Blooms in the Greenhouse.

I was going to do a post on my ten Favourite Blooms for March this weekend. And then of course this happened.

The Return of the Beast.

We had a glorious day on Friday but apart from that, spring appears to be cancelled this year. We have had so much rain so far, that now we are waiting for a plague of frogs or boils. It’s jolly frustrating for gardeners. I have been scraping the barrel finding things to do out there. I have spring cleaned my summer house and painted it.

Summer House.

Although I don’t feel tempted to sit out there at the moment.

It’s a pity the roof is covered in snow, because it means I can’t show you the beautiful cedar wood shingles. My son-in-law, (obviously the world’s best) gave up so much of his precious free time last year to give my old summer house a new lease of life with a smart new roof.

I have also finally cleared  up my  plant pot shed. Clearly, I was really desperate to  do this on a freezing March day. Actually, it had got to the point where I couldn’t shut the door. It was so full of plastic pots, a towering monument to my extravagance. I wrote about my pot shed before and mused about what I might unleash when I reached its bowels.

Pot Shed Beastie














Actually, what I found was just more and more pots, not all mine, my predecessor left enough to create a whole new landfill site. Surely pots could be made of some slow bio-degradable material. We gardeners like to think we are helping to save the planet, not carpeting it with plastic pots. Anyway, I got rid of loads of them and the lovely Pianist put up some shelves for the rest.

No, several friends have already asked me, as you can see I didn’t wash them before I put them away. I will wash them as I need them. The Pianist wonders why I need to keep so many. ‘Oh reason not the need’ as King Lear would say. I have already taken so many to the dump that I am getting funny looks when I go there.

Anyway I digress, this is about the greenhouse as that is where the blooms are to be found at the moment. Cathy at RamblingintheGarden asked me which plants I had in there for winter colour. Earlier there were hyacinths, little irises, crocuses and snowdrops.  Sarcococca, skimmia and pieris will be planted outside when they have finished blooming as will the hellebores. Primroses come in every colour imaginable and certainly keep the colour coming. Of course apart from the jasmine, lemon and mimosa most of the plants are hardy but in the greenhouse they bloom earlier and are quite unaffected by ice and snow.

At the moment I am enjoying some diminutive daffodils. This little Narcissus cyclamineus ‘Cecil Nice’ is just 4 inches tall and was named after a head gardener at Nymans.

Narcissus ‘Cecil Nice’

I think pale lemon Narcissus ‘Gypsy Queen’ is even prettier. Next to it is the late- flowering reticulated Iris ‘Scent -Sational’ which is slightly scented.

Narcissus ‘Gypsy Queen’ with Iris ‘Scent-Sational’

Next year I shall grow some little hoop petticoat Narcissus romieuxii which flower in winter in the greenhouse.

Amongst the larger ones I have a couple of pots of the fragrant Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’. ‘Tete-a- tete’ and ‘Jetfire’ are useful for early flowering, but next year I shall try out some different ones. I love the fluffy heads of ‘Rip Van Winkle’ which dates from the nineteenth century.

Narcisssus ‘Rip Van Winkle’

Muscari are nice in pots and next year I shall grow more of them. For instance I have the little ‘Pink Sunset’ in the garden but it never shows up very well. I think it would be lovely in a pot. This year I have ‘White Magic’, two -tone Muscari latifolium and pale blue Muscari ‘Jenny Robinson’. I have to have this as Jenny lived just down the road and had the national collection of muscari. She found this one in Crete. It is very similar to ”Valerie Finnis’. It is just coming out in the photo below. Behind it is a lily of the valley and a campanula.

Muscari latifolium

Muscari ‘White Magic’

And there is a scented grape hyacinth which is not hardy but perfect for a pot in the greenhouse. It is Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’.

Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’

In the garden under all the snow I have lots of corydalis as I am very fond of them and they seed around quite promiscuously. This one in the greenhouse is Corydalis pumila.

Corydalis pumila with N. ‘Cecil Nice’ and N.‘Gypsy Queen’

I have packed as much of my succulent collection as will fit in here, the rest still has to live on the bedroom window sills.

This one, Crassula multicava is in bloom and looks good with Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’

Crassula multicava

As well as all the primroses, auriculas look wonderful in pots, I have just one in bloom so far. A double purple one.


Outside in the garden I am worried about the not quite hardy, Edgeworthia chrysantha, although I have given her a fleece hairnet. This year I bought a small red- flowered one called Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Red Dragon’. I am not going to risk it outside until it is much bigger.

Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Red Dragon’

So there we are, loads of colour and just as importance, fragrance to keep me sane whilst the garden stays monochrome. Winter wonderlands leave me cold. And I have quite a few treasures coming on to show you next time. But before that, I  hope the snow will go and I will be able  show you my Ten Favourite March Blooms in the garden.


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In a Vase on Monday. Apple Blossom Time.

