winter flowers

A bit of sun, and scarecrow building, got us out in the garden for a few hours today.

It’s a mess if I’m honest. Mostly because we decided against cutting back many of the border plants for the winter, thinking their stems would look pretty on frosty mornings. We’ve only had a couple of hard frosts so far, but lots of heavy rain. So we now have a sodden mass of tangled stalks.

But if you take the time to look, there are some winter beauties out there. Here are some of my favourites…

quince blossom, gardening blog

We planted a couple of quince alongside the garage last year. It’s a gloomy spot and we kept forgetting to water them over the summer. They survived our neglect, but now most of the blossoms are getting munched by some pest or other. This is one of the few that has escaped.

pink dawn vibernum, gardening blog

We have lots of mature viburnum around the garden, so I was surprised at first when Steve brought this one home last year. But with its flushed pink flowers, it will be one of our winter highlights once it’s established.

witch hazel, gardening blog

Witch hazel is a fantastic winter-flowering shrub and we want to make space for more in the garden. This one is Arnold Promise – it was a Christmas present for Steve, so has only been planted a couple of weeks.

snowdrops, gardening blog

One of the loveliest things we inherited with the garden was the spring bulbs. I have a particular soft-spot for the snowdrops, which were just coming into flower when we moved in on a freezing cold January day two years ago.



making a scarecrow gardening blog“Let’s make a scarecrow,” said my three year old over breakfast this morning.

“OK. But why?”

“To look after our seeds.”

I decided not to mention that the only seeds we’ve sown recently are a second batch of sweet peas. They’re germinating in the porch and don’t really require the protection of a scarecrow.

Instead, I raided a bag of her outgrown clothes and grabbed a couple of hazel sticks we used as plant supports last summer.

I’ve never made a scarecrow before, but it was fun.

making a scarecrow gardening blog

We put him in the veg patch, with the ropy purple sprouting, skinny leeks (put them in too late) and some garlic and onions we planted in the autumn.

making a scarecrow gardening blog

I don’t know if he’ll last long enough to keep the pigeons off our peas and beans in a few months.

But he certainly gives me a turn every time he catches my eye from the kitchen window.

gardening blog, making a scarecrow



green shoots

In the end, I decided to put our sweet peas in the porch to germinate. Mainly to avoid them being eaten by mice. They are doing OK.

gardening blog sweet pea seedlings

Lord Nelson, one month after sowing

Lord Nelson was the first to sprout and is already a bit leggy – I pinched out the tops on Christmas Eve in an attempt to slow him down a bit.

Dorothy Eckford and Miss Wilmott were a bit slower to get going, and fewer of them have germinated so far.

gardening blog sweet pea seedlings

Dorothy Eckford (left) is a couple of weeks behind Lord Nelson, despite growing in exactly the same conditions

I have another packet of each of these varieties that I was planning to plant in the spring. But I suspect I will end up sowing them all with M on new year’s day, and I may have to order some more as well.

I’ve no idea where I’ll put them though, the greenhouse is bursting at the seams already. We are overwintering a few young and tender plants in there. Plus I got a bit carried away trying winter sowings of some hardy and half-hardy annuals I’m growing for the first time, like cleome, ammi majus and didiscus blue lace.

gardening blog didiscus  seedling

didiscus seedling – I got a bit carried away with winter sowings

Maybe I should add one of these to my Christmas list next year… if only.

In my dreams... from the Victorian Greenhouse Co

In my dreams… from the Victorian Greenhouse Co

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.


the soft-dying day

acer yellow gardening blog

The star of the garden at the moment is the acer.

We have no idea what variety it is. But it is close to 20 foot tall, so it must have been here a long time. It was probably planted by the late husband of the lady who lived here before us. By all accounts he loved trees, and it is him we have to thank for their dominance in the garden.

Our daughter enjoys the tapestry of leaves around the acer’s feet. Which is as good a reason as any to delay clearing them up.

acer leaves on ground gardening blog

It is at its best on a cold, sunny day. You can stand inside the canopy and peer through the back-lit leaves which range from pale yellows to deepest reds.

back-lit acer gardening blog

Having a garden full of mature trees is a mixed blessing. Steve – a fan of prairie style plants – dislikes the amount of deep shade they create. But their knobbly trunks and gnarled branches are full of character, not to mention wildlife. They bring year-round impact and a quiet sense of permanence.

They connect us to people who have loved the garden before us. And maybe some of them will still be here when we’re long gone.

tall trees gardening blog

tall trees – beautiful, but a mixed blessing

outside-in: October (5/12)

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

Much of the garden is collapsing into winter dormancy now. It makes you appreciate the valiant few flowering plants that have stood up to the wind and rain of the past few weeks. These little beauties are still going strong.

anemone vase gardening blog

Pure white anemones look stunning, both in the garden and in the house. These flowers are from a plant Mum gave me from the nursery a couple of months back. It’s doing well under the apple tree and will hopefully spread nicely

cosmos vase gardening blog

I wasn’t altogether struck with the colour of these cosmos, until I saw them back-lit here after a thunderstorm

dahlia vase gardening blog

The dahlias are still working hard, and will hopefully keep flowering until the first frost

dahlia vase gardening blogdahlia vase gardening blog