Wishing You a Happy Christmas

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Christmas already! It feels as if it has sneaked up on me very quickly again this year. As usual, I’ve been on the lookout for a photograph of a suitably frosty ‘decoration’ from the garden for this post.

Luckily, our recent frost and snow, which lasted for several days, was a great opportunity to spend time in the garden with my camera. There are always some seed heads left in the garden and these look good when they’re heavily coated with frost. The seed head you see here is on a bronze fennel. It’s the same plant that I used for the photo of a seed head with water drops (from melted frost) in this post. (The photographs in that post were taken in a previous winter.)

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a time of happiness, and a time to get together with the people you love. I hope that it will be a chance to enjoy being with family and friends. Merry Christmas everyone! 🙂

It’s Cold Out There!

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

We are definitely in the cold, dark depths of winter here, brrr! I think the drawn-out and very mild autumn had lulled me into a false sense of security and/or warmth because the freezing temperatures feel like quite a shock. But grey clouds are said to have silver linings, and frosty mornings mean opportunities for photography.

I initially wrote that frosty mornings have a sparkle, but that’s not necessarily true. If there is sun, as in the top picture of a pink-flowered salvia, it makes the image much more appealing. The tiny flowers are just enough to give a translucent gleam of crimson.

Frosted Astrantia flowers
Astrantia flowers are usually long gone by winter.

The two following images, were, by contrast, in deep shade. They have a much colder and more subtle feel, lacking the drama of strong colour and sun. At the same time, there is more detail in the frost than if the flower was beginning to warm in the weak sunshine. (Any bit of sun soon softens and melts the frost, so in brighter areas I have to work much more quickly.)

Astrantia (above) wouldn’t normally be in flower at this time of year and this late flower was a surprise. The Japanese anemone (below) would normally have finished flowering some time ago too (usually October). Maybe the late flowers were a result of the warmer than normal autumn. In any case, they were a chance to take frosty flower photographs that I wouldn’t normally get.

Frosted Anemone
This anemone flowered very late and paid a very chilly price!

Sadly, the frozen flowers will be destroyed by the frost. They’ll be like limp brown rags when they eventually thaw. I can’t complain though, because in these cooler, shady areas, the frost has lasted several days without lifting, giving me plenty of time to photograph these flowers.

The winter-flowering clematis that I posted photographs of recently has frozen too. Although I would expect the opened flowers to be badly damaged by the frost, I hope that the still-unopened buds will survive. With luck and milder temperatures soon, there may be more of these pink bells to come. I certainly hope so!

Frosted clematis flowers
The winter-flowering clematis is now a frozen clematis!

Winter Scent: Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Dawn’

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Last week I photographed a winter-flowering clematis growing up a shrub that flowers at the same time. This week I thought I’d show you what the flowers of that shrub (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’) look like.

As you can see, the flowers are small and not exactly spectacular. They do however, look very pretty on the bare branches of the shrub and provide some good colour on a winter’s day. After frost or snow some of the older flowers will be browned and dying, but the newly-opened flowers and buds keep going and can last over a long period.

One of the main reasons I planted this viburnum wasn’t for the flowers, but for the scent. I’d come across it in a park in winter and had been entranced by its sweet fragrance. For the first years with my own one, I’d been disappointed by an apparent lack of scent. (But I don’t have a particularly strong sense of smell, so I thought I could be at fault.) I wondered whether individual shrubs could vary in the amount of scent they produced.

This year I was very pleased to find that my viburnum does indeed produce scent. At the moment it has far more flowers than ever before, so their sweetness has been noticeable in the air. Getting up close to the viburnum while I photographed the clematis in its branches was a very pleasant experience. There are some delightful benefits to spending time in a cold winter garden!

Winter Clematis: Lansdowne Gem

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

The weather has made the garden feel distinctly unappealing for most of this week. It has been grey and damp and dark far too early in the day for me to spend much time outside. But I did make a point of going out to look at the flowers of Clematis cirrhosa ‘Lansdowne Gem’.

Unlike the other clematis in the garden, this one flowers during winter. The flowers are a deep wine-red, but in order to see the colour you need to be standing underneath the bell-like flowers. (The outside of the flower is a drab greyish-white.) I’ve chosen to grow this clematis up through the winter-flowering Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ which has pink flowers at the same time.

The flowers are not all a solid red. Some are quite speckled, especially around the edges of the petals. I was intrigued to notice that one flower was especially spotty (below), making it look very like the flowers of the related variety ‘Freckles’. And seeing how pretty it is, I’m now tempted to look for somewhere that I could grow ‘Freckles’ too.

Having flowers in the garden in winter is something of a treat. It’s also great for any bees that are around at this time. That makes me very interested in growing other winter-flowering clematis.

These clematis come from Mediterranean areas and go dormant in summer. That means they are more likely to survive drought in my hot Suffolk garden than the summer-flowering types. (I’ve lost a few of those through planting them in unsuitably dry places!) These clematis are not so hardy, though, so I’m hoping we won’t get a ‘Beast from the East’ this year.

Clematis cirrhosa 'Lansdowne Gem'

LEFT: The clematis flowers trail through this shrub’s branches like rows of bells.

RIGHT: One of the flowers of ‘Landsdowne Gem’ was spotty rather than the usual almost solid red.