The Curate’s Egg

A ‘curate’s egg’ describes something that is at least partly bad, but has some arguably redeeming features.

The term derives from a cartoon published in the humorous British magazine Punch on 9 November 1895. Drawn by George du Maurier and entitled True Humility, it pictures a timid-looking curate eating breakfast in his bishop’s house. The bishop remarks with candid honesty to his lowly guest: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones.” The curate replies, desperate not to offend his eminent host and ultimate employer: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”



(via Wikipedia)


It sums up pretty well how I feel about the terraces as we edge towards winter.  So much so that the traditional format of my End Of Month View is turned on its head. We’ll get to the usual view in due course, probably, but let’s consider the redeeming features first.



Rose ‘Boscobel’

My favourite rose has endured gale force winds and rain coming down in stair rods. Sub-zero temperatures too. The buds may be smaller now, the outer petals rather tatty. Black spot is appearing on the leaves. Yet still its flowers continue to open and it is December tomorrow.



Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’



And here’s something you don’t see every day

An unnamed patio rose, underplanted with… snowdrops.



The errant hellebore is still giving all it’s worth..

I hope it will save up some of the glory for early Spring.




Four seasons in a single post.



Saxifraga ‘Touran Lime Green’

Like a slow moving lava flow, the rosettes have advanced even further. Surely now it can get no closer to the edge. What’s going to happen next?








The frost has put an end to the dahlias and tender salvias. I’ve decided just to leave them in the ground this year and covered them with a blanket of mulch.



The blackbirds have found it already.



Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Hurrah! More signs of Spring.. but what’s that on the lower leaf?!!



The bulbs have been planted in their cages with the lids firmly attached. Let’s see the mice get into those.


And finally, talking of lids..



In light of recent high winds, the alpine shelter has been furnished with an anti-levitation upgrade. Two hooks and a bungee.

Bring it on winter. I’m ready. Let’s get it over and done.


Linking up with Helen’s End Of Month View (here) at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog. Click through to find out what other gardeners are up to this month.


2018-04-25T10:12:43+00:00November 30th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. wherefivevalleysmeet November 30, 2014 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Love the curate’s egg story Jessica, a perfect example of Victorian polite society – it is surprising what is still lingering around in the garden, and how encouraging to see the snowdrops already peeping through the ground.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      As I was planting the new bulbs I noticed that some of them were starting to shoot whilst still in the bag. I’ve just seen the weather forecast for the next few days (cold), so I expect that will slow them all down a bit.

  2. Sigrun November 30, 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

    An house for the saxifraga – brilliant! Yesterday we worked outside, the weed is growing rapitly! My helleborus are not flowering – I must waite for april – not before!


    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      Last year (this year?) this hellebore flowered at the proper time, around March, so it’s odd that it has chosen to bloom now. None of my others are flowering!

  3. Sarah November 30, 2014 at 8:57 am - Reply

    You’re certainly having a very warm December in the UK! I skyped my Mum this morning and she said they went to my nieces’ school Christmas fair without coats!!!! Your terraces are beautiful and always full of interesting plants. Keeping the predators out is a full time job though – but at least you don’t have pukekos 🙂

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      I have a feeling pukekos would come equipped with their own pairs of wire cutters!

  4. Jayne Hill November 30, 2014 at 8:57 am - Reply

    All looking lovely. Hellebore in flower is a surprise this early – must go and have a look at mine. Hope you’re having a lovely weekend :}

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jayne. Lime plastering today. Not lovely, but different!

  5. Joanne November 30, 2014 at 9:03 am - Reply

    It is still quite warm out isn’t it, must be very confusing for the poor plants. I have two lavender bushes in full bloom. I find it slightly unnerving!

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      I’ve only just cut my lavender back Joanne, a couple of days ago, for the very same reason. I hope it’s not going to go all leggy on me now but it would have seemed such a shame to chop off flowers.

  6. Sue@GLAllotments November 30, 2014 at 9:16 am - Reply

    The saxifraga looks like a really comfy cushion

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      It’s quite dense and firm, but I wouldn’t recommend sitting on it. Not that close to the edge!

