In a Vase on Monday: Hopeful

It’s lovely to be joining in again with Cathy’s gathering of Monday vases after missing a few. I do so love a good faff with flowers. This week, I’ve picked and plonked three ‘Queen of Night’ tulips, some bluebells (from my garden, not the woods!), forget-me-nots, Cerinthe major, aquilegia and a few tendrils of honeysuckle foliage.

The garden is as dry as a bone, the soil dusty. We haven’t had any rain to speak of for weeks now. We’ve had to use the hosepipe to water all the newly planted trees, something we try to avoid doing as our water bills are extortionate; I’ve even been saving any leftover drinking water to pour on those plants lucky to be near the back door. There were promising-looking dark grey clouds (that’s not a phrase you hear very often!) earlier but they passed by without shedding a drop. There are showers forecast for this evening so I have my fingers crossed.

Happily, many of our plants are toughing it out and we’ve not been short of April flowers. The daffodils are almost over with just a few multi-headed white ones still looking good (although their top-heavy stems are lolling about, through lack of moisture I reckon). The tulips planted in pots are almost over, while those planted in beds are hanging in there. There are plenty of self-seeded Cerinthe, marigolds and forget-me-nots, and the aquilegias are starting to bloom. The bottom of the garden is covered in bluebells which is amazing considering we were stomping all over it a month ago, clearing pernicious weeds and planting pencil-thin Himalayan birch whips. One day, several years from now, there will be a sinuous river of graceful white birches down there in a carpet of bluebells and other delights.

I’ve mentioned my love of tulips many times and how I’d love to have so many in the garden that I can pick armfuls to bring indoors. Well, I’m a little way off that but I have been picking handfuls for the past few weeks – here’s one I picked last week, still looking good in the lounge. It is immensely satisfying to grow your own flowers to pick and bring inside – a fairly simple task with a massively pleasing reward.

Cathy is also showcasing tulips this week. Do go and see, and have a look at some of the many other wonderful vases of flowers from around the world.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. It’s been a bit full-on round here recently and I’m behind with responding to comments and blog-reading (sorry), plus the ironing and much more! I hope you have a good week.

The leaning tower of ironing…

In a Vase on Monday: spring forward

British Summer Time is here – lighter evenings – yay! It was also warm enough to wander around outside without a coat this morning. Big happy sigh. And all of a sudden there seems to be much more material in the garden to pick for vases.

The first of the tulips are flowering – these are ‘Pink Impression’. They are a more lipstick-pink than I was expecting, but the colour is softened by mixing it with others that are less showy. There’s my favourite purple/blue–orange colour combination here – Anemone coronaria ‘Mr Fokker’, Muscari and Cerinthe major (which has self-seeded from last year and started flowering) for the purple/blue and a little Geum of unknown variety (which is just coming into bloom) for the orange. I’ve also included a few dusky pink primroses. Greenery comes from a few sprigs of Lonicera nitida, a couple of tendrils of Vinca major ‘Variegata’ and the Cerinthe and tulips leaves.

The final photograph shows the vase sitting on a little coffee table I bought for £15 on Saturday (with its ‘Sold’ sticker in the corner). It was sitting on the pavement outside a second-hand shop that I often pop into just for a look, you know how it is, and I couldn’t resist it. My first thought was that I’d sand and paint it but my family rolled their eyes and laughed like drains when I told them. I have form here… There’s an old kitchen cupboard and another small table that were sanded and undercoated, erm, probably two years ago now(?!) but have yet to be painted. Perhaps the spring sunshine and longer daylight hours will spur me into getting a move on with them all.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy and the other bloggers who take part in IaVoM. Do pop over to her place and have a look.

Wishing you a good week.



In a Vase on Monday: bud-burst

There was a lot of wet wind outside this morning, strong sideways drizzle; the dog and I were soaked through after our walk. She’s now curled up in a tight ball in her chair (I know) next to the radiator and I’m on my second mug of coffee. It’s the spring equinox today but it certainly doesn’t feel like the first day of spring!

