Thursday, 29 December 2011

Ta da!

Some plants want to flower - despite everything the weather throws at them they are determined to see their destiny through.

Week one
Week two
Week three
Ta da!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Trigger's broom - the christmas episode

or the Schlumbergera 

This is probably the first plant I ever owned.  At the age of 11 I 'acquired' a small cutting from the mother-plant which stood on a windowsill in our tutor-room at school.  I stuck it in a glass of water and when the roots appeared I planted it up and every year since it has flowered at Christmas.  I found the idea of a plant that flowered at Christmas a strangely exciting concept.  I think I believed it was doing it in some sort of celebratory way that I found truly amazing.

This started a real love of houseplants.  I started to fill every windowsill with mainly spider-plants and coleus.  I collected coleus seeds and grew more and more of them in all sorts of incredible colours.  I catalogued them all in the back pages of my houseplant 'bible'.  I realised when starting to think about this post that I have never changed at all.  I find something I am interested in, I buy books on it and read thoroughly until I think I have a real grasp of the subject.  I look at my collection of gardening books and I have to accept that this is a definite behaviour trait that started early in life.

When I left my parents house my plants were summarily handed over to me to take with me, boxes of them that I no longer has the space for.  Many had to go but I kept some going and this Christmas cactus remained.

Years and years (nay decades) have passed.  I still have some houseplants but far fewer than before, my cats ensure largely clear windowsills as they throw anything in their way on the floor.  My garden is the priority now.

and yes, it is still the same plant that I 'acquired' all those years ago, yes it is a cutting from a cutting from a cutting now - but like Trigger's broom with its 17 new heads and 14 new handles, it is still the same plant to me.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The first settling

and so we have had the first settling, the snow has arrived for this winter.

There was not a lot - a brief sprinkling that has hardly knitted together to make a layer.  But snow it is and as exciting as ever.  Will I ever stop being excited by the wonder of snow?  Of course when I have to drive in it it becomes less exciting,  then it is  more like barely contained terror.  The road I live on is never gritted, getting to the nearest main road is a short drive and yet perilous in snow and ice.  So with this excitement comes great fear - which of course is the premise that the Theme Park is created for (and probably why I don't go to Theme Parks either).

The snow brings some mysteries to light. 

I don't think this photograph shows it very well, but a narrow path/trail has become visible in this light snow.  It runs from part of the hedge down towards the house.  I assume it is probably foxes, I have many living around me, but to see this track was quite a wonder.
I love the pristine, untrodden path from the house to the driveway.  Even a cat hasn't walked on this year - and with the amount of cats I have that is quite an achievement.
The trees look cold, everything looks cold.  I can understand why this magnolia tree has fluffy sepals protecting next year's flowers from the worst of this weather.

The pattens created by my prairie borders have probably given me the most amusement leaving me wondering whether this large V sign can be seen from the sky?  Would it be interpreted as a comment on the world or maybe I harbour hopes that Eric Von Danikan will hear of this phenomena and liken it to the Nazca Lines in Peru? The possibilities are endless.
and then the sun starts to come out heralding the start of the thaw, by midday little of the snow is left and life continues as usual.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


As a keen user of Twitter I have been reading a variety of messages referring to the extreme cold we were experiencing this time last year, so I thought I would have a look and see what I was writing in my garden journal this time last year.

By November 24th last year my pond was frozen and I appear to have got outside in the garden in fortnightly intervals.  By the 10th December we had had temperatures of -11 at night but then we had a thaw which allowed me to plant out my rose order which had been sitting in the greenhouse for quite a while waiting for the ground to defrost, a definite difference from this year.  The bulk of my rose order last year was ten Rosa Hyde Hall, a replacement for the yew hedge that refused to thrive, or putting in bluntly: died the first time I planted it.  I replanted it again with yew and again it died, all of them, all ten yews both times.  At that point patience and inability to keep throwing good money after bad meant I changed plans.  Admittedly one of the Rosa Hyde Hall plants died too this year but the other nine grew well and flowered beautifully so I expect great things from it next year.

By the 24th December we were heading for the first white Christmas I could remember for many years.  We had snow and the garden was frozen solid.  It took until the 15th January before I was getting out and back into the garden swing of things, but for a period of time there it felt like I was living in Narnia during the 100 Years Winter.  It was incredibly beautiful but the world felt static.  The ground was so frozen and everything felt still.

