No, not so much me, though I am certainly under the weather. But the village was certainly damaged and bedraggled after the storm surge of 5th December. The combination of low pressure, spring tides, and a wind in exactly the wrong direction combined to cause tremendous damage in various locations around the coast of the UK. In Lincolnshire houses slid into the sea when the waves undercut the fragile cliffs they sat on, which must have been devastating. On the North Wales coast not far from here people had to be rescued from their flooded houses. We didn’t actually expect it to hit us here, the wind wasn’t actually forecast to be that bad, and wasn’t in the wrong direction. Or so we thought. Imagine our surprise when we strolled down the hill towards the beach for a little walk to find that the road had disappeared under the waves! Well, see for yourselves:

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We were lucky, nobody needed rescuing, and although one house was inundated by the sea (the one on the corner right by the beach in the photos above), it was only really the small boats on the harbour beach that got damaged. Sadly that included ours. Oh, and it turns out that the sturdy sea defense wall along the big beach wasn’t quite as sturdy as it needed to be. Here are some images of the aftermath:

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Our boat trailer is fit only for the scrapheap, but we are still hoping that the boat will be patchable, at least enough to allow us to take it out under motor. We are still waiting to hear from the insurance company. Whatever happens, we didn’t lose our house…

So what with that, and getting a bug afterwards, it feels as if December has slipped through my fingers without me even noticing. And it all started well, Cathy from Rambling in the Garden visited with her Golfer (they are excellent company), our kitchen floor was finally relayed after the whole pipe condensation debacle (bamboo is so much kinder to cold feet than concrete), and I had Plans. I was going to extend a border in the back garden to give me room to plant miscanthus and some exciting perennials. I was going to finish edging the borders in the back garden and plan the log store with green roof that I intend to replace the fence that blew down with. And I was going to move lots of plants around. I love gardening at this time of year, the structure of the garden is laid bare, everything feels more relaxed because plants are, in general, slowing down and not demanding much in the way of attention. There is Christmas to look forward to. So I was distinctly dischuffed to be laid low. Bah.

Which I suppose is where the defiance comes in. So I dragged my sorry behind out the other day and planted Puschkinia libanotica (Russian snowdrops) under the amelanchier with some bugle and snuggled a new hellebore with pale yellow flowers into the spring border where I should see it from the dining table in a month or two. There followed a couple of days of what I can only describe as “inclement weather”, but then today I finally got some parsley planted out in one of the raised beds, put the pak choi, mibuna and bekana seedlings in the greenhouse bed, and took a moment to get excited at the first of the euphorbia myrsinites and Selinum tenuifolium seedlings popping up. Looks as if I will have some Eryngium ‘Blue Hobbit’ plants to play with too.

So far so good. But then came the challenge.

Cathy has started a new meme, “In a Vase on Monday”. Simple enough, pick some things from the garden, put them in a vase, and take a photograph to share. The problem being that I have terrible trouble cutting flowers for the house. Even when I know the flowers will bloom better for it (sweet peas, dahlias,…). Even when, for heaven’s sake, I have deliberately grown them to pick for the house. But I really want to get my head around this, because when I do manage it I love it, and I plan to grow more flowers in the back garden next year for this very reason. Well, and to enjoy when sat out there. But that’s beside the point. I decided it was time to join in the challenge. So I went looking for flowers. I actually found quite a few, lurking here and there, mostly battered and wind-torn, lots, like the pansies, hard to envisage in a vase, or like the emerging witch hazel blooms definitely not to be cut. The mild autumn means I even found a fresh hydrangea flower and I think one of my euphorbias is trying to flower too!

witch hazel bud watch

ladybird in witch hazel bud nest

first witch hazel flower

striking pansy


old hydrangea flower

fresh hydrangea


euphorbia flowers

fastia flower

I couldn’t bare to cut any of these! In the end I found some marigolds, a couple of knautia hiding out in amongst the seedheads of the rest of the plant, and sacrificed a few of the amazingly persistent anthemis flowers. Add in some crocosmia seedheads, put in an inappropriately coloured vase because it was the only one the right size, and voila, my first attempt.

against-the-odds December vase

I feel a lot better for having got outside and done a little pootling. Actually that’s a lie, I feel terrible, but I’m still glad I did it! And the little vase of improbable December blooms is already giving me lots of pleasure, so thank you Cathy!

