Wordless Wednesday: Bessera elegans, Underwhelming and Not Very Elegant

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Six Years of In a Vase on Monday: Wotcher Shortie!

Welcome to the sixth anniversary of In a Vase on Monday! Approximately 312 vases later, the meme seems to be as popular as ever amongst both vase makers and vase viewers, irreversably changing both the viewpoints and habits of many of us, for example “I could never bring myself to cut the flowers in my garden” or “I am rubbish at arranging flowers”. Even “I don’t have any vases” or “I don’t have any flowers” just don’t cut it these days either, as IAVOM requires neither a vase nor flowers as we have discovered whilst expanding our horizons over the years.

For most anniversaries I have thrown down a challenge, to encourage us to try something which may be out of our comfort zone, and this year I suggested readers produce a miniature arrangement, perhaps no more than 6″ (15cms) in each dimension. I planned to set the bar really low (the height of the vase that is!), but the result depends on which part we consider is ‘the vase’ and which is ‘the prop’: the overall height of all components, however, comes out at a little under 5″.

In the matching little jugs, both vintage sample pieces from the fairly local Bretby Pottery, are snippets of Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, Erigeron karvinskianus, Verbena bonariensis, remnants of annual bedding plant Nemesia ‘Poetry Mixed’ and new foliage of Nandina domestica ‘Obsessed’. Initially I planned to use just the smaller of the two jugs, which without the little chair is a mere 2.5″, but when I came to trim the material that had been cut I decided to use the larger jug too as the overall effect was too pleasing to my eye not to do so. The chair is a copy of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair from The Hill House in Glasgow, slotted together from a little plywood ‘kit’ that caught my eye some time ago and which has been begging for a prop slot in IAVOM ever since – so why has it made it today?

Let’s look at the title of the post, ‘Wotcher Shortie!’: ‘wotcher’ is UK slang of 19th century Cockney derivation or earlier, a friendly greeting and contraction of ‘what cheer’ or possibly “what are you up to?”. Friendly banter between the Golfer and myself might, when referring to a chair, instead say ‘wotcher’, and for those bloggers who have met me in person it would come as no surprise that he often calls me Shortie (as a term of endearment of course!)…so for a miniature vase on a little chair, ‘Wotcher Shortie!’ seemed appropriate.

I do hope many of you will rise to today’s small challenge, and any new contributors would be especially welcome. To everyone who has supported the meme in different ways over the years, some right from the start, I would like to extend a great big thank you. Created to discipline myself into regularly cutting material from the garden and bringing the pleasure of the garden inside, it did just that and much much more, becoming an institution in itself, and a very supportive institution at that…long may it continue!

As a thank you to contributors of vases on this 6th anniversary I have a giveaway which sadly I forgot to photograph – some biodegradable floral foam: ‘OASIS® Bio Floral Foam Maxlife which has been shown by ASTM D5511 to biodegrade 51.5% within 365 days in biologically active landfill conditions’. Offering it in this draw is not intended to suggest I am recommending its use but having heard about it from Susie I thought it was worth a try.

To remind you of some of the last year’s vases, here are my favourites from each of the last 12 months:

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 57 Comments

Six on Saturday: the First and the Last

Well, the last will be first for this Six on Saturday post, as temperatures down to minus 2°C last night will sadly have seen off the dahlias for this year. The photograph was taken quite early in the day but a mammoth effort from a weak November sun was doing what it could to clear the frosty evidence I had seen on my first ramble. It is not going to get any higher than 4°C today and these cold nights and chilly days can only get more frequent in the coming weeks – but that’s what we expect, and I am not complaining.

I was prepared for the temperature drop last night, however, and had set up the heaters in the greenhouse in readiness, plugging them in but sadly forgetting to switch them on! In the Coop it was 2°C and in the working greenhouse just below zero…brrr! All corrected now, and I expect the heaters will remain on for much of the day; hopefully nothing will be adversely affected by one night without woolly jumpers and gloves…

Someone suggested recently that my greenhouses looked admirably tidy, but I can assure you that is not the case – perhaps I was selective in the views I shared! I have, though, just taken down the shade netting that I used this year for the first time and – hard to believe! – washed down the outside of the working greenhouse and willingly confess this is for the first time ever! I plan to wash the inside down too before I put up bubble wrap again for insulation, but because the working greenhouse in particular is NOT especially tidy (organised perhaps, but not tidy) it will not be the easiest of tasks without a bit of sprucing up – thus going straight to the top of my to-do list. No more new projects till it’s done!

With the sun’s brave attempt to emerge this morning came the strange feeling that I was rambling in a steady downpour, but without any rain – instead, it was a gentle breeze shifting any remaining foliage on the trees and dislodging the melted frost which fell like rain under their canopy. Our neighbour’s massive and ancient beech tree has only recently begun to put on its autumnal garb, but with temperatures like today’s the seasonal changes will now be swift and merciless.

The (special) snowdrop bed was cleared of the white summer bedding plants a few weeks ago and I am contemplating trimming the leaves of the four white or green hellebores that share the space quite soon to tidy the border and make snowdrop spotting easier. It also needs a good mulch to enhance its appearance and build up the soil level which seems to have dropped as you can see below from the pots that the newer snowdrops have been planted, which are becoming exposed.

Last year I took the plunge and replanted all my established named varieties directly into the ground, with the newer ones in my collection being planted in deep ‘snowdrop pots’ for their first few years, so my breath will be well and truly bated as I watch for those green spikes emerging. It is always a ‘tense’ experience, watching and counting to see how many of the almost inevitable losses there are to contend with as the snowdrop season progresses, so letting the preciouses loose into the big wide world just adds to the pressure – but at least there is one to cross of the list already, as today I noticed Galanthus ‘Fieldgate Prelude’ emerging, the first of this season…hurrah!

