outside-in: May 12/12

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

There’s so much going on in the garden this month that I almost forgot to bring any flowers inside until yesterday evening.

picked in the rain, cottage garden, gardening blog

It was raining so it wasn’t really ideal for flower-picking, but I managed to get a good haul.

alliums and peony, cottage garden, gardening blog

For the first time ever I picked some peonies. The Karl Rosenfeld variety which didn’t flower at all last year has lots of buds coming. I allowed myself three and left the rest outside.

Brookside geranium and rose, cottage garden, gardening blog

Bringing the first roses of the new season into the house made it feel (and smell) like summer is well and truly here, despite the rain and the fact that we have lit the wood burner twice this week.

Brookside geranium close-up, gardening blog, cottage garden

I really, really love this geranium. It’s called Brookside, which is impossible to say without a Liverpudlian accent if you grew up in the UK in the 80s like I did. We bought this plant from the nursery at Burrow Farm Gardens when we were driving back from a trip to Devon last year. If you’re ever in East Devon the gardens are well worth a visit – and you won’t be able to resist taking a few things home. I hope we can get back down there some time soon.

allium roseum, gardening blog, cottage garden

This allium (Roseum) is probably my favourite new plant of the year so far. It’s more delicate and subtle than the other alliums we have in the garden, and I can live with its oniony smell in the house.

So, that’s the last in my 12-month series of outside-in posts. The idea was to see if I could keep the vases furnished with flowers from the garden all year round. We just about managed, although I did resort to weeds – ahem – wild flowers in March.

It’s certainly true that we have far more flowers in the garden now than we did this time last year. It’s partly because the mild winter has brought everything forward by a good three weeks.  But I can also see that we’re slowly starting to add new layers to the fabric of the garden. And we’re getting better at choosing varieties that flower early or late in the year to extend the season and keep things pretty.

outside-in: April 11/12

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

Sarah Raven brandy snap mix, cottage garden, gardening blog

Our vases have been full of tulips this month.

My favourites for picking were Sarah Raven’s brandy snap mix.

Their colours seem to suit the garden and the house. Steve prefers tulips in bright reds and yellows – I like them too – but these softer colours are more harmonious and gentler on the eye.

I’m especially smitten with a variety called belle epoque. It reminds me of the coral charm peony we have by the back door. I find it difficult to pick peonies since their flowers are so fleeting, but it feels far more acceptable to cut a few tulips. These lasted a good week in the vase, and smelt wonderful – almost summery.

belle epoque cottage garden, gardening blog

an overblown belle epoque tulip is almost peony-like

In fact, some of them looked a little nondescript in the garden, but came alive on a windowsill when they caught the sun.

Tulip Cairo and Ronaldo, cottage garden, gardening blog

this rust-coloured cairo tulip looks more remarkable in a vase than in the garden

Its hard to believe these flowers came from the dry bulbs I planted on a bitter day in November.

outside in: March (10/12)

One garden’s weed is another garden’s wild flower

aconite muscari cottage garden gardening bloWell, that’s certainly the case in our garden this month. A carpet of golden-yellow aconites is keeping the emerging bees bumbling around happily. I was surprised to see a reader’s letter in a garden magazine a while back berating these early flowerers for infesting his lawn. It made me smile to imagine him grumpily tearing up the cheerful little things.

If you don’t like them I suppose their prolific self-seeding must be quite infuriating. We have them growing out of walls, between paving, among tree roots. I did have to sacrifice a few when I turned over the area we’re going to use for a cutting garden last week. But when Steve cut the grass yesterday, he made sure to leave a few patches here and there.

Another plant that seems to get some gardeners tearing their hair out is muscari, or grape hyacinth. It spreads like wildfire.

For me, any combination of blue and yellow symbolises spring. And with so many aconites and muscari to spare, I don’t feel at all guilty about picking a few for the house.

aconite muscari cottage garden gardening blog

since it was mothers day yesterday, I put a few in my Granny Brown’s jug

There’s not much else that I’m willing to pick at the moment. We have some blossoms and early tulips, but I prefer to leave them in the garden. I decided the crocuses looked better outdoors than inside as well.

I did pinch a few blooms from Steve’s camellia though. I’m not much into floating flowers, but I made an exception for these. And it meant I could use another piece of Granny Brown’s Lily of the Valley glassware too.

red camellia floating

outside-in: February (9/12)

I’m getting impatient for spring.

single purple crocus in vase, cottage garden, gardening blog

So last week I started bringing buds and pots of bulbs into the house.

back-lit daffodils, cottage garden, gardening blog

Some people call this ‘forcing’ them.

white crocus pot, cottage garden, gardening blog

But that sounds a bit brutal.

close-up daffodil, gardening blog, cottage gardenI prefer to think of it as warming them up a bit.

purple crocus, cottage garden, gardening blogWhatever you call it, the result is earlier flowers. And that’s got to be good.

outside in: January (8/12)

Last spring we planted yellow roses either side of an arch that leads to M’s Wendy house and swings. It’s supposed to be a summer-autumn variety, but it’s still flowering away in this mild winter weather. I picked three buds last week.

yellow rose buds, gardening blog, cottage garden, golden showers

They fade to a paler primrose as they open.

yellow rose, gardening blog, cottage garden, golden showers

Whenever I look at them, I remember a good friend of mine who loved yellow roses. She died very suddenly when we were in our 20s, but I am quite sure she would have enjoyed their name, Golden Showers.

I had hoped to pick some hellebores for the house this month, but sadly all of their flowers are being devoured by some unknown pest just as they begin to open.

So I consoled myself with a small posy of snowdrops. It wasn’t until I brought them inside that I realised they have the sweetest honey-like scent.

Next time you see a snowdrop, crouch down and have a sniff.

snowdrops sunlight, gardening blog, cottage garden

freshly picked, and still splashed with mud

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

outside-in: December (7/12)

Other than a few acorn cups and maple seeds that our daughter painted gold for Christmas, I didn’t expect to bring the garden into the house much this month.

But early last week I took a wander over the squelchy grass and came back with this…

gardening blog winter flowers

Most of these flowers are from shrubs we inherited with the garden.

I have no idea what variety the pink rose is. The plant is a bit scraggly, its leaves never look very healthy and it only ever produces one or two flowers at a time. But it keeps going well into the winter and that seems a good enough reason to let it be.

The delicate pink-white viburnum has become a firm favourite of mine. We are lucky to have several mature ones dotted around the place. Last spring we gave a couple of them a pretty hard pruning, and they have come back better than ever. They are smothered in buds and should keep us in-flower until the early spring bulbs make an appearance.

gardening blog mahonia in vase

But the mahonia is the star of the moment. It has been flowering for a good six weeks now and still looks wonderful. Looking at it across the garden on a dull day is cheering enough. But bringing a few sprigs inside, you can really appreciate the bright, fragrant blossoms. In the depths of winter, it feels like a promise that spring will return.

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

outside in: November (6/12)

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

Our hardy fuchsias had a new burst of life this month.

red fuchsia gardening blog

I seem to remember they did the same this time last year.

white fuchsia gardening blog

My dad says some plants struggle with the long days of summer – it’s hard work photosynthesising for 16 hours at a time.

Perhaps that’s why they bounce back in November.