In a Vase on Monday: a Walk in the Park for a Chicken

Unlike a chicken (or  certainly the black one shown strolling nonchalantly above), for whom choosing a title for this post would have been a walk in the park, I really dithered today.

Having anticipated picking some of the early blue blooms that are appearing – the first muscari and a sprinkling of Anemone blanda – for today’s vase, the sudden appearance of these tulips meant A Change of Plan… No, no props came to mind, except for a Yearly Planner that I know has been used as prop before – not for planning my year, just a Monday vase prop… Surprise, Surprise! No, none of those ‘party blowouts’ with a feather at the end (note to self: buy some from eBay ready for the next time). The tulips were, using the term loosely, planted a few years back in various pots on the paved area, hurriedly ‘shoved’ into the pots because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put them at the time and where, despite complete neglect, they take me by surprise when they reappear every year, like a Phoenix Rises. I still have one of my childhood favourite books, The Phoenix and the Carpet, but no, I used that in another vase post although the emphasis then was on the carpet rather than the Phoenix….

The tulips had been picked on Saturday and wrapped tightly in newspaper (to encourage staright stems) and plunged in water, and I was still contemplating titles on Sunday whilst I made a cake prior to putting the vase together. In front of me in the kitchen were several pieces of this Zell pottery, all featuring the same handsome black chicken on a most appealing cream and green background – and thus the title of the post was born. I chose a small lidded jug, ostensibly a coffee pot I suppose, because the tulip stems were fairly short. Accompanying the jug is one of my Highbank Pottery (based in Lochgilphead, just ‘down the road’ from where my Mum now lives) chickens.

Sadly there is no record of the variety but I suspect I must have been bought them from Peter Nyssen because most freebies or Aldi bulb packs would have mixed varieties, so with time and a bit of sleuthing I might be able to work out what they are – and I do still have many of my PN invoices anyway. As well as the tulips, a most floriferous stem of Lonicera fragrantissima, erroneously accused of flowering poorly this year whereas in fact it was just a little delayed and is now a magnet for early bees, was also picked, although I was unsure whether the vase looked better without it. What do you think?

Within an hour or two or of being exposed to the warmth of the kitchen the tulips inevitably began opening wider, like a tentative patient at the dentist. A fully open bloom would reveal the two-tone yellow and black interior:

I have so enjoyed being able to pick tulips for this vase, far earlier than I would have thought possible, and why these poor neglected beauties are able to show themselves off before any more pampered tulips do I have no idea. It is, however, our gain – and at least flowering relatively early means they get my full attention which will inevitably be less likely when  the choice of flowering tulips is (maybe!) overwhelming a little later in the year. Have you got any surprises for your own Monday vases, or perhaps you will surprise us by posting for the very first time what  you have found in your garden or foraged locally to pop in a vase? Either way, please include the usual links so we can see what you have picked and plonked too.

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments

Too Busy to Blog?

I am well aware that posts have been appearing less frequently on this blog recently, which can be put down purely to the weather being more conducive to outdoor gardening jobs. Although indoor seed sowing has continued at great pace, the ‘production line’ that starts with the ‘contraption’ next to the Aga necessitates speedy removal from house to greenhouse as soon as germination takes place, with pricking out of seedlings once the first true leaves appear. Space being at a premium in this bumper sowing month, seeds sown directly into cells are now being nurtured in the back sitting room which, with the French windows, gets more light than the kitchen. With the exciting process of seeds popping up at differing intervals, vigilance is critical!

Having planted out all recent plant acquisitions, when not required for seed monitoring duties, my attention has instead turned to those ‘little jobs’ in the garden which were now a pleasure to do, particularly given the glorious day we had on Thursday when warmth from the sun was distinctly detectable. Along with tidying away spent pots and grubbing out some of the most glaringly obvious weeds, a further tiled edging was added to the back of the bronze heuchera bed to enable membrane and slate chippings to be added which, apart from neatening what currently looks like a scrubby collection of heuchera, will have the added advantage of helping to retain moisture in the bed which has a tendency to dry out as it slopes ever-so-slightly:

Little jobs, however, have a tendency to beget more little jobs, and as the tiles used for the above project had been cut in half I decided to use the remaining halves, with their ‘nibs’, for a decorative feature, replacing the slate chippings in this triangular gap with tiles on edge – which necessitates purchasing more tiles…and so it goes on. So if you don’t hear much from me this coming week, I shall be ‘In the Garden’.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, projects, seed sowing | 17 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: One in the Bush is Worth Three Closed Ones in the Vase?

