In a Vase on Monday – Spring Flowers

Monday 18th February. I’ve run around the garden and picked flowers for a tiny posy. My mother in law Joan gave me the little cut glass vase. So cheerful, the reflection of light, and jewel- like flowers. How can such delicate beauties survive the cold.

There’s double and single snowdrops, chinodoxa glory of the snow, pink cyclamen coum, crocus, Paperwhite narcissi, and heavenly-scented daphne.

I’ve spun the vase round to show you the yellow aconites. What a joy to see them flowering in the wild garden. Just as the aconites start to go over crocus tommasinianus suddenly appear. A feast of pollen for emerging queen bumble bees.

Crocus are doing well in the woodland garden, but I didn’t plant these out in the meadow here. I wonder why an unexpected plant, growing where it wants to be, should make me so happy. I run out and check these little flowers each day and stand and ponder. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m not sure why.

For my summerhouse door wreath this week, I’ve popped a few crocus flowers in my recycled test tubes filled with water. No need to use florists foam which adds to pollution. Use little test tubes, glass spice jars or miniature jam jars.

Fresh green ivy berries and moss hide the workings, and wild clematis or old- man’s beard- makes a nest for the snowdrops.

There’s stirrings from the pond already. I’ve seen several frogs- maybe there will be frogspawn soon. A pair of bullfinches are investigating the nest box in the tree next to the summerhouse. They are going to be very noisy neighbours, judging by the racket they are making. A friend and I sat and watched them this afternoon, and marvelled at the weather being mild enough to sit outdoors, in the middle of February, the summerhouse doors thrown open. A moment to treasure.

Links; Cathy IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/in-a-vase-on-monday-alternative/

Bullfinch song https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bullfinch/

Crocus tommasinianus https://www.peternyssen.com/tommasinianus-ruby-giant.html

Cyclamen coum for autumn planting https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/cyclamen/cyclamen-coum

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis https://www.cumbriawildflowers.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=181

Chinodoxa https://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/autumn-planted-bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-forbesii-blue-giant

clematis vitalba https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/travellers-joy/

In a Vase on Monday

I always seem to be wandering about in the gloom. I rush home from work just in time to check over the greenhouse and poly tunnel. It’s always a delight to see what’s burst into flower while I’ve been away. So today, I’m sorry to say, my flower arrangements are a little dark- again.

Luckily, there’s just enough light to pick a few stems of Paperwhite narcissi. The scent is such a joy in winter. It’s a little overwhelming indoors, but three stems in a posy are just right.

I’ve partnered the Paperwhites with a chocolate hellebore. I bought this last spring at Ashwood Nurseries where the owner John Massey very kindly gave our group a tour of his private gardens, as well as delicious lunch in his cosy kitchen. It’s a memory I will always treasure, thanks to John’s kindness and generosity.

My little posy came on an outing with me to Leicester for the gardening phone-in programme at Radio Leicester. After answering listeners’ questions on everything from sowing seed to pruning, I set off for my Mum’s house. The posy looks just perfect on her sunny kitchen window.

Pittosporum has a purple wavy picottee edge in winter. I’m cutting back my eucalyptus gunii this spring as it’s got to about 8ft. Trimmings make a lovely background for any flower. I’m also cutting back a giant white jasmine. The foliage is almost every green, and there are a few purple-tinged seed heads that look very pretty.

By the time I finish messing about with flowers and foliage, the trees in the back field are charcoal outlines. I stand and marvel. Is there anything more beautiful than a native oak. The farmer who planted this has long gone, and his son also. We live next to the farm. No doubt, this tree will outlive me. Meanwhile I’ll stand and gaze, and make a promise to protect it, should anything ever come along to threaten it.

I’m joining Cathy again this week for her IAVOM meme. Here’s the link to join in and read about what the others are growing and putting in their vases this week.

Links:

Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/in-a-vase-on-monday-it-makes-scents/

Ashwood Nursery black hellebores : https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/helleborus-xhybridus-single-black-pearl.html

I wrote about my visit to Ashwood here https://bramblegarden.com/2018/02/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-ashnurs-gdnmediaguild/

I wrote about growing Paperwhites here https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/01/fairy-lights-for-the-greenhouse-and-an-update-from-this-weeks-bbc-radio-programme-for-gardeners/

Visit Ashwood https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/visit-us/

Six on Saturday. What’s in flower today.