Needless to say, I haven’t been wandering around the garden to find perfect spring blooms for a Monday vase. What I have to show you instead is a jar of prunings from our recently planted native hedge. The bare root plants (sticks) have been planted to fill a long gap in our boundary where the old hedge had died after becoming overrun with brambles and ivy. Rather than just replace it with a single species of hedging plant, we’ve gone for a mixture of native, wildlife-friendly species:

Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna – apparently recognised by the RSPB as the absolute best species for wildlife value
Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa – prickly stems to protect resting and nesting sites and sloes in autumn
Field maple, Acer campestre – good for insects
Alder, Alnus glutinosa – its seeds are a food source for many birds
Guelder rose, Viburnum opulus – berries for birds
Wild privet, Ligustrum vulgare – semi-evergreen provides a great nesting site
Wild cherry, Prunus avium – good for wildlife and seasonal interest
Bird cherry, Prunus padus – flowers for insects, cherries for birds
Spindle, Euonymus europaea – good autumn colour
Juneberry, Amelanchier lamarckii – white flowers in spring

The advice is to prune off two-thirds once planted to encourage bushy, healthy growth but our plants are so short that I reduced them by one-third to a half, and cut back any side shoots quite hard. Rather than compost all the cuttings, I rescued the longest few and brought them inside. Since they’ve been in the warmth indoors, they’ve all started to come into leaf and even flower. I’m fairly sure that the white flowers are Amelanchier and one of the stems is Acer, but I’m not sure about the rest. Whatever they are, I’m delighted they’re doing their thing and I think they look lovely next to the little vitreous enamel panel by artist Janine Partington (a much-loved gift from my brother and sister-in-law).

I also photographed this burst of sunshine in a vase – cheap supermarket daffodils – which are cheering up the lounge on this dull day.

Big thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the weekly gathering of Monday vases – I do so love joining in. She is celebrating five years(!) of blogging this week with a pretty vase, made by her daughter, full of pink spring blooms.

In other news – my daughter had a lovely birthday last week and smiled at the flowers :-). Thank you for the kind birthday wishes. She had further excitement at the weekend when we visited friends where we used to live but it’s back down to earth and normal life this week…

I hope you won’t mind me sharing a bit of thrilling Agnes news here: Olympic hockey superstar Crista Cullen has kindly answered a load of questions about her teenage years to launch our new blog feature. Do take a look if you have a moment. Thank you.

I hope you have a good week.

In a Vase on Monday: thirteen flowers

Thirteen flowers for my daughter who is 13 today, 13th March. It is a joy to witness this girl making her way in the world and I can think of nothing more fitting than thirteen beautiful blooms to celebrate her birthday.

She is usually the first one up in the mornings in our house; she breezes into our bedroom, gives me a quick hug, then she’s off to get ready for school. Hair takes longer to do these days – looks are becoming increasingly important but she’s not interested in wearing make-up for school yet. She’s keen to fit in but is confident enough to be herself and not follow the crowd. It’s very rare for her to be downhearted and when she is I can usually lift her out of it and make her laugh. When I’m downhearted, she’s the one who notices and asks me what’s up. We understand each other, this girl and I. I’m aware that we may not get on so well in the years to come and she may have days when she absolutely hates me, so I am making the most of this happy, calm time.

We had her birthday party yesterday – trampolining followed by hotdogs and birthday cake back home, and games of sardines until parents collected their daughters. Our two boys laid low in their rooms until all the guests had gone… Today, we have a family birthday tea with another cake (Victoria sponge is her cake of choice – in the oven as a type). Not a bad way to start the week.

I was lucky to find thirteen different flowers in bloom in the garden at this time of year; I wouldn’t usually put all these colours together in a vase but they provide a vibrant burst of colour. The flowers are (from left to right in the first photograph): primrose, snowdrop, Anemone coronaria ‘The Bride’, scented narcissus (can’t remember the variety), narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’, euphorbia (not sure which one), marigold, hesperantha, hellebore, violet, Anemone blanda, muscari and pulmonaria.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden (who has tulips already!) for the weekly get-together of Monday vases. Do pop over to her blog and see what she and others have put together from their gardens.

Wishing you a happy week.


In a Vase on Monday: spring blues and primroses

Spring was tantalisingly evident here this morning – soft warm sunlight, glorious bird song, that smell of lush, green growth – and it took every ounce of willpower to stay indoors at my desk. It is not healthy to sit still for too long, though, so I took a stroll around the garden to pick a few spring beauties for a Monday vase. (Then of course I had to faff about with them for a while and take a few photographs… But, hey, I cracked on and finished my work before writing this!)

In the blue/purple vase, we have Pulmonaria officinalis, Anemone blanda (which I can’t get enough of; they’re SO LOVELY), Muscari and a couple of teensy weensy violets from my garden, and in the pink vase we have an abundance of primroses from my parents’ garden. They are currently away on holiday and I’ve been popping round to keep an eye on the house. They have masses of beautiful primroses in their front garden at this time of year, so many that I’m sure they won’t miss a few. I love the dusky, buff-pink ones and luckily there are loads of those. These crocuses are also out and looking particularly perky. I don’t know what variety they are but I like them.

