In a Vase on Monday: Tis the Season…

It may not be a vase this week, but our host Cathy of “Rambling in the Garden” has often reminded us that we can use any material from our gardens to bring indoors, regardless of how it is displayed!

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So here is my Advent wreath – homemade for the first time using a straw ring from the local DIY store. My Man of Many Talents braved the rain and wind yesterday to cut some high branches for me from our Douglas Firs and the beautiful Silver Fir (Weißtanne). The Silver Fir has large rounded needles and lasts very well indoors, even in a heated room. The Douglas Fir doesn’t last as well, but it does smell wonderful – orange and spice is what comes to mind, perfect for Advent. The tiny fir cones are from our Larch trees.

Right on time for the first Sunday in Advent one of my Amaryllis/Hippeastrum started flowering:

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Amaryllis “Tres Chic” was only planted on November 4th, so has broken all records. I have planted several others, none of which are showing any signs of life yet.

Talking of Advent, I visited a local Christmas market on Saturday as they always open the weekend of the first Sunday in Advent. Sadly there are no photos, as the snow rapidly turned to rain and we were too busy dashing from one stall to the next for cover! But I will describe the lunch I had there, as I don’t know if this typical Southern German dish is well-known elsewhere in the world: “Schupfnudeln mit Sauerkraut“- potato noodles (like elongated gnocchi!) fried up in a big pan with spiced white cabbage, or “sauerkraut”. So warming, and just one of the delicious smells coming from the stands all around us. Mulled wine, roasted almonds, roasted chestnuts and potato pancakes were just some of the other aromatic and traditional specialities on offer. And sausages of course, in all variations, but no vegetarian ones yet… I’m sure that will come too one day!

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Schupfnudeln mit Sauerkraut: Wikimedia

I wonder what smells make you think of Christmas? I shall be starting my Christmas cookie baking this week, and promise to post a recipe soon. 🙂

Have a great week!

In a Vase on Monday: Wrapping up for Winter

Winter has arrived here in Bavaria, and although we have only had a dusting of snow around here, some regions on higher ground have had a good 50cm or more. The sudden drop in temperatures at the end of last week was a shock after such a mild autumn, even making the violas hang their heads…

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..but with the Christmas markets opening at the end of this week it is high time we had some wintry weather.

For Cathy’s Monday Vase meme this week (Rambling in the Garden) I gathered a few bits of greenery and berries from the garden and used some of the leftovers from last week’s vase (which lasted very well). Wrapped around the vase (to keep it warm?!) is some of the Lamium from last week, and a long strand of ivy.

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The photos outside were slightly better on this grey and chilly afternoon…

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I made up the vase with a long piece of Laurel, a Blackthorn twig covered in moss and lichen, Hazel catkins, Ivy and some of that lovely soft grey-green Marrubium vulgare – still used today in herbal remedies for coughs and bronchial ailments. You can just see a little of the remaining snow in the background above.

Then I put a few Berberis berries (what prickly stuff!) in a pot with some Hakonechloa (which was being squashed by wet snow) and brought some cheerful colour into my kitchen. 🙂

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Cathy is so dedicated that she has again posted a vase while away from home today. Do go and visit her and see what she and all the other Monday vase fanatics have found this November day.

Have a good week and wrap up warm!

In a Vase on Monday: Curvy

I have wanted to use this “vase” for some time now, but it always seemed a bit daunting. The shape/form is, to say the least, a challenge. Well, since Monday is the day that Cathy from Rambling In The Garden “challenges” us to join her in putting materials from our garden into a vase, I decided it was now or never!

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The vase came from a friend, who was given it and also didn’t quite know what to do with it!

I thought I’d use the curve as a theme, and since the Ivy, Lamium and Hazel are all looking green and rather pretty right now, and are curvy to boot, they were the first things to go in the vase, along with some glass pebbles to help anchor them.

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The last two Scabiosa ochroleuca flowers and some white Achillea also went in, along with a few fresh Buxus shoots.

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It took a bit of tugging and pushing, and I added the water only when I was done…

Once I had finished it was placed indoors on my sideboard and I was very pleased with the final effect of simple green and curves. I really hadn’t expected ever to be able to use this vase, but I shall experiment further with it in the future now.

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Do you have any odd-shaped vases you have never used?

Thanks to Cathy for hosting!

Wild Flower of the Year 2016 (Germany)

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Every year the Loki Schmidt Foundation selects a wild flower to highlight as its “Wild Flower of the Year”. Loki Schmidt was a botanist and in her fortunate position as wife to one of our former Chancellors, Helmut Schmidt, (who sadly died just a few days ago) she was able to found this Hamburg-based charity. The Foundation promotes the maintaining of habitats for wildlife and works to protect endangered species through education. Amongst other projects, they have bought up small areas of land in the north of Germany where certain plants or animals are threatened.

