In a Vase on Monday: Tea and Two Sugars

img_8764Tea and two sugars: Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’, both sweetly smelling and perfectly at home in this little teacup. I am grateful to both Julie and Dorris for demonstrating that buds of the former will open up in the warmth of the house although sadly the only flowering stems I have are very short. Their small stature, however, suggested an equally small vase for which the teacup was ideal, especially as the lonicera was similarly challenged. The teapot and milk jug were of course necessary additions to the occasion and a little square of fabric was cut with pinking shears to complete the place setting. The black felt used as a background for the photograph somehow gives the impression that the arrangement is floating on a magic carpet but hey! does that matter?

img_8765I am delighted with the effect of this tiny Monday vase and despite its size I am also enjoying the perfume. What will be delighting you in your Monday vases, I wonder? Do see what you can find in your garden or foraged locally to bring you pleasure during the week and share it with us by leaving the links in the usual way.



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Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day: Ubiquitous Ivy

img_8776I wasn’t sure if I was going to join in with Christina’s Foliage Day meme this month but then a foliage focussed ramble found me admiring the seasonal foliage of Nandina ‘Obsession’ and Pittosporum foliage‘Tom Thumb’, pausing beside this wayward strand of ivy staking its claim on the fence and making a bid for freedom prior to being ousted, before deciding to showcase the ubiquitous presence of ivy in the garden instead.

You probably don’t recognise this part of the garden at the back of the sheds, the gate on the right opening into the compost area and the gap on the left being where the garden dog-legs and turns at right angles. This wall is built from reclaimed brick and the windows are from my parents’ old front door; most of the ivy here was deliberately planted and I love to see it against the brickwork:

img_8773This vintage lady is reclining in a bath of ivy which covers part of the woodland floor, where it is restricted to the side nearest the hedge and pulled up when it trespasses.

img_8778Also in the woodland, ivy is demonstrating its ability to climb by taking advantage of the slim silver birch that stands topless after the wind decapitated it a few years ago when two taller trees that had been sheltering it were removed:

img_8779Taking advantage of a similar support, the original dead plum tree and the support that was…well, supporting it have been obliterated by ivy but in doing so the ivy has become treelike in its own right, the pictures showing in turn the lower and upper parts. You can walk behind this structure which acts as a kind of ivy archway.

img_8774 img_8777We can’t forget our hedge, which although largely holly and remnants of ancient hawthorn is home also to masses of ivy which trails attractively downwards till it is time to keep it in check  and an annual Christmas wreath for the front door just doesn’t require enough ivy to do this. A major cull of the hedgeline takes place around this time although quite oddly this year our neighbour has decided to complain about the routine maintenance that the Golfer has begun this weekend – but that’s another story.

Ivy, I love it – in the right place that is, and I have learned in recent years when enough is enough and removed it where it has become too excitable. As foliage goes it is  indispensable for its greenery and variegation, and as such it is my humble contribution to the GBFD meme this month. Thank you to Christina for hosting.


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Wordless Wednesday: Subtle Signs of Spring


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January Blooms and Thoughts of Compost

gbbd-jan17The value of winter blooms cannot be overestimated, although this year there are no waifs and strays to join them from milder days as there often is. The witch hazels continue to form the mainstay of colour in January, with all Wordless Wednesday‘s still in bloom but joined spellnow by a few additional blooms on H Spanish Spider (bizarrely in full flower in September) and the first to appear on H Arnold Promise, the one variety of mine which does have  a definite fragrance. Clockwise from top left are: Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’, Hellebore ‘Ellen Picotee’, native primrose, Hellebore foetidus, Hamamelis ‘Spanish Spider’, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Clemati cirrhosa ‘Freckles’, Hellebore ‘Harvington Double White’ and Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’ in the centre.

None of this is very different from a month ago, and as you can see only a few hellebores are in bud and the viburnum blooms are still largely closed – but at least ONE bud of this winter flowering honeysuckle has finally opened and I anticipate its fragrance which will soon join the strong and distinctive perfume of Sarcococca humilis which is now very noticeable:

img_8734White buds are continuing to pop up alongside the foliage of snowdrops in my specials bed, but they still lack the few degrees extra warmth needed to push their way up further out of the ground and open up to nod sagely at the world:

img_8735After assessing my special snowdrops a few days ago I have now taken the decision to keep new acquisitions in pots for their first couple of years or so. Closer inspection of purchasing records has shown that a number of bulbs bought to replace previous failures have also failed and the bulk of  failures seem to be from purchases made early in 2015. I had a big problem with compost in 2014 with young plants failing to thrive and although I had moved on to an alternative by 2015 I do wonder if the compost might have contributed to the demise of such a number of bulbs. I would have repotted some clumps at the same time too which could explain other random losses.