As I write this the garden is frozen, the top layer of water in the pond is frozen and we are getting frequent frosts and also cold cold rain.  This morning we had the first excitement of snow, the first settling of the year, a thin layer that hardly covered the ground but snow nonetheless.

The photograph is of the River Soar, taken on the 20th December 2010.  It was cold.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The story behind the name

Following on from the post from Helen, the Patient Gardener, which in turn came from a question set by The Garden Faerie I thought I would also write a short post explaining why my garden is called as it is.

Except its sort of obvious really.  My garden is surrounded by thick blackberry bushes creating the best natural razor-wire boundary hedge that it is possible to have.  To say the brambles are fierce is an understatement.  Blackberries self-seed all over my garden and I spend a lot of time weeding them out.

Now this is all good, and every summer I nurture dreams of blackberry and apple crumble/cake/jam and many other combinations.  Of course so does everyone else in the area and in particular the little old lady who comes down the lane and takes the lot.  It is like the passing of a plague of locusts.  One minute the bushes are heavy with blackberries, the next they are all empty.  Bless her!

So a dull post really - nothing exciting, nothing deep and no great philosophical revelations.

I suppose I could explain what ozhene means in the webaddress of this blog.........'s hebrew for blackberry.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

First frosts

The first batch of serious frosts have started to kick in now we are in December.  Its been quite mild until now, but suddenly this week the temperatures have gone down and stayed down.
The difficult side of this time of year is that it is barely light when I leave the house in the morning so there is no opportunity to take the obligatory frost photographs until the weekend.  So a good hard frost on Friday night was serendipitous as it meant I could get out with the camera on Saturday morning.
and it has been cold, not as cold as this time last year when we were frozen solid for weeks and much harsher temperatures too, but cold enough to frost the garden.
Even the weedy grass looks better with a bit of frost on it.
I have no idea why these sanding disks live on top of the coal bunker, but they do and they look better with frost too.
The pattens of the frost are so beautiful.
and the poor flowers that have managed to survive for so long with the mild autumn now look very cold.
Poor sweet peas...
Poor Schizostylis coccinea.....
This cerinthe will not look so good for very much longer.....
The pond is quite frozen too so I am worrying about gases being trapped under the ice and frogs suffocating, that happened last year I have rarely seen anything so pitiful as the frozen frogs trapped dead under the ice.  I don't want that to happen again.
So it is now the time of year for frost, snow and rain and the small glimmers of stark beauty that appear to be treasured.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Gift

In May this year I went to Chelsea Flower Show with my friend Michelle.  We don't see each other all that often, but when we do we have a great time.  On and off we've been going to Chelsea together now for about ten years.
When Michelle arrived at my house she had a plant with her she had brought for me as a gift, a Ricinus; she had grown some from seed and this was one of them.  It is a not a plant I have ever grown before but I liked the leaves so I potted it on and put it in the conservatory at first.   It grew - and it flowered.  I was very pleased with it.
Then Austin, who is a interesting cat at the best of times, decided that this was the plant she was going to use as a cat litter.  None of the other plants in the conservatory would do, this plant was the one.  So the plant had to move outside as that was something I could not put up with.  However, despite this blatant attempt to poison it, the plant continued to thrive, flower and then joy of joys produce seeds.

What amazing seeds they are - they look like lucky beans!  So beautiful.  I sowed a couple and saved the rest for next spring.
Imagine my joy when I saw one had germinated.  The original gift is still going strong, and now its produced potential gifts of its own. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dahlia Salad

Dahlia Salad

3 large carrots, diced, preferably a mix of yellow and orange
1 pound dahlia tubers, pared and diced
1/2 pound fresh green string beans, cut into diamonds
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar (tarragon, chervil or dill vinegar recommended)
Faux mayonnaise (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 hard boiled egg, quartered
Mixed herbs (dill, parsley, chives), chopped

