Monday, 23 February 2015

In A Vase On Monday ~ On Cloud Nine

After a thoroughly turbulent and testing Sunday weather wise Monday has dawned here bright and sunny albeit on the cold side. There has been a chance to whizz round the estate for a quick recce and to bring in a few hellebore flowers to float on a cloud.

Apart from the recently purchased 'Anna's Red' - left hand bottom, the others all come from unnamed plants which have crept into the garden over the years.  One or two I think have been grown from seed. Next to 'Anna's Red' is a favourite speckled white, which was a gift many years ago from the owner of an excellent local nursery now sadly closed. The deeper plum coloured one is the first hellebore I planted in the garden so I have a soft spot for that too. We had to dig up the original plant but this a flower from one of the divisions it mase.

The cloud was a present made by a talented artist friend and is resting temporarily on a scarf/shawl thingy which always reminds me of the night sky.

Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for  enabling us to share our flowers and foragings every Monday. Do visit and enjoy the other winter 'vases' that other bloggers will be posting about today.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ February 2015

"You can't say that you can't grow a plant until you have killed it at least three times" was a memorable maxim from a formidable plantswoman Thelma Kay, who spoke at a Hardy Plant Society meeting I attended many moons ago. Thelma managed to cajole many tender plants to grow in her north Manchester garden and no doubt had more than a few casualties on the way. So as it's February, peak time for snowdrops, here are a couple more, both of which have recently returned to the fold for a second attempt.

Above is galanthus 'Cowhouse Green' which apparently can be miffy and difficult to establish. There are conflicting stories about its origin including one that the bulb was found near a cowhouse hence the name. Would it have withstood the heavy trampling of hooves if that was so? Still it's a most appealing tale. I'm not sure how long my first 'Cowhouse Green' survived but think it was a couple of years. In that short period of time it became one of my favourites.

The second which you can see above is galanthus plicatus 'Trym', which I know I had as long ago as 2009 possibly before. It was one of the casualties of the cold 2010/2011 winter and I've hankered for a replacement since. My potted collection of snowdrops was outside that year rather than under cover which resulted in major losses and much wailing from me. Now I bring them in to the greenhouse for the colder months of the year, although they will have to be turfed out soon so seed sowing can commence in earnest. You can see that 'Trym' has decidedly different shaped petals to most other snowdrops. It has been a significant breeding plant because of this feature.

Both replacement bulbs came as dormant bulbs last summer from Avon Bulbs. Fingers crossed that I will be able to feature them again this time next year. If not they will be on their final warning!

Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who kindly hosts this monthly meme, so we can share what's blooming in our gardens or in my case this month in my greenhouse. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

She Who Dithers

Shrieks of delight pierced the tranquility of our local garden centre last Sunday morning as my eyes alighted on helleborus 'Anna's Red'. Fortunately we were the only hardy perennials who had the bitingly cold outdoors area so no damage was done to anybody's hearing. Oh joy of joys - this plant had been way up on my wish list for a couple of years! Not only because of its name but also because of all that I had read about this beautiful comparatively new introduction. Named after the gardening writer Anna Pavord, this hellebore has huge flowers, deep red stems and attractive marbled foliage. I was so pleased to find her, not only so close to home but also at what I thought the most reasonable price of  £11.99. Like all feted newcomers the initial higher prices such gems command does come down after a while.

True to form I was not sure about the first plant I picked up so rummaged amongst the few other specimens for comparison purpose, whilst himself patiently stood on hand to offer his considered opinion. Back and forth I went until having satisfied myself after much dithering that I had picked the best specimen we made our way to the check out. Visions of a planting scheme to highlight my new purchase were floating around my head as we made our way home, which concluded in a petticoat of snowdrops and cyclamens. Back to base garden centre purchases (yes there were others) were removed from the car boot and lunch preparations took over.

It was only later in the afternoon when mindful that a hard frost was predicted that I realised the error of my ways. As I was about to place 'Anna's Red' under the shelter of the cold frame a close inspection of the label revealed that I had come home with the wrong plant! What I had was Anna's sister, helleborus 'Penny's Pink'. I went back inside to break the news to himself whose attention was focused on the television and a football match. His initial response was one of disbelief as to how this could have happened but an offer of a return trip to the garden centre the next day was eventually forthcoming. At times such as these being a non driver certainly has its disadvantages but I tried not to sulk or to think too much about the fact that there had not been a vast number of 'Anna's Red' for sale.

