Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Great expectations

It has been unusual weather in the northern hemisphere for the last month, whilst parts of America is experiencing very cold temperatures, here in Britain we have had one winter storm after the other with relentless rain, wind and subsequent flooding. Info from the MetOffice shows that it was the windiest December on records since 1969, the warmest December since 1988 and the south and south-east, and also the far north were much wetter than average with over twice the average rainfall in some places. 8 people have died so far as a result of flooding and the bad weather. Whilst rain, wind and flooding have made havoc and disaster for many people up and down the country, my garden has survived well and not experienced any major damage so far.

My garden has a lot of evergreen plants and there are still plants in flower here and there. The mild weather has meant that there has not yet been any overnight frost and many spring plants have decided to get started early. We have another 3 months to go before we are completely free from risk of frost, but for every week that goes without frost the spring bulbs peek a little bit further out of ground looking for some bleak winter sunshine.

My patio area has a mix of pots and containers, this is the sunniest area so I try to stack as much as possible here at the moment. Many of these pots will end up in the flower beds later on in the summer, when the spring bulbs have gone and left an empty gap.

My nursery shelf is bursting, all the plants are doing well so far and nothing have died yet. This is my 15th winter here in London and many of them have been frost-free, I would not mind this one being yet another!

The tender trailing fuchsias I bought last spring are still very much alive, thanks to the mild weather – and still producing new flowers.

I also bought 10 tender geraniums last spring and expected them to die down last autumn. They haven’t died, in fact they are very much alive and are now producing new shoots. Will I be able to keep them through the winter outside?

My biggest purchase last year was the Magnolia soulangeana 'Heaven Scent', and when the leaves dropped about a month ago it revealed around 30 flower buds. Can’t wait to see the magnolia in flower for the first time – in about 3 or 4 months.

Last autumn I bought my first Daphne, this is Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' and I have wanted one for ages! They are quite expensive but I got this one for half price. It is evergreen, but has dropped almost all the leaves. Not sure why, but there are signs of new leaves developing so I hope it will recover again. I can’t wait for the flowers to open up, the scent is supposed to be intoxicating.

The daffodils are on their way, this is Narcissus 'Hawera'.

In December 2012 I bought a Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom', an evergreen clematis that flowers in February/March. This is a photo from May 2013 and it grew at an astonishing rate.

Just look at it now, one year later! Where should I let it grow now, if it will continue to grow that much each year?! This clematis was supposed to grow up a west or south facing wall, which I don’t have so I put it the only place I had available – a north facing wall, and hoped for the best.

It seems it is doing OK here, it is covered in buds and I can’t wait to see and smell the flowers in a month or two!

My giant teacups with Iris reticulata 'Harmony' and 'Pixie' are still doing well, the spikes of green are bringing hope of flowers in a month or so if this weather continues.

There are more Iris reticulata down on the ground in pots and they are also on their way up. The long ‘grass’ hanging over the pots is Iris hollandica, they started coming out of the ground in November but won’t flower until April or so.

Iris reticulate close-up.

And there are even a few Anemone Blanda out of the ground.

The first alliums are out of the ground.

And the hyacinths are on their way too.

More daffodils, this is a later variety, Narcissus 'Golden Ducat'.

And this is Narcissus Jonquilla.

There are crocuses peeping out of the ground everywhere, not long before these are in flower!

And even the tulips are on their way, Tulipa 'Albert Heijn'.

Most of the roses blew away over Christmas in the strong winds, but new buds are forming. This is 'Freedom'.

I normally cut my clematises down in February, but this year I have had to do it a month early as they are already forming new leaves. This is ‘Niobe’.

And my camellia is bursting with buds, mine is a late flowering and usually doesn’t flower until March or even later.

I bought Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' in February 2012, it came with a few buds and most of them fell off so all I got was one flower. Last year it didn’t flower at all it just grew and grew and by now it has tripled in size.

I am so pleased to see it covered in buds and it seems to be ready to flower in matter of weeks.

And finally, some snowdrops. They are spread in groups all over my garden but I have only had them for a couple of years so they still need time to multiply.

Soon they will all be in flower, can’t wait!

How has the winter weather affected your garden? Do you have spring like weather or arctic temperatures? It was 12 degrees C (53F) in my garden today and a brief let-up in the rain, but as I am sitting here tonight writing this, the rain is bucketing down again. Next week we are promised dryer weather, as in ‘not rain every day’ at least. Let’s hope so, I am fed up of watching my garden from my kitchen window while it rains, I just want to get out there. Until next time, take care.