I cannot actually vouch for this recipe, I do not eat any sort of salad - whether they contain dahlias or not, but it is interesting website I took this from and well worth looking at in general.  I found it as I was specifically looking for something to tell me more about the tuber of dahlias being edible.  I thought they might taste like potatoes, well they look a little like them, but apparently they vary in taste and can be carroty/celery like or just bland.  Personally, salad-dislike aside, I probably wouldn't eat them anyway.
It is, however, that time of year when thoughts turn to dahlias.  We have now had a couple of frosts and the one on Wednesday night was enough to turn the dahlia leaves black and limp.  I remember the first time I grew dahlias and I read that once the leaves were black it was time to lift them,  I fretted that I might not know when this had happened, but of course as soon as it does it is obvious. 
I do not grow a lot of tender plants.  I could take the moral high ground and explain that I prefer native hardy perennials, and to a point there is some truth in that, butin reality I thought them far too much trouble.  Lifting, storing etc was far too much like hard work.  Then I saw a dahlia I wanted to grow; no, correct that - had to grow and then I was hooked.  Once I had kept a couple alive over the winter suddenly they did not seem quite so difficult to deal with.  Of course not all plans go well.  Last year I lost virtually all my dahlias, they rotted away in the greenhouse so I clearly did something wrong.  Undeterred though I grew a lot from seed this year and just bought a couple of tubers that I took cuttings from to increase the amount I had.  Dahlias are remarkably easy to take from cuttings so I rarely buy more than one as I can get a few plants from it.
So the frost means that now they have been lifted and they are now drying in the greenhouse before I store them away for the winter.  

Every year I also try and rescue the tubers that drop off the main bunch.  I think they should grow into their own plants.  Every year I try and store them carefully but never anything comes of it, I am careful and plant them the right way up, keep them dry over winter - and the ones I did this to last year didn't rot, but didn't do anything else either - so I am hoping you gardening types will be able to tell me if this is a fools errand or that I am just not doing it right?  Is there a secret code I need to unlock to get me to level 3 dahlia growing?  Anyway- as usual - pots of bits that dropped off are in the greenhouse.
I see dahlias as my symbol of the turning seasons:  bringing the dahlias in means that winter is here, starting them off growing again means it is spring.  Its simple, but it feels right every year.

and they do look like vegetables when you harvest them. 

and when they flower then it is totally worth it.
I have also collected lots of seeds of them this year as well - extra insurance!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

End of Month Review - November

"November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring."

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Except it didn't really did it; the frost and snow part did not really come to be.  I think we had two frosts for the whole month and certainly no snow.  Where most of the year it has been dry, this month has been mild and damp. 
The borders are getting that patchy, brown look and for the first time really this year I can say with some confidence that the soil is really quite damp even below the surface level.  This is good.
The new border extension looks fairly empty still, it now has many bulbs in it, wallflowers and the rose order which arrived the other day is partly filling out this area.  Prime spot goes to Rosa 'Sir Clough', its a tall rose and I am hoping it will be a real stunner.
The birds and foxes are eating the windfall apples.  They will all disappear when the frost truly comes which is my excuse for not sweeping them up.  I read a blog recently that asked if people were scuzzy in their gardens.  I kept the guilty quiet of one who knows that they are.
Signs of proper autumn abound, my unpleached pleached hornbeams are doing their autumn thing.  They make me happy.
Yet in the hedge the honeysuckle is still in flower.....
.......the nasturtiums have not yet descended into slimy mush......
..... a lone sweet pea is clinging on just.....
.....the new found joy of this year, the zinnias, are still zinning away.....
.....and Rosa Portmeirion is still trying its best.  One of the first and last to flower - what a rose!
The Schyzostylis I bought from Special Plants is flowering.  What an amazing colour!  I also managed to divide it into three before planting it, so a great bargain plant already. 

Amidst all this dying down and waiting for the inevitable freeze, there is always the promise of what is to come.  Wandering around the garden in November is about what is disappearing and what is on its way - looking always for the signs of hope that will keep me going through the dark months of winter.
My winter flowering cherry will soon be in blossom.  This is a beautiful tree and one of the first to go into the garden four years ago.  It has flowered reliably every winter since then.
These bulbs I planted a couple of weeks ago are already starting to show.  I worry a little that the warmth is confusing them, but so glad to see them poking their shoots up through the ground.
Of course there is always the constant checking of the pond level.  I have cleared out quite a bit of the parrot feather weed stuff.  There is still much more to be removed but it looks better.  The level is rising fairly quickly this month after some rain and lots of dampness.  I can still see the rock that I call Ellis Island (this gives me dark indeed tragic amusement and bears no relation at all to the real Ellis Island), it is however a good tell on how high or low the pond is when I can see it.

I shall end on what I think November is all about for me - shadow.
Thanks as ever to Helen, the Patient Gardener, for hosting this meme.