I have recently agreed to give a talk to a garden group next year, something I have never done before and which I am quite looking forward to in a strange sort of way. The group is one that visited our garden earlier and when the visit was booked the secretary asked then if I would be willing to give a talk or if I knew someone who might be; I said I would think about it, but to my relief at the time nothing more was said. A recent phonecall saw the request reiterated and I decided to take the plunge and agree: my talk, I decided, will have the title ‘How to enjoy your garden’ and today’s vase is the perfect example of how to do so in early December.
Combining colour, fragrance, foliage and pure joy at their existence, this glowing vase exemplifies not only the benefits of gardening for all seasons but also of picking material from our gardens to fill vases to enhance the inside of our homes both guaranteed, we have learned, to enhance enjoyment of our gardens. Today’s vase includes yet more roses, fat buds of Lady Emma Hamilton, for which I am indebted to the enthusiasm of Ali the Mindful Gardener who inspired me to add her to my own garden; she has only been here for a few months (Lady Em, not Ali) but already my own enthusiasm for the lady is growing, in part due to her glowing buds, apricot flushed with rosy red, not unlike the crab apples of ‘Evereste’. Joining these jewels is the bronzed foliage of milady (another of her assets), the preciously fragrant blobs of Viburnum bodantense ‘Dawn’ and distinctively patterned leaves of Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’.
Popping these joys into a blue sundae glass, with a little battery operated tea light with a flickering effect as a prop, the vase appears to glow even more than I anticipated when I first chose the constituent parts – December in the garden, and winter generally, may not have the abundance of summer, but it has its own special attractions as well as unexpected joys such as these lingering roses. The notion of creating a garden for all seasons (weather permitting) is just one of the ways I hope to inspire the garden group when I talk to them at the end of February, and the list of ideas is growing.
Creating our vases every Monday has required us to get to know our gardens intimately (‘Get to know your garden’), seeking material every month of the year and looking for inspiration when pickings at first glance appear lean, to enable us to find material to pop into a vase or jamjar (‘Bring the outside in and create a vase’). What have you find to bring you pleasure this Monday? Please share it with us by leaving links to and from this post (‘Dip into a blog’).
Chloris of the Blooming Garden asked recently if I could show her inside my greenhouse – by which I assume she meant the new lean-to one round the corner of the house, where the chickens used to be. We have been calling this ‘Number 5’, to distinguish it from Numbers 2 and 4 which are the two joined-up greenhouses at the bottom of the garden, next to the cutting beds (numbers 1 and 3 no longer exist), but recently the Golfer suggested we call it The Coop, as a tribute to the last occupants of this part of the garden. As yet, this name doesn’t trip off the tongue in the way Number 5 has, but we shall see; in the meantime, whatever we call it, let’s open the door and pop in and have a look around.
The longer term intention is for this greenhouse to hold less hardy plants, but it will take time to expand my knowledge of the possibilities and build up a collection so I will be on a constant lookout for appropriate occupants. A good selection of winter and early spring flowering plants is something I particularly want to aim for, and although there is little in flower at the moment there is at least the promise of future flowers, especially from bulbs.
On the staging on the left are pots of narcissi, freesia and various muscari as well as a pretty little bulb I had never heard of before called Tecophilaea cyanocrocus violacea, which should flower in March. The cyclamen was a birthday present and the trailing rhodochiton is an experiment to see how it overwinters.
Under the staging are some early planted Lilium candidum and various hippeastrum/amaryllis crosses which came to me too late to make an impact in their flowering season this autumn, as well as pots of resting eucomis. To the right, the upper staging houses resting scented-leaved pelargoniums, cut back by half and their leaves stripped, as recommended by specialist supplier Fibrex. I am aware that it is possible to keep them flowering throughout the winter but I am taking the expert’s advice, and will make a note on the calendar to remind me to water them (and other resting bulbs) every fortnight. Below these are some sempervivum and sarracenia and a pot of Aeonium that has been outside for most of the year, along with Camellia ‘Yuletide’ and Salvia coccinea, both of which have come in for the winter.
Under this staging is my expanding collection of terracotta pots. Having decided to honour the upmarket nature of the greenhouse by exclusively using terracotta pots I have added to their number in the most economically way possible, surprisingly not by purchasing from car boot sales where their presence has proved to be scarce, but mostly from Wilkinsons (Wilkos), one of the ‘pound shops’ and Morrisons; the pile of deep pots came back with us from Morrisons on Anglesey, spotted reduced by half on our way to the ferry to Ireland and purchased on our return in case our local branch had sold out! Often the pots have cost less than the pot saucers which are harder to come by, but Wilkinsons’ are reasonable.
I am looking forward to some climbing blooms in spring as well, with pots of Tropaeolum tricolour and Hardenbergia violacea; I am not sure if the former might need a bigger pot so any advice would be helpful.
