An Instagram retrospective of November & December 2017
More than half way through winter, and in truth it’s been a little changeable. No snow here in this part of Kent and, in spite of a bitingly cold spell at the beginning of December, we’re currently experiencing a fairly typical mild, damp and soggy end to the year. On the plus side, this makes spending time gardening rather more pleasant than the typical wintery conditions of my imagination.
Casting my mind back to the first days of November, autumn was languidly drawing itself out, seemingly in no particular hurry, which was just fine by me.
November. How did that happen? This year really is flying, it seems like only yesterday I was banging on about the smooth creams and greens of the flowers on Hydrangea 'Annabelle', and look at her now! Still gorgeous, but a bit Miss Havisham. 🕷🕸🍁#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
Plenty of time to enjoy planting some more cyclamen (C. cycilium, hederifolium and coum in this garden), and admiring the mature specimens alongside accidental sympathetic planting. If you can ever refer to what the natural world gets up to as ‘accidental’.
The sleek white, upswept petals of the ivy-leaved sowbread (Cyclamen hederifoliun) might be the first thing to catch your eye here. They are undeniably lovely. But the most pleasing thing for me is the young ivy that's inserted itself between the plant and the apple tree, beginning to scramble up the trunk, provided g a perfect match in colour and form for the cyclamen. I love it when Mother Nature lends a hand with the garden decoration. 🍁🍂#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
There was an appearance of the most iconic mushroom...
The golden autumn sun just before setting (tick), a picturesque toadstool (tick) and an old #LandRover (tick). Surely that gets me extra Insta points? 🍄 There was one rather sad fly agaric (Armanita muscaria) mushroom under the birches last autumn. This year, there's a more impressive selection. Picturesque little bleeder, isn't it? Red for Danger, Will Robinson. 🍄 I'm no #mushroom expert so steer clear of foraging for dinner as I'd almost certainly kill us. Do you collect edible shrooms, and if so, what field guide do you use? #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn
...and plenty of golden sunshine, at the beginning of the day...
Startled pheasant, rudely awakened from the bonfire heap, indignantly blusters into the sky. A mouse hops out from beneath a cob tree to my left and dashes off down along the path ahead. Autumn. 🍁🍂✨My encounter with the pheasant (extraordinarily silly birds, poor things) and the mouse yet to come, I stopped off on the way to work this morning to make the most of the sun, wandering through beech and hazel trees, thankful for the return of the light. #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
Liggy and Phyllo (which should be the names of a children's book). Fluffy seedheads of Ligularia dentata 'Desdamona' against a backdrop of bamboo (Phyllostachys something-or-rather) in the autumn sun. Something about this image that just makes me smile. Which is good, cos it's flippin' cold this morning. 🍁✨😀🌱#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
...as well as at the end.
Golden "Hour" – that time just before the sun slips under the horizon when the light slants in at a rakishly low angle and makes everything glow with warmth – seems to last about ten minutes in November. So you have to make the most of it, stop whatever you're doing and grab your camera. The gaura is one of the last remaining flowers in the prairie planting. It's also one of the last flowers in the garden - just a band of fat-hipped rugosa roses between them and the paddock and, having negotiated those and the fat gardener in the way, the last of the sun's gilding rays seemed happy to rest upon the gaura's serene white petals. A wonderful moment. 🍁✨🍂✨#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
But even on the dull days, the autumn light revealed details in the garden that made you want to stand and stare.
I don't believe you can beat the quality of light in autumn. Gone is the strong overhead light of summer with its harsh shadows and its tendency to bleach a scene of detail. Of course, on a great day there's the wonderful golden hour just before sunset (and after dawn), spreading a rich and warm yellow glow across the landscape. But even when it's dull and overcast, the foliage seems to radiate with a luminescence that makes the most of every contour and nuance. It's hard to get anything done, when there's so much to look at! 🍁🍂✨#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn
We got to enjoy the very last of the dahlias, sometimes left to expire gracefully in the borders...
Autumn is a time when Mother Nature likes to move things around. A period of redistribution – leaves from the trees to the ground, colour drained from summer flowers, and splashed brightly all around sunrises and sunsets. This dahlia looks a little sad at the change, but nothing goes to waste. Circle of life, and all that. 🍁🍂✨ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn
...and sometimes rescued, just in time, from the ravages of wind and rain.
