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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In a Vase on Monday. Purple Blobs.

My offering for In a Vase on Monday is an eryngium. You are probably more familiar with the metallic blue prickly sea holly and its relatives which all bloom in summer. This one is the giant sea holly, Eryngium pandanifolium ‘Physic Purple’. I have grown Eryngium pandanifolium before in my dry gravel garden for its dramatic rosettes of spiky leaves and masses of tall stems with clusters of little egg -shaped, dove- coloured flowers. This one, Eryngium pandanifolium ‘Chelsea Purple’ was new to my garden last year and is blooming for the first time. What has surprised me is how late the flowers appear. It was looking fabulous until the snow on Friday broke its stem. I am always looking for new and unusual candidates for my winter garden so if this is going to make a habit of blooming so late it will certainly find a place there.

This is a dramatic plant and as you see the stem is large, but as the plant matures it will get much bigger and more imposing and the branching flower stems will reach 7 feet. It was found in Chelsea Physic Garden by Christopher Lloyd and that along with the purple colour of the flowers gave it its name. He felt that this is a plant with star quality.

So I have no carefully arranged vase today, I just plonked the stem in a large white jug. I really think this is a stand -alone plant. I shall be interested to see how long it lasts in water.

Eryngium pandaniifolium ‘ Physic Purple’
Eryngium pandanifolium ‘Physic Purple’

And here is the spiky foliage sitting in the snow on Friday. The leaves are narrow, serrated and ever-green.

Do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, she never lacks inspiration to find something to interest us in her Monday vases.

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Six on Saturday. December Delights.

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

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

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

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

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

Jasminum nudiflorum

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

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

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

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

The flowers are held in erect racemes .

Mahonia x mediaCharity’

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

Prunus x subhirttella ‘Autumnalis’

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

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

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

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

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

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

Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’

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

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In a Vase on Monday. Glamour from the Greenhouse.

I meant to write a post about the greenhouse in October and tomorrow will be December and still I haven’t got round to it. To make sure there is some floral treat to look forward to all the year round, I try to have something special for each month. During October the nerines in the greenhouse make my heart sing. I have Nerine bowdenii hybrids in the garden too but some of the greenhouse ones are crossed with the scarlet Nerine sarniensis and they are not hardy as they grow their leaves through the winter. In any case, I like to have as many varieties as I can corralled together in the greenhouse for maximum impact. Most of them are going over now but they have been a joy for weeks.

Here are a few.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’
Nerine bowdenii ‘Stephanie’

Nerine ‘Lipstick’ is a new one this year and is so pretty with its flowers of pink and white.

Nerine ‘ Lipstick’

The star as usual is my huge pot of Nerine undulata. which used to be called Nerine crispa. I divided it this year so I have a few extra pots. I have always thought my specimen was even more beautiful than any Nerine undulata I have ever seen. Recently I spoke to Clive Boyce who gave me this plant more than twenty years ago. Clive used to be President of the Alpine Garden Society and he knows a good plant when he sees one. Apparently this Nerine undulata is indeed special. It had been growing in his mother’s garden in Seaton, Devon since at least 1945. Clive spotted that it is much finer than the usual Nerine undulata and he had it submitted to the RHS for assessment. After extensive trials it was confirmed as a new variety of special merit. Clive suggested the name of Nerine undulata ‘Seaton’ as that it is where it originated. Apparently it is hardy but it looks far too fragile and ethereal to take its chance in the autumn garden. Besides I like to keep it in the greenhouse where I can gloat over it.

Nerine undulata ‘Seaton’

So I put a few of the lingering nerines in a vase today to join in with Cathy’ s popular meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’.

As I am featuring blooms from the greenhouse today, I have filled a vase with the glorious Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’ which has been delighting me for several weeks now. And as Cathy has featured a chrysanthemum in her vase today that I gifted her, I would like to return the compliment with this lovely chrysanthemum which she gave me last year. I set the flowers off with a ruff of Eucalyptus gunni leaves. The crazy, curly petals remind me of my hair these days after nine months of cutting it myself. But whilst my hair looks the most awful mess, this chrysanthemum is sublime; many thanks Cathy.

Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’

Ther are a few more goodies still looking good in the greenhouse. I love this late- flowering passion flower, Passiflora ‘Silly Cow’ which I tried in the garden a few years ago and it wasn’t quite hardy. It is supposed to be hardy though and it has been bred to have bigger flowers than the ordinary Passifora caerula. I shall keep it in the greenhouse for the winter and then try it again in the garden next year. Who can resist a flower called ‘Silly Cow’? I went to a talk a few years ago by Myles Irvine who bred this passion flower. He said he named it after a friend, which is rather a double-edged compliment.

Passiflora ‘Silly Cow’

I have several brugmansias in pots and I have brought them into the greenhouse and cut most of them down but this one, Brugmansia ‘Pink Lady’ is still blooming. I bought it on eBay earlier this year. It was a rooted cutting but grew to flowering size very quickly. I know these plants are deadly poison so I treat them with great respect.

Brugmansia ”Pink Lady’

I have taken cuttings of all my salvias and abutilons and most of these are still filling the greenhouse with colour. As this is a ‘Vase on Monday’ post and I seem to have gone rather off piste, I will confine myself to just one abutilon bloom which is specially pretty and I don’t think I have mentioned it before. It is Abutilon ‘Fool’s Gold’.

Abutlion ‘Fool’s Gold’

Thanks to Cathy from Rambling in the garden for hosting this meme and giving me the lovely chrysanthemum for my vase today. I hope you will forgive the slight deviation, but I wanted to show one or two greenhouse lovelies before they go over.

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Six on Saturday. November Stars.

I try to grow something exciting for each month of the year so there is always something to look forward. Of course, as we slide into winter it becomes more difficult. But November is not a problem. I wrote about my chrysanthemums recently and they are really the stars of my November garden, but there are other blooms to give me pleasure as the gloom intensifies.

I grow quite a few hesperantha, ( we don’t call them schizostylis anymore, thank goodness; I could never spell it.) I have pink ones and white ones and they are pretty, but most of them flop about rather. The new one I acquired this year is tall, but doesn’t flop. It is also absolutely stunning with bright red, satiny flowers. It is called Hesperantha coccinea ”Cindy Towe’. It was found as a seedling by June Towe in her garden near Ludlow, she named it after her dog. I always carefully grow on seedlings that appear in my garden, hoping for something amazing like this or the Oriental poppy, ‘Patty’s Plum’ which was found on a compost heap. I am still waiting to dazzle the horticultural world with something stunning like this fabulous hesperantha.

Hesperantha coccinea ‘Cindy Towe’

Another new acquisition this year is a shrub called Ageratina ligustrina, which means it has privet-type leaves. I read that this is a late summer, early autumn flowering shrub but mine is in full bloom right now. It needs a sunny spot and I am not quite sure of its hardiness as it comes from Mexico. It is a great plant for bees and butterflies if they are still about as late as this. This is another plant which has had a name change. It used to be called Eupatorium ligustrinum.

Ageratina ligustrina

I have a late -flowering little plant with similar shaped, tufty flowers to the ageratina. It is called Serratula tinctoria var. seoanei. If that is too much of a mouthful, I can’t help it, I didn’t name it. It is a very pretty knapweed -like plant and belongs to the thistle family, although it is not spiny. I grow it in my Mediterranean garden. All the books say it blooms in August and September, but my plant hasn’t read the books. Having said that it has been in bloom for weeks. I wouldn’t be without it.

