The garden and surrounding countryside have suddenly been cloaked in ice crystals this week. Due to a third national lockdown our single track lane is free of cars and most people are keeping warm indoors by their house fires.
It is all really rather beautiful and looks as if an ice wand has been waved across the trees and put the whole garden to sleep. Here are my Six on Saturday for this week which try and capture the feeling of the moment.
Happy New Year everyone!
This post is a contribution to the Six on Saturday meme which is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other garden lovers are enjoying this weekend.
My wife Carol has grown some fantastic Hostas again this year. However over the years we have lost the labels and as part of this week’s Six on Saturday we would love to have some help in putting some names to some of the varieties. Number One is the very large variety in the featured picture above and number Four I think is a lovely variety called ‘June’. Hope you can help!
Well what a few weeks of stunning spring weather we have had here in the United Kingdom. The blossom and flowering shrubs are looking spectacular, untouched by frosts or rain. Fingers crossed, we should have a good crop of pears and cherries this year as it has been warm and sunny and the bees have been flying.
I have really been spoilt for choice this week with so much coming into bloom but I have decided to concentrate on the blossom and flowering shrubs.
This shrub is certainly the star when it comes to fragrance at the moment. Its large round heads of flowers have a wonderful scent that just hangs in the air. This mature shrub is around 7-8 feet in height now and is situated nicely by the path where we walk regularly from the house to the garden. A perfect position.
I am not sure of the variety of this red leaved crab apple but it is performing extremely well this year. We planted this small flowering tree in memory of our much loved German Shepherd ‘Fern’ and it brings her back into mind when it flowers each year. It has sumptuous rich red flowers that contrast well with the white blossom of the wild cherry tree behind.
This white broom is one of a number out in flower at the moment. It is probably the Cytisus x praecox Albus but the label is now long gone. For us this white flowered variety has a much more pleasant scent than the yellow varieties which can be a bit of an acquired taste.
Broom can tolerate quite poor soil and as a member of the pea family will also fix its own nitrogen. Its green stems allow it to continue to photosynthesize during the winter months if the weather is mild.
We have three pear trees around the garden, a Doyenné du Comice, a Conference pear and an interesting cooking pear called Winter Nellis (excellent for Delia’s Spiced Pickled Pears at Christmas). Along with the Cherry blossom the pears really bring the orchard to life. The earliest orchard tree to bloom is the apricot followed by the plums, cherries and pears. Very soon the orchard will shift from white to pink as the quince and apple blossom emerge.
A couple of weeks ago I was praising the rich bronze foliage of a very different Spirea, Spirea japonica. This week it is the turn of Spirea arguta. This is a very reliable and easy maintence shrub that grows to about 5 feet in our garden. At this time of year it is covered with small white flowers that make it look as if it has a dusting of snow. In a week or two there will be a nice succession as S.arguta is replaced by S. nipponica.
Last but not least I must highlight the blossom of the sweet eating cherries in the orchard. I love these trees although to be fair the birds do seem to get far more of the large ripe cherries than I do. Perhaps this year will be my year!
Clematis armandii is the first Clematis of the year to flower in our garden here at Waverley. It is a vigorous evergreen clematis and a born survivor. The Eucalytus tree that is was originally planted against has long since gone but this plant has spread its wings and now grows through a number of close by Pittosporum shrubs. The contrast with this variegated Pittosporum is particularly pleasing I think.
Introduced from China in 1900¹ it is now a well known and very reliable and hardy clematis. It has large, thick, dark green glossy trifoliate leaves. The white flowers have four sepals and are about 2 inches across with creamy white stamens with a hint of green. What is particularly lovely at this time of year is that they have a vanilla scent.
These pictures were taken on 14th March this year and the plant is in full bloom. Last year (2019) however it was flowering around 29th March so I think we are at least a couple of weeks ahead this year. The reference books also indicate that it normally flowers in April and May.
Over the years we have collected many species and varieties of Clematis and they give us pleasure throughout the year. Some of the other plants were highlighted in a clematis feature that I posted last year.
¹ “A comprehensive guide to clematis” by Barry Fretwell (ISBN 0 00 414017 6)
Despite the rather dank and grey days here at the end of November, Carol has still managed to bring together flowers and foliage from the garden to brighten up the house.
