their tracks as it grows by my front door. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is the very best of her tribe.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

I have two winter flowering honeysuckles, and both smell fabulous. Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is a large shrub and is full of delicious smelling cream flowers borne in pairs along the branch.

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter beauty’

Lonicera elisae is quite rare and the shrub is more beautiful with fragrant tubular pink flowers which are hairy.

Lonicera elisae

One of my favourite winter flowering shrubs is Chimonanthus praecox which has yellow claw-like flowers on bare branches. The centres of the flowers are maroon and the scent is exquisite.

Chimonanthus praecox

Sarcococca is a winter flowering shrub with far too many ‘c’s’ but I wouldn’t be without it. The walkway from the car park at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire is lined with and the scent is amazing. I would like to copy this idea but they are expensive to buy. But still Sarccococca hookeriana var. digyna does sucker, so perhaps one day I might have a hedge of it. The tufty flowers smell of honey with a musky overtone which some people dislike but I love it.

Sarccococca hookeriana var. digyna

Sarcococca confusa, bottom left in the next picture has darker green leaves and cream flowers and produces lots of black berries which I have never got round to sowing.

I have several Witch Hazels in bloom now and I have used a couple of twigs, one from lovely ‘Vesna’ and one from ‘Orange Peel’ which I always think smells vaguely of orange peel, but this is perhaps the power of association but still it is very sweet. The scent of Witch Hazels is often undetectable in the garden but when you bring it into the warmth of the house it is lovely.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

I love the tattery, crazy sea anemone flowers of Witch Hazels and I have lots of them, but not as many as the Witch Hazel queen, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

The other three shrubs I used are Mahonia media ‘Winter Sun’ with yellow flowers that smell of Lily of the Valley,  a sprig of a bright blue Rosemary which blooms all through the winter and pink Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

The blue flower of the Algerian Iris unguicularis unfolds in water and is lightly scented. Quite a few snowdrops are scented, the one I have used is Galanthus ‘Ginn’s Imperati’ which has a sweet fragrance when you bring it indoors. This vase has been sitting on my table for an hour or so now and the scent in my dining room is absolutely gorgeous.


In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and no matter what the season she never runs out of creative ways of inspiring us to bring some of the garden indoors to enjoy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. End of Year Flower Count.

Each year on Christmas Eve I do a flower count and see how many different blooms there are to pick to for the Christmas table. This year I am doing it for the New Year’s Eve table instead as the Pianist and I were too full of colds to bother with flowers for Christmas. Cathy at Rambling in the Garden  usually does hers on Boxing Day, here is her grand total for this year.  It is interesting how it varies from year to year according to how many unseasonal hangers on or precocious spring blooms there are. This year although it is  quite mild there are rather lean pickings as apart from roses there are few lingering summer blooms.

I used a  Wedgewood silver lustre jug to give a bit of seasonal sparkle. Here is what I found.

And here is the list.

1. Lonicera purpusii’ Winter Beauty’ (Winter Honeysuckle.)
2. Jasminum nudiflorum. (Winter Jasmine.)
3. Hamamelis x intermedia.  ‘Livia’. (Witch Hazel)
4 .Viburnum tinus
Viburnum farreri
Viburnum bodantense
5. Chimonanthus praecox
6. Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
Skimmia rubella
Kew Green’
. Sarcococca hookerianum var. digyna
9.  Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’
10. Clematis ‘Freckles’
11. Galanthus ‘Three Ships’
12. Cyclamen coum
13. Helleborus orientalis ‘Phoebe’
14. Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’
15. Chrysanthemum
16. Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’
17 Pansy
18. Rosa viridiflora
19. Rosemary

Although there are different kinds of skimmia and viburnum  and I have different kinds of hellebore in bloom that doesn’t count, so I only allow one for hellebore, one for viburnum and one for skimmia. To make the list complete I should have included one of my little ‘Cedric Morris’ daffodils but I couldn’t bear to pick it. Still, I am pleased with my posy and it has several fragrant flowers so it is nice to sniff. Last year’s vase is here.  There were 29 flowers, so quite a lot more but every year is different.

