Six on Saturday 8.12.18

Well as it’s December my Six on Saturday will start with some festive holly berries. I’m a bit ‘Bah Humbug!’ when it comes to tinsel and flashing lights, but shiny red berries are always lovely. The trouble is that the birds have usually eaten  all the holly berries by Christmas. Also, it is a fact that because of global warming holly berries ripen at least 17 days earlier than they used to. There were loads last week but most of them seem to have gone now. And of course that old chestnut about lots of holly berries foretelling a cold winter is nonsense, it is a result of a mild spring and enough moisture at the right time. I have Ilex aquifolium coming up everywhere, they are a pest in my garden; as fast as I get rid of them they come back like Hydra’s heads.   But I was taken with this really unusual Ilex verticillata when I saw it recently at our local farm shop. Of course it had to come home along with the potatoes and sprouts. It actually doesn’t look anything like a holly and it is very jolly with all these bright red berries on bare branches. The trouble is that hollies are dioecious,  (you need a female and a male plant to get berries,) so I will have to find a male if I want a display like this next year.

Ilex verticillata

Holly berries are poisonous but I still have some luscious raspberries to pick, I can’t remember picking raspberries in December before. The variety is ‘Autumn Bliss’ but perhaps they should be renamed ‘Winter Bliss’. I have a few yellow ones still ripening too. They will go very well with tomorrow’s porridge.

Jerusalem Artichokes are of course not artichokes at all but a kind of Sunflower. They are incredibly invasive and have run wild amongst my raspberry canes. If you plant them it is a good idea to plant them where they can romp away without being a nuisance. As everyone knows they are very anti-social because our gut can’t digest the starch inulin and the resulting flatulence can be impressive. But the flavour is divine so we roast just a few at a time along with other root vegetables. They make a lovely soup and I once made it when friends came round for dinner. I thought as the soup was liquidised there would be no problems digesting it. I was clearly wrong as by the end of dinner people were squirming in their chairs and looking very preoccupied; conversation didn’t flow and the party came to an end rather early.  So the soup is probably best eaten alone when you have no appointments. Still, it is delicious.

Jerusalem artichokes

Another winter treat, but one with no unpleasant side effects is the glorious butternut squash. The plants roam around rather and mine only produced one or two fruits each, but they are delicious, either in a soup or cut into halves and roasted with thyme and butter. I like them with blue cheese in a bake too. If you resist the urge to pick them too soon and leave them on the plant until the end of September they will develop a nice thick skin and you can store them for 6 months so they are a very useful winter vegetable.

Butternut Squash

Whilst we are enjoying the berries and fruit of the past year’s bounty, I already have new seeds sprouting in the propagator. Lilium regale produces plenty of seeds which germinate readily and it is really fast growing, it can bloom in as little as two years. Here are the seedlings  after only 3 or 4 weeks.

Lilium regale

Lilium regale is gorgeous with incredibly fragrant white trumpets opening from pink buds. It was discovered in the mountains of Sichuan, China in 1903 by E.H. Wilson. He was  badly injured in an avalanche when he later tried to collect it. He set his broken leg with his camera tripod and from then on he walked with what he called his ‘lily limp‘. These plant collectors were made of strong stuff. As you can see this gorgeous lily is perfect for growing amongst roses; this is something to dream of on a cold December day.

Lilium regale

The glorious technicolour pageant of Autumn leaves is over now as we are certainly in the grip of winter. And yet we still do have some leaves to enjoy so I will finish with some lovely December leaves. Here is where I bend the rules of the meme, Six on Saturday, a bit because one leaf would be silly, so with a little sleight of hand I have several leaves coming in at number six. The acer with the best autumn leaf colour of all is Acer osakazuki and amazingly it still has a few leaves clinging on.

Acer osakazuki

My next acer is in the winter garden. It has nearly lost all its leaves but the remaining ones set off the pink stems beautifully. I think it is ‘Pink Flamingo’. Behind it I have Cryptomeria  japonica ‘Elegans’ which turns a gorgeous bronze in winter.

Acer ‘Pink Flamingo’

Nandina ‘Blush Pink’ is still looking as good as ever.

Nandina domestica ‘Blush Pink’

A friend of mine really hates this next plant because she thinks it looks diseased. In fact I wouldn’t give it a second glance in summer, but in winter I appreciate a range of colours and a plant delicately traced as if with ice suits the season, it is Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

As I started with a holly I will finish with one. I don’t know what sort of berries this one has but I grow it because it has such pretty, delicate foliage in pink and white so is a perfect candidate for my winter garden.  As it has purple stems I think it looks lovely with Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. And on that festive note I will end my Six on Saturday.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Ingramii’

Ok, it seems to be more like Ten on Saturday but I am hoping the Propagator who hosts this meme won’t notice. Everybody who participates in this meme seems to be in such awe of him, one feels one can’t be too careful. So think of my last item as just December Leaf with a few little sub-leaflets. Anyway, do check out the Propagator and all the Six on Saturdayers.