Thank you to Jon the Propagator for hosting this Saturday meme – please visit his blog to find many and varied other sixes.

Posted in Autumn, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, Six on Saturday, Weather | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Bellis

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In a Vase on Monday: Clara, Dorothy and Phyllis Come to Tea

I am sure I have brought other lovelies to tea on a previous Monday morning, but today it is the turn of Dahlia ‘Dorothy Rose’, Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis’ and Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, nipped at their heels by Antirrhinum ‘Liberty Classic Rose Pink’.

I picked a sprig of Clara’s cousin, ‘Jessie Cooper’, to include in a posy for a friend last week and was surprised and delighted to find it had a fragrance when brought inside, a fragrance one could perhaps describe as ‘honey’, and Clara appears to have the same. Outside, this fragrance is undetectable, warmth presumably being the necessary trigger. Incidentally, the stems of Jessie Cooper included in the vase of zinnias a fortnight ago are still blooming and looking fresh – having only introduced them to the garden in the last couple of years, it is not surprising that my admiration for these hardy chrysanthemums is growing!

Today’s blooms required a darkish vase to bring out their pinkness, and this pewter effect Prinknash Pottery jug seemed to suit them well. Tea and crustless cucumber sandwiches would be presented on this tiny 1920s or 30s tea set, manufactured from the mottled resin that took over from the more limited colourways of earlier Bakelite.

Next week is – would you believe it?! – the 6th anniversary of In a Vase on Monday and as usual on such an auspicious occasion I would like to set you a challenge: this year, it is to present a miniature vase, perhaps no greater than 6″/15cm tall and wide. There is no obligation to do so, but it can be rewarding to push ourselves into doing something we might not normally do, so do give it a try if you can. There will be a giveaway too, drawn from all those who post any vase next week.

In the meantime, if you are able to find blooms or other material in your gardens today, or if you can forage them locally, then please pop them into a vase or jamjar for your own pleasure or share them with the many followers of IAVOM by adding links to and from this post.

Posted in Autumn, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 45 Comments

End of Month View: Golden Threads Amongst the Green

Although the garden is still overwhelmingly green (and thankfully without frost-blackened dahlias on my return from a few days at my Mum’s), there are flashes of gold in places, particularly in the second picture of the streamside grass and shrub border, courtesy of several witch hazels and crab apple ‘Golden Hornet’. Today I noted that my weather records state that the first frost last year was in fact November 12th, so hopefully I can enjoy my dahlias for a little longer.

From the other end of the above view, the different shades of green and on-the-point-of-turning leaves certainly imply that autumn is making inroads in the garden…

…although it is barely apparent in the woodland yet, apart from a crunchy underfoot covering of empty beechnuts, courtesy of our neighbour’s overlarge beech tree and the local squirrel population:

From the bothy at the end of the woodland and then the same view from ground level, the main borders appear green, blowsy and relaxed, chilling out now there is no pressure on them to look tidy and presentable. The wind sculpture whizzes round gently when the wind blows and looks at home on its purpose-built pedestal.

Turning slightly, we see the clematis colonnade which still sports a few blooms, as do the rosed beds at its feet. The Acer griseum to the right is gradually becoming shapelier, whilst the heucheras in the bronze bed around it have had a great year and are still looking presentable:

The new extension to the woodland edge border (right foreground) is planted up but now the rest of the border is getting a makeover too with selective culling, especially of overexuberant epimedium and take-over-the-world-if given-half-a-chance ivy. A flash of inspiration this morning, however, has triggered more than just selective culling as you will see in due course, as a further mini-project takes shape. The lower picture, taken from the other end, shows an area in front of Persicaria Red Dragon which has been partially cleared of the aforementioned epimedium, which began as a single plant in a 9cm pot in 2002.

The three bold borders are now anything but bold, perhaps apologising for their half-heartedness at the end of a busy season. They may not need a cull, but I look forward to cutting them back.

Through the gate to the cutting beds, partially cleared apart from the last of the cosmos and the hanging-on-in-there dahlias, and the new beds next to the fruit cage where the zinnias now look unlikely to produce any more blooms:

The blue-and-white borders and rose garden are quick to apologise too, promising to do better next year…

…and heading back towards the house we can see that the special snowdrop border has been cleared of the white summer bedding, preparing itself for regular inspection as the snowdrop season approaches and green shoots are eagerly awaited. Hellebore leaves will be trimmed in due course to facilitate this.

A quick peek in the Coop shows an influx of pots, with pots of spring bulbs jostling for space amongst the autumn flowering nerines and summer bulbs that are preparing for a winter rest. The greenhouse chrysanthemum in the right of the picture is smothered in buds and we may soon find out if it has justified the space it takes up and the long season of bare foliage we have had to tolerate.

Behind the Coop, the shady border still looks as good as it has done all season but needs adjustment to bring some overshadowed plants to the front. The Clematis armandii has been a real success, clothing the fence with its lanky and leathery leaves, promising greatness when its flowering season comes in the early months of next year.

Finally, to complete this end-of-October summary for another year, my rambles now must take in an additional location as the ‘Old Fig Bed’ at the other side of the house, one of the newest projects, has just been completed and planted up with shade-tolerant plants, many of which will provide interest in late winter or early spring. As someone has already pointed out, I urgently need to update the map of the garden (under The Garden tab above)!

Posted in End of Month View, garden structure, Gardening, Gardens, projects | 9 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: a Cautionary Tale of Secateurs and a Purple PlasticTrug

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Wordless Wednesday | 13 Comments