Winter Solstice Blooms.

Tis the years’s midnight’ as John Donne said in his  not very cheery poem ‘A Nocturnal on St.Lucie’s Day.’ St.Lucie’s Day  falls on the 13th December which before the Gregorian calendar reform was the winter solstice. This year the winter solstice falls on the 21 December, so today is the first official day of winter.

‘The sun is spent and now his flasks

Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

The world’s whole  sap is sunk.

The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk.

Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk.

Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh

Compared with me who am their epitaph.’

OK, the shortest day can be depressing, specially for a gardener,  but I think John Donne should pull himself together, it’s not that bad. There are a few blooms to cheer us.

The winter jasmine provides  a wall of sunshine and is great for picking.

Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum

The winter flowering mahonias are gorgeous. The blue tits like to peck their buds but that’s fine, I like to watch their antics.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Near this mahonia there is a variegated laurel and a Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n’ Gold’. I would never have planted them, they are not my favourite shrubs,  but at this time of the year they are a welcome sight and brighten up this corner, specially with the Garrya elliptica behind, with its jade green tassels.
I pruned the Mahonia x media ‘Charity’  and so it is nice and bushy. If left unpruned, they can be very gawky with their flowers way too high to enjoy.

I have several bushes of Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, I didn’t get round to pruning this next one and you can see how leggy it looks. I will cut down each stem when it has finished flowering, to just above a knobbly bit . As it is, only the birds get to enjoy the flowers.

The next one has been pruned, it is lovely and bushy and I can enjoy the lovely flowers which are slightly fragrant. The flowers are more erect than the ones on M. ‘Charity’. I love the glossy, green  leaves which look good all year round. Sometimes you see mahonias with leaves which have turned red. This looks pretty, but unfortunately it is a sign of stress.

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden has witch hazels in bloom already. Mine have just a tiny bit of colour showing on their buds hinting at the delights to come. There are also plenty of buds on the chimonanthus and my daphnes, so there is plenty to look forward to. Abutilons seem to bloom on and on. This one is outside so I was  surprised to see it has flowers looking unscathed by the cold.

Abutilon megapotamicum

Abutilon megapotamicum

The incomparable Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ starts blooming in December and is full of buds so it will cheer up the darkest January days.

Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’

Kris at Latetothegardenparty blog has Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’ in her Monday vase this week. Well, that’s not amazing in Los Angeles. But here it is blooming away in my December garden.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’

At this time of the year we start to get excited about hellebores and snowdrops which will be delighting us soon.
This Helleborus niger is living up to its name of Christmas rose. The black grass is Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ which I love to grow with snowdrops and snowy white hellebores.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger

And there are Christmas snowdrops just starting to bloom. Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ has been trying to grow through a carpet of leaves, but now I have rescued it so I hope the stems will straighten out.

Galanthus 'Three Ships'

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’

Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’ shows no signs of blooming in time for Christmas, but you can always rely on Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ to be nice and early. In fact it is the first double snowdrop in bloom. I know it is still only a bud and totally underwhelming unless you are one of those strange people whose heart beats faster at the sight of a snowdrop in December.

Galanthus 'Faringdon Double'

Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’

I don’t think my little Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ is going to open in time for Christmas although it often does. Still it won’t be long.

Narcissus minor 'Cedric Morris'

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

It is nice to think that after today the days will start to get longer again and we can start to dream about spring. In the meantime I thought I would try and get Hector in a Christmassy mood. But it’s not working. He’s saving himself for the big day.
I shan’ t say Happy Christmas today because in a few days it will be Christmas Eve. Traditionally this is a time to sit round the fire with a glass of something nice and tell stories. And my Christmas Eve post is a story. See you then.

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In a Vase on Monday. Not Radishes.

Like Cathy at Rambling in the Garden I am rather keen on haikus. Here is one by the master of the art, Matsuo Basho.

‘When the winter chrysanthemums go,

there is nothing to write about

but radishes’.

Fortunately, I don’t have to resort to writing about radishes yet because the wonderful Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden is still looking fabulous.

Chrysanthemum 'Chelsea Physic Garden'

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

I know I talk about this chrysanthemum a lot, but I have quite a few mums and none of them perform like this one and go on for quite so long, despite several hard frosts. I have picked a bunch today and there are still plenty left for the Christmas table.

