Never lose an opportunity to see anything beautiful

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Reading an article recently in the Journal of " The Hardy Plant" I chanced upon the phrase used in the heading to this month's News Item. It was attributed by the writer to Charles Kingsley an author  of children's books in Vicorian times, best known perhaps for "The Water Babies"

It struck quite a chord with me as I had just returned from a morning in the garden when I had reflected that, even with precious little colour at this time of year, there is always something, however seemingly insignificant, to admire. The shape of a bare tree, the structure of seed pods, patterns and  leaf colours of  evergreen leaves, and other unexpected little treasures,  gifts of nature waiting to be discovered by the observant. 

Arum Italicum marmoratum


 Spent seedheads of sedum (now hylotelephium!) Spectabile. Colours have faded but the stems glow yellow in sunshine -lovely structure and long lasting too. No rush to cut these back!


 The best fern for winter as it stays looking fresh for ages. Polypodium "Prestonii". Plenty of others in this genus to choose from



One of the best for long lasting structure to 7 feet tall with lovely seedpods is Cardiocrinum giganteum. En masse in bigger gardens than ours  these look absolutely spectacular.


Masses of seed packed like Weetabix in a box. All ready to sow and start the long 7 year wait for them to flower!


 Glaucous blue lichen covering the bark of a conifer.



Superb bark colour on acer Sango - kaku Aptly called the coral bark maple. It gets even better with age.


More seedheads that need no introduction


 Allium cristophii. The seedhead is even better  than the flower and marvellous with hoar frost on it. This one had blown half way around the garden


In the garden the month for me has been one long round of cutting back all the 8 herbaceous borders in the House Garden, and carting all the dead material away. It certainly tidies up the garden and gives early emerging plants the space to grow and show themselves off. Of these,  many snowdrops and daffodil pips are already showing and hellebores are on the move already, much earlier than last winter, thanks to a reasonably mild month with plenty of rain.

The winter garden alongside the beech hedge walk after cutting back. In 2 months time it will be full of colour from hellebores, snowdrops and cyclamen coum just to name a few


 Cutting back in  progress


Even the stream and woodland  garden gets cut back  even tough they are not formal borders. 





All this cutting back produces a mound of waste which I am calling Mount Cilgwyn!!


Thinking back over the course of the year for us personally it has been quite a year, with my long bout of chemotherapy and its after effects, and latterly Moira's knee operation, from which she is slowly recovering, and is now driving again. I am still relatively stable, able to do many of the tasks I want to, which keeps me sane! I do not know how long this state of affairs will continue, but as I have done ever since diagnosis, I try to keep positive and as optimistic as you ever can be living with a terminal cancer.

There were however many highlights thoughout the year with the wonderful summer weather, many outings to enjoy,notwithstanding the challenges of the drought,just about the best the garden has ever looked I think, apart from the brassicas, and the thrill of appearing on BBC "Gardeners World" in August. Best not to mention "The Beast from the East" and the mini earthquake that occured in February!



Readings cover the first 22 days to the 20th

For the third month in succesion December was exceptionally wet, more so than the other 2 months, with 6.7 inches of rain. More than 2 inches over the long term average for our part of Carmarthenshire.  Unsurprisingly there were 11  rain days and 10 changeable days which of course included a lot more rain!

There was only 1 fully sunny day!

It was incredibly mild with7 days above 10C with a max of 12.96C and just 3 frosts with a min of -3C on 2 occasions. Wind was a regular feature with 3 gales but no damage thank goodness.  


Occasionally we had a start to a day which felt like a December day. 




 On a misty cold morning the sun  about to break through was a bonus.



Garden Update and what's looking good.

As usual at this time of year I roll together the 2 headings as there are not sufficient newsworthy items to justify individual headings

Last picking of Little Gem lettuces on 9 December



 One of the many emerging hellebore buds all over the garden containing in excess of 250 plants


The first to flower is usually this little beauty one of the first anemone centres to come onto the market many years ago thanks to Ashwood Nurseries 


 One from the x ericsmithii Group. Lovely foliage that in this group I don't usually cut back


 When cutting back this large clump of a single plant I counted 76 leaf stems!!