68 thoughts on “Damaged, bedraggled but defiant

  1. Oh, Janet, I completely sympathise with being unable to cut flowers for the house! However much I like to see them indoors, I prefer to think that they’ll last as they’re supposed to outdoors! Having said that, I think your vase is very stylish! I had intended to join the challenge but only thought of it as the sky darkened … whooops! Lovely flower pics – I especially like the hydrangea heads as all those down here have faded to a pale buff colour, or twigs!

    1. Hi Caro, I am glad I am not alone in my “can’t cut” affliction! I am amazed that the hydrangea flowers still have so much colour in them, although the ones in the bed to the side of the house are as you describe, all buff. Which is odd as they are more sheltered, but hey, I am still trying to get to grips with the various microclimates round here.

  2. O’m the same about cutting flowers from the garden so I grow sweet peas and such like on the plot where I feel differently but the trouble is choice is limited as I don’t have lots of flowers there

    1. I was even rubbish about cutting the flowers I grew at the plot when I had one Sue! I kept telling myself that they brightened up the patch and that I had put them there for the pollinators to help my beans etc… This despite knowing that the flowers produce far more and for far longer if cut regularly. I blame my dad, he was always against cutting things in the garden for the house. Though as I am now a grown-up…

  3. It’s a beautiful arrangement. I’m glad you were prodded into making it. I couldn’t raise even a marigold at present and my pansies have ex-petals. We’ve bought a cut Christmas tree for the fist time ever this year. (The one we had in a pot went bald over the summer.) Maybe when it’s brought indoors that could ‘count’?

    1. Thank you Esther! I’m quite glad I was prodded in to doing this too, it’s fun, once you et past the whole “but I like seeing it in the garden” thing. I’m sure your tree could count – after all, its cut! Part of me still misses real Christmas trees, they smell so divine, but we switched to artificial years ago because my Mum is allergic. I do quite like the idea of buying one and keeping it in a pot, just bringing it in each Christmas, but not if it went bald, truly not a good look on a tree. Unless it is deciduous. Though maybe if you spray painted it silver? That seems to be the in thing for some reason.

  4. Oh no, so sorry to hear that Janet. All those images were dramatic and the damage the storm caused has been a lot more intense than what we initially thought it did. Fortunately your house and garden has been spared and hopefully you’ll get some good news from your insurance soon.

    Hopefully you’ll feel better and recover very soon, your garden awaits you and your enthusiasm to get stuck in is palpable on this post. The flesh may be weak for now but it will catch up with your spirit eventually :)

    1. Hi guys, thanks, we were lucky really, we may have a view of the sea but I am grateful for the hill – and compared to your fire?! Its sad, but not really a disaster. As for the health thing, I will get my mojo back in time, and at least I know that if my plum trees arrive I can just heal them in until I am well enough to plant them.

  5. It makes it all the more real having seen your village and sea just a couple of days before the storm, when it was sunny, mild and calm…… As you say, at least you haven’t lost the house and the garden wasn’t affected either, but shame about your boat and trailer although more easily replaceable/mendable. What a shame you were then laid low (I love your word ‘dechuffed’!) when you wanted to get out and stuck into your Plans – but well done for your seed and bulb exploits today, and well done for your VASE! It only takes a few things, and not a huge bunch (if there was a huge bunchful of stuff to choose from in December – hah!) – and see how quickly your ‘little vase of improbable December blooms’ gave you lots of pleasure! I love the crocosmia seedheads, and have to confess to keeping the bits I took out of last week’s vase after having already reused them in the expectation I want to use them again – and I can hardly believe your marigolds are still so perfect! Couldn’t see any dust though…

    1. Hi Cathy, amazing how quickly the sea can change isn’t it – two days after the storm surge was totally still and sunny again, you could see your reflection in the harbour water! And thank you for the prodding about the vase challenge, I really enjoyed it, and it will be good to get my creative juices going. The crocosmia seedheads are a real winner, I have a feeling they will make several appearances until spring springs into action. I did choose the shot in which the dust was the least prominent ;-)

  6. I am just the opposite – I am always picking flowers for the garden as you will see from my latest post. You are very good to be getting out even when under par – nice to see the little seedlings doing well. Sorry to hear about your beloved boat – but it could have been a lot worse.