Enjoy a tour of my garden on a rainy Saturday. The temperature feels mild at 8C. I can hear a woodpecker in the orchard. Our farming neighbour is cutting the field hedge across the lane. We’ll be able to see the cows more clearly in spring. Speaking of spring…I was surprised to find so many flowers today.

Calendula Orange Flash. Grown from seed last summer. Supplied by Mr Fothergills. I’ll be growing these again in the cut flower/ veg patch. They last a week in a vase.

Calendula Fiesta seedling. Mr Fothergills again. Fades from lemon to white. Very pretty. The edges of the petals look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears.

Snowdrops. Earliest they have ever flowered here. Galanthus Elwesii variety. Originally from snowdrop festival sales at Hodsock Priory, Nottingham. It will soon be time to make a visit again. I always take my Mum, and we usually stay over in the converted stables. A little bit of luxury, midwinter. Does you no harm at all.

In my unheated poly tunnel, Chrysanthemum White Stallion is providing a few flowers for jam jar posies. Bought as tiny £2 cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct at the RHS Malvern Show three years ago. The weather is so mild, the plants are starting to shoot early. I’m taking new cuttings today. Well worth growing. I also recommend Arctic White and Lollipop. They produce masses of blooms. All grow in 10″ pots, John Innes compost. Stand them outdoors all summer. Take in before frosts, to protect flowers. My father in law used to stand the pots in a glass-roofed corridor between the kitchen and the garage. A cold frame would also be suitable.

Alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. Just keeps on flowering. To force them into growth, pull all the flowers and leaves in September. Stop watering for three weeks, then feed and water well. The dormant period seems to encourage them to flower from November to February. Just when we all need something cheerful.

I love growing cut flowers for friends and family. I learned how to grow -for all seasons- on a course at Common Farm Flowers. Never has £100 been so well spent. I learned which varieties to grow and how to get the best out of my poly tunnel and greenhouse. I grow cosmos and sweet peas in the summer in 10 3m by 1.2m beds with little herb-edged paths in between. This year I’m growing love-in-a-mist, chrysanthemums, carnations, ammi majus, cornflowers and poppies.

And finally, I love green flowers and Helleborus foetidus is a favourite. I was just about to pick some flowers, when I spotted these ladybirds. Just shows how mild the weather has been recently. I left them undisturbed.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/six-on-saturday-12-01-2019/ . Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this meme. Please feel free to join us.

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In a Vase on Monday. White and Green.

A slide show of flowers from my garden. Paperwhite narcissi, Hellebore Jacob Royal, white heather, Ice Princess. Variegated pittosporum, hebe, juniper, ivy, conifers, Mossy green apple twigs, woven in.

It’s 12C today. No wonder the Paperwhites won’t wait until Christmas. I’ve planted more, a fortnight apart in 10″ pots in the poly tunnel.

There’s still some bees and hoverflies about. But the wasps have stopped coming. They left an empty paper nest in the long grass in the wild garden. We knew they were there and kept a respectful distance. We’ve had no trouble with aphids all summer; wasps have zoomed in and feasted on them with relish.

Dusk seems to descend all of a sudden. One moment I am mooching in the greenhouse, the next I’m plunged into darkness. I’ve strung some mouldable wire fairy lights through the lemon trees. They make little heat and will only be left on for an hour or so. Enough to cheer me through the gloom of December days to come.

Winter sunsets are glorious though. I stay out until the very last minute. Hopefully, I’ll spot a tawny owl before it’s time to go indoors.

Thanks to Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ for this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and arranging this week. Let me know what’s looking good in your garden at the moment too.

Six on Saturday. Joining in for the first time.

Six photos from my garden and potting shed this week.

Catching the light in my potting shed window: Old Man’s Beard, wild clematis vitalba. Commonly called traveller’s joy. I stand on tip toe, reaching into hedgerows to harvest long stems with silver seed heads. They’re a lovely addition to winter flower arrangements.

Silver coins. Honesty seeds. Hanging from the rafters to dry. They will be tucked in amongst rosehips, holly and ivy for Christmas decorations.

Chinese lanterns, harvested in October. I love the various shades of orange. They fade to a delicate papery apricot colour. And left long enough, they become transparent.