 A lovely surprise on diervilla "Butterfly" was this late leaf colour on 10th of the month. It is a compact nicely formed shrub to 4 feet with small scented flowers in late summer. A member of the honeysuckle family, caprifoliaceae


 And a true honesuckle is lonicera purpusii. Flowering through winter and wonderful scent in the graden on warmer days and especially when cut for the house


Euonymus "Emerald n' Gold" always cheers me up throughout the year especially in the depths of winter. It has been with us for many years


One of the few fast fading flowers in the garden is senecio polyodon a daisy relative


 For a true daisy you need to look in the small tunnel where argyranthemum "Chelsea Girl" has self seeded  and has been flowering for 6 months yet is still producing new flowers


 Nothing beats the Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) at this time of year. This plant is at least 6 years old and flowering better than ever after feeding regularly to encourage it.


 There are a few others in the large tunnel to bring into the house to flower later


 Some promising buds on euphorbia caracias hopefully to flower (frosts permitting) in a couple of months time


 Cyclamen coum one of the many clumps in the garden


 Cyclamen hederifolium have done their flowering this year but the leaves remain attractive all winter. 


 This snowdrop, an elwesii cross that no one has yet been able to name, is just coming into bud as are many others. Julian a galanthophile friend of ours has given it the name Keiths Korker!! I rather like that.


Another round of cutting back to come in the Paddock Garden early next month when hopefully I will have my usual helpers to cart all the waste away which is quite substantial because of the size of the borders there. In the meantime I still have a range of structural jobs to do such as repairing the Summer House doors, some border edgings and steps, and there are also cold frames to tidy up and repair. There are times when I feel more like an odd job man than a gardener! but in some ways those jobs are just as important, especially to get off to a good start when Spring arrives.

My seed sowing also begins with the arrival of the New Year but all my winter cuttings have now been taken and are growing away well under fleece on their hot benches.




Wildlife and Countryside

All very quiet;  some  fields still have  some sheep but all the cows are now in barns for the winter. The most noise and activity we have comes from the warbling sound of the starlings which continue to descend in great numbers onto several nearby fields and trees.







I have however yet to capture the perfect picture of a large murmuration of starlings in full flight; althought they do form into aerial groups which lack  the photogenic impact of massed larger groups.  A bit like the unattainable shot of a kingfisher I have been longing to capture for many years!


10 Green apples sitting on a hedge!

The bramley apples from store are beginning to fade now and I use the worst of them to feed the birds in this novel way! 



 When clearing the borders near the house I found this large mound of leaves much larger than the rest 




And underneath it I found a hibernating hedgehog. Whether it will come through the winter I don't know. Of course I replaced all the leaves and added a few more.

 I am sure that Kit Kat won't mind me showing you this pic. of him sitting alongside his friend, a look alike door stop cat. Kit is on the left!!



If you go into Carmarthen town centre any time of the year, you will find Farmyard  Nurseries selling their superb range plants on Market days. Owned by friends of ours it brightens up the town especially now when they have their Christmas wreathes for sale.  All made at the nursery.

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No visits to report apart from our monthly HPS Group Meeting, always enjoyable and  a chance to catch up with fellow plant nuts like us!! But in a month or so it will be time for visiting snowdrop gardens which is always the eagerly awaited horticultural kick start to the New Year.

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Christmas  Greetings!


At the end of another year we would like to thank all our friends and other readers of our website for reading our monthly news, especially all those who visited the website for the first time when the "Gardeners World" programme was shown on BBC TV when our hits went up five fold from our normal monthly rate!

All good wishes to everyone for a very enjoyable Christmas, and New Year, the best of health,  and a successful and enjoyable gardening year with the most perfect weather - We wish!

Love from Keith and Moira XX


And finally a surprise treat -

As   many readers will know, we used to open the garden for the NGS for 16 years from the year 2000 and welcomed somewhere in the region of 20,000 visitors in that time. We had many goup visits including tour companies from Holland which were always enjoyable with friendly, very interested gardeners who loved Wales and the surrounding countryside. This u tube video that Moira came across not so long ago is a brilliant tribute to the garden and the person who filmed it, to whom we are very grateful. So much detail in such a short timeslot. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.