Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of Month Review - December 2017

Suddenly it is not only December, but the end of December.  Time moves in strange ways at the best of times, but in December it speeds up the closer you get to Christmas and then it elongates in the week between Christmas and New Year.  As a month this makes it hard to keep track of.  This December has also had rather a lot of weather.  There have been sunny days and cold days, rainy days and snowy days.  As I write this at the end of the month it is also rather breezy.

I have managed to spend quite a bit of time in the garden in recent days which always makes me feel happy.  There has been some weeding and some tidying.  Not too much tidying though as we are not through the coldest of the winter yet and I like to leave detritus to protect the spring growth.  There are, of course, exceptions...
This pale, light-starved hellebore was under a covering of fallen magnolia leaves in the front garden.  I find magnolia leaves need clearing up or they smother everything underneath.  They seem just that bit thicker and that bit larger than many other leaves and so nature needs a hand.
I was also pleased to see in the front garden that the cypress trees planted a couple of years ago are now getting fairly tall.  They seem to have put on quite a bit of growth this year, they were barely visible about the box hedging this time last year.
The quince hedge is flowering quite well and I think quite early at the moment.  It gets cut now as a hedge and this has encouraged it to hedge-up well.
Walking around to the back garden and the garden is still half-covered by shade.  It is very wet under-foot after much rain and melting snow.
The Prairie Borders respond well to the colour of winter sun.  The beech pillars also shine nicely.
The Courtyard is looking a little depleted at the moment.  Some of its previous occupants are now planted in the garden as it does act as a nursery point for some small shrubs.  I let them get some growth before I put them out into the garden.
The Long Shoot looks wet and the borders on either side look generally brown and wintery.  They will get cut back at some point, but this does not usually happen until closer to spring.
There are signs of growth.  These self-seeded cerinthe are just by the vegetable borders.  I am not sure how they came to be there, I suspect I must have dropped some seeds there.  I am not going to weed them out though as I do like a bit of random in the garden.
Snowdrops are on their way up.
These are actually flowering, these two are always early, I suspect they are Mrs McNamara.
The clematis cirrhosa is flowering, and if you peer very carefully you can see an out of focus bee on the edge of one of the flowers.
I was also delighted to see this hover-fly resting on the winter honeysuckle.  It is always a joy on mild winter days to see the insects emerge.
The small yellow wild wallflower is flowering.
The Four Sisters enjoy their slightly sheltered part of the garden;
the edgeworthia is covered in buds this year and I am anxiously watching it in the hope that it gets through the winter ok.  This winter has started quite hard and cold so I just hope that the edgeworthia is mature enough now to survive a cold one.  We have not had a truly hard winter for a good seven years and I would hate to lose the edgeworthia.
The fernery stays delightfully green over the winter.  The ferns are getting quite big now.

and two of the hamamelis are in flower.  These are the oldest two and they always flower early. I realise this makes it sound like I have a small forest of hamamelis, I have four, one in the front garden and three in the back.
The Cornus mas is budding up well,
as is Prunus Ben Chidori.  I think I treasure early spring flowering shrubs above all others, they give much needed colour, often great scent, and quite frankly they are signs of hope that spring is returning.
The vegetable borders look like they've been abandoned.  The edges of raised beds have now mainly collapsed and I need to replace them.  I am in that 'standing and staring in despair' phase at the moment with them.  I will motivate myself into action at some point as yet unidentified.
Meanwhile in the greenhouse Miss Haversham has been visiting and all is snug and cosy.
I rarely seem to show the tea-tree, which is now getting rather tall.  I gently prune it to keep it fairly columnar and it seems to respond to this well.  It was an early planting in the garden and was barely a twig at the time.  I worry it might get too large but for now it is ok.  If it does get too large then it will have to come out, but that is just an opportunity to plant something new should that occur.
I was also pleased to notice that the Silver Birch is getting increasingly silver.  It is now forming a nice sized tree.  It has many years to go before it gets to maturity and again, it may get too large for the space, but for now it makes me very happy.
 I end as every on the pond, that looks dark and deep in the winter light.  I spend delightful moments sitting on the bench, drinking tea and looking into the depths of the pond.

