Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End of Month View December 2014

I do hope that everyone linking in with Helen's End of Month View meme has had a very Merry Christmas and are now veering towards some sort of normality.  If you are one of those, unlike myself, that has bags of stamina and still celebrating - well done you!  Just Hogmanay to get over and done with now.  I'm beginning to feel my age now and am almost embarrassed to say that I don't quite celebrate New Year as I once did.  We Scots are renowned the world over for our, often excessive, exuberant New Year Celebrations.  So much so that it's only us Scots here in the UK that has January 2nd designated as a public holiday...hic!

November 2014 
Until today, we've had a constant frost for the last week or so.  Temperatures haven't dropped too much but they haven't risen either.  It's almost full circle in so far as this bed is concerned.  Work began on preparing the area this week last year.  It's been a quick year.  The border has come a long way and I look forward to seeing how it changes in the coming years.  Committing to this post at the end of each month has I think provided me with a great for reference point.

The bed at the end of November still had a very Autumnal feel too it, with the odd summer flower still remaining.  Most of the perennials were cut back at the beginning of the month and I managed a fair bit of weeding.  I am one of those gardeners that feels the need to cut back plants at this time of the year - the last man standing, so to speak is the Verbena bonariensis. I continue to hope that it will seed itself elsewhere,  success in having this plant set seed in the garden is something that has eluded me for the previous 4 years.  Will 2015 be any different I wonder.

End of Month View December 2014
Cornus cuttings
The blackbirds soon made short shrift of those bright orange Pyracantha berries on the back fence.  You can just make out the red stems of the Cornus.  They are kind of difficult to see against the dark brown of the fence.  Which is a shame because those stems really are beautiful when the sun hits them.  I was kindly sent some cutting material a few weeks ago for a yellow stemmed Cornus by Frances up there on Island Threads (thank you Frances) - this is one change I am definitely going to make.  They are currently tucked in under the Pyracantha where they can do what they need to do.  I've never tried Cornus cuttings before, so I am excited to see how they do.  I think the yellow will show up far better than the red against that fence. 

The fence and trellis are still rather bare but that's only to be expected so early on in scheme of things but the Photinia Red Robin I spent so much time being negative about at the beginning of the year has put on a good amount of growth as is already a foot or so above the height of the trellis.  Photinia fraseri Red Robin can be a rather fickle plant here in Scotland so it's best not to form too much of an attachment too it.  Philadelphus Belle Etoile is still holding tight to some of her foliage and I took the opportunity to lop out a few of the older stems.  I am hoping it will benefit the plant by giving it a better shape and those arching stems are not so dense looking next year.     

Other evergreen elements in this border are a Heuchera, Bergenia and Chionochloa.  They are 3 plants I like individually but am not convinced about them being placed together here.  The colours all work well together, they were exactly as I saw in my mind's eye but something is bugging me and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Chionochloa rubra, Bergenia Overture and unnamed Heuchera
The 3 specimens of Papaver orientale Patty's Plum that were planted back in March, promptly curled up their toes and disappeared - I feared I had lost them.  I'm pleased all three have reappeared, they were sizable specimens and were not cheap!  The Cardoon is also still adding a bit of structure, how this will fair when it thaws out is anyone guess, I suspect it will become a mound of mush.  In a normal year I would usually protect the crown of this plant with straw but last year was not normal and this year it's quite sizable and mature enough to cope with the elements.   

Frosty Oriental Poppy foliage
There is little else going on up there right now, the Crocus are of a good height and should be the first too bloom in spring, hopefully the Hellebores won't be far behind them.  I've also spied a little clump of snowdrops that has appeared at the back of this border.  Try as I might, I cannot recall moving any snowdrops up here.   

As the time focussed on this border draws to an end, my thoughts now turn to which part of the garden I want to showcase for 2015.  I have no projects in hand - everything I wanted to achieve in the garden this year has been accomplished.   A new project/opportunity will present itself, this I have no doubt.  The weather has not allowed those niggling ideas in my mind to develop to a full blown project.  On that basis, I have narrowed down two areas of the garden that are contenders for my post come January.  The front garden is currently my favoured area, closely followed by the shady bed I reshuffled in autumn.  We shall see what takes my fance come the end of January.

All that is left now is for me to thank Helen for being such a welcoming host and invite you to join us all in 2015.

Finally, I wanted to share with you the good news I am ending the year with.  I am to be a Grandma for the first time at the beginning of July.  We are excited to welcome a new member to our small family.  Since my brothers kids were all born overseas, it's been a long time since we've had a baby in our midst!  25 years to be precise.  I'm sure it's just like riding a bike.  As well as the baby too look forward to, there's the next 6 months of my eldest niece telling me that if I'm lucky she might move in to help with the baby sitting!  I'm not so sure a screaming baby and a hormonal 13 year old does it for me and luck just doesn't come into it.

