Monthly Archives: December 2015

In a vase on Monday – Christmas!


Somehow in the Christmas rush I failed to post a Merry Christmas message, so, belatedly, I hope you all had a fabulous time.

Today’s vase is really a repeat of last year’s – a vase for my sister to add to her Christmas decorations.  She was hosting Christmas for ten, including me and my family for the second year running, so it was the least I could do.  Sadly, however, this one was done in rather more haste, and it shows.  Not only were the ‘mechanics’ rather obvious, but one stick had lost its adornment completely.  To be fair, it had traveled over a hundred miles, but it had shared the back seat with my ‘kids’ (18 and 19) rather than the boot with the dog like last year, so I’d hoped it would have been better looked after, but apparently not!


The chillis were left over from my Padron Peppers grown in the summer in the greenhouse.  I didn’t keep up with the picking and so these small, green, relatively mild peppers ended up as larger, fiery red affairs, fun for a vase, but may be not so much fun on a plate!

The greenery was provided by bay leaves (did I ever tell you I have a veritable bay forest?) Euphorbia characias wulfenii,IMG_9757

Phlomis and Garrya elliptica.


To these I added some small, wired red baubles, as well as some foliage I’d sprayed silver. Below you can see the extraordinary seedheads from my bottelbrush, Callistemon.  IMG_9754

This spraying has been a bit of a try out for the arrangements I’m supposed to be providing for the golf club’s New Year’s Eve party.  Last time, I prepared flowers for the golf club I was able to use plenty of fresh flowers still blooming in the garden, this time pickings will be a lot slimmer.  Wish me luck, I’m already worrying!

With thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this lovely meme.

In a vase on Monday – this year’s twigs


It’s been a busy day, working from home, and then for extra fun I spent my lunch hour sorting my tax – yuk!

So for some light relief I thought I’d join in with my favourite meme, ‘In a vase on Monday’ hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  However, as it was pitch dark (what with it being the shortest day an’ all) I had to improvise and this is my imposter ‘vase’ for today.

It’s not as grown up as last year’s Christmas twigs, and for me, quite a diversion what with the baubles being COLOURED!  I saw them nestled together in their boxes at Peter Jones and I just loved the way the colours looked together, so, despite, already having my own personal glass and silver bauble mountain, I splashed out.  What I hadn’t thought before I hung them, was how Italian the colours are.  Someone tell me they’re Christmassy too please.

Do you think the Advent elf approves?IMG_9738

Thanks for indulging me, why don’t you check out Cathy’s blog and see what others, who actually manage to get outside in the daylight, have come up with?

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – December 2015


Looking at the weather on my phone on Sunday morning provided a stark reminder of just how balmy life is down south:

St Helens, Isle of Wight 12C

Durham, (where my daughter’s at university) 0C

And while I was pottering around the garden taking photos of precocious December blooms, she was making this:


The rose above (which featured as buds in last week’s Wordless Wednesday) is an inherited one and I sadly don’t know its name.

Whilst plants such as the Salvias have ground to a halt, there are plenty more rose varieties still clinging on, including Rosa Flower Carpet PinkIMG_9692

R. St Swithun,IMG_9709

and finally, R. Jubilee Celebration.  I have to confess to having to lift this bloom as its head was definitely hanging down, but that had the benefit of keeping it immaculate.  This December is getting ridiculous!IMG_9716

Equally mad is the continued blooming of the Gazanias in the trough by the gate,IMG_9680

kept company by the Chocolate Cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus.  The trouble with them both still looking so good is that I can’t face pulling them out and bringing them under cover. Something I may well live to regret.  IMG_9683

Another tender plant I haven’t brought in is the Rhodochiton atrosanguineus, but as it’s taller than me and completely twined around the obelisk, I’m not sure how I would anyway.  The good news is that I have seedlings already through in the greenhouse, so hopefully I’m covered.IMG_9715

Another climber still looking good (and finally a plant that’s actually season appropriate) is the Clematis ‘Freckles’.IMG_9711

And to finish, one of my Zaluzianskya ovata cuttings, already flowering in its seed tray.  Bonkers.IMG_9696

With many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens  for hosting everyone’s GBBD.  Why don’t you pop over and have a look at what everyone else has blooming now?

Daily reminders to give thanks


To ensure the ongoing joy (!) of access to work emails on my phone, I have to change my phone password monthly.  Having run through the birthdays of my immediate family, I’ve recently changed it to my mother’s birthday.

Mum died in 2006 but she was an awesome woman, a brilliant, knowledgeable gardener and teacher, and I still miss her.  I’ve mentioned her a couple of times on Duver Diary, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really given her the credit she deserves for making me the gardener (and woman)  I am today.  And as the garden here develops (alongside my increasing obsession with it) it makes me sad she’s not still around to see it.

So, already having multiple daily reminders of her, in the form of punching in my phone password, it was uncanny to open January’s ‘English Garden’ magazine to see the photo above.

I knew immediately that the building was a shell house, commissioned by Darina Allen, at Ballymaloe Cookery School as I took mum there in (I think) 2003 for a one day course about decorative vegetable potagers with Joy Larkcom.

And, whilst the talk was interesting, what was particularly memorable was the stay at Ballymaloe and its stunning grounds.  It really is a very special place, and whilst the courses are more focussed on cookery, they also run a number of gardening courses and, if my experience is anything to go by, they come highly recommended.

I was happily reminiscing about our trip whilst reading the article, when I turned the page and stopped in my tracks.



Spot the snap?  This is the photo that sits on my bedside table.  Not the best photo, but a very special one because of all the happy memories it evokes.

Thanks for everything mum.


In the first year they sleep…


Late in the summer of 2014 I was at my sister’s new house in Hertfordshire and admired an inherited Penstemon flowering profusely in view of her kitchen window.

Conscious of how very pink my garden is, I thought a lilac Penstemon would work well late in the year with my Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ and Caryopteris x cladonensis ‘Heavenly Blue.’  I snaffled a few cuttings, put them in a plastic bag and travelled back over land and sea to the Isle of Wight.  Once there I planted them in gritty compost and later potted up the healthy cuttings into 9cm pots.

In the spring I planted them out in the Swing Beds and waited for them to add a late summer lilac explosion.  It never came.

All in all I consider Penstemons pretty easy and was a little disappointed (not to mention embarrassed) at the no show of (what I now have identified as) my ‘Stapleford Gems.’  And then last weekend I was walking along the pebbly path to the left of the left hand Swing Bed and there, growing completely horizontally, was just one perfect Penstemon flower head, demonstrating exactly the metallic purply blue colour I’d remembered.IMG_9658

And the title?  Coincidentally, talking to a gardening friend on Saturday, I heard a phrase I’d not come across before relating to perennials, which made me feel a little bit better:

“In the first year they sleep, in the second they creep and in the third they LEAP.”

So, maybe two more years until my lilac explosion, but I’m prepared to wait.Photo courtesy of