Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas from my London Garden

Thank you to all of you who has been following me on Facebook and Instagram through my blogging break, I am better now and have been able to do some pottering around the garden the last couple of weeks. The weather has been unusually dry for the time of year and last week I actually had the garden hose out and watered the whole garden – in December! I can’t remember ever doing that before, but it was necessary, we haven’t had any substantial rain yet and the few times it has rained it hasn’t mounted to much. Even Wednesday this week, when the whole country was promised buckets of rain....what did we get here in London? Some measly drizzle for a couple of hours. As I am writing this, UK is bracing itself for storm Barbara and we were supposed to get 6 hours of rain this evening. We did get some rain and it was heavy for a short time, but it just barely covered the bottom of a tray I left out to catch rain water. Here in the quiet corner of the South East we are mostly spared the winter storms and a lot of the rain, I know there are other parts of UK that has had more rain than they would wish for lately so sometimes it would have been nice if we could share it a bit more evenly between us :-)

The dry summer and autumn has meant that the trees have shed all their leaves very quickly this autumn, the whole thing was over in a few short weeks. I don’t mind, it makes life easier when clearing up the leaves, last year I was sweeping up leaves until February.

The garden looks so open and empty with many of the herbaceous plants gone away for the winter.

I have started pruning the roses and slowly clearing the beds for leaves at the same time.

It is a bit sad to cut down the roses when they still have buds and flowers, but it is a job that has to be done and it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time when they all are sprouting new leaves. This bed is ready to get some of my many potted plants waiting to get in the ground. Not sure yet what will end up here but as it is a fairly sunny bed I have lots to choose from!

The last couple of weeks I have mainly been sitting on my gardening stool picking up leaves from the flower beds. This large gardening caddy is the best tool I have in the garden beside my trusty stool and I can’t manage without either of them.

Fortunately green waste is picked up for free by the council and all I need to do is send them an online request and they come and pick up the bags within the next 2 working days. The council compost the waste and use it around the borough – I think it is a great arrangement since I couldn’t possibly compost all the garden waste I produce myself anyway, and at least it doesn’t just go to landfill.

I have lots more leaves to pick up and many more roses to prune – I just couldn’t cut off all these David Austin roses so I pruned half and left the branches with flowers on for now. I will get back to these when they are finished flowering.

It might seem a luxury to have roses in December but I always have at least some roses flowering for Christmas every year.

This is David Austin’s ‘Wildeve’.

And this is ‘Scepter’d Isle’ – and both David Austin roses are much darker pink during the winter than the rest of the year, a feature I really appreciate, it’s almost like different types of roses than the pale pink I get in the summer.

Here is a photo I posted on Facebook the first week of December, for all of you who haven’t seen it - it is the last of the strawberries and the first of the snowdrops. Gardening in London is a joy :-)

And here are the same snowdrops 3 weeks later, photo taken yesterday, only days away from flowering.

We have had a mix of very gloomy weather with a lot of fog – and days of glorious sunshine. This is the view from the corner of my front garden and what I see from my bedroom window.

Penstemon Pensham 'Amelia Jayne' is always flowering long into winter.

Out here in the front garden there has been all-change since my last post. A couple of frost nights where the temperature dipped just below freezing did away with all my bedding plants including all the tall cosmos still with lots of flowers and buds. So that meant out with the summer flowers and in with the winter plants.

I have planted pansies, primulas and cineraria in the window boxes and some of the containers.

They will go on flowering until early summer and brighten up the front garden.

The magnolia seems to be doing well here in the side of the front garden. It was planted in February and I am sure it was happy to finally get its roots in the ground after having lived all its life in a container and survived moving house last year. I have counted over 40 buds so if the weather is not too rough in March it should be the best magnolia flowering I have had so far.

Out here in the front garden I have some very neglected pelargoniums – they haven’t been fed since last spring and have hardly had any water being half under the porch – but they still flower!

The flowers of ‘Appleblossom’ are just lovely. Such a treat to have flowers like this for Christmas.

Even more treat is it to have raspberries! This is one of the two raspberry plants I bought almost a year ago which didn’t flower last summer. I thought perhaps the canes needed another year, but this one was a bit too impatient so decided to get started now, in December. It looks like the berries are ripening too so I might get a taste, if I can get them before the squirrels or birds eat them!

