Wordless Wednesday: Snow, What Snow?

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In a Vase on Monday: More Than Just a ‘Drop

Yesterday’s weather forecast, for heavy snow all morning from 5.00am or so and light snow for the rest of the day, proved correct, giving us 3″ by mid morning and a gradual increase since then. Tomorrow, although dry, will see negative temperatures all day culminating in minus 7°C overnight and warnings of ice, so the Golfer and I will be hunkering down in the house again. Despite bitterly cold temperatures for the latter part of the week I have at least managed a few hours of rose pruning, Madame Alfred Carriere needing considerable reigning in from her expeditions over the bus shelter. Even today, as it was dry in the greenhouse and a tad warmer than outside, I got round to adding bubblewrap to part of the interior – but that might be full the extent of my gardening activities for several days.

Anticipating the weather, I had a contingency plan in mind for IAVOM – three of early snowdrop Mrs Macnamara’s blooms, a sprig of hips from rose Parkdirektor Riggers and a snipped down piece of twisted hazel that had accompanied the hippeastrum a fortnight ago. Popped into a stoneware inkwell I misjudged its size when I placed it onto a snowy rock for a photograph and it nearly sank without trace! The snowdrops show up surprisingly well against the snow, but you can see the elements better when it was against the wall under the hedge at the sheltered side of the house. The brick behind it is stamped ‘Utopia’, and can be traced to the Aldridge Brick and Tile Company, originally based about 16 miles from here. We have a number of these ‘blue bricks’ which came in a batch of recycled bricks when I was building  the wall behind the bold borders – some are stamped to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and we have made a feature of these bricks in this wall.

The snowdrops were firmly closed when I picked them but very soon opened up in the warmth of the house, their distinctive fragrance subtly detectable. The Golfer was aghast that I was picking them, but I shan’t be able to enjoy them outside for a little while so I was more than happy to bring them inside. I wonder how many UK bloggers will be able to create a vase for today, or any northern hemisphere bloggers for that matter? Where there is a will, there is a way, but in this week’s wintry weather any absences would be understandable. If you are able to post, please leave the usual links so we can share the pleasure your vase brings you – and in the meantime, KEEP WARM AND SAFE!

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Wordless Wednesday: Mrs Mac

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On a Door on Monday

Knowing we were going to be away for the weekend and therefore not around on Sunday to prepare a vase for Monday, I decided to combine my seasonal wreath-making with the Monday meme this year – and thus we have another vaseless Monday.

Living with a garden in a semi-rural setting with a mature holly hedge and a plentiful supply of ivy encouraged me some years ago to try my hand at making a Christmas wreath for the first time. Despite the initial lack of confidence, I remember being surprised at how easy it proved to be and have made one every year since. It takes only ten or fifteen minutes to collect the materials and then no more than an hour to put it together, and recycling the non-consumable elements each year means it costs absolutely nothing to make – and of course, like my Monday vases, the living material has come straight out of our own garden. The format has not changed at all over the years because it always feels ‘just right’ as it is and thus cannot be improved on. Another traditional routine, I suppose! Do you want to see how I do it?

First, I collected the materials: holly (preferably with berries), flexible ivy stems, ivy berries, a circle of bent wire, thin garden wire and some ribbon…

We don’t get berries on the plain green holly of the hedge, so I pick from our variegated holly tree for our wreath, although you can guarantee that most berries will be too high to reach. I picked both variegated and plain ivy this year, but used only the plain green in the end. The wire circle could well have started life as a coat hanger and is held together with parcel tape whilst a bundle of pieces of thin wire is wrapped round it so they don’t get lost from year to year. The ribbon is of the wired variety so can be bent into a tasteful bow.

Firstly, I laid the stems of holly on the wire circle, ensuring the berries were well-distributed around it:

Then I placed the lengths of ivy with the fruits around the ring:

Next, I twisted the thin wire at intervals around the ring, holding the holly and ivy berries in place, and then snipped off wayward stems:

Finally, the flexible stems of ivy were wrapped over and around the other materials and a bow added at the top:

The finished wreath was then hung on the front door where it will last happily till Twelfth Night before being dismantled and the wire and ribbon tucked away safely till next year.