The only other thing in the garden at the moment with any impact is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ which is just about to burst forth. I have several of these dotted about the garden so I shan’t need to resort to radishes this month for my vases.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

I decorated this little basket with leaves years ago and amazingly it still looks just about alright, although next year I must remember to refresh it.

The greenery is Eucalyptus, I’m not sure which variety it is, as it is not actually in my garden. So I am cheating a bit. Well quite a lot actually, as I nicked it. But it is a huge tree which someone has planted in the little wood near here which I like to walk through. I find it very handy for winter arrangements.

I used seed heads of clematis and asters to look like little snowballs to give it a seasonal look.  OK, I admit the aster seed heads look like dirty snowballs.

But look at the rich colours of this peerless chrysanthemum.

The dedicated followers of Cathy’s meme, ‘In a Vase on Monday’ are sure to have been creative in coming up with something for their vases even at this bleak time of the year. I am sure nobody has had to resort to radishes. Do go and see.

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Winter Lights at Anglesey Abbey

We always enjoy a visit to the winter garden at Anglesey Abbey.

dsc_0793 This year we went a bit early because we had tickets for their Winter Lights event. Several National Trust properties are holding these now and it adds a whole new, rather magical element to  the garden.

The colours in the winter garden were enhanced. The Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ looked very red indeed.

The berries of Callicarpa boudineri sparkled like purple amethysts.
The gorgeous shiny brown bark of Prunus serrula looked shinier than ever.

Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula

You could have it in purple too with the ghostly white bramble, Rubus thibetanus in front.


The twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ looked like Medusa’s head.


I love the way the yellow dogwood, Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’  gleamed and a few stems turned white. On the left the yellow flowers of Mahonia ‘Charity’ turned a ghostly white too.


You would think that the famous birch grove couldn’t be improved upon and changing the colours of the gleaming white stems would be like dyeing flowers. But everyone stood transfixed watching the ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours.

The tall poplars along the canal kept changing colour too.

Allium seedheads were planted amongst white birch branches.

A surreal touch was the white umbrellas in the rose garden.
The snowdrop garden at Anglesey Abbey is famous and we had a little foretaste of the pleasures to come.
I am looking forward to going back to the winter garden in January and February and seeing all the winter flowers in daylight and even better smelling them; so many winter blooms are fragrant. But on a dreary evening at the end of November it was fun to see it looking magically different. And a bit surreal.

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A Chic She Shed.

Suddenly sheds have become trendy. I remember when I was a child, my father’s potting shed  smelt of damp, mouse droppings,  cigar smoke and no doubt, carcinogenic chemicals. It was home to spiders, mildewed  garments, dead butterflies  and all my father’s complicated garden paraphernalia. My father had never heard of shed chic and he would have snorted in derision at the very idea.

Tool Shed. East Ruston.

Tool Shed. East Ruston.

Today, we all want a shed. I’m not sure why men like them, maybe so that they have somewhere to play with their tools. But I think women never grow out of their love of playing ‘house’. We all have perfectly nice houses but we want a Wendy  House to play in.  Maybe in all of us, the need for a cave is an atavistic thing. Our early ancestors needed it for security. And we still crave a cave, or in modern day terms, a little hut of our own.

I visited Long Melford Hall this summer with my niece. It was fascinating to find that Beatrice Potter used to stay there regularly and in their library they recently found some of her original drawings. But what also fascinated me, was the boudoir decorated with French eighteenth century furniture and Meissen porcelain. The very idea of a lady needing a boudoir is such an odd concept nowadays. And back then, as ladies didn’t seem to do much anyway, it seems strange that they needed a special room to do not much in. But nevertheless, I like the idea of a room of your own. A boudoir. I  don’t  just want somewhere to sit elegantly sipping tea from a Meissen cup. Or even like Hyacinth Bouquet, out of Royal Doulton china with ‘ hand painted periwinkles’ .  But maybe the modern equivalent of a boudoir is a shed.  A shed with a potting station and shelves and all  my tools nice and clean and hanging from their own hooks. And a nice comfy chair with cushions. And a big table to work or write on.

I have been planning my boudoir/ shed all summer. In fact not only have I been dreaming about sheds but I have been lying awake for several nights planning mine. The Pianist was incredulous when I told him that I couldn’t sleep because of my shed. But then he nodded and said wisely: ‘Ah yes, sheds, a common cause of insomnia, ask any doctor.’  I think perhaps he was being ironic.  Anyway, at last my dreams have come true, I have my shed and I want to share it with you.



