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Saturday, 21 December 2013

The last day of autumn

Today is the winter solstice and officially the first day of winter and the weather is vile - strong winds, grey, on-off drizzle and very much a stay indoors kind of day! The start of winter could seem daunting to think of three months of it lying ahead of us, but I like to think that from now on the days will start to get longer. By next month there will be bulbs pushing up out of the soil and by the end of winter we will have bulbs flowering and all sorts of signs of life in the garden.

However yesterday autumn went out in a spectacular way with one of those rare beautiful sunny days without being particularly cold. I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked up the garden and disturbed a Red Admiral butterfly! I don't think I've ever seen one in December before, although I have read that because they are hibernating butterflies they do appear occasionally on mild sunny winter days. No pictures as it flew off over the fields next door but I was inspired to go out and take a few photos. I had thought about a December in bloom post but that would have been rather short, so here are a random mix of photos of my December garden.

The toughest flower in the garden.
These little Heartsease Violas flower both winter and summer.
They are totally drought proof in summer, and totally hardy in winter.
They are wild and self seed all over the place.
(There's even a tiny fly in this photo!)

Frost has killed off most of the Rocket flowers but a few survive.

Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis).
There's only one plant with a few flowers left but these have come back
into flower several times during the year after dead heading.

Most of the annuals are history but
this Calendula bud has survived in a sheltered spot.

It's not only flowers which look decorative.
Purple Curly Kale is one of the prettiest plants in the winter garden
and can be grown as an ornamental too.

My favourite Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire').

Here it is right foreground but not currently looking so great
as I need to tidy up the now frosted Bidens behind it,
but some of the tatty plants in this bed are the
ones that look great close up in macro or covered in frost!
Old mistletoe covered apple in the background with pond behind.

Just a fun one turned upside down. Apart from the slightly blurry bits,
would you have known these are my alder trees reflected in the pond?
Maybe only if you had really zoomed in on the upside down moorhen
(tiny thing bottom left)!

I never remove the Sedum stems until about February.
This one is 'Autumn Joy'.

Maybe this is why they are called Coneflowers?
Looks like a bird has been enjoying munching on these seeds.

Even though the whole plant looks a total mess,
the remaining Physalis fruit is still attractive.

The fluffy seed heads of Smoke Bushes are hard to capture because there are so many stems
that get in the way in my photos, so I had to crop in hard to get rid of them.
This is my Cotinus Coggygria 'Royal Purple'.
I've seen Chaffinches take these soft fluffy bits in the spring to use in their nests.

Something I've noticed a number of times after wet but mild(ish) weather are new plants
germinating in situ on the seed heads of plants! This is a perennial plant called Gaillardia.

All the time I was taking photos Harry was 'helping' me. His favourite way is to bob up
against me just as I'm crouched down trying to focus on something.
He looks a bit grown up here and squinting against the sun, but believe me
he's still an overgrown baby. Ok, teenager.

And in the last light of the afternoon sun here he is helping my OH
who has started to remove the diseased peach tree from my veggie patch.

I won't be posting again before Christmas so Season's Greetings to you all. I hope Santa brings you everything you asked for and here's hoping you have a wonderful overindulgent time. :-)

16 comments:

  1. what a wonderful read - have a lovely christmas/new year's yourself, Mandy!

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    1. Thanks very much Sandy, glad you enjoyed it. :-)

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  2. That's a lovely set of winter sun photos Mandy. I could almost believe you don't actually get winter. The Calendula looks like it's going to come out and bask in the warmth in a few hours

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    1. Thanks very much Nick! It's good that the images make you think that....of course it's not true but a blog post of grey gloomy photos wouldn't be the same, would it? ;-)

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  3. A sunny day in December can be quite colourful!
    Lovely little violas, they are indeed amazingly tough flowers and it's nice to have them around in Winter :)
    What lacks now in the bloom department is made up for by interesting textures and shapes :)))

    Thanks for your Christmas greetings, have a fun festive season, Mandy!

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    1. Hi M-H and thank you! Yes the occasional day of sun makes such a huge difference and suddenly everything sparkles. In fact the sun has just peeked out right now! Nice, because it is very mild out there. :-)

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  4. Wow, Harry does look all grown up! He is a handsome overgrown baby :)
    Your plants are looking much better than mine. We got some near record lows last week and the few stragglers were quickly put to their winter rest. It got down to 16F (-8C), and I dread the loss of my Salvias, spring will tell.

    Have a great holiday, Mandy.
    ~Rain

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    1. Hi Rain (nice to keep in touch again)! Sorry to hear about your cold spell. I haven't ever dared try salvias apart from bog standard culinary sage, because I know they are not that tough. They are beautiful though and I've been tempted, seeing the amount of pollinators attracted to them. I hope they survive for you.
      The kitties are nearly 8 months old now but believe me still acting like kittens a lot of the time. :-)
      Thanks for visiting, take care and happy holidays.

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  5. Ice cream cone flowers, Mandy, love it! Yep, you almost tricked me with your upside down exercise (though you had been standing on your head at first!). Ah, what a luscious December sun can do!
    Thanks so much for you winter garden tour, my dear.
    Regards to Harry and OH and wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a fruitful 2014!!

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    1. Hi Jan and thanks! I was surprised at that cone shape, then was thinking 'duh', of course, it's a CONEflower, lol :-)
      I rather like my upside down moorhen and that white blob is Freckles the duck.
      Happy Christmas to you and your family too although I know we'll talk elsewhere before then..... :-)

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    2. If I don't die tonight we surely will, Mandy!

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    3. Calling Jan..... I hope you are still alive!! :-)

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  6. Thanks for the lovely walk through your garden... I love the Heartsease Violas flowers! I'm trying to catch up with everyone as I have been busy with holiday fun. I wish you a Merry Christmas Mandy!

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    1. Thanks very much for visiting at a busy time, Miss Lady Bug! Yes those little flowers are delightful and well needed in our winter gardens.
      Have a wonderful time my friend over the holiday season! xx

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  7. Beautiful images! Yes...I recognized your trees as being reflected :-) I love that you've found beauty in death. I love shooting deadheads as much as the living. I hope your Christmas was wonderful. It passed without fanfare here as I've been struggling through two bouts of sickness...the second turning into Bronchitis. I'm very rarely sick so I've been in disbelief at how long it's lasting. Such a waste of precious time! Thankfully, I'm slowly recovering and can hardly wait to get back outside. Happy New Year, Mandy and Thank your for your posts. I really appreciate them and find them very inspiring :-)

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    1. Aww Marianne that's a nice thing to say, that you find my posts inspiring! I can say the same about yours!

      So sorry you have been ill and best wishes for a speedy recovery. I know how frustrating it is being sick and not having the energy to do the things you want to do! But take it easy, those things will still be there when you are feeling 100% and ready to go again. :-)

      My Christmas was quiet and pleasant, just the two of us and I'm happy with that!

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