Christmas Roses

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The flowers that appear at this time of year seem so much more precious than those that appear during the abundance of summer. It’s not yet time for my favourite, the snowdrop, but the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is a close second on my list of appreciation. Last year I divided up my single plant to give three, and they sulked like nobody’s business for the rest of the year, only to spring forth in a multitude of white blooms this Christmas.

Any white flower would be welcome at this time of year. White flowers glow out of the darkness, and are easily appreciated from the light of a kitchen window at seven-thirty in the morning before a winter’s sunrise. They look good against a black mulch, and their delicate features belie the sturdiness with which they resist the winter storms.

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A single flower of the Christmas rose looks  with the last few rescued rose buds from one of my real roses. I wish all of you, dear readers, a most merry and bright Christmas full of good cheer and all the seed catalogues that the postman can bring.

In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, so do visit her page to see what she and other garden bloggers across the world have put in a vase on this Christmas Eve Monday.

The last of the summer flowers

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I’ve been intending to share these flowers with you for several weeks, and here they finally are, not least because having a photograph with a picture of ‘October’ in it is a great motivation to get it published before November.

Life has been busy (isn’t it always) since my garden design course started in September. A raft of assignments ranging from plant recognition tests to essays about pest control, from sketchbooks of ideas for a shady garden to a package of graphics drawn in precariously smudge-able Rotring ink has kept me away from this blog, though not from the garden, I am pleased to report.

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Bright October sunshine, that special, slanting light of long shadows and glistening cobwebs, has invited me on an almost daily inspection of the back garden, where Aster ‘Little Carlow’ has collapsed among the last of the calendulas, while the cosmos and roses seem to flower interminably onwards, and every low-growing plant is losing a daily battle against the inevitable smothering of fallen leaves.

My dahlias, unfortunately, have been a disappointment this year. Flowers were few, and those that came were on short, reluctant stems. What’s more, I have been sent at least one (if not two) incorrect tubers by She Who Charges A Lot And Shall Remain Nameless. The large coral ‘Watermelon’ I had been looking forward to put forth some very pretty but unasked-for pink and yellow flowers, while ‘Linda’s Baby’ was decidedly peachy yellow rather than baby pink. And it’s not just me affected in this way. I’ve noticed others on Instagram complaining of incorrect orders, while one gardener stated that her very best dahlias this summer had come from ‘a cheap bumper pack from Lidl’ and had been far superior to any special cultivars that she had paid a lot more for. Food for thought.

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Meanwhile, the brickwork in the front garden is finally finished! This means that after about a couple of hours’ tidying-up I should be able to take some proper photographs and write a blog post about the maze that has taken me almost a year to complete. Just those pesky assignments to finish first …

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Here in these vases we have what may or may not be Dahlia ‘Linda’s Baby’, some of what is most definitely not D. ‘Watermelon’, and some of what are undoubtedly Cosmos ‘Purity’, Aster ‘Little Carlow’, indomitable caledulas, elderberries, and various salvia sprigs. With these tiny vases, flowers can be swapped in and out as they bloom and fade for an ever-changing mantelpiece scene. In the bedroom, meanwhile, a single Rosa ‘Tranquility’ graces the chest-of-drawers, reminding me to take a deep, luxurious sniff of its lovely scent every time I go to choose a pair of socks.

‘In a vase on Halloween’ is not hosted by Cathy at Rambling In The Garden (sorry I’m late, Cathy!) but if you follow this link you will see her weekly Monday vase as well as those of several more punctual garden bloggers around the world, and it will be no surprise (boo!) to find that more than one of them has gone for a spooky theme.

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Here comes the sun (and I say, it’s all right)

What is it that is so inherently cheerful about a sunflower? This one bears no resemblance to either of the varieties I ordered from Sarah Raven last spring. It should be killing me with its sinister ring of dark bronze juxtaposed with bright yellow. It has an uncanny likeness to Sauron’s glaring eye. And yet I smile whenever I see it.

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Checking back in my records, the variety was supposed to be either the deep red ‘Claret’ or the soft brown and crimson ‘Double Dandy’. I planted a row of each; the slugs ate the back row but somehow spared the front row, which grew into these. Grumble grumble: at Sarah Raven’s prices, one expects the correct wares. But I say, it’s all right. Any flower this sunny can’t put me out of sorts for too long.

