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Flowers all year: December


It has been raining here for the whole of November and in the last couple of days the weather has turned quite sharply in preparation for advent. Yet despite that there is plenty of colour in the garden.

I am always saddened by the last few remaining tatty roses that throw out buds and flowers to be met with chill winds and hail stones, but some cope with the onslaught better than others – new dawn for example has a few blooms remaining and they have not been discoloured or bedraggled by the weather. On the whole though I wish that they would give up and put their energies into the magnificent rosehips seen on the apricot coloured Anne Harkness. I bought her because she was mislabelled in the nursery: I had been after her ruby sister Ena Harkness, but I am very happy with my mistake. I hate pruning climbing roses and would much rather have the hips in the autumn and winter when they are good.

The fuchsias cope rather better with the cold, flowering well into winter. I’m not keen on the species type where the ballet dancers all have narrow skirts, preferring the ones that looks like grandmothers knickers. But they come with a heavy cost – they are far more tender – and few see it through on our cold clay. I am determined this year to keep one through the winter and have chosen Sir Ian Botham (rather a slur on his masculinity I fear as surely this is the most feminine of flowers). I have brought him into the conservatory where he is flowering his socks off on a diet of cold tea. I will take cuttings in the spring and see if I cant grow an entire ballet company. Not bad for a mini-plant that I bought in the garden centre for 70p.

There is another fuchsia outside the front door where it can face south and nestle against the house for warmth and this too is still flowering. I have inexcusably lost the label and cannot remember its name but it looks much like a Tom Thumb or the improbably named “Gruss aus dem Bodethal”. I am debating wrapping it in horrid bubble wrap or some such as last year I nearly lost it in the snow. With a heavy heart I cut away all the twigs and dug it up in the spring for throwing out, only to find that it was shooting away quite merrily and had to pop it back in again quick. Teach me to be brutal.

I have a number of small patches of tiny purple cyclamen coum that spring up beneath the shrubs wherever they think that they cannot be seen. Every now and then I have dug them up, forcing them out into the open where they can be admired, but they are much happier hiding , providing decoration for the blackbirds that root around amongst the rotting apples and weeds.

Every single part of a cyclamen is enchanting, from the turks head flowers to the Victorian ivy leaves, but surely the best bit are those ridiculous corkscrew coils. I have heard it said that they help yank the plant into the right position or distribute the seeds but can that really be the case?

The golden star of the garden right now though must go to the Mahonia media Charity. Commonplace it may be but I would not be without mine. I have noticed that some of the Mahonias near us are rather stringy looking with a great mop of flowers right at the top – not a good look. I prevent that by actually cutting the flowers, taking them back to different heights to stagger the overall look and bringing them into the house as a sort of overthetop christmas decoration together with winter flowering jasmine and a gold leaved ivy that we grow. The flowers last hardly any time above a radiator but they are very beautiful, exquisitely scented and cheap and easy to cut more of !

One of the most unexpected things about Mahonia is just how golden it really is: the wood is most powerfully yellow – rather like it had been caught up in James Bonds’ Goldfinger movie – and would make a lovely inlay is I could grow enough of it!

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Hiya sarah , welcome to GOY i enjoyed reading your blog, loved the potos especialy the fuchsia. they are my favourite .

4 Dec, 2009


welcome from me too. Lovely blog.
My new dawn is also throwing the odd flower too. I have a standard mahonia called lionel fortescueand i love the golden flowers too.
lovely photo of the fuchsia.

4 Dec, 2009


Hi Sarah,Welcome from me too.Very interesting blog,really enjoyed reading it.I'm a Fuchsia lover too.:o))

4 Dec, 2009


Welcome to GoY Sarah.
Lots of fuchsias are quite hardy and will grow back every year. I have several I leave in the ground all winter. I like your mahonia. Mine is hopeless. I just can't get it to grow nicely.

4 Dec, 2009


Hi Sarah - welcome from me as well. I enjoyed your blog - thank you. My Mahonia 'Charity' is still in bud - but won't be long to flower. Lovely to have in the winter, as are the Cyclamen. I have C. hederifolium and I'm trying to get C. coum established, too.

4 Dec, 2009


Thanks for all the welcomes. Hywel - I may well get a few mores fuchsias in the spring and try to keep them with their feet in the ground. What would you recommend as a hardy but showy fuchsia for Sussex (near to the house facing south-east)!

6 Dec, 2009


I live in the north (yorkshire) Sarah,and I have a hardy fuchsia called Empress of Prussia,and over the years,the cuttings have thrived in all positions in the garden.It is bushy,but stays a nice rounded shape.The flowers are showy,with purple centre and red outers.My original plant has been in 7 years,and is about 3ft in circumference.You could google it and see what you think.I'm sure there are lots more varieties you could get,it just depends on your colour preference.Mine are still in full leaf,with some flowers still on,although ,they have now faded to a dull pink.Not bad for December.I still have annual rudbeckias in flower,and the campanulas,Jacobs ladder,marguerites are flowering again.I will be listening with interest to the debate about Climate change this week.

7 Dec, 2009


Many thanks Bloomer I will try to find your Empress - she looks lovely. It is a little worrying how many flowers we still have but I guess we will just have to enjoy the silver lining in a climate change cloud!

7 Dec, 2009


If that's Sir Ian at the bottom it's the most misnamed fuchsia I have ever seen, lol.

3 Feb, 2010

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