Posted in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Sunshine and Flowers.

We wanted to escape the damp and dismal days of November. Four of us all wanted sunshine and mountains and I wanted flowers. So we went to Madeira.


We walked the levadas, which are canals bringing water to the crops planted on the precipitous mountainsides.


There were dramatic views.


And scary tunnels.

And the flowers fulfilled all my expectations.  There are so many beautiful flowers endemic to Madeira but there are also many garden escapes that thrive and spread in the sub- tropical climate. These Amaryllis belladonna were spreading all over the rocks.

Amaryllis belladonna

Gorgeous Aloe arborescens, an introduction from South Africa seems very invasive. I wish it would invade my garden.

Aloe arborescens

This next plant is a Ligularia. I have never seen one like this  before. It is Ligularia tussilaginea. I wonder if it is hardy.

Ligularia tussilaginea

There were some gorgeous succulents, particularly this Agave attenuata which comes from Mexico but grows everywhere here. It has huge arched flower heads.

Agave attenuata

This diminutive native marigold grows wild. It is so pretty, I wish I could get seeds of it.

Calendula maderense

I have never seen this plant, Gomphocarpus physocarpus before with its huge seedheads.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I have no idea what these berries are.

The wild flowers everywhere were amazing but a trip to the Botanical Gardens at Funchal was the highlight. Specially as we arrived there by cable car.

I love this  huge Madeiran Scilla, I think it would look lovely in a pot. It is Scilla maderensis.

Scilla maderensis

I was intoxicated by the abundance of flowers. Here are some more beauties.

Madeira really is the island of flowers. Now I can’t wait to go back and see it at other times of the year. Meanwhile it is nice to be home. It would be even nicer if only it would stop raining,

Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments

Top Ten November Blooms.

I am rather late with my top ten blooms this month as I have been away to find some sunshine and flowers elsewhere in this, the gloomiest of months. Clearly, there has been frost here whilst I was away, as the dahlias are blackened and the garden is looking tired and a bit black and squishy.

But let’s look back at the month to see what November had to offer. My favourite November blooms are chrysanthemums and I dedicated a post to them recently. But for some reason I left out one of my favourites and here it is. It is a semi-double in a lovely pale gold colour.

Chrysanthemum ‘Golden Greenheart’

Talking about favourites, I adore nerines and November brought some more delicate blooms in the greenhouse. I have two whites, both very similar. Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ and Nerine ‘Ella K’. My largest flowering is Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ and the darkest colour is ‘Mr John’. None of these nerines are hardy but they brighten up the greenhouse on a gloomy day.

Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ (top)with Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba


Nerine ‘Mr. John’

Outside, my November snowdrop is the dear little Galanthus ‘Barnes’  which I believe belongs to the elwesii  group.

Galanthus ‘Barnes’

I am very fond of daisy flowers and there are some lovely ones in the senecio family. I believe the word ‘senecio‘ means old man and I can’t think why this word should be used for fresh, daisy flowers. Some of those dusty old grey -leaved shrubs that used to be called senecio are now brachyglottis, an ugly name for an ugly plant, in my opinion. Anyway, I don’t want to confuse you, but my next flower is an orange daisy called Senecio confusus. It is a tender climber and has spent the summer in my new exotic bed. Just like last year it has grown beautifully but it didn’t start blooming until late September and it is still blooming away in a pot in the dining room with the rest of the jungle which I brought inside.

Senecio confusus

If you are not confused then perhaps you will be after my next plant. I always thought it was a Cineraria which belongs to the senecio family. You know the sort of daisy plant you buy in winter and then discard when it has finished blooming. But this one is perennial and reasonably hardy, it has lived in a pot outside my back door for a couple of years. It is called Senecio or sometimes you will see it as ‘Senetti’ and sometimes Pericallis. I think the correct name is Pericallis x hybrida. But whatever it is called it makes a lovely bushy plant with delightful daisy flowers.