However my face must have registered as crestfallen because ten minutes or so a return journey to the garden centre became a now rather than tomorrow offer. Off we went again clutching a box containing 'Penny's Pink' (she's lovely but I already have her) and a receipt. The garden centre was much busier at this stage so it took some minutes to explain what had happened. On getting an affirmative that we could exchange plants himself volunteered to get a replacement from the back of beyond and legged it before I could protest. At this point I'm sure he was worrying whether we would get back home for the next football match. What can I say but the plant he bought back with him was not the best of the bunch but what could I say in this situation other than profess my heartfelt gratitude. I'm sure that it will flourish in the future though which is the main consideration.

I'm still pondering where to plant her. She might even be planted in a container as Michelle over at Veg Plotting is growing her 'Anna's Red'. Wherever she ends up though I'm sure I will remember both the excitement and trauma of her purchase. Have you ever come home with the wrong plant?

N.B. The moral of this tale must be always to check the label before you get to the till.

P.S. I've only just realised after taking a photo what a big label it was - I really did not have any excuse, did I?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Muse For February

"What excitement we feel on looking out on to the garden in snow. It is one of the only sensations of our childhood that is not blunted by maturity. Still we want to leave our mark on any smooth expanse of snow, to ruffle it, to jump about on it. However sedate we may grow, we never emerge from the childish longing to write our names on the whitened lawn with a stick, as though it were sand by the seashore. It is a pity that we have so little snow".

~ an extract from "Four Hedges - A Gardener's Chronicle' by Clare Leighton, 1898 -1989.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

On The Scent

Just before January morphs into February a chance to join in Wellywoman's new meme being run together with Sue over at 'Backlane Notebook', on the subject of 'Scent In The Garden'. This is a theme that I find fascinating and I've always tried to bear scent in my mind when thinking about what to grow. It's much too cold here at the moment to stick my nose out in search of scent. So for this month, here is a brief run through of three books lurking in my bookshelves, which have provided me with suggestions for scent in the garden over the years.

The first of these is Eleanor Sinclair Rohde's book 'The Scented Garden' which was first published in 1931 by the Medici Society and then republished in 1989. The author's premise that "Fragrance in flowers may, indeed, be described as their music, and it is non the less beautiful because it is silent" is an appealing one. The book starts with some general thoughts on the scented garden which is punctuated with references to history and literature including old gardening essays and books. Just reading this first chapter makes my nose start to twitch. The introduction is followed by chapters on :
  • January and February in the scented garden
  • Violets, primroses and wallflowers
  • Spring Flowering Bulbs and Shrubs
  • The Scents of Early Summer 
  • The Old Roses
  • The Aromatic Herbs
  • The Afternoon of the Year
  • Sweet Bag, Pot - Pourri and Other Recipes
  • Plant Lists
There are beautiful illustrations throughout by the botanical artist Patricia Dale, although I confess to wishing that there were more of them. Sadly from what I can gather the book is no longer in print but it's possible to track down second hand copies.

The second book of the trio is Rosemary Verey's 'The Scented Garden,' which was first published in 1981. An introduction is followed by chapters on :
  • Roses 
  • Annuals, biennials and perennials
  • Bulbs, corms and tubers
  • Herbs
  • Shrubs, trees and climbers
  • Fragrant exotica 
An appendix has useful lists of plants with scented leaves, plants with scented flowers, scented plants for each of the seasons, scented plants for evening and night, scented plants for cutting, scented plants for indoors and scented plants for outdoor tubs. The book is well illustrated throughout with plates of paintings, photographs as well as line drawings. Again this book is no longer in publication but second hand copies can be obtained from second hand bookshops and online sources. It is this book where I first came across the concept of forcing winter bouquets so that you could enjoy both scent and colour at close quarters indoors. Magic!