Only kidding , my apple trees looked like this last week.

But I do have apple blossom in my vase  because when I pruned the trees a few weeks ago, I saved some branches and now I have snow white blossom opening up.

Actually , they look like the ghosts of apple blossom.

Of course the whole point of apple blossom is that it is supposed to be pink like in this picture by Martin Johnson Heade. And if it is set off by a humming bird so much the better. But we have to wait until April for pink blossom and there’s no chance of humming birds in Suffolk. But we should have lots of bees and maybe some Brimstone butterflies by then.

Martin Johnson Heade. Apple Blossom and Humming Bird.

Monet once painted a picture of white apple blossom so he must have done what I did and brought it in to open up inside.   Ribes sanguineum, pink Flowering Currant does the same thing by the way.

It does look a bit washed out I’m afraid. Some of my apple trees are very old and gnarled and covered with lichen. I quite like the elephant grey bark  and lichen against the white of the flowers.

So we have washed out blossom and although the snow has gone, the garden is rather washed out too.  It  looks as if it is recovering from a long illness or some terrible trauma.

Azara serrata feeling a bit bruised

Snowdrops of course contain their own anti-freeze so they are quite unconcerned by  polar vortices. This is Galanthus plicatus. The cold weather has made the trachelospermum leaves turn red.

Galanthus plicatus

You notice I cunningly slipped in another snowdrop there. I know there are some bloggers out there who don’t get them, so I slip them in when you aren’t paying attention. I am not quite as fanatical as my friend Christine who is well known amongst Suffolk gardeners for her devotion to snowdrops. Every season she has different snowdrops painted on her nails. Now that’s what you call galanthophilia. These aren’t just any old generic snowdrops they are all named varieties.

That is ‘Flocon de Neige’ on her left thumb which is gorgeous but eye-wateringly expensive.

Snowdrops and  bleached apple blossom are all very well, but what we are starved of at the moment is colour.  My vase offering today,  is rather white and all ‘alone and palely loitering’ like Keats’s knight- at -arms. You remember the poem ‘La belle Dame sans Merci’?

Oh what can ail thee knight- at- arms alone and palely loitering.

The sedge has withered from the lake

And no birds sing’.

It’s been a bit like that round here lately. Except without the knight -at -arms obviously. I’m the one who has been ‘palely loitering’. The snow has gone but we still have ice  and withered sedge.

So this week I am going to stretch Cathy’s meme a bit to include ‘In a Greenhouse on Monday’ because that is where the colour is. And I am sick of a monochrome world. My greenhouse is an oasis of scent and colour  and I have been so glad to have somewhere to retreat to escape from the Beast from the East.

So with thanks to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for hosting the popular meme and  my apologies for bending the rules.

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Ten Favourite February Blooms.

Well, the weather has been so cold and grey since my last Favourite Bloom post, that not  a great deal has happened. We still have hellebores and snowdrops, only more so. But this weekend, joy, oh joy, the sun came out and I took some photographs. It’s raining again today of course.

Sorry if you find them less than fascinating, but February is the month of the snowdrop. Unfortunately, dear Pip’s snowdrop appreciation days are long gone, but here he is again to remind me what a great little garden companion he was.





One advantage of living in a 500 year old house is that there have been many years for  snowdrops to establish themselves and make carpets. They are not thought to be native. In medieval times, they were extensively planted in abbeys, priories and churchyards, and from there made their way to local gardens, roadsides and woodlands. I suspect previous owners brought mine from the nearby church. Not only did the early church take over pagan festivals but they claimed favourite flowers as well. Snowdrops were associated with Candlemas and the purification of the Virgin. It is odd that there was, and perhaps still is, a superstition that it is unlucky to pick and bring into the house these symbols of purity. It probably started in Victorian times when as it grew in churchyards so prolifically, it was  associated with death. It doesn’t stop me enjoying little vases of them.

These two pictures  below were taken in different parts of the garden and the colonies are different and  so perhaps come from different sources.
Snowdrops en masse

Some of them are green tipped.

Green-tipped Galanthus nivalis

I have a pretty one that must have hybridised with one of my Greatorex doubles. I have most of the nice neat Shakespearean heroines, ‘Ophelia’, ‘Desdemona’ and ‘Titania’ as well as ‘Hippolyta’ , ‘Jaquenetta’ and one which just has a number’ G71′.

Galanthus ‘Ophelia’

But I didn’t plant this beauty.

And then, great excitement, amongst the  ordinary doubles I found this whopper. The double snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ is variable but mine have small, neat rosettes of inner segments. I put one of the usual little ones in a vase with the big one to show the difference. It has a huge flower and four aberrant, long inner segments.  Next year if it has bulked up a bit I will twin scale it.

I know that non-enthusiasts think they all look the same and many of them are so alike that even experts can’t tell them apart and there is an element of Emperor’s clothes about them. Having said that,  there are many with significant differences.

