I’ve got out of the habit of participating in the monthly celebration of all things floral, GBBD hosted by Carol@May Dreams Gardens. Silly, because it is such a great way to record what is going on in my new garden, so here I am, back again.

There is nothing in flower at all in the back garden, at least at first glance, but if you know where to look there are tattered primulas in bright colours lurking in the leaf litter.

pink primula
yellow primula

Lurking in the corner of the kitchen garden is a mad tangle of shrubs.

confused shrubbery

A lanky berberis, now denuded of the leaves which turned orange and red in autumn wrestles with a mishapen mahonia, lurching towards the light, and battling for space with a mature ivy which in turn is smothering a rickety wooden obelisk and an escallonia. I will be sorry to lose the ivy, but there is another, equally mature, on the fence behind, and the escallonia deserves a chance at a life of its own. In the mean time the ivy flowers have turned into miniature fireworks and the mahonia flowers bring sunshine whatever the weather.

ivy fireworks
mahonia flowers

I have inherited two viburnums which are coming in to their own at the moment. One, which I think is a form of Viburnum tinus, possibly ‘Gwennlliam’, is smothered in clusters of white flowers that break from pink buds. This is an enormous plant, over 2m tall, and suckering at the base. I may end up moving it, and will certainly need to prune it, but in the mean time it is a column of white flowers brightening the path at the side of the garage.

Viburnum tinus

The other viburnum stands at the opposite end of the same path, and fills the area with fragrance – or so I am told, I have had a blocked nose for weeks now and I can sniff as hard as I like, but I can’t get even a hint of the scent. I have to make do with enjoying the way the flowers erupt from pink buds on bare stems. I think this might be Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Deben’.

Viburnum x bodnantense

The front garden has its share of dainty little beauties that require damp knees to appreciate – tattered violas flower on despite having spent days frozen solid.

Tattered viola

I have been amazed at the tenacity of the deep pink rambler that sprawls at the end of the front garden, it is still flowering away, if a little more sporadically. I have another, a paler pink, which I had to cut hard back, but I hope in years to come it too will be flowering in mid December.

pink rambler

And finally, there are the hydrangeas. I have always loved lacecaps, so elegant, and still clinging to some colour in the dying flower heads.

lacecap hydrangea

For me, the revelation has been the mopheads. I’ve never liked them, I’ve always found them too stiff and blowsy, and had only intended to keep the two I inherited as a ‘homage’ to British seaside gardens. Well, I may be falling in love. I find their flowerheads endlessly fascinating, even when they are dying, and completely understand why flower arrangers love them so much.

pink-tinged dying mophead
pink tinged dying mophead
blue mophead

I was amazed to find that, low down, sheltered by the wall and the surrounding hebes, a lone pure white flowerhead survives.

white mophead

I am utterly beguiled, though I plan to plant wafty plants around them, as I still find them very stiff.

So, that is what is blooming in my Welsh coastal garden in the middle of December. The variety almost makes up for what I am calling Fencegate. I was horrified to see that all my work on staining the red fence black has been for nothing.

the fence stain disaster

The problem appears to be that the red paint was, quite literally, paint, rather than fence stain, and the new fence stain just won’t adhere to it. And I have my suspiscions as to what it was originally intended for, and why someone thought it would be an excellent colour to paint the fence, to tie it all in with the house:

Whatever the real story, it has left me with the puzzle of how to deal with the pesky won’t-be-obliterated colour. Given that some of the fence is in a less than solid state, I may end up replacing the lot. But in the mean time, I am rather cross.

To see what is blooming in other people’s gardens across the world, check out Carol’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post, the comments have links to blogs from all round the globe.

47 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day December 2012

  1. Hello, thanks for a stroll around your lovely garden, we have many plants in common I see. I also like to keep my hydrangea flowers over winter, as the dried flower heads are quite decorative. So sad about your fence, I think you will have only two solutions, wash off the stain with some appropriate solution and then PAINT your fence, as paint will adhere to the underlying paint, or replace the whole lot and start from scratch.

    1. You are welcome Helene, thanks for stopping by! You are right about the fence options, at the moment we are favouring the new fence, as we already have fencing to do at the far end, and bits of the existing fence are a little rickety.

    1. Aren’t they! Just what is needed on a dark and gloomy winter’s day.

  2. I was going to say the same as Helene. After all your work you must be seething.

    No flowers on our mahonia yet – as for violas I’ve been thinking of growing the instead of pansies next year as they seem to be made of sturdier stuff

    1. Hi Sue. I’m slightly ashamed to admit it, but I actually cried, I had been so chuffed with how it was looking. I’m over it now, we’re going to build a new fence, we needed to fill in the gap at the far end anyway, and it will give me the chance to sort out the other side properly, and hopefully deal with the weeds that will otherwise make a takeover bid.