Serratula tinctoria var. se

Persicarias are great summer-flowering plants, although some of them can be quite invasive. Most of them have finished blooming in my garden long ago, but Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orange Field’ is fabulous and is still blooming away happily. I grow it with Salvia ‘Waverley’. We are forecast frosts next week, but never mind I have plenty of cuttings of this lovely salvia in the greenhouse.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orange Field’ with Salvia ‘Waverley’

My dahlias have been blooming since the end of June and although they haven’t been frosted yet I have started to cut them down. It sounds ungrateful to say I am getting fed up with them as they have been magnificent for months, but I want to start tidying up. I don’t dig up my dahlias, I have far too many. When I have cut them down, I cover the tubers with several layers of newspaper and then a mulch of wood chippings. I never lose any this way and I am convinced that it is winter wet that kills them rather than cold. But I am leaving my tree dahlias until the last minute. They are tall and majestic and some of them are blooming way above my head. They are not all in flower as Dahlia imperialis blooms very late in the season and in the UK will usually get zapped by frost before all the buds have a chance to develop. But even without flowers the giant plants are a fine addition to my exotic garden. They are all different and the seeds are the results of complex crosses made with the tree dahlia, Dahlia Imperialis and other species dahlias by Dr. Keith Hammett in New Zealand. I am very grateful to Matthew Long for giving me the seeds and an opportunity to grow something new and exciting.

Dahlia imperialis hybrid

I will finish with my first camellia into bloom. It is the autumn flowering Camellia sasanqua, I can’t remember its name but it is very pretty and a welcome addition to the November garden.

Camellia sasanqua

Many thanks to The Propagator for hosting this Saturday meme where bloggers discuss everything horticultural as long as they keep to the rule of six.

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Crazy about Chrysanthemums.

We are having a wonderful November, beautiful sunshine and no frost means that there is still plenty of colour in the garden. I never used to like chrysanthemums, I used to associate them with dismal pot plants and funerals. But a few years ago I discovered the small flowered Rubellum and Korean chrysanthemums. Don’t ask me which is which, I can’t tell them apart. But they are all lovely. Many of the varieties I have bought in the last couple of years are rare ones propagated by Suffolk Plant Heritage so it is nice to have the added pleasure of helping to preserve plants on the red list.

One of my favourites is ‘Mavis Smith’ which was found by a member of Suffolk Plant Heritage in the garden of her Pilates class. It is the tallest and most vigorous of all my chrysanthemums and instantly recognisable because of its quilled petals which make the flowers look like pink shuttlecocks.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’

I have a clump growing alongside which is another rare chrysanthemum with creamy semi-double flowers called ‘Edelweiss’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mavis Smith’ with Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Another pink one, but this time with a white halo at the centre is ‘Jolie Rose’. This is one of my most recent purchases and I am very pleased with it.

Chrysanthemum ‘Jolie Rose’

A lot of the gardens round here seem to grow Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’. I don’t know anything about its history but I suppose it is a local one. I read that it is very rare but it is not round here, everyone has it. It is a very vigorous one.

Chrysanthemum ‘Suffolk Pink’

I have bought a dark pink one with tiny pompom flowers this year. It is called ‘Julia Peterson’. It blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Julia Peterson’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei -Kyo’ is an old variety from Japan. It is smothered in pink pom -pom flowers for a long period.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei-Kyo’

I grow it in front of the long flowering Rose ‘Bengal Beauty’ and alongside Salvia uliginosa.

‘The Emperor of China’ is a very old one, Gertrude Jekyll wrote about it in 1880. It is absolutely gorgeous with silvery pink quilled petals. Its foliage develops beetroot red leaves in late autumn.

Chrysanthemum ‘The Emperor of China’

‘Clara Curtis’ has pale single flowers, it is a very old variety and it is extremely vigorous.

Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis

I have a single, red one which is very pretty and I cannot remember its name so I would be very happy if anyone could help me out.

‘Chrysanthemum ”Buxton Ruby’ has the smallest, darkest, red semi-double flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘Buxton Ruby’

Coppery colours are perfect for this time of the year and ‘Marion’ is a rare semi-double chrysanthemum which is a gorgeous rich apricot.