In the Woodland Garden most things are gearing up for spring and plants and bulbs are peeping out of ground everywhere.

Last year I had lots of mushrooms here in the Woodland Bed, this year it has been so dry and not really good conditions for them, I have found one though – and funnily enough – it is growing right next to the group of ceramic toadstools. Almost like it knew where it belongs!

Camellia ‘Winter’s Snowman’ has grown to double size since I bought it as a cutting 18 months ago. I wonder if it will double in size every 18 months?? The flowers are pure white and gorgeous.

I have a winter jasmine in a pot with no permanent home yet. These plants grow to monster size eventually and needs serious hacking back every year – I bought it just when I moved in here in a rather foolish belief that I had ample space for lots of new plants. Hah! I struggle with squeezing in the plants I already have, even with a bigger garden than I used to have. Same old problem :-)

Let me show you the beautyberries I was fretting about last year when I didn’t know if this bush was self-fertile or not. The berries look even lovelier now when the leaves have gone – and of course the matching coloured fence helps too!

Here is another beauty against my plum-coloured fence; Malva sylvestris 'Mystic Merlin'. I can’t believe it is still in flower, it is supposed to flower until September, die down for the winter and come back next spring. I don’t think my plant has read the instructions....

Among the more or less showy flowers in my garden there is some really beautiful foliage. To the left is Rhododendron 'Princess Anne' – evergreen with green foliage that turns bronze in the winter and then green again in the spring. Amazing! And to the right is Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' which has lovely, pale yellow flowers in the spring, green foliage most of the year except in the winter when it is burgundy-bronze. Epimedium is semi-evergreen in my garden and I cut it down only when new foliage appears.

My garden bench is as usual being used as waiting room for plants in need of care and attention. Right now it’s rather crowded here both on and under the bench, and some plants are a bit unruly and not good at keeping their place in the queue. That’s not helped by squirrels playing about thinking that everything I place here is especially served for them! Not that it matters much where I put things, everything growing in a pot or a container seems to be in danger of a squirrel attack.

But most of the time we live in harmony, birds, critters small and large – and me. And sometimes we are treated to some lovely sunsets. I have posted some of these on Facebook and Instagram, but for those of you who don’t follow me there – here are a couple.

These are all from December and taken from my garden.

The moon, seen from my front garden.

And finally – as it is Christmas I am rounding up with some photos of this year’s Christmas decoration. This is my Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ with battery fairy lights. It is a lovely, container grown evergreen bush now in its 12th year and perfect as a small outdoor living Christmas tree. In my bedroom window you can see the Christmas star so typical for Norwegian Christmas decoration.

Indoors I am opting for a much more practical artificial tree - I had never even seen one before moving to Britain but over here they are the most commonly used Christmas trees so I am having one too. I do miss the smell of a real Christmas tree though!

The candle bridge is typical Norwegian Christmas decoration but thanks to Ikea it now seems like every other home has one here in Britain. It is the very first piece of decoration that comes out of storage in my house together with the Christmas star - on the 1st day of advent. The Christmas tree and the rest of the decoration are usually saved until a week before Christmas. The funny looking stones in the foreground is my first attempt to grow Living Stones – Lithops. They seem very happy so far and have grown since I got them in September. They need absolutely no water between September and May. I have to really be careful when I water the plants here so I don’t give these a splash without thinking – they really need NOTHING and could rot and even burst if they are watered. It will be fun to see if they all grow a new ‘stone’ next spring!

My Christmas tree decoration is plum and gold, nothing over the top really.

And the traditional tree topper seems to have been swapped with just about anything these days, but I am sticking to my 32 year old Christmas star.

Out in the hallway I have some Christmas figures that are 30 years this Christmas, I got them when my son was just a baby.

Happy Christmas to everyone, I hope you have a lovely and peaceful festive season and I hope the weather isn’t too forceful in your corner of the world – wherever you are. Here in London we are expecting 14 degrees C (57 F) on Christmas Day, it could be tempting to go out and plant some of the crocuses I still haven’t managed to get in the ground! Whatever you do and however you celebrate, have a lovely weekend. Until next time, take care.