You may wonder why I need a new shed when I already have three old stables. But honestly, although I try to kid myself they are shabby-chic, what they are really, is hopelessly  tumble-down and scruffy. And they are all full of stuff accumulated over many years by many past owners of this house. One is full of wood and discarded windows. I wrote about my efforts to clean up the plant pot shed in an earlier post. Shamefully, it is no better, in fact it is worse. I am only grateful if I can close the door. And the other is full of – well, I don’t know -stuff.

Even if I am not potting on my lovely potting station, or doing other shed- related things, my new She-Shed is a place to take a  cup of  tea into. Obviously, I don’t drink out of Meissen, or sit in an elegant gown entertaining charming young men . I don’t know any charming young men, except for my son and my son-in-law and they would be a bit surprised if I invited them to take tea in my shed.  But  nevertheless, this  shed is my boudoir.

I have painted it inside  in a shade called Cool Marble, despite everyone’s incredulity that I thought the inside needs painting. So many people have hastened to tell me that the inside of a shed doesn’t need painting. Of course, it doesn’t need it. ‘Oh reason not the need’ as  King Lear said, under rather more exacting circumstances.  The floor is painted with slate coloured deck paint. The outside is painted Silver Birch. On an impulse I painted the window frames Cool Marble and painted stripes on the door so it looks like a beach hut. The great thing about a shed is you can indulge any whim.


Ok, the nearest beach is more than 30 miles away and I know that Alexander Pope said that we should consult the genius loci, the spirit of the place in the garden. This mantra has been repeated from Russell Page onwards. I heard Arne Maynard speak recently and this was his theme too. In fact, the original use of the phrase was used by the Romans to mean that we should propitiate the gods or spirits of the place who live there. Well as I have said before, I do not want a midden and a cabbage patch to make this in keeping with a sixteenth century garden. So the gods of this place will have to stay unpropitiated. I live here now and I will indulge any whim that comes into my mind. And if I want a beach hut I shall have one. In fact I am toying with the idea of  a shingle beach,  Derek Jarman type mini -garden in front of it. I even have a plump bathing beauty on the door.


Maybe I can rig something up to play George Formby singing ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock‘ when I open the door. The Pianist can accompany him on his banjolele.

But inside I have abandoned the maritime theme . I cleaned, oiled and sharpened all my tools and they are hanging up in neat order,  thanks to the Pianist’s efforts in erecting this special tool- hanging thingy. And no duct tape was used at all. How wonderful it will be not to have to run around from garage to shed to greenhouses looking for all my tools. And how lovely to see them all clean and gleaming. I can’t bear to get them dirty now. The Pianist asked me to dig him some leeks and I had to try to persuade him that he didn’t  really need leeks. I didn’t want to get my fork dirty. I can see this is going to  scupper my winter gardening plans a bit.


And yes, that is a picture you see on the wall. Well why not?


And then the dear Pianist has given me  four long shelves. I keep my vases here because from now on I shall do all my flower arranging in the shed. This has come just in time as I have run out of cupboard space in the house for all  my jugs. I do have this weird thing about jugs. I hadn’ t realised quite how many I have until I put them all on the shelf.


And then I have a special potting station. I have never had such a luxury before.

Next to it it is a wipe clean board to keep track of what has been sown.dsc_0713

Miniature Xmas card pegs hold the seeds waiting to be sown soon. All my other seeds are in my grandmother’s gas mask tin from the war.  This used to hold her sewing kit but as I am allergic to the needle sort of sowing this is a much better use for it.


It is nice to find new uses for things that your family have owned. I keep plant pots in my father’ s old tool box. I believe this was his tuck box at school.


My Mother’ s tapestry basket holds my gardening gloves. The chickens hold labels.



I use an old fashioned bread bin to keep my vermiculite in.


Much more practical are the two galvanised steel bins for potting compost and the large plastic boxes  for grit and sand.


But I like old things. This old walnut box does not actually contain gants but a hammer and nails. I love it, how wonderful that people used to have a special box to keep their gloves in and one that they could  lock so that nobody could steal them.


My Chinese umbrella stand seems the obvious place to keep bamboo canes. It didn’t serve any purpose in the house as all our brollies are telescopic.