In this arrangement we have six for Saturday; two varieties of autumn flowering chrysanthemums (purchased from Sarah Raven but varieties now unknown), the rose ‘Simply the Best’ which is still throwing out new blooms despite the cold, the Viburnum bodnantense which just started to flower and will flower in the garden throughout the coldest days of the winter, the yellow autumn foliage of the Hornbeam and finally the deep purple leaves of Cotinus coggygria.
Although very pretty and a wonderful winter scent in the garden, we must admit that the fragrance of Viburnum bodnantense has proved rather over powering inside the house and is perhaps best left in the garden!
Today has been one of those rather frustrating days in the garden. One minute the sun is shining and you get all enthusiastic about planting a few more of those tulips you couldn’t resist only to find that as soon as you get out there the heavens open.
In those moments when the shine is shining however the autumn colours really sing. Across the countryside here in Warwickshire the leaves seem to have remained on the trees this year and the colours are really lovely.
Here is a selection of the autumn colours we are enjoying in the garden at the moment.
One: The walk up the ‘old’ rose garden contrasts the changing red shades of the purple leaved Cotinus coggygria, Prunus and Viburnum with the yellow of the hornbeam hedge and the distant yellow of the silver birch.
Two: This green leaved Smoke Bush at the top of the cutting garden provides a sumptuous autumn display of colour.
Three: In the woodland walk these small field maple trees provide a golden glow in the sunshine.
Four: Another purple leaved Cotinus this time in the patio bed contrasting with the still green Wisteria and grey leaved Santolina chamaecyparissus.
Five: Although a seriously spiky plant when cutting the grass this Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea offers excellent purple foliage all year and is well worth its place in the shrub bed. At this time of year the foliage develop a range of orange hues.
Six: It is of course not just about the leaves at this time of year. Many of the cotoneaster bushes, sorbus, roses and blackthorn are full of berries and hips. This tall Pyracantha is in its prime at the moment and providing a feast for the birds.
The recent warm and wet conditions here in Warwickshire have created a rich, lush feel to many parts of the garden. The hostas in particular are looking wonderful at the moment.
Originating from China, Japan, the Korean peninsula and the Russian far east¹, these shade tolerant plants are often grown for their foliage alone although they do have attractive flowers later in the year. Interestingly, hostas are often grown as a vegetable in their native lands although I have not tried them myself (yet!).
I can take very little credit for these hostas. My wife Carol has certainly got the knack of growing these and keeping them looking wonderful from year to year. Managing the slug and snail population is always a challenge but we find that copper tape around the pots is particularly successful.
Every spring when the hostas begin to shoot we take a selection of the plants in pots, divide them and refresh the compost. Any spare divisions are planted out in the flower garden.
Here are my six for this week.
Many of our hostas have been acquired or gifted to us over the years and we have lost track of most of the names unfortunately. However they don’t need name tags to be treasured. If you know any of the names please do let us know through the comments.
Toxicity: Edible (although toxic to dogs, cats and horses)¹
Honey Pot Flowersare wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.
Despite the rather cold, grey days of the last week the garden is beginning to green up nicely with fresh leaves and shoots. The different textures and shapes are fascinating in themselves. Here are six to demonstrate the rich variety.
Looking out across the garden in the autumn sunshine on this November morning it is the Cotoneasters and Pyracantha that are some of the star plants of the moment. Their red and orange berries give a spark of colour to the yellow autumn hues of the hedgerow trees.
Perhaps rather over used in municipal planting, especially Cotoneaster, there are many interesting cultivars and species to choose from both to add interest in the garden and for use in floral arrangements.
For an added bonus these shrubs bring the garden wildlife right up to the house windows. It is such a pleasure watching the birds feeding on the Pyracantha. This morning in just a few minutes we saw a pair of the most beautiful Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) in their red plumage, a Dunnock (Prunella modularis) and a Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) all feeding together. Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) are also regular visitors whilst the Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) shelter on the branches whilst busily feeding on the insects on the window panes and under the roof tiles.
Varieties in the garden at Waverley
We are not entirely sure of the species and varieties we have here at Honey Pot Flowers so please feel free to comment if you think we have got the identification wrong.