Pericallis x hybrida

And now for a November flowering shrub which a previous owner has planted all round the garden. It is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. I like it because the upright flares of yellow flowers bloom when there is not much else about and they are fragrant and abuzz with bees. It is evergreen and I appreciate its glossy leaves when the rest of my trees are shivering en déshabillé. I found labels on some of my bushes which said ‘Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ but they look exactly like ‘Charity’ to me. They are not to be confused with the low growing, revolting Mahonia aquifolium which sprawls and suckers and seeds and is a brute to get rid of. The flowers of Mahonia media ‘Charity’ are not as fragrant as Mahonia japonica which blooms in late winter and early spring and has  flowers which grow in whorls rather than upright.  The flowers  of Mahonia japonica smell of lily in the valley and I love it. But never mind, ‘Charity’ has flowers in November which are very welcome. The shrub tends to grow very tall and displays its blooms to the birds unless you cut it back each spring to just above a knobbly bit.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Mahonia media ‘Winter Sun’

Ceratostigma plumbaginiodes is a low growing shrub which I have mixed feelings about. It comes into leaf very late and it sits in the front of the bed looking dead and ugly amongst all my spring beauties and I chop it right back and threaten it with eviction. In late summer it gets its gentian blue flowers but they are small and sparse. It is only in November when the flowers sit amongst bright red leaves that I feel a bit more friendly towards it. Maybe if I moved it I would enjoy it more somewhere else.

Ceratostigma plumbaginiodes

I love the winter flowering Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’, its flowers look so fragile but they start blooming in November and carry on whatever the weather. You have to hold the little bells up to see the freckles properly.

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Plenty of salvias are still blooming in the greenhouse.

Salvia guaranitica ‘Blue and Black’

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

I rather like this red flowered one. It has yellow leaves so it looks decorative even when it’s not in bloom. It is a pineapple sage so it has fragrant leaves.

Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious.’

I try to keep to blooms that are in season for my monthly top ten but this month I am cheating a bit because I have a couple of delphiniums that were burnt to a crisp in the July drought and I thought they were dead, But here they are in November looking as if this was their proper season to look gorgeous. The white one is standing in front of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which I think sets it off very well.

Delphinium ‘Magic Fountain’

So there we are, I just made it in time to show my Top Ten November Blooms. Next month, December, it is going to be tricky to produce ten blooms which are blooming in season, but I shall see what I can do. Meanwhile, what has been cheering up the stygian dark of your November days?

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Six on Saturday, 17.11.18. Getting Ready for Winter.

Winter is definitely coming but still we have lovely autumn colour just about hanging on. So number one is Autumn Colour.

Cotinus coggyria

Liquidamber, Acer and Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’


These lovely leaves will soon be gone but the fruit of Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ hang on into the depths of winter so this tree sits in my winter garden.

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

Tree Removal.
I have been preparing for next year’s improved landscape by having George, the tree surgeon here to remove a line of ancient and massive laurel and hollies. He is coming back soon to get rid of the stumps and this hazel which totally defeated him last time he came. It is obviously very, very old and goodness knows what we will find at the centre of it, maybe a lost civilisation.

Ancient hazel


Autumn is a good time to thin the bamboo stands. It’s a tedious job,  but they look better for it . The upside is we have loads of bamboo canes which will come in handy next year.


Vegetable Boxes.
At last I have cleared the veggie boxes ready for their blanket of manure which comes courtesy of my friend, Francesca’s beloved Pickle. I just have to persuade the Pianist to collect it for me. I think this is a blue job although the Pianist is a Feminist and refuses to acknowledge that there are such things as blue and pink jobs. Still I might be able to bribe him with mince pies. In  the centre is a standard gooseberry with a frill of chamomile rounds its foot.

You might notice that Chloris, the scarecrow is no longer with us. Here she is a couple of years ago; even with the blonde wig and a stuffed bra, she still looks terrible. She had to go, she was an embarrassment. She looked so disreputable that I was ashamed of her and put her on the bonfire. It was like having a picture of Dorian Grey in the garden which was deteriorating even faster than yourself.

Wrapping up for Winter.
I have the ghostly forms all over the garden of tender plants wrapped in a fleece overcoat. Here are my tree ferns.They have a scarf of straw and I hope they will be happy.

Bringing things in for Winter
The most tedious job of preparing for winter is bringing all my tender plants in.  No mean feat now I have a tropical area full of tender plants.

My lovely greenhouse which I acquired last year to display plants in winter is now totally stuffed.


Window sills and spare bedrooms are fully occupied with plants. The dining room looks like a forest. But what can you do? A girl needs her plants.



And that’s my six, but I haven’t mentioned bulb planting. Another tedious job and I still have a box full of tulips waiting.  But if I start on all the autumn jobs still to be done, I’ll on end up with 36 on Saturday, and that’s breaking the rules  so we’ll leave it there.

Thanks to The Propagator for hosting the meme of Six on Saturday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 52 Comments

( Not) in a Vase on Monday. Armistice Day.

Today is the anniversary of Cathy’s meme, In a Vase on Monday. To celebrate she invites us to bring flowers into the house and display them in a different sort of container, so it is actually Not in a Vase on Monday’. Last year I chose a Victorian potty. Somebody else went a step further and arranged their flowers in the lavatory.

But yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day so I thought something more sombre is called for. I used my grandmother’s gas mask tin. Although this tin is from the Second World War, mustard gas was first used in the First World War and this is a grim reminder.

My grandmother used this tin for storing a muddle of needles, pins, thimbles, threads, knicker elastic and goodness knows what else. Like all her generation she always sewed; I suppose living through the war made everyone make do and mend. But she hated sewing and whenever you saw the gas mask tin brought out you knew that grandmother would be in a really bad mood. Eventually I inherited the tin and its jumble of contents along with my grandmother’s distaste for anything to do with sewing.  A couple of years ago I discarded the contents and decided to use the tin to store seeds in. Today, it seems a fitting receptacle for flowers to pay tribute to the millions of men who were maimed or who died horribly in an obscenely pointless war.

Chrysanthemums have traditionally been associated with death. Christina at My Hesperides Garden says no one has them in the house in Italy. But I love them and I am always glad to have a cheery vase full of them on a gloomy November day. I am not too keen on the mopheads which look like over-lacquered hair styles and need to be fussed over with hairnets and disbudding. But I love the bright daisy or pompom types. Many of them start blooming in October but as the garden is full of so much else at this time I don’t take any notice of them until November. It’s one of my rules, like doing the garden tour in a certain order after a holiday, instead of rushing straight over to look at something eagerly awaited, or refusing to notice plump spring bulbs appearing until after Christmas.

Blooms are getting scarce in November so we need chrysanthemums not as memento mori, but as little patches of sunshine in the garden. My collection is growing but next year I hope to have even more.

Here are some of the ones I put in my tin. Pretty in pink we have the lovely, old,  double, dusty pink Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’. This blooms late  and its leaves turn red  too.

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ centre. ‘Mei Kyo’ right.

Another double pink is the cute little ‘Mei Kyo’ which is a pompom rather than quilled like the Emperor.

Chrysanthemum ”Mei Kyo’

The peachy pompom is ‘Picasso’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’ right corner. ‘Picasso’ centre.

I have several single pinks, this one is called ‘Stratford Pink’, I like it because it has a white halo in the centre.

Chrysanthemum ‘Stratford Pink’

I have to have ‘Suffolk Pink’ of course because it is local and I am also very fond of this shaggy pink which a neighbour gave me.

The most vivid pink is ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs’Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’ is a lovely peachy colour and blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

Dazzling white ‘Edelweiss’ is quite rare.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Other rare ones include gorgeous ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ which is late blooming and one of my favourites. It is double and deep orange with bronze on the backs of the petals.

Chrysanthemum‘ Chelsea Physic’ Garden’

‘Chelsea Physic Garden ‘ centre

‘Margery Fish’ is lemony yellow.

Chrysanthemum ‘Margery Fish’

This next one has a red label which means it is on the Plant Heritage Red List for Endangered Plants. I can’t remember its name so I am going to have to do some research. It’s possibly ‘Cottage Lemon’ It has terracotta buds opening to deep yellow flowers, so not really lemony. But it’s gorgeous.

I love this one which is called ‘Cottage Apricot’. It becomes deeper apricot with age and it has a lovely honey scent.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

The rest of the ones in the tin are nameless passalongs. Now I have complied with Cathy’s rules I think I will put them into a vase. I don’t want to look at a gas mask tin all week.

The BBC’s Antiques Road Show did a wonderful programme to mark Armistice Day. It was very moving as people brought in artifacts and told heart-breaking stories about family members who had lost their lives and shown great courage and fortitude. A friend of mine was amongst those with a tale to tell.

I don’t have any stories to tell or medals to show, but after my grandparents passed away I inherited a beautiful gold hunter watch and chain. My son has it now. Inside the case, carefully preserved, was a white feather. I know that white feathers were sent to many of the 16,000 Conscientious Objectors who were vilified and treated incredibly harshly during the First World War. Some of them were sentenced to prison or hard labour. People who  refused to be complicit in killing their fellow men were mocked at and ostracised. My ancestor was clearly not ashamed of his white feather and he carefully preserved it so it would tell its own tale today.










I have to admit to getting angry when we are told that millions of young men ‘gave’ their lives for their country. In fact they had their lives cynically stolen; a whole generation died, were maimed, or had their lives blighted. And all because as Wilfred Own said, they were told and believed: ‘… The old lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria mori

But as well as marking Remembrance Day, this  is a celebration  of the fifth year of Cathy’s enormously popular meme, In a Vase on Monday. So  thank you Cathy for bringing us all together and encouraging us to enjoy flowers in the house all year round. Do pop over to Rambling in the Garden to see how Cathy and all her followers are celebrating the occasion.

Posted in Uncategorized | 53 Comments

In a Vase on Monday. A Book Club Posy.