Almost hidden by the heather, I found that ‘Trymlet’ has bulked up nicely. It has distinctive green markings on the  outer petals.

Galannthus ‘Trymlet’

Skinny ‘Wasp’ is instantly recognisable.

Galanthus ‘Wasp’

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is famous for its yellow markings. I bought it last year so it is quite small at the moment.

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’

There are other yellow marked snowdrops, this one is ‘Spindlestone Surprise’

Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’

Galanthus plicatus ‘Edinburgh Ketton ‘ has a distinct green H marking n the inner segment.

Galanthus plicatus ‘Edinburgh Ketton’

Ok, I could go on and on, but I can feel you getting restless, just one more for now; I might try and sneak a few more in another post. Galanthus woronowi soon bulks up into lovely carpets with sweet smelling flowers and very distinctive apple green leaves.

Galanthus woronowii

February is also the month for Leucojum vernum  which has dear little tiffany lamp shade flowers on short stems. They are pretty and they soon clump up nicely, but there is never the excitement of finding something a bit different unless you have the twin-headed one Leucojum vernum var. ‘Vagneri’ or the yellow tipped Leucojum vernum var. ‘Carpathicum’. I used to have the yellow tipped one but it seems to have reverted to green.

Leucojum vernum

This little darling is not to be confused with the tall small- headed Leucojum aestivum which seeds all over and is quite undistinguished. Despite its name ‘aestivum’ meaning ‘summer’, it starts blooming in February.

Leucojum aestivum

I could talk all day about snowdrops but I am also a hellebore bore. They started last month,they look even better now and in March they will still look good, so they take us very nicely over the winter. Here are a few.

It is worth peering up the skirts of this next one as it is anemone- flowered, with a neat little ruff of tiny petals inside.


Last month the tommies, Crocus tommasinianus were starting but now there are carpets of them. They seed around everywhere.

Crocus tommasinianus

They vary in shade from pale lilac to deep purple and now and then a yellow one appears. This one is doing a chameleon act to blend in with the winter aconites.

Next the little species crocus appear, much daintier than their fat Dutch cousins.

I showed you my earliest precious daffodil, ‘Cedric Morris’ in December and then again in January. Now we have the the more substantial Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which is always in bloom by February and some years as early as January. If you want an early flowering daffodil, this is the one to go for and it is widely available.

Narcissus Rijnveld’s Early Sensation

Another very early one is the smaller and I think prettier Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn. It has pale petals and a deep yellow trumpet.

Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn’

It’s perhaps cheating to feature Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’ in  with my February blooms. This potful is in the greenhouse, the ones in the garden won’t be blooming for a while. I love it for its reflexed petals and bright orange trumpets.

Narcissus cyclamineus ‘Jetfire’

Little irises are a joy for weeks if you have some early ones in the greenhouse and plant early and late flowering ones. ‘Pauline’ is very early and is finished now. I have just nipped out in the rain to photograph lovey Iris reticulata ‘Halkis’ which is in a pot. I love this one because of the contrast of the sky blue and the purple. Actually, it doesn’t look very purple in the photo so you will just have to take my word for it.

Iris reticulata ‘Halkis’

In the front garden this little clump below comes back year after year. Iris reticulata hybrids are very pretty but by and large they have to be considered as annuals, at the most you will get two years out of them. But Iris histrioides hybrids,  like those in the photo below are much more long lasting. Iris histrioides ‘Major’ is becoming quite scarce for some reason, but there are plenty of other histrioides hybrids available.  If you look carefully at Iris reticulata  flowers they are always skinnier than those of Iris histrioides which have broader falls.

Iris histrioides ‘Major’

‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is a reliable one as she is a cross between a yellow one Iris Winogradowii and Iris histrioides. Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden has picked her Katharine for a delightful vase today.

Rain-soaked Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkins’

I know many people aren’t keen on mahonias but I like them for their architectural forms and racemes of primrose coloured  flowers. Mahonia ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’ took us through the autumn and winter and now we have my favourite, Mahonia japonica. I love it because it is the most strongly scented of all of them, you smell it as you walk by instead of having to bury your nose in it. It smells of lily of the valley.

Mahonia japonica

Another winter favourite is the witch hazel. I haven’t shown my lemon coloured Hamamelis ‘Pallida’ or the richer yellow, ‘Arnold Promise’ this year because shamefully I let them get too dry just as they were forming buds.The flowers are really sparse and next year I will be careful to mulch them and keep them from drying out. But I did buy a new one this year. A I explained to Cathy, I bought it by mistake when I went to buy eggs at my local farm shop. It was sitting there all lonely and at a very reasonable price at the exit. Clearly it had my name on it.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Westerstede’

I know I featured the lovely queen of the Daphnes, Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’ in December and again in January, but she just goes on getting better and better. If I could afford it I would have a grove of Jacquelines.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

But this month I have a tree which is competing for my attention.It is the beautiful Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’. It has really dark pink single blossom and it is lightly fragrant.