Thank you Cathy for hosting In a Vase on Monday and getting me outside looking for blooms. I enjoyed my prowl and seeing the noses of so many bulbs to come. And even when the garden looks bare there are always treasures to find if you look hard enough.

Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Top Ten December Blooms.

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.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

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.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

My December snowdrops are in bloom. I thought I had lost little Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’ but here it is blooming bravely.

Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’

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.

Galanthus ‘Barnes’

I have had Galanthus  plicatus ‘Three Ships’ for a while and it has clumped up nicely.

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’

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.

Cyclamen coum

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.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’

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.

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

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 tinus

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.

Viburnum farreri

Viburnum farreri

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.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

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.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger growing in a pot.

I have a lovely apple green Corsican hellebore, Helleborous argutifolius out in the urn by my door.

Helleborus argutifolius

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.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

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.

Grevillea rosamarifolia

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.

Rosa viridiflora

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. A Haiku about a Kiku.

 When the winter chrysanthemums go

there is nothing to write about

but radishes’.  Matsuo Basho.

When the Pianist and I are on a long car journey we keep ourselves entertained by making up limericks about the places we pass by. But we’ll draw a decent veil over those. If we are feeling a bit more intellectual we make up haikus.  The haiku is a traditional  form of Japanese poetry. It has three lines, the first and the last line have five syllables and the middle line has seven. There are usually two images and the concluding line often juxtaposes them.  The poem above is a translation of a haiku by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Obviously in translation, the lines are the wrong length and it doesn’t really come off as a haiku, but I can’t read Japanese and you probably can’t either, so we have to make do with the translation.

I do try to have blooms in the garden for every month of the year but after several keen frosts, early December can be quite challenging.  But we don’t have to talk about radishes yet, I still have a chrysanthemum looking good in the garden although the rest of them have collapsed. It is the peerless Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’. When it first comes out is a bronzey- rust colour but now it has faded a bit and the yellow is more prominent. It is still lovely though.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

As we have a Japanese theme today I am using a Mason’s Ironstone jug in the Imari pattern.

And I am using some Japanese  netsukes as props. Netsukes  are elaborately carved toggles which were made for the traditional Japanese dress. They have holes underneath them which was for a cord to go through. These are probably fakes, signed antique ones cost a fortune.

With the chrysanthemum I have used some  yellow sprays of Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ which has a delicate fragrance.

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

I used Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum with starry yellow flowers which  blooms for weeks in winter on bare branches. If it wasn’t so ubiquitous we would all go mad for it.

I used some buds of Skimmia x  confusa ‘Kew Green’. The seedheads are Bupleurum fruticosum.


And then there are some fluffy miscanthus seedheads too. The green leaves are from a bamboo which seemed suitable for a Japanese theme.

I have used dogwood twigs in red, yellow and orange and the bright foliage is  yellow Choisya x ternata ‘Sundance’ and Trachelospermum jasminioides which always goes red in winter’.

Trachelospermum jasminiodes leaves.

The orange berries are the wild Iris foetidissima which crops up all over my garden. It is very useful for winter arrangements.

The chrysanthemum  or ‘Kiku’ in Japanese is the symbol of longevity and rejuvenation which is a comforting thought as the year is coming to an end and we have decay all round us in the garden.

To see other December vases pop over to the ever resourceful Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. A few frosty nights don’t deter her and her enthusiastic followers.

Posted in Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Top Ten November Blooms.