44 comments:

  1. You have amazingly many buds on your new Magnolia, I am looking forward to see your first pictures. Also the Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' looks stunning. We also have no winter until now, but your garden has such a perfect micro-climate for not so hardy plants.

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    1. I can’t wait to see my new magnolia and clematis in bloom either – and to smell them both! I love scented flowers and try to choose plants with scent if I can. I have had many winters like this before but it is a few years since last time. Yesterday I had a bumble bee flying around me, it was too quick for me to get a good photo of it :-)

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  2. Great pictures from your micro-climate, although in the North West we are still not doing too badly, no terminal frost so far but I don't really like it as I would prefer a good positive ending to the gardening year. We now have many things in a state of limbo, the foliage of many perennials is "half dead" but not in a final state of decay, whilst the first of the bulbs are emerging. The reports from America are bad and following the old chestnut, we will have their weather next, maybe we will have some sort of closure and start a new year.
    All the best for the New Year.

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    1. I seem to have ‘roll-over’ seasons all the time, every year in my garden! I am waiting for February to bite back with a frosty period and hope it won’t be too bad, the long forecast for January is set to be much of the same as we have now.

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  3. Your garden is going to look wonderful come Spring, if not earlier. I do hope it doesn't get too cold. I can't get outside yet, the ground is absolutely saturated. Nice to see your Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' with buds. I have grown a couple from cuttings, but they are tiny. I will have to be patient.

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    1. My garden is pretty wet too, but I keep to my gravel path and can reach most things from there. I am more worried about everything in pots and containers, they are so water logged and I hope things won’t rot. I know Daphne is a slow grower so I will keep mine in the pot it came in for this year and grow it in a container on my patio for the next good few years until it gets to a good size. Hopefully it will not sulk too much when eventually planted in its permanent location, I know they don’t like their roots disturbed. Good luck with your cuttings!

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  4. Helene… I can't even imagine last frost three weeks off… we are in the throes of a very cold winter but the sun is brilliant most everyday… A happy and prosperous New Year to you … Larry

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    1. Larry, I have seen the weather reports from the US on the news, I hope you have a good layer of snow cover so all your plants and trees are surviving well. Stay warm and safe!

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  5. Hi Helene, great photography! It is amazing how much is going on in your garden already! I have seen photos of the Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' in full bloom, it is such wonderful plant. You are in for a treat soon, I am sure. I like that you have trained it to screen out your neighbors small building (shed?). I love all the little bulbs that are bravely pushing their heads through the soil. It must have been quite a bit of work to plant them all initially. I always look forward to seeing pictures of your garden, Helene, you have created such a lovely slice of heaven, just beautiful! Have a nice rest of the week! Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina, my ‘Apple Blossom’ is climbing up the wall to my neighbour’s new extension, and extra bathroom they have built and initially it was just a breeze block wall so I wanted to cover it, but then they decided to render it after all so now the wall looks much nicer, just grey concrete. I can’t wait to see the ‘Apple Blossom’ in full flower!
      I have planted bulbs every year the last 10 years, a few every year and will probably continue to do so – I just have to make sure I don’t dig up any when planting new ones and that’s getting increasingly difficult as my garden is pretty full already.
      Hope you have a great week too!

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  6. Great pictures and great garden! The buds and shoots look so fresh. I can imagine how beautiful your garden in the spring, full of flowers, so colorful. A wonderful place to visit.

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    1. Thanks Endah, springtime in my garden is definitely the best time and there is so much to look forward to right now :-)

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  7. We have actually had it drier than normal in terms of amount of rainfall. Our rivers are high due to run-ff from the Pennines rather than actual rain falling. We also haven't suffered too badly from storms, It has been mild though with next door still having pelargoniums in flower. The trouble is that where the met office collects statistics for our area are it places such as Emley Moor (very high ground) so the information doesn't reflect our weather. It seems lots of the flooding is made worse by lack of maintenance of flood protection, rivers and building on flood plains.

    You definitely have a lot going on it your garden - did you have any luck with birds finding your bird feeders?

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    1. I find the MetOffice’ statistic’s quite general too, and certainly doesn’t reflect what I see in my garden. Neither does the BBC weather forecast so I have learned to add a good few grades on whatever they forecast.

      I am afraid the birds have not come back yet, except for the pesky wood pigeons on my roof, which are permanent residents. I have removed the perching platforms on the feeders to stop the pigeons from eating the seeds, hoping that the smaller birds would come instead. I thought maybe the pigeons were scaring away the smaller birds last year. The pigeons have given up getting the seeds out of the feeders, it is too difficult for them so they are no longer flying down umpteen times to the feeders, perhaps that will help the smaller birds to come - eventually. I hope so.