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’

If you have time do join me and show your favourite February blooms.

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In a Vase on Monday. Skinny Twigs and Fat Flowers.

My vase today started off with twigs from the garden. Red and green dogwood, black pussy willow and winter honeysuckle all seemed to go well together.

The honeysuckle , Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is lovely in a vase and smells delicious, but it does start to drop its flowers very quickly.

Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

I love the little black claws of Salix melanostachys, I don’t know any other salix with claws like this.

The dogwood is Cornus alba sibirica ‘Westonbirt’ and Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

But then I had a quick look at Cathy’s vase and saw she had picked one of her hyacinths. What a great idea. Once my obese hyacinth flowers  open up they start to fall over. I am sick of trying to prop them up with sticks and raffia. They look as if they are wearing a corset and of course they need one. How liberating to cut them all off and put the pots to one side ready for outdoor planting. And so we have some fat flowers to go with the skinny sticks. And the great thing is the sticks support the fat flowers. I found another vase because the first one is a bit autumnal.

Here is another shot of the salix claws, as they mature they turn red.

I know I am rather rude about these hyacinths but I wish they weren’t quite so rotund. The great thing is though that once planted in the garden they become much daintier and I think prettier as the years go by.

Thank you Cathy for hosting the meme and for giving me the idea for my arrangement today. If you check out Cathy’s blog you will see that she is endlessly inventive in choosing titles, flowers and props for her arrangements. She has inspired people from all round the world to take part and put some flowers in a vase every monday.

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Shiny New Greenhouse.

I hope anyone who visited my garden these last few years and came in by the side gate shut their eyes as they walked past the greenhouse. But most people didn’t. They even showed an unwelcome desire to peep inside. Here for the first and last time I will show it to you. I am cringing even though it is gone now. It was as messy inside as out.

You can see why I was ashamed.  It must have looked wonderful once many, many years ago. It was timber framed and a good size; 12 feet by 8 feet.  Whenever we had a gale we would lose panes of glass and The Pianist risked life and limb putting new ones in, which was a challenge as most of the glazing bars were rotten. He stuck them in with a bit of sticky stuff and lots of willpower. And I dare say duct tape was involved, it usually is.

Oh, the whole thing was a total disgrace. Mice liked it though as they could come and go as they pleased through the many gaps.

It was too full of holes to use a heater, I would have been heating the village as well as the greenhouse.
It was not until I had spent a whole morning in November pinning bubble wrap up all over it to try to keep the frost out that I decided to throw the whole damn thing away. I think if I had leaned too hard it against it, it would have collapsed anyway. So away it went, the whole lot carted off in a skip.

After lots of research I chose this one. By the time I had had an aluminium coating  to make it maintenance- free and staging and expensive, but totally unnecessary finials on top, it cost twice as much as I budgeted for.

But I don’t care because I love it. I finally got it just before Christmas and I am delighted with it. I don’t have a conservatory but never mind, the greenhouse is wonderful refuge. I keep it heated when the temperature goes below 5 degrees.  As I now have a potting shed  there will be no spilled compost, and pots and seed trays everywhere. I will use the old aluminium greenhouse down the garden for seed growing, this is just to keep and display plants that are looking good. It smells just like the one I remember my grandparents had when I was a child. Well, it should be fragrant, I have a sarcococca, hyacinths, jasmine and mimosa. Still in bud, I have scented narcissus and lily of the valley. Come on, I’ll show you inside. Close the door behind you.

I forget which camellia this is but it is blooming earlier than ever before now it lives inside.

A few years ago we spent some weeks in winter in Provence and we walked a lot through the mimosa forests in the Esterel mountains. The mimosa there  is a problem and is destroying native flora. But we have nothing to fear from Acacia deabalta here in the UK, our winters are too cold for it to become  a pest.

I brought some seeds home and  now have a couple of little trees. One of them is blooming. Soon they will be too big for the greenhouse and I will have to throw them away but I will save some seeds to start again.

Some of the plants, such as the skimmia and sarcococca  and a lot of the bulbs will be planted in the garden when they have finished blooming to make way for other delights. My lemon tree is happy now it has a proper home and adds to the fragrance. As you can see I have a chair here so I can sit and drink it all in.

I love the little Crocus sieberi ‘Tricor’ and it is flowering early in here and shows up much better than in the garden. Even in bud the three bands of colour show up well. This little treasure comes from the Peleponnese.

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’

In another  pot I have the dear little Crocus tommasianus ‘Roseus’. The buds are really pink and the flowers open up lilac. This is a great spreader in the garden.

Crocus tommasianus ‘Roseus’

I think some of the new primrose hybrids are too overbred for the garden. But they are great for pots and some winter colour in the greenhouse and some of them are fragrant.