The long table was an eBay buy and came much cheaper than making one. Fortunately it just fitted in the car. The wicker chair was ridiculously cheap on eBay too.



dsc_0661The great thing about a shed is that you can indulge in the sort of whimsy which you wouldn’ t tolerate in the house. For instance I have ladybirds in odd places.

I have even brought my pottery pig and owl in here; my children made them for me when they small and so they are very precious.

And maybe I am propitiating the genius loci because as you see I have a green man, symbol of the ancient spirit of nature.

I am quite sad that my shed is finished now because I enjoyed doing it. Never mind, it’s on with the next project. Life is never boring if you have a garden.

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Some Greek Treasures.

Galanthus reginae-olgae was discovered in the 1870s in the Taygotos moutains in the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese.

Taygetos Mountains

Taygetos Mountains

This snowdrop was named for the Greek, Queen Olga, who was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Grandmother. It starts blooming in October and is still going strong. There were three blooms, but I accidentally pulled one off when I was raking up leaves. I used to have one very similar called Galanthus corcyrensis which comes from Corfu. It has since been established that it is the same and should be called Galanthus reginae-olgae too. Whatever its name, it is the earliest snowdrop of all and a welcome sight. It starts blooming well before my other early snowdrop, ‘Barnes’. From now on, there will be snowdrops to enjoy until April for the  nerdy anoraks amongst us, who delight in counting little green spots on tiny white flowers all winter long. I know for those of you who don’t share the addiction this seems a peculiar way to spend the winter. But then winter doesn’t offer us many floral delights.

Galanthus Reginae-olgae

Galanthus Reginae-olgae


I visited the wonderful, isolated Mani peninsula in May  a few years ago and the flora is amazing.

Apart from beautiful flowers there is a lovely Peloponnese tortoise, Testudo marginata.

Testudo marginata

Testudo marginata

And a Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Podarcis peloponnesiacus which I found appropriately enough on a wall.

Peloponnese Wall Lizard.

Peloponnese Wall Lizard.

Another treasure from this wonderful area is my lovely Cyclamen rhodium peloponnnesiacum. It has beautiful mottled leaves and lovely pink flowers. I was given it by a kind Greek lady, Electra, who I got talking to and found that she shared my passion for flowers and had a beautiful garden. It has to live in the greenhouse here but it doesn’t seem to mind.

Cyclamen rhodium pelonnesiacum

Cyclamen rhodium pelonnesiacum

Coming up in my next post my new project will be unveiled at last. I have been thinking about it and boring my friends and family about it long enough. At last it is finished.

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In a Vase on Monday. Brown Study.

I have been away for a few days for sad reasons and doing the tour of the garden on such a dismal, wet day in November does not cheer the soul. But there are still a few summer stragglers and I picked a few to join in with Cathy’s meme and to bring a bit of a cheer to the house.
I used my brown Chesterfield jug and my brown, boxwood, frog netsuke to accompany it. He is clutching a lotus seedhead. Both the frog and the lotus flower seedhead symbolise new beginnings, rebirth and rejuvenation so they are like a promise of spring at the most dismal time of the year.
The keys from Acer hersii and seedheads from Thalictrum delavii  and Clematis  tangutica are brown but give a promise of new plants to come. Everything else gives a nice boost of well needed colour.
By Christmas the birds will probably have eaten all the holly berries but they need them more than I do. Who would have thought there would still be a tassel of Amaranthus caudatus,’Love-lies-Bleeding’ hanging on? And  the white flowers of Solanum jasminoides bloom for months and only stop with the really hard frosts.

I have already written about my favourite Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ and it is still looking lovely. I went to Chelsea Physic garden last week for a fabulous day listening to garden designers such as  lovely Diarmuid Gavin and Arne Maynard talk about their work. Also speaking were Julian and Isobel Bannerman who created the stumpery at Highgrove. I looked for Chrysanthemum  ‘Chelsea Garden’ but couldn’t find it. Unfortunately time was too short for a thorough search. But here is mine.

Chrysanthemum 'Chelsea Physic Garden'

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

The daisy flowered Chrysanthemum is the old, reliable ‘Clara Curtis’. I suppose I should give it the correct name. It is now Dendranthema x rubellum ‘Clara Curtis’. What a bore.
On  the right you can see that my Alcalthaea suffrtescens ‘Parkallee’ is still blooming and it is a lovely match for ‘Clara Curtis’. The silky flowers are beginning to look a bit battered but it is amazing how long they keep going for.