I think my friends are probably sick of the dahlias which have been filling my vases since July. They are miraculously still blooming away even after a light frost. (The dahlias, not my friends.) But for my Book Club day I chose a little posy of all the little November survivors to put on the table.

In the next picture you can see a self seeded Scabiosa, bottom right and the Dianthus  which was grown from seed and has bloomed all summer long.

On the top left of the next picture there is the dainty lilac Calamintha grandiflora ‘Elfin Purple ‘ which blooms for ages and seeds around abundantly. The fluffy blue flower in the bottom right corner below Salvia ‘Hot lips’ is the tall growing Ageratum corymbosum which is tender so has to come in for the winter. It is easy from cuttings if you forget.

There are four  different salvias here, the lovely velvety Salvia leucantha which comes into bloom late in the season and is now in the greenhouse for safety.

Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’

Salvia greggi ‘Icing Sugar’ is a lovely two tone pink.

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ looks good with the dark purple of Salvia jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ and Plectranthus.
I have used a few sprigs of Liriope  muscari with purple beads. There are two verbenas , the tall Verbena bonariensis which handily seeds itself everywhere and the shorter Verbena hastata.

To match the purples I have used Solanum laxum ‘Creche au Pape’  which has lilac buds and opens to white and lilac flowers. It has been blooming for ages now and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.

Solanum laxum ‘Creche au Pape’.

What else is there?  A couple of asters, Penstemon ‘King George’ which is a bit too red, a knautia, a cleome,  a campanula, a rose,  some bottle brushes of a Pennisetum villosum .  Once we get a proper frost it will be harder to make a posy, but for now there is plenty to chose from.

As this is for a book club, there has to be cake  so my chef made us an apple cake which was much appreciated. I have to admit  to those who think I am rather grand having my own chef; I am referring to my lovely Pianist. These days he does all the cooking in this house and  I am extremely grateful. I prefer to be grubbing outside.

Apple Cake
225g self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
225g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Half teaspoon almond extract
150g melted butter

250g peeled and cored cooking apples
25g flaked almonds
1 deep 20 cm loose bottomed cake tin.
Preheat oven to 160c or 140c fan or gas 3.

Blend flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, almond essence, melted butter.
Spread half  the mixture in the tin and lay thickly sliced apples on top. Spread the rest of the mixture on top, trying to cover the apples. Sprinkle on the flaked almonds.
Bake for 1 and a quarter to one and a half hours. Serve warm. I reheated it for 1 minute in the microwave.

I’ve never given a recipe before as this is strictly a gardening blog but it is so yummy and goes with my Book Club Posy.

And the book? Meet me at The Museum by Anne Youngson. I read one review which said this is a luminous book about late love which makes it sound like a geriatric chick lit. This is misleading because this is a short book which is multilayered and is about life, death, time, loneliness, friendship, love, children. It makes you question what is the purpose of life and how to lead a meaningful life. It is about the importance of myth, ritual and sacrifice. It is about so much and so beautifully written. We all loved it.

Thanks to Cathy, the queen of the vase for hosting this meme. Do check out Rambling in the Garden to see what Cathy and all  her fellow enthusiasts have been finding to put in their November vases.


Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Top Ten October Blooms.

Towards the end of each month I like to post about the flowers which are currently giving me the most pleasure. And I always love it when bloggers join in and share their favourites. I choose ten but even if you only share one special flower it would be lovely.

If you love your garden it is great to have special flowers to look forward to and to cheer you each month no matter the weather.  In October I always look forward to nerines and I love them so much I would like to have a special greenhouse dedicated to them. Of course the bowdenii hybrids bloom outside quite happily but those with sarniensis in their veins need frost protection. These are the ones with the brightest, most  shimmering colours. The first to bloom for me is the bright red, tender  Nerine sarniensis. My other tender ones are still in bud, so they will be amongst my November favourites. These bulbs are summer dormant so need to be kept reasonably dry or they will rot. Watering is increased once the flower spike appears and carried on until the leaves die down.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerines have a long autumn season because different varieties  bloom at different times. Nerine bowdenii starts blooming outside in early October. If it has a sunny position without any competition it soon clumps up.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefani’ is so delicate looking with its shell pink flowers but it is hardy too. Here it is in my sundial bed.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefanie’

Equally gorgeous is the hardy Nerine bowdenii ‘Isobel’ which has really dark pink flowers. I keep it in the greenhouse because I love the contrast of dark and pale pink and white when the nerines are all blooming together.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’

I love this striped one which doesn’t seem to have a name.

Nerine Striped Form’

My favourite is Nerine undulata, it is the most delicate of all. A friend who is a keen plants person gave it to me more than twenty years ago. It is said to be hardy and I grew it outside for several years. But I have had it in a pot for years now and each year I get more blooms, this year there are 43 and they are like curly spiders.