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 10 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Take a Chance, Take a Chance, Take a Chance on Me

img_8941With more than half a dozen buds on Camellia japonica ‘Nobilissima’ swelling nicely and following the success of other shrubby buds opening in vases, I decided to take a chance and try the camellia in today’s vase. This sprig with its trio of buds was picked early on Saturday and the above photo was taken on Sunday afternoon, by which time the buds were distinctly fatter – so I am hopeful, although bizarrely one of the buds still on the plant has half-opened since its friends were picked.

img_8942Knowing I was taking a chance when I cut the sprig, the Abba song ‘Take a Chance’ was already swirling around in my head (especially as the Abba Medley in the background of the photo is our barbershop group’s current pièce de résistance) so I thought I would take a further chance and enjoy a fully open flower of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. All winter this has displayed a number of half-open buds, none of which have opened fully, but this last week with no frost for a fortnight or so the remaining buds have opened up for the first time ever. I hadn’t realised Dawn was so dependent on the weather, as this seems to be the case, and I have finally been able to fully appreciate her fragrance.

img_8943Keeping to a largely shrubby vase, stems of winter honeysuckle Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’ were also included, seemingly appreciating the more clement weather too as there has been a new flush of blooms, this time with the hint of pink that had been absent previously. The fragrant flowers of sarcococca are over, but its green shiny leaves supported the camellia foliage and provided a good foil for the stems of Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, chance blooms from last year’s forced bulbs, which had been tucked away in the fruit cage, festering in their pot.

img_8944Alder catkins from last week’s dismantled vase were tucked in as an afterthought and, not wanting to clutter the strong straight stems, my sole ikebana vase used to display them. Joining the Abba Medley sheet music as a prop were dice and a score sheet from the simple but easily addictive game of Yahtzee, where coincidentally the randomly placed dice might have been best scored as a ‘chance’ (17 points, in this case.

I will update you on the progress of the camellia next week (and as requested, I can tell you that the twisted hazel catkins from last week’s vase are still looking good, albeit a little less yellow due to depositing pollen when they were transferred from the vase to a pot of leftovers on the kitchen window sill). In the meantime, what is bringing you pleasure in your Monday vase today? Do share it with us by leaving links in the usual way.


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, shrubs | Tagged , , , | 68 Comments

Happy Days!

Although a day does not go past when I am not pursuing at least some loosely based plant or garden activity, on top of least one obligatory ramble in the garden of course (and not always possible when away from home although every opportunity to do so is taken), this last week has seen several hours of physical activity in the garden every single day, taking advantage of gaps in a generally rainy week – and what happy days they have been! The mornings and evenings are now noticeably lighter and, to top it all, yesterday our solar panel monitor recorded the sunniest day of the year so far, by quite a large margin.

So what have I been doing? Continuing on from my equally industrious day last Sunday, all but a few of the autumn sown plants I removed from the greenhouse have now been planted out. Looking at the forecast for this week and next and working intuitively, I judged that they would be settled in enough before any later frosts and could cope just as well outside than in the barely frost free greenhouse. Oriental poppy, perennial wallflower, foxglove, Californian poppy, lychnis and cerinthe have been planted out, just leaving dianthus and Sweet William waiting on the sidelines, freeing up considerable space in the greenhouses and filling some gaps in the borders.