  1. Lovely! I hope your Christmas is especially merry and may you have a healthy and happy New Year.

    1. Thanks Dorothy, and Merry Christmas and a happy healthy New Year to you too :-)

  2. It's good to hear from you again and to see more photos of your lovely garden. I admire the way the Malva and Callicarpa play off your plum fence and I chuckled over your wish that other parts of the UK would share their excess rain - we in southern California have much the same feeling about northern California. The drought has effectively ended in NorCal but we're embarking on our 6th year of drought in SoCal. Central California also still has a problem. But we got a surprise storm earlier this week and rain is coming down in buckets again this evening, which makes for a wonderful early Christmas gift.

    Enjoy Christmas, Helene! I'll think of you out gardening. We're only projected to reach 52F (11C) on Sunday - very cold by our thin-blooded standards! - so I'm not sure I'll be spending much time in the garden on Christmas Day (even if I do have a few things waiting to be planted).

    1. Fortunately our dry spell hasn’t lasted as long as yours – I can still remember all the rain we got last spring! It usually evens out over here within a few years, but I need to get my hundreds of plants in the ground soon, they are hard work to keep alive. Have a good day tomorrow, gardening never stops here and I guess it doesn’t for you either but we are allowed a break over Christmas :-)

  3. It's great to read you are feeling better now. Lovely vieuws out of your garden and wonderful christmas decorations.
    Have a lovely christmas and all the best for 2017

    1. Thank you Marijke, I am still struggling with my usual long list of health issues, but I am better from what’s been troubling me this autumn. Have a lovely Christmas and all the best to you and your family.

  4. Så hyggelig at du har tatt med deg noen norske tradisjoner!

    God jul til deg og dine, Helene!

    1. Takk for det Marit, her er det en sann blanding av norsk og engelske tradisjoner :-)
      God Jul til deg og dine også!

  5. Barbara didn't amount to much here. Our ground is very wet although we have had more drizzle and gloom than rain. When the sun makes an appearance it is still very cold so no drying. Our clay soil is claggy in winter and then rick hard if we have a warm dry period.

    I uisually leave the perennial tops until I spot the spring bulbs pushing through and also leave the leaves on the beds to rot and for the birds to forage. Roses are pruned in February. It all means that there is little garden activity at the moment and outdoor work is confined to the allotment.

    Our winter jasmine is flowering too.

    Have a good Christmas and New Year.

    1. I like to spread the work out through the winter so I don’t get too much to do once everything burst into life in mid-February – pottering around in the garden in December is quite nice too :-)
      Merry Christmas to you and yours too and all the best for 2017!

  6. Great post, Helene! Your malva, roses, camelia, pelargonia, jasmin are stunning, in bloom in Christmas time.
    I liked your Christmas tree decorations, I think they are old as the 8-corners star, aren't they? especially plum-color heart? Lovely, your home is very cozy now.
    Jeg ønsker deg en riktig God Jul og Godt Nyttår!

    1. Thanks Nadezda, I am not sure where the tradition with our Christmas tree star comes from, but some has 5 or 7 points and some has 8 – all are significant numbers in Christianity and that’s where it comes from. Norwegian ‘Jul’ tradition is a real mishmash of pagan and religious traditions and symbols, probably just like everywhere else :-)
      Я надеюсь, что ваш муж чувствует себя лучше, и я желаю всем вам счастливого Рождества и счастливого Нового года!

    2. Thank you, Helene. Спасибо, он уже лучше.

  7. Önskar dig en riktigt God Jul!

    1. Og God Jul til deg og dine også og alt godt for 2017!

  8. How wonderful to have so many beautiful blooms in your December garden, Helene. And thanks for the peek into your home -- love your decorations! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and HEALTHY 2017! P. x

    1. Thank you Pam, this time of year I feel especially privileged gardening in London and I don’t miss snow and winter at all. Wishing you and yours a happy Christmas and all the best for 2017 :-)

  9. What a relief!I am glad to hear that you are fine now. Your garden still looks very good, even if it is Christmas. Your Wildeve is absolutely wonderful.Merry Christmas!And happy gardening!

