In a Vase on Monday: Neon Light

IMG_3780It was definitely uncharted territory today, both in using a ‘vase’ of this type and a bloom of this size so there was a touch of nervousness involved as I prepared the material, especially in cutting the flower stem – but as the whole bulb had tipped out of its pot when I picked it up (unsupported) and broken off an unopened trumpet and damaged one of the others after that there was nothing to lose!

IMG_3768The vase, which is definitely what it is as it contains a pinholder (‘frog’) is about 14cm in diameter and was bought from eBay a couple of weeks ago for the princely sum of 99p plus postage – and as the frog was made from stainless steel it was very much a bargain as I had recently treated myself to two expensive stainless steel frogs from Sarah Raven! I was actually searching for something else when I found the vase, so was pleased to have found it and could particularly visualise using it for narcissi and other bulbs. Today though, it was the turn of an amaryllis/hippeastrum.

I have to thank Anna of Green Tapestry for alerting me to the presence of unusual amaryllis (sorry!) in Lidl, another discount supermarket, where I ventured poste haste and acquired this pink ‘Neon’ and greenish ‘Luna’ which is lagging behind. Neon isn’t quite such a vibrant pink as the packaging suggested but I am nevertheless pleased to have wavered from the usual Red Lion that I normally favour. I might have been reluctant to cut its flower stem if it wasn’t for an article in December RHS’s publication, which suggested that cut stems last nearly as long in water as on the plant. Unless the plants are surrounded by twigs or greenery or grouped together they are not especially attractive apart from the flowers, so this seems a good compromise – the article also recommended inserting a stick up the stem and plugging the end with cotton wool to prevent it leaning, and placing a rubber band around the base to prevent the stem splitting and splaying. As this stem was cut short and held in place by the pin holder I haven’t actually followed those recommendations this time although I do have the stick ready!

But how much to trim the stem?

neon.vaseIt could possibly have been cut a little shorter but I didn’t want to take that risk! The next decision, of what to use with it, had already been made as the slightly tropical look begged some kind of foliage that would complement this, and leaves of Asplenium scolopendrium, hart’s-tongue fern, fitted the bill with a few Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ leaves added as well. The original intention of photographing outside was quickly abandoned as a stiff breeze was whipping up the black felt fabric chosen as a background and could potentially threaten the whole vase, but the first indoor photos were too dark so white felt was retrieved from the loft and sets the vase off far better.

IMG_3777Pink may be a strange colour to choose so close to Christmas, but it is good to see a mix of flower and foliage in these leaner months – although I still find it strange looking at the end result as it is unlike any of my other vases so far! It would be lovely to see Monday vases from anybody else who can spare the time and find or forage material for the contents, so please do join in if you can – just post links to your vase from a comment on this post and a link from your post back to this one. That way we can all share in your pleasure.

Wishing all Monday vase-posters a very pleasant festive period and an exciting 2015!


Posted in Being Creative, bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Making the Beds

I like days like this – partly because of their rarity – days that are totally free of commitments, sometimes unexpectedly (like when as a teacher the school was shut due to snow) although not so today. Our usual Saturday morning activity is not happening for a couple of weeks due to the festive season and having finished Christmas baking and wrapped presents I feel very much on top of things, so have been able to turn to those outstanding jobs that are in no way urgent, like clearing a backlog of unimportant post, filing documents and generally tying up lots of loose ends. Making the beds was not one such activity, or at least not those beds….

garden.map2…..but amending the maps of the garden to allow for changes that have taken place to beds and borders and structures was, and both are now uploaded at a larger scale under ‘The Garden’ tab. Thus the revised map of the garden, hopefully helpful to orientate you when reading many of the posts, shows changes at the bottom of the garden (the cutting beds and a second greenhouse), the foreshortening of the woodland edge border to allow an extension to the bold (previously ‘hot’) borders, the new shrub border and the building of the Bothy in the woodland. Hard to believe that none of these were even a twinkle in the eye twelve months ago – and in the case of the latter three as little as 3 or 4 months ago!

The map of the species snowdrop bed has certainly been helpful for me as I poke around in the border looking hopefully for fresh shoots, and it was a job well done when I first put the map together around this time last year. It was out of date almost as soon as I posted it though with new additions early this year, and it shows the border as it was at the end of the 2014 snowdrop season but including the loss of ‘Three Ships’ and ‘Faringdon Double’ which could have been flowering now but which recent investigation has shown to have perished. Knowing I will inevitably want to add to the collection in the approaching season, perhaps keeping new purchases in pots needs to be seriously considered for at least the first year to ensure they establish…


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Surprises Come in Smaller Packages Too

IMG_3750… well, smaller than the big black cube anyway – and certainly a surprise, or at least the contents were. I had been expected a ‘postage only’ offer from Thompson and Morgan but not a label-less rose, pruning DVD and plant food, but I guess someone else was. An email and a return phonecall confirmed I could keep the contents and also identified the rose as ‘Queen Elizabeth’ whilst a look on their website suggested it was a Daily Mail offer that the unknown third party had ordered. Slight problem – where to put another rose, as I planted out nine new David Austin roses just a few weeks ago…

The ridiculously mild weather mid week with temperatures of 14 and 15ºC (in December..?!) brought some more surprises. After finding Harry’s unexpected shred on GBBD I felt a pang of guilt praising his merits when I found several blooms on Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ just a day later – maybe I missed them earlier, or perhaps they were encouraged by the balmy temperatures as several of the others have got into gear now too. Also shown are two of last year’s acquisitions, Hamamelis ‘Magic Fire’ and the more well known H pallida.