Nerine undulata

Nerines can be grown from seed and then you can get your own gorgeous hybrids. I should have lots by now if I hadn’t been so careless and let the seeds dry out. This happens easily as you sow them on the surface of the compost. I have this one in bloom which I sowed  about 4 years ago. It is a lovely soft colour, a bit like ‘Stefanie’ but prettier I think, but  then I would, as it is my baby.

This is last year’s seedling from a white nerine, ‘Ella K’ . I can’t wait to see what colour the flower will be.

Nerine one year old seedling.

Another October favourite is blooming in the greenhouse right now, or it was until today when I brought the pot into the house to show off when friends come to dinner. Bessera elegans is a very easy to grow, you plant the bulbs in pots in April. The flowers are exquisite,  coral,  jewel- like drops .

Bessera elegans

The October garden is brought to life by colourful asters. I love all daisy flowers and these starry symphyotrichums, as we have to call them now are an absolute joy, even if they do have to put up with a silly new name. A lot of people are put off them because of mildew but if you avoid nova-belgii hybrids this doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Symphyotrichum novae-angliae hybrids are the ones to look out for. Here are a few favourites.

Chrysanthemums are next month’s treat and although I have several in bloom now, I am not going to croon over them until November when floral treats become scarcer. But one Chrysanthemum has been in bloom for a while and so has to be included in the October blooms because its snowy white flowers light up the October border. It is Arctanthemum articum. It used to be a Chrysanthemum but we are not allowed to call it that now. Whatever its name, it is well worth looking out for as it is a beauty.

Arctanthemum articum

October is Schizostylis time, except we have to call them Hesperantha now, but that’s OK, it’s easier to spell. I find them a bit tricky because Suffolk is very dry, specially this year and they need lots of water to do well.

Hesperantha coccinea ‘Sunrise’

I love persicarias and have quite a few different ones, although probably not as many as my Persicaria-enthusiast friend, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. 

But one I am enjoying at the moment is a towering annual. It is Persicaria orientalis and right now it is much taller than me at about 6 foot tall. Its common name is ‘Kiss me Over the Garden Gate’. It is easy from seed but slugs adore it and my first bunch of seedlings was munched clean to the soil. Fortunately three more germinated later and these are now looking wonderful. Next year I would like loads of these and maybe for fun I will have some by the garden gate.

Persicaria orientalis

Another tall growing annual is Leonitis leonurus ‘Staircase’ which grows taller and better as the summer goes on. It looks wonderful in my tropical garden. I have taken some cuttings to see if I can keep it going after the frosts.

Leonitis leonurus ‘Staircase’

Other plants looking better and better as the season goes on are the abutilons which used to live in pots. Given the freedom of the soil they have gone mad and I really don’t have anywhere to accomodate them now that they have become so monstrous. I don’t think they will be hardy. They have such pretty bell-shaped veined flowers.

Abutilon ‘Nabob’

Abutilon ‘Nabob’

Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’

Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’

I also have lovely yellow daisy flowers in the tropical bed which are pot plants here but easy from cuttings. They are hardy in Cornwall but probably not here. One is the simple daisy flower of Euryops pectinatus, the other is Euryops ‘Double Sunshine’. Both of them fell into my hands in a rather unorthodox fashion I’m afraid.

Euryops pectinatus

Euryops ‘Sunshine Double’

Oh dear, here I am at number ten and it is difficult to choose a favourite amongst the rest of the October beauties. I think I will go with a little knapweed type plant which has a quiet charm and is a joy because it blooms so late in the year and insects love it. It is called Serratula seoanei. I can never remember how to spell it as it has rather too many vowels. It looks lovely in my Mediterranean garden.

Serratula seoanei

So that’s my ten, please join me and write about your October favourites. In the meantime, here are a few that I didn’t include in my list even thought they are all beauties.


Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments

A Last Hurrah for the Dahlias.

We have been threatened with frost this weekend and so I suppose my dahlias are probably living on borrowed time. But what an abundance of blooms I have had over several months. I am a total convert now. My grandmother used to grow them in serried ranks and as a child I was revolted by the earwigs they attracted and of course there was always the possibility that the earwigs might crawl into your ears and lay eggs in your brains. Or so my big sister told me. But this year I have been revelling in them and although the earwigs are a bit of a nuisance, so far I have managed to keep them out of my ears. I started off a few years ago growing the black leaved ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ as so many of us did. I then amused myself by growing on seedlings and trying to get really black children like this one.

This year I have enjoyed  bright red children as well as the dark ones  and to my astonishment this pink, stripey one. Goodness knows what the naughty bishop has been up to.