If I had been at home to make a vase, I am not sure what I would have found to pop into it (perhaps holly and ivy!) so I shall be especially interested to see what others have put into theirs. Please leave the usual links so we can see what you have found. Pickings may well be thin, but we have got through a few winters with our Monday vases before and will do so again!

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Bare Bones of Barnsdale

We had a trip to Barnsdale on Tuesday on our way to (WARNING! Put your fingers in your ears if you don’t want to hear this!) pick up some artificial turf from LazyLawn, which is based nearby. The decision on the turf was not taken lightly but nor is it irreversible, although there will many among you who think we are off our heads for going down this route. However it is only an area of 4.6 sqm which is very approximately  o.34% of the total area and in that respect is neither here nor there, so will not impact on wildlife. The newest artificial turf looks and feels incredibly realistic and we would not have entertained the change if this wasn’t the case, so let’s all just see how it works out.

We don’t intend to lay it yet, but wanted to take advantage of a ‘Black Friday’ discount and balking at the carriage charge we were happy to drive the 60 miles or so to pick it up, particularly with its proximity  to Barnsdale. We seem to end up at Barnsdale at least once a year, in various seasons, and as well as the lunch there is always something to enjoy. This time I was particularly struck by the structure of the garden, its bones laid bare by the onset of wintry weather and a hardworking team of diligent gardeners. Shapely seedheads of rudbeckia, verbena, verbascum and others were left standing for the benefit of the birdlife and the few visitors that pop in during the off-season (there had been about a dozen on Wednesday, including ourselves, but some had only come for lunch). I seem to have missed taking photos of the seedheads, but have a look at these others and appreciate how the underlying structure of a garden can bring interest in every month of the year:

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End of Month View: a Quick Ramble Round the November Garden

November has come and almost gone without so much as a ‘by your leave’, but generally it has been a month of progress in the garden with a considerable amount of tidying up done and decisions made on all sorts of gardening issues. The main jobs still pending are pruning climbing roses (which could wait), emptying the 2016 compost heap and spreading compost and leaf mould on the borders, and reaching a decision on whether to plant put some of the autumn sown annuals. I suspect it is probably too late for a decision on the latter – what have others done, I wonder?

The view from the kitchen windows certainly looks tidier than it has in a long time, now that the straggly remnants have been emptied from the pots. There are now seed sown violas in the pots in the foreground and tulips in most of the others. A freebie mixed bag of miniature narcissi will probably go in some of these as well.

If you look carefully to the left of this next picture and to the right of the other you might see the stream running, now that it is less overhung with outsize ferns. The yellow splodge of colour on the first picture are Golden Hornet crab apples, and the stems of three cornus are just becoming evident on the left of the second picture. They will look magnificent once the last of their leaves have gone

We don’t remove the leaves from the woodland floor, leaving them to form their own rich leaf litter:

Our neighbour has started clearing some of the growth from his side of the fence and hopefully a new fence will appear before spring. Although it is not our ‘responsibility’ I have been thinking we might offer a contribution towards the cost of the replacement, as it will benefit our garden, particularly if he adds a nice wavy lattice on the top and threads fairy lights through them as he has done on the two end panels. Meanwhile, these borders have received a bit of a trim but are awaiting removal of the stray leaves before they are mulched for the winter.

The clematis colonnade, followed by the woodland edge border, viewed from both ends:

The three bold borders, with Salvias ‘Amistad’ and ‘Neon’ and bidens still flowering:

Those pristine empty cutting beds (and feline footprints):

The blue & white border, and revamped rose garden with the wood and metal framework removed and new roses planted in the two central beds :

Looking back towards the house at the end of the ramble, the wisteria is awaiting its winter prune which, weather permitting, I will give it on Christmas Eve; meanwhile, in the special snowdrop border on the right, around a dozen of these named varieties are pushing through, with four already in flower. What the early appearance of these snowdrops tell us about the weather is anybody’s guess, but the current forecast is for freezing weather for a number of days with snow in the east. Last night and today have been the coldest of the season up to now, with  a degree or two below freezing overnight and daytime temperatures not getting above 2 or 3°C. Putting the kettle on for a cup of tea and piece of cake sounds like a good idea, accompanied by checking out other garden blogger’s end of month reports, kindly hosted by Steve of Glebe House Garden!

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Wordless Wednesday: Teatime

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