In a Vase on Monday: Keen as Mustard

Narcissi are always not far behind snowdrops, hellebore and crocus, keen as mustard to remind us that spring is just around the corner.

With the first ‘Tête-à-tête’ opening here this week, their appearance in a vase today was probably inevitable. Accompanied by a sprig of twisted hazel catkins, they make a cheery vase in this iconic mustard tin. The tin being a prop in itself, an additional prop seems unnecessary, but you could choose to add this vintage ‘Beetleware’ mustard dish if you like; I myself put it back on the shelf.

If you can find something in your garden today to pop in a vase to bring cheer to your week, then please consider sharing it with the IAVOM community by leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in early spring, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 26 Comments

End of a Sunny Month View

February will leave us with the impression that it was a generally sunny month, and a fairly dry one too, with our weather monitor confirming we had only 38mm of rain, unlike stormy February last year when we had 130mm! The maximum temperature was 16°C and the minimum -6°C, with the milder days triggering a range of garden tasks.

One task I intended to carry out ‘over winter’ was clearing and revamping the narrow streamside border on the other side of the pergola in the above picture, now riddled with couch grass, but it wasn’t one I was rushing to do as it was unlikely to be straightforward, sandwiched as it was between the paved area and the stream itself, with the added complication of the butyl stream liner under part of it. Realising that it is now more spring than winter, I prevaricated a little more yesterday, then finally got stuck in, aided by the Golfer, lifting some of the slabs, removing the plants I wanted to keep and thinning them as required, and painstakingly teasing out as much couch grass root as possible. Lifting the slabs made the job easier and after a couple of afternoon’s work it is almost done, although the border will look very empty when the plants are put back but at least the stream will be less hidden!

And that’s my explanation for the upheaval on the paved area, evident in some of the photos and on the video, so let’s have a quick ramble and see what’s changed during February, continuing with the adjacent streamside grass, now full of crocus and narcissi:

The woodland, with bluebells, wild garlic and fritillary foliage clumping up:

The view from the bothy at the end of the woodland, looking out over the main borders, and the same areas from ground level:

The woodland edge border, carpeted in snowdrops and dripping with hellebores, from both directions:

The three bold borders, which I shall be working hard to embolden this year, still look anything but bold, but new shoots are increasingly visible:

Through the gate to the nursery beds and the working greenhouse:

The blue & white border and rose garden, again with not much going on but new growth evident:

Through the main borders:

And back towards the house, past the special snowdrop border:

Finally, a quick peek into the Coop and round the back at the Coop Corner:

It’s hard to believe that in a couple of months the garden will be full of abundance once more, with trees in full leaf, herbaceous perennials luxuriant in foliage, and early blooms of allium, aquilegia and astrantia filling some of the borders; in the meantime, however, there is plenty to enjoy in the garden as it transitions from winter to spring, so why not get a more rounded view by watching the monthly video?

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 7 Comments

Six Saturday Smiles

We have continued with gloriously sunny days this week, albeit with the downside of frosts at night – it’s strange how one can almost forget, after the lower light levels of a winter season, the joys that a bright and sunny day can bring.

The sunshine and added warmth have encouraged many new joys in the garden, firstly the sudden bursting into bloom of these Iris reticulata, potted last autumn ready for sale at our cancelled open day a fortnight ago – they have clearly had a discussion amongst themselves and decided to open simultaneously. In the Coop, the first hippeastrum (‘Red Lion) is also showing colour:

The hellebores are much later than some years, but some are now in full bloom, like Harvington Double Spotted – but you need to take a cheeky look up her skirts to see the flowers properly:

It’s not just blooms that are surprising me on my regular rambles, but new growth on herbaceous perennials, like the ubiquitous aquilegia and geranium that make a valuable contribution to our borders. I was amazed at how red the fresh geranium (probably Ann Folkard) growth is:

In bloom sooner than these are the first Anemone blanda, at the edge of the increasingly overgrown hedge border. There must be  3 or 4 white pulmonaria at the front of this border too although there is very little sign of them, and I have half a mind to replace the soil which is pretty poor and full of pebbles – as I realised when our moley visitor left us several heaps of it. Having spotted these anemones, I had a quick look in the woodland to see if the wood anemones were pushing through yet too – they probably are, but not obviously so.

