4th December 2015: A Barbara Branch

Today is the day I nip out into the garden, regardless how inclement the weather, and snip a branch or two of an early flowering shrub or tree to put in a vase.


In the hope that, according to tradition, it will flower by Christmas Eve!

Since my dwarf cherry tree is still very small, I chose some Forsythia again this year – it is cheerful, reliable, and does not shed irritating pollen like the hazel catkins I sometimes bring in.

Here it is today…


And I will of course do an update at Christmas. On the right are a few green strands of Kerria japonica – I have no idea if any flowers will appear (I doubt it!), but I do hope that at least a few leaves will sprout.

And here are a couple of past “Barbara Branches”, the tradition of which can be read about in this post here.


Barbarazweig 2014


Barbarzweig 2012

So go on now, out you go with the shears and join me in picking a piece of spring!




In a Vase on Monday: Peace

I read last night that today is the UN International Day of Peace. What good such a day can do, I cannot imagine. I am sure we are all very much aware of the troubles all over the world right now, especially in the Middle East – up to ten thousand refugees (mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are entering Germany daily at the moment – but a day designated for thinking about the desperate need for more peace around the globe can certainly do no harm.

I therefore decided to take the theme of peace into my Monday vase this week – joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her weekly meme. Why not pop over and visit her and see Cathy’s creation and all the other vases linking in from around the world. Or join in and make your own contribution using materials from your garden!


Cosmos “Purity” is the star of this vase – one of the cosmos that flowered well, albeit somewhat late this summer. It looks gorgeous against our clear blue sky this morning!


I associate the colour white with peace, and another white flower I grew from seed is the Cleome. Unfortunately the flowers are now looking a bit tatty and the leaves have been almost completely devoured by caterpillars. The seeds are ripening and I shall scatter a few and save the rest for sowing next year.


I have identified the custard yellow Echinacea above as “Aloha”, and decided to use it to contrast with the yellow centres of the Cosmos flowers.

Other flowers included are the white Achillea millefolium, which I planted last autumn and which has now got established despite the drought. Tough little plants!


And the creamy Scabiosa ochroleuca – this sort spreads like mad in my well-drained soil and can get quite a handful, but is easy to pull out in spring.


Various grasses fill out the vase with silvery and golden hues.


To finish off on a serious note, a quote for today…

“I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Have a good week, and thanks for stopping by!


Special Flowers

Special flowers for a special person today… my sister!

Happy Birthday Susan!


I wonder if anyone knows what this is…


Maybe if you see it from a different angle?


And what about this?


An exotic cocktail fruit perhaps?


Well, these little red bobbles are in fact larch blossoms… sadly blown off the trees in the strong storm we had this week. But I think they look like tiny raspberries, so I brought some in to enjoy (and lament their fate)!

Our storm was the worst in 30 years, with hurricane-force winds uprooting trees across the country. But we were extremely lucky.

By the way, that first picture is a Ribes sanguineum – Flowering Currant, forced. Chloris at The Blooming Garden told me about how they open like this when forced – quite different to the later flower outside which is longer and pinkish red. Thanks for the tip Chloris. Mine have a hint of pink, possibly because I picked them so late?


They are so lovely!

(And my sister is too!)


Happy Spring 2015!

The spring equinox occurs today at 11.45pm here and our weather has certainly been spring-like. If you are still waiting for your snow to melt then be comforted – spring will come to you very soon. Gardeners are patient souls, so enjoy the last few days of dreaming and garden inactivity before the season sweeps you away!


My first tulips “Early Harvest” have been open for a few days now. During our partial solar eclipse this morning they actually closed up. It was amazing to watch as we had bright sunshine and clear skies. I didn’t have the special glasses to look at the sun, so I watched my tulips instead. Although there was only an hour or so when the light seemed slightly dimmed, the sun was still casting strong shadows. But the tulips closed… fascinating!

This tulip is a real winner. It opens very early, usually mid-March, on a short stem. Then the stem continues to grow as the flowers go on blooming and blooming, until April. They remain compact and sturdy, reaching about 25cm, so they would be ideal for containers too.

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Early Harvest'

Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Early Harvest’

The glowing mandarin orange colour may appear brash – in fact I was unsure the first few years if I really liked it. This is the spring version of marigolds! However, on an overcast day they reflect light and continue to glow even at dusk. A gorgeous splash of colour against the bare soil.


Happy Spring!

Mothering Sunday and a Mahonia

Happy Mothering Sunday Mum!

Mothering Sunday

In the UK today is Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday – the traditional day to return to your home town and present a posy to your Mum. Well, it will have to be a virtual posy I’m afraid.


I chose this Mahonia, as it is such a lovely intense golden yellow when the sun shines on it and it smells so sweet and honey-like. These pictures are from last year, as it is taking its time to flower this spring.

Mothering Sunday2

Hope the sun is shining for you all!