Primula ‘Sweetheart and Primula ‘Firecracker’

Primula ‘Zebra Blue’ and ‘Woodland Walk’

Double primroses occur naturally from time to time and since Elizabethan times have been highly prized. Many have been lost to cultivation and unless they are well fed and divided regularly they disappear from the garden. I have loved and lost quite a few of the lovely Barnhaven doubles over the years.

Primula Barnhaven ‘Sapphire’ long gone.

They are difficult to propagate because they have no seed and very little pollen. But now breeders can micropropagate and they have produced oversized, frilly doubles in a dazzling array of colours. Again I wouldn’t plant them in the garden, it would be like coming across an ostrich in the woodland, but I love them in pots. And they come in luscious colours. These are the new Belarina hybrids and I think they are perfect for some early colour in the greenhouse.

Primula belarina ‘Valentine’

Primula Belarina ‘Cream’

The double primrose above is ‘Pink Amethyst ‘and it is sitting in between the white grape hyacinth, Muscari ‘White magic’ and Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’.

The lemon tree has peculiar pointed fruit. Under it is the yellow daisy flower of a euryops cutting that fell into my pocket in Cornwall last spring.

I have never noticed before that the flowers of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger are tinged with terracotta as they mature. But as I sit on my chair in the greenhouse and sip my coffee I have chance to notice details like this. Outside the wind is coming straight from the Urals and one doesn’t linger too long over each individual flower.

Helleborus niger

This really is a little piece of heaven in here.

The Green man with Oxalis hirta for hair, sits looking rather bored. He’s no business to look bored surrounded by so much colour and fragrance.


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Wordless Wednesday. Red Cats.

Salix gracilistyla  ‘Mount Aso’

Salix gracilistyla  ‘Mount Aso’

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In a Vase on Monday. Sunshine in February.

Well actually, there is no sunshine today, we have grey skies and snow. But never mind I have brought some sunshine into the house for my vase this Monday.

Forsythia x intermedia

Of course it is not in bloom outside yet, but I cut these branches last week and they open up in the warmth of the house very quickly. Forsythia is such a common sight in every garden that it doesn’t stop us in our tracks, although perhaps it would if we saw it for the first time. I am not sure which this one, probably either’ Lynwood Gold’ or ‘Spectabilis’. I have dug up countless forsythias in this garden, but I keep this large one simply for the pleasure of bringing some early spring into the house. The flowers are a shiny and bright, even rather brash yellow.

In my last post I came clean and admitted to being a cherry blossom snob and now I have to admit to being a forsythia snob. But when buying plants I do believe in buying the best and choicest cultivars. Rather than choose the ubiquitous canary- yellow forsythia I would go for the lovely primrose yellow Forsythia suspensa ‘Nymans’. But then perhaps on a day like today, the brighter the better.

Not even the pickiest plant snob could object to any of the dear little reticulated irises. The name comes from the fact that the bulbs are covered in a net-like coat. They come in a wonderful range of colours and there are some gorgeous new hybrids. Some little irises come up year after year, specially any of the histrioides hybrids. Others such as the yellow Iris danfordiae disappear without trace so you have to treat them like annuals. As it is such a dismal day I thought I would bring a few into the house. Some I had in pots in the greenhouse, the others I had to grub around in the snow to find. I used Iris ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, ‘Alvide’, ‘Harmony’,’Pauline’, ‘Painted Lady’ and ‘Katharine’s Gold’. I have nice fat buds of other varieties waiting to open, so the little iris season doesn’t come all at once.

Thanks to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for encouraging us to have some cheery vases to enjoy, specially during the bleakest winter months when we gardeners are champing at the bit waiting for spring.

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Trees, Bark and Twigs.

I love trees, specially in winter when they are en deshabille and the wonderful tracery  of bare branches is outlined against  an evening sky.  I love watching the buds swell in early spring. I pick armfuls of  sticky buds from the horse chestnuts and watch them unfurl in water.

Aesculus hippocastanum


Magnolia buds  wrapped up in sage-green velvet grow plumper every day.

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

I am lucky that there were mature trees when we came here but I wish I could have chosen them, because some of them are not suitable for smaller gardens. I  have a little copse at the bottom of the garden which I think planted itself. Field maples, oak and wild apple trees probably seeded themselves from the hedgerow.  Conkers for the two enormous horse chestnuts were probably brought from the churchyard by squirrels.  They are far too big for a garden but they are magnificent trees and each year I worry about the effects of horse chestnut leaf miner and  even worse, bleeding canker. There were only four cases of this in the UK in 2000 and now most of the trees in the country are affected to some extent. I don’t like the look of this one in particular.

Aesculus hippocastrum

Apples and pears were planted in the orchard many years ago, but the number of huge plum trees round the garden probably planted themselves. This one gave up the will to live in the storm we had recently.

