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.

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winter sun

mahonia gardening blogMany, many times over the summer I cursed our mahonia. It is at the back of the main border and whenever I ventured in there for weeding or deadheading, its prickly evergreen leaves seemed to make a grab for me.

Early in the spring Steve and I spent a chilly afternoon giving it a hefty prune. We removed about a third of its tangled branches, chopping them down to ground level, and trimmed some of the longer stems back since most of the flowers had been way above our heads that winter. We were afraid we might have been too brutal. But we soon forgot about it as the season progressed and our attention was drawn to other areas of the garden.

mahonia blue sky gardening blog

robust little flowers, like a yellow Lily of the Valley

That chilly afternoon’s work seems to have paid off this month. We’ve been rewarded with fragrant bright yellow flowers bursting like fireworks in an otherwise lacklustre corner.

mahonia monkey puzzle gardening blog

it teams up surprisingly well with the dead monkey puzzle

I’ve been looking at mahonia on the RHS website. Those long clusters of flowers are called racemes and there is a whole list of varieties, from winter sun to undulata. I have no idea if ours is winter sun, but it seems an appropriate name.

Another name for mahonia is oregon grape, because of the purplish berries that follow the flowers. Apparently they are edible and rich in vitamin C – just what we’ll need once they ripen in January.

mahonia bee gardening blog

a welcome bit of nectar for the few bees that are still venturing out