At this time of year I do admire the plants that manage to flower spectacularly outdoors, despite the cold. If I was out there 24/7, I don’t think I could manage to look in any way cheerful and certainly wouldn’t smell as nice as some of them do. The fragrances coming from the flowers of Mahonia and the Viburnums are beautiful. I get to appreciate them while I stand on the terrace first thing in the morning in my dressing gown, warming my hands on a mug of tea, making sure Lily does eventually do a wee. You’d think when it’s frosty and blowing a gale she’d want to get it over with as quickly as possible, but no, it’s a process of round and round the garden and spinning in circles, for what seems like an age, until she identifies that perfect spot on what is not a huge lawn. I’ve planted a Christmas Box in a pot right by my back door – returning to the house, I marvel how such tiny flowers can produce such a powerful perfume.
My indoor plants are providing lots of interest too. The Christmas Cactus that once belonged to my Mum bloomed magnificently in October, which seemed a tad early, but has now done so again, which seems a tad late, but an added bonus. The Oxalis Triangularis my sister propagated fascinates me – for obvious reasons it’s also known as Butterfly Plant, Purple Shamrock and Love Plant. Apparently it’s edible, but I don’t think I’ll chance it as it can be poisonous to cats and dogs, and after all, they are humans with 4 legs. She also gave me a cutting of what we think is a kind of African Violet – it’s produced several strangely beautiful purple and green frilly flowers.
For some Christmas fun I decided to set up a bit of a competition for my daughter Rosy and her partner Daisy. I potted up an amaryllis bulb for each of them. I was a bit worried when the time came to give them their gifts, as there was clearly a slight difference in progress. However they’ve both come up trumps and as one is nearing the end of flowering, the other is about to burst forth.
Talking of which, I saved two amaryllis bulbs from last year – one has stubbornly produced nothing, but this morning I opened the curtains and was greeted by the sight below. The same can’t be said for my indoor hyacinths – I followed all the advice, nurturing them carefully, but this is all they could muster for me. They still smell incredible though!
Something else I’ve been dabbling in is shocking plants into flowering. I’ve read that putting orchids in a cooler place and depriving kalanchoes of light for a short while can do the trick. I have to say, I think if I was a plant, I would definitely be spurred into action by such treatment. Anyway the experiment seems to have worked on one of my orchids, so the others have now been put in my cold greenhouse (woops I mean conservatory). My kalanchoe was banished to the attic for some time – to be honest I forgot about it – but it has come up with the goods, although I don’t think the flower stems should be that long (they’re not on the ones in the shops) – the length is a result of desperately searching for some light I imagine.
It’s RSPB bird watch this weekend – we’re asked to give up an hour of our time and report the different types of birds that land in our gardens. I’m going to participate tomorrow – I hope I get more than pigeons and magpies visiting – I might have to use a bit of artistic licence on the timeframe. Talking of birds, over New Year we had a holiday in Northumberland and while walking round Holy Island, Grumbling Rose spotted some home-made ‘Tit Boxes’ for sale in someone’s front garden – there was an honesty box nearby to raise money for St Mary’s Church. Grumbling Rose aka Peter Pan (he has never grown up), found the term hilarious and was keen to buy me one. Today he installed it under duress, as we are probably already too late to attract any residents this year. I have to admit there was some danger involved because we have experienced extremely high winds since last night, and the task did mean climbing a ladder, to reach the ideal height of 4 metres. The first attempt resulted in a box that literally bounced against the wall when the wind blew – any avian couple scouting around for a suitable home to raise their family would be thinking they were in the midst of an earthquake. Anyway, another screw fixed the problem, so now we’re waiting for viewers!