Thursday, 31 December 2015

End of Month Review - December 2015

December is going out on a rainy and stormy note.  It feels like it has rained, at least a little and often a lot, every day for some  time.  I took these photographs on a rare sunny day as I knew that the next day was forecast rain and storm (Storm Frank) so I most likely would not want to go outside.
The sky was such a great shade of blue I had to take a picture of it.  The magnolia in the front garden is covered in buds as usual so I am hoping for lots of flowers on this in the Spring.
The front garden is coming on well but this time of year it is best characterised by the winter flowering honeysuckle that it next to the front gate.  The scent from it as I arrive home from work in the evenings is wonderful.  Having scent in front gardens is just a must in my view.
The sarcocca in a pot is in its winter place by the front door.  It will need repotting for next year I think.  The Quince Hedge is looking very hedgy these days and is covered in flowers.  Now that it has reached the stage where it has be trimmed to start making a shape it is responding well by thickening up.
Around to the back the cluster of pots show that the Spring bulbs are on their way up.  There is also a mahonia waiting to be planted out.  I admit to buying it and not being totally sure where I was going to put it.  I sort of know and once I've wandered around the garden with it a couple of times I am sure will definitely know.
The little clutch of pots on the garden table are looking after each other.  The Primula Don Keefe is flowering well.
Whilst on a container theme, the Courtyard plants are doing well.  Buds are forming on the rhododendron Luteum and the camellia.
The Cardoon is showing a lot of fresh new growth. Whilst December has been wet it has also been very mild.  I am hoping that the new growth will survive a future cold snap.
The winter sun has only just started its journey across the garden at this point in the day.  The garden does not look as saturated as it is.  The lawn is squelchy and I have have not achieved any real garden time for weeks.
The storm damage so far in my garden is minimal thankfully, the rose arch has, as usual, taken a turn for the worse.  I will cut down the roses that grow over it and put it back together.  This is now an annual task the roses respond well to their heavy prune.
The pergola has also taken on a lean.  I should be able to fix this also...... I hope.
The Four Sisters are doing well, the edgeworthia is hopefully steeling itself to get through another winter unscathed.
The other side of the pleached hornbeams, the hamamelis is in full flower and is being kept company by Esme.
and the really good news is that the orange hamamelis that is by the pond is also starting to flower. It has not really flowered for the last couple of years and I wondered if it was not getting what it needed where it was planted.  Thankfully it now looks like whatever was upsetting it has stopped and I am hoping that it will now thrive.
The mild weather means that the Spring Border already looks quite springy.  The helebores are starting to flower and the primulas are doing so as well.
The virtually perennial nicotiana is growing well, this is now its third year.
The little wild wallflower is now self-seeding around the garden and flowers almost every month of the year.  It is a superb little plant that came to me as a generous gift of a twitter friend.
The first snowdrop has flowered,
the Russian comfrey that sprawls at the top of the garden underneath the 'I refuse to die laurel' is also in full flower.  There are still bees in the garden so it is good there is still food for them.
The viburnum Burkwoodii planted a couple of years ago has decided it has now settled in well enough to flower again.  Like many plants it had a bit of a rest in its first year of planting but now I am hoping it will grow well.
There are cyclamen flowering,
I bought quite a few plants last Spring so I am pleased to see that they are flowering already.
Even this vinca which I allow to tumble about the top end of the Wild Garden, is flowering and is a happy sight.  I am not so fond of it if it wanders where it is unwelcome (as it is want to do) but, in the right place, a good plant.
The Prairie Borders look nicely blonde even in the shade.  The mild weather means that, whilst very rained on, they are so far surviving the winter well.
The teasel patch is providing seeds for the finches.
and the winter flowering clematis is doing well.
The heather that formed part of the Heather Spur has, quite frankly, never done what I hoped it would.  Some of it died but some of it has come on quite well and whilst looking at it I did think I need to decide a way forward for this part of the garden.
The winter sun shines beautifully on the remnants of the perennial sunflowers and the grasses by the pond.
The Coronilla valentina ssp. glauca 'Citrina'. is still flowering as behoves the Plant of the Year winner. 
The vegetable beds look mainly like broccoli.
Though some cabbages remain and I remain proud of them with their tiny hearts.
The kale stands testament to plants planted and not harvested.  They look good though.
In the greenhouse it remains swathed ready for the frost that has not really arrived,
this little tiarella seedling has decided to flower in celebration.
and the pond is full.  Yes, actually full, which it has not been all year.  If it was not full after the amount of rain we have had I would suspect a leak!

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Still flowering

Back in October I wrote about how happy my Brugmansia was making me as it had begun to flower.  I brought it into the house in November as I started to worry about frost.  This was a bit of a premature worry as there has been about one night of frost so far, but it means that the plant is happy and protected from the cold indoors.  It has responded by rewarding me with further flowers.
Look, two of them, two beautiful large flowers.  To say I am delighted does not come close.
and there is the promise of more to come.  This is the joy of gardening, the caring for plants and having them respond.  Also at the moment when the days are short, generally grey, often rainy and lacking sun, it is a real bright spark of hope to see this in flower and it is now very much the Brugmansia of Happiness.  Happy happy, joy joy.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all of you who celebrate this day.
(The obligatory snow scene - which was taken a couple of years ago in January because a snowy christmas day is a very rare thing here) 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Its traditional.....