    1. Hi Elaine, it is people like you that inspire me to sow annuals for cutting, I just have to overcome that reluctance to actually do the cutting bit… But I was so thrilled that, when we had visitors in the summer, in the middle of the kitchen chaos, I was able to fill the house with beautiful flowers from the garden – and their bedrooms with the scent of sweet peas.

  7. I hope by next season I will have enough flowers to cut. With most of my shrubs and perennials less than a year old and bearing few flowers it didn’t feel right doing it this year. I’m also planning on sowing some of the choicer annuals to fill the gaps, which I can either cut or dry.
    Awful scenes from the village during the storm, I hope it is recovering.
    You take care of yourself too, don’t overdo it!

    1. Tricky, isn’t it, with lots of young plants, I have the same situation – either that or I dug them up and chucked them out!! But I too will be using annuals as gap fillers again next year, the saviors of the new garden, plus extra in the veg beds for cutting. In theory anyway…

      As to taking care of myself, a work in progress! Life with ME is such fun…

  8. Sorry to hear about the storm and hope everyone recovers quickly. Your vase is just lovely especially the crocosmia seed heads; very creative indeed. I have seed heads from a scabiosa that over wintered outside and sprung into action rather early this year. Would love to use these in an arrangement.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks so much for dropping by and commenting! The council are already deep in to the repairs of the storm defences, and most of the sand has gone from the roads, I am just grateful we don’t live down at sea level, however spectacular the views! I am beginning to realise that seedheads may be the saviours of the winter “flower” arrangement, so I am sure the crocosmia seedheads – and others – will make more appearances in the weeks to come.

  9. Nice macros! And a lovely floral arrangement! So sorry to hear about your virus–I’ve been fighting something off for the past couple of days, too. Ugh. Oh, and your storm surge series is incredible! I’m so glad your house is OK! Take care!

    1. Thank you! Don’t you just hate winter bugs? They really get in the way. The sight of those enormous waves was amazing, I had a huge grin on my face despite the damage it represented, a truly magnificent sight, and a timely reminder of the power of the sea. Hope you get over your bug soon!

  10. I’m sorry to read that you’ve not been feeling too good. All that stormy weather didn’t help either I’m sure.
    Terrific pictures, which go to show that there’s always something of interest even at this time of year.
    Take care. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, I feel quite a bit better again today, and hope to get out and do some gardening since the sun is actually shining. I rather like this time of year, and the way you have to hunt a little harder for the things that are delightful in the garden. In their own way I think the little signs of spring to come and the small patches of winter colour bring just as much joy as the full-on displays of late spring and high summer.

  11. I’m so glad you are safe, sorry about your boat but as you say your house is safe and that’s the most important thing. Glad you joined in the vase meme, I couldn’t this week as we’re travelling but will join in again as soon as I can.

    1. Hi Christina, exactly – seeing film of people standing staring at half a house, and personal possessions strewn around by the wind, put everything into perspective. I’ve enjoyed the vase meme, just hope I can keep it up!

  12. I’m sorry about your boat and trailer – hope you can sort it all out easily.
    It’s lovely to see some green shoots and your vase of flowers looks very pretty. I’d love to have more flowers in the house, but the only flowers I pick lots of are daffodils because we have dozens here. I’m considering growing more just for cutting next year; perhaps even having a cutting area where I can be more ruthless about removing the flowers. As I’m moving things around at the moment this is my chance to do it!
    Take care and hope you feel better soon.

    1. Hi Wendy, sounds as if a cutting patch would be ideal for you since you don’t suffer from my aversion to cutting and are already sold on having flowers in the house! Maybe we can swap notes – and I will dream about having enough daffodils to cut for the house!