The last of the dahlias? (Brown bits judiciously hidden round the back) A cold mist this morning and a light frost here. These blooms got walloped by Saturday's downpour, which just gave me an excuse to snip them and bring them inside. A bit of sun in a jar. Today is shaping up bright and cold, perfect autumn weather. 🍁✨🔥🍂#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
As the temperatures began to drop, the great Bringing In of the Pelargoniums began. An event which always fills me with dread, as I’ve not got a great record for nursing tender plants through the winter. Everything is still crossed...
Meet Wendy Jane, a beautiful scarlet dwarf rosebud pelargonium. I'm rather enjoying having all the pellies around me in my study (the scented ones smell awesome!), at least while they're looking healthy. Let's hope they stay that way over winter. 🍁🌱#todaysgoodthing #botanicalpickmeup #aslowmoment #momentsofmine #lovelysquares #underthefloralspell #thebotanicalseries #liveauthentic #allthingsbotanical #seekthesimplicity #aquietstyle #lifeandthyme #flowers #flowersofinstagram #floral_perfection #oneperfectthing #thefloralseasons #smallmomentsofcalm #jeweledlight #indoorphotography #interiors #heitermoments #fb
It's the leaves that are the scented bit on a scented pelargonium. In fact, on most of them, you could be forgiven for missing the small delicate flowers entirely. But having brought Pelargonium x fragrans into the house for winter, it's decided that now would be a grand time to start flowering with gusto, so we're being treated to an entirely unseasonal display, not that we're complaining. It's a good one for the hibernal kitchen window ledge – its spicy smell will soon be mingling with all those Christmassy scents wafting around. Can't help giving its leaves a little squeeze when I'm doing the washing up, I don't think it minds. 🌱 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
I've only really discovered dwarf pelargoniums this year. This one's 'Friesdorf', and he's been stunning all season, though just at this moment he's what you might call "between flowers". It's like all the energy and wonder of a normal pellie, concentrated down into a dinky little package. Every home should have, well...as many as possible. 🌺🌱#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
The leaves seemed reluctant to fall this year, drawing out the annual task of shepherding them into bags and compost bins, there to break down in time to lovely crumbly soil conditioner. At the time, I thought this was a good thing, as it allowed me time to continue working in the beds, weeding and cutting back etc. But on balance, I don’t think it really made much difference to the position we’re in at the end of the year – everything that got needed to get done still got done (well, almost everything), but the variety in autumnal routine was welcome.
Got to admit, I'm a bit confused by the leaves this year (Parrotia and Liquidambar here, pretty, aren't they?) . They've taken such a long time to fall, that there seem to be less of them, by virtue of there being more time to clear them away. It's also allowing me to get on to doing other things, like lifting dahlias and cutting back perennials, at the appropriate time. Steady on. I'll be dividing things before you know it (free plants, hurrah!). 🍁✨🌱🍂#mystoryoflight #iphoneography #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn
And just to break it up, there weren’t just leaves in the garden to photograph.
Now while I thoroughly enjoy shepherding other people's leaves towards the compost heap, there to spend the next year or so rotting down into the most lovely, crumbly soil conditioner (the leaves, not me), it makes a pleasant change to shuffle through foliage that I know I won't have to collect. So Bill and I went for a walk along avenues of sweet chestnut at Knole Park, though Bill wasn't too impressed by the thick carpet of prickly nut cases. Don't blame him. I've worked in offices full of prickly nutcases before, far from ideal. 🍁🍂#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn
One month before Christmas (time really flying now, must be age), Great Dixter held its Christmas Plant Fair – a great excuse to wander through the gardens just after they’ve closed for the winter, as well as making the most of all the wonderful crafts and nurseries who’ve turned up to make the event such a success.
The Christmas Fair today at @greatdixterofficial (also on tomorrow). Bill got to meet the famous dachshunds Conifer and Miscanthus, I bought a lovely @whichfordpottery pot for my Ren's Fave tulips, and we had a look around inside the house at all the sparkly things. While swigging mulled wine (or "mule swine", according to my phone). Of course, I spent more time in the garden, playing with the new camera and trying to capture the autumnal light on the late November beds. After which, on to Tenterden's Christmas Fair (in stories)! A perfect, bright, cold Saturday. With wine and sparkles. What did you get up to?✨✨🍷🌲 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #PENF
Back at home, I was pleased to discover a flower still on my chocolate cosmos...