My compost experience in 2014 demonstrated just how important compost choice can be and as a subscriber to Which? Gardening I avidly check out their annual reports, as they test each year and the most successful brands do vary. What reports showed around 2014/15 was that the quality of some brands varied from batch to batch, particularly where green waste was included, and they pressed manufacturers to list green waste percentages and to date stamp bags, as old compost tended to deteriorate. They test separately for the suitability of composts for seed sowing and raising young plants as this too can vary widely. This year, taking availability into account  whilst avoiding having two separate types of compost I have gone for a brand that has scored highly for both, Wyevale’s own multipurpose with added John Innes. It still needed a 20 mile round trip but with a promotional multibuy it should be worth it to ensure a good start for my seeds and plants – and any new snowdrops!

img_8750Linking this monthly Blooms Day round up with Carol of May Dreams Gardens who kindly hosts this meme

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In a Vase on Monday: A Shot in the Dark

img_8720‘A young woman is shot in cold blood, her lifeless body dumped outside the stadium at the height of the US Open…’ Not my choice of reading material, but Harlan Coben is one of the Golfer’s favoured authors and lacking a book with an appropriate cover illustration for my title  (which is perhaps just as well), this suggestive blurb relating to Drop Shot will have to do instead.

You will no doubt be puzzled about the title and would never guess the reason for it in a month of Sundays – but it is in fact very simple, just like the vase. Realising that a gifted but somewhat neglected kalanchoe (in the UK grown as a houseplant) was producing a crop of flower buds on its very straggly stems, I took a shot in the dark and combined judicious pruning to encourage new shoots with the hope that the buds on the snipped stems would actually open in water. Two days later and they possibly are beginning to open, albeit slowly, and will perhaps reveal their pale yellow blooms in due course. In anticipation of this they are accompanied by glorious winter stems of Cornus, this one being the lime green C sericea ‘Flaviramea’ which will complement the colour of the blooms when they arrive. The vase is a small conical shaped jug from Prinknash Pottery, no more than 4″ tall and , like so many others, came from a car boot sale for next to nothing.

The kalanchoe has extraordinarily glossy leaves but is not a house plant I would have out of choice although I have been gifted two during the last year – but at least they are preferable to poinsettia! To be honest, despite having a houseful of plants in the 70s once my passion for the outdoor garden was reignited my collection of houseplants dwindled along with the interest and sadly any gifted houseplant would now face the threat of neglect, although having grown up with a clivia in my parent’s house I am currently nurturing a tiny clivia grown from the seed of a mature plant.

It is not compulsory to include props with any vase you prepare for IAVOM although it adds another dimension to the post if you do. With or without, please share your vase (or jam jar or other container) in the usual way by leaving links to and from this post.

img_8724ps  there have been no takers yet for the roses I no longer have need of which are free to a good UK home – see this post for more details

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Soggy Sunday Snowdrops

img_8728After a mixed week of weather which brought a touch of snow on Friday morning and a wet Saturday morning followed by glorious blue skies and sunshine on both days, Sunday looks set to be grey and wet all day.

Potting on seedlings in the greenhouse was quickly thwarted because I ran out of compost, and a simple vase for Monday quickly prepared and photographed. Each ramble past the special snowdrop border whilst carrying out these tasks took in a cursory inspection of any new emergees – but sadly there are still varieties unticked on my checklist. In full bloom (and therefore no cause for concern) and also readily visible from the kitchen windows since the bed was raised are Mrs Macnamara:

img_8729Godfrey Owen:

img_8730Lady Beatrix Stanley:


and the large and jovial fellow with the name Reverend Hailstone:

img_8732However, there are still 9 or 10 that haven’t yet re-emerged this season which is more than a little disappointing but unfortunately seems to be an occupational hazard when establishing named varieties. My checklist still includes varieties not seen for a few years and which will finally be taken off the list as I don’t intend to replace them – most of them were not fully established clumps but as well as some fairly recent acquisitions this year’s non-showers include G Atkinsii and Wendy’s Gold both of which I have had for a number of years, although admittedly the latter was not a large clump and had been diminished one year when it was split to sell 2 or 3 bulbs to appease a guilty conscience after paying too much for another snowdrop 😉

All these snowdrops are grown in lattice pots originally designed to contain pond plants and which ensure the bulbs are easier to find and lift when they need splitting. There is a slight danger of air pockets being left in the basket or drainage being affected by pebbles  or other detritus, and I am beginning to wonder whether it would increase chances of survival if bulbs were grown in the open ground. I feel confident that the larger clumps would be fine with this, but newer purchases of single bulbs would be more vulnerable and yet these are the ones most likely to fail – around 10 of the snowdrops acquired within the last two years have failed. Sometimes when these pots have been lifted there has been evidence of damage by narcissus fly, but mostly the bulbs have just disappeared without trace. What is a snowdrop loving girl to do…?


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Wordless Wednesday: Casting a Spell

spell(for those viewing on a tablet who can’t hover over the picture for details the witch hazels are as follows (clockwise from top left): Hamamelis Jelena, Zuccariniana, Ruby Glow, Amethyst, Harry, Magic Fire, Diane, Orange Peel)

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