Six on Saturday: When is a Snowdrop Not a Snowdrop?

…when it’s a snowflake, or Leucojum, probably L vernalis as this one is quite short in stature, unlike the taller and slightly later L aestivum. Often mistaken for snowdrops by those with more limited plant knowledge, they are commonly known as spring and summer snowflakes respectively. They seem to be pretty trouble-free and I really ought to add more.

With daytime temperatures of around 9°C for most of the week the ‘real’ snowdrops are beginning to open up. The double G flore pleno always begin flowering a week or two ahead of the single G nivalis, but the prospect of a ‘carpet of snowdrops’ is beginning to look more likely. I would usually have started splitting clumps before now, but with the ground being frozen for so long that task can easily wait.

As for my named ‘specials’, I think any that have survived their move will have made themselves known by know, and I have been able to make an assessment of where my collection now stands. It’s a little depleted, but I knew it was a risk and, with broad shoulders (all that swimming!), I can take it. There are some varieties I will actively seek to replace, largely for emotional reasons, but I have probably now learned not to keep replacing those that just don’t want to make themselves at home. I have come to the conclusion that Galanthus ‘Trumps’ is now my current favourite, so distinctive in character and bulking up well.

Now spreading nicely in the woodland edge border is an unnamed pulmonaria, probably a distant relative of the plant I brought from my parents’ house to my first marital home in 1976. I have a soft spot for all pulmonaria, probably for that very reason, just as I do with all geranium, with a plant of G magnificum coming to me at the same time from the same source. I am pleased to see the pulmonaria flowering now, as it is generally a little later.

A number of hellebores are also in bloom, although many are not. I am not convinced how much I like the over-abundance of blooms on H x ericsmithii ‘Pirouette’ though, which I think is likely to trip over its skirts if it attempts any twirling around:

Much more ladylike and practical is the unnamed variety below, probably one of the first in the garden and having lost its label many years ago; it obligingly holds its head up too. The stick to her right is Daphne mezereum, with tiny pinpricks of pink visible when inspected closely.

These are my promising six for today, and if you pop over to the blog of Six on Saturday host Jim you can see a wide range of other sixes from gardens around the world.

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, early spring, Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials, seasonal tasks, Six on Saturday, snowdrops, Winter, winter interest | 8 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Hints

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, early spring, Gardening, Gardens, Winter, winter interest, Wordless Wednesday | 3 Comments

End of January: Full of Promise, as Another Year Begins to Gather Steam

Unlike the previous two months, I was aware of the end of January approaching, enabling me to post a timely End of Month View for a change. It has been a lovely, fairly mild and sunny day with the occasional not unpleasant breeze, but the low early afternoon sun necessitated a change of angle for some of the usual views, to reduce either shadow or glare. You may note, as you wander round the garden with me, that it is beginning to look quite tidy, with swept paths and a distinct lack of random pots with contents waiting for a good home, all in preparation for the forthcoming garden opening.

As usual, we start with the view from the back of the house (above), what I see from the main kitchen windows. The plants in the pots in the foreground are bellis, which tend to sit around until well into February before putting on a growth spurt. Most of the other pots are planted with tulips, none of which are starting to show, and some will be overplanted with polyanthus if Aldi, my usual supplier, have them in stock this year as they have done in as many previous years as I can remember. The ladder propped up towards the top right is being used by the Golfer to remove some of the upward-facing shoots on the apple trees.

Below, we have the streamside grass and shrub border from both directions, with some of the witch hazels clearly visible, flowering viburnum , prunus and crocus less so.

Moving on through the woodland, amongst the named snowdrops, we reach the bothy where we can climb up and look down over the main borders and clematis colonnade towards the woodland edge border. Standing behind the shed, we can look over the same area from a different angle. In the woodland edge border, some of the hellebores are now opening and there a few splashes of white from the double common snowdrop Galanthus flore pleno, whilst the more common G nivalis now have white buds, so progress is being made!

Stipa tenuissima currently dominates the grass border, and the other taller grasses will be cut back once we get the open garden out of the way, before new growth starts to show. In the two nearby bold borders, allium foliage is pushing its way up amongst the hibernating herbaceous perennials. A sown-from-seed wallflower, although ugly in shape and manner, continues to provide blooms after a number of years in the corner of the second bold border, and will begin budding up as the days lengthen and temperatures rise.

Through the gate, we can see the bubble wrapped greenhouse, now filling up not just with overwintering cuttings, but early sweet peas and the first trays of germinated seedlings. The cutting beds will remain empty this winter, but next winter I will consider growing green manure in them.

The blue & white border has been revamped this year, and I look forward to seeing how the contents fill out and work alongside each other in due course. Continuing through the rose garden, where the bushes were pruned at the start of the year and are now sprouting new leaves, we walk under the clematis colonnade and amongst the main borders, where more allium is emerging despite, I thought, being comprehensively culled in at least of the beds.