Here we are deep in gloomy November and seasonal blooms are getting ever scarcer. Every month, I include blooms from the whole month, so the ones I feature might be past their best and this is the case for some of the chrysanthemums.  Some of these starry stars of  autumn make their appearance in September, others are at their best in October and I featured some of them last month. Here are some lovely November chrysanthemums. The first is a very vigorous, tall -growing one which was found growing in a Suffolk garden by a member of the Suffolk Plant Heritage and it is named ‘Mavis Smith’ after her.  I love it for its unusual quill-shaped flowers, it looks like a pink shuttlecock.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’

I have another chrysanthemum which I suppose was discovered in Suffolk but I don’t know anything about its history. I see it a lot in gardens round here so perhaps it has been around for a long time. It is called Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’, it is  very strong growing and a lovely bright shade of pink.

Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’

I have a new one this year which is also rare and on the Plant Heritage Red List.  It is new to me, but in fact it is quite an old one and an adorable short-growing little pompom in bright yellow. It is called ‘Jante Wells’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Jante Wells’

Chrysanthemum ”Edelweiss’ is supposed to be white but it is actually more a parchment shade. It is also quite rare. It is semi-double and clearly needs staking as it is collapsing onto the lawn here.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

I have a lovely orange one called Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

All these chrysanthemums are reliable November bloomers but after a few frosts and deluges they are looking a bit battered. But  my favourite chrysanthemum is a late November bloomer and goes on quite unperturbed by whatever the weather throws at it. It is an old variety called ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’. It is double and a bronzey, burnt orange shade and the reverse of the petals are gold.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

After all the rain and frost ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ is still looking fabulous. I took the next photo in the rain today.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

If your garden is looking dreary in autumn then chrysanthemums give lovely spots of colour and they are long lasting in flower arrangements.

People who follow my post will know that I am crazy about nerines. The last one to bloom in the greenhouse is Nerine undulata. The flowers are smaller than those of my other nerines but they appear in profusion and they are quite charming . The petals of the pale pink flowers are crinkled and frilly. Clive Boyce  who used to be the President of The Alpine Society and has many unusual and rare plants gave it to me more than twenty years ago and it has lived in a pot ever since.  He assured me that it was hardy and could live outside but the flowers are so late that I think November frosts would kill them. It has more than forty blooms and although nerines bloom best when they are pot bound I think this potful is more than ready to be split and repotted.

Nerine undulata.

Sternbergia lutea  is sometimes known as the Autumn Daffodil but I can’t think why it looks more like a crocus than a daffodil. In fact it is neither, it belongs to the  Amaryllidoideae family. I love Reginald Farrer’s description of it ‘gleaming goblets sitting close to the ground through the saddest hours of weeping autumn‘. It needs a spot where it can soak up the sun to do well. I have a clump in semi-shade which I keep forgetting to move. Each year it has masses of bright green leaves but doesn’t bloom. The one in the photo is in full sun and never lets me down.

Sternbergia lutea

Of course there are plenty of autumn blooming crocuses, I don’t know why I don’t have lots more and drifts of all different ones. Next year I will certainly get some more.  They are readily available.  They are nice in pots in the greenhouse too. The one I have is  Crocus specicosus ‘Conqueror’ I took the photo today and it is very gloomy so the blooms aren’t open. They are a lovely colour.

Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’

I showed my autumn -blooming snowdrop, Galanthus reginae-olgae last month but this month another clump is looking even better with loads of blooms. I appreciate this snowdrop particularly because my other autumn flowering ones, Galanthus ‘Barnes’ and G.’Remember, Remember’ seem to have disappeared. Reginae-olgae is very dependable and clumps up beautifully. It does appreciate a bit of bonemeal now and again and enough water.

Galanthus reginae-olgae

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’  and ‘Winter Sun’ are indistinguishable to me. I have both, they were here when I arrived and the previous owner clearly liked mahonias because they are all over the place. I know a lot of people don’t like them because they are popular in municipal planting, but I like the structure of their spiky foliage. They have to be pruned each year to stop them getting leggy and producing their racemes of yellow flowers over your head. I appreciate them particularly because they bloom in November when flowering shrubs are scarce.