There are still a few roses, they usually keep on until December, when as Reginald Farrer said, they begin to take on the appearance of ‘withered moths’. So far they have not been battered too much by frost. I am not sure which I have here as they were already in the garden.

That lovely spike of salvia is from the greenhouse. It is Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’. It has felty flowers and felty willow-shaped leaves. I also used a purple Salvia ‘Amistad’ which is still blooming in the garden.


Other flowers include an orange marigold, Calendula straggler and  a couple of sprigs of Penstemon ‘King George v’ which is a reliable, strong-growing penstemon. The little blue flower on the left in the next photograph is Ceratostigma willmottianum which I like for its gentian-blue flowers and lovely red foliage in autumn.

Here it is growing in the garden with the honey-scented Euphorbia mellifera. I think it looks lovely now. Unfortunately it looks awful in spring because like the shrubby Potentilla fruticosa, it is very late coming into leaf and looks dead. But right now I can overlook that.

Ceratostigma willmottianum with Euphorbia mellifera

Ceratostigma willmottianum with Euphorbia mellifera

So there we have my vase on a Stygian dark day in November. Do go over to Ramblinginthegarden and see what Cathy has in a vase today. It is just what the doctor ordered. And then you can look at vases  created by all her followers. It is interesting to see what people find for a vase at this time of the year. But garden bloggers are a creative lot and you can be sure they will come up with something  lovely.


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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. November.

The garden is winding down now and we have had a little frost. There are quite a few roses about but I don’t particularly want to look at them in November.  Having said that, these dainty little ‘Perle d’Or’ blooms are still very pretty.

Rosa 'Perle d'Or'

Rosa ‘Perle d’Or’

What I love at the moment are the chrysanthemums. I used to hate them and I am still not keen on the big mopheads, but now I love the vibrant colours of the daisy flowered ones.  What else is blooming so cheerfully in the garden right now? My favourite is Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’. The flowers are orangey-red but the reverse of the petals are bronze.

Chrysanthemum 'Chelsea Physic Garden'

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

Maybe brown flowers are an acquired taste but I love Chrysanthemum ‘Marjolein Brown’. I forgot to take a photo of it and now it is getting dark, so this is one I took last year.

Chrysanthemum 'Marjolein Brown'

Chrysanthemum ‘Marjolein Brown’

If that is too dull for you how about the vibrant colour of ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’?

Chrysanthemum 'Mrs. Jessie Cooper'

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’

It makes a nice bit of colour alongside nerines and the last flowers of Salvia ‘Water Melon’.
I love the old fashioned ones too, ‘The Emperor of China’ is a very old one but it is such a pretty shade of pink and the leaves turn red in autumn. It reminds me of my childhood.

Chrysanthemum 'The Emperor of China'

Chrysanthemum ‘The Emperor of China’

Another old one is ‘Mary Stoker’, it is always reliable and has pretty daisy flowers.

Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker'

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

I have a Chrysanthemum called ‘Suffolk Pink’ because it was found in a Suffolk garden.

Chrysanthemum 'Suffolk Pink'

Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’

I will show you just one more as you are probably all saying ‘enough with the chrysanthemums’.

Chrysanthemum 'Cottage Apricot'

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

Most of the Michaelmas daisies are over now but ‘Lady in Black’ is still pretty.

Aster 'Lady in Black'

Aster ‘Lady in Black’

My other late flowering Michaelmas Daisy, Aster ‘Monte Cassino’ has spread all over and its little white stars are always welcome. I know it’s now called ‘Symphio-thingy’ but I can”t be bothered with that at the moment. The taxonomists can say what they like it will always be an aster to me. And a very lovely one too.

Aster frikartii 'Monch seedheads with Aster 'Monte Cassino'

Aster frikartii ‘Monch seedheads with Aster ‘Monte Cassino’

Aster 'Monte Cassino' with Fucshia.

Aster ‘Monte Cassino’ with Fuchsia magellanica..

The little violet stars of Tulbaghia violacea always take me by surprise blooming so late in the year. This is a South African bulbous plant with strap -like leaves which smell of onion.

Tulbaghia violacea

Tulbaghia violacea

And I have tall growing Dianthus rupicola from Sicily which always blooms in October and November.