  13. Hi Janet,

    We were just reading about Blakeney in Norfolk and how it was deluged by the storm and i follow a blogger in Denmark and his summerhouse and garden were inundated too. He thinks the house is completely ruined because it’s made from wood and he’s worried about the plants dying because of the sea water. The power of nature is scary, so glad to hear you came away remarkably unscathed. Hope the boat is repairable and hope you feel better soon. Hopefully you’ll have got it out of the way before Christmas. I tend to pick enough to make small posies from the garden or just a couple of stems for a small vase. Generally at this time of year I’m indoors so my thinking is at least I get to see the flowers if I cut them. For the rest of the year there tends to be enough in flower for me to pick and not strip the garden bare and having a dedicated patch does help. Even when I was picking enough to fill buckets this summer it didn’t look like I had touched the cutting patch. Love your posy and crocosmia seed heads look brilliant in arrangements.

    1. Hi WW, amazing what the power of wind and sea can do isn’t it, and horrendous if you get caught on the other end of it. I am so sorry for your danish blogging friend, I can’t imagine how devastating that must be. We won’t start in in any boat repairs until the New Year now, but we do have a friend signed up to help us move it to the drive ready for us to work on. I am rather taken by the idea of picking small posies, I think I was stuck in the mindset of it having to be large bunches of things! I shall dream about enough flowers for buckets, but I am getting excited about having more flowers in the back garden that I am “allowed” to cut for the house, if I pick well I should get the best of both worlds, more colour in the garden and flowers inside too. I hear there is a good book coming out in the New Year that might help ;-)

  14. So sorry about the bad storm you had, Janet, but I’m glad your house wasn’t damaged. It has certainly been a year for terrible weather in so many places. Lovely to see all your blooms–it’s much too cold here for anything to grow right now. I do hope you feel better soon and have the chance to work in your garden again.

    If I don’t stop by again before next week, have a very Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi Rose, we came off really lightly compared to so many. We have had such a mild winter so far the weeds are growing like mad – this morning was the very first frost, and even then it was really light! Merry Christmas to you too, I hope you have a lovely time.

  15. Janet, how i love your garden vocabulary! (Dechuffed cracked me up too….) But honestly, what wicked storms so many of us are having! I’m sorry about your boat and trailer and hope your are taken care of by the insurance company. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we had ten days of hard frost, which we never have. I was running around everywhere covering things and trying to protect. When I designed my garden, I tried to make it a three season bloomer, so there are usually lots of berries, camellias, and hellebores to make an arrangement. Do you know calicarpa? (beautyberry). It is an absolute knockout in white or the most amazing purple/blue.

    1. Hi Susan, happy to entertain you with my vocab!! Ten days of frost sounds challenging when it isn’t normal, I hope you don’t lose anything to it. We had our very first frost of the winter this morning, and even then the greenhouse didn’t dip below 1C. I’m sure it won’t last, but at least it reduces the heating bills! I have lots of plants for winter interest, they are just all very small at the moment, I love berries. I have come across calicarpa, though I am not sure where I would cram one in at the moment, and my hellebores won’t start flowering properly for a while yet, souns as if you have winter interest well sorted.

  16. I never seem to have enough flowers to cut, but it must be pretty hard anywhere in December, so well-done – they will hopefully cheer you up after the time you’ve had, what with storms and bugs. I cut some Forsythia early December and hope it will flower by Christmas Eve. Get well soon Janet!

    1. Good luck with the forsythia Cathy, it is so lovely when it flowers. The flowers I picked do certainly cheer me up, but I doubt there will be anything other than foliage and a few berries next week. I’m feeling much better now thank you, and even planted a pear tree yesterday!

  17. Your arrangement is lovely! I also have a very hard time cutting flowers for indoor arrangements, but once i have done it i am always pleased. I am so sorry about your boat, but i am glad you did not bear the brunt of the storm.

    1. Hi Deb, thank you, I was surprised how well it turned out. We were lucky, really, with the storm, and it was truly spectacular to watch, I’ll never forget it.

  18. Those storm pictures look pretty scary – I’m glad your place was okay. I empathise with your dilemma about picking flowers – I always want as many as possible to stay in the garden, too. That’s a really nice arrangement, though. I hope you feel better soon.