I want to wish you all a happy new year and I hope that 2018 brings you and your gardens every happiness.

Thanks to Steve for hosting this meme.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Blackberry Garden Plant of the Year Award 2017

It is that time of the year when I announce the winner of this year's Plant of the Year Award.  This award is given to the plant that has performed best and/or pleased me most this year in the garden.  It is competed for quite seriously by most of the garden and it is always difficult to decide who has won.  Last year I started to make notes as the year went on and I have had to do so again this year.

Many plants could be chosen, there can only be one winner but as it is my award and my rules I can have as many (or as few) runners up as I decide.  So, this year's runners up are:

The snowdrop 'Madeline'
This was bought from Thenford earlier this year and is the most expensive snowdrop I have ever bought.  So expensive that I shared the cost of the pot with a friend and we divided the contents between up.  For proper galanthrophiles the cost would be peanuts, but for someone like myself who is a pleb when it comes to snowdrops, this was a big deal.
You can imagine my happiness when I checked the pot the other day and saw such wonderfully healthy roots.  It has been repotted to make it even more happy in the spring.

Next up is tulip Red Shine.
These tulips must have been planted at least seven years ago and come back year on year.  They deserve a special mention.

Next I nominate Rose Fighting Temeraire.
This is a wonderfully blousy rose and it has been flowering for months.  It has that crumpled silk thing going on with its flowers and it is a great favourite.

Fighting Temeraire was only slightly upstaged by Rose Blythe Spirit,
a fantastic yellow rose that also flowers and flowers and flowers.  I grow a lot of roses and it is hard to pick out only a couple for special mention, but these two deserve it.

I felt I should give a prize to my quince tree for finally producing a quince.
It has to be a runner up after waiting so many years for this moment.

Wonderful as all these runners up have been, this year's clear winner is this dahlia:
which has flowered for weeks,
and flowered really well,
and has made me very happy.  What is its name I hear you say?  I don't know, the ones I received were not well-labelled and so it is a mystery.  I know it was one that I had not chosen but came in a mix that I rather liked the look of.  If you know its name please let me know.

Nameless or not, it is a winner.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Irritating plant of the month December 2017 - the reluctant cornus

Good winter colour is a wonderful thing, and good coloured bark is a great way of adding such colour.  Several cornus are well known as being good givers of winter bark colour and with that in mind some years ago I bought a tiny Cornus 'Midwinter Fire'.  Even the name is exciting and filled me with expectation of fantastic bark colour to come.

It was tiny on purchase, it came in a 9cm pot.  I knew it would take a while to reach any real size and I was prepared to wait.  Whilst waiting it suffered a few accidents.  I mowed it once which removed the main growing shoot.  A year or so later part of the overhanging Black Poplar tree fell on it, that removed the second main growing shoot.  I also kept pruning it back every spring expecting this to encourage growth.  I shall give you not only my top-tip for this cornus. Whilst cornus like to have a hard prune to produce their coloured young stems, in its first few years I have found through experience it is better not to prune it harshly.  It needs to establish and build a bit of a framework to produce some good sized new stems.
So for this month's irritating plant I give you the Cornus 'Midwinter Fire', it looked the best I've seen it yet in the recent snow as it has been allowed to grow a bit for the past couple of years. 

The reason why this plant is irritating is not the fault of the plant, it is (as is often the case) the fault of the gardener (me).  This appears to be the recurring theme of this meme.....

Do you have any irritating plants?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Plant Rescue- its a pre-christmas tradition

Its that time of year again when I am wandering around singing 'tradition!' like I've just been watching Fiddler on the Roof.....