All the very best when the New Year comes!  See you all next year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Wishes

Wishing you and yours
love peace and happiness this Christmas
may your dreams and gardens blossom in 2015

Friday, 19 December 2014

Wildlife in winter

During the winter months, as gardeners, we offer supplementary food and water for the birds visiting our gardens.  We provide boxes for birds to roost in during the colder months.  We leave log piles and compost heaps so hedgehogs have a secure spot to hibernate, along with mounds of leaves and other decaying matter which gives insects shelter and food at this time of the year.  A healthy garden has a wide range of wildlife, some good, some bad and some we are completely indifferent towards.  

It's often the creatures we don't regularly see at this time of the year that tend to be forgotten.  Here in the UK and I am sure it will be the same where ever in this world you are if you garden in a temperate climate , a few species of moths and butterflies will over winter as adults in the safety of our evergreen plants or even in our sheds and homes.  Evergreen trees, shrubs and plants are considered the backbone of the winter garden, providing interest and structure around the garden, however, to these Lepidopterans, they are vital for their survival.  So while you are out gathering greenery, hacking at the holly or infiltrating the Ivy - these evergreens, Ivy in particular - be vigilant and spare them a thought.   Your leafy table display - is their safety haven.

Species that overwinter, here in the UK, as dormant adults include the butterflies Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma and moths such as the Twenty-plume Moth, Red-green Carpet, Tissue, Sword-grass, Herald and Bloxworth Snout.  If you come across a dormant moth or butterfly, providing it is in a dry sheltered spot, please leave it where it is.

Adult peacock butterfly in my garden winter 2012

Aglais io (European Peacock Butterfly)
summer 2012

Monday, 15 December 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 2014

It's the final bloom day post of 2014 and it seems a couple of plants are ending the year exactly as the started it - in bloom.  The great year has in fact returned to a winter I am much more accustomed to. We are experiencing frosty conditions, thankfully nothing too bad and the lowest temperatures have been a warm -1°!  Snow has been falling and lying elsewhere but thus far, my garden has escaped it.

There really isn't a lot going on right now, which is a good thing, as I'm currently up to my armpits in cards, wrapping paper and sellotape.  I put down the scissors for a wee while and got myself out into the fresh air.

The witch hazel has been throwing out the odd bloom here and there since October but has finally started to get it's act in gear this month.  I love those copper-orange ribbons.  They are a real treat at this time of the year.  What Jelena lacks in autumn colour, more than makes up for in winter blooms.

Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena
The Mahonia on the other hand has been flowering profusely since the beginning of October.  The starlings have devoured all the berries that remained on the bottom half of the plant.  I've given up on ever getting the scent from this shrub.

Mahonia x media Charity
The third shrub still producing flowers this month is Viburnum tinus Eve Price - like the Hamamelis and Mahonia, started flowering back in October.  As you can see there are still loads more to come - it will be interesting to see how many months they can feature in Bloom Day Posts.  The record holder this year is the Persicaria that has featured in 5 of them.

Viburnum tinus Eve Prince

Lack of light makes photographing the blooms extremely difficult, particularly white flowers.  They seem to glare in what little light there is.  Mrs MacNamara is still in bud.  New to the garden last year, I'm pleased to see I am going to have 2 flowers this year.  Sitting beneath the berberis - the flower stems have a slight list.  Since she is one of the earliest to appear I wonder if the reason for this is the fact that the deciduous shrubs are still in leaf when it emerges and it reaches out for light at that time.  I need to look into this and perhaps find a spot that is a bit more open.  Thanks to Chloris over at The Blooming Garden, I've also discovered that this snowdrop, named after Dylan Thomas's mother in law is sometimes referred to as G. Milkwood.  I am not familiar with Dylan Thomas's work but know enough to recognise the Milkwood connection.  

Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara
I blinked and almost missed the first of the Hellebore to flower this winter.  A lesson I learned last year was that the hellebores with variegated/interesting foliage look much better in bloom with their leaves remaining (I used to cut them all back), I just couldn't help myself this afternoon - I cut the foliage away.  I hope I won't regret that!  I obviously missed some earlier flowers too.  

Helleborus x sterni White Beauty
Regular readers will know that no blog from my garden would be complete without the odd bloom out of season.  There is never a month goes by without something or other flowering when it shouldn't.  I kind of like the suspense of the days preceding bloom day to see what will be in bloom for each post. I also love the fact that like me, my plants don't read many gardening books, blooming when they feel fit rather than when the experts say they should.    

