Christmas Roses


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.



The Living And The Dead

November is a funny time of year. Certain plants remain in flower across the garden mainly salvias and roses but also Acanthus mollis, pelargoniums and Cerinthe major and their bright blooms look quite out of place beside those that are dying back.

In July I harvested all the spent allium seedheads, and plonked them in a hurry into a vase on our bedroom chest of drawers, where they have been annoying both of us ever since. The arrival of a new jug prompted me to do something about them, and so I cut their long stems back to size and rearranged them. In a month’s time I will probably spray them with a dusting of silver and use them as Christmas decorations.


The drawing is called ‘January Beeches’ and is by an artist called Pamela Grace, who is exhibiting at the Dancing Light Gallery at Whitmuir Organic Farm, just a few miles south of Edinburgh. Winter trees are an appropriate subject for today’s post, because one might say that, like Schrödinger’s Cat, they are both dead and alive at the same time.

And just to prove that we still have plenty of plants still alive and kicking, I made a second vase in this little pewter cup Cerinthe, Salvia ‘Amistad’, the David Austin rose ‘Tess Of The D’Urbevilles’ and a stem of snapdragon in the identical shade of velvet red. If anyone is looking for a deep red rose, I couldn’t recommend Tess enough.


In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden, and I do recommend visiting her page and taking a look at all the blooms, both dead and alive, that she and gardeners across the world are cutting from their gardens today.


Rosebud not in a vase

This week marks the fourth anniversary of Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday challenge, and to celebrate this milestone, today we are all finding something that is not a vase in which to arrange our flowers. Any watertight receptacle counts as a vase in my view, but I think Cathy means objects that were not designed to be vases and I hope this inkpot falls into that category. The little rosebuds were the last buds on my ‘The Lady Gardener’ rose, which I lopped off before digging up said rose and moving it to the back garden, where I am hoping it is settling in nicely to its new home.

Thank you to Cathy for inventing and hosting this wonderful challenge, which inspires so many of us across the world to bring beautiful garden flowers into the house each week.


Dahlias and Roses on a Painted Shelf


It’s turning into a mini tradition of mine to arrange my ‘Café-au-Lait’ dahlias in this yellow jug on our kitchen shelf in autumn (for previous years see here and here). This dahlia is a late bloomer, but once it does it’s pretty reliable and always lovely. After idly wondering what I could do to make this year’s vase a little different, I found that I had only the one bloom out at the moment (with three or four more on their way) and decided to add some pale roses into the mix.




Here we have ‘The Lady Gardener’ to the left of the dahlia, the pale pink single ‘Many Happy Returns’ above, and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ to the right.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and I recommend visiting her page to see her vase and follow links to all the other vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.


Green and Damp

As I was cutting the flowers for my Monday vase, I noticed how verdant the raindrops from a recent shower had made the foliage of the garden. I’ve never been organised enough for the monthly Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day organised by Christina of My Hesperides Garden, and now in remembering to link back to her page I find that she has sadly felt obliged to stop her lovely meme for reasons of time deficiency. I know the feeling, Christina, and am continually impressed by anyone who manages to maintain any sort of regularity. Christina gardens in the dry heat of the Mediterranean, a climate as far removed from mine as can be; she relies a great deal on foliage to create structure, movement and sharp graduations of texture, while the colours remain earthy and soft. If you have not yet come across Christine, I do recommend nipping across to her page and having a look at the masterly way she has handled her tricky terrain.

Anyway, better late than never with my foliage, and I hope these pictures may reassure all readers that I am as appreciative of leaves as of flowers.

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The climbing rose ‘A Shropshire Lad’ with its red-wine leaf margins
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Even as the deep dark leaves of Cotinus coggygria ‘Dusky Maiden’ turn fiery vermillion, those exposed to less light remain mottled green.
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There are certain plants that become show-offs with raindrops. Alchemilla mollis is one of them (another is the lupin).
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Variagated pals: apple mint and Nasturtium ‘Alaska’; the latter beginning to turn.
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Fresh and lovely: Fatsia japonica
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A new hydrangea: a gift from my mother. Not foliage but bracts, tinged and speckled pink and green.
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Another hydrangea, my favourite: H. paniculata ‘Limelight’. Bracts are modified leaves that act as petals.
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No matter how many times it was tied in, this strand of Clematis montana ‘Miss Christine’ always managed to escape.
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Leaves and whirligig flowerhead of ‘Miss Christine’.
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Ivy crawls and trails from many pots in the front garden. By autumn, it rambles all over the paths.

Gather ye (etc.)

Part of my plan for the front garden involves not having three rose bushes in an area that receives a maximum of two hours of direct light per day. This is probably a good a week as any to move them. I doubt we’re going to get an Indian summer now, and I need to crack on before temperatures drop below 5 degrees, after which it’s impossible to mix cement. I’ve almost finished clearing the space in the back garden for them, where they’ll be much happier.