Chrysanthemum ‘Marion’

I bought this next one as ‘Sonya’ but I think it may be wrongly labelled because when I googled it, the only ‘Sonya’ I could find was pink. Maybe my friend Anne, who is the propagating queen for Suffolk Plant Heritage could help us here. Whatever its name, it is a beauty.

Anther rare one which is on the endangered list is gorgeous ‘Picasso’ which has masses of double flowers in a lovely, peachy colour.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

‘Golden Greenheart’ has a double layer of petals and a distinctive green centre. It is rather unusual.

Chrysanthemum ‘Golden Greenheart’

My favourite golden chrysanthemum is the late flowering ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ . It has bronze double flowers which are gold on the reverse of the petals. It is the last of my chrysanthemums to come into bloom.

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

I seem to have rather a lot of yellow ones so next year I shall look for other colours. Again on the red list, I have Chrysanthemum ‘Jante Wells’ which is a rare and sought after variety with bright yellow flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘Jante Wells’

‘President Osaka’ is a another very rare chrysanthemum. It has sprays of acid yellow flowers.

Chrysanthemum ‘President Osaka’

‘Cottage Lemon’ is very similar but is much more readily available.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Lemon’

I have a few more, but that is probably enough for now. Next year I shall certainly buy some more chrysanthemums because what else fills the garden with such vibrant colour in November ?

I did mean to write about the greenhouse today but the sun was shining and as I walked round the garden there were explosions of colour everywhere and I wanted to come in and celebrate them. I hope you will see one or two that you might like to try, they really brighten up the November garden and they bloom for ages.

Before I go, I will give you a little taste of something that is happening in the greenhouse, and that is a tender chrysanthemum that is just coming into bloom and it is quite astonishing. It was a present from Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and it is quite stunningly beautiful. It is called ‘Salhouse Joy’ and it is certainly bringing me a lot of joy; many thanks Cathy.

Chrysanthemum ‘Salhouse Joy’
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In a Vase on Monday. Mellow Fruitfulness.

I was going to take you into my greenhouse today, in fact I’ve been meaning to do a greenhouse blog for ages, but Cathy at Rambling in the Garden is celebrating the 7th anniversary of her meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ and so I had to put something together to join in with her celebration. Her challenge today is to create a vase with no flowers and it is a great time of the year to enjoy seeds and fruits or drupes. They come in such an abundance of shapes and colours and they give so much pleasure in the autumn garden. My apple crop has been phenomenal this year and now the ones that are still lying around and rotting are creating a glut for wasps and butterflies. it has been so mild that I still have red admiral butterflies around.

I didn’t have much time to get the material together because it was getting dark but here is what I picked. For berries I chose some lovely, shiny purple Callicarpa bodinieri, nothing else has berries in just this colour, except perhaps for the climber Akebia quinata which sometimes has a strange, pulpy fruit in pale lilac. As we are talking about autumn fruit I have to show it to you. I read that it is edible, but somehow I don’t quite fancy it.

Akebia quinata

But back to the callicarpa berries, I think they would make a gorgeous necklace.

Callicarpa bodinieri

The red lozenge-shaped berries are Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’. I grow a few barberries for their lovely leaf colour but I grow one specially for the gorgeous fruit and it is the rare Berberis georgei. If I was going to make jewellery out of this one, it would be dangly earrings.

I grow another rare berberis for the beautiful blue leaves in summer. It is called Berberis temolaica.

Berberis temolaica in summer

Now the blue leaves have turned a lovely red colour. They make a nice contrast with the evergreen, vareigated Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’.

I used two different types of fluffy pennisetum grasses. Penisetumm villosum is white and Pennisetum alopecuriodes has brown heads and makes a larger plant.

So far we have red and purple berries, but can you spot the pink ones? This is euonymus, I’m not sure which variety, as I grew it from a seed which fell into my pocket. It could be Euonymus hamiltonianus. I have several in different colours but this is my favourite.

I have used a yellow fruit from Chaenomeles japonica.

