Wordless Wednesday: a Brief Taste of the White Stuff

Posted in Gardens, Winter, Wordless Wednesday | 11 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Geode

It is a few weeks since any of the fantasy chrysanthemums from the Coop were picked for a vase or posy, but as you may have seen from my last post they are both still in bloom; however, the flowers are really droopy and it is hard to gauge whether this is because they are past their best or if the plant is deficient in some way. It may of course just be the end of their flowering period – after all, it is almost the end of December! I don’t plan to add any more varieties as they take up space and take such a long time to justify their existence, but nevertheless it might be worth my while reading up on how best to treat them, bearing in mind I grow them for a succession of blooms and not show purposes. Any tips from people who have successfully grown them would be welcome.

Anyway, a bloom of ‘Kiyomi No Meisui’ has been picked for today, partly experimentally to see whether it will perk up in water, which so far is looking unlikely. The slender and wispy stems joining it are windblown twigs of silver birch, complete with catkins, which were plucked from one of the borders on a recent ramble and, keeping with the contrast of light and dark, joined by the purplish-brown foliage of Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’. A dark stoneware pot, probably an ink bottle as it has a pouring lip, seemed the ideal vase.

With no inspiration yet forthcoming for title or prop, I combed my collection of crystals for a suitable stone of light and dark contrasts, but nothing felt right; my attention then turned to this quartz geode, the product of our first ever crystal purchase around ten years ago. Geodes are created over millions of years when dissolved minerals seep into a natural hollow or air bubble in volcanic rock, hardening into an outer shell and creating the geode, whilst the minerals continue to form on the inside walls of the shell, growing towards the centre. A geode would have to be broken open to expose any crystals inside so this is just half of one; the other half is in the garden, no doubt hidden from view by vegetation and in need of being rescued!

I was thinking the stoneware pot might sit inside this half but it was fractionally too big and instead placed next to it. Having been drawn to use the geode for no clear reason, is it far fetched to think the white bloom of the chrysanthemum reflects its sparkly interior and the dark foliage the heavy rock of the shell? If nothing else, its use as a prop has motivated me to look for the other half and tackle the dust accumulating on the rest of my collection…

If you feel motivated or inspired to find material in your garden to bring inside and pop in a vase or jam jar (prop and title optional), readers of IAVOM would be delighted if you chose to share it with us by leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 41 Comments

Boxing Day Blooms and an Apology

For the eighth time, I have made a count of what is blooming in the garden on Boxing Day or thereabouts, always an interesting exercise and one that highlights the differences in winter from year to year. Not surprisingly, with the relative mildness of this winter so far, the 2020 count is one of the highest.

Starting with snowdrops, two thirds of my ‘special’ named varieties are already poking above ground, the highest number ever at this stage with 6 currently in flower: Faringdon Double, Fieldgate Prelude, Gabriel, Three Ships, Snow Fox and Peter Gatehouse (above). I am only including this one photo, with Peter’s distinctive long slim pedicels, because unless fully open on a sunny mild day the others are little more than white blobs with no clear distinguishing marks. Elsewhere, the common snowdrops are emerging too, a sight not usually seen at Christmas.

There is invariably at least one witch hazel sporting blooms on Boxing Day; this year there are two in full bloom, two with a fair sprinkling of blooms and the first sign of colour on a couple of others. Below we have from left to right Hamamelis ‘Orange Peel’, ‘Diane’ and ‘Magic Fire’, with ‘Jelena’ in the two lower pictures. When Orange Peel first came into bloom this year I found myself thinking it may be my new favourite – until Jelena bloomed and I fell head over heels in love with her abundance all over again!

Fragrant and reliable stalwarts of the winter garden are winter honeysuckle, viburnum and sarcococca, all tough to photograph successfully with a compact autofocus camera – clockwise from top left Lonicera ‘Budapest’, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’, Sarcococca (humilis?). The distinctive hint of pink on Budapest is still noticeable despite the poor quality photo.

Hellebores seem to vary considerably in their flowering period but invariably no more than a few would have begun flowering in December. This year there a number in bud, but it can take weeks to go from bud to bloom, so I have only included those with open flowers. Clockwise from top left  H foetidus, Anja Oudolf, Double White Ellen Spotted, White Beauty:

In flower for far more months than not are comfrey Symphytum ‘Hidcote Blue’, Campanula portenschlagiana and fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus:

And a special mention must go to equally long flowering Erodium manescavii which is just about hanging on:

Bedding plants to brighten the winter months are violas and the cultivated form of Bellis perennis. Along with two different bright blends of viola from Aldi are seed sown ‘Cool Wave White’ and ‘Cool Wave Frost’. Germination of the latter two was really poor this year and the resultant few plants have not yet been planted out.