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

I do try to feature seasonal blooms each month but in November  there are slim pickings so I have to resort to flowers which are looking wonderful even though they are out of season. I have a lovely anemone which should be in bloom in summer but it is still looking stunning. It is called Anemone x hybrida ‘Dreaming Swan’. I have an anemone called ‘Wild Swan’ which isn’t nearly as good as this and anyway it finished blooming months ago. The blooms of this one are  semi-double and white tinged with violet.

Anemone x hybrida ‘Dreaming Swan’

The flowers of my hydrangeas have turned to lovely antique shades now but I have one which is as fresh as the summer time blooms. It is ‘Ayesha’ grown from a cutting from my old garden. Hydrangeas are very easy from cuttings. This is one of my favourites with its  heads of little incurved flowers.

Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

I have a little shrub which somebody gave me and it is something that I have never grown before. The label says Rhaphiolepsis ‘Crimson’. I have looked it up and Rhaphiolepsis  ‘Coates Crimson’ is supposed to bloom in spring and summer so I am confused. Is this something different or does it bloom again in autumn? Anyway it is blooming happily in the greenhouse as I am not quite sure whether or not it is hardy, perhaps somebody could enlighten me.


I have one more to go and I am puzzled as to what to write about, after all I want to leave some blooms which have started blooming now for December. I am going to have to finish with another summer straggler. It is a very confused  Phygelius capensis ‘African Queen’. It should be blooming in August but shush, don’t say anything, it is a pleasure to have it now.

Phygelius capensis ‘African Queen’

So there we have it, I just managed ten. If you have any November blooms to share I would love to see them, it doesn’t have to be ten, even one would be lovely during these ever darkening days of November.


Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Six on Saturday. November Pleasures.

1. Kind Gardeners.
Last week one of my favourite bloggers, Gill at Off the Edge Gardening mentioned that it was World Kindness Day. I have never heard of such a thing, but garden bloggers don’t need a special kindness day, they are such a kind, supportive and generous lot all year round. So for number one, I would like to thank two of my blogging friends for their kindness and generosity. I received two exciting packages this week. One was from my friend Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Cathy has invested in a  hydropod propagator  and I am so impressed with the healthy plants with fantastic roots that she sent me in this lovely box.

Tony Tomeo from Los Gatos in California  sent me all these Amaryllis seeds. It was all properly done, the package went through customs and was released by DEFRA Plant Health. The seeds  have little roots showing and are ready to go. Many thanks to you both, Cathy and Tony. It was such a treat to receive such exciting packages.

2.New Project.  Well,  perhaps this can’t be included in a November pleasure at the moment, because it will be hard work, but it is a pleasure to come. Now I have extended my winter garden I only have a narrow strip of grass down the side of it as I have been nibbling at the grass for the last few years. After so much rain it is mostly mud and very slippery. Obviously I need a proper path. I would love to have a brick one but old bricks are very expensive. I have decided to compromise and use the old bricks that I have dotted about the garden and buy a few more to make brick edging with gravel in the middle. I shall be glad to finally get rid of all the grass round here and not  have any more edges to cut.  Since I took the first photo I have planted the new bit of winter garden and put a stepping stone path through the middle. The stump is the remains of a black-leaved elder which I need to cut to the ground to get nice big foliage next year. The Pianist was so excited when I told him about my new idea for a path. He didn’t say so, in fact he groaned, but I know secretly he was excited. Here is where the path will go.

3 Autumn colour. This month has brought us a record amount of rain and the garden looks decidedly Novemberish. But still there is some good seasonal colour hanging on in there. There are flowers too but  these must wait for the November Bloom post next Saturday.

4.The Greenhouse is stuffed with refugees from the garden at the moment. But there are plenty of flowers in there to brighten up the dull November days. My late flowering nerines are waiting to be  included in my Top Ten November Blooms post. But here are some of the other pretty flowers, starting with this curious paintbrush.

Haemanthus albiflos

Oxalis is a pernicious weed, specially that awful one that grows in the paving stones or in plant pots amongst your prize plants. But Oxalis massoniana is a delight.

