Vases in haste (and sweetpeas at last)


Organising a vase of flowers for Monday sometimes happens in a bit of a dash. I picked these last night, photographed them at 6.15am this morning, edited the photos at 9pm, and rattled off these words at 10pm.

A few things:

  1. My sweetpeas have come out at last. All of a sudden. In profusion.
  2. There is not much light around at 6.15am, even in an east-facing room.
  3. Tonight we sat outside for dinner in our t-shirts.
  4. And got bitten by midges.

In a vase on Monday is organised by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, where you will find a party going on, and links to lots of other people’s vases too.




Last chance rail

IMG_0128Today’s garden reminded me of those ‘Last Chance!’ rails in high street clothes shops. It’s the end of another season, stock is diminished, and there are only a few oddments left from which to take one’s pick. Luckily the colours of today’s flowers aren’t as strange and eclectic as the remnants of a Topshop fashion season are wont to be. The bold pink spike of Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’ is set off beautifully by a precious delphinium (Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who hosts our Monday vases, must have a strange hold over me that I sacrificed one of these), a pale apricot foxglove and a single confectionary-pink snapdragon, along with those inexorable sweet peas and some Cosmos ‘Purity’, both of which featured extensively in a vase two weeks ago. I have also been dying to include some poppy seed heads in a vase, and now I have been able to.

IMG_0134Pigs have also been in fashion recently, I gather, and since Mr Pig was standing nearby on this cooler side of the room, having been moved from his usual home on the hearth due to getting dangerously hot beside our open fire, I allowed him to model beside today’s flowers. Yes, autumn means glowing coals chez nous, with the Brazilian and I fighting over who gets to stoke the blaze, and the flowers on the mantelpiece starting to wilt in the smoky warmth of the room.

IMG_0139Just as an afterword, a couple of weeks ago the Brazilian and I were wandering lazily through the streets of Sciennes when we came across a young fellow enthusiastically beheading the beautiful mops off a purply pink hydrangea in someone’s front garden, and launching them casually in to a wheelie bin. ‘You’re throwing away those beautiful flowers,’ I blurted out. He agreed that indeed he was, and said I could take as many as I want. So I fell upon this ‘last chance rail’ and rescued an armful of hydrangea heads. Here some of them are, decorating a chest of drawers.


Snapped off

IMG_0012Today’s is a sad wee vase: this snapdragon stem was cruelly snapped off its mother plant in the night by the wind, or else by a student blundering through our front garden to take advantage of our high front wall after ten beers. It is more vexing given that this is the amazing miracle snapdragon that bloomed all through the summer, all through the autumn, all through the winter, and all through the spring, on and on, as though frosts, snow, short days and all other inconveniences of circannual rhythm were of piffling irrelevance in its quest for immortality.

However, though it is no longer attached to the plant this stem has now gained immortality on this blog, in this vase from the Dean Gallery which has never been used before, in the miracle of two vases on two Mondays in a row.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, and you can visit her page to see more wonderful arrangements in their vases today.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I used to work with a lady who said that all the time. I think she sort of meant, ‘anywaaaay’, or perhaps it was just her way of reserving space on the crowded verbal airwaves of our department.Garden plan

Anywaaaay… to say that I’ve been thinking incessantly about our new garden would not be hyperbole. I think about it when I go to sleep. I think about when I wake up. During my lunch break at work, when everyone else is chatting or reading magazines, I design garden layouts on quadrant paper. I spend my weekends hauling cement blocks to the tip, levering root boles out of the ground, hoisting soil and sand and gravel about, in short doing a lot of the type of gardening that constitutes hard labour rather than the pretty sort of gardening that involves dividing, cultivating, deadheading, and planting seeds. That’s why I’m not showing you any photos of the new garden today. It still looks like a building site.

I think about the new garden so much that I have been forgetting that ‘back at the ranch’ I have a perfectly good garden that is doing all the delightful things that gardens do in early spring. So this morning I went out with my camera to pay them homage.

My esteemed hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ is coming into flower. I have cut back the old leathery leaves as one is supposed to do, to allow the new growth to shine forth in all its Neapolitan glory. IMG_0003I planted the hellebore in March 2014 and it has done pretty well in this corner. There are few advantages of having to stay in this flat for an extra few months while the renovation project goes on in the new flat, but one of them is that I may have time to divide this hellebore before we leave so that I can bring it with me.

Now, what on earth is this snapdragon doing out at this time of year? Is this normal? Yes, the garden is sheltered, but we’ve just had two weeks of a steady minus two degrees and there it goes still blooming away like it’s July. I’d like to divide this too, but I’m not sure that’s kosher for an antirrhinum (chime in if you know).

IMG_0005The crocuses are coming up. This north-east-facing front garden doesn’t get a lot of light at this time of year and I recall that last year these didn’t come out until a good few weeks after everyone else’s.

IMG_0006The snowdrops are coming out too, along with new shoots of the rather bossy Spanish bluebells that are simply everywhere in this garden.


Here are more snowdrops together with a charming primrose (and more bossy Spanish bluebells). I have divided this primrose and potted it up for the new garden.


The lobelia goes on and on, although it’s starting to look less sure of itself…


And here is one of my drum primroses stalwartly surviving the cold. I divided and potted these up for the new garden too.


IMG_0018And the roses, which I brutally pruned in Autumn, are also coming freshly in to leaf.

IMG_0008The hydrangea is too.


While watching it from a nearby window is a vaseful of its dried hydrangea flowers.


And the Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’ is budding, although the only fragrans I could smell was the laundry powder on the sheets that a girl was hanging out on the back green washing line as I took the photos.


Finally, tonight is Burns’ Night, so,

‘Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o’ fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r

Gie her a Haggis!’

Bees and Snapdragons

One of the coolest, cutest and most child-friendly plants has to be the snapdragon (Antirrhinum), so called because when you squeeze the sides of the flower, it opens and closes like a dragon’s mouth. I planted four or five bright pink snapdragons around the garden and they have bloomed brightly for well over a month now. Their complicated arrangement of petals makes them fun for the bees to figure out…

Hungry bee zooms towards snapdragon
… and lands.
Now he has to open the flower.
He’s done this before…
Reversing out…
And off to the next one!