Heading back towards the house, we pass the new obelisk border, where a few of the narcissi I planted are poking through, along with a couple of what must be remnants of the named snowdrops that were moved to the woodland – I shall have fun working out what varieties they are once they grow a little bigger! We can then glance up at the wisteria on the gable of the house, before having a peep in the Coop (where some pots of bulbs have been temporarily moved into the house to chivvy up their blooms!) and at the Coop Corner beyond it, where a handful of hellebores are trying hard to flower and put in a show for our visitors.

These end of month posts are a great way of monitoring progress of the garden and the changing seasons – and the vagaries of Mother Nature, who gives our plants permission to grow and flower at a time that suits them. We may think things are flowering earlier or later than usual, but in practice they are flowering at exactly the right time and we must accept this, like it or not!

If you find it hard to imagine how the different parts of the garden fit together, you may not yet have discovered there is a map under ‘The Garden’ tab above, and a guide to where the photographs are normally taken from. It is far from being a typical square or rectangular plot, and there are different ways to walk around it, so the map will help you to orientate yourself.

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens, Winter, winter interest | 5 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Bottled

Saturday’s opening picture of witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Magic Fire’ growing through dark leaved Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ was the starting point of today’s vase, as I noticed the pleasing contrast between them. They were joined by Sarcococca humilis, with a sprinkling of black berries alongside the tiny white buds which are beginning to open and release their intoxicating fragrance, and placed in a shapely deep purple vase, a cheap purchase from a car boot sale I think.

Yesterday, when the vase was created, saw temperatures of nearly 10°C (woohoo!) and sunshine for most of the day, triggering hints of perfume from this and other sarcococca, witch hazels, winter flowering honeysuckle, the tiny pink blooms of Prunus mume and winter stalwart Viburnum bodnantense. I wonder if any of these fragrances have ever been used in the perfume industry? Perhaps I could imagine that the fragrance has indeed been bottled and, if I removed the stopper from the Caithness Glass perfume bottle that acts as a prop, the heady fragrance would be released like a genie…

Here in my garden in the UK there are an increasing number of signs that things are on the move, and although I bemoan the fact my snowdrops and hellebores are a little tardy, I know that several more days like this will give them the boost they need. I even found a couple of crocus blooming discretely in the streamside grass! Whether your garden is waking up or still in hibernation, perhaps you can still find something to pick and pop in a vase or jam jar today for IAVOM, and share it with us by leaving the usual links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Winter, winter interest | Tagged | 14 Comments

Six on Saturday: More Bewitching

I am fortunate to have a number of witch hazels in the garden and this year, for some reason, given the summer drought and severe pre-Christmas freeze, most of them are flowering better and more profusely than ever before. You may have guessed that my favourites are the coppery oranges, rather than the yellow varieties: the one above is ‘Magic Fire’ and you can clearly see the variable red, orange and yellow shreds of a flickering fire.

The witch hazels are not however, the only things given me pleasure in the garden this week, as I very belatedly began my January sowing, always an exciting seasonal task, and was rewarded within 2 days by thoroughly reliable and easy annual limonium (statice) seedlings popping up in their trays on my improvised stand next to the Aga. This is the most trouble-free annual I have ever grown, coming in a range of shades, and I would highly recommend it. The three trays were moved directly to the greenhouse after germination, and the other trays on the stand moved up to take their position.

Rambling round the garden this week in slightly milder conditions than the previous one has thrown up one or two more examples of the garden waking up – several big fat buds on Clematis armandii and a couple of leafy buds on a very young and still twiggy specimen of greeny white flowering Ribes laurifolium – something to look forward to.

Preparations for our garden opening on February 12th are well underway – the signs on the roadside went up this week, a little delayed because the ground would have been too hard to drive a stake into any earlier, and I have managed to update all the in-garden signs too. Even though there is much of winter interest, there will still be empty borders, and it is helpful for visitors to know what they might expect later in the year. Photos provide updates of changes that have taken place in the garden, mostly subtle in this last year.

Visitors will expect snowdrops to feature prominently, so not only are all the named snowdrops individually labelled, there will be an overall plan to show where they are. This year, in addition to the black stick labels with white writing, I am also labelling them more conspicuously during the growing season with extra large yellow T labels, with a writing area of 10 x 6 cms, and a total height of  25cms – so all but very shortsighted should be able to read them without bending down, and even they should be able to avoid inadvertently standing on the snowdrops! It may look a little odd, but they will be removed once the snowdrops have died back, and in the meantime it will also make it easier for me to check on their progress in the first year in their woodland home.

