Shades of Autumn

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Japanese maple in the Autumn sunshine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To be completely honest with you all, this really isn’t my favourite time of year. However, when it’s not raining and when the sun is out, I do spend a lot of time in the garden admiring the glorious colours that this month often has to offer.

The Japanese maple tree above is situated in the corner of my drive-way. It has leaves that seem to glow in the sunshine, and when the leaves mature and fall to the ground, they turn a vivid shade of red as they dry out.

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Fallen maple leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There is more red to be seen elsewhere in the garden. The Cotoneaster is crammed full of berries this year. Standing in front of this hardy specimen is a more delicate Fuschia bush with pink and purple petals that clash spectacularly with the scarlet berries behind.

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Pink Fuschia and berry-laden Cotoneaster. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another crop of Autumn crocus has sprung up in one of the flowerbeds. A later variety, these beauties are Crocus Sativus or the saffron-crocus. When the sun hits the golden stamens, the spicy aroma is quite mouth-watering.

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Crocus Sativus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a good year for Hydrangeas; they have been in bloom for many weeks. I love the way that the blooms fade gradually and gracefully as the days draw in, and develop a “vintage” appearance.

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Fading glory. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

A few plants are now on their second blooming of the year. This solitary Leucanthemum flower stem is the only one that has developed on the plant second time around. It does look a bit lonely. The variety is Bananas and Cream which is a great name for any plant in my opinion.

Have a good few days and enjoy the Autumn colours if you’re out and about 🙂

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Bananas and Cream for one. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Autumn approaches

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Autumn-flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.

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Grape hyacinth foliage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.

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Pink and white Japanese anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.

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Autumn crocus and Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.

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September greenhouse tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.

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This year’s eating and cooking apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you what ever you are doing 🙂

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Runner beans, Autumn raspberries and Pink Fir potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My weekend harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Aronia berry and apple jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Garden berries and apples combined to make a delicious jelly preserve.                            Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.

I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.

I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
  • 400g whole cooking apples, washed
  • Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
  1. Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
  2. Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.

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    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
  4. Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
  5. Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
  6. Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.

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    Aronia berries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

My July garden retrospective

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End of July in the garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies. I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I found some time to capture some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.

The wonderfully prickly specimen below appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.

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Wild thistle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.

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Early July Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fashioned, highly scented rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.

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Scabious and lavender with bumblebee and butterfly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.

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Tall red poppies and small bush Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¾kg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too 🙂

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Mid July Morellos. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Aptly named, Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.

Lovely Lupins

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Lupin-laden flower bed. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is full of colour at the moment, thanks largely to the abundance of Lupin bushes. We’ve had the right mix of rainy days and dry days to bring them to full flower, and they look magnificent. Tall and sturdy, the structured flower stems are made up of many delicate individual flower heads with a distinctly peppery aroma, Lupins are a delight to behold. The violet-blue Lupin bush above has a quirkiness to it, each year one solitary pink stem grows in amongst all the blue ones 🙂

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Up close on Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not just me who’s enjoying the Lupins, the bees are all over them at the moment – just look at those pollen sacs!

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Lupin-lovin bees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Lupins are the ultimate low-maintenance plant, and such great value. They will self-seed each year if you allow the seed heads to dry on the plant. I usually collect a few seed pods each year and pot up a few extra plants just in case I have a space in a border for a new plant – the pink one below is one of last year’s newbies. If you cut back the stems once the flowers have faded, you will get a second flourish of smaller flower stems later on in the season.

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Pink and white Lupin varieties. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The orange Lupin was planted last year, and I was intrigued to see whether it would grow back the same colour this year. I have found that Lupins often change colour in acidic soil just like Hydrangeas, and often revert back to the original violet-blue variety. The colour of this one is slightly more peachy this year, but still a lovely contrast to the other colours in the garden.

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The blue and the orange. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back in the kitchen again soon. Until my next post, have a good few days and enjoy the sunshine when you have some 🙂

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Lupin-tastic. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Happy May!

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Early May bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to the best month of the year everyone! After a wonderfully sunny and warm Easter, the garden has burst into bloom. Every bed is full of colour and the air is heavy with aromatic perfumes, and best of all, there are Bluebells in every corner.

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Happy May! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

These beautiful Narcissi are multi-headed, each having 4 bloom heads per stalk. I took the photo about a week ago, and sadly now they are just beginning to go over. They have been flowering for a month and have been great value. The perfume is delightful.

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Late spring Narcissi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Azalias are about 2 weeks ahead of themselves this year, and as usual the smaller-petal varieties are fully laden with flowers. In the sunshine, their bright pink blooms are intense and dazzling. The golden yellow variety is less blousy but brightens up the partially-shaded flower-bed it lives in, and is a lovely contrast amongst the bluebells .

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Golden yellow and vibrant pink Azalias. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Some of the fruit tree blossom has set since my last post – it looks like there will be lots of cherries this year 🙂 The miniature apple tree is laden with blossom, and today saw the first opening of petals on the big old apple tree. Such pretty and delicate flowers.

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Early May apple blossom. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another flowering plant that is ahead of itself this year, is the Solomon’s Seal. The bell-shaped white flowers are just opening. Each year the plants seed themselves so year on year there are more in the flower-beds. It is a truly elegant plant, and stays in bloom for several weeks.

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Solomon’s Seal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the mass of blue from the all the bluebells, just across from my kitchen window, now that the Tête-à-tête have finished, the raised bed has become overrun with Forget-me-nots. Not planted, they just appeared, courtesy of the birds (or perhaps the fairies?). No matter, they are so cute and dainty, and a delightful shade of baby-blue.

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Forget-me-nots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been pleasing to see so many bees, butterflies and other beasties in the garden these past couple of weeks, busy in the sunshine and enjoying the warmth. I discovered this wee chap whilst I was weeding the flower-bed underneath. He’s either sunbathing or perhaps he is completely intoxicated by the aromas drifting up from the geranium leaf he’s sitting on and from the bluebell above! Until next week, enjoy the sunshine if you have some!

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Sunbathing ladybird. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Spring in full swing

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Raised bed of spring flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a glorious week here in central Scotland and