Saturday, 29 December 2012

Oh The Weather Outside is ......


"Frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

Then I remember that melted snow turns into big puddles of wetness, so I'm not sure that the white stuff would be the answer. The wettest year in England which will no doubt go down in the annals of quiz questions is slowly raining itself out here. We travelled cross country by train, in an easterly direction for the festivities to spend a few days with my mother, before himself had to return to work yesterday.
I made the same journey less than a month ago - it was wet then but has noticeably deteriorated further.  We passed one submerged field after another, submerged shrubs and trees, swollen rivers, underwater sports pitches and playgrounds  - a most bleak and depressing landscape. I have made the same journey regularly over the years and have never seen anything approaching this. It was also more depressing to think that this journey did not take us through the most badly affected regions of the country.

I was on edge whilst we were away as there is a small stream running alongside one of the garden boundaries. I was relieved that nothing untoward had happened in our absence although it was obvious that there had been a good deal of rain whilst we were away. The garden though is sodden and dripping. I have got places to go - I want to get out there to cut away the old foliage from the hellebores, I want to plant the last remaining bulbs and to do some straightening up in the greenhouse. I also want to see my allotment again before I forget what it looks like. However even the inner glow of seasonal chocolate is not fuel enough to get me out there today. Instead I have dabbled with some inside gardening. I have planted a present of a hyacinth bulb up - well planting is an exaggeration. I had to partly fill the vase it came with with water and then place the bulb so that the roots are in contact with the water. It made me feel that I was doing something though however unsubstantial it really was. The hyacinth is 'Aiolos', promising sweetly scented white flowers but initially requiring a spell of at least a couple of months in a cool, dark and airy place according to the instructions.  I'm not sure whether it will need this long, as I can already see a green snout emerging, no doubt prompted by already spending time in a warm environment. I shall hurtle out to the garage soon to find a suitable waiting in the wings place whilst there is still a lull in the rainfall. Then some time to spend flicking through the new Avon Bulbs spring catalogue trying to resist all those enticing snowdrops, before making a start on the annual cull of the contents of the seed boxes this evening. How is your garden faring with the weather and have you managed to do any garden related activities?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Season's Greetings


Wishing anybody who passes by much peace and joy at Christmas! 

The illlustration id one of Cecily Mary Barker's flower fairies. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

'The Unconquered Sun'



"For this is now our turning point
The shortest day, the longest night
We'll look unto the months to come
When the sun will grow both strong and bright

A vessel crown all decked with green
That tells of winter's tales and mirth
Will bring great gladness and much joy
To all who walk upon this earth

And greater than the will of man
Or want of that which can be done
It falls and shines on where we stand
Beneath the great unconquered sun"


~ lyrics from 'The Unconquered Sun' by Steeleye Span.

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere occurs today at 11.12am. Some interesting facts and figures about the 2102 winter solstice can be found here.

Monday, 17 December 2012

'Here's One I Made Earlier'


There has been a bit of a production line going on in my greenhouse. I've been busy planting some terracotta pots up as small Christmas presents for family and friends. Each pot contains some narcissus 'Tête -à - téte'. The pots have been topped off with sphagnum moss and a robin sits atop each. I am sure that there is probably enough moss about in the garden to cover the pots, but I wondered about whether it might come with lurking invisible to the eye baby slugs, so decided to play safe.  I was hoping to find smaller robins but these little fellows were all that was available at my local florist. Now all I need is to find some suitable ribbon to wrap round each pot, before adding a little white candle or two or a festive sprig of greenery purely for decoration.

It may be a bit late for this year but if you like making your own presents, Christmas or otherwise, there are plenty of ideas in the recently published 'Gifts From The Garden' by Debora Robertson, who blogs over at love and a licked spoon.  This book has only recently come into my possession and I'm hoping to sit down for a good browse through after Christmas.

Another book which has lived in my bookshelves for even longer, is 'Gifts From Your Garden' by Celia Haddon. The book contains some original ideas to try which would be welcomed by gardening and non- gardening aquaintances alike. It is illustrated with some beautiful wood engravings by Yvonne Skargon. The latter's work used to appear regularly in the quarterly magazine Hortus. She was also commissioned to paint roses which featured on Royal Mail commemerative stamps in 1990. Sadly this book is no longer in print but is possible to obtain second hand copies via booksellers as well as through various online sellers.

The title of my post was inspired by that well known children's television programme 'Blue Peter'. Have you made or grown any homemade Christmas presents this year?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ December 2012

I initially thought that I would be struggling to find blooms for today after this last week's perishing temperatures which have polished off some stragglers. It is is a degree or two warmer and definitely not as wet as yesterday, so I managed to get out into the garden between the showers. Greeting me when I initially stepped out into the porch with my camera was a glorious rainbow. In the north facing courtyard in front of the house a few erigeron mucronatus plants are still showing flowers. Although not as prolific as they were back in the summer this plant deserves a medal for its sheer length of flowering time. I liked the one above which is shyly tucked in one of the corners of the house walls. Galanthus 'Faringdon Double' is making slow progress - here it is photographed on 21st November. It is an early flowerer and multiplies well. It is difficult to see that the flowers are double unless you tip the pot up but I did not fancy doing that. I bought my pots of special snowdrops into the greenhouse to protect them in the cold snap - now a decision needs to be made whether to keep them in there, or bring them back out. I think that I could be playing a game of yo - yo all winter if I go for the latter option. Out in the garden helleborus 'Angel Glow' has opened another flower but it will be next month before this gets into full flow. There are other hellebores in bud so my to do list includes removing last year's foliage in the very near future.

