Cherished Collections

hoard

When gardeners aren’t outside planting, digging or sowing they are busy hoarding to their heart’s content

Whilst moving from my Somerset home to the positively foreign landscape of the east Midlands, I had to come to terms with the awkward truth that I am becoming a hoarder. Packing my home into boxes revealed that my assortment of garden-related paraphernalia goes well beyond the essential.

Included in my collection are excessive numbers of garden magazines, kept like sacred scriptures; stored in my equally hallowed memory box is a variety of show tickets and guides; then there are numerous packets of seeds, hose nozzles and connecting pieces, enough gardening gloves to be worn by a mob of octopuses, one brand new BBQ – still in its box – a library of coffee table books, posies of dried flowers and pretty floral greeting cards that I have no intention of giving to anyone.

Thankfully I know I’m not alone. A garden designer friend has a garden overflowing with memorabilia from his RHS Chelsea Flower Show career. Walking around his garden is a literal ‘walk down memory lane’ with mismatched seats and sculptures at every turn. An elderly neighbour has a barn full of perfectly weathered terracotta pots, crying out to be filled with delicate auriculas and put on display. I imagine most gardeners have their own living hoards of plants from neighbours, previous gardens, plant sales and given as presents, all doted on with particular affection.

My hoarding extends beyond the physical to the invisible online world. I’ve got virtual banks of plant photographs, from flower shows, garden visits, country walks and holidays, all fond memories and potential inspiration. I also have albums of photos with no sentimental value at all, saved purely because I aspire to make my own garden look like that one-day. Countless hours have been spent collecting these images to merely swoon over.

Perhaps gardeners make such good hoarders because we are optimists, always making plans. Keenly awaiting the first signs of spring, leafing through seed catalogues to ponder next year’s crops and stuffing sheds with things we anticipate coming in useful. Having only ever rented places to live I am busy collecting for when I eventually have a garden of my own to tend to. Until then I shall continue hoard anything that catches my eye.

 

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Searching for Spring

January .1

Clockwise from Top: Shoo-fly seed case, Camellia buds, Rhododendron bud

January can often feel like a very bleak month. The excitement of Christmas and New Year has past and the grasp of winter can really take hold. Even my pots of winter bedding seem to have given up trying to look nice. A roaring fire, cup of tea and a good gardening magazine are my comforting companions, transporting me to dry, warm days spent outside with a trowel in hand.

I always feel that as soon as the New Year begins that spring should too, but realistically it is still many weeks away. However, take a closer look at the garden and you can find spring. Not yet bursting forth in all it’s vibrant glory, just progressing steadily in the background and waiting for the right moment to take us by surprise.

As well as the first signs of spring, there are also the final hints of the previous autumn. Beautiful seed heads are a last reminder of borders overflowing with plants in summer. The lantern-shaped pendants of the Shoo-fly plant, Nicandra physalodes, looked beautiful in the winter sun. Their papery shells would be blown away if a multitude of veins weren’t holding them together.

Camellias and Rhododendrons have been quietly developing their plump flower buds all winter and clusters of catkins hang like tails from branches. Incidentally, Catkin comes from an old Dutch word katteken, meaning kitten, on account of the flowers looking like a kitten’s tail.

January .2

Clockwise from Top Left: Shoo-fly seed case, Catkins, Cyclamen leaves, Mahonia berries

The dull light of winter is repainted with a palette of dazzling yellows in spring. The delicate heads of the Mahonia are the first strokes of paint that can liven up any garden in winter. The berries that follow, first lime green then turning to deep purple, sit like a crown above the almost prehistoric looking leaves.

It was a lovely surprise to see a Primrose flowering so early in the hedgerow; a very telling sign that it has been a mild winter so far. Nothing says spring like Primroses, or in medieval Latin prima rosa, meaning ‘first rose’. Especially when they carpet a whole bank or hedgerow. Although they are frequently seen in abundance, Primroses are actually protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This means it is illegal to pick or remove a Primrose from the wild.

January .3

Clockwise from Top Left: Mahonia flower, Primerose, Winter Clematis, Winter Heather

January .4

Clockwise from Top Left: Robin Redbreast, Mahonia, Spring bulbs

The flowers of Winter Heathers seem to go on and on, creating a gorgeous blanket of lipstick shades. More subtle flowers can be found on wintering flowering Clematis, Clematis cirrhosa. The dainty bell-shaped flowers look so delicate you would think they should be growing in the cozy warmth of a greenhouse, not outside facing the harsh winter weather. Each petal has a light smattering of freckles, although some varieties having so many their petals are almost pink. It is very uplifting to see their graceful flowers in the middle of winter and will definitely keep a gardener’s spirts lifted, whilst they dream about the warmer months and patiently wait for their spring bulbs to flower.   