Halfway through our sunny week and we were blessed with the first open narcissus, a clump of ‘Tête-à-tête’ outside the front door, where they get the full benefit of the morning sun; these will soon be joined by those in the streamside grass where they will mingle with the Crocus tommasinianus. Most years the crocus have been over before the narcissi bloom, but this hasn’t been the case for the last couple of years, where they have bloomed simultaneously, all weather-related, no doubt.

There will be more new growth being celebrated on other Six on Saturday contributions, so why not visit our host Jon the Propagator to see them?


Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, early spring, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | 24 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Uncommonly Pretty

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, winter interest, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Measure for Measure

I was determined to have sprigs of my pink pussy willow, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’, in a vase today, and ventured forth to find suitable accompaniments. Scorning the emerging blooms on Iris reticulata for being ‘too blue’, I chose different shades of Crocus tommasinianus instead as an alternative, plucking a stem of Pulmonaria ‘Victorian Brooch to join them, and adding deep purple foliage of Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ for further contrast. To emphasise the glorious late winter days we have enjoyed recently, blooms of double snowdrop Galanthus flore pleno, bobbing about in the near-warmth, and witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’, filling the woodland edge borders with fragrance, were also added, together making a pretty spring posy.

Acting as a vase is a little vintage measuring cup, joined by the smallest of a set of magnetic measuring spoons, ranging in size from one tablespoon down to this ¼ teaspoon. I have several sets of measuring cups and spoons but this is my favourite, not only for the convenience of them nesting together and affixed to my magnetic knife rack but because of their double-ended nature, both with deep bowls, one of which is slim enough to fit into any spice jar,  and both easily levelled for a perfect measurement. Small, but immensely practical.

A friend turned up unexpectedly on the doorstep on Saturday with two bunches of tulips for me, a pleasant surprise. Long gone are the days (since IAVOM!) when I would treat myself to the first daffodils and tulips appearing in supermarkets, but these two make a pretty combination of dark pink and blush pink and look very fine (despite their impossibly long stems) in the denim blue stoneware vase that began life as my only vase. Thank you Tracey.

This blogging community experiences a range of weather, but if your weather and your garden and your inclination tempt you to find something to pop into a vase today, then why not share it with us by leaving links to and from this post?


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Winter, winter interest | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

Six on Saturday: Christmas Comes Late

Back in December, I ordered three shrubs to add to the winter interest in the garden, including Camellia ‘Yuletide’, a replacement for a small potted specimen that had turned up its toes:  two came within a few days, unlike Yuletide which did not arrive until this week. I wasn’t troubled by the delay itself because new regulations for Plant Passports have caused all sorts of delays for nurseries, but unusually there was no communication about the long delay and even my email query a month ago produced a minimal response. It’s not a nursery I have used before and opted for it purely for this plant, a good-sized specimen at a reasonable price, but I am unlikely to use it again and shan’t be recommending it. Fortunately it arrived in good condition, surprisingly still in bloom, although without any paperwork or planting instructions.

A mild week meant planting was achieved the day after arrival, and it was one of those late-winter-but-with-spring-in-sight days when one task leads quickly into another – camellia planting to epimedium leaf trimming to snowdop splitting to digging out more bluebell and wild garlic to tidying up herbaceous perennials and so on until it was a well-deserved cup of tea and cake time. The progress of the garden in just a week is remarkable – last week I was digging out those stray bulbs in the woodland, unable to determine which were bluebells and which were wild garlic…today it was patently obvious:

These are wild garlic:

And these are bluebells – and fritillary too, the latter with flower buds evident. Dislodging the leaf litter also showed the first signs of wood anemones pushing their way through – none of these were evident even a week ago!

Both common and special snowdrops are showing their appreciation, reaching up on tiptoes as they welcome the warmer days, bobbing their heads about as they discuss the finer things in life:

I was going to show you this curiosity amongst my special snowdrops, three flower buds emerging from one bulb (Cowhouse Green), but those few days delay and the lengthened  stems have reduced the impact, and in fact two of the three stems are now fused together, a curiosity in itself but impossible to see in this photo!