Weeping willows with their invasive roots  are really only suitable for very large gardens. This one carelessly drops branches every winter and causes a great deal of work. I would never have planted it. Still, I do look forward to its first tinge of green buds in spring.

Salix babylonica

I love crab apple trees and the yellow Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ is pretty but if I had been consulted I would have said; ‘If you want yellow fruit, please plant the lovely Malus ‘Comtessa de Paris’ because her fruit hangs on until after Christmas instead of going brown on the tree. Or how about ‘Butterball’ which is always gorgeous and so heavily laden with fruit?’ But OK, ‘Golden Hornet’ has its moments.

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’

Readers of my blog will know that I dislike the huge cherry tree which dominates the view from the house and offends  me with its blowsy blossoms and its alarming habit of dropping branches even when it’s not windy. It’s probably picked up its bad habits from the weeping willow. I don’t know if the cherry is ‘Kansan’ or ‘Hokusai’, but whichever it is I don’t like it. I’m a cherry blossom snob. If only they had asked me I would have said: Try the dainty Prunus ‘Pandora’ or ‘Pink Perfection’ or if you want a bigger tree, plant the gorgeous white ‘Shirotae’ or the double  Gean, Prunus avium ‘Plena’.

Anyway, now thanks to the intrepid and acrobatic George, the Pink Knicker Blossom tree has been chopped back and the trunk remains as a climbing frame  for Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’.

The greengage has been cut back too. I know that there is a risk of Silver Leaf disease when plum trees are chopped in winter but I have to take the risk because it was swaying so alarmingly in the recent storms and giving me sleepless nights as I feared for my shiny new greenhouse. (More about my winter play pen in another a post.)

So which trees am I grateful for? Acer drummondii has pale lemon variegated leaves and sitting under it on a hot summer’s day is like sitting in a ball of sunshine. Now the cherry tree has been chopped down I have an uninterrupted view of it from the house.

Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’ in summer.

The weeping verruca birch tree Betula verrucosa ‘Pendula’ with its warty trunk is full of character and the long tailed tits enjoy it too.

Betula verrucosa ‘Pendula’

The walnut tree has lovely  fissured bark, but squirrels eat all the walnuts, every one.

Juglans regia

The Winter Garden.

I have planted quite a few trees and shrubs in this garden but the ones I am enjoying at the moment are the ones I chose for their beautiful bark or colourful twigs in winter.

I created the winter garden three years ago and now it is maturing nicely. Prunus serrula looks as if it has been polished. Behind it is the red stemmed dogwood; Cornus alba ‘Siberica’.

Prunus serrula


Acer griseum is a beautiful cinammon colour and has lovely peeling bark too.

Acer griseum

Birches are a particular favourite of mine. Last year I planted a group of snowy white Betula jacquemontii to add to the mature group at the bottom of the garden. In the winter garden Betula albo-sinensis ‘Pink Champagne’is maturing nicely.

Betula albo-sinensis ‘Pink Champagne’

This bark is pinkish but for really red you can’t beat the red Acer pennsylvanicum ‘Erythrocladum’.This is one of the snakes bark maples and very slow growing.

Acer pennsylvaticum ‘Erythrocladum

Nearby the bushy Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’  looks more showy.

Acer palmatum’Sango kaku’

You can’t beat dogwoods for coloured twigs. As well as Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ I have Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ which I think is the best red.

My favourite dogwood at the moment is the orange Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. It looks good with Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ and the chalky stems of the ghost bramble  Rubus thibetanus.

Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea is a strong growing yellowish green. Here it is growing behind the evergreen Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ which looks a bit holly- like’ only prettier.

Cornus sericea ‘kelseyi’ is much more compact and has finer branches.

Cornus sericea ‘Kelesyii’

Actually there is another dogwood on my wish list and I think it is the best yet. It is called ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ and I shan’t rest until I have tracked it down.

I quite like eccentric twigs in winter. Bowles put the twisted hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ in a special bed for strange plants which he called the lunatic asylum.

Coorylus avellana ‘Contorta’

I can sort of see what he means. I like it in winter but I am not so keen in summer when I think it looks diseased. I wonder what Bowles would have made out of the crazy, tangled brown stems of Muehlenbeckia astoni.

Muelenbeckia astoni

I am not too keen on conifers but Abies koreana is very elegant and when it is mature has lovely upright violet-purple cones like candles.

Abies koreana

Cryptomeria  japonica goes a lovely bronze colour in winter.

Cryptomeria japonica

I am pleased with how quickly my winter garden has developed. This is what it looked like in 2015.

And now in 2018 it looks established.

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Top Ten January Blooms.