Roses flowering here in winter is a common sight.  In fact, going round the neighbours delivering Christmas cards earlier today, I spotted lots of folks with roses flowering right now.  Many of the roses in the front garden are abundant with buds, others with single buds - the race is on for roses to bloom in January.  Of course, that will all depend on Mother Nature - it's out of my control.

Roses blooming in the garden today are both climbers.  The race to the top of the Pergola has finally been won.  The Wedgewood Rose, blooms far from perfect, is a reminder of summer past.

Rosa The Wedgewood Rose (Ausjosiah)
 Doing exactly as it says on the tin - Rosa Warm Welcome - is exactly that!
Rosa Warm Welcome (Chewizz)
Whilst most of the hardy geraniums are long gone, the tiny vivid blooms of Bill Wallis are just not for giving up quite yet.  You can also just make out a few magenta pink blooms of Potentilla Ron Mcbeath in the background.

Also known as 'The Beacon' the brilliant red blooms, admittedly, not quite so brilliant nor red - Achillea Fanal sprawls out over onto the lawn in the front garden.

Achillia Fanal (syn. The Beacon) 
The last hazy reminder of summer is a plant that was moved from the back garden round to the front garden, where drainage there is better suited to it's needs, back at the end of summer.  Verbascum Clementine is listed as a short lived perennial, so whether or not it returns next year is anyone's guess really.

Verbascum Clementine
I purchased some Digitalis Milk Chocolate for the front garden at the beginning of autumn, which should, theoretically bloom next year.  It is presently giving me just a little taster of things to come.
When I say little, I truly mean little, the tiny flower stem is around 6 inches high and producing perfect blooms in miniature.

Digitalis parviflora Milk Chocolate
Well, that's my lot this December Bloom Day.  If you fancy more then please head over to May Dream Gardens where bloggers from around the world share what's blooming in their garden on the 15th of each month.

Monday, 1 December 2014

End of Month View November 2014

End of October 2014
Keeping his beady eye on me, Mr Blackbird, watches with interest as I interrupt his lunch break.  Without fail, at around 2 o'clock every afternoon he appears for his fill of Pyracantha berries.  Mrs Blackbird however, is quite elusive at the moment.  I've seen her no more than 4 or 5 times since they returned to the garden a couple of weeks ago.  Whether or not they are the same pair that visited last year is anyone's guess really - I like to think that they are and feel privileged that they have.  

End of November 2014
Bobby Blackbird

I donned the wellies and mowed the lawn last week.  It really did need it.   I could not bear to look at it anymore.  It was in parts very long and as I would expect at this time of the year, damp.  Thankfully the spot that gets shown for the End of Month's View is presentable - the shadier side, is having a bit of a bad hair week!  It will pick itself up, eventually!

I has surprised me at just how much green is left up here.  Both the Philadelphus and Cotinus have yet to drop their leaves.  Of the herbaceous perennials lingering, the Cardoon is by far looking rather confussed this November/December time.  Minus the autumn colours of Cotinus Golden Spirit to the rear, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a different time of the year. 

Caroon foliage end of November 2014
As per last month's post, plants still hanging onto some blooms are: Verbena bonariensis, Geum Bell Bank, Persicaria JS Caliente, Lupins and Rosa Warm Welcome.

Up on the top tier, I've put in a bit of a temporary path.   I had some redundant stone edgers lying around, which had been bought a few years ago for a long gone project, I've used these to create a narrow path up on which I can walk without getting too muddy.   Just how practical they will turn out to be is anyone's guess but for now, they are doing a job and make it far easier to navigate around up there.  The little dog leg of edgers off to the right provides something solid under foot for when I refill the log feeder. 


Both the Cotonoeasters that were planted to provide fence coverage are doing well and have put on a fair bit of growth in their first year.  The autumn colour on one is far more prominent that the other.  I will take a few years before they soften the fence but I'm pleased thus far.

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Persicaria, Chionochloa and Cotoneaster
I pointed out above that the Cotinus is holding on to it's leaves this winter.  Those gold/burnished gold tones really do stand out where ever you are in the garden.  Another that will only get better in time, me thinks!

Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit
Under the Pyracantha on the back fence, Crocus are well above the surface.  I'm sure we'll get a cold snap to stop them dead in their tracks before too long.  I had completely forgot that I had purchased a few pots of bulbs in bloom last spring - I checked back on one of my earlier posts and as well Crocus, there are some Iris here too, no signs of those yet though.

Crocus chrysanthus Romance

Before I pop over to The Patient Gardener's Weblog, too see what's going on in your garden, I thought you might like to see what I came across yesterday elsewhere in the garden.

Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara
I had been told that Mrs MacNamara was one that would flower early but I hadn't quite expected it this early.  Do you grow Galanthus elwesii Mrs MacNamara?  If so, is she early in your garden too?