My potting shed window looks out onto the wild garden. So heartening to see hazel branches with lambs-tail catkins. A welcome reminder that spring will return. The twigs make useful supports for my paperwhite narcissi and hyacinths which are in the dark under my point shed bench at the moment.

The last few golden leaves are fluttering in the breeze. Hazel, maple, ash trees make a mini woodland. I’ve planted 200 foxgloves in the wild garden. We sowed the seed in mid summer, pricked them out in August, and planted out, they will sit making roots over winter. I’m growing Sutton’s Apricot, a glorious silky, peach- coloured foxglove, and Pam’s Choice- white with a blackcurrant thumb print in each flower.

It’s dusk before I finish planting. I stand by the pond watching blackbirds taking a last-minute bath. I wonder how they can stand the cold water. I expect it keeps their feathers in good condition. A tawny owl glides silently along the field hedge. Short-tailed voles live in the long grass here. Within minutes, it’s dark. It’s not like in summer, where there’s enough moonlight to potter around. November dark is cold, pitch black. Time to go indoors, light a fire and make hot chocolate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden with me tonight. I’m joining https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ for his Six on Saturday meme. What jobs are you doing in your garden this weekend?

In a Vase on Monday – flowers for a christening.

Pink roses for a baby girl. Just the right flower. That’s what I decided when a friend asked me to make a door wreath for her granddaughter’s christening.

Setting out with a wicker basket, I spend a happy hour searching the hedgerows around the garden. I’m looking for ivy leaves, and their lime green and black flower heads and seeds. The perfect background for any circle of flowers. I find jewel-like Euonymus europaeus, or spindle tree, growing wild amongst the ivy, dogwood and hawthorn. Their bright pink fruit split apart to reveal orange seeds inside. Leaves turn a burnished bronze and then red. I add them to the basket. It’s like finding treasure.

I find some silver coins. Well, they look like coins. Honesty seed heads have turned a glorious silvery grey. Perfect for tucking in amongst the flowers. I love the way they catch the light. No need for fairy lights here.

I search around for some sprigs of a newly- planted viburnum. This winter-flowering gem is called Viburnum tinus Lisarose. Clusters of small pink and white flowers look lovely at all stages from bud to fully open. It flowers from November to April, just when we most need some cheer.

It’s my lucky day. I’ve found some late-flowering roses. My favourites, The Fairy and Pearl Anniversary. They have small clusters of pearly pink semi-double flowers. Both are compact, easy to grow varieties. Mine are thriving in containers and are moved into the greenhouse to provide flowers right up until Christmas. Pearl Anniversary is a compact, patio rose, and The Fairy is a small shrub rose. Both are repeat flowering and disease resistant.

Roses make the perfect focal point at the top of the wreath. Not many are needed to make a display.

Rosehips. So glossy they look as if they’ve been dipped in varnish. They cascade from the top of the hedgerows. The birds will have a feast. I harvest some for today, and some for Christmas, not taking them all. It’s best to share. I weave them in and out of the ivy. It’s a happy combination of hedgerow and garden. Just perfect for a baby girl’s special day.

Each week I join Cathy for her IAVOM Meme. Luckily flowers don’t have to be in a vase to be included. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and harvesting for their flower arrangements this week. Let me know if you have ever made flowers for a special occasion like I have. It’s lucky when the garden and hedgerow provides such bounty, even in November.

Cathy : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway

Book Review

Kate Bradbury. Published by Bloomsbury Wildlife. Hardback £16.99

It’s been a difficult year. I’m only just getting over serious illness myself, and then three relatives have been ill. I’ve been stretched to the limits trying to help everyone. So when I picked up Kate Bradbury’s book, it seemed to have been written specially for me. There’s a message of hope on every page.

Kate’s struggling too. Some kind of crisis. A broken heart. She ends up homeless, sleeping on friends’ sofas. She has to leave London and make a new home in a damp dark, basement flat. Even worse, the garden is a dead place. Decked over and full of rubbish. And yet, Kate’s book is not a tale of woe. It’s about struggling and striving. But ultimately, there’s a message of hope. After pain and suffering there can be triumphs and happiness again. It’s a message I needed to hear. I made myself a reading corner in the greenhouse and tried to absorb the positive vibes. It’s not easy when you are in the middle of a crisis. Sometimes I’d read the same paragraph over and over again, without registering the words. Stress is such a debilitating thing.