David has been working hard in the garden, grubbing out old, overgrown bay trees that were in completely the wrong place, plus masses of brambles, and I’ve been weeding and cutting back stuff, so we had a big bonfire on Saturday afternoon to get rid of all the un-compostable material. (It took three rounds of shampoo to get the smell out of our hair.) It really feels as though we’re making good headway in the lower front garden now. Yesterday we planted up long section of wildlife-friendly hedging to fill a big gap on the boundary with one of our neighbours and made plans for planting more trees in the right places. We must get on and order a load of bare root Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (the Himalayan birch with very white bark) and plant them up within the next couple of weeks, plus a few apple and pear trees if we have time. We are opening our garden again for the village garden safari in June and would love to have this area looking good. Lots to do..!

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and her Monday gathering of vases. Do pop over to have a look.

Wishing you a super-duper week.


In a Vase on Monday: January treasure

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Dank. That is the perfect word to describe what it is like outdoors today (yes, in bold). According to the urban dictionary, dank can also mean ‘excellent’ or ‘a general insult’, or a few other things, but I’ll stick with its original meaning of ‘unpleasantly damp and cold’.

Undeterred by the grey, I ventured out into the garden to see if I could find any colour for a Monday vase. There is a lot of soggy, brown foliage out there and I had to avert my eyes from several areas, including a patch of hundreds of new crocosmia shoots where we’ve been trying to clear it. Grrr. I had a good rummage in the undergrowth and was delighted to find some fresh, perfect hellebore stems with fat pink buds underneath a veil of fallen leaves. I also snipped a couple of sprigs of white heather (no idea what type and I’m sure it was pale pink last year), a few beautiful cyclamen leaves with their delicate, silvery patterns and some tendrils from a mass of tangled ivy .

These treasures are plonked in a glass that I bought a few months ago for this very purpose. I spotted it sitting on a supermarket shelf, on sale for £2, and imagined it full of Monday vase flowers. I’ve taken several photos of it against different backgrounds with artificial and natural light. Despite the dankness I feel much better for getting in to the garden and having a good poke about. I feel even better now I’m indoors and I’ve spent some time absorbed in gazing at the leaves and buds, the patterns and colours. I know, I’ve said it before, but I do love faffing about with flowers and taking photos; I reckon it’s time well spent if it perks me up!.

I’m taking a new look at the ivy in our garden after reading an article in the latest RHS magazine. I knew it was good for wildlife but I didn’t realise how important it is to leave ivy plants to mature (about 10 years) so that they provide flowers and berries. And I didn’t realise how many species and cultivars there are of Hedera. I spotted quite a few different leaf shapes in my short expedition to the bottom of the garden, so I’m going to take more notice of this plant now and try to persuade David not to pull every last bit of it out of the hedges.

Thank you, as ever, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this weekly gathering of pickings from around the world. I’m off over there now to see what everyone else has found.

In other news (and quickly) – thank you for your get well wishes for my poorly boy. He roused himself over the weekend and has gone in to school this morning. Fingers crossed he’ll continue to improve.

Hope you have a good week x

In a Vase on Monday: A New Hope

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Today dawned bright, calm and clear. The sunshine has boosted me out of my holiday slump and rekindled my energy levels – I’m keen to get on with a fresh, new year, to sweep away the Christmas detritus, to restore some sort of order to this house. I’m up against serious opposition, though. I suggested taking down the tree this morning to howls of horror from my family. I think they’d probably wrestle me to the ground if I tried to remove even one decoration, so it’s had a temporary reprieve. The children go back to school tomorrow…

I haven’t had a proper look round the garden for weeks, so it was lovely to potter about in the winter light for a while earlier and see what’s occurring. There are definite signs of spring flowers on the way – snowdrop and grape hyacinth leaves popping up all over the place – and even some blooms hanging on from last year. I picked two remaining marigolds (marigolds! On 2nd January!) and a few white scabious for my Monday vase, plus a sprig of flowering berberis from the bottom hedge, a leafy stem from an old climbing rose and some ivy tendrils. I’ve missed joining in with Cathy’s Monday gathering these past few weeks, so it’s good to be taking part again.

My post title is a little homage to my childhood heroine, Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher (it’s the title of the first ever Star Wars film), and a nod to the turning of the year. Wikipedia says: “Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” I’ll hang on to that.

Happy New Year – here’s wishing you a healthy, peaceful one full of positive outcomes x