Oxalis massoniana

I love salvias and they are so easy from cuttings that I leave the big plants outside to take their chance with the frost and take cuttings. But this one, Salvia corrugata is quite new and I will keep it inside. I like it for its bright blue flowers and curious, wrinkled leaves.

Salvia corrugata

This mallow, Anisodontea ‘El Royo’ is new too and I don’t know how hardy it is so I will keep it inside for this winter. It has such delicate flowers.

Anisodontea ‘El Royo’

My bougainvilea has been in bloom for weeks.


The blue Plumbago capensis  bloomed earlier then had a rest and here it is again.

Plumbago capensis

5.In the House. I have lots of orchids. I can’t resist them and they are so cheap these days. They go on and on and never seem to die so the collection just gets bigger. I repotted all my Phaelonopsis recently and I will do a post about them another time. Today I am going to feature one I am particularly delighted with. It is the first time that I have got a pansy-faced Miltonia to flower again. It is so pretty and very fragrant too.

Miltonia orchid

The Odontoglossum is reflowering too.

Odontoglossum orchid

6. November Sunsets are so often beautiful even if they are indecently early. They are usually one of the pleasures of November but they have been scarce this year with so much rain and cloud. In fact for the first time I haven’t been able to capture one with my camera this year, so I am going to cheat and use one I took a previous year when November sunsets were more plentiful.  November treats in the garden are a bit thin on the ground so we have to make the best of what we get. And perhaps if it stops raining we will get one like this again soon, along with a rainbow and a dove with an olive twig in his beak.

Please check out the Propagator‘s blog to see what all the other bloggers have found for their Six on Saturday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. The Four Seasons in Miniature.

Today is the sixth anniversary for Cathy’s meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’. To celebrate she invites her followers to create a miniature arrangement, not bigger than 6 inches wide or 6 inches tall. Today was a miserable day to prowl round the garden with buffeting wind and rain, but still it had to be done, we can’t let the occasion pass by unmarked.

I decided to see if the recent frosts have left me enough blooms to create the four seasons  so that I could celebrate the year in flowers for Cathy’s anniversary.

There are plenty of summer blooms hanging on to give a colourful summer posy. I put them in my flower brick from Highgrove. It is exactly six inches long.

In it I have a few little rose buds, some salvias including Salvia ‘Hot Lips, Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’and Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’. There is a pink scabious,  fluffy blue Ageratum corymbosum from the greenhouse. I used a  pink stock, a little white campanula, white Solanum jasminoides  and the fluffy heads of Pennisetum villosum.

The autumn posy is easy. The chrysanthemums are still going strong. Nerine undulata is always the last of the nerines to bloom. For leaf colour I used a red acer leave and bronze leaves from the damp loving fern, Osmunda regalis.

I used the tiny teapot that I still have from a miniature tea set given me when I went to Taiwan years ago.

I have had the small flowered ‘Picasso’ in a vase for three weeks and this spray is still fresh. When I took it out of the vase I noticed it had put out a root.

The little berries are berberis.

As well as ‘Picasso’, chrysanthemums are ‘Mary Stoker’, ‘Stratford Pink’ and ‘Golden Greenheart’.

My Winter vase has some red stems of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’,  variegated  Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, the winter flowering heather, Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’, some red holly berries, Viburnum tinus, a sprig of Winter flowering Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum and pink and white Cyclamen hederifolium masquerading as the winter Cyclamen coum. I have sacrificed one of my precious snowdrops, Galanthus reginae-olgae as it is a special occasion.

Spring is a little more difficult. There are a few soggy primroses but their stems are too short for a vase and they don’t look very good. So I improvised a bit. I used Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ as a stand in for Mahonia japonica which is spring flowering for me. I also used flower buds from red and white skimmias which get their buds now and open up in spring.  The leaves of Euonymus japonicus ‘Silver’ King’ and Cyclamen hederifolium are to give a bit of spring freshness. And of course the lady on the  little Yolande vase is frolicking in delight just as I will be when spring comes.