    1. Hi Lyn, the storm was amazing, very exhilerating to watch – from a safe distance. I’m feeling much better now thanks.

  19. So much to relate to in this post ! We too had the coastal tidal surge, here on the East coast, then down the Humber and the Trent. 124 houses flooded in the village next to us. Any mention in the media ? None whatsoever.Disgusted. Misery all around. Houses and businesses flooded out. Livestock drowned. Sorry … I rant !!
    I also relate to your views on cutting flowers from the garden – just can’t do it. Even in the cutting garden. I love the idea of ‘Monday in a vase’ and I would love to join in, yet I know I will find it SO hard to cut any flowers at all.

    1. Hi Jane, rant away, I agree with you, if it doesn’t affect the Home Counties it doesn’t exist. I think the East coast possibly has the worst coverage of any area in England. North Wales pretty much doesn’t exist and I used to get apoplectic when I lived in Edinburgh. We were so lucky, comparatively speaking, here, the devastation on the East coast took my breath away, so many people with horrid, stressful Christmases. Yesterday I caught the weather report on the early evening news – it finished with “gale force winds and torrential rains could affect commuters”. That’s commuters in and around London, needless to say, no qualification required. And if you are commuting in South Wales? Hull? Apparently it doesn’t count. OK, that’s my rant over ;-)

      As for the flower cutting thing, I am hoping that the Vase meme will help cure me, because it really is ridiculous when so many things I grow would actually perform better if I cut them regularly. We’ll see…

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  20. Totally agree. We had gale force winds here last night which swept a sailor off his ship and into the river, sparking a huge search by helicopter. For some reason that did make it to the National news … I don’t think the newsreader had ever said the word ‘Trent’ before! I bet Edinburgh barely existed !!

    1. HI Jane. Trent? Is that a footballer?! But hey, at least they have now discovered Aberystwyth…

  21. oh Janet those are big waves, sorry about your boat, I hope the insurance covers the costs,
    you have some lovely interesting blooms for December, nice posy,
    sorry to hear you have been unwell, best laid plans and all ……………… hope you are feeling better, I’ve given up planning what I hope to do in winter (or any time) as the weather never gives me the opportunity, on that holiday in Greece on one trip we called in at a garden, yes it was nice and he’d done a lot, but! with all the dry good weather he gets the opportunity! I was a bit green with envy, not for the garden but the dry weather, oh well,
    take care, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, sadly the insurance doesn’t cover storm surge damage, so the boat is a write-off. We are trying to work out what to do as an alternative, at least we know more about what does and doesn’t work! I’ve switched my planning head to interior things we want to get done before the growing season gets seriously under way, and if it ever stops raining I will sweep up the glass, I lost a pane in the greenhouse in one of the gales. I can only imagine how green you were at the thought of gardening where rain is a surprise, not the norm! Hope you are finding plenty indoors to distract you from the torrents.

  22. Sorry to read that you have been feeling under the weather Janet. December is that one month that we all want to be on top of things but sadly it does not always work out that way :( I was wondering what had happened with your boat so glad to read that it might be able to take to the waters again. We spent a couple of days in East Anglia earlier this week to celebrate my mum’s 89th birthday, got home in time for wind, hail and a power cut on Wednesday night and there seems to be a repeat scenario going on out there tonight. Love the autumnal flower firework and hope that you will soon be fighting fit ready to tackle those ‘Plans’. Take care xxx

    1. Hi Anna, we’ve had a couple of power cuts too, plus two further dramatic storm surge events, though happily we had nothing left to get damaged, so were able to enjoy the phenomena from a safe distance. We did find ourselves helping neighbours try to protect a property at the bottom of the hill from ingress, and the poor lady who owns the house right by the sea, the one where the waves were breaking over it, had been hoping to get her new carpets down this week! She’s had to cancel, as the water came in again yesterday. Am feeling loads better, had a lovely Christmas, now just trying to catch up with myself after all the fun! xx

  23. Sorry that December has been such a struggle, but glad to see you emerge mostly unscathed! I find it really hard to pick flowers/foliage for the house too, and suspect I will always enjoy them better in the garden…

