Christmas is Coming
The lovely spent flower heads of Hydrangea aspera villosa fade to copper in late autumn and make very pretty Christmas decorations either covering a mantle piece or woven into a wreath. I sometimes forget to save them and prune the flower heads immediately after flowering but this year I’ve left them in order to decorate a marble fire surround for Christmas.
These were cut this week in the rain and rather than spray them gold as planned I like the mellow coppery-brown that the damp weather brought out. So they’ll stay on the marble surround for a few weeks and I’ll spray if necessary later.
I can see I need to pile on more of the flowers but the colour is good with the metal and glass candle holders and I like the tones with the orange of the spaniels.
I am enjoying A Miscellany for Garden Lovers: Facts and Folklore through the Ages by David Squire Publisher: http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/ and it would make a great Christmas present for any gardener. It’s full of folkloric advice plus accounts of early plant hunters, a fascinating chapter on weather folklore, early gardening tools, pests and disease folklore and the essential role gardens have played over the centuries in improving and maintaining good health. The beautiful archive illustrations adorn every page and one is of the earliest known gardening books A New Orchard and Garden published in 1618. Shortly after that the first horticultural book solely for women The Country Housewife’s Garden was printed.
In the chapter on weather folklore I probably won’t be following the advice for testing soil warmth apparently farmers put their bare bottoms on the soil. Before on-line weather forecasts or daily newspapers it would have fallen to reading signs in nature and there’s a fascinating chapter on weather rhymes.
There’s still time to plant hyacinth bulbs. Even if they aren’t flowering by Christmas they’ll be showing signs of healthy flower buds ready to burst into fragrant blooms in January. Plant the bulbs close together but not touching in moistened bulb fibre with the growing tip showing just above the surface of the compost. Put the bowls in a cool dark place such as a cupboard to allow the flowering stems to develop before the leaves and to encourage a good root system. Keep the compost moist but not soaking wet and carefully water between each bulb regularly. After about six weeks the newly emerging flower stems will be just visible and the bowls can then be brought into daylight but not direct sunlight. Leaving the bowls in the dark for five to six weeks is essential for encouraging the flowers and inhibiting the leaves which would otherwise grow huge and obscure the flowers.