Dianthus rupicola

Dianthus rupicola

Another late bloomer is the cute little thistle type plant with dear little fuzzy flowers which are beloved by bees. It looks like a mini knapweed and the ends of the petals are curly.

Seerratula seoanei

Serratula seoanei

I am not interested in summer stragglers in November and neither do I want to look at winter flowers which are making an early appearance. So when I talk about snowdrops I mean the ones which bloom in November as they are supposed to do. Galanthus reginae-olgae is in flower in October and Galanthus ‘Barnes’ is in bloom now. And I forgot to take a photograph so here is one I took last year.

Galanthus 'Barnes'

Galanthus ‘Barnes’

I have already shown you all my nerines and salvias in the greenhouse but there are other pretty things in bloom in the other greenhouse.

Abutilon megapotamicum

Abutilon megapotamicum

Lantana camera

Lantana camera

Grevillea lanigera

Grevillea lanigera

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carole at Maydreamgardens blog. It is great to see what gardeners round the world are enjoying in their gardens each month.

And Symphiotrichum is the name for asters. Unless they are called something quite different, as some of them are. Anyway, they are not really called, ‘ symphio-thingy’.

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In a Vase on Monday. La Vie En Rose.

I wrote a post abut nerines on Saturday and quite forgot to say that they make wonderful long-lasting cut flowers. And so for a dreary November day what could be more cheerful than a bunch of these sugar-mice pink nerines in my pink  cranberry glass vase.





And next to it is my Chinese famille rose bowl. So even at the gloomiest time of the year, life can look rosy.

With the nerines I used pink Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’, purple Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ and cerise Salvia ‘Water Melon’. These salvias are all flourishing in the greenhouse.

Actually life is looking very rosy for me at the moment with an exciting project coming to fruition at last. More of that soon.

Meanwhile, thanks to Cathy at rambling in the garden for her ever popular meme . More and more people are getting hooked on foraging in their gardens to find something to put in a vase on Monday.



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Sea Nymphs in the Greenhouse.

I know this  title sounds whimsical but the word ‘nerine’ is Greek and it means ‘nereid‘ which is a sea nymph. I think it is much prettier than the original name, ‘Imhofia’. Although they have nothing to do with the sea, William Herbert who first realised that they are not actually lilies, called them this because of the story of a ship carrying boxes of them to Holland, which  was wrecked in the seventeenth century. Bulbs washed ashore on Guernsey and established themselves there; or so the story goes, perhaps you have heard it, but it is probably apocryphal. In fact nerines were grown in England  in the garden of the Cromwellian, General John Lambert in the 1650s; he acquired them from a nursery in France. At the time of the Restoration he was exiled to Guernsey and it is highly likely that he took his precious nerines with him. It was originally thought that nerines come from Japan, but in fact they all originate in South Africa. However they got there, nerines established themselves on the sand dunes of Guernsey. And they are still grown there for the flower trade . The exquisite, but tender Nerine sarniensis takes its name from the Latin name for Guernsey, Sarnia.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis

The flowers of Nerine sarniensis are the brightest red and in a good light they look as if they have been sprinkled with gold dust. This is a winter growing nerine , and as its leaves grow over winter it is not hardy and has to be kept in the greenhouse. It has been crossed with the hardy Nerine bowdenii to create some beautiful hybrids which are tender too, but worth growing in the greenhouse because they are so beautiful. Nerine sarniensis flowers quite early for me and has finished now. But in full bloom I have the superb Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’. This is well named because the flowers are huge and dark pink. Here it is growing in front of the ordinary Nerine bowdenii, so you can see the difference. To the left is the delicate Nerine undulata.


And here is a close up of gorgeous ‘Zeal Giant’. As you can see there is a central stripe on the petals which is delicately shaded lilac.

Nerine 'Zeal Giant'

Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’

Another superb Bowdenii x sarniensis cross is the dark flowered Nerine ‘Mr. John’. It has a purple stripe on its dark pink petals. I have seen it listed as bowdenii, but I think this is wrong as it is not hardy.

Nerine 'Mr. John'

Nerine ‘Mr. John’

‘Mr. John’ is just going over, but you can see what I mean about the petals shimmering with  gold dust on the next close up.

Nerine 'Mr. John'

Nerine ‘Mr. John’

Most of the bowdenii hybrids are reasonably hardy but I have found that the white ones can’t take much frost. I have three. The first to flower is Nerine bowdenii ‘Ella K’.

