In a Vase on Monday – cut flowers from my garden

Despite the drought, my cut flower beds provide a steady flow of blooms for my MIL Joan and my Mum Marion. Here are a few of my favourites for this week’s IAVOM.

Chrysanthemum Rainbow Mixed- from Mr Fothergill’s – were sown in March, planted out at the end of May, and flower right through June to October. Seeds cost £1.75 a packet. I’m always looking for good value for money and these fit the bill.

In this tiny posy, I’ve placed them with cosmos, fringed dianthus, and sprigs of blue agapanthus. They’ll last five days in a vase.

Colours range from white and pale pink to red, all with lovely chocolate coloured centres.

Looks good with white goat’s rue, Galega Alba from Chiltern Seeds. Pure white spikes of pea-like flowers from June to September.

With white Catanache alba from Mr fothergill’s seeds.

With fringed pinks, meant to be grown as annuals, but are in their second year. Chiltern Seeds have a pretty frilly variety here.

Add in some easy to grow cosmos. This one is Seashells from Thompson and Morgan. Ferny foliage is an added bonus and excellent for making button holes or filling out bouquets.

Looks fabulous with Verbena Pink Spires, a perennial plant from Miles Nurseries, Hoby, Leicestershire. Never seems to be out of flower.

I wrote about my cut flower garden – and sharing the plot with hedgehogs and other wildlife Here.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this IAVOM meme. Why not take a look to see what Cathy and all the others are growing and displaying. It’s fascinating to see that sometimes we are growing the same varieties in different countries all around the world.

Please kindly share this via any social media you like, and don’t forget to leave a comment in the box below.

My Garden Right Now and End of the Month View – Dec 3rd 2017

I’m joining in with Michelle with #my-garden-right-now and Steve Glebe House #End-of-month-view. Enjoy a slideshow of photos from my garden today. There’s still plenty of colour thanks to the alstroemerias and chrysanthemums in the open-ended ploy tunnel. Keeping the rain off the flowers helps to make them last until Christmas.

I talked about mouldable fairy lights Here. You can listen in to BBC Radio Leicester Down to Earth programme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05mf51m where we talk about my cut flowers, grown all the year round for friends and family.

The alstroemerias from Viv Marsh postal Plants grow in 40cm pots and flower nearly 12 months of the year. Choose the long stem varieties if you are growing for cut flowers.

White Stallion chrysanthemums came from Chrysanthemums Direct Nursery as cuttings at the RHS Malvern show last autumn. The yellow chrysanthemums are cuttings from my father in law and have been grown in the family since the 1950s. Originally they came from an Aunty Doris. It’s lovely to keep up the tradition of growing these cheerful plants.

The mouldable lights came from Wilco Christmas range and cost £3.50 including the batteries. I’ve wound them around the lemon trees And plant pots to give a cheerful glow.

Just two weeks ago, the view from the greenhouse and potting shed was this :

Now the golden beech trees are bare and the view from the potting bench -where I’m planting up hyacinth bowls for Christmas and putting amaryllis bulbs in terracotta pots -looks like this:

Luckily there’s some early hellebores in flower to brighten things up. This one is called Jacob.

And still on the white theme, this beautiful rose Pearl Drift is in flower today. What a star. It blooms all summer and is free of black spot. I can highly recommend this easy modern shrub rose. It is delicately scented too.

I’m keeping an eye on these huge red rose hips for my Christmas decorations. Rosa Scarlet Fire is another disease resistant variety with large open single red roses and hips the size of marbles. Birds don’t seem to bother with them, probably due to their enormous size.

Something that is also in flower now- and not waiting until Christmas- are these Paperwhite narcissi. I wrote about planting them in jam jars and tall glass vases a few weeks back. Well, November has been so mild with above average temperatures that forced bulbs like these are weeks ahead of schedule. The scent is truly glorious.

This week I also appeared on the Ben Jackson radio show talking about making Christmas presents from items collected from the garden. Here’s my succulent /cacti in a jam jar idea. I used pea gravel, a recycled jam jar and an offset from one of my plants to make this simple display.

Pimpernel Press sent me this award-winning book to review. Head Gardeners by Ambra Edwards would make an ideal Christmas present. It’s full of behind-the-scenes tips and glorious photos. An inspiring insight into what motivates head gardeners at some of the country’s most beautiful gardens. Photos are by Charlie Hopkinson and the book won Inspirational Book of the Year at the recent Garden Media Guild Awards. I rarely sit down and read a book cover to cover- but I just couldn’t put this one down. It is fascinating to hear the voices of the head gardeners. I kept nodding agreement, and scribbling down notes. It’s one of my favourites this year. Easy to see why it is a winner.