Cotoneaster Cornubia (Cotoneaster X watereri ‘Cornubia’)
This is quite a large fast growing shrub with dramatic arching branches and long willow like leaves. It has large showy clusters of red berries that stay on the plant much later than the ‘wild’ types of Cotoneaster that we have around the garden. It is semi-evergreen and has glossy dark green lanceolate shaped leaves which are clean and free from disease.
Very similar in habit to Cornubia but has creamy-yellow berries. It is semi-evergreen in our garden with a lovely arching habit. The berries hold well.
Related to the Cotoneasters, these plants come in a wide range of colours and the name of our variety is lost in the mists of time. Ours has orange/red berries and masses of white flowers in early June. By pure luck we have a dog rose climbing up amongst it and the pretty pink flowers of the rose complement the Pyracantha flowers wonderfully. It is a big plant and needs regular cutting back (probably more cutting back than we actually get around to) but it has vicious spikes and needs carefully handling. It is not something that you can put through the shredder and spread on the flower beds as mulch as the thorns remain and get in the dogs’ feet.
Cotonesters are very useful as foliage throughout the year and can add that additional Christmas feel in November and December. Their long arching habit and well behaved upward facing foliage make them extremely useful in large floral arrangements for large table centrepieces, door wreaths, church archways and pedestal arrangements.
Ideally the stems should be cut fresh in the morning. You should slit the stem (about 1 inch) before conditioning for 24-48 hours in clean fresh water with flower food if you have it. Slitting the stem helps the water uptake. Even if the stem tips drop at first they will soon perk up over a 24 hour period. Refresh the water every 24 hours if you are not using immediately.
Unlike Pyracantha and Berberis, which are very spikey and need to have the spines removed before using, Cotoneaster stems are thornless and therefore much less time consuming (and painful) to work with.
If you want to get to the berries before the birds you can pick them and keep them in water for a good few weeks in a cool place. Remember to keep changing the water every few days.
Origin: According to Wikipedia Pyrancantha coccinae ranges from North Eastern Spain to Northern Iran whilst the Cotoneasters originate from areas across temperate Asia, Europe and North Africa.
Hardiness: According to the RHS, Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ and Pyracantha are graded as H6 (Hardy in all of UK and northern europe -20 °C to -15 °C)
We have always had great success in propagating Cotoneasters by taking hardwood cutting in the Autumn. Take about a 9 inch cutting (about a pencil thinkness) from mature wood, cutting cleanly just above a node at the top and just below a node at the bottom. Cut the stem at an angle at the top to help you remember which way up the cutting needs to be planted.
Put the cutting(s) the right way up either into a nursery bed in the ground or into a deep pot filled with a well drained, loam based compost (the deep rose flowerpots are ideal for this). You can put a number of cuttings into a single pot. The cuttings should be at least two-thirds of their length under the soil.
Water in well and place them outside where you can look after them. They will stay in the pot or ground for about 12 months before you pot them on. Just let them grow leaves and roots during the summer, watering as necessary, and then pot up in the autumn into individual pots or if the roots are big enough into the garden.
Offer any spare ones to your friends! You will have many more than you need.
Pruning in the right way at the right time is critical to maintaining the flowers and ultimately the berries.
With Pyracantha the flowers (and subsequently the berries) are formed on short spur growths on the previous year’s growth. Any new growth in mid to late summer will need to be left to mature in order to produce the next seasons flowers and berries.
With Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ it is the open branching structure that is so attractive and it is probably best to avoid pruning excessively other than to remove wayward or damaged branches that look out of place. If you want to reduce the size or thin out the tree we typically use the ‘one-third’ technique on many shrubs. Each year you remove one-third of the older stems leaving the majority intact. The next year you remove another one-third of the old stems (leaving any new ones) and the same again in the third year. In this way you slow reduce the size of the shrub each year but it will still flower and look good in the garden.
We haven’t managed to capture footage of the male bullfinch yet but here are a couple of clips of a female Bullfinch and Redwing enjoying the Pyracantha berries in mid-November.
RHS “Pruning” by Christopher Bricknell (ISBN 1-85732-902-3)