Nerine bowdenii 'Ella K'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Ella K’

‘Ella K’ is finishing now but Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ has just come into bloom. I think the flowers of this one are a purer white. They can be tinged with pink though, so it is best to buy it in flower.

Nerine bowdenii 'Alba'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’

My third white nerine is still in bud. It is a new one that I bought because it is supposed to be stronger, healthier  and whiter than other white ones which can suffer from virus. It is called Nerine bowdenii ‘Blanca Perla’.

The wonderful thing about nerines is the fact that some of them start flowering at the end of September and if you have several varieties you can have them in bloom until the end of  dreary November. In full bloom now is one of my favourites, it is the exquisite Nerine undulata with its delicate spidery, pale pink flowers. I was given it by a friend years ago and told that it is hardy. It did live outside for a few years, but when I moved I dug it up and put it into a pot where it has grown happily for eleven years now. Nerines are great for growing in a pot because they flower well when the bulbs are overcrowded. Now I don’t want to risk this beauty outside. It has 39 blooms this year. My gardening friends keep suggesting that it is time that I repot it and share a few bulbs around. Nope. Sorry, it’s not going to happen.

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

My last tender nerine is actually a cross between nerine and amaryllis. No, I don’t mean the giraffe-stalked hippeastrums which are sold at Christmas as pot plants.Those are not amaryllis at all. Amaryllis can live outside in a sunny spot. I thought I had lost mine but it is fine, it flowered in September.



You can see where the amarine gets its huge flowers from. I am not going to risk my beautiful Amarine  outside even  in a sunny spot. It has massive flowers with a distinct stripe on them.

Amarine beladiva 'Aphrodite'

Amarine beladiva ‘Aphrodite’

 Nerine bowdenii is hardy in a sun baked position and does not need to be kept in the green house. The bulbs need to be planted with the top of their noses above ground. They prefer a sunny spot, preferably in a sandy soil. They don’t like competition for space. Although they like to be baked they do need watering from July onwards to make them flower well. I have ordinary Nerine bowdenii in the garden. They came from my father’s garden where they grew well and multiplied at an astonishing rate as they do here.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii

I have several named varieties which don’t seem much different to me. I bought ‘Marjorie’ from Plant Heritage because our Chairman, Jim Marshall introduced and named it after his late wife. It was a seedling selected at Edinburgh Botanical Garden. With all due respect to Jim, it looks very much like the other bowdenii to me.

Nerine bowdenii 'Marjorie'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Marjorie’

I also have Nerine ‘Pink Triumph which is very similar .

Nerine 'Pink Triumph'

Nerine ‘Pink Triumph’

I have two soft pale pink nerines which I think are prettier than the usual sugary pink ones. One is Nerine bowdenii ‘Pink Surprise’ which blooms at the end of September.

Nerine 'Pink Surprise'

Nerine ‘Pink Surprise’

The other is the shell pink Nerine bowdenii ”Stefanie’.

Nerine bowdenii 'Stefanie'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefanie’

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’ is a lovely dark one.

Nerine 'Isobel'

Nerine ‘Isobel’

Whilst it is great to have hardy nerines in the garden, I love going into the greenhouse on a dreary November day and finding it full of jewels. Today, it has rained all day and hardly got light. A few days ago we had awful news which made us feel that the world is falling into barbarity. When the morally bankrupt take over power it is time to be very frightened. Time to hide in the greenhouse.



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Oh No, Not November.

But like it or not, here we are with dark, late afternoons and our gardens closing down for the winter. Yesterday was Halloween and we had pumpkins and  for some of us there were ghosts floating round the garden.


Actually this was taken very early this morning before it was properly light. I was trying to catch a heron taking off, but the ghost got in the way. When I went outside the only ghostly figures were my three tree ferns wrapped up in their fleecey vests. Hector didn’t think much of them at all and was convinced that they are up to no good, standing there flaunting their underwear. When it gets really cold they will get tartan blankets and look respectable.

But the leaves haven’t all fallen off yet and we still have  colour to enjoy.
The little bonfire you can see on the right of the weeping birch is Cotinus ‘Grace’  which is particularly good in autumn.

