A Bright Spot

While I’ve been waiting for the spring flowers to start opening there has been a very bright splash of colour indoors. These bold reddish-orange flowers belong to Clivia miniata, otherwise know as the ‘forest lily’ or ‘natal lily’.

The colour feels much more summery than the paler colours that are appearing with the spring flowers. Reds and oranges always make me think of hot summer days. I think my clivia is a rather darker shade and more red than most (judging by the pictures in Google search). Apparently they are more variable when raised from seed, but I have no idea if this one was. (It was given to me by another gardener. A fabulous gift!)

These flowers have been a cheerful and quite exotic sight. They have greeted me every time I went into the conservatory for the last couple of weeks. Now the flowers are starting to fade – I shall miss them until they return next year!

Clivia miniata (forest lily or natal lily)

Oh! You Pretty Things

The hellebores here were given to me from my neighbour’s garden. She knows that I photograph flowers, so she knew I would be delighted with them. A lovely gift, and one that kept me happy for a long while.

The top photograph is of a flower floating in a bowl of hellebores. I found that I preferred photographing the hellebore close-up, rather than trying to photograph the whole bowl of flowers. I think that’s partly due to the limitations of my bowl (not the most attractive) and partly because I find it much harder to create a pleasing composition from so many very varied flower heads.

It’s a lot more satisfying to me to arrange a smaller group of flower heads, especially if they are somehow related. That makes it easier to concentrate on the details of the flowers – even more so if I choose to photograph just a single flower.

I love seeing hellebores appear in early spring. They have a very exotic look which is not what I would really expect in a UK garden that is still shivering in chilly breezes. Both single and double flowers are utterly enchanting, but the doubles are just a bit more elaborate. I actually think the singles suit my garden better because of the fairly naturalistic planting here. However, I’m happy to create a slightly more formal looking area that should suit a few of the doubles – if I get a chance to buy some!

You may have noticed that I pinched my title from the David Bowie song. If you’d like to hear a very different version by Lisa Hannigan, it’s here. Enjoy!

White hellebore flowers

Hellebore Time!

This is a time of year that I really look forward to. The garden is beginning to waken from winter and the first flowers of the year are starting to open. These early flowers are an invitation to come outside and have a look around to see what new delights have appeared.

Amongst these, the hellebores are the flowers that demand attention first. After the tiny winter flowers of mahonia, Viburnum bodnantense and winter jasmine, their big, showy blooms bring an exotic feel to borders that have been starved of colour for a few months.

White and pink hellebore flowers

I find the variations in hellebore flowers fascinating. There are so many different flowers and new ones being bred all the time – all with beautiful colours and markings on the petals.

The flower forms can vary too. On this one the nectaries are very large and a deep red. (The nectaries are the tube-like shapes, arranged in a ring at the base of the petals. In fact, these nectaries are reckoned to have evolved from the hellebore’s original petals, while what we think of as the petals are actually sepals. The sepals last for far longer than petals can, meaning that hellebores have very long-lasting flowers.)

These are such pretty flowers (and good for early bees) that I would love to have lots more. Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive to buy, but occasionally I’m lucky enough to find one at a price that’s easier to afford. For the pleasure they give, they’re worth it!

White and pink hellebore flower

Roses for Love

As it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, it felt like a good excuse to show images of roses. They are a bit more colourful than most of the pictures I’ve posted over the last few weeks. Of course, the top rose is still in keeping with my recent wintry theme.

This rose (Zepherine Drouhin) had been caught by an early frost after managing a few flowers at the start of November a couple of years ago. There have been no frosty roses this year because our early winter was much milder.

I don’t have many roses in the garden, so I’m looking forward to being able to see and photograph some in the gardens I visit this year. (And I’ll enjoy having a sniff at them too!) Being already halfway through February makes it feel as if the days of summer, full of colour and scents and sunshine, are not so far away.

My roses here aren’t the traditional Valentine’s red, but I hope they’ll bring a smile. And I hope that you’ll enjoy a happy Valentine’s Day!

Rose 'Handel'
Climbing rose ‘Handel’

Last of the Frost?

Some more frosty pictures for today, but these were all taken a few weeks ago. It looks as if these may be the last frost pictures for this winter because the nights are not so cold now.

February has brought a feeling that, for us, the worst of winter is over. And I know how much I may be tempting fate with that statement! Here’s hoping we don’t get another ‘Beast from the East’ bringing especially wintry weather in the next month or two.

Frosted Campanula Seedheads
Frosted seedheads – probably from a campanula.

We haven’t had very much frost this year, although it has been cold enough on many nights to create a layer of ice on our half-finished pond. There’s been no snow either – in fact snow is starting to be a novelty whenever we do get any. Next time we get a really hard winter it will probably come as a shock, with us being unprepared to deal with it.

The last few days have given me the impression that spring is not so far away. I’m always glad to see the end of January, because I know that February is often mild enough to make working in the garden enjoyable again. There are the first signs of new life – early spring hellebore buds are appearing and there are tiny, tightly-curled new leaves on the honeysuckle.