Finally in the house on a north facing windowsill, an African violet is providing me with pleasure. Now although not worthy of an entry in the Guiness Book Of Records, the very fact that I've kept a houseplant alive for more than three and half years is an EVENT of almost world shattering proportions. The plant was given to me as a leaf cutting in April 2009 by my mother and is still alive to tell the tale. It was smothered with flowers this summer and is now showing a much smaller but equally appreciated show. The leaves are however looking slightly anaemic so it will require repotting before long.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is kindly hosted each month by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens. It is the ideal signpost to a world of gardening blogs where you will linger and no doubt add to your wish list.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Wednesday Worisit



A friend recently departed these shores earlier this year to live in Turkey. She has sent me a horticultural poser. This grows in her garden and neighbourhood. Sadly the flower buds on her plants are dropping off without setting flowers but local plants are sporting pink or white flowers. It looks vaguely familiar to me but I am unable to think of a name so any ideas would be welcome. A special thank you to everyone who recently came up with suggestions as the identity of my mother's missing plant - conversations with my mother will continue, hopefully with a conclusion this time.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Déjà Vu


Yes it's that time of year again - I have just realised that Christmas is just over two weeks away and that I have much to do including finishing off my bulb planting. The goal is to have them all in before year's end. It's the same scenario each year, probably not helped by buying too many bulbs and then by being foolishly tempted by bargains. A week or so ago I came across the tail end of the bulbs at Wilkos. From being 3 for 2 bags, prices fell dramatically overnight so much so that I picked up 120 narcissus 'Tête - à- tête'. Resistance was absolutely futile. That must be my bargain of the year. I was also seduced by the  online Sarah Raven bulb sale, which resulted in a bumper bag of tulips arriving in the post a couple of weeks ago.

The writing of Christmas cards was top of the agenda for this afternoon but but I have finally given in and succumbed to the large glazed blue pot, which has been glaring at me reproachingly for some time, whilst I've been looking out of the window from the kitchen sink. It had got to the stage where I could no longer enjoy washing the dishes without acute pangs of guilt.This pot was once planted with a colourful display of tulips which had petered out over the last year or so. This spring's show was absolutely paltry, so I made a mental note at the time to plant anew. I had purchased some 'Spring Green' and 'Mount Tacoma' with this purpose in mind but then had doubts as to whether the colour of the pot would complement them. I decided instead to try to find the same bulbs that had been planted in there - a combination of 'Havran', 'Prinses Irene' and 'Couleur Cardinal'. I had originally purchased these as a collection from Sarah Raven and really liked the colour combination. I dillied and dallied so much so that the net result was that I could not locate this trio from one single source.

Then in the Sarah Raven sale the solution was staring me in the face - another of her collections in similar colours, this time 'Ballerina', 'Doll's Minuet' and 'Black Hero'. Full marks to Sarah Raven for the speed with which the order was despatched and also for the comprehensive booklet of planting instructions that came with the order.  I wrapped myself up in various layers after lunch braving an rather unpleasant blustery wind and did the deed. Himself then obliged with anti - squirrel measures, which hopefully will prevent keep their snouts until the bulbs are well established enough to resist. So the bulb mountain has diminished slightly. I think that it will be a case of little and often over the next few days weather and frozen fingers permitting. Have you got all your bulbs in yet or are you like me racing against an ever ticking clock?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Conversations With My Mother

Wordle: Questions

Subtitled - 'A Worisit?'

I have just returned from a visit to stay with my mother. She will be 88 in a couple of weeks and retains a keen interest in her garden. It was far too cold for her to go out into the garden but we looked out at her raised mainly alpine bed from the kitchen window and chatted. Our conversation went something like this :

Mum - " I lost a plant a couple of years ago from my bed. I'd like to replace it. You knew its name"

Me - "Oh. Give me some clues to jolt my memory"

Mum - "Well I think it had blue and white flowers"

Me  - "When did it flower?"

Mum - "Well it was early enough to get excited"

Me - "Was it before the daffs?

Mum - "I'm not sure"

Me - "Where did you get it from?"

Mum - "Do you expect me to remember that?

Me - "What colour were the leaves?"

Mum - "Grey I think but I couldn't swear to it and if so not very grey"

Me - "What sort of shape was it?"

Mum - "Difficult to describe"

Me - "Was it a bulb?"

Mum - "Possibly but I don't know for definite"

Me - "Did the flowers smell?"

Mum - "Now you are asking too much!"

Me - "Oh"

Mum - "It had a double barreled name"

Me - (clutching at straws at this stage) - "Scilla siberica?"

Mum - "No it wasn't that"

Answers on a postcard please if you can guess the identity of the lost plant!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Poem For December


Around the house the flakes fly faster, 
And all the berries now are gone 
From holly and cotoneaster 
Around the house. The flakes fly!--faster 
Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster 
We used to see upon the lawn 
Around the house. The flakes fly faster, 
And all the berries now are gone! 


'Birds at Winter Nightfall' - Thomas Hardy, 1840 -1928

 The illustration is by Cicely Mary Barker.