Yesterday was the first half decent day for weeks. A strange bright yellow thing appeared in an unfamiliar blue sky and the mood changed entirely. If we’re lucky maybe we’ll see more sunshine today before the deluge resumes on Friday. The soil is sodden.



First Storm Ciara and then, barely a week later,  Dennis the Menace. The roaring wind and torrential rain has indeed felt relentless. Frost, snow, sleet, hail, thunder, we’ve had it all. This tree fell just six feet away from two large crates packed with brand new paving slabs. Which would have proved expensive..



It could have been worse. The landscape may have changed somewhat around the garden, and we will need to find a window in the decorating diary to get the chainsaw out, but the river is well below us and stayed within its banks. I feel for the many people in the UK who have been flooded or still under that threat. I know only too well from our own skirmish with a burst water pipe last year just how long it takes for a house to dry out. And of course that water had the advantage of being clean.



Fewer trees maybe but there are plenty enough left. And now possibly more light?

Always the prospect of more planting opportunities..


Iris reticulata 'Natasha'


Iris reticulata ‘Natasha’

Under the protection of glass there are still bulbs to enjoy.


Erica carnea 'Nathalie'


Pools of colour are starting to emerge outside too including this one right by the kitchen window. The heather spreads quietly and blooms reliably year after year. Erica carnea ‘Nathalie’ fringed with the black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens. And the odd photobombing crocus of unknown ID.


Helleborus 'Harvington Double Yellow Speckled'


Helleborus ‘Harvington Double Yellow Speckled’

But the flower of the moment has to be the hellebore. They will take whatever the weather might throw at them and come back for more.


Helleborus x hybridus 'Harvington Black'


I did wonder if hellebores would survive at all when we first moved into this garden. I brought with me several roots but they never did particularly well. It didn’t help that the pheasants viewed them as sport. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if Ptolemy et al had needed the blooms for essential winter sustenance but no, all they ever seemed to do was sever the flower from the stem with surgical precision and leave it, intact, lying on the ground. Clearly umbrage was taken somewhere though I never did work out quite why.

Turned out all it needed was patience on my part. First for the pheasants to tire of that particular game and second for the plants to get themselves established. Hellebores take their time. But even the weakest growing, like Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harvington Black’ above, seem to get there in the end given the right spot. I used to think they were shade lovers. Maybe that was right in my previous garden where summers were drier and warmer. But here, in my heavy and winter saturated soil they seem to need a fair bit of sun.


Helleborus x hybridus 'Harvington Lime'


Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harvington Lime’

The jury is out on the colour combo here. I think I like it..! In the background, the New Zealand pepper tree Pseudowintera colorata. Perhaps it works better with the black hellebore (which is also planted alongside it).


Helleborus orientalis 'Harvington Dusky'


Helleborus orientalis ‘Harvington Dusky’


Helleborus 'Cinderella'


Helleborus ‘Cinderella’



Helleborus ‘Lost Label’


Fuchsia arborescens


Fuchsia arborescens

Back in the greenhouse the July/August blooming fuchsia has now fully opened and there are more buds still to come.



And what do we have here?

Stickyflorus chinensis.


Yes I know they’re on the naff side. The trouble is there is nowhere in the greenhouse from which to suspend the more traditional hanging fly papers and we’re suffering a veritable invasion. Tiny black flies are everywhere. Not just in the greenhouse either. In the cold frames, in the potting shed. Even inside the heated propagator for heavens’ sake. They appear to lay their eggs in the soil. Yellowish green bugs climb up the stems of the tender young plants and suck them dry. Do the bugs then mature into the tiny black flies and the cycle start over again? Or do I have two different sets of invaders? The fly papers attempt to divert any passing winged beasty and they do seem to work. This was after just one day, there are many more stuck there now. It remains to be seen whether they work well enough and if, as is claimed, the papers are safe for bees. Hopefully the problem will be resolved one way or another before it is warm enough to open up the greenhouse to bees.


Grevillea 'Canberra Gem'


Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’

Also now fully open in the greenhouse. Complete with bugs. Little blighters.