I’m thinking of writing a review of all the annuals I’ve grown over the past two or three years: which are reliably successful, which are less so, and which I can’t live without. I think sunflowers may just turn out to be something I grow every year. Borage is an annual that I never need to sow afresh these days: it simply pops up everywhere and anywhere. It’s a wonderful thing to find an annual you like that likes you back with equal enthusiasm. I’d love to know what annuals you sow faithfully each year, which are more miss than hit, which you’ve given up on, and which are reliable self-seeders.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend visiting her page to see what she and other garden bloggers around the globe have found in the garden to put in a vase today.

 

 

Simply the rose

“There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”

[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

A celebration this week, if you will, of the roses of my garden. I have six, all but one of them bought from David Austin in the days when my tastes were all for flouncy, feminine, pink double or apricot flowers. It’s funny how tastes change, and currently I prefer the single roses, especially even the wild roses like the dog rose, Rosa canina. If I were to plant my garden again, I would include more of the simple roses. But I am content with these that I have, for they are as beautiful as can be in their first flush.

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I moved these roses in November of 2017 from the shaded, parched soil of our front garden where they had been suffering from the peregrinations of the privet hedge’s roots. Their new home is the back garden, where they now receive a good 6 hours of daylight and a much better soil. They have rewarded me with a fine first flush, although it was a bad year to move anything. I wasn’t to know that we were about to enter such a dry summer, and perhaps would have thought twice if I had.

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I managed a rose or two from each of the six of my roses: ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles’ is the dark ruby red. ‘The Lady Gardener’ is an apricot pink, a slightly more simple flower than the pale pink ‘A Shropshire Lad’. The white rose is ‘Tranquility’, while ‘Boscobel’ is not sure what colour it is, and nor am I. Over-smoked salmon? Old dame’s lipstick? Rio sunset? David Austin’s website describes it as coral-pink, with ‘numerous small petals, of varying shades’ mingling together. Finally, at the very bottom left is a rose from our local garden centre called ‘Many Happy Returns’ (see what they did there?) in palest waxy pink, a simpler rose that more reflects my evolving tastes, and just too pretty for words, but sadly scentless.

This is the prancing petticoats style of arrangement I possibly had in mind when I chose my David Austin roses almost four years ago (I also had in mind ancient houses with fat pink roses over mullioned windows, and other romantic, whimsical scenes that are hard to recreate in a Victorian city tenement). The whole thing was good fun to set up, really it was, and definitely worth the ticking off I got from my husband when the petals collapsed with great drama and tragedy onto the floor below, where they stayed for several days.

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In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend following the link to see what she and many other garden bloggers across the world have found to put in a vase today.

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Two Lavenders

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Most of the plants in my grandmother’s Derbyshire garden seemed exhausted and almost visibly panting in the relentless sunshine and heat that has been blazing down these past weeks. But two plants were noticeably enjoying themselves in this most un-English climate: English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and its unrelated Mediterranean friend, cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus). Covered in bees, both plants basked happily in the sun, their tiny silvery leaves perfectly designed to reflect the light and resist transpiration.

The flowers of cotton lavender are usually a bright dandelion yellow. This, coupled with its tendency to bulldoze over any nearby plants, makes it somewhat unpopular with many gardeners, myself included. But my grandmother’s cotton lavender flowers are of a more forgiveable lemon hue, an almost restful colour, which stands it in better stead for vases.

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At some point during my stay, I managed to snatch five minutes and a pair of scissors. A tuft of both lavenders and a tug of dried grass from the hedgerow made for one of the quickest vases I have ever created. Then it was straight back to my book on the seat under the shade of the walnut tree. It wasn’t just the plants that were wilting in the sunshine!

In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers that she and other garden bloggers have managed to salvage from the drought or will it be mainly dried grasses this week?

EDIT: As mention in my comment below, it seems that this lemon yellow Santolina may not be S. chamaecyparissus, but another species in the same genus.

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A Jam Jar of Spring

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Isn’t May a glorious month? Suddenly so much to choose from! So when picking a quick hand-tied posy for a gardening friend this afternoon, I had no trouble in finding a good handful of airy, laid-back stems. Here we have an allium from my cutting bed, the last of the Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’, Geum ‘Leonard’s Variety’, bleeding hearts, chive flowers, foraged cow parsley, an elegant buttercup that sprung up among my delphiniums, a final grape hyacinth, Geranium phaeum, forget-me-nots, and a stem of ornamental thistle.