This spring I created a large new tropical bed  so I could indulge my new-found passion for these gaudy beauties. Never mind tasteful dark ones with black leaves,  I bought the brightest coloured pompoms, dinner plates, anemone- flowered ones and the rest; anything which took my fancy.  They needed copious watering throughout the hot dry summer, proper staking and feeding two or three times during the season, but what rewards.

The perfect pompoms of ‘Cornel Bronze’ are still going strong, this photograph was taken today. I love the soft apricot colour.

Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’

I grow a lovely anemone -flowered tangerine one called ‘Totally Tangerine’. Both of these two look great with the almost black ones which I still seek out.

Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’

These anemone- flowered ones are sometimes called powder puff dahlias and you can see why. I love them and next year I shall probably grow a few more.
‘Blue Bayou’ is  a vibrant pink with red centres.  The flowers vary and on some of them the ‘powder puff’ is missing.

Dahlia ‘Blue bayou’

Dahlia ‘Mambo’ is pink with such beautifully formed petals it looks as if somebody has cut them out with pinking shears.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

I am not terribly keen on the dinner plate dahlias or ‘Giant Decorative’ as they should be called, but I grow the popular ‘Cafe au Lait’ simply because it is such a fabulous colour. There is also a ‘Cafe au Lait Rose’ which is a sport of it and  a lovely soft pink.

Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’

I have another giant decorative which is a gorgeous deep purple. It is called  ‘Thomas A Edison’ It is an American dahlia dating from 1929. It is a perfect foil for ‘Blue Bayou’.

Dahlia ‘Thomas A. Edison’ with Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Another favourite is ‘Labyrinth’ which has lovely shaggy petals of a peachy colour mixed with pink.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

Another striking dahlia this time with bright pink and yellow Da-Glo colours is Dahlia ‘Karma Fuschiana’ .

Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

Nearby ‘Walzing Mathilda’ has semi-double flowers in lovely sunset shades contrasting with dark leaves.

Dahlia ‘Walzing Mathilda’

For a total contrast I have a delightful dahlia which is the colour of blueberries and cream. It is called ‘Creme de Cassis’.

Dahlia ‘Creme de Cassis’I

Single ones are beloved by the bees and so I had to include a few. ‘Night Butterfly’ is gorgeous with a central ruff of white petals contrasting with the velvety red.

Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’

There are quite a few in the ‘honka’ series and I have a couple. I am rather underwhelmed by ‘Honka Fragile’. It has white petals delicately edged with pink.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

I prefer the starry flowers of ‘Honka Red’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Red’

I love  red dahlias and ‘Apache’ is a particularly striking, bright red fimbriated one.

Dahlia ‘Apache’

The best and brightest red dahlia is called ‘Murdoch’ and it has a story attached.
Thirteen years ago a man arrived at Bob Brown’s wonderful nursery, ‘Cotswold Garden Flowers’ with his car full of this dahlia which he had collected and  then grown on for years. He thought Bob was the best person to entrust it with and what a wise choice that was. Now we can all enjoy this fabulous dahlia which Bob believes is the best bright-red ever. I agree and that is why I have it as my header at the moment. I simply love it.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

I have several sumptuous nearly black dahlias and I can’t decide which is my favourite. ‘La Recoleta’ is an almost pompom shape of perhaps the deepest colour.

Dahlia ‘La Recoleta’

But then ‘Karma Choc’ has such a delicious velvety dark flowers and stems too.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

And ‘Rip City’ is stunning .

Dahlia ‘Rip City’

I have been enjoying these blooms in the garden and in bowls in the house since July. I shall be very sad to see them lying in black heaps after the frost has attacked them. I never dig dahlias up to store them inside. I believe it is winter wet rather than frost which kills them. After I have cut them down I cover the tubers in several layers of newspaper and then a thick mulch of wood chippings.

I am a bit late with my Top Ten October Blooms but I shall be posting it very soon. I really wanted to pay homage to my glorious dahlias before they disappear.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

The Autumn Garden.

Although the weather has been so unseasonably warm and storm Callum completely missed us, autumn has definitely arrived.  There are still plenty of blooms but the general effect is autumnal.

Join me for a stroll round the garden.   On the left looking down from the house  the huge crab apple ‘Golden Hornet ‘ is full of fruit. In front of it the leaves of  Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ are turning red.

Further down the garden the summer house is getting rather swamped by the enormous walnut tree.  The Acer drummondii on the right has lost its leaves.

Behind the little pond the Forest Pansy, Cercis canadensis has put on its autumn frock.

Cercis canadensis

Let’s walk down the garden a bit and look back. Yes, definitely autumnal. 
On the right by the sundial, Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’ has lovely foliage.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

Looking further down the garden past the she-shed.