.......because for the past five years or so on the run up to christmas, I go to a local food fair and buy fudge and crisps and this year lots of pie and scotch eggs and then I wander down to a nearby garden centre.  I usually amuse myself by taking photos of cactii dressed as Santa and glittery succulents and then I move on to the 'rescue me' plant table and buy a bargain plant or two.

This year was only slightly different in that I saw no glittery plants and no cactii Santas, but they did have these cactii that had flowers stuck on them.
Admittedly stuck on flowers are not my thing, but at least they are clearly labelled as stuck on and who can resist anything that is better than the real thing?  ok, I can, but if you are not a confident plant owner and this guarantees colour then actually if it encourages you to own a plant you would not have done so otherwise then maybe it is not that bad a thing.
I was very amused by these three on the reindeer, is that a victory sign the elf on the end is making?

But, most importantly is the 'rescue me' plant table.  Now this is a very good garden centre and it has probably one of the most extensive house plant departments I have ever seen, so the 'rescue table' is always good and has some great bargains.

This year I fell for this Tibouchina urvilleana, a bargain half price and looking pretty healthy too.
It has been given a drink of water and popped into the conservatory to over-winter.

Yes there is a tiny something by the side of it.
A tiny, slightly furry something.  It wasn't on the 'rescue me' table, but on the 'buy me you know you want to' table.  It could not be resisted.  No idea what it is, but it is cute and will be repotted soon.

In case you were wondering, every plant I have bought from their 'rescue me' table has survived and flourished, it's a good table.

I wonder what I will buy next year?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Winter Colours

We are getting closer to the shortest day and everything seems grey.  I am in that period of time I have often written about where I only see my garden in daylight at the weekend, I feel the absence of light and colour keenly.

At the point I am writing this, the garden is thawing from last weekend's snow.  There are still a few patches of snow on the ground in the colder parts of the garden.  I look at the grey overcast skies and in my mind all seems grey.
The colours of the garden appear tired and washed out, leached away by the cold.  In sympathy with my garden, I feel tired and washed out.

Close up the garden sighs, but with more distance ...
there is definite colour.  There are bronzes and greens offset by the darker browns.  The patches of snow and the frozen pond add some light and the beech pillars are getting closer to becoming the pillars I long for them to be.

Suddenly the realisation of colour makes everything seem brighter.  I briefly considered that a splash of blue sky would be welcome, but then I might have been distracted by the sky.  It is the muted background of the sky that makes the colours seem so welcome.  Now I want to knit something in these colours, a winter jumper the colours of the winter garden.  It will have to be done.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A snowy few days

It seems like quite a long time since we last had any serious snow in this corner of Leicestershire.  Last year we had a couple of snowy days, but not to any great depth or scale.  Last Sunday the forecast did what it promised to do, it snowed.
Back up a day though, on the lead up to Sunday it was very cold, some areas had snow a couple of days before and on Saturday we had what is best described as a small fluttering.  It was very cold and the flakes did not move all day.  This meant that any snow that arrived overnight was pretty certain to settle.
Settle it did and snow it did, it did not really stop snowing all day.  The garden turned monochrome.
The sky stayed grey and any colour that was present leached away.
The garden responded to the snow by flattening down in the Prairie Borders.
and the trees raising their arms to catch the snow and be silhouettes.
The Contorted Hazel, that I only wrote about the other day, looks magnificently like a windswept head of hair.
Whereas the Iford Cherry looks like it is hiding its head under its wing (poor thing), or maybe dabbing?
The edgeworthia, whom I anxiously watch every winter, is not making my anxiety any less as I see it covered in snow.  This anxiety has now gone into overdrive as the temperatures on the Monday night plummeted to -8  I really hope that its snowy coat protected it from the worst of this deep freeze.
As it was Sunday and I had nowhere to be, I enjoyed this snowy interlude, though at the back of my mind I wondered how the drive to work would be the next day.  The snow lasted until the Wednesday when the rains chased away the last of it.  Apparently it was the most snow in seven years and I cannot help but wonder how harsh a winter we are due.