The stygian darkness of so many January days is considerably brightened by a few  very special winter blooms.  The shrubs which give particular pleasure are  fragrant  so that they will attract any bees brave enough to be about. Daphnes are  the most sweetly-scented delights in January. We even have a native one with yellow flowers which although not showy seeds about obligingly in my garden and is happy in deepest shade. It is only lightly fragrant but bees like it. I like it for its glossy leaves. I wouldn’t go as far as to buy it, but when it pops up I am happy to see it. It is Daphne laureola.

Daphne laureola

In another garden I used to have a beautiful yellow- flowered daphne called Daphne pontica. I have never come across it again and daphnes die if you move them so I had to leave it behind. If you come across it, believe me it is a lovely plant. I love the whole daphne tribe but they are capricious things and offer suffer from sudden death for no apparent reason.
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ smells divine but the flowers peep out from behind the leaves and it is not as showy as the peerless Daphne bhluoa ‘Jaqueline Postill’. I know I am always singing her praises but she is stunning right now and the scent is intoxicating.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Another intensely fragrant plant is the Sarcococca. My favourite is Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna. It suckers around and makes a nice spreading shrub which smells wonderful.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’

Sarcococca confusa grows taller and has nice glossy leaves.

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococcas need to grow in semi shade. I would like a hedge of it or maybe plants of it all round the garden as it smells so wonderful.

Recently Cathy at ramblinginthegarden showed her wonderful collection of witch hazels. They are rather addictive, specially because they brighten up January, the dreariest of months. The best witch hazels for hardiness, large flower size and a wonderful range of colours seem to be the Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids. They are a cross between the Chinese H. mollis and the Japanese H. japonica. Witch hazels like a neutral to acid soil, unlike sarcococca which prefers neutral to alkaline soil.  I do not have acid soil but witch hazels can be kept happy as long as they are kept moist in summer. I have found to my cost that you will not get many blooms if they dry out in the crucial months when the buds are forming. So  remember, moisture in summer, but they must not be water-logged in winter.  A good annual mulch of garden compost or manure will keep them happy. It is difficult to choose a favourite, but this year I am particularly beguiled by H.’ Orange Peel’. I don’t know whether it is the power of suggestion but I think she smells of marmalade.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

H. ‘Jelena’ is also orange but more of a coppery orange, I can’t detect any fragrance on ‘Jelena’ but it is beautiful.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

H. ‘Vesna’, named after the Russian Goddess of spring is yellowy- orange and deliciously fragrant. It is also one of the best for autumn foliage.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

H.’Livia’ has a good autumn foliage too. It has bright red flowers rather similar to those of ‘Diana’.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Livia’

I bought a new witch hazel this week and as it didn’t have a label I got it reduced which is very satisfying because witch hazels have to be grafted and they don’t come cheap. It looks very like ‘Liva’ but then it could be ‘Diana’ I am not really sure. When I brought it home in the car the fragrance was wonderful, which is often the way with witch hazels, somehow they don’t smell so strongly in the open air. Perhaps they need warmth to bring out the fragrance.

Does anyone recognise it? It could even be ‘Rubin’ which is the only red witch hazel to win an AGM. Yesterday, the sun came out and it looked amazing with the sun shining on the blooms. Actually, not only did the sun come out yesterday, but birds  started singing. Today we are back to gloom and the birds have very sensibly decided to save their voices.

I know some people think that witch hazels should be yellow and anything else is an aberration. I like yellow ones too and for some reason they are always later coming in to bloom in my garden, so I will save them for February and now let’s move on to the next smelly shrub and that is a winter-flowering honeysuckle called Lonicera ‘Elisae’. For some reason this one remains quite rare. It is much more beautiful than other winter flowering honeysuckles and makes a nice compact shrub with large tubular flowers which are flushed with pink. Roy Lancaster introduced it in from China in 1983. I’m afraid my photo doesn’t really do it justice.

Lonicera elisae

My other winter obsessions are hellebores and snowdrops. These are the flowers that really come into their own in February but they are already giving pleasure in January. The snowdrop season starts in December and goes on until March and the different varieties ensure that sufferers from white fever always have something to croon over.

I know that to many gardeners a snowdrop is a snowdrop, so I will just show you a few from the many that draw me outside on the most miserable days. Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’ has a good sized flower and clumps up nicely. The flowers are fragrant when you bring them indoors.

G. ‘Sam Arnott’

G ‘Robin Hood’ has the distinctive scissor-lie markings on its inner petals.

G. ‘Robin Hood’

G.’Titania’ is one of the Greatorex doubles named after Shakespearean heroines. They are all quite similar but I think this is one of the best.

G.‘ Titania’

I bought the next one as ‘Anglesey Abbey’ but it was clearly wrongly labelled as it has yellow ovaries. Still I am pleased with it. Perhaps it is ‘Wendy’s Gold’.

G. Diggory’ is a very distinctive snowdrop  with its puffed out flowers.

G. ‘Diggory’

Another easily recognisable snowdrop is G. ‘Magnet’ with long its long curved pedicels  I love the way the flowers sway in the breeze.