That’s my (extended) six for the Six on Saturday meme kindly hosted by Jim of Garden Ruminations. At this time of year we all seem to be sharing very mixed bags, so who knows what you might see if check out his blog and the links others have left!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, projects, Six on Saturday, snowdrops, Winter, winter interest, woodland | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Glow Harry, Glow!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Winter, winter interest, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 7 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Cut and Dried

With another night of negative temperatures yesterday and weak sunshine keeping daytime temperatures low, rather than venture outside for today’s vase, on impulse I decided to use some dried dahlias that have been hanging up in the kitchen since the autumn.

Inspired by a feature on Gardeners’ World, I cut a number of dahlias, already towards the end of their useful life, pierced a hole in their stems, threaded them onto some strong thread, and just stung them up in the kitchen. I have never come across drying dahlias before but it was astonishingly effective, with the blooms drying very quickly and keeping much of their colour: these are Pink Petticoats’ which, like their dried counterparts, show a varying degree of pink.

The blooms were quickly arranged and supported by pebbles in another Chive vase; accompanying the dahlias is a copy of the book I gave away in a draw for the eighth anniversary of IAVOM, ‘Cut and Dry’, by Carolyn Dunster; ironically, dahlias are not included! Nevertheless, it is an interesting and useful book with lots of ideas.

If you would like to join the IAVOM community and share some pickings from your garden or garnered nearby, whether fresh or dried, blooms or twigs, then please add links to and from this post.

Posted in dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Winter, winter interest | Tagged , | 34 Comments

Six on Saturday: Timetables

With only 3 weeks to go till we open the garden for ‘snowdrops, witch hazels, hellebores and other plants of winter interest’, it is still far from clear what plants of winter interest will be in flower by then. We have had nearly a week of below zero overnight temperatures, rising barely above freezing in the daytime; sadly, today’s promised 4 or 5 degrees didn’t materialise because we were shrouded in mist all morning and beyond. One blessing was the sunshine and blue skies that the cold spell brought with it, although temperatures were such that the ground was too hard and fingers too cold for any outside tasks on these sunny days.

On my ramble today I made a point of checking on plants that might be expected to flower in mid-February, but progress is very much on hold. I was pleased, however, to see the first buds opening on Japanese apricot Prunus mume ‘Beni-Chidori’ (above), and big fat buds on Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ (below). Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ is also performing in a low-key way, but is easily missed.

Last year, most of the witch hazels were past their best, but I have every confidence they will still be starring on February 12th, along with viburnum and winter flowering Lonicera. However, I can’t be as sure about snowdrops and hellebores and although the named snowdrops that emerged after their move are mostly on their way to blooming, the same cannot be said of the native Galanthus nivalis, nor of the hellebores, with only a small handful of the latter in bloom, and low temperatures making progress difficult.

Even in the Coop, pots of bulbs would usually be budding up by now, but iris and narcissi are still a long way behind, although I was pleasantly surprised to see a bud on Bellevalia pycnantha, and even more surprised that despite growth on potted Narcissus bulbocodium staunchly remaining purely grasslike, on a clump outside were at least two buds, the first time replanted bulbocodium have deigned to flower!

So, who knows what will be blooming in three weeks, and hopefully visitors will realise that plants work to their own timetables. With at least a fortnight of much milder temperatures forecast alongside lengthening days, progress could be rapid and, like most gardeners, I remain optimistic – and after two wet February openings, we must surely be due for a dry day!

Thank you to Jim of Garden Ruminations for hosting this Six on Saturday meme. Do check out his contribution and those of other bloggers around the world

Posted in Gardening, greenhouse, open gardens, plants in pots, Six on Saturday, snowdrops, Winter, winter interest | 29 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Just a Little Light Dusting

Posted in garden structure, Gardens, snow, Winter, Wordless Wednesday | 6 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Wintersweet

Although there is no wintersweet in today’s vase, it is nevertheless filled with a number of other sweet things of winter interest and beyond. I should however, try and find a spot for this fragrant shrub, Chimonanthus praecox, to further widen the range of plants of winter interest in the garden.

Instead,  the welcome flowers on the arabis featured yesterday on Six on Saturday were my starting point, joined by blooms of Viburnum tinus from just outside the back door, winter jasmine creeping under the fence from a neighbour’s garden and fluffy seedheads of Pennisteum villosum, currently overwintering in the greenhouse. I picked some stems of Sarcococca humilis too, not quite flowering, but decided the viburnum foliage was sufficient. The jasmine and viburnum are fragrant, but the arabis and pennisetum are just sweet in their own right.

The small posy was placed in a vintage grey jug, similar in external finish to those from Prinknash Pottery, but with a delightful celadon blue-green interior.  Rather than borrow some of the Golfer’s sweets to prop up the finished vase, I have invited my little articulated fairy to join us today, as she is very definitely sweet, whatever the time of year!

If you would like to share a vase of your own pickings this Monday, with or without props, then please join us by including links to and from this post from your own


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, grasses, greenhouse, In a Vase on Monday, shrubs, Winter, winter interest | Tagged | 23 Comments