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Wordless Wednesday: Frozen


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Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Cool Waves in December

Cool.waveRather than amalgamate this with a Monday vase, I am posting a day late for Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, kindly hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. It is especially intriguing to see what is flowering in the leaner months of the year compared to previous years, and a quick check back to last year suggests that there was a greater variety of things blooming then, which surprised me.

Having not grown violas or pansies  from seed before I am particularly pleased with the addition of the Cool Wave violas shown above, grown from seed purchased from eBay and flowering within 8 weeks of sowing – these are Cool Wave Frost and Cool Wave White, and I also have their purple relatives although not yet in bud. Hopefully they will continue flowering for months.

Below is Rhododendron ‘Cheer’, featured in vases last week and still showy but tailing off now – she has never flowered like this in December before:

IMG_3735Other December bloomers, shown in collage form, are (top to bottom and left to right): nearly blooming Galanthus ‘Maidwell L’, Campanula portenschlagiana, astrantia (probably ‘Buckland’), Rosa ‘Queen Mother’, ivy flowers, Rosa Pink ‘Perpetue’, Rosa ‘The Fairy’, primrose and Hellebore foetidus. Apart from the ivy none are flowering prolifically,  but every individual bloom is a joy to see.

GBBD.Dec14As I rambled with the camera yesterday, admiring all the above and also the specks of colour on the witch hazels I determined not to even attempt to photograph any of the latter until  there was evidence of a distinct shred. I had just reached the back door again and – lo and behold – there it was! The first shred – Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Harry’…



Posted in Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, Gardens | Tagged | 23 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Windin’ the Candle

IMG_3727The material for today’s post was in the balance until yesterday afternoon until I finally decided to leave the Paperwhites in the greenhouse for another week and reached the conclusion that the three buds optimistically picked from a lone Rudbeckia ‘Rustic Dwarf’ on Saturday were not going to open. Plan C was to be some sort of table decoration but I didn’t really want to go down the relatively easy holly and ivy route.

IMG_3730The beautiful stems of the three cornus that have been moved from pots to the new hedge border really glow at this time of year and make far more of a statement in their new home than they did before. Although still small plants, I was able to judiciously snip a few of the longer side stems from all three of them – C sericea ‘Flaviramea’, sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and alba ‘Sibirica – and wound them around one of the glasses that I use to make candles (should have made the candle first of course!). Twigs of  twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) and rose hip stems from ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’ were then woven vertically through the rings and a further three cornus stems plaited and tied into a ring as a prop.

The candle itself is made from soya wax and essential oils with fragrances vaguely chosen to give a Christmas ambience – mandarin, cinnamon, ginger and rosemary. Although the fragrance gives an ambience, the oils also have a therapeutic effect triggered by the olfactory nerves in the nose sending messages to the brain and this can be a physical, psychological, emotional, mental or spiritual benefit. When applied topically in a carrier oil as in massage or other hands-on therapies the effect is gained by absorption through the skin. Amongst other properties, mandarin is gentle and calming, cinnamon can ward off colds and flu and help alleviate depression and lethargy, ginger warms and strengthens the emotions and rosemary aids meditation whilst keeping the mind clear and alert. Although largely chosen intuitively, this all bodes well for a happy Christmas!

IMG_3729Taking advantage of a relatively bright day, the photographs were taken outside, using a starry fabric that forms a ‘runner’ on our table  during the Christmas season (on top of a red cloth with a tiny print of holly leaves) as a backdrop. The candle will burn for many hours in total as the soya wax melts to nothing,  at least 40 hours perhaps if the wick is trimmed after each use, and the subtle effect will linger even after the candle is extinguished – and all completely natural.

If you can find time to join the Vase on Monday meme today then please do – it is lovely to see what people can find in their gardens or forage from elsewhere, and today I am a little out of the box with the candle so remember it doesn’t actually have to be a ‘vase’. Just leave links to and from this post so we can share in your creation too – look forward to seeing you!


Posted in Being Creative, Christmas, Gardens, Holistic, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments

All I want for Christmas is a Big Black Box

IMG_3720One of our neighbours called round this morning with a parcel that must have arrived yesterday when we were out. I say ‘parcel’, but it was really a large black cube, surprisingly light too. Racking my brains to remember what outstanding items I had ordered for Christmas presents, or if there was any likely present-giver who had forgotten my birthday, I tentatively ripped open the edge of the package…..then made the connection. Elder Sister had warned me a present would be arriving directly from Amazon but I had assumed Amazon=book, and this was certainly no book. It shows though that ES must have registered the demise of some of my lead effect pots during one of our conversations – which is lovely, because it is always nicer if people use their personal knowledge of me to choose appropriate gifts rather than ask what I would like (Elder Daughter please note, this does not preclude buying me the Naomi Slade snowdrop book I requested!) – not there is room for anything else under the Christmas tree now the big black box has arrived….


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