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Meanwhile: ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may; Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today; Tomorrow will be dug up, wrapped in hessian, and transported 50 yards to the East.’

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The same will soon apply to the sweetpeas, for whom 50 yards to the East means the compost heap. The only reason they’re still up is for seed ripening, although I’m glad I was able to gather some tendrils today.

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In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling at the Garden, who is enjoying an abundance of dahlias. I do recommend visiting her page to see her vase and to follow links to many inspiring vases created by garden bloggers across the world today.

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La vie en rose

Now that I’ve finished work for the autumn I’m busier than ever, but life’s pretty rosy all the same because all the chores and obligations that are keeping me busy from 6am till dusk are wonderful ones. First, there’s the garden to sort. I’m still digging over space in the back garden for refugees that will come over from the front (roses, penstemons, a recalcitrant peony, a geum, lots of aquilegias), and that involves digging out roots of unwanted ash saplings and so forth. Then I’ve plenty of studying to be getting on with, mainly Portuguese, and also the RHS Level 2 course, which I began last month.

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Today was a good day for digging under a cool blue sky, and a good day for al fresco study time later on in the afternoon once the air became warmer and I remembered where I’d put the picnic rug. Picking flowers is a good procrastination technique. After all, how can one study botany effectively without a white jug of flowers at one’s side? One literally can’t.

The rose is a repeat flowerer called something silly like ‘Many Happy Returns’ (see what they did there) and it stopped me dead in a garden centre earlier this year. Turns out I forgot to check that it smelt of anything before buying it, but never mind because it flowers its socks off. Not such a silly name after all.

In a vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who I hope will not mind at my tardiness this week, especially since I have no excuse not to have taken part yesterday, except it was a bit cold.

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Wild hedgerows of June

I’ve been having one heck of a spring in terms of workload and weekend commitments, with almost every single weekend taken up since March and a nightly work-induced stupor that has not been remotely conducive to blogging. This of course explains my intermittent absence from writing about all things garden related, and for this I can only beg your forgiveness.

The weekend just gone was yet another weekend away, this time in Derbyshire to see the inaugural RHS Chatsworth Flower Show to which my fabulous and most horticultural Aunt Kate had bought tickets. The day after the show, a rainy Saturday, found me hanging around in my grandmother’s ancient old farmhouse promising myself that I wasn’t going to do A SINGLE THING all day long. It was going to be a real day of rest. After putting the world to rights over a loooong lunch, and with Granny now napping in front of a Laurie Lee talking book, I wandered into the garden with a pair of scissors and a large enamel jug.

I had had my eye on armfuls of cow parsley from the hedgrows of the lane that runs behind the house, but most of this had set seed by now. I nonetheless found some late stems, and some foxgloves, and armfuls of long, waving grasses of many different varieties.


I also found a dog-rose that had self-seeded into the wall of the house, and some white bramble flowers scrambling down the verges.

Back in the garden I augmented my June hedgerow pickings with boughs of redcurrant and gooseberry, and because my Granny hails from an era when flowers meant roses, I added some ‘proper’ roses, pink, yellow, and white.


Into the jug they all went, and the shorter stems went into a small watering can that I found in the conservatory. The jug was a mere holding area for the stems (though I couldn’t resist a photo). Unfortunately it was needed back because… well, I may as well tell you… the flush on the loo had broken and this was what we were using to hoosh it with.


So I found some real vases and divided everything between them, and then gave my grandmother a choice of ‘Pink and yellow roses with penstemons and wild grasses’ or ‘Foxgloves and white roses with cow parsley and wild grasses’ for her bedroom. She chose the former, which was a good choice as those yellow roses really did smell divine. I wish I’d taken a photo of those two vases, but I didn’t I’m afraid.

The remaining stems I divided between vases for my Aunt Kate’s room and my own. Kate’s vase contained the dog roses, redcurrants, brambles and gooseberries, and in mine I used the remainder of the wild grasses, a single dog rose, a waif of a foxglove, and some cow parsley with extra geraniums.


Picking, arranging and photographing flowers in vases is the perfect activity for an afternoon of doing ‘absolutely nothing’ and giving pleasure to a whole household at the same time.

On the long drive back to Scotland, I noticed hundreds of dog roses in among the hedgerows all the way up the motorway, as well as foxgloves, cow parsely, red campion, elderflowers, may and ox-eye daisies…

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Do you have some flowers to cut and put in a vase? If so, please do share them and link back to Cathy’s page for all to see, where you will find links to all the other garden bloggers who have picked flowers from the garden (or hedgerow) on a Monday.



Wasting Time For My Roses

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Goodness, I do adore a bit of Monday-morning faffing.


These roses were in part rescued from last week’s vase, and the rest cut from the garden. I am growing to love the extreme dearth of light that comes into this flat, and embrace it for its moodiness rather than fretting over the darkness.

And after this especially productive morning, I am now going to try and cram a day’s work into the next two hours of daylight.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who challenges garden bloggers across the world to do some beautiful weekly faffing with vases.