    1. Thanks Guy, I am recovering and back to my long list of usual health issues so gardening progress is slow as usual, but at least I can be outside and pottering around like I normally do. I just love to stroll around in the garden and do a bit of deadheading and re-potting and propagating – that’s all I need to make a good day for me :-)
      Wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas!

  10. People keep asking me have I put my garden to bed for the winter! They do not rrealise the pleasure never stops

    1. Yep – makes me giggle when people ask me that too, winter is the busiest time for me as I don’t have to water (so much!) so I can spend my time doing other things, and a lot of repotting and divisions are done in my garden during the winter. I have floodlights in the main part of the garden so I can work after dark, the other day I was out dividing and replanting lily bulbs until 11:30 pm :-)
      Wishing you both a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2017.

  11. Oh! welcome back. I missed your blog. I don't do FB or Instagram and thus can't follow you there. What a lovely garden you still have/had in December. Here everything is dead since November. I love your Christmas decorations. I am actually glad to hear that in London/UK, one can't get fresh tree for Christmas. Here, it's always fresh tree. I feel bad for those trees as such lovely and lively tree are cut and thrown away.

    A Happy Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope you get well much faster so that you are back often in the blog-world.

    How do you prune your David Austen roses? I also have some from them but don't know how to prune them.

    1. Happy New year, sorry for replying so late - I think posting is going to be a bit hit and miss for me for a while.
      What I wrote about Christmas trees here in Britain is that most people have artificial trees, you can buy real trees here, but I think not many people choose that over here. However, here in Europe, most Christmas trees are grown on Christmas tree farms just like any other crop, if you go out in the woods and try to find a nice looking, slim, 6 ft tree for a small living room you might have to look for a long time :-)

      I prune my David Austin Roses just like all my other roses, and at the same time - which is during January for me, or sometimes even before Christmas. I have 30 different roses so it takes me a while to get round to all of them. David Austin roses don't require any other way of pruning, but perhaps not so vigorous pruning the first few years as they do take a few years to grow into size.

  12. Welcome back and glad you are feeling better. I do so love the tours of your garden, especially as it is new and still being created. Your writing, even as a second language, is so easy and often a little poetic, I love it.

    Even though geographically we aren't that far apart, I am in North East Essex, it is interesting to note how much difference the London micro-climate makes to the garden, although it has been equally dry here, with only one or two useful rains since early summer.

    Have a nice Christmas and New Year.


    1. Thanks Nick, the London climate is helping us to have a very favourable temperature during the winter - and even during the last couple of weeks when it has been so cold, the lowest I have recorded is minus 1.7C.
      I guess you have had some rain too the last week, it has been good for the garden!
      I hope it isn't too late to say Happy New Year!

  13. I am sorry to hear that you have had some more health issues. Hope you will be better soon. How lovely to have roses, geraniums and pansies at this time of year! We had a mild late fall and I thought to myself, this is what it must be like to garden in Southern England. How I wish bulbs and budding roses were a month or so away. Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year!

    1. Thanks Jennifer, and happy New Year to you too!
      We have had a period of cold weather with nights around freezing (which is cold here in London), but now it's finally back to milder weather - with some rain!

  14. I do not Facebook so it is nice to see you back here, and to know you are feeling better. Your Christmas decorations are lovely, and your garden looks as loved as always. I hope you had a beautiful Christmas and wish you a good New Year.

    1. And happy New Year to you too!
      I am still trying to replying and getting around to everyone :-)

  15. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Helene! I like the fairy lights on your tree. I'm surprised that you have berries this time of year--that's wonderful! We are wintry here, but so far we've only had a short stretch of brutal weather. I hope the rest of the winter will be "seasonal." There's something about the December light in London--it looks so muted and soft and magical. Blessings to you and yours in the year ahead!

    1. Thanks Beth, a belated happy New Year to you and yours!
      We have finally had some rain here and the temperatures have gone up so the night frost is over. All my slightly tender plants came out of the shed today after 10 days being cooped up. They were all fine, and one of the pelargoniums had started developing new buds. I love gardening in London!
      All the best for the new gardening year, may it be a great one for you :-)

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