The third book is Jenny Joseph's 'Led By The Nose'. The author is better known for her poetry especially the brilliant 'When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple'. The day draws ever closer for my wardrobe! This little book takes you through the calendar year in terms of not only scents that you might encounter in the garden but also the various cyclical activities that goes on in most gardens. There are various lists at the end of the book, including what you might be able to smell each month. The list for January is thinner than it is for many other months but there is still a surprising number of scented pleasures to be savoured. The book concludes with various lists including a most comprehensive list on scented roses as well as an essay on smell. This book is perhaps easier to get hold of than the others and is also available on a Kindle or ebook format.

I'm hoping to pick up more delightful fragrant suggestions as the year goes on thanks to Louise and Sue.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Totally Tropical

Galanthus 'Augustus'

Well the temperature soared to the dizzy heights of 12 degrees centigrade in the greenhouse today and my special snowdrops in the greenhouse were singing. It was the ideal day to inspect all the pots of 'drops that are open as well as those about to open and a chance to take a few more photos. Thanks for all the lovely comments and encouragement that have come my way recently about my snowdrop photos. I still think that there is room for improvement so was pleased to get hold a thin piece of black foam from an art shop on Friday which I can now use as a backdrop. Before then I had been using black card, pegged on to some stiffer cardboard, which occasionally toppled over threatening to behead snowdrops as it did so. The black foam can be propped up without anything behind it and has so far been reassuringly stable. It also seems to photograph as black rather than a murky shade of charcoal grey as the card sometimes did.

Galanthus 'Angelique'
Galanthus 'Lost Labellus'

Galanthus 'John Grey'
Galanthus ' Lady Beatrix Stanley
I've also been asked if I have favourites. This is a hard question to answer but probably my favourite is 'Diggory' (not pictured here) although most of the above would be close runners up if it came to a competition. Morever three of them - 'Augustus', 'John Gray' and 'Lady Beatrix Stanley' can all be obtained at prices that will not break the bank. 'Augustus' is not quite open yet but I so love the dimpled petal exteriors. I'm also waiting with anticipation for a couple of new purchases to flower for the very first time so who knows my favourite may yet be usurped in a few days time. Watch this space!

Back in the greenhouse on Monday afternoon where it is definitely cooler than yesterday. I snipped a trio of flowers from Galanthus 'George Elwes' as they have been rather floppy for a couple of days. To this a few sprigs of ivy, some cornus or dogwood twigs and a flower from helleborus 'Christmas Carol'. This turned out to be a work in progress as I've returned to it to insert a few twiggly bits of a pink tinged winter heather. However it is too gloomy out there now for another photo as well as being perishingly cold. You can see many more vases today over at 'Rambling In The Garden' hosted by the lovely Cathy. A great way to dispel the winter blues!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ January 2015

Just one glimpse of the outer world today - the very first hellebore to arrive at the party. There are other plants carrying plump buds but they seem reluctant to flower. I'm not surprised as it's still perishingly cold and windy, so I've kept relatively warm to celebrate Garden Bloggers Bloom Day venturing in to the greenhouse to capture a handful of my 'special' snowdrops.

Galanthus 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
Galanthus 'Lapwing'
Galanthus 'Wasp'
Galanthus 'George Elwes'
Galanthus 'Lost Label'
'Lost  Label' is a double possibly 'Ophelia' which I've bought in the past but then it could quite possibly be something else. All suggestions welcome.

Thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who kindly hosts 'Garden Bloggers Bloom Day' where I'm sure there will be all sorts of winter gems to tempt and tease.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Tree Following With Lucy ~ January 2015

I've been wondering when the new tree following year starts so have been looking back at my blog posts. It turns out that it was in March 2014 so my willow still has another month in the spotlight. I must apologise for not posting in December. I'm not quite sure what happened then. At first glance it seems that the willow is just the same as when I last posted in November, apart from the fact that it is now definitely leafless. However when I looked closer at the trunk I noticed that the ivy growing up the bark is not just one variety but two. This shows just unobservant I've been over the last thirty years - hangs head in absolute shame! So a big thanks to you Lucy for opening my eyes to the smaller details. I also noticed when taking the photos yesterday that there are daffodils fully open on the other side of the stream. This gave me such a shock that I nearly fell into the stream. I've never noticed them open so early in the year, let alone before the clumps of snowdrops that grow alongside have opened. Visit Loose and Leafy to see what fine tree specimens from all over the world are up to this January.