I still have a flower on my chocolate cosmos! It really is a flower, even if it looks as though it's been carved from a small block of mahogany. And it really does smell of chocolate. Cosmos atrosanguineus is a perennial cosmos which, like the cheery colourful relatives we grow as annuals, comes from Mexico, where it's now sadly extinct, and any plant you buy is an exact clone of the one introduced into cultivation in the early twentieth century. But most importantly, it smells of chocolate. 🍫🌸#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb
...but inevitably, as the temperatures fall and the light levels fade, attention begins to turn increasingly to the indoor jungle.
You know it's truly the depth of winter when the light from the window barely makes it into the room. So gloomy. #Houseplants and pellies all jostling to catch a tired photon before it expires. thinks I wonder if they make sparkly Christmas growlights? ✨✨✨ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter
We love our calathea (peacock plant or zebra plant), but she certainly has been a bit of a diva since she arrived last month. Most of our recently acquired houseplants have more or less just got on with things, but this one likes to let you know how she's feeling. Quite what you're supposed to do about it is another thing altogether, so let's just hope we learn her ways before we inflict anything terminal upon her. Would hate to lose such a gorgeous presence in the house. 🌱 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter
My, but it's a chilly one today! I shall be thinking of our serene Ceropegia woodii, (hearts on a string, sweetheart vine) sitting cosily on the mantelpiece while I'm furtling about in a frosty garden today. Em's wanted one of these ever since we saw it in @laetitiamaklouf's first book, The Virgin Gardener (fantastic for newbie gardeners, even for those without a, um… garden!). I found one at @coolingsgardencentre last week, and, needing a container, one of @burgonandball's stunning hanging pots fitted the bill perfectly. Just need to work out where to hang it now (cue rash of hooks breaking out all over the house) 🌱🌵💚 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #fb #penf
And all the more suddenly, for its long, relaxed visit this year, autumn is on its way.
The leaves are all but gone. Trees etch the memory of their summer selves into the sky. The tracery of woody vines scrawls RESERVED against the brickwork of the house to notify all-comers of their claim upon the space. November breathes its last and with it Autumn pushes back its chair. Colour starts to fade. Approaching Winter's on the air. 🍁🌫❄️#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thisautumnlife #impressionsofautumn #fb #PENF
December brings a slight frost, and a bleaker prospect. Hello winter.
The first full week of winter, chilly, damp and drear, the ground having been visited lightly by a frost of too little consequence to provide so much as a crunch underfoot. This season more than any I love to be out in the countryside, walking through stripped back fields or along woodland paths open to the sky. Bill (surely the most camera-shy dog I know) seems on full alert the whole winter long, a frosty morning presenting a particular treat. No such luck today, but still plenty of fresh, clear scents to sniff. He's well overdue a coat strip and currently bears more resemblance to an ewok than a #borderterrier, but I like him like that. #mystoryoflight #iphoneography #tostandandstare #winter
As ever, we counter the dark with green.
I'm craving fresh greens at the moment (not in my diet, thanks – plenty there!). I think it was the sudden plunge into winter last week, after a drawn out autumn when the colourful leaves took their time to fall, then suddenly...gone. And the birds seem to have done a great job of munching most of the berries and rose hips already, so it's proving harder to get those little hits of intense, jewel like colour that get us through the darkest weeks. Still, planting up containers of ferns and ivies (with the odd cyclamen hanging on in there) is helping to keep things cheerful. Imagine being a gardener, and not liking green. I bet there are a few out there. 💚🌱💚 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #penepl7
And a touch of blood red makes its jewelled presence felt. Quite literally, prompting language more Anglo Saxon than horticulturally Latin.
Once you've been gardening for a while, you begin to refer to plants by their correct names. There are, for example, Bloody Bastard Bindweed and, of course, Bloody Bastard Brambles. This particular customer is some version of Bloody Bastard Berberis, and a particularly handsome variety it is too with its deep red autumnal hues. Just the colour you'll be bleeding when it sticks its bloody bastard thorns right through your gloves and into your flesh. Just look at the bloody things. Bastards. 👹🖤❤️ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #fb #penepl7
Though its always worth noting that some initially prickly customers can be a little more mellow upon closer examination.
Muted tones of the foliage on this Mahonia aquifolium, just beginning to blush red, in such stark contrast to its evilly-thorned cousin whose mugshot I posted yesterday. You don't quite get off scot-free though – the leaflets are as prickly as the holly leaves they resemble, but the level of potential discomfort to be inflicted upon the gardener is nowhere near that meted out by the berberis, or even other, more vicious mahonias. You can at least eat the berries when they arrive, small blue jobbies from which its common name, Oregon grape, derives. ❄️✨⛄️ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #fb #penepl7
I do get a bit jealous when other parts of the country get snow. In the full knowledge that really, it’s a huge pain, and can be dangerous, there’s still the childish wonder of the pristine white blanket across the countryside. But there’s no time to stop, not just yet anyway.
