Looking for certain topics?
I spoke on Saturday about the abundance of growth in the garden, and the emergence of blooms on the green spikes of ‘Tête-à-Tête’ seems, to me that is, to herald the build-up to spring. Plenty of sunshine in recent days, albeit accompanied by a chilly north wind, has served to highlight the joys of snowdrops, hellebores, pulmonaria, prunus, viburnum and now narcissi, accentuating the pleasures of daily rambles. The garden never stops, but it is now gathering pace and won’t even think about slowing down until the autumn.
Today’s vase demonstrates the freshness of blooms at this time of year, with stems of ‘Tête-à-Tête’ joined by greenish-yellow catkins on twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ and a stout flowering stem of Hellebore argutifolius with its apple-green flowers. A short-lived but avid self-seeder, this often flowers before Christmas and pops up throughout the garden where I generally leave it to its own devices as it is not at all objectionable. The vase itself was bought as a hyacinth vase, which it may or may not have been designed for, its greenness supporting the freshness of the contents – and the prop is a miniature ‘slinky’, the perfect but not overused accompaniment to a seasonal vase like this!
Gardens in some parts of the world may not yet be stirring, but if you are able to join us on IAVOM by finding material in your garden to pop into a vase or jam jar then please do so by leaving the usual links to and from this post.
Well, a few days that is, as a short visit north to my Mum’s meant I didn’t see the garden for a little while and, my goodness, how it had changed when we got back! To other eyes the changes may not have been as obvious, but to me the garden had clearly moved up a gear with the increased light levels and milder nights. The carpet of snowdrops in the woodland edge border (above) was thicker and more luxuriant, a pure wool Wilton rather than a 100% polypropylene.
Amongst the snowdrops, the hellebores have gained several inches in height, their flowering stems standing proud of any remaining leaves. Fresh foliage of corydalis has emerged from nowhere and clumps of pulmonaria sport swelling flowerbuds:
I was pleased to see blooms on my stick-like Abeliophyllium distichum (‘white forsythia’), proving it is still alive, and that the swelling buds of Clematis armandii are finally opening into individual clusters of buds which should soon begin to display their fragrant blooms:
Each year, I plant pots of various Iris reticulata in the Coop and replant them outside when the flowers are spent; the only ones that ever return seem to be Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, and I would be interested to know if others have found the same.
We can learn a lot by checking out different blogs, and readers of Jim’s Six on Saturday meme are as willing as any to share their garden knowledge, so do pop over and see what they have got to say today.
I know some of you will not thank me (I remember a previous post!) for today’s prop, but it was so appropriate for the vase, a Caithness Glass bonbon dish of hellebore heads. I have displayed hellebores this way before (almost exactly 9 years ago!) but have resisted the temptation to repeat it since – after nine years I think I can allow myself a little self-indulgence!
Back then, I picked one of every hellebore flowering, a total of 10; there are probably as many flowering now with plenty more to come, but I restricted myself to just five, to fit in the dish. I have certainly not included any of my new Ashwood ‘Evolution’ varieties, like the ones featured at the end of a recent Six on Saturday post. The chosen blooms, as shown clockwise from top left below are: lost label, possibly Harvington Single Yellow Speckled, Harvington Double Black, Harvington Double White and Harvington Double Pink Speckled.
The prop is a doll’s head, dug up from the garden, and the bonbon dish predates this blog and any thoughts of IAVOM. If you would like to join in the meme today with a vase or dish or jam jar of your own, pickings from your garden or nearby and with or without a prop, then please do so by leaving the usual links to and from this post.
Elder Daughter lives down in Surrey, a short hop from both RHS Wisley and the Savill Garden, making it easy to visit both. There was a lull in visits once the Poppet (now 8) had outgrown her pushchair, before resuming once her school journey began. Elder Daughter is not yet a gardener but appreciates the beauty of gardens and has an artistic eye – and of course is happy to see her Old Mother getting pleasure from the visits, whatever the season.
When we visited recently it was bitterly cold but gloriously sunny, highlighting the winter structure and creating long shadows, like those falling on the carpet of crocus above. Completing my Six on Saturday contribution for the meme hosted by Jim of Garden Ruminations are an interesting tree trunk, hydrangea flowerheads, ornamental blackberry Rubus cockburnianus (I think), a tangled self-supporting wisteria and a stand of coloured cornus (dogwood) stems
This isn’t quite the view that visitors to our garden on Sunday afternoon were met with, as an overcast day meant the single common snowdrops were still mostly not fully out, unlike today. However, from comments made to the Golfer, myself and our helpers it would appear they still enjoyed themselves, as the number of visitors exceeded not only any previous openings but also any expectations we might have had. And it was DRY!