Still in the house are a number of hippeastrum, planted at intervals, and pots of hyacinths, which will be moved into The Coop at an appropriate time; knowing when to move from dark to light and cool to warm and maybe cool again is always a learning curve and although I intend to keep this greenhouse frost free it will always be a degree or two above Numbers 2 and 4 because of its closeness to the house. As we only installed the greenhouse in April the whole season is a voyage of discovery’ and one thing I have learned is that this side of the house is not as shady as I first thought, with the morning sun in summer peering over the top of the adjacent houses for a number of hours (less so of course in winter).
So that’s what’s happening round the corner in The Coop; like much of the December garden it is a place of anticipation, an important stop on my daily rambles, and I am pleased to have been able to welcome you there. Do come again!
- Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying. (Robert Herrick ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time‘)
We have just been away for the weekend, returning on Sunday evening, so a variation was required in my usual vase routine this week; accordingly, I followed Robert Herrick’s 17th century advice to ‘seize the day’ and picked all the buds from one of my new roses, The Mayflower. This was one of a batch of container grown roses bought from David Austin at the end of August and apart from a few blooms on arrival these new buds were my only 2018 crop; however, now that we are in December I fully expected these buds to be shrivelling or ‘balling’ at any moment in the cold or rain, so had no qualms in stripping them all for the sake of a few photos while they were still smiling .
- You can imagine how much I was smiling when we got home and instead of limp stems and tight but desiccated buds I found that four of them had opened and were smiling back at me, displaying the pretty and multi-petalled powder-pink blooms that encouraged me to choose the variety in the first place, sharing a bed alongside darker pink England’s Rose. Quickly taken and of course in artificial light, a photo of the smiling vase benefits not only from the enhanced blooms but from the shadows thrown up by the ad hoc lighting conditions. The delicate nature of the original buds paired nicely with stray stems of the similarly delicate self-seeded annual grass Briza maxima but the depth of pink of the open blooms worked equally well with the soft green of the seedheads, cocking a snook at Old Time and his flying tricks.
- I hope lots of you will be cocking a snook at Old Time today too and finding something – anything – in your gardens that you could pop in a vase or otherwise display for your own pleasure – and our pleasure too, if you share it with us by leaving the usual links to and from this post.
Rambling round the garden this morning I was struck by how bare it looked – even Salvia ‘Neon’ seems to have hung up its clogs for the season, and that’s saying something! Apart from a stormy few hours yesterday the weather this week has not been unreasonable for November so why there has been this sudden subtle change in the garden I don’t know.
Above is the paved area directly behind the house, with winter pansies growing (but not yet flowering) in the pots in the foreground and tulips buried deeply in all the others. Below is the adjacent streamside and shrub border, shown from both ends: the cornus are beginning to stand out in the centre of the latter, but the former fails to show how well Viburnum bodnanentense ‘Dawn’ is flowering.
The woodland is looking…woody… and certainly no longer leafy, whilst the view from the bothy at the end of it shows the efforts of recent work on the clematis colonnade, shown better in a later photograph. Some leaf sweeping has taken place in the last week, bringing an instant improvement in tidyness.
The same borders are shown from ground level in the next photograph, followed by a direct view of the reconstructed clematis colonnade; work is not yet complete, with a decision still to made on the length of the overhangs. The raised brick edges to the beds are clearly visible and will, I believe, be a big improvement. It is not obvious from the photo, though, that all the existingclematis are currently suspended – still on the wire framework from the previous posts – by rope from the horizontals; fortunately they seem to have withstood yesterday’s winds.
The woodland edge border, shown from both directions, has definitely wound down for the year but will be waking up in a month or two with snowdrops, hellebores and two of the witch hazels:
Likewise, the bold borders (and Salvia Neon) are settling down to a deserved rest, but with a substantial number of new plants and nice warm manure blanket I am hopeful that they will rise like the proverbial phoenix in spring:
The cutting beds are all but empty now – but I have no idea where this corrugated plastic sheeting has blown in from!
The blue & white border is in hibernation, but something is happening in the rose garden…
The wind has blown over one of the very heavy R ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ next to the bus shelter, necessitating either a clamber or a diversion in my rambles. It will need a lot of support to get back upright and if I wasn’t currently busy elsewhere this would be impeding my progress on modifying and ‘terracing’ either side of the bus shelter. Here is the bed on the other side, roughly terraced and edged with brick and timber to gauge the potential effect. Much thought has been given and is still being given to the materials to be used here but the brain cell jury is still out… Bizarrely, what looks like a reflection is only a shadow on our neighbour’s fence!
Looking back towards the house, the snowdrop border on the right is discreetly displaying the first few green shoots, whilst the new shady border is boasting flower buds on some equally new hellebores – it is these little promises that keep us gardeners going throughout these leaner winter months.
This is how my garden is looking at the end of November, not sorry for itself but ready for a rest, apart from those parts trudging on whilst they undergo structural changes. The changes won’t necessitate a new map, so do look at the one under The Garden tab above to work out where the photos were taken from and how the different areas of the garden fit together. Finally, thanks to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting this monthly look at our gardens