      I actually prefer violas to pansies nowadays, they seem to flower for longer, look less scruffy (probably because they are smaller) over winter, and shrug off frosts as if it is nothing. Your mahonia is probably a different kind, some come in to flower much earlier than others.

  3. Glad to see you are coming around to hydrangeas. They have so many various looks throughout the season and give a lot of interest for the space they take up in the garden. I do see your point on the blowsyness though.

    1. Hi Donna, it was only ever the mopheads I had issues with, but I think I am converted.

  4. Hi Janet,

    That seriously sucks about the fence! All that hard work! I’m sure there must be some sort of base you can use? Or alternatively also use some normal paint to cover it…

    Glad to see you still have some colour; there isn’t much here except the Erysimum and a basket of Viola which are invaluable at this time of year! No Primula in bloom yet, but this time last year I had plenty…. Shame.

    1. Hi Liz, I was furious. And upset. We’ve decided that since we already had to sort out the gap at the end of the run, and since parts of the fence are distinctly ropey, we will bite the bullet and put up brand new fence all the way along. Hopefully then it will last years and years, and I can plant lots of lovely climbers against it. Frustrating though.

  5. It must be such great fun seeing each month unravel in your new garden Janet. It looks as if you have a fair bit of colour to see you through the dark December days. I can never quite make my mind up about mahonia, but yours seems such a soft yellow that I could be tempted if I came across a similar plant. We got rid of a mature viburnum tinus as the leaves were shredded by the dreaded beetle but I really miss its winter colour and the birds miss the shelter it provided. Good luck with finding a solution to the fence issue!

    1. Hi Anna, I am so lucky in having inherited a really good selection of mature shrubs (apart from the spotted laurel, which we won’t mention). And yes, it does feel like a constant voyage of discovery! My viburnum tinus seems in good nick, fingers crossed, though it does get scorched by the outlet from the boiler, poor thing. I think mahonias are wonderful, but I do know what you mean about some of the yellows being a little strident. I suppose this is the ideal time of year to buy one, as you can actually see it in flower…

  6. How maddening about hte fence! I would have cried too, as it looked so perfect when you’d stained it. Good to see your garden in December. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, thankfully I think I now have a solution that doesn’t mean replacing the whole fence until it definitely needs it, which means I am one step closer to being able to plant that border up.

  7. We love hydrangeas, especially the paniculata varieties which aren’t nearly so stiff, you need to cut them back in the spring, like a buddleia, and they flower on the new growth which arches over with the weight of the cone shaped flowers.
    So sorry to hear about the latest saga with your hedge, how annoying after you had put in all that effort, your new one will be super and just as you want it!

    1. Hi Pauline, I love the paniculatas too, much more graceful, I may get one for the back garden in time.

  8. So many people have mentioned viburnums in their blogs recently that I really need to go and sniff one out and see what the attraction is – sorry you can’t smell yours. Shame about the fence, but at least if you have made the decision to redo the whole fence perhaps you could use the timber from this one for something else – and paint it! Grr!

    1. Hi Cathy, Mark and Gaz may have saved me from having to replace the whole fence just yet, which is excellent. I am new to viburnums too, but am a total convert. Mind you, the Viburnum tinus can be a thug if you don’t stop it suckering.

  9. How frustrating with the fence color, but the colors in the garden are lovely especially the hydrangea which i love and did not bloom for me this year. My primulas that bravely bloomed late have now been eaten by deer I suspect…your garden is just keeps on blooming.

    1. Oh Donna, wretched deer, so sorry you lost your primulas. Hope the weather is kinder to your garden this coming year and you get lots of lovely flowers.

      1. We have 3 feet of snow in a week so winter is here with cold temps too…the garden will actually welcome the wonderful insulation and moisture of the snow! I am sure those primulas will recover and grow big and strong come spring… Happy Christmas and New Year!!

  10. Some lovely viburnums to inherit, and I too like hydrangea heads whatever the season, though I do favour the white over coloured ones.
    But what a nuisance, after all your hard work, that the stain is just sloughing back off the fence. *sigh*

    1. Hi Sara, the fence saga is totally infuriating, but Mark and Gaz have suggested masonry paint, so I think that’s what I will do, and replace the fence when it really needs it. I agree about white over the other colours, though the large coloured one is interestingly confused, being part pink and part blue!