Feeling Festive – Homemade Wreath

wreath9 A cold and frosty Saturday morning seemed like the perfect time to start feeling a bit festive and decorate our little house for Christmas. Coming from a family of florists, I realised that I had no excuse not to make my own decorations. Having spent many hours watching my mum turn cut stems gathered from the garden into beautiful arrangements, it was now my turn to give it a go. After an hour or so collecting berries and branches from the fields surrounding my home, I was ready to start. Here’s how I did it: wreath1 wreath2 ONE. Gather your materials. Evergreen plants, seed heads and berries are ideal for a seasonal wreath. I literally collected anything I liked the look of. I had far too much for a wreath, however whatever was left I knew I could use to make other decorations or simply put in a vase. Some of the plants I collected were: Ivy, Hawthorn berries, Travellers Joy seed heads, Larch cones, Rosehip berries, conifer and fir. TWO. Make the base. I used long stands of Ivy, which I bound together with wire, to make a base to build the wreath on. The ring perhaps wasn’t as rigid as I would have liked, something like Willow would have made a stronger frame. I used galvanised gardeners wire to bind the wreath together. THREE. Start wiring. Cut small pieces of your chosen material and start wiring them to the ring. I had decided that I wanted my wreath to have a definite top and bottom, so I started by wiring part of the bottom section so I knew where the top would be. The wiring is quite hard work on your hands, as it needs to be as tight as possible! wreath3 wreath4 FOUR. Building up the layers. After wiring a bottom section I actually moved up to the top of the wreath and started layering pieces back down toward the bottom again. This meant that I was always covering up my last wired section with a new bit of greenery and all the foliage would be pointing upwards. I used Nordman fir for the majority of the wreath, occasionally adding Ivy, berries or seed heads to add interest. FIVE.  Adding extra bits. Once reaching the bottom of the wreath I went back up to the top again and did exactly the same on the other side. After that I wired lots of extra Travellers Joy seed heads to the bottom of the wreath to make a focal point. SIX. Balancing the shape. At this point I probably could have stopped, however I felt like the wreath was still missing a few finishing touches. As a lot if the focus was at the bottom of the wreath I used some brown gardeners string to bind some beautiful berries into the top part of the wreath. I felt that it balanced the overall appearance and also added a more rustic element by breaking the circular shape of the wreath. Having the block of string at the top also meant I could incorporate a loop for hanging it up. SEVEN. Finishing touches. Every wreath needs a bit of sparkle, so I twisted wire around the bases of pinecones and sprayed them silver before wiring them into the foliage. wreath5 wreath6 EIGHT. The final flourish. To complete my festive decoration I made a large raffia bow and tied it in place. I then hung my wreath up, stood back and admired the lovely collection of foliage, berries, colours and textures I had married together on a frosty Saturday morning. wreath8 wreath7 LEFTOVERS. As I had hoped, I had quite a lot left over once I had finished my wreath. I made a very simple length of swag by wiring together conifer branches and long tendrils of ivy. Then attaching seed heads of Travellers Joy with raffia bows. Simple, but effective. There is something so lovely about bringing greenery inside at Christmas time.

My Plot

FlowerBed1

Before and after

With a title like Working Plot, it is probably only right that I should reveal my plot-in-progress. Definitely with emphasis on the ‘in-progress’…

About three weeks ago, we made the adventurous move from Devon to Somerset. Having lived very rurally in Devon, I didn’t think we would end up somewhere even more void of post boxes, bus routes and neighbours. It is, however, even more remote and I love it!

FlowerBed2

No doubt I didn’t get all the roots up and will be battling them for a while!

With the lush countryside practically creeping under the door, I haven’t been too worried about the garden. Although one morning, I decided that the weeds were looking far too happy in our one little flowerbed, so they had to go.

It feels like a peculiar time of year to be starting something new in the garden, when the leaves are tinged with yellow and the squirrels are busy burying their winter feasts. I am therefore completely undecided about what to put in our solitary bed. The important first decision will be its purpose, vegetables, herbaceous or maybe cut flowers? Perhaps my challenge should be to try and fit all three in one tiny bed …