The first time you do something it is not a tradition, it cannot be as there has only been one occurrence.  The second time you do something it is also not really a tradition, it is more a repeat performance.  If it is the third time though, I think you can start to think of it is as a tradition, then you have some evidence to back this up.  So today I shall tell you about a recent Christmas tradition that has developed over the last three years.

The last Saturday before Christmas they have been holding a local food fair. Last year when I went I bought cheese and fudge but missed out on the rather nice looking crisps as they sold out fast.  This year we went with a strategy in mind to buy when we saw things rather than waiting and thinking.  This worked well, I came away with cheese, fudge, crisps and a thing that I can't remember the same of but it was a ball of mushrooms and taleggio baked in breadcrumbs.  This is stage one of the tradition.

Stage two involves a nearby garden centre.  We have a wander around this garden centre as they sell a good selection of winter plants (we never seem to go any other time of year).  This year we admired the camellias that were heavy in bud. We also had a good look at a viburnum or two and some hellebores.  We then go into the houseplant section.  Neither of us are confirmed house plant buyers (though as I say this I look left into the conservatory and wonder if this is really true).  We wander around and look at the plants and invariably start to giggle.
The gawdy heather always makes us pause.  I am absolutely no-where near the top of the good taste league, but I find these rather disturbing.

Then there are these plants:
that for some reason have a tiny parcel stuck to them.

and then........ wait for it........
brightly coloured cactii.  This is a dark photograph, if I had made it lighter it would have been a bit too much I think.

Then there is this....
which we suspected also glows in the dark.  What did this poor plant do to deserve being covered in glitter?  Seriously - the poor thing, surely it was beautiful enough which this treatment?

Then we stopped and stared a lot.
Can you see the join?  We had to walk around this plant as we thought it must be grafted, after further inspection we were not sure if calling it grafting was accurate.

But, there is a but, as these are just a few plants in a rather large building.  Whilst it is easy to poke fun I did, of course, find a plant I had to buy.  Every year I do and every year they have been good plants that have thrived.  So this year I bought....
this rather fine Kalanchoe, not bad for a fiver I thought.

So there is the tradition, go and buy food then wander into the garden centre and chuckle at a novelty plant or two and then buy something rather nice.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The First Snowdrop

So far this winter has been wet, windy and mild.  There have been reports in the newspapers of early daffodils and the lawns and weeds keep on growing.  Here it has been very rainy, but thankfully not flooding as some areas of the country have experienced.

I have not managed to get out in the garden very much in recent weeks.  It feels like an age since I last had a really good weeding session.  It keeps being very wet at weekends, which is the only time I have to garden most weeks.  When it has not been raining (and also when it has been) I have been gadding about seeing friends and family.  I am not sure that I have really done anything worth talking about outside for a good four weeks.  As you might expect this is making me now start to twitch as I need my time outside.

This week is turning out to be not really any different.  There was a brief pause in the rain this Saturday morning but my time was spent mainly chatting with the man who was fixing my roof.  I did, however, manage to get a good wander around the garden.  I managed to undertake the necessary garden inspection that at least keeps me in touch with what is going on at ground level.
and look what I found, the first snowdrop of this winter.  It is very early and also very welcome.  It raised that smile that only plants performing at their best can raise.  The added joy to seeing this snowdrop is that it is one of the ones I bought from Little Ponton Hall last February when I was in the midst of my snowdrop visiting.  So it brings with it the smile of a happy memory and the thoughts of a visit again next year.

We have been forecasted a long cold winter, so I view the thought of a very cold January and February with some dismay.   If I am allowed to put in a request then please can we have some cold to kill the weeds and some slugs, maybe even a snowday home from work.  This would be good but please not too much of a long lived arctic blast.  The weather pixies are notoriously  tricksy though and will do what they want to do.  Time will tell.

A recap of last year's snowdrop odyssey can be found here: http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/2015/03/the-snowdrop-odyssey-ends-at-home.html

Thursday, 17 December 2015

One minute later

The darkness continues to descend but the end is in sight; on the 19th December it will get dark one minute later than the day before.  One whole minute, not a minute earlier but a minute later.  Sadly the mornings do not start to roll back until January 4th but we cannot have everything we want all at once now can we.

We have usually had more frost and cold than we have had so far this year, this is not a grumble, it is just a statement.  It means that some things are still growing, such as the grass and the weeds.  This does not diminish though the needs for signs of hope and the need to know that next year's growth will soon be on its way.  Studying the signs of growth is one of my favourite past-times this time of year.
I realise that I have quite a few early spring flowering scented shrubs.  This Daphne mezereum is one of my favourites,
and so is Prunus Beni chidori.
I already have the winter honeysuckle flowering well, and this is a must-grow plant for me.  The scent is second to none in my view.
The corkscrew hazel is getting its catkin thing going.
I am watching the Edgeworthia anxiously, hoping that it gets through the winter and hoping that it flowers for me for the first time next year.
The Cornus mas has flower buds on it this year, quite a few.  This year it managed one or two flowers and it looks like there will be lots more next year.
and the witch hazel has its knobbly-bobbly look.  This particular tree flowers very well year on year, it is worth its weight in gold.

So the nights will roll back, the days will get longer and there will be flowers in the Spring.  All is well.