Elsewhere in the garden is Salvia ‘Amistad’ (will it overwinter this year?)…

Several blooms on Rosa ‘Nathalie Nypels’ and the odd few on ‘Mme Alfred Carrière’…

Primroses here and there…

Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis’…

Keeping dry in the Coop are pots of cyclamen and fantasy Chrysanthemums ‘Kiyomi No Meisui’ and ‘Salhouse Joy’…

And finally, nearly forgetting they are flowers, are catkins of silver birch and twisted hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’…

That makes 37, equalling the total for 2015:

2013 18
2014
28
2015
37
2016 14
2017 28
2018 16
2019 18
2020 37

And the apology? So many of you were concerned that I should only be offering Santa cold tea on Christmas Eve that I have become a victim of my own honesty – if I had just called it ‘sherry’ instead of the cold tea it was meant to represent then I might have got away with it! But now we have another problem: when Tony was informed that the carrot was for Rudolph he quite rightly asked about the other reindeer, so not only did I fob Santa off with cold tea but his posse of reindeer has been having to fight over one measly carrot between them for all these years! Perhaps not surprisingly the cold tea and the single carrot were ignored, but the mince pie had gone by the morning and it must have been especially nice as there were some presents left under the tree. Nevertheless, an apology to Santa and his team is still in order – sorry... 🙄

Posted in Boxing Day blooms, Christmas, Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, Gardening, Gardens, Winter | 33 Comments

In Anticipation

On the eve of Christmas 2020, I would like to send best wishes to all my blogging friends, hoping you find joy within the restrictions and changed plans we find ourselves dealing with – and more than just mince pies, carrots and cold tea!

Posted in Christmas, garden blogs | 34 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Beech Body Ready

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, trees, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 13 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: All Wells

In hindsight, a Monday vase with a seasonal content might have been more appropriate today, but to be honest it still seems somewhat far-fetched that it is Christmas on Friday, a mere 4 days away, and it didn’t even occur to me till I was about to write this post. Thus, we have instead a demure little posy of violas (yet another Aldi bargain), plucked from two baskets at the front of the house and popped into a brass inkwell with a verdigris finish, along with tips of a bright green carex.

A number of other vintage ink wells complete the display, so all wells; Saturday afternoon saw millions in the UK witness their Christmas plans being thrown into confusion, as further restrictions were suddenly imposed. Disappointing, but understandable, and as long as we stay safe then in the circumstances all’s well.

Have you time to find something from your garden to pop in a vase or jam jar today? Please share it with us on IAVOM if you can, leaving links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged , | 38 Comments

Six on Saturday: Scraping the Barrel

I may have been scraping the barrel today to find 6 things to feature in the Saturday meme hosted by Jon the Propagator, but there were no barrels to literally scrape in the garden; I was, however, able to remove the leaves and rotten apples from the stream (yes, there is a stream under the leafy camouflage of the above picture) and scrape most of the mud from the stream bed, before switching the pump on again and enjoy the restful sound of moving water.

We have had some beautifully sunny days this week, interspersed with grey and damp and drizzly ones, the latter sadly seeming to coincide with my available time, but today the stars were in my favour and I set about ticking jobs off my to-do list, compiled on the damp and drizzly days. Clearing the stream was one of them, as was sweeping up the remnants of fallen leaves, hopefully for the last time this year.

Defoliating the last of the roses was also achieved today, with pruning the wisteria next on the list, a much easier job than in summer when I have to fight my way through foliage; hopefully tomorrow will see that crossed off too.

The Golfer was given his own task, removing ivy that had grown up onto our neighbour’s pigeon loft and clearing the gutter it had invaded on its way up there. The intention is that now it has been trimmed to below fence height, an annual trim will stop it following the same pattern again. It was about half-past four when he called it a day, and all but dark, but surprisingly the ‘after’ picture still came out clearly, indicating the distinct improvement from his efforts. The ivy still on the roof has been cut and just needs to be bagged up for disposal. Note Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ still in his leafy splendour, not yet felled by sharp frosts

The continued mildness brings with it more surprises, this week the overnight transformation of witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Jelena’, now in full bloom. Usually you can spot a gradual hint of colour emerging, but I inspect my witch hazels every day at this time of year and this was definitely a zero to hero (heroine) scenario.

As the barrel is now all but empty, my sixth is a Christmas card I received from a niece this week, for which a tree was planted; not only was a tree planted, but there was a little ‘seed token’ included with the card, impregnated with flower seeds (for garden/window settings only, do not plant in nature), which I thought was a lovely idea. I have detached the token before displaying the card, to make sure I don’t forget it when the cards come down on the Twelfth Night.