Snow free here in Kent, although there was a half hearted effort. With a week to go before I break for Christmas, I'm quite glad – after that it can snow all it likes! Do I sound convincing? I'm horribly jealous of all of you for your lovely white blanketed views this morning! I shall stroll through some soggy gardens and make a note of how much work I have left to do before I get round to mulching. ⛄️✨⛄️ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #penepl7
Though I do allow myself a moment’s reflection while pruning a favourite shrub .
I first met the purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) when I was freelancing for a design agency in Spitalfields in the early noughties. I'd grab a delicious curry for lunch from one of the stalls in the yet to be renovated market and take it, along with my Open University text books (studying Environmental Policy in an International Context – all about the importance of shared sovereignty and multi-national environmental agreements – oh, the irony) and go sit in a little garden area off Folgate Street, passing into the enclosed space by a marvellous shrub with large, plum-coloured, paddle-shaped leaves. Fast-forward a decade and a half, and I'm pruning a mature version – the eldest of three in this garden – in the full knowledge that to get the best show from the foliage, I need to cut it back reasonably hard now, albeit at the expense of the "smokey" flowers from which the bush gets its name (I can live without the flowers. It's quite a good hazy kind of effect if you want that sort of thing, but to be honest, I just want big purple leaves). The sap has a wonderful, slightly astringent scent – with the punchiness of bay, but with more spice – not unlike a walnut, come to think of it, though less heady. You have to sniff quite hard to get the cotinus scent, whereas walnut will hit you after a few minutes raking up the leaves. This particular shrub seems bomb proof – it has blown over, and carried on growing. Most recently, the landscapers managed to fell a birch onto one of the main branches, much to my annoyance, radically altering its shape – but I've no doubt even this will be taken in its stride. I haven't even mentioned the detail of its fissured, moss and lichen covered bark, dark brown with cinnamon splashes, almost like flaking rust in places. I'm not sure you could ask more from a shrub. 🌱✨ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #fb #penepl7
Suddenly, the temperature plummets, bringing with it clear skies and amazing sunrises.
Bracing, I think we call the weather on this morning's walk. Bill dragging me along once he'd woken up (he tends to sleepwalk the first half) with my feet doing cartoon scrabbling on the icy ground. Worth it for the morning skies and the silhouettes of trees. ✨🌲✨ #mystoryoflight #iphoneography #tostandandstare #winter #fb
And before you know it, a key date in the gardener’s calendar arrives – the winter solstice, end of the darkening nights. The older I get, the more I begin to see this as the main event over these festive weeks, a true cause for celebration.
Light the bright candles, bright the white lights; together we've come to this longest of nights. Push back the dark, trim the wick as it burns. Come, take my hand – dance, as the old year turns. . #SOLSTICE 🌓 Happy Winter Solstice, my solar powered friends. The humpiest of hump days. The light takes back the initiative tomorrow. #blessedbe ✨🌱✨ #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #wintersolstice
But then there’s Christmas, time of traditions (though none as old as Christmas would have you believe). For us, it’s historically been a day spent mostly chuntering away on motorways, so sparkly lights and the dear faces of family are a welcome treat. And of course, a kiss under the poo-on-a-stick.
Happy #Christmas folks, have a fabulous day! 🎄 I do love how we gather bits of the outdoors to bring into the home at this time of year. But for anyone tempted to hang about hopefully under a sprig of mistletoe over the next few days, the whole custom's been slightly (and hilariously) altered in my mind since reading a post on the splendid @fab_goose's grid which reminded us that the word "mistletoe" comes from the Anglo Saxon for "poo on a stick"! It's a good botanical description of how this semi parasitic plant is helped to spread via the digestive system of birds, who eat the berries, fly off and poo on a branch elsewhere. But it puts a slightly different spin on the whole tradition, don't you think? And with that, compliments of the season, ho ho ho, where's my Buck's Fizz? 🥂🎄 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #winter #fb #penf #olympusPENgeneration
I'd love to hear how the last two months of 2017 have been in your garden. Let me know on twitter, or in the comments below. And a happy new year to you and all you love – thank you for reading and supporting Gardens, Weeds & Words throughout 2017, please come back next year!