Kate turns her decked-over garden into a wildlife paradise. She makes a pond, puts up bird boxes and revels in every creature that comes to live in her tiny plot. It’s not just a book about rescuing a garden, it’s about rescuing a person too. It’s about the resilience of the human spirit. We may be bowed down and almost defeated by life’s events, but we will triumph. Nature, wildlife and gardens are a balm. Wouldn’t you agree.

I particularly love Kate’s descriptions of making a bee hotel and building a pond. I learn that a pond doesn’t need to be more than 30cm deep to be of value to wildlife. I could manage that. There’s plenty of places where I could fit a pond. And her tales of rescuing bees. I’d heard about giving bees spoons of sugar. Kate talks about finding an exhausted bumblebee on the pavement. She pops it in her pocket to keep it warm while she walks home. I’d never thought of doing that. She puts the red-tailed bee in a box with a pop bottle lid full of sugar water. It’s too cold and wet for the bee to go outside, so Kate gently places some shredded paper in the box to make a cosy nest until the morning. Apparently, some bees can be helped by gently stroking their thorax. I looked it up. That’s the part of the body between the wings. I can have a go at that too, if needed. Kate gives me confidence to try. Next day, Kate releases the revived and now grumbling bee. She searches for a mahonia plant to give the bee the best chance of survival.

There are lots of hints and tips sprinkled through the book for anyone wanting to make a wildlife garden.

Regular readers will know that we planted a mini-wood when we moved here, and I grow flowers and plants for pollinators. Now I have a few more good ideas for helping wildlife in my garden. Kate’s inspiring book and joyful message was just the pick-me-up I needed, to be honest.

The publishers have kindly given one free book as a prize for readers of this blog. Usual rules apply. One name will be randomly selected in the prize draw. There’s no cash alternative. Publishers decision is final. Please leave a comment to be included in the draw. Sorry, UK entries only.

Late October Blooms

I love the way the garden provides a last-minute rush of colour. Late October flowers have such magic. A message of hope. Winter is on the way, but spring will return – and so will the flowers.

Today’s flowers are like jewels. They are as welcome as the intermittent bursts of sunshine. There’s little warmth in the sun’s rays, but these flowers light up any room.

Shining brightly in the middle of the posy is rudbeckia. I believe this variety is Goldsturm. A reliable plant that flowers on and off all summer and then puts on a show stopping display in October. Goldsturm is a perennial form with flowers growing to 60cm tall. I love its dark brown central cone which sets off the yellow flowers a treat. It’s great for pollinators too. In my garden, the flowers are covered in bees and hoverflies.

Another daisy flower I’m particularly fond of is the white argyranthemum. Sadly the name has been lost in the mists of time. Perhaps someone will read this and let me know what it’s called. It’s been growing here for 30 years, so I can attest to its longevity! The centre for the flower starts off greeny-yellow and fades to pure swan white. Flowers last for at least a fortnight in a vase. Such a good value, reliable plant.

Adding a shot of blue is this wonderful aster- now renamed tongue-twisting symphyotrichum. I think I’ll be sticking with the original name to be honest.

October roses are so precious. Of course, they are glorious in the heat of mid summer. But they really are a joy just as the weather turns cold and miserable. I appreciate the scent more now than in June. In summer I’m always rushing around, too busy to smell the roses. By October, I’m slowing down. I drink in the scent, knowing I’ve got to hold on to that memory right through the cold days ahead. I’m kind of winter-proofing myself. Looking for a floral armoury to protect me from winter.

This hybrid tea rose is called Special Occasion. It has a fruity scent and is easy to grow and disease resistant. It’s a rose I can highly recommend.

There’s two varieties of anemone in today’s posy. One is pink, possibly September Charm, and one white, Honerine Joubert. You need plenty of space to grow anemones. We divide them every three years to keep them compact. There’s always plenty of spare plants to give to friends.

Fuchsias and salvias provide a splash of pink, and there’s a few Blueboy cornflowers too. There hasn’t been a week when the cornflowers haven’t provided a few flowers. They’ve been fabulously prolific, despite the heat and drought.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my slide show of today’s flowers. As always, I’m joining Cathy for her In a Vase on Monday meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and putting in their vases this week.