At the side of the house, on the way to the chickens, the pots of herbs that 2 or 3 years ago had been in set into the bed there have, almost on a whim, been lifted out and placed against the fence where they are looking quite presentable but will look better when the soil still clinging to their sides have been washed off. They have been joined by a large chimney pot and cowl which had been elsewhere in the garden.

img_8946Lattice pots empty of snowdrops have systematically been removed from the special snowdrop border, the decision having been made to remove the non-showers from my list and not to try and replace those lost – particularly as some (Jaquennata, Chedworth and Ketton for example) have been replaced more than once. Existing snowdrops which have not yet formed a healthy clump have been repotted from the lattice pots into Avon Bulbs’ tall snowdrop pots and replaced in the bed and, following recent advice from Avon Bulbs to sink potted snowdrops into the ground, my new acquisitions have been also been planted this way. Established clumps will be taken out of their lattice pots in due course and planted directly in the bed.

img_8949The hellebores in this bed (only white or green varieties) always grow taller than those in the woodland edge border, and yet they have got a tall holly hedge at their backs. Don’t you just love this ‘Harvington Double Lime’?

img_8950Still thinking about snowdrops, I have continued to divide the larger clumps of common snowdrops in the woodland edge border, where they really do give the appearance of an almost-wall-to-wall white and green carpet:

img_8952Now free of my 2016 plant purchase embargo, I received my order of heuchera from Plantagogo last week to top up the bronze heuchera bed under the Acer griseum, but a larger order from Claire Austin has not yet arrived but will keep me busy this coming week.

img_8951Months of indecision about underplanting in the rose garden had finally been resolved, and divisions of my Uncinia rubra were planted this week under the ‘Blush Noisette’ around the edges, covered by a membrane and then slate chippings. Dividing the Uncinia, even with a sharp knife, was not an easy task (well, I suppose it wasn’t the sharpest kitchen knife)! The two larger central beds will be planted with Hakonechloa aureola, due with my dahlia order from Peter Nyssen


On the wetter days seed sowing has continued apace with, as a quick totting up has informed me, 94 individual indoor sowings having been made since the end of August last year, only a handful being second sowings. More perennials have been included since previously, partly with a view to sales at my open garden and partly with the help of gifts of saved seeds from fellow bloggers. I am not yet 100% confident with saving seeds myself, collecting only from cosmos, my Purple Pimpernel sweet pea, echinops and some specific aquilegia last year, oh and at the suggestion of Chloris, from a dahlia, to see what might be produced. If I had realised seed of Antirrhinum ‘Twinny White’ would not be available for love nor money this season I would have certainly tried to save seed from them – but some plants have overwintered so I might get a second chance although, on reflection, I believe they were F1 hybrids so would not therefore come true to the original…hey ho!

Rambling in and around the garden are happy days indeed.


Posted in Gardening, Gardens | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Wall-to-Wall Carpeting


Image | Posted on by | Tagged , | 13 Comments

The End of Another Grey Month, February EOMV

Just as in January, our solar panel monitor shows that this February has had the lowest amount of sunshine of all the years since the panels were installed in 2011, and barely two thirds of the sun we enjoyed at this time last year, which seems to have been an especially sunny start to the year. Although rainfall has been similar (around 60mm) to last month, it doesn’t actually feel as grey as January did, perhaps because it has been a little bit milder – I am hoping not to be switching the greenhouse heaters on again till next winter, although it is actually far too early to be confident of that.

Instead of just making comparisons in my head, I checked back on the EOMV from February 2016 before starting this post and in particular was surprised to find crocus and Tete a Tete both flowering in the streamside grass, as I really could not remember them flowering at the same time. The crocus are certainly much more floriferous now and as I have not added any bulbs they must be increasing naturally, which is good to see. Both native and special snowdrops were indeed earlier last year, and the hellebores MUCH earlier – but you can get a glimpse of Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’ in one of today’s picture, in full flower, which it is this year too. Elsewhere the usual signs of spring growth seem to be similar too although I am not sure if buds were evident on any of the Clematis alpina at this time last year.

As always, this monthly review forms a useful record – and I am going to try and keep a written record of when certain key plants or types of plant start flowering, something I have intended to do in other years but not managed up to now. In the meantime, thanks to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month View meme – do visit her blog for links to other gardens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens | 19 Comments