    1. Hi Sara, I have been much comforted to learn how widespread my “can’t cut” feelings are!

  24. Blimey. That is some serious power that can crush the sea wall like that. I had assumed the surge was an east coast problem – so sorry to hear about your boat. But glad the damage didn’t extend to the village proper and indeed your own home. Horrendous storm down here tonight and we have to go out for pre-Christmas drinks. Eek. Wish me well and I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas, Janet. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, hope you survived your stormy pre Christmas drinks and had a great festive period! More dramatic waves here again yesterday, and one lady was waiting for sandbags to be delivered only to be told that they had been diverted to the other side of the Island where it was even worse! I think it has taken the third storm surge for the media to recognise that places other than the south coast exist, even Wales has made the news thanks to the drama at Aberystwyth! At least now that what’s left of the boat is safely on the drive we can enjoy the sight without wondering what it happening to our posessions…

  25. Janet how awful to have your house fall into the sea and have everything lost. Thankfully you are fine. I love Cathy’s meme but will not be able to join in until spring. I too have been slacking off in the basement garden barely tending to the herbs down there…they get a bit of water now and then. But after the holidays, I need to clean up down there and tend to the herbs and plant some other veggies to see how they fare indoors….Happy Christmas!

    1. Hi Donna, hope you had a lovely Christmas, we did, but I am still trying to catch up with myself! I must get the conservatory cleared out enough to make room for the growlight, sowing early under it worked so well last year.

  26. I disagree, that vase is the PERFECT colour! Love orange and blue together, a gorgeous bouquet. Sorry to hear about the weather though, what a mess. your poor boat, that had dampen the spirits more than a little. But as you say, if your house is safe that is most important. Hope you managed a nice Christmas despite not feeling well and I wish you all the best in the year to come.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I agree, now that I have lived with it for a while (the seedheads still look wonderful). Hope you had a lovely Christmas, we did, just have to catch up with everything now, not least, make room for some indoor seed sowing…

  27. I’m glad you survived the storm so well. It looks like it was a beast. I won’t have anything to stick in a vase every Monday until spring but I love your arrangement. It feels very chic. Happy New Year!

    1. Chic! Now that’s a word rarely associated with me or anything I do!! Happy New Year to you too.

    1. Hi Esther, thank you, hadn’t come across that, knew I should have bought myself the .com domain name too! Ah well! Happy New Year.

  28. I am late making my blogging rounds due to the holiday madness. I am sorry that you had a spate of bad weather. Unfortunately, I truly believe we are in for more events like this worldwide as the climate tries to adjust to a new normal.

    1. Hi Les, you are less tardy than I am, I’ve not read and commented since just before Christmas, and am still buried in things to do before I get to relax with all that lovely reading! Thanks for dropping by, and Happy New Year!

    1. HI Alistair, what’s left of the boat is now safely on the drive, so we have been able to enjoy the dramatic waves from a safe distance without worrying, and apart from one lost greenhouse pane and a couple of power cuts, we have come through unscathed. Pretty spectacular though! I fear we may be in for rather more of this weather, thanks to global warming messing with the weather systems. I hope you both had a lovely first Christmas in you new home and are settling in well to the house and to the area. So looking forward to hearing about it in due course!

  29. thinking of you throughout the storm, the floods and the continuous deluge. Astounding images of the poundings & so sad to hear about your boat but a happy note on which to end this post with the defiant young seedlings popping their heads through.
    Wishing you a Happy New Year Janet and thank you for being one of my top commenters.

    1. Hi Laura, sorry, I somehow missed this lovely comment! Happy 2014, may your photography continue to flourish!

  30. I notice you have not posted since before Christmas, for us the storms and rain continue but I know it is a lot worse to the west of us. Hope everything is OK and you can get back to your computer soon.

    1. Thanks, am now back in the metaphorical saddle, and even managed some gardening – there was an actual gap between rain storms!!

  31. Awesome waves! Glad you didn’t get hurt or loose your home. I like your vase on a monday and am amazed that you still have marigolds! I find it hard to cut things for the vase in winter as there’s not that much around and I prefer to admire it in the garden. Maybe a bit later I shall join Cathy’s meme.

    1. Thanks Annette, I seem to have inadvertently over wintered a marigold plant in the greenhouse, just didn’t get around to emptying the pot, which I am now very grateful for!

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