Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sticks and Cones

Using cut foliage and stems to insert into winter contianers is an old idea which I read about in a Victorian container gardening book. It works wonders transforming an otherwise fairly sparse planting scheme into something altogether more attractive and interesting.

Pussy willow, hazelnut with catkins, fiery cornus stems all add their own sort of magic and will last for several weeks just pushed into damp compost. You might even find they have rooted by the time you take them out!

I have lots of spare, very spare, soft green moss in the garden at the moment and have enjoyed weaving it amongst my bulbs and plants in the containers. It makes them look so snug, and the bright green colouring helps to set off the flowers so well.

Fir cones are another good addition, again adding warmth and texture.

All these plants can be bought in the garden centres right now to make instant containers; adding stems, moss and cones really sets them off. They make a little, go a long way.

Our last Winter Tuesday open day is on February 22nd, 12-4pm. Hot drinks and scrummy home made cakes are on offer. Today it was rosemary and orange drizzle, and oh there was carrot cake too.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Feast for Winter Bees

February 8th has been a lovely warm day, frosty at first but then filled with sunshine; a welcome change from the endless grey days of late plus the roaring winds.

Suddenly I heard a great commotion on the verandah where baskets of hellebores and winter flowering aconites were in full bloom. I noticed not just one, but maybe 8 or 10 honey bees buzzing about from one flower to another, most indignant that I had appeared and interrupted their feast. One bee had a huge sack of pollen; it could hardly move. Weeks of starvation meant that it was determined to go home laden. Our two beehives seem to have survived the winter so far. These have been extreme times for them.

By coincidence I wrote a blog on February 5th last year after noticing the bees on hellebores and snowdrops. Maybe we should collate the information in a survey of winter honey bee sightings, as is done for garden birds!

The sunshine was especially welcome today as this was one of my February Open Tuesdays bringing visitors to see my winter garden. The grasses were magical with their sunny backlight,the cornus stems glistened,and the newly washed white stemmed birches positively gleamed. The aconites were in full flower and the bees obviously enjoyed them.....the snowdrops will follow in the next ten days.