In a Vase for Monday – a bunch of daffs

Narcissus in a vase

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquils

I rarely manage to participate in Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme, but sometimes I feel sufficiently inspired to make a modest contribution. As you can see I am a founder member of the “plonked naturally in a jam jar” school of flower arranging.
Although my small bunch of “daffs” may not have great artistic merit, apart from their intrinsic beauty, they are filling the house with the most sublime perfume.
Narcissi are the stalwarts of the cottage garden from February to May. Tete-a-tete is always first to flower and was the first bulb to be planted in the cottage garden. It came from my garden in Worcestershire along with the jonquil (alas un-named) which also appears in my vase.

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquills

Narcissus tete-a-tete with jonquills

In the orchard and the cottage garden the cyclamineus narcissi, Little Witch, Jack Snipe and Jet Fire, are already fading, but the triandus varieties, Hawera and Thalia are still to flower. There are also other un-named daffodils which flower year after year in the cottage garden which delight the eye and perfume the air regardless of their unknown provenance.
More delicate species are cosseted in the alpine house until we have sufficient stock to try them in the garden. N. bulbicodium will be planted out this summer, and if it flowers it will be a delightful addition to the garden. N. assoanus was planted in the garden last year, but it will probably take a little while to establish. This also came from my last garden, but I am not sure whether it will flower this far north. A native of Spain it needs a good summer baking to flower, not a regular feature of Hebridean summers. However, N. canaliculatus is reputedly also difficult to flower, but seems to produce some flowers every year despite the rigors of our climate. Sometimes the plants don’t follow the rules, so it is always worth a try.


The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la……


Narcissus cyclamineus 'Jack Snipe'

Narcissus cyclamineus Jack Snipe

March roared in at 90 mph and eventually departed at a more sedate 70 mph, a little more than a roaring lion and no sign of the lamb. Even the most resilient of my “daffs” were beaten to the ground, the emergent alliums were shredded and the scillas were wishing they’d never left Siberia. That was last month and at last we have some good weather. The later flowering narcissi (Narcissus canaliculatus , Narcissus triandrus Hawera, N. tazetta Minnow, N. triandrus Thalia, and N. bulbicodium) are all in full bloom and filling the garden with colour and perfume. More importantly, along with the Muscari, are providing food for the young queen bumblebees. Small tortoiseshell butterflies have also been busy in the garden although they seem to be more pre-occupied with courtship than sipping nectar. It is too early to tell, but I hope that the emergence of relatively large numbers of this lovely butterfly after winter their hibernation may indicate that the populations are at last starting to recover.

Hawera, Minnow and Thalia and N. canaliculatus grow and proliferate in the cottage garden, although this year the latter have not flowered as well as usual. I usually have a few pots of spring bulbs scattered around the garden in sheltered corners, and although the leaves look a little ragged they have flowered profusely. This year I had to leave my pots of N. bulbicodium outside and their tender grass-like leaves were shrivelled by the harsh winds, so I was delighted to find a few flowers in the largest pots. I now feel confident enough to plant some of my spare bulbs in the garden and hope that they will survive and naturalise.
As the April days lengthen the whooper swans leave for Iceland, barely visible in the early morning mist alerting me with a bugle of farewell so that I can wish them bon voyage. On clear days there is a flypast of geese, skein after skein like a fleet of arrows in a clear blue sky. Nature abhors a vacuum so as the geese leave, the first summer visitors arrive, meadow pipits, wagtails and wheatears, chasing and dashing around the croft like a noisy playground full of children.
The spring bulbs are like small beacons of light that are a signal for the garden to awake. They are tough enough to withstand the equinox gales, which can wither the tender early shoots of the herbaceous perennials. Beyond the garden wall, the native wild flowers sleep on, too wary to appear too early. I watch and wait, their time will come.
May approaches and the frilled mounds of the aquilegias are producing flower spikes as the fat shoots of the hostas unwind to reveal delicate leaves – pale green swirled with white or glaucous, crinkled and pleated. Amongst the vibrant shiny leaves of the astrantias stands of dead twigs are revealing tiny shoots – some of the verbascums and agastaches have survived. The despair of February is replaced by the joie de vivre of spring as the warmth of the sun resurrects the garden again.
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
–  Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant 

The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la…… 14 March was the 130th anniversary of the first performance of the Mikado.

In a Vase for Monday: Sheltering from the Rain

Narcissus: Hawera, Baby Moon, Little Witch, Tete-a -Tete

Narcissus: Hawera, Baby Moon, Little Witch, Tete-a-Tete

This is my first contribution to the Rambler’s In a Vase for Monday meme. I promised a contribution before Easter and, as Easter is late this year, I’ve just scraped in. I like having a small posy of flowers in the house, so my tardiness has been a lack of flowers and foliage rather than commitment. Although there have been pots of bulbs flowering in the polytunnel, I decided to stick to the idea of using material from the garden. So this is my first posy of the year – a small glass of dwarf narcissi from the cottage garden.
I belong to the “a nice bunch of flowers in a vase with a bit of foliage” school of flower arranging rather than the floral art academy. Although with my shortage of material perhaps something more akin ikebana would be more appropriate.
So I have a “nice bunch of daffs”, which also have a lovely delicate scent, sheltering from the rain on my windowsill, the next step is the photography. It is far more difficult  to take a decent photograph of a vase of flowers than I had imagined . I was so captivated by the individual flowers that it was difficult to concentrate on the vase as a whole. First a few trial shots and then a tweaking of the arrangement, followed by elevating the glass to avoid the window frame, then setting the focus so it was soft but not blurred and finally attempting to preserve the translucency of the flowers by adjusting the light . Sometimes reproducing simplicity can be horribly complex and I began to feel in need of a cup of tea.
Not bad for a first effort, but definitely could do better on all counts, although I did grow the daffs, which after all are the stars of the show.

In the Winter Garden

Primroses Croft Garden CottageI always dreamed of having a winter garden – delicate snowdrops and aconites in perfect drifts beneath the tracery of the bare branches of elegant Japanese acers and the ghostly stems of birches. A contrasting backdrop of glossy green Mahonia and air laden with the delicate scent of winter jasmine, Osmanthus and Daphne. The reality is a cottage garden which looks as if it has a monumental Hogmanay hangover – jaded and definitely rough around the edges.
The garden always looks shabby and unkempt in the winter, a tangle of brown shredded leaves, flowering stems and seed heads. I will not tidy them away as they are the winter refuge of hibernating wee bugs and beasties and give the plants a little protection from the wind. Generally our winters are mild, so many of the herbaceous plants do not go dormant, often producing a new flush of leaves in the late autumn susceptible to the wind and salt spray.
There is very little I can do when storm force winds come thundering through the garden stripping twigs, stems and leaves and scouring the earth. So it is a case of restoration and damage limitation – mulching the bare earth around the plants, firming rocking stems and carefully pruning broken and shattered branches. There will be some losses, but it is amazing how resistant some plants are to frequent battering. A little poking around in a sheltered corner reveals a patch of primroses and the dark purple spears of Trillium chloropetalum. Sheltering at the base of a wall a dense patch of early Narcissus shoots mingles with the red tinted emergent leaves of Amaryllis belladonna . The snowdrops and other spring bulbs slumber on – perhaps they heard the wind.
It is not a prefect day for winter gardening, the sky is unremitting grey and the air lies heavy, damp and chill. The compost is wet and heavy, sticking to the trowel and my fingers are cold. As the drizzle increases I start thinking about afternoon tea, but then a wren appears and scolds me for Sassenach irresolution so I continue and dream about perfect winter gardens.