  7. Marian St.Clair November 30, 2014 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Great bungee solution. Hope your wire cages do the trick too!

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      The wire cages are sort of experimental. I’ve only planted up a few small packets, if it works there will be more next year. I hope it works, I couldn’t bear to be without any new bulbs.

  8. Sue November 30, 2014 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I love your ‘ anti-levitation upgrade’, what a simple but hopefully effective solution.

    It’s that dismal time of year isn’t it when everything’s looking tired, damp and miserable. We need some sparkly frosts to highlight the structure of things and take our eyes away from the rot.

    And I have to say your little slug looks VERY cute!!

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      He may be cute now but he will grow, no doubt at the expense of my plants. I think November is my least favourite month. It is going to get colder this week, I hope you get your heating back soon!

  9. Jo November 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    The end of November yet so much interest with plants blooming out of season. The roses have hung on so well this year and it looks as though the snowdrops are going to be early risers. A great solution for your alpine shelter.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      The alpine shelter is a bit experimental too, but I was fed up of all the losses over our wet winters. They don’t take kindly to being waterlogged.

  10. woodlousehouse November 30, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Very envious of your saxifrage …. a chicken dug mine up!

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Hello and welcome to rusty duck!
      What an inconsiderate chicken. It’s amazing what this saxifrage has done.. I have watched it grow from three neat cushions to its current state with the rosettes piled up almost six inches deep at the leading edge. It reminds me of lemmings.. perhaps when one goes they all will!

  11. Kris P November 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Your winter is a bit like our summer – while most of the the garden hunkers down to wait out the difficulties the season brings, there are still some glorious signs of life. I hope you have an easy winter and that all the critters stay away.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      It’s all a bit out of kilter. We have summer flowers hanging on, thanks to the mild autumn, that would normally have expired by now. And then some bulbs, like the snowdrops, coming up earlier than they normally would. But the birds are all back on the feeders. They are critters I love to see.

  12. AnnetteM November 30, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Isn’t it a strange year with all the bulbs coming up so early. I was working in the garden today – well mostly clearing up the garage actually and it felt more like February with so many bulbs showing in the ground and in pots. I love your anti-levitation upgrade to your winter protections.
    I am thinking about running a single ‘Only a Gardener’ event some time next year – maybe on April Fool’s day. This would be a good contender!
    Spring is going to be so exciting this year with so many other gardens to look at as well as my own. Your terraces will look even better next year. I remember looking up that story about the Curate’s Egg earlier this year when someone else mentioned it (I think it may have been Cathy) – it is a good story isn’t it, but one I didn’t know before.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm - Reply

      I have great hopes for the terraces next year. All the shifting around I’ve done should start to pay off. It’s the only good thing about seeing it all die down, knowing that it will be back and hopefully even better than before.
      I’ll start thinking about something for ‘Only A Gardener’!

  13. Freda November 30, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Such an odd season – tomatoes in the greenhouse and summer bedding in the pots still! In Scotland! Love the story of the Curate’s Egg…..

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Tomatoes still! I gave up on those and brought them inside to ripen. Mostly because I needed the space. But it has been an odd season, the poor plants are very confused.

  14. Mark and Gaz November 30, 2014 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Clever solution to keep the alpine shelter in place!

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks guys. Another Mike brainwave. He should have been an engineer.

  15. CJ November 30, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    The saxifrage is really gorgeous, such a vibrant green. I love seeing roses in winter. There’s one I see on the school run that was still blooming in January last year. My big pink allotment rose (no idea what it is) still has a bud on it. And it starts flowering pretty early in the season as well. And yet they always look so delicate. Love the battened down alpine shelter. They will be nice and dry under there. I’m ready for winter too, bring it on. CJ xx

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      I think you’ll get your wish, judging by the forecast I watched tonight. Rose petals with frost on them are exquisite. I wish I could love winter. I think the trick is just to semi-hibernate, find a cosy spot and do all the creative and relaxing things that get ignored when there are so many pressing things to do outside. I’ve found a new mince pie recipe to try. It’s a start..

  16. Val November 30, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I always understood that the curate’s egg was totally bad but he was trying to be tactful/respectful to his superior. I don’t believe it is possible to have an egg that is only bad in parts. They are either good or bad. I was brought up to understand that when someone said something was good in parts that it was a reference to the Punch carton, and totally bad.

    Love your photos particularly. Always look forward to the blog. Thanks.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Val and welcome to rusty duck!
      You’re right of course, an egg is either good or bad, and undoubtedly that is part of the subtlety of the joke against the curate. It seems that the term can be used both ways, all bad or with some redeeming features as suggested by the curate. Looking at my garden in November I was certainly struggling to find any good bits!
      Thank you for your kind comments on the blog. It is good to ‘meet’ you.

  17. elaine November 30, 2014 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    The curate’s egg story would probably still ring true today – we are sometimes just too polite for our own good – although I have been with people in restaurants who have sent their meals back or complained and although they are perfectly right to – it is terribly embarrassing to say the least. Nice to see you still have the odd plant in flower – and the snowdrops pushing through – I just hope the bulbs won’t be all over before their proper time.

    • Jessica November 30, 2014 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Yes, Mike has done that before and I just wanted the floor to open up. But if you are paying a premium for food it at least has to be edible. Snowdrops seen at New Year are such a cheering sight. It does seem odd to be finding them now. But if it means Spring will come early too I’m not complaining!

  18. hb December 1, 2014 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Your terraces make for a wonderful display. Planting spaces done right make the best gardens.

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Hi Hoover, thanks and welcome to rusty duck.
      I’ve been guilty of planting too densely in the past and now leave bigger gaps. It does make the immature border look bitty for a while, but better in the long run. There are also more unintentional gaps than I’d like, opportunities for next year!

  19. seattlecharlie December 1, 2014 at 1:30 am - Reply

    Fall has certainly taken its toll on us all…Sharing your photos was such a nice touch.

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:25 am - Reply

      I hope it’s going to be a easier winter than last year, both sides of the pond.

  20. LInda from Each Little World December 1, 2014 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Snowdrops and roses! Not something I’ve ever seen before . . .

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Nor me that I remember, this season is weird.

  21. Julie December 1, 2014 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica, did you make the cages for your bulbs? We have voles here, I wonder if cages would help prevent their attempts at sabotage.

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Hi Julie. It may well be voles here too but both do the same damage, tunnelling under the ground and devouring any bulbs they meet. I haven’t had any success with any bulb I’ve planted since we arrived, although inherited ones seem to do OK. And they never eat the Spanish bluebells which I’ve been trying to get rid of! We made the cages in a last ditch attempt to protect some bulbs, it’s an experiment. See

  22. Annie December 1, 2014 at 10:07 am - Reply

    A rose that keeps going into December, or better still until the first snow, nothing braver, or often prettIer.

    I guess it’s testament to the eventful reporting I’ve come to expect from you that I half expect to see a picture of the alpine shelter having levitated, complete with trough, in a future post.

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Frosted roses are beautiful, even if the petals do drop as soon as they thaw. As to the levitation.. nothing would surprise me any more.

  23. Julieanne December 1, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I think you are being hard on yourself Jessica, the terraces look how one might expect them to look by November. I would change the curate’s egg to: it all looks good but parts of it are excellent 😉 I have bulbs coming up too, plus spring flowers such as primula, reflowering. I suspect it will all slow down when the cold patch that they keep telling us will come, finally hits. Love that bungee – great idea.

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Thanks Julieanne. It’s been quite tough tracking the terraces over the last couple of months.. Up till then they were getting better but now that has reversed. It was always going to happen of course, it’s still hard though!

  24. Helen Johnstone December 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    I agree with Julieanne the terrace has lots of interest still and next year the plants will have bulked up and you will have more interest. I do like your alpine cover, I may have to point it out to my son so he makes me one.
    Thanks for being a supporter of the meme

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      I hope next year all this season’s effort will be rewarded and I’m looking forward to seeing it. The meme is great for keeping us focused. I shall choose a new area to feature next year. If you keep the meme going long enough I could cover the whole garden!

  25. frayed at the edge December 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Our hellebore flowers off and on all year – most peculiar!!

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 9:58 am - Reply

      There are autumn varieties, but this one of mine always used to flower in March. It seems to want to change that. As you say, peculiar!

  26. Sarah December 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Your terraces still show some lovely signs of life. Your first rose looks so good. Sarah x

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 10:00 am - Reply

      It’s been a stunner that rose. Considering I bought it for half price in summer and it’s been flowering ever since.

  27. snowbird December 1, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    It is interesting to see roses still flowering in December, lucky you! All my bulbs are coming up too, I am concerned what will happen when the hard frosts come. xxx

    • Jessica December 2, 2014 at 10:02 am - Reply

      I hope they will be OK, the early Spring bulbs are hardy enough. Perhaps they’ll just stop growing for a bit.

  28. Christina December 2, 2014 at 11:43 am - Reply

    It is unseasonably warm here in Italy too; buds are appearing on plants that should be resting now, my Perovskia included. Good luck with the bulb cages but I fear the holes are plenty large enough for a rat let alone mice, but it might deter them. your alpine shelter looks great and will do a great job of keeping the worst of the wet off your treasures.

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      The photo must be deceptive Christina. When the lid is clipped in place the holes between the wires are less than a centimetre wide. For bulbs with fleshy foliage, like tulips, I will need to take the lids off when they start to push up through the soil.

  29. angiesgardendiaries December 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Gardens are at sixes and sevens everywhere, aren’t they? I like the ingenious use of the table as protection for your trough – now if only I had a glass top table!
    I do hope those cages work, you could be onto a winner there. I can clearly see the difference in light levels between the two pictures of the terraces, they still look great and are really benefiting from the work you’ve carried out this year.

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      The light levels have changed a lot. The sun is now so low it is behind the trees and the terraces are in shade most of the day.

  30. islandthreads December 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Jessica it might resemble a curate’s egg to you but to me it is looking pretty good, I love the first photo with the fading hydrangea flowerheads and the long spiky seedheads, your soil in the patio rose/snowdrop photo looks quite stoney I had not realised was so stoney, good luck with the bulb cages, Frances

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      It is quite stony. I’m trying to collect up some of the larger ones to restore a cobbled path. The rest I leave in the hope it does something for drainage. I get through a few hand forks though. They all end up with bent prongs.

  31. Brian Skeys December 2, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    You provide us with some great photos of the garden, it all looks good to me.
    You are in good company with the Alpine Shelter, they have one at Hidcote, although I did not see any bungee straps there!

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      I am in very good company then, Hidcote is a beautiful garden. Perhaps I should offer them Mike’s consultancy services.. thanks Brian.

  32. linda December 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    HI Jessica…
    I’m with you…bring on Spring!
    Well…..after Christmas…of course!
    Love your Roses♥️
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      It’s starting to get colder here now, not pleasant.

  33. Em December 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    This is the third and last time I’m going to write this….damn internet!

    I just can’t believe you have anything flowering! It’s all dying slushy ferns here. X

    • Jessica December 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm - Reply

      I hope it’s all still there. We’ll see tomorrow. If, that is, we ever manage to escape from the current traffic jam on the M25!

  34. Amy at love made my home December 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    I’ve had trouble trying to get to this post to comment – dratted internet!! Anyway, here now! Yay! Lovely to see how things have changed from October to November and that the terrace still looks so good in November! I hope the covers work for the alpines. xx

    • Jessica December 4, 2014 at 7:48 am - Reply

      I bought quite a few new alpines this year and revamped the trough. I’m hoping the cover works, it tends to be too wet for them down here. Alpines have been more like annuals for me so far!

  35. welshhillsagain December 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I use the phrase about the curate’s egg in the way you do and understood the same story! Spring can’t come too quickly for me. I am not a winter person although I am trying hard to live each day and not wish my life away whenever the days get short!

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      I know what you mean about not wishing your life away. Our next big job here is to get the chimney sorted out so we can have an open fire. Then I will be better able to appreciate the pleasures of winter I think!

  36. Anna December 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Snow drops and roses here too Jessica – a most peculiar state of affairs . I love the bungee – I imagine that it could give a nosey pestiferous squirrel quite a shock. Tee hee.

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Perhaps I should hang a bungee rope from a tree.. something for them to play with?? 🙂

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