The crab apple, Malus hupensis ‘Princeton Cardinal’  has dark leaves which turn red in autumn and glossy red fruit.

Malus hupensis ‘Princeton Cardinal’

The winter garden is starting to colour up.

Prunus serrula.
Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’

Hamamelis ‘Jelena’


I decided to make it bigger so  I will play around with the hosepipe a bit to get the shape right, then I’m off to buy more weed membrane.

I have just finished enlarging my exotic garden. The Pianist complained that he got scalped trying to mow under the fruit trees here so I am sure he will be glad. At the rate I am going he will run out of lawn to mow entirely sometime in 2200.

I am on a roll at the moment because we have had some trees cut down and I have an enormous pile of chippings to cover up my weed membrane carpets.

One of the trees I was very sorry to see die was this ancient apple tree. We left the lovely mossy trunk even though it is probably a magnet for honey fungus.

The pear trees have been laden this year. Red admirals have been gorging on the fruit lying on the ground. I’m not sure what this is. Maybe a Speckled Wood ?

Medlars are still sitting on the tree waiting for someone to blet them. Nigel Slater says they look like a cat’s bottoms and smell of rancid wine but they make fabulous jelly, once they are rotten, (sorry -bletted.) It is a pretty little tree with lovely blossom but I refuse to mess about with smelly fruit that looks like a bottom. Incidentally our medieval forbears were more robust in their descriptions, but I won’t sully your ears here.

Mespilus germanica

The exotic garden is still looking fabulous, the dahlias keep on and on giving as long as you deadhead them. We are never without a bowl of them in the house.

The Black-eyed Susie has now taken off into the apple tree.

In the secret garden grasses are looking good. Miscanthus nepalensis has plumes that look as if they are made of spun gold. This grass is not totally hardy but it came through last winter alright.

I love all the fluffy bottlebrush pennisetums.

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’

Pennisetum villosum has survived the winter although it is not a very hardy one. I have it flanking the entrance to the Mediterranean garden.

I don’t know whether Bulbine frutescens is hardy, it lived in the greenhouse last winter. It has bloomed all summer long.

Bulbine frutescens

Thank you for accompanying me on my stroll round the garden. I know next month will be dingy and dark but right now the garden seems to be in festive mood and like me enjoying the glorious sunshine and autumn abundance.

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Six on Saturday. 13.10.2018

We have been away in Wales which is beautiful but rather wet.  It is lovely to get home to warm sunshine and new delights in the garden.

My first treat is the eagerly awaited October-blooming snowdrop, Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae. Sorry about the tautology, I didn’t name it. In fact when I first grew this snowdrop it was called Galanthus corcyensis. As it comes from sunny Greece, it prefers a sheltered, sunny position although I have it growing quite happily in the shade.

Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae

Next I have a tree which doesn’t look very amazing at the moment, although some years the pretty heart-shaped leaves colour up nicely. To appreciate it properly, you need a ‘scratch and sniff’ computer. It is a weeping tree called Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’. At this time of the year, I enjoy working near it and I have planted it where I will pass it regularly. The autumn leaves smell of candy floss or toffee apples. Absolutely yummy.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’.

This year my quince tree, Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’ is so laden with heavy fruit that the branches look as if they might break under the weight.  The quince was supposed to be the ‘ golden apple’  with which Eve tempted Adam  in the Garden of Eden. Presumably they had cooking facilities because I wouldn’t like to eat one raw. The Ancient Greeks believed that a quince tree sprung up wherever Aphrodite stepped so the fruit was associated with love and fertility. I love the quince not just for its classical associations and its golden, furry fruit, but because in spring it has the prettiest blossom.

Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja

A bowl of fruit will fill a room with a wonderful scent. They are good baked in pies with apples. And of course they make wonderful Quince cheese, Membrillo.

Whilst on the subject of gold, this  jasmine is lighting up my secret garden at the moment. In summer it is more lime- green but in September it turns bright shimmering gold.  It is called Jasminum officinalis ‘Fiona Sunrise’ I don’t know who Fiona is but I would grow this lovely plant even if it didn’t have fragrant flowers in summer.

Jasminum officinalis ‘Fiona Sunrise’

I had the wrought iron bench made to match the spider web gate which you might have seen on other posts. It seems appropriate at the moment as spiders are very much in evidence in the October garden. This one is enjoying a large fly.

Garden Spider. Araneus diadematus

As we have family coming to lunch tomorrow I have picked a bowl of October flowers; dahlias and Michaelmas daisies.

So there are my Six on Saturday. I wish I could make a heading of a neat row of photographs as so many of the Six on Saturday club do. Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the technology for that. I must work on it for next time. Meanwhile many thanks to The Propagator who hosts this meme and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Posted in Uncategorized | 53 Comments