Cotinus 'Grace'

Cotinus ‘Grace’

The area round here is getting a face lift. The soil is gritty and there are stones and the remains of a path so it must have been an an alpine bed once. Now, it is full of ground elder, bindweed and other rubbish so I am giving it a big clear out and then I will put down a membrane, relay the stones and cover it with grit and it will have a new lease of life once the weeds have been killed off. Life is too short to spend  time trying to keep areas like this looking decent when they are full of pernicious weeds and dying roses. Next time you see it, I hope it will be transformed..
The other area keeping me busy at the moment is the last of the six silly little island beds which covered this garden like a rash. Alan Bloom of Foggy Bottom, Bressingham had a lot to answer for in the 70s, when he encouraged everyone to create island beds and grow heather and conifers. They may look good at Bressingham because the beds are huge, but downsized into the average sized garden they look ridiculous. This particular one had a massive holly, buddleias, a flowering currant and fuchsias, underplanted with ajuga. For goodness sake, the people who used to live here shouldn’t have been allowed into the garden if this was the best they could come up with. I thought I would have to get a tree surgeon in to get rid of the holly, but the Pianist amazed me by felling it himself with his chainsaw. It feel neatly just where he said it would, apparently he used algorithms or something to work it all out. No harm was done to my veggy beds or the Pianist himself. He fell over in the village shop the next day and had to go to A&E and have his hand stitched up after slicing it on the display cabinet. But he chopped down a huge holly with not so much as a scratch.


I know I really shouldn’t let Mr Clum near a chainsaw. He once fell out of an apple tree whilst using it. He had the presence of mind to throw it away and he was quite unharmed, but the sight of it will stay with me forever.

Anyway, I now I have the stumps to worry about. I need a man with a mattock and bulging muscles. Obviously, the one I’ve got, with hands all wrapped up in bandages like Frankenstein won’t be much good for this.
When it is finally cleared it will be lawn and that is the last of the useless little beds.

Other autumn leaves looking good right now are some of the witch hazels in either yellow or orange.

Spirea japonica ‘Gold Flame looks beautiful in spring and again now in autumn. What a pity it has cerise pink flowers in summer which clash most awfully with the foliage. Every summer I  threaten it with eviction and then I forgive it again in autumn,.

Spirea japonica 'Goldflame'

Spirea japonica ‘Goldflame’

Forsythia is rather common and such a strident yellow in spring. I got rid of most of them, but I left just one. It does have excellent autumn colour.



The snakesbark acer, Acer hersii colours quite well.

Acer hersii

Acer hersii

I have a little Acer griseum and I am looking forward to it growing up a bit to show off its cinnamon-coloured peeling bark. It is growing with the rare Chrysanthemum ‘Belle’ which I got from Plant Heritage.

Acer griseum Chrysanthemum 'Belle'

Acer griseum Chrysanthemum ‘Belle’

I have several acers but none of them are as wonderful for autumn tints as the ones my daughter and I saw at East Bergholt arboretum on Saturday. We decided the very best were these two. They are both going straight to the top of the wish list.

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto'

Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’

But autumn is the time for berries and fruit too. My garden is full of hollies. Perhaps the Pianist can get rid of some more. In the meantime they are good for berries in winter and the birds enjoy them. This one is growing by a huge Malus ‘Hornet’. The yellow crab apples look good now but they turn brown and look awful later.
I have just bought a crab apple for the winter garden.It is Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’. The fruit are long lasting and should hang on, looking good  all winter.

Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel'

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

I have one shrub in bloom right now and it is the pretty Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganipinensis ‘Soft Caress’. A pity about the tongue twister of a name but the leaves are soft and willowy.

Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’

At ground level there is bright red foliage on this euphorbia. I can’t remember which it is, but it could be Euphorbia palustris.



I bought bergenias for the winter garden for lovely winter foliage. One of them is already colouring up. It is Bergenia ‘Mrs. Crawford’.

Bergenia 'Mrs,Crawford'

Bergenia ‘Mrs,Crawford’

As for flowers, the asters are going over but there are still plenty of dahlias and more chrysanthemums are coming out each day.
This dahlia is a bit big and blowsy, it was a bargain supermarket buy last year. Still it is quite eye -catching in the winter garden.
I quite like the next one but it was misnamed. It was supposed to be the sumptuous dark red ‘Arabian Night’.


Still looking pretty in pink are these three.

And under the trees there are autumn crocus to enjoy.
Well,on second thoughts perhaps November is not so bad after all.

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