G. ‘Magnet’


G.’Bill Bishop’ is not very tall but it has huge flowers which dangle on a long pedicel in a similar fashion to those of ‘Magnet’.

Galanthus ‘Bill Bishop’

Ok, your eyes are glazing over so I will save some more snowdrops for another day. I think they should be given out in small doses as not everybody is a galanthophile. So let’s move on to primroses which are the harbingers of spring .

A true winter flower is the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis which soon seeds around into carpets if it is happy. I look out for its little, round yellow buds early in January. The flowers open out in the sun to look like little buttercups with a nice green ruff.

Eranthis hyemalis

At the same time as the winter aconites the earliest species crocuses open up. If you prefer the shiny fat Dutch crocus you have to wait until March. I love the little Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus which seeds around as happily as the aconites and comes in various shades of violet. The early bees love them too.

Crocus tommasinianus

It’s just a little early for the first Iris reticulata in the garden although ‘Pauline’ is showing purple. I prefer growing them in the greenhouse so that I get them early and they don’t get spoilt by bad weather. I have a big pot of the sky blue- Iris reticulata ‘Alida’ which I planted up for last winter and it looks good again.

Iris reticulata ‘Alida’

I have found two new varieties this year and they are both delightful. The first one is Iris reticulata ‘Painted lady’ and she does indeed look as if she has been painted.

Iris reticulata ‘Painted lady’

The second one is a variation of ‘Ķatharine Hodgkin’ and it is called ‘Katharine’s Gold’

Iris reticulata ‘Katharine’s Gold’

These little treasures are really February blooms but Iris unguicularis blooms all winter long.

Iris unguicularis

I will be revelling in my hellebores next month but here are a few early ones. Let’s start with the native Helleborus foetidus which pops up all over the garden.

Helleborus foetidus

A new one this year is ‘Painted Bunting’ with large flowers edged in deep pink.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Painted Bunting’

I have several helleborus ericsmithii hybrids and they are all gorgeous.

Helleborus ericsmithii

Most of my doubles are not out yet, but the dainty Helleborus ‘Phoebe’ is looking good.

Helleborus ‘Phoebe’

I read sometimes that you should remove the seedlings from your special hellebores so that you keep only special ones. I am glad that the previous owner of this house didn’t heed this advice. I have carpets of hellebores everywhere and they are all beautiful. It is a chore removing all their leaves in winter but it is worth the effort to keep them free from fungal disease.

I did feature my special Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ last month. I have another clump which is blooming now. This narcissus is difficult to find and expensive but if you get a chance to buy it, you will be rewarded by perfect little daffodils in the darkest days of winter.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

I am a bit late with my favourite blooms this month but if you have time to join me and share yours it would be lovely. Otherwise please show us your favourite February blooms.

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In a Vase on Monday. Potted Pleasures and the Scents of Winter.

My first pot of Iris reticulata in the greenhouse is full of blooms and I thought I would put some in a little vase with an unusual primrose. I don’t know how long these irises keep fresh in a vase, but in the event I couldn’t bear to pick them. So this week I am bending the rules of Cathy’s meme and showing plants in pots.


I love these little irises in the garden in February, but I always force a few pots in the greenhouse to enjoy in January. This yellow one is a new one, it is Iris reticulata ‘Sunrise’. It is buttercup yellow and very pretty.

Iris reticulata ‘sunshine’

Purists may disapprove of the primrose and I probably wouldn’t plant it in the garden. But again I love to have a few brightly coloured primroses in the winter greenhouse. This  blue and white striped one is called ‘Zebra Blue’ and it was developed in Belgium from Primula ‘Tie Dye’. It is similar to one I grew a few years ago called ‘Denim’.

Primula vulgaris ‘Zebra Blue’

I love blue and yellow together. I married them with a little variegated ivy.

They are all sitting in a large Villeroy and Boch ‘Botanica’ bowl.

The greatest pleasure in the winter garden is the delicious fragrance of early flowering shrubs. As it is dismal outside today, I have brought a few sprigs of my favourite fragrant plants indoors.

In a tiny pot I have Winter Sweet, Chimonanthus praecox, a witch hazel; Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’, named after the Russian Goddess of Spring. Also  the winter flowering honeysuckle;  Lonicera standishii ‘Winter Beauty’, Sarcococca hookeriana  var. humilis with its strangely haunting perfume, and my absolute favourite Daphne bhloua ‘Jaqueline Postill’  which stops visitors in their tracks.

Chimonanthus praecox

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis

Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’

A sprig of rosemary and a little sweetly scented snowdrop completes the vase. Such a tiny pot but the fragrance fills the room.

Thanks to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for hosting the meme. Do go and see what she and her enthusiastic followers are putting in their vases today. My money is on the witch hazels; Cathy is the Hamamelis Queen and what pleasure a collection like hers gives at this time of the year.

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