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I also took my friend a courgette plant and a tray of other small seedlings and bits and bobs, and in return received one of her courgettes (a different variety), a geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, and some tiny aquilegias.

We while away a happy afternoon in her garden, admiring her plants, drinking tea, exchanging ideas, and steadfastly not revising for our forthcoming RHS exams.

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In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and I always enjoy visiting her page and following links to all the other vases created by garden bloggers around the world.

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Calm, collected rationality

When I’m faced with the tulip catalogues in August with their cornucopia of offerings in bright jewel colours and curving shapes, just two outcomes prevail: either I go bananas and order almost everything in sight (2016) or I dither until it is too late and there’s nothing left (2017). I blame Sarah Raven entirely for this. No one else comes close to the seductive mix of colour combinations, cunning ‘collections’, and hot summer photography contained within that thick paper catalogue of hers.

Therefore it’s a useful weapon to be able to narrow down one’s choice tulips so that when confronted by Ms Raven’s devilish catalogues you can keep your cool and calmly wield the strength to order only your very best and most favourite ones in good time.

One tulip that will certainly fall into this category henceforth is apricoty-brown ‘Bruine Wimpel’. I admired it longingly in the catalogue in August 2016, adored it unreservedly when it bloomed in spring 2017, and did a dance of joy when it reappeared in my cutting bed in spring 2018. In a jug with ‘Purissima’ (another firm favourite), forget-me-nots, Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ and a stem of lovage, it is a pleasure to behold. Purer and simpler than the double ‘Belle Epoch’, it is the very embodiment of calm, collected rationality. If ‘Bruine Wimpel’ were ordering tulips from a Sarah Raven catalogue, there’d be no splurging or panic-buying. Bruine Wimpel knows exactly what it wants, and what it wants is a quiet place at the back of the vase and to let the other flowers do the chattering.

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In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who has also found tulips for us this week. I do recommend visiting her page and seeing what she and many other garden bloggers across the world have found in their gardens for a vase today.

First tulips from my cutting garden

I admit that when I write ‘cutting garden’, it sounds much grander than the reality: a single raised bed of about 150 x 150cm constructed of wooden boards that the builders brought down from our rotting roof last year. I didn’t know what (if anything) these ancient roof boards had been treated with, so the bed was destined to be a cutting patch and not for edibles. I filled it with a chaos of bulbs that had been exhumed during reconstruction of the front garden, as well as from last year’s pots, and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic return of many of my tulips. It is a wonderful luxury to be able to cut tulips for a vase without the guilt of stealing from the herbaceous borders. One of the returning cultivars is Tulipa ‘Purissima’, which has come back in a much creamier shade white than last year. In-filled with stems of the abundant forget-me-nots that I have allowed to pepper the garden from head to foot, it is as though the spirit of the garden has followed me indoors.

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I bought this jar with the sole intention of filling it with armfuls of T. ‘Apricot Beauty’, one of my favourite tulips of last year. Disappointingly, however, none of those returned. When it is not full of flowers, the jar has the more mundane task of holding spoons and spatulas in the kitchen, which have been evicted in the name of aesthetic priorities. (Credit to my husband, who has not complained once about the jumble of upended implements lying on the windowseat.)

I am writing a review of some of my favourite tulips and shall share it with you imminently. Which are your favourite tulip cultivars, and which do you find come back reliably year after year?

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend following the link to her page to see what spirits of the spring (or indeed, autumn) garden have found their way into vases of garden bloggers across the world.

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Peas-azz

A last hurrah from my sweetpeas, whose flowering has slowed considerably since my recent week-long absence from home as I was not able to keep picking the flowers to keep the rest coming. Having ceased in the production of flowers, the sweetpeas have now turned their attention to the doubtless entertaining past-time of bringing their obelisk and themselves crashing to the ground. My attempts to right this swaying, drunken vessel by pushing the two airborne front legs back into the ground are no longer having any effect: it just won’t stay upright at all. The impending cataclysm is currently thwarted only by a steely thicket of very tall Salvia ‘Amistad’, and a piece of brown string linking the obelisk to a nearby washing-line pole. After today’s haircut I have hopefully redressed the odds in favour of the obelisk, but with strong winds forecast the race could be anyone’s.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and I do recommend visiting her page to see her vase (full of autumn colour), as well as links to many other vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.

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