Instead, perhaps one of our galanthophile readers can help with a query that has stumped both Anna of Green Tapestry and myself. What was meant to be ‘Faringdon Double’ has shown 6 poculiform white outer petals, with inner segments having two tiny dark green marks at the apex and two tiny lighter marks at the base. These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago when the flowers were past their best and sadly I had not noticed the discrepancy before then – any suggestions anybody? I have searched my snowdrop books without success.

I talked last week about space in the greenhouse, and this week pricking out has begun, adding to the pressure of space. Again, thoese milder days have put a spring in the step of those seedlings…

Moving away from green and white, my last witch hazel is now coming into bloom; supposedly later to flower than the x intermedia varieties, Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’ has not usually flowered here at anything other than the same time as the others, but perhaps she is finally celebrating her different background. Pink, rather than the purple her name suggests, she makes a pretty contribution to the late winter garden:

That’s approximately six contributions to Jon the Propagator’s Saturday meme; please visit his blog to find more.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday, winter interest | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Benny

Posted in Gardens, shrubs, winter interest, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 9 Comments

Winter Gems in Mid February

With double-digit temperatures yesterday and periods of sunshine instead of the promised showers, I managed to take the promised video of the winter gems – some of the winter gems, that is, because despite thinking before Christmas that everything looked as if they would be early, in practice it has almost been the opposite. Witch hazels and special snowdrops are at their peak, but the common snowdrops and hellebores are nowhere near that yet, and many potential bloomers have not yet made an appearance – last year I compiled a list of over 70 different species for visitors to look out for on our February open day, but this year perhaps less than half of those are in bloom yet…that’s UK seasons for you!

What struck me yesterday, apart from the snowdrops and hellebores and witch hazels looking more themselves, was the crocus – the streamside grass which you will see early on in the video was suddenly speckled with the purple of Crocus tommasinianus, throwing their arms open with joy at the relative warmth of the February sun. Their friends in the adjacent shrub border, which were nothing but short tufts of green yesterday, are today now clothed in purple too (above), a clear indicator of how quickly a garden can move from winter to spring, given the right weather conditions.

However, it’s not spring yet though, so watch the video and enjoy some winter gems instead.


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, winter interest | 20 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Not What They Seem

With a very restricted choice of blooms, I had had these Leucojum vernum or ‘spring snowflakes’ in mind for several days, and fortunately they were still blooming happily on the edge of the woodland when I went to pick them yesterday.

Often mistaken for snowdrops by those with limited plant knowledge, they are both of the Amaryllidaceae family but have been long recognised as different species. Blooms of these leucojum and the taller L aestivum or summer snowflake are always bell shaped with 6 identical green-spotted petals, and lack the huge variation seen amongst true snowdrops or galanthus. Today they were joined in my vase by leaves of Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’ and a sprig of ivy berries, the current caviare of the local berry-eating bird population.

Looking for something dark to place the material in, to reflect the blackness of the berries, I eventually chanced upon these chicken egg cups – at least that’s what I think they are! If you wanted to eat an egg out of one, or use it as a vase, the chicken would be standing on its back as it is here, much to the bemusement of the other chicken.

You may not have any blooms in your garden, but what about twigs or seedheads? Or maybe indoor bulbs? IAVOM is a big box, but please feel free to think outside out of it. If you do find material for a vase or eggcup or other receptacle today, then please consider sharing it with us by leaving the usual links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Winter | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

A Slight Improvement

Temperatures have gradually crept up over the course of the day to around 4°C by late afternoon, and the snowdrops were indeed quick to respond, picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and bobbing about as if they had never had a week of sprawling face down in the frozen dirt. Hellebores, however, are a little more cautious and as you can see from the clump in the top right of the photo are not quite certain that it’s the right thing to do quite yet. With temperatures in double figures tomorrow, things will be different again, and I will postpone the proposed video tour of the winter delights of the garden for a couple more days.

Posted in Gardens, Winter, winter interest | 4 Comments