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  8. We have unusual winter as well, Helene. All the days it's raining and this is endless rain. Only rhododendrons are pleased this weather, they didn't roll their leaves as usually and have a lot of buds. I'm sure yours will bloom greatly! Glad seeing your irises, narcissus, hyacinths! I wait for my tulips forcing results. The next months might be cooler than now as forecast says here.
    Have a nice weekend!

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    1. Hi Nadezda, yes I have heard on the news that the mild weather extends eastwards too, there isn’t much snow in southern Norway either and in Oslo there is no snow at all. The rain is very tiring, but the good days in between keeps me going. Have a great week-end!

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  9. Oh you're as impatient as I am. The slightest hint of sun or a break in the rain & I'm off, pottering. Impatient? Gardener-holics? Or just plain crazy?

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    1. I must admit I do suffer from a bit of cabin fever by now.
      I try to get out in the garden as soon as there is a let-up in the rain and I look forward to a bit calmer weather from now on.
      I think everyone should have a touch of craziness, it just ads to ones personality and I take it as a compliment if someone calls me a bit crazy :-)

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  10. Helene my heart soared as I saw what I consider here late March/early April bulbs bursting up through the soil....when and if we have enough melt to the soil level, I will take pictures of what is growing under that blanket of snow....amazing bulb growth to be sure and some daffs are several inches high as are my garlic.

    I am in the arctic cold and snow here. A warm up to 50 though on Saturday and some 40s then back to cold and snow.

    I adore those tea cups and the plastic spoons as markers. I will have to remember to use these and plastic knives.

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    1. Hi Donna, those teacups were a great find at 75% off (that’s why I bought so many!) and I can’t wait to see them full of flowers. I hope your spring bulbs are happy tucked in under the layer of snow, great to hear your weather will improve soon. There seems to be some improvements over here too soon :-)

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  11. The clematis is an impressive performer in your garden. I do hope all that tender new foliage will be safe in the weeks to come.

    We have had very cold and wet weather which will let up soon with a week or so of sunny days ahead. There have been some losses in the garden but mostly non-hardy plants which survived the previous mild winter much to my surprise.

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    1. It’s a long time until we are safe from frost, but when February is over I will breathe easier!
      Great to hear your freak weather is loosening its grip, enjoy the warmer sunny weather!

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  12. I really did not realize that London had frost-free winters sometimes! No wonder plants love it there so much. It is very cold here. Glad to see some of these signs of spring. I'm afraid it's a way off for us yet. I was especially thrilled to see pictures of your snowdrops. I planted a few - my first - last year. I'm hoping they come up and bloom. How fun to have spring blooms in January!

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    1. The snowdrops are relatively newcomers to my garden too, the first ones were planted as bulbs in autumn 2012 and the rest planted in the green last spring. I have 225 in total but that’s not many since they are so tiny – I could easily add another 500 to my garden without it becoming overcrowded. I think I will add some more this spring if I can afford it, some of the more unusual ones are very expensive and cost more per single snowdrop than 500 more common one cost!

      It is a few years since we have had frost free winters here in London, but some winters it just dips below freezing for a few days and then back to milder weather so it doesn’t really have much impact. The last 2-3 winters have been much colder though, with prolonged colder weather. We are due a mild winter!

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  13. My goodness, you do have a lot going on in your garden right now. There are so many signs of new plant life everywhere. That Clematis has done so very, very well. How wonderful. I can imaging how magnificent the Magnolia is going to look in bloom. Fingers crossed that the frost stays away for you.

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    1. I can’t wait to see the magnolia in flower for the first time, I have wanted a magnolia for more than 10 years but thought my garden was too small for one – well it is a bit too small but I managed to get hold of a single stem magnolia and I am growing it in a container for now so as long as it is happy where it is I don’t mind how tall it becomes, I have plenty of space upwards!

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  14. Crikey Helene - your spring is almost here! Long may the mild weather continue for you. I noted your comments re your clematis - a few of mine are doing similar and have been very wary of giving them a little snip.
    You must be so excited to see your Magnolia flowering for the first time - I always think that seeing a plant flowering in the garden for the first time makes it all the more special.
    You should be able to keep the C. armandii under control through pruning I believe. How I wish it was hardy enough to grow here. They are beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Angie, I am hoping for a continued mild winter – I think we are due one!
      I know the C. armandii can grow to some 30 m if left to its own device, obviously not possible in my garden so eventually I will have to do some pruning, but I thought I would let it grow to the corner on the left and a bit up the soil pipe before I get the secateurs out. I have to buy another trellis this spring so it has something to grow on before reaching the pipe.