Some people call these fruit quinces but the real quince is a tree Cydonia oblonga and it has much larger fragrant fruit and beautiful blossom in spring.

Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’

The little brown fruit in my arrangement is the rather peculiar medlar. This is apparently edible if you blet it which really means letting it go rotten. I have never been tempted to eat it, but it makes a pretty little tree with lovely blossom.

Mespilus germanica

I am crazy about crab apple trees and I have bought several new ones for my piece of reclaimed garden. The largest one I have is ‘Golden Hornet which was here when we came and it is enormous. If you like crab apples with yellow fruit I would go for ‘Comtessa de Paris’ which has persistent fruit which doesn’t go brown.

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’

I have used a fruit from my little Malus ‘Evereste’ in the arrangement.

Malus ‘Evereste’

The large fruit on the table is from one of my new crab apples and it is called ‘Jelly King’, it is quite a new introduction and I think it is the best of the large fruited varieties. It is supposed to be good for crab apple jelly but I’d rather have the fruit on the tree. And anyway, I really can’t be bothered to mess about making crab apple jelly, life is far too short.

Three of my other favourite crab apples are Malus transitora which has loads of small bead -like yellow fruit and I grew mine from seed so I know it is one of the few which come true from seed. Malus ‘Cardinal’ has gorgeous pink blossom and lovely red fruit.

Malus ‘Cardinal’

Ok, you haven’t got all day, I’ll just show you just one more crab apple which I bought in the early spring and enjoyed its beautiful white blossom. It is called ‘Malus ‘Wedding Bouquet’. The little red fruit persist well into December.

Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’

I really meant to include some sorbus berries but I forgot and it is too dark to go down the garden and get some now. So I will show you a picture of my favourite one at the moment. I have a couple of new ones but they are too small to look very good yet. I also have some seed grown ones, so I am looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

Sorbus hupehensis

So there we have it, all the lovely fruit in my vase and quite a bit that would have been in there if I had had more time. These early, dark afternoons rather creep up on you. I have used a brown Hornsea pottery jam pot which I bought many years ago at Hornsea. I thought the colour is nice and autumnal.

Congratulations Cathy, on seven years of bringing pleasure to so many people with your Monday vases. A vase without flowers is a good way of celebrating the autumn garden.

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In a vase on Monday. Two for the Price of One.

I have been absent from the blogging world for a while, partly because I have had a dodgy internet connection which is now sorted, but mainly because I have been working long hours on new projects which I will show you later.

But first to make up for the my absence I have two vases today. The first which I will call ‘Frothy coffee’ is made up of two of my favourite dahlias. One is the beautifully named cactus dahlia ‘Messenger from the Moon’ or Tsuki Yori No Shisha’. The other is the dinner plate ‘Café au Lait’ which is such a gorgeous colour. Frosts are forecast for this week so this is probably the end of the dahlias for this year. I have also used the cowslip yellow Clematis rhederiana which is sometimes known as ‘Virgin’s Bower’. It is a delightful clematis with clusters of nodding, scented bell-like flowers. It blooms for weeks on end. Its only vice is the fact that in one season it grows huge and it is scaling the rose and wisteria arches in my secret garden. So today I have been ruthlessly cutting it back.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’
Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’

Outside in the garden autumn is showing its russet hues everywhere and it is beautiful. But for my second vase I am hanging on to the fresh colours of summer for one more week.

I have used four of my salvias. On the right is the aptly named Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’ and the flowers do look as if they are made of velvet. By the end of the summer this makes a huge bush, but it is not hardy so I take plenty of cuttings.

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

On the left are the spikes of beautiful Salvia leucantha ‘Phyllis Fancy’ which also makes a huge bush. This is special as it was a present from our lovely Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who gets us all finding flowers to put in a vase on Monday. Thank you Cathy, I have been enjoying gorgeous Phyllis.