So there are my four seasons to wish dear Cathy at Rambling in the Garden a happy sixth anniversary.

Posted in Uncategorized | 39 Comments

31st October. Halloween.









We went out on our bikes today and I was astonished at how many houses were draped with cobwebs and skeletons and pumpkins. When I was a child, Halloween  with all its accompanying tat and begging  for sweeties had not yet been imported from America. Instead we had Bonfire Night on the 5th November which was called Guy Fawkes Night and was always celebrated on the correct day; it never happened on the nearest Saturday or any other random day.  On Halloween we were busy making huge bonfires and an effigy of the  would- be Catholic incendiarist, Guy Fawkes who would be burnt on the big night. Instead of begging for sweets, children used to beg for a penny for their homemade guy which they proudly displayed. Where I come from in the north, the night before Bonfire Night was Mischief Night where children would indulge in a little light vandalism such as stealing wood from each others’ bonfires or hanging gates from lampposts. There were few large public firework displays, everyone had their own private bonfire parties and  ate baked potatoes and bonfire toffee. Children were free to set fire to their body parts with Roman candles, rockets and bangers such as Jumping Jacks which sometimes jumped into the firework box and set off the whole lot. Whizzing Catherine wheels often escaped from their moorings to fly through the crowd to add a few more random injuries. I wonder how many injuries there were each year.  Now of course, we no longer burn effigies of people and firework displays are carefully controlled. But instead we have to put up with Halloween with its plastic skeletons and children begging for sweets whilst their parents hover in the background In the UK,  8 billion pumpkins were bought and then binned afterwards last year. It seems an awful waste. So this house is a pumpkin and skeleton-free zone.  Instead, let’s go into the garden and see what colours there are in leaves and fruit as we go into winter.

First some lovely berries. My Callicarpa is looking good this year, it is the first time that it has covered itself in lush purple berries.

Callicarpa bodineiri

The black -stemmed Cornus alba ‘Kessellringii’ has berries like bunches of eyeballs.

Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’

I had a terrible apple harvest this year and that includes my crab apples. But Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ hasn’t let me down.

Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’

I have a rare berberis which I grow for its amazing berries and although it is hermaphrodite it has been disappointing up until this year. But now I remember why I sought it out. It is called Berberis georgii.

Berberis georgii


This year is an amazing fungi year perhaps because of all the rain we have had. I’ll draw a veil over all the honey fungus toadstools which cropped up everywhere instilling terror and paranoia in me.  But here are some of the others.

Amanita muscaria. Fly Agaric.

Macrolepiota procera. Parasol Mushroom.

Acers are glorious in Autumn. I can’t remember the name of this one.


We have had several frosts but so far the dahlias are still standing and I am still gathering armfuls of them. This is Dahlia Cornel Bronze’ next the the glorious Acer osakazuki.

Acer osakazuki

But let’s not look at flowers now, here are more lovely leaves. The Forest Pansy is gorgeous all summer long and she goes out in a blaze of colour.

Cercis canadensis

I grow Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’  for the winter stems which are red but the leaves look good good in Autumn too.

Here is the best of several Euonymus which I grew from illicit seeds so I don’t deserve to have something so beautiful.


By this time of the year Ricinus communis has developed huge shiny leaves but I am always a little nervous growing it as it is such a deadly poison.

Ricinus communis

I have quite a few witch hazels and some of them colour up beautifully in the Autumn.


And talking about witches, it may be Halloween but I am safe from them here. The huge Elizabethan fireplaces  in my house were added in the middle of the sixteenth century and each bressumer beam has an abundance of apotropaic marks which were marks made in the wood to stop witches coming down the chimney. There are also some by the door and some of the windows. So that’s alright, no witches can get in here.

Apotropaic mark in beam over chimney

Thank you to lovely Beatrice for the spooky picture at the top of this post.


Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments