The weather is making any gardening a bit of a challenge at the moment. Although it is still quite mild, we have had quite a lot of rain, so the soil is rather wet for winter digging on my allotments. Mrs McGregor has been using up the last of the red onions to make onion marmalade. They never seem to store as well as the white ones, but have a sweeter flavour. Homemade pickles and chutneys are always handy through the winter and make good Christmas presents as well, but our store cupboard is becoming quite full now! I must remember to check the rest of my stored vegetables and remove any that have gone soft to the compost heap!
Much of the growth on the perennials in the garden has died back now and I have begun to clear this from the hardy varieties, such as Hemerocallis (Day Lilies) and Phlox, which will be fine without any protection if we get a cold snap later on! I love the movement and late interest from the ornamental grasses that we have in our borders, but our Stipa gigantea, which has been flowering through the summer, has finally been stripped, by the wind, of the bleached out oat flowers which give the plant the common name of ‘Golden Oats’. Many of our Miscanthus are in flower, with their soft, ‘feather dusters’ that will persist through winter. With the late interest that they give, I can forgive them for flopping about with the wind that has bashed them even more.
Imagine my delight when I looked out of the dining room window and saw a lone daffodil in flower! The mild weather means that this is a good two weeks earlier than usual for this variety and a sign that nature intends us to have a spring next year, whatever happens between now and then! The Lenten Roses (Helleborus x hybridus) have rather tatty leaves through winter, but a quick peek under them has revealed lovely crowns full of buds waiting to flower early next year. We have a beautiful double purple one, which ‘planted’ itself in the garden, along with a mixture of single flowered seedlings which have appeared from the original parents. These are such good plants for dry shady corners, along with the leathery, deep green leaves of their taller cousins Helleborus foetidus. I have to remind myself to keep an eye on them when they start to flower, so that I can pick a few blooms and bring them in to appreciate them. They look lovely floating in a bowl of water for an unusual table decoration and last for a good while.
The berries seem to have hung on trees and shrubs for longer this autumn, but the Thrushes and Blackbirds have almost stripped the last of our Cotoneaster now and are starting on the Holly trees so that we will have none to decorate the house unless I cover a few branches with some sacking as a matter of urgency!