Salvia leucantha ‘Phyllis Fancy’

The other salvia I used is not quite the right colour because it is a rather intense blue rather than violet like the others. But it is quite unusual and I thought you might like to see it. It is called Salvia corrugata which is appropriate as it has corrugated leaves. It comes from South America so it is not hardy.

Salvia corrugata

The deep purple salvia in the photo above is called ‘Nachtvlinder’ which is the German for moth. It doesn’t look anything like a moth, but never mind it is a pretty name. This salvia seems relatively hardy in my garden and I now have big bushes of it.

The pretty white chrysanthemum in the next photo is called ‘Edelweiss’ It is quite rare. I am getting very keen on chrysanthemums as they carry the garden into November so prettily. I now have a good collection of different colours thanks to Suffolk Plant Heritage. But more of these another day.

The Japanese anemone is called ‘Andrea Atkinson’. It is very similar to the ubiquitous ‘Honorine Jobert’ but I think it is better. It blooms from late summer well into autumn.

The white Michaelmas daisy or symphyotrichum as we now have to call it is Symphyotrichum ericioides ‘Snow Flurry’.

The lovely potato vine is the two-toned white and violet Solanum laxum ‘Creche du Pape’, or this is what everyone seems to call it now. Its proper name is ‘Creche ar Pape’ which sounds ungrammatical but it is named after a place in Brittany.

I have missed writing about my special October blooms and now we are into November. I will try and catch up with fruits, flowers and gorgeous leaves very soon. And it is high time I invited you into the greenhouse again where the nerines have been delighting me for several weeks now and still look good. And after weeks of hard work I now have much more garden to enjoy and to share with you as yet again I have pushed back on elastic boundaries and that’s it now, if I go any further I shall be in my neighbours’ gardens. Actually, that is a thought, the people on the left probably wouldn’t notice. But then I mustn’t be greedy. I have masses more space now. I will show you soon.

And of course I am looking forward to catching up with what everyone else has been doing in their gardens whilst I was busy. Until then, thank you Cathy for your lovely meme In a Vase on Monday. Next week it will be her 7th anniversary, so don’t miss it.

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Stinky greenhouse. Stapelia gigantea.

Recently I promised more regular visits to see what is in bloom in the greenhouse. And just at the moment there are some enormous and rather weird blooms on display. But if you could visit here on a sunny day, you might not want to linger long because it smells as if something has died.

Stapelia gigantea

If you have delicate sensibilities you might object to the smell and you will be revolted by this plant’s rather gruesome habits. It is not insectivorous exactly, but it relies on flies to pollinate it. It comes from arid, desert areas of South Africa where there is a lack of butterflies and bees. It is sometimes known as the Carrion Flower because not only does it stink, but the flower is supposed to resemble carrion in order to attract flies to pollinate it. It is flesh- coloured, it has wavy concentric lines like veins and the flowers are edged with fur.

The petals feel like soft suede. Flies are attracted by the smell and the appearance and they lay their eggs on it and pick up pollen. Actually, I never get seeds in mine so perhaps I have the wrong -sized flies. The maggots soon die of starvation so they fall off and presumably nourish the roots.

I know this all sounds absolutely disgusting, but let’s look at it another way. An alternative name for it is Starfish Cactus and indeed it does look like a starfish.

If you go in the greenhouse on a dull day, there is no smell. And the starfish -like flowers are amazing, they look unreal, or as if someone has knitted them. And the buds are wonderful too; they take ages to plump up until eventually they look just like balloons.

In summer these plants lives in a sunny spot in my greenhouse and get regular watering. Flowering is stimulated by the shortening days. In winter they have to come inside because they can’t take temperatures below 10c. They need to be kept very dry in winter so I leave them on spare bedroom window sills and forget about them.

Stapelea gigantea has succulent, four-angled stems which are spineless and velvety to the touch. It looks like a cactus but it actually belongs to the Milkweed family.