Frosted Blackberry Leaves
Blackberry ‘Oregon Thornless’ leaves edged with frost.

Soon it will be time to get ready for spring. I’m never very organised when it comes to sowing seeds. Even so, I usually manage to grow something that will give me a new subject to photograph. More important this year, though, will be moving plants around and renovating borders in the garden. There’s plenty to look forward to, and hopefully lots of changes for the better through the year.

Frosted eryngium
The frosted seedheads of an eryngium.

Frosted Seed Heads: Wild Carrot

Back in September I wrote a post about the flowers and seed heads of wild carrot (Daucus carota). I was hoping that the seed heads would last long enough to be frosted when winter arrived. Luckily for me they did, so I had the chance to photograph them. (You can see my original post here: https://annmackay.blog/2021/09/19/going-to-seed-wild-carrot/ )

This wild carrot is a variety named ‘Dara’. It has white flowers that gradually turn a deep burgundy and are very lacy and delicate-looking. The seed heads are just as interesting as the flowers, especially when they curve inwards into a little ‘nest’ which protects the maturing seeds. By this time of the year most of the seeds have escaped (some with a fair bit of help from me) and may become the new plants for future years.

Meanwhile, the remains of the seed heads provide a great framework for frost. The top photograph was taken when the frost was particularly heavy, making it look as if the seed head had been dipped in sugar crystals.

This plant was in a position that is shaded from the early morning sun, so the frost lasts and allows time for photography. The cold lingers here, and the shade from the fence creates a bluish cast which makes it feel even chillier. (The bottom photograph is of a plant that is further from the fence, so frost there doesn’t last as long. It was also taken earlier in the winter, when there was a much lighter frost.)

I’m grateful for simple things like these frosted seed heads in winter, because they keep me supplied with something to photograph. They give me something to enjoy and to marvel at as I look at them closely…and something that is enough to get me outside on an icy winter morning!

Frosted seed head of Daucus carota

A Little Winter Colour

It always delights me that some flowers can tolerate rough weather to give us a bit of cheering colour at this time of year. Even if the frost eventually proves too much for the tiny flowers of this winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), there are lots of new buds which will soon open to continue the show.

These flowers are especially welcome when almost everything else seems dormant in the coldest days of winter. They encourage me to take a wander round the garden so that I can see them up close and enjoy their exuberant colour.

Unlike other jasmines, winter jasmine isn’t a twining plant. Instead it has very thin and floppy stems which can be easily trained against a fence or trellis. Or you can do what I’ve done – just allow it to weave its way through other shrubs for support. (That does get rather untidy!)

Although it’s said to be an excellent winter nectar-source, I haven’t yet seen bees on it. Perhaps there will be in early spring, as this shrub has a long flowering period. (From December or January right through into March.)

But whether the bees like it or not, I certainly do. These little flowers are brightening an otherwise dark area of the garden like a sprinkling of yellow stars. They bring some joyful colour to the garden as it waits for spring.

Winter jasmine flowers

Caught by the Frost: Frosted Flowers

The cold has returned and it feels more like winter after the very mild New Year. There has been more frost and the new pond has had a covering of ice. What a change from the previous days that were more like mid-autumn!

The frost has caught a few flowers in the garden. Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ (top photo) is a reliable flowerer for winter and often gets a little bit of icy decoration. The phildadelphus below is a summer-flowering shrub but somehow managed to produce the few flowers here. They make an unusual frosty image, but I wonder if the warming climate will make occasional winter flowers on this shrub more likely.

The unusually warm temperatures over the last few weeks must have been confusing for plants and for wildlife too. I’ve noticed the occasional bumblebee buzz past me while I’ve been working in the garden. It’s not unusual to see one or two out of hibernation on a sunny day. They seem to prefer the mahonia flowers to the viburnum, but maybe it depends on what the choice of flowers is, and what stage they’re at.

In any case, I think I should add some new plants to expand the choices for any bees active at this time of year. (Winter-flowering heathers, aconites, crocuses, hellebores and winter-flowering honeysuckle are all frequently recommended. As are willows, but I wouldn’t have room for one of those!) For now, I’m hoping that the bumblebees are safely tucked up and asleep – it’s cold out there!

Frosted Philadelphus flowers

A Christmassy Red for You

I hope that you are all enjoying a peaceful, healthy and very happy holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Covid has given us another difficult year but I hope that, despite it, you and yours have a time full of magic and joy.

I’d also like to thank you for reading my blog posts and for commenting and chatting here. Your company has brightened my days and the warmth of the blogging community has cheered me at a time when it is difficult to visit family and friends. It is a joy to interact with you!

The flowers here are Dipladenia ‘Rio’, a climber that I grow in our conservatory. The colour feels festive and Christmassy, so appropriate for this time of year. I hope that you are feeling festive too!

Dipladenia Rio