It is calm before the storm here in London today, literarily, as the weather forecast for the rest of the week is for strong winds and lots of rain. The West Country bears the brunt of the stormy weather as usual, and there are flood warnings for many places, but here in London we are normally spared winter floods. Today it was glorious winter sunshine and a great day for a bit of gardening, although a chilly biting wind gave warnings of what to come for the next few days.
On my usual stroll around the garden I always have my camera with me, recording what is flowering and what’s looking particularly nice at any given time. I have made my garden so that I have always something flowering, even in the darkest, coldest part of the winter, and a lot of my plants are evergreen, giving the garden a green dot here and there whilst waiting for shrubs to put leaves back on and herbaceous plants to come up again. And every now and then my garden gives me a nice and unexpected surprise…
I thought my fuchsia Bella Rosella had taken a break for the winter, but look here, she is still producing new flowers! This is my ballerina of the garden, with huge flowers sometimes the width of my palm even though the plant itself is only about 30 cm tall. She is one of my so-called annual (non-hardy) fuchsias, but has survived 6 winters so far, this one will hopefully be the 7th! I never dig up my fuchsias, and I don’t do anything special to protect them, I just make sure there is ample bark around the stems and that the bark is not too compact so that air can circulate. So far I have only lost a few that were growing in small containers, all fuchsias growing in the ground have survived and Bella Rosella lived in a large container the first few years and was happy there too.
And here was another surprise for me today; I found my chaenomeles in flower! It is a Chaenomeles superba 'Crimson and Gold' and it usually flowers in January or February, I can’t remember having seen it in flower as early as mid December before. Another result of the warm weather we have had this autumn I guess. This chaenomeles is squeezed in between a lot of other plants and should probably have been moved to a more spacious area years ago, but where to?? My garden is too small, or I have too many plants on my sunny side, whichever you choose, the problem remains; as the plants grow bigger and bigger, they outgrow their space. I have had to prune the chaenomeles quite hard every year to keep it within its space, but it seems to accept the pruning well.
The roses are still going too; this one is called Mildred Scheel according to the online company I bought it from, a beautiful tea rose, but nothing like the description according to what I have read on the Internet. It is supposed to be very fragrant, and mine have no scent at all! It is also described as ‘Intense dark crimson-red with almost black buds’ and this rose is not what I would call dark crimson. I have another rose called Crimson Cascade, a climber, and that rose would actually fit this description very well. However, it is a lovely rose, whatever the name is :-) This wouldn’t be the first time that online company have given me roses wrongly labelled; I got a freebee from them last year called Candy Stripe which looks nothing like the photo on their web-site, it is pure dark pink, and not fragrant as it was supposed to be. And I also got a rose a couple of years ago called Betty Uprichard, according to photos I have seen of it, it should be salmon, but mine is bright red – and again not fragrant as it should be. Oh well, freebees are great, but sometimes I plant according to a colour scheme, and then it does matter whether a plant produce red or salmon flowers! Betty Uprichard, or whatever she is called, ended up in my neighbour’s garden :-)
Before I ended my gardening stint today, I picked off some leaves from the Dregea sinensis on the arch. This beautiful plant, or plants, there are two, one on each end meeting in the middle, is a source of delight and frustration to me. I really love it when it is in flower, those highly scented flowers are wonderful and it looks beautiful in the spring and early summer. The Dregea has a white, sticky sap that itches if it gets on your skin, stains your clothes and is nearly impossible to get out of your hair. Pick one leaf off it or break a branch and you have a dripping tap of that sap! That means that the only time this plant can be pruned is in January-February, when the sap is at its lowest level, and even then I have to protect myself with hat, gloves and an old coat, as it will still drip sap everywhere. And pruning it needs! Every winter I think I have pruned it too much, and every August-September I think I should have pruned it harder....This year the Dregea got so big the arch was almost like a tunnel so I have decided that next pruning is going to be a really radical one. I am cutting it down to ground apart from keeping only two lianas on each side. Hopefully that will keep it more in check come next summer!
But back to today’s careful leaf picking; being deciduous, all those leaves end up on the ground eventually, blowing around the garden which means I will have to go and pick them up of course. So I decided to try and tease off some of the leaves still hanging on as they were almost dead anyway. I started on the left side, but when I came round to the right side, the leaves where still too alive, and I ended up with sap everywhere and had to give up. But on my quest to save me some back breaking work for later, I discovered that the Dregea had produced many more seed pods this year than I have ever seen before. The pods are usually covered by the leaves until this time of year and can’t easily be seen, so it’s not until now I have been able to see how many there were. I counted 19 pods today, but there might be more between the remaining leaves. None of the seed pods has cracked open, so I don’t think the seeds will be possible to sow, another result of the weird summer we have had; really hot in the spring, cold in the summer and hot again in the autumn. But the pods are still clinging on so I will leave them for now and see what happens. I have had viable seeds before which I have sown and grown to plants I have given away; I haven’t got room for another one of these monsters in my own garden, beautiful as they are!
So that was my trip around my tiny garden today, and as you have seen, even in December in London, there are plenty of flowers to enjoy! Until next time, take care :-)