We opened from 12.00 until 4.00, and within ten minutes the ‘car park’ (the ‘playground’ of a neighbour’s converted school house) was full and other vehicles parked on-street down the lane; this continued throughout the afternoon, triggering traffic issues once visitors began leaving as well as arriving. As the day went on, we watched ticket sales creep up in a state of complete amazement, giving us a total of 145 visitors – more than twice as many as we have ever had on a single day!
Normally, I try to speak to all visitors, but on Sunday this just wasn’t possible, even if I could remember who I had already spoken to! Our friend on the gate makes a note of where people have come from, which is always interesting, and when I do speak to people I like to know if they have been before and, if not, where they heard about the opening. This time, although there were repeat visitors, it was the first visit for the majority, seemingly because we were listed under snowdrop openings on the NGS (National Garden Scheme) website, a list which probably gets picked up by other media sources too.
I have written several times about our experiences of opening the garden and don’t want to repeat myself, so will focus on what was different about this one. Visitor numbers meant that a total of £1076 was raised, most going to the NGS with a proportion of refreshment and plant sales going to a local charity and a similar proportion taken in expenses to cover the cake baking. And talking of cake baking, for the first time ever we very nearly ran out of cake! Normally overcatering to reduce the risk of running out and giving us a welcome stockpile in the freezer, the unexpected visitor numbers this time took its toll, and baking to meet our own needs will have to resume sooner than expected! The plant stand, with common and named snowdrops and Iris reticulata, was similarly depleted.
Admittedly it does take some effort and is not just a matter of opening a gate, but this is our seventh year of opening (the third time in February) and the practical preparation is now largely routine, with the necessary ‘stuff’ coming down from the loft or out of the shed and returning there afterwards. We can also rely on our regular helpers who know the ropes too, although we could have done with additional help with refreshments earlier than was planned. Despite my determination to make time to sit down on Sunday morning there were still things that could only be done on the day – but I did manage 15 minutes!
What have we learned this time? In particular, that snowdrops bring out people who are not necessarily gardeners, as the huge increase in numbers demonstrated. Also, can we cope with this number of visitors and do we want to? It was the first time that parking has proved to be an issue and this will have to be addressed. Although many first time visitors insisted they would come again in June, this didn’t happen last year when our February visitors said a similar thing, so we can’t assume it will be the case, but we certainly need to be prepared for February next year – but would a colder or wetter day make an impact on numbers? There seem to be three alternatives: to open on more than one date, to offer only online timed bookings or to find additional parking. Rather than rely on the generosity of our neighbours and helpers, the latter is the preferable option but not easy to do in a small village.
It’s something to mull over now things have been tidied away and furniture rearranged, the figures balanced and money banked, as the exhilaration and exhaustion fade and quiet satisfaction at the overall success of the afternoon takes over, as we allow ourselves to relax a little and take things a bit slower. Thank you all so much for your continued interest, support and good luck wishes, always treasured.
Today’s vase is teeny tiny, no more than three inches tall, but rather than a bland teeny title, I opted for something more provocative, as you will see. With our garden opening yesterday, when this post was written, I knew I would only have time for a short post, which is why I often resort to photographing a table posy or two for IAVOM the following day. This time, on impulse I went down the teeny tiny route instead, with a few stems of Cyclamen coum and sprigs of Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’ and Sarcococca humilis in a salesman’s sample Bretby Pottery jug.
What about the elephant in the room, you may ask? Well, it (or they, as there are two of them) are not in the room , but in the nut, a betel nut I think it is. My Mum, who was brought up in China, has had one of these since her childhood and, as a lover of all things teeny tiny, when I saw them for sale in a Chinese export shop in the mid 1970s I snapped one up. There were originally three intricately carved elephants (just a few millimeteres across) in my hollowed out nut but one must have trundled back to the jungle as I am left with only two.
In hindsight, perhaps there is an elephant in the room after all…how our open afternoon went. In a betel nutshell, I am equally exhausted, exhilarated and (coudn’t find an appropriate adjective beginning with ‘e’) astounded, so make of that what you will until I write more.
In the meantime, if you would like to join IAVOM with a vase of your own of any size, please do so by finding material from your garden or nearby and leaving links to and from this post.
With our open garden tomorrow, I wasn’t sure if I would have time to prepare a Six on Saturday post for Jim’s weekly meme at Garden Ruminations. However, I have been busy today with all the remaining tasks that can be done in advance, as I am determined to have the time to sit down for part of the morning tomorrow before we open to visitors at 12.00, and managed a few quick photos before the light began to fade.
The weather is still set fair and mild, and the main players in the February garden have come out to play, although the witch hazels are just beginning to drop their coloured shreds – but still exhibit their glorious winter colour and for the first time are generating a very noticeable and glorious fragrance as the days warm up. The single ‘native’ snowdrops are still not fully out but exhibit enough whiteness to make an impact, and there are now a fair number of hellebores with open flowers although overall they are much later than in a typical year. There is certainly plenty for visitors to see and smell, as you can see (but not smell) in today’s SoS photos, and we will be ready to welcome them.