      I can remember pruning my clematises early before, I don’t think they mind as long as they don’t get very prolonged frost, in which case you just have to chop off anything black and start again.
      I keep looking at the magnolia every time I go outside, wondering what it will look like in full flower and if I will be able to grow it in that container for years to come – I hope so!

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  15. It always amazes me just how many plants you manage to get into your small garden - lovely to see things slowly moving towards spring.

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    1. Thanks Elaine, I have just finished an order for more plants and bulbs for my garden – there are still room for more it seems!

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  16. Your Clematis is incredible, Helene. It does, indeed, look like the north-facing aspect is just fine for it! That Magnolia is going to be magnificent, and of course I will be envious of your Camellia, since we are too cold here to grow them (although I might have found an answer to how to do it here). So many spring bulbs emerging--that's wonderful! And Snowdrops blooming! Lucky you!

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    1. Hi Beth, I do feel lucky indeed, where my sister is living in Norway they are expecting night temp around minus 25 C and lower (-13F) the whole next week, that’s usually the standard for January but pretty cold to get up to go to work and school in the morning. After all these years in London I think I have forgotten how that feels. Certainly no spring bulbs emerging over there for many months!

      I suppose you could always grow dwarf camellias in containers, is that perhaps what you have in mind? Over here we use bubble wrap and straw for tender plants in containers to keep them through frosty times during the winter. I would love to see a camellia in your garden :-)

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  17. you are going to love that Daphne! I'm not normally a fan of scented plants but that one is delightful. Sweet but not overpowering.

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    1. Thanks Marguerite, I absolutely love scented plants and have wanted a Daphne for my collection for a long time.

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  18. I hadn't expected to see so much happening in a London garden at this time of year. I love those Iris-planted tea cups and the sight of all the bulbs poking their heads up. My own bulbs are getting ready to bloom as well but southern California is MUCH warmer - we're expected to be back up to 80F (27C) next week. It seems we're skipping winter entirely this year and sliding quickly toward summer.

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    1. I would love to live in a climate like southern California, my parents live in southern Spain and although it is quite cold there right now, just a bit warmer than here in London, it warms up very quickly once we get past February and they have summer again. Unfortunately, moving to Spain or California is not going to happen for me so I just have to get by with the London weather, which is not too bad after all – at least not so far this winter, but we have 2 more months to get through.

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  19. Hi Helene
    Your garden looks very promising. I love the blue cups with the white dots... can't wait to see them in flower. It's really a strange winter but weather forecast told us yesterday, that colder temperatures will come soon... poor plants. I hope ice and snow won't damage them too badly, as we had it two years ago. After winter 2012, I lost many rambler roses.
    Have a lovely sunday.
    Alex

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    1. The weather is turning colder, drier and calmer over here too, but I hope we won’t get a prolonged frost, as long as it keeps above freezing my garden and I are happy! I have actually never lost any plants to frost, only due to drought in the summer, despite having lots of plants that is quite tender.
      Have a great week!

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  20. Hi Helene - glad to hear that Britain's violent winter weather has left your garden relatively unscathed. How wonderful that some of the predicted die-backs, like the geranium, have continued to flourish and grow! I love the little bulbs already peeking out from the soil. Gives us Northerners hope :)

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    1. Hi Astrid, the weather here has been really bad for a long time, but a bit calmer for a few days now. Unfortunately it seems like the unsettled weather with wind and rain will be back again towards the end of this week so this was just a short break.

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  21. I love your teacups with the iris, so clever. I did see images of the awful weather you had, and the giant waves hitting England. That must have been a spectacular, yet scary sight.

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    1. Here in London we are relatively sheltered compared to on the coast, but we are not spared the floods and that’s what we are battling right now. I live in an area of London that is not at risk of flood from the rivers so I am lucky but large areas west of London is flooded from the Thames. Just as scary as big waves I think.

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  22. Wow, I can't believe how much greenery you still have. I'm already longing for spring to arrive here.

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    1. Many of the plants in my garden are evergreen so they will always stay green, I have chosen plants carefully so that I have a garden to enjoy all year round, even in January. But I can’t wait for spring to get started properly either, I have so many plans and things I want to do!

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