To be honest, it was dark by the time I stepped out of the potting shed.

Just in time to see the tawny owls that hatched in our garden this summer. What a wonderful end to a beautiful winter’s day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my garden in December. Go over to Michelle at Vegplotting to see what others are posting for #my-garden-right-now. And also Steve at glebehouse for the #end-of-month-view. It would be great to see what you are getting up to on your plot just now.

Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

It’s amazing how a few little touches can make all the difference. In defiance of the cold, dark days, I’ve brightened up the greenhouse with mouldable lights. These are tiny fairy lights on a copper wire. They can be twisted around floral arrangements and basically they hold their shape without damaging the flowers. I’ve used chrysanthemums from the poly tunnel for this display. It makes a lovely warm glow at a time when we all need some winter cheer.

I’ve chosen indoor battery-powered lights from the Christmas range at Wilco . The 2.2m cable contains 20 warm white lights for £3.50 and includes the battery. I’m going to wrap them around plant pots in the greenhouse next.

We talked about mouldable lights on this week’s BBC radio gardener’s phone-in programme. You can listen in on your phone or computer on the i-player. I wrote about how to tune in Here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/radiogardening-howto-i-player-bbc/.

You can listen to any radio programme for 28 days after the broadcast. And there are special programme clips and podcasts too. The gardeners’ phone-in is on BBC Radio Leicester every Wednesday between 11am and 12 noon on 104.9 FM and digital. And on Sunday there’s local radio’s longest-running gardening programme, Down to Earth hosted by Dave Andrews, between 12 and 1pm. We will be taking phone calls live in the studio this coming Sunday, December 3rd.

Here’s a link to this week’s Wednesday programme hosted by Ben Jackson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m8p6x. Move the timeline round to 2.07.57 where the programme starts. We talk about making Christmas presents from materials found in the garden- including jam jar succulents and cacti, and making bird feeders with fir cones. And our mid-morning studio treat, for all the staff, was Chocolate Tiffin made with fresh autumn raspberries from the plot.

Here’s some details on the prepared hyacinths we mentioned. These are some I grew to flower for Christmas 2016.

You will need to buy “prepared” hyacinths which means they have been put into cold storage to fool the bulbs into thinking they have had winter already. To complete the treatment at home, place the bulbs in John Innes No2 compost in 3″ pots. Put the pots in a cold dark cupboard in the potting shed, garage or basement. Or put them into a black plastic bag. Store them for 9 to 10 weeks at 9C. Water just once. At the end of 10 weeks, check over the pots and those with about an inch of leaves and a flower tip showing can be brought out into a cool bright place to grow on. You can make up displays for Christmas by selecting bulbs that look about the same height and putting them into larger plant pots together. Don’t bring them straight into a centrally heated house or the flowers won’t develop properly. The bulbs need to be grown on in cool conditions for another 22 days.

Here’s some hyacinths and forced narcissi I used to create an early spring display this year. You can also bring twigs of cherry blossom into the house and they will give an earlier flowering too. I wrote about forcing Paperwhites Here.

The scent is quite glorious. Interestingly, different varieties of hyacinths need varying periods of cold/dark treatment. The variety Pink Pearl needs 10 weeks, but Anna Marie needs just 8. So experimentation is needed if you wish to mix the varieties in a display. I would set the 3″ pots at weekly intervals and grow more than I needed so that I could select the right number of plants for my display. Just a reminder- always wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can cause skin irritation.

A very quick and cheap Christmas present idea we mentioned was jam jar succulents. Here’s the materials I took into the studio. You will need a small recycled jam jar, handful of ornamental washed shingle, small amount of moss from the garden, and a succulent or cacti from the garden centre. Mine is an offset from one of my own plants. You half fill the jar with shingle, wrap the succulent stem with moss and plant. Finish the present with a ribbon. Plants need virtually no water over the winter. In summer, water once a week with a tablespoon of water. Tip the jar up to allow any excess water to drain out. Do not allow the succulent to become waterlogged.

This one has been in the jam jar for two years.

Talking of Christmas presents ideas I love these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. I’m practically living in them, they are so comfortable. I may be a fairly scruffy gardener, with old trousers and holes in my jumpers, but my hands are glamorous.