For 2016 one of my favourite wild flowers (I do have many favourites!) has been chosen: the Cowslip, or Primula veris.

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In much of Germany this little flower is on the red list, as its preferred habitat – dry meadows on alkaline soil – is dwindling due to land development, agricultural use or the intensive use of fertilizers. In choosing this flower the Foundation also hopes to bring attention to the loss of such meadows and similar habitats. In the south of Germany we are more fortunate, and cowslips are still found in the wild fairly often, although not as frequently as I would like; coming across them down near our canal is like finding hidden treasure.

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Many years ago I remember being taken out by my mentor on a car ride in the south of Germany. I had no idea what the purpose of the trip was until we arrived and there they were – millions of cowslips filling a large meadow on a dry stony hillside. What a wonderful sight, and one I will possibly never see again.

Now I am cultivating a small area of our lawn where they have self-seeded…

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Each spring I wait eagerly to see them appear, and this area is not to be mown until they have safely spread their seeds again. This is where the strict farming regulations and nature reserve rules in our area assist in preserving wild flowers too – certain meadows should not be mown until June in order to ensure that some species recur naturally. I don’t think this is actually an enforcable law, as I do see farmers mowing too early sometimes, but I think subsidies must be an incentive for most to stick to the rules.

A Meadow in May

A Meadow in May

Primula veris is a sun-loving plant and in our climate usually flowers in April and May. It is a protected species, and may not be picked or dug up from the wild. However, a single plant can spread quickly into a bigger clump, seeding itself around profusely.

“Beneath the sun I dance and play

In April and in merry May”

(Cicely Mary Barker)

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The botanical name Primula means first and veris means spring. One of the common names in the German language is Himmelsschlüssel – meaning “heaven’s keys”; the legend goes that St Peter dropped his keys to the gates of heaven and the first cowslips grew up where the keys landed! I then looked up the English common names in Wikipedia –  a long list of them that I have never heard before, including herb peter, key flower, key of heaven, fairy cups, buckles, palsywort, plumrocks, and tittypines! Wikipedia claims that “In the Middle-Ages it was also known as St. Peter’s herb or Petrella and was very sought after by Florentine apothecaries.” In herbal medicine the extract of Primula veris is used in cold remedies to relieve coughs and bronchial symptoms.

Although it will be some time before we see the Cowslip flowering again here, a close relative has decided to flower for me in November…

Primula x pruhoniciana "Schneewittchen"

Primula x pruhoniciana “Schneewittchen”

Are you also having such a mild autumn?

In a Vase on Monday: Spring in Autumn

With record November temperatures in parts of Germany over the last few days, people are talking about “Spring in Autumn”, and someone even posted a photo of their first Muscari flower! Today it is sunny, windy and 17°C – extremely odd for a November day, but I am not complaining as my roses are blooming again!

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Since it is Monday I have cut some of the rose buds  and also gathered some other bits and bobs for my Vase on Monday – the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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The Euonymus berries are now starting to fade and the bright orange seeds in the centre of the red seed capsule have already been eaten or have dropped. High time to cut a couple of branches for a vase before they fade completely. Its bright foliage is also still looking lovely.

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Some of the Japanese Anemone seedheads are still looking pretty and fluffy, so I added a couple of them too.

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The big green leaves are Hellebore, and the grass is my favourite Miscanthus sinensis “Adagio” – this looks good for months on end and has a lovely compact growth and shape.

And the roses…

Finally, a bonus vase: I only removed the Geraniums and annuals on my front step the other day, so here are the leftovers of my summer pots. 🙂

I wonder how long this weather will last…

Do go and visit Cathy this week as it is the second anniversary of this meme!

Wishing you all a mild and sunny week!

In a Vase on Monday: Is it Really November?

I am joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden again this Monday in taking materials from my garden to display inside my home in a vase. This meme has kept my blog ticking over for the past few weeks!

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s still summer around here when you look at this first photo…

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But we actually had a frost Saturday night which prompted me to cut some of the last Cosmos flowers on Sunday. They seemed undamaged, being near to the house. I also found that my Hypericum was flowering again after rejuvenating at the end of our summer heatwave!

I added the props just to assure you that it IS November here in Bavaria too!

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My little green pumpkin comes out for display every autumn, and the golden Chinese Lanterns – Physalis alkekengi – are dotted around the rockery now, although even they suffered in the summer drought and haven’t produced as many seedheads as usual.

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Other items I added to the vase are some Euphorbia – just starting to turn red – some Linaria leaves and buds, and a few fresh Geranium leaves.

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The three hazelnuts in the photo were the only ones we salvaged – there were loads of young nuts on the trees in early July, but either the creatures had them or they also succumbed to the heat.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this meme – do go and visit her!

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P:S: I’m glad I prepared my vase a day early, as this morning the frost was even colder and the Cosmos looked like this…

😦

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Are there any summer flowers left in your garden? Have you had frost yet?