And let me know what plants you are growing at the moment. Are you, like me, winter-proofing yourself in some way. The colours of my October flowers remind me of a stained glass window. Wouldn’t you agree.

Sunflowers for Joan

I’m glad I planted sunflowers on every spare inch of ground this summer. Somehow, I must have known we would need them.

When my mother-in-law Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years ago, I started a cut flower garden. Each week I’d run round picking twigs from shrubs and flowers from the patch, anything to give her an idea of what my garden looked like- and keep her connected to me.

In my heart, I knew that one day I would simply be, the girl who brings flowers.

Nothing could have prepared me for the heartbreak when that moment arrived. It was literally overnight. One minute, I was her Karen, married to her son for 30 years. Mum to her two granddaughters. With all our shared memories of the ups and downs of family life; illnesses overcome, failures commiserated, success celebrated. The pain and triumphs of ordinary family life. A life shared. And the next, I was just someone. Someone who brought flowers.

The sense of loss is overwhelming. I’m standing on their front doorstep, flowers in my hand, and she doesn’t really know who I am. I have to remind myself to breathe. I’m literally holding my breath, hoping I’m wrong.

I stay overnight – we’ve all been taking it it turns. I’m part of a large and very supportive family. Everyone has stepped in over the past few years to help out. No one could have done more. Next morning, I find Joan standing by my bed. “Tell me who you are, and who am I to you?” she asks. I try not to cry. It wouldn’t help. I say we’ll have tea and toast and over breakfast I’ll explain everything. I can’t face the task without a cup of tea. Simple things. One step at a time. We have a really lovely breakfast together. There’s hand embroidered table cloths and pretty china cups. Joan tells me she loves honey because her father kept bees at the bottom of the garden when she was little. I didn’t know that. She likes honey every day because it reminds her of him. After breakfast I get out the family photo album and explain who everyone is. She’s delighted to have such a large happy family. Joan was an only child and always wanted a big family. Her three children have produced five grandchildren and one great grandson. And she’s always been very close to all of them. And yet. On this day. She can’t remember any of them. Only her father who she says is upstairs. Did I know he was there, she asks? I gently explain he’s been dead a long time. Five minutes later, we are still taking about her Dad. I can’t face telling her again that he’s not here. Joan seems to be going back in time. A parallel universe. I’m going forward, she’s going back. Only when we talk about flowers are we in the same world. The sunflowers look so cheerful, she says. It’s the only thing we can both agree on.

The cruelty of the illness is that it is like a bereavement. I’ve “lost” someone who always backed me up. Someone I could always turn to for help and support. A recipe, a knitting pattern. A costume for my daughter when she came home from school and cheerfully announced she needed a reindeer outfit for the play- the next day. Joan had a brown zip up suit she’d made for her son when he was eight. She’s kept it safe, and could put her hand on it straight away. How I love her resourcefulness. Make do and mend. Help everyone if you can. Nothing wasted. A lesson in life for all of us.

Now Joan needs our help and support and love. And luckily there are a lot of us willing and able to give it. The family have been amazing. But this blog is just about my thoughts and feelings and how I face challenges in life. And so I only mention what I am doing. Their stories are their own to speak about. But I want to make clear that everyone has played their part and been unstinting in their help.

I’m not the kind of person to be defeated by anything. So I have a new challenge now. My cut flower bouquets will fill the window ledges of the care home Joan’s just moved to. She’s there with her wonderful husband of 65 years. There will be flowers for the dining room tables, and flowers for the reception hall. I’ve sowed hardy annual seeds. Larkspur, calendula, love-in-a-mist, cornflowers. And I’ve ordered my sunflower seed for next spring.

I read somewhere about living in the “now” and creating moments of joy. My beloved Joan has a life made up of lots of moments of joy. We are all helping her find reasons to smile. And who can fail to smile when they see a sunflower.

Thank you to Cathy and everyone from IAVOM who have supported me these last few years when I’ve posted my posies for Joan. And for all the kind messages these past few weeks. They have been much appreciated.

For more information look on the Alzheimers Society website Here

These sunflowers were grown from Mr Fothergills All Sorts Mix. Click on the link to see the varieties. Sown in March in a propagator. Pricked out in April and planted out the first week of June. They’ve been providing multi-headed flowers all summer long.

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.