  11. I enjoyed the tour of your garden too and have discovered many of the same plants here including those two viburnums. I very much like the hydrangea flowers too. i think they are even better as they fade than in full flower.

    1. Hi Judith, thanks for calling by. I agree, the faded hydrangea blooms are far more elegant, somehow, than the full on summer version.

  12. Hmm, not sure about mopheads at all but the white certainly pulls it off. Sorry you’ve been miffed and cross (and bunged up). Sadly, I suspect the best solution is a new fence? Chin up! Dave

    1. Hi Dave, I must admit I can’t really see mopheads fitting in at the Priory, far to blowsy in the wrong way!

  13. oh dear, that fence is something else. A huge job but sanding it down and then painting it a dark colour, rather than stain, will do the trick? Like you I have never been a huge fan of those mophead hydrangeas but all the same I seem to have acquired a few and the longer I have them the more I like them.

    1. Hi Marguerite, funny, isn’t it, how some plants can gradually win you over. Re the fence, I am going to give masonry paint a go, and cross my fingers…

  14. Janet, thanks for yet another plant introduction. Viburnum Bodnantense Deben, thought you were thinking of (Dawn). That is really annoying about your fence. Never mind, have a great Christmas and thanks for the support over the last couple of years.

    1. Hi Alistair, ‘Dawn’ was my first guess, but on closer inspection the flowers are much less pink than the photos I have seen, ‘Deben’ seems a better match, but who knows! Hope you had a lovely Christmas, and look forward to another year of posts from you, I always learn something.

  15. Fencegate – LOL. Your albino mophead looks like a whole bridal bouquet – I wonder if it’s an indication that the soil has neutral acidity.

    1. Hi b-a-g, I appear to have very confused soil PH. It varies from acid to neutral to alkali within a foot!! I suspect that soil amendment has been used to acidify the earth immediately around the hydrangeas and rhododendrons, and that the “true” ph is neutral to slightly alkali. Certainly all seems to be in that range in the back garden.

  16. It’s surprising, and nice, to still see so much in the garden at this time of year.
    I’ve always liked hydrangeas, which were one of my mum’s favourites, especially white ones.
    Shame about the fence and I hope that you resolve the problem. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, hope you had a lovely Christmas. I think white hydrangeas are the best too, there is a purity and simplicity to them that the blue and pinks ones utterly fail to match. As to the fence, thanks to Mark and Gaz I now have a (possibly) Cunning Plan…

  17. Hi Janet, great to see what’s in bloom in your garden. I only saw this post now, somehow it didn’t update on our blog roll so will have to check our setting. As for the fence, what about using masonry paint? That’s likely to stick on top of the existing layers of paint and completely cover it too.

    Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and wishing you all a wonderful New Year ahead! :)

    1. Hi guys, so glad you found your way back to me, particularly as I think you could well be right about the masonry paint – I am going to give it a go, so thank you!!

  18. I’d just paint over the red paint. I love that your house came with hydrangeas and viburnum. The previous owners had great taste, even if their gardening style and yours are different.

    1. Yes, I have been lucky enough to inherit some very classy mature shrubs, and they will form a wonderful backdrop once they have been given some tlc from a couple of years of neglect.

  19. How did I miss this extraordinary post?! Time got away from me–just not enough of it. But enough with the excuses! I missed your blog when you were in the process of moving, and I’m so thrilled to check back for lovely posts like this. Sorry to hear about the fence, but I’m sure you will come up with an amazing solution as you always do! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and all the best in the year ahead!

    1. Oh, what a lovely thing to say, thank you! Christmas was lovely, as was my extended New Year, now trying to get back into the swing of “normal” life…

  20. A big “oh no!” about The Fence. I don’t have any other bright suggestions about the paint than the other posters except perhaps getting the paint stripper out but it is horrible stuff and I guess you would worry about spilling any on the soil and plants. Could you cover it with screening or a couple of fast growing climbers?

    1. Hi Claire, paint stripper gives me asthma attacks, so that’s out. I did think of sanding it down, but I am going to try masonry paint first. Watch this space…

  21. Hi Janet, I am impressed with all the blooms you have. Ivy can be invasive, but those flowers are certainly like fireworks. Very neat. I love Primroses, though I can never decide on what color to buy, so I end up with zero.
    Pity about the fence.

    1. Hi Janet, left to myself I think I would stick with the lovely yellow native primroses, but I am very happy to welcome the splashes of colour that these provide. Ivy certainly needs to be kept within bounds, but it is still one of my favourite plants, strangely enough, particularly when it is mature and flowers.

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