Here’s a quick peek of Ben’s garden, which we talk about on the show. It’s a 2.5 by 2m raised bed, a bit overshadowed and plagued by slugs. But we’ve planted winter veg, salads and flowers – to see how much we can grow in a small, less than perfect plot. The kale and chard keeps growing through the cold weather. You just harvest the outer leaves, leaving the growing tips to keep going. I’ll keep popping by now and again to see how Ben’s getting on with the project. I’ve got a matching plot at home so we can compare progress. I have to say, Ben’s is looking better than mine at the moment. My plot is on a windswept ridge, and his is in a pretty, walled garden.

And after all that talking- we tucked into my Chocolate and Raspberry Tiffin. I wrote the recipe the recipe Here. Click on the link to see the recipe.

Do you have any recipes to share – or ideas for Christmas presents using materials from your garden? I’d love to hear your views.

In a Vase on Monday – 28th November 2016 

Yellow flowers brighten even the gloomiest day in November. And my “Aunty Doris” chrysanthemum is still going strong. 


I would love to know more about Aunty Doris.  I’m searching family archives to find photos of her greenhouse and garden.  I’m sure we have a lot in common. We both love growing flowers and arranging them. And I think of her often. 


When I’m cutting and arranging these flowers, I think about her doing the same – only 40 ago. We would have taken cuttings, grown the plants and watered them. And would both be harvesting them at the same time of the year. 


I wonder if she loved them as much as I do. 


I’ve arranged my yellow chrysanths with dogwood stems, phormium and ferns from the garden. The creamy white button chrysanthemums are called Stallion and are growing through the sweet pea canes in the cut flower patch.  These flowers, as always, are for my wonderful MIL Joan.  She loves any signs of spring-  so I have added tiny hazel catkins. Together with the cheerful yellow chrysanths- they are guaranteed to make her smile. I just wish Doris could see them too. 


Thanks to Cathy for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what the others are growing and how they are using  flowers from their gardens. Are you growing any plants passed down through the family, as I am? Or do any of your flowers remind you of friends and family? 

In a Vase on Monday – 14th November 2016 

I can’t believe I turned my nose up at chrysanthemums. It might have been the huge Pom Pom flowers that put me off. Some the size of a head. All stiffly growing in rows, marshalled into line by an army of stakes and string. 

Not my kind of gardening- and I’d probably have composted any cuttings or plants that came my way.

But this year I’ve had a change of heart. My father in law handed over a cutting of a yellow spider chrysanthemum. It’s a plant that has been passed around the family and grown for over 70 years. My father in law is struggling with mobility now and can no longer garden. In fact this year we’ve been running two gardens- theirs and our own. We’ve all worked like demons to keep their immaculate garden up to standard. And the reward has been the smiles and comments  from every carer, nurse and visitor to the house. Their glorious flower-and veg- filled garden has been preserved.

And so has their much-prized chrysanthemum. I couldn’t be the one to let the side down. I couldn’t let the family chrysanthemum -known as Aunty Doris- die out. So it’s been potted on and watered and fed, and generally fussed over all summer.  And I’m surprised to find that I totally love it. It has personality. The glorious sunny yellow flowers open like a sea anemone. It’s fascinating to watch. As the flowers grow, the centres turn a beautiful emerald green. 

After all that nurturing – the flowers are returning to my mother in law, Joan. Just as her husband of 66 years  has always grown them for her,  I’m growing them now.  



Chrysanthemum known in the family as “Aunty Doris.” 


I love its rather messy flowers. Beautiful from bud to open flower.


Luckily I’ve got lighting in my potting shed, so can create my flower posies for Joan after work.


In the posy this week is Chrysanthemum Stallion Yellow and white Swan from Cheshire family nursery Chrysanthemums Direct. Bought as plugs from RHS autumn show. I think they cost around £1 each, and have made good strong plants in a year. I’m an organic gardener, and on my potting shed table is some natural fertiliser I’m trying out from PlantGrow. I’ll let you know how I get on with it. 


Chrysanthemum Swan in the centre, surrounded by rosemary, verbena bonariensis, pittosporum silver queen, rudbeckia grown from seed, violas and grasses. The orange balls are sprays of seed from crocosmia, and the grey foliage is Artemisia Powis Castle. 


The blue flower spikes are Plectranthus Argentea which is now sheltering in the heated greenhouse for the winter and will provide flowers right through until February. This and many other plants in my greenhouse came from The Herb Nursery at Thistleton. Another family-run business I like to support. 

The good news is, there’s about 6 more weeks of Aunty Doris chrysanthemums to come. I expect we will even have them on our Christmas table. A reason to celebrate- to be sure. 

Have you ever tried to keep a family favourite flower or plant in circulation? Thanks as always to Cathy for hosting this In a Vase on Monday meme. Do take a look and  see what gardeners around the world are growing.