I have read that Stapelia gigantea can become invasive in warm climates and in Hawaii it has become a menace, but there is no chance of that happening here in the UK. It won’t seed around, but it is easy from cuttings. If you want a really unusual plant for the greenhouse then why not give it a try? The huge flowers will stop visitors in their tracks. They can be as big as 10-16 inches across and another name for it is Zulu Giant. If you can’t stand the smell, you can always keep it outside in summer in a sunny spot but it shouldn’t be moved once the buds have formed because they might drop off.

Readers of my blog will know that I have a passion for nerines and they are the stars of my October greenhouse, helping me to forget that winter is coming. They are now full of buds and some of them are blooming, so next time I take you into the greenhouse it will be to have a look. Nerines are fabulous with beautiful, starry flowers, luminous colours and no flies or horrible smell.

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A Delectation of Dahlias.

For years I disliked dahlias; I didn’t like the smell and I associated them with the regimental rows of garish colours where earwigs lurked in my grandmother’s garden. I started a few years ago with the fashionable ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and from there decided dahlias were OK as long as they were deep, velvety red like the almost edible ‘Karma Choc’ so I grew a few from seed trying to get ever darker children. You can buy some lovely, dark red dahlias though so I gave up trying to breed my own.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

My latest dark one is the sultry ‘Dark Desire’.

Dahlia ‘Dark Desire’

The fire engine red ‘Murdoch’ is also a favourite.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

Then I fell for the over- the-top charms of the monstrous Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’

Last year I acquired its relative ‘Café au Lait Rose’.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Rose’

Another flamboyantly, gorgeous dahlia is the ghostly white, fimbriated Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’ which translates as ‘Messenger from the Moon’.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’

I am not particularly keen on cactus dahlias but I do have the semi cactus, ‘Ambition’ because it is such a lovely deep purple.

And I had to have the dinner plate deep purple ‘Thomas.E. Edison’.

Another giant decorative dahlia is the sturdy ‘Labyrinth’ which is a glorious, peachy confection of swirling petals.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

The anemone -flowered ‘Mambo’ is unusual.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

But I have a weakness for single dahlias and they are the ones the bees prefer. The ‘Honka’ series comes in various colours but they are all single with reflexed petals. This one is ‘Honka Fragile’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

Dahlias with dark foliage are always attractive and I have several dark-leaved bishops, but the one I particularly love is ‘Waltzing Mathilda’, the colours are so peachy. Here she is waltzing her way through the dark blue Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.

So far I haven’t mentioned any colarettes, these are dahlias with flat petals and a collar of florets at the centre. Here is one called ‘Night Butterfly’ and she seems to have strong genes because she has bequeathed her distinctive flowers to many of her seedling in my garden.

Dahlia ”Night Butterfly’

And that is what I really want to show you today. You can see the above dahlias in any catalogue but my babies are unique to my garden. If you start off with a varied selection of dahlias, then growing your own from seed is endlessly fascinating because you never know what you will get. And of course it is addictive. If you sow them early they will bloom the first year and each succeeding year they get better and better. These red, year- old children are taller than me.

They look lovely en masse.

Most of the seedlings are single or semi double. I have the odd anemone- flowered one like this child of ‘Totally Tangerine’

There are lots of ‘Honka ‘ children with slender reflexed petals. The yellow one surprised me because I don’t have any yellow dahlias.

I have loads which have inherited the collar from ‘Night Butterfly’, some tidier than others.

I wish I had time and space to show them all to you but as I probably have about sixty dahlias it is not possible. So just one more and it was a total surprise as it is a cactus-type dahlia and I don’t understand how the bees pulled this one off.

I will finish my paean to dahlias with three vases showing the range of colours of my babies. I am joining in with Cathy’s meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’ and I hope she will forgive this long-winded introduction to my vases. As you can see I am a little obsessed After all what else gives you so much colour for the whole of the summer?

If you go over to Rambling in the Garden you will see what other people have found to put into a vase on this last day of the summer. And thanks to Cathy who, come rain or shine never lets us down.

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