That may or may not be six things but that’s all you are getting and I am off to Jon’s blog to see what he and other contributors have posted.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | 20 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Creating a Stink?

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Winter, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , | 4 Comments

In a Vase on Monday: Winter Warmth

Yesterday promised to be thoroughly grey and damp and, having already taken advantage of a break in the rain for a walk, the clouds lowered, the sky blackened and any hope of remaining dry whilst foraging for flowers for today’s vase was but a forlorn one. I could have resorted to some of summer’s helichrysum, nicely dried out in the heat of the kitchen, but the show must go on and I have picked blooms in worse weather.

Any hangers-on from warmer seasons would undoubtedly be thoroughly bedraggled, so instead I focussed on winter season contenders of which there are a number: distinctive blue flowers of a passalong plain-leaved brunnera, winter honeysuckle Lonicera ‘Budapest’, shiny green leaves of Sarcococca humilis with emerging flower buds and a little sprig of witch hazel  Hamamelis ‘Orange Peel’ cut from just above ground level from where it wouldn’t be missed, all placed in my teeny sample Bretby Pottery jug to form an arrangement with a total height of less than 5″ (<13cm). A small offering, but full of promise for the season ahead and enough to warm the cockles of any heart, however hard….

It is rare for my Monday vase photoshoots to take place indoors, but yesterday was one of those days, and a spotlight lamp was pressganged into service to boost the lack of natural daylight, creating some interesting shadows. On a whim, my first choice of prop was abandoned, replaced instead by a mince pie, the best seasonal antidote to a potentially dismal December day (sadly, it wasn’t warm and straight out of the oven, but cold and straight out of the freezer to which it was duly returned when duty was done…). Having politely nibbled on a shop-bought mince pie the previous day, it reminded me how sorry I am for those who have never experienced homemade mince pies with homemade mincemeat, a far cry from shop-bought ones…

I am happy to report that the Cold Stone Tea from a fortnight ago is still looking tasty, just going to show that a vase is not just for Monday, but Tuesday, Wednesday, maybe the rest of the week and sometimes into the next week or even the one after that. I know pickings are lean for many in the northern hemisphere and the weather may not be conducive to pootling in the borders, but if you are able to share a vase with us today we would be delighted to see it, so please leave links to and from this post.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, Winter | Tagged | 36 Comments

Six on Saturday: to Bee or Not to Bee

With temperatures up to a relatively balmy 11°C today, the garden was hive of activity even when the gardener was occupied elsewhere. The birds were the noisiest they have been for many weeks (assisted perhaps by a recent topping up of the bird feeders) and on one of my rambles there was the distinct buzzing of more than one bee which I realised was coming from the flowers of Fatsia japonica. From previous comments, Jon the Propagator (host of this Six on Saturday meme), knows that these flowers are way above my head and, despite craning the aforementioned head and reaching as high as I could, it is unlikely you will be able to spot either of them in the above photograph but I can assure you they are there!

Still providing colour in the December garden are the vibrant crabs of Malus ‘Evereste’ although perhaps not for much longer as our extended family of blackbirds have been feasting on them; sadly no-one, feathered or otherwise, is interested in those of ‘Golden Hornet’ which have gone from bad to worse and with it not yet being a tall tree I have begun removing the offending fruit – but it wasn’t me who secreted a cache of them in the streamside border under recently cut back persicaria foliage, where they have rotted further – and I can’t imagine who the culprit might have been…

As well as persicarias, most of the hellebore leaves were trimmed this week too, except where they looked exceptionally healthy and upright as a few still do, a job not usually done till after Christmas. The impact on the snowdrop border was particularly noticeable, with the emerging spikes of snowdrops standing out clearly and the hellebore flower buds exposed to the light.

Snowdrops in flower from left to right: Peter Gatehouse, Gabriel and an out-of-focus Three Ships.
Hellebores left to right: White Spotted, Harvington Double Lime, Harvington Double White.

Also tackled, but for the first time, was the protection of penstemon and tender salvias with straw, in a bid to establish how much difference it makes to their survival or performance; I have visions, however, of the straw gradually being redistributed around the rest of the garden – or less gradually, given a strong wind…!

They may not actually need any any protection, as the mildness of this winter so far has already been noted several times. One of the resultant seasonal oddities has been fresh growth on many of my summer flowering clematis, particularly C viticella; shown below are fresh buds on ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ but some have quite lengthy new shoots. Has anyone else found this happening in their garden? I partially cut back my Group 3 clematis at this time of year before cutting them right back in early spring, so any new growth is not to their advantage.

That’s my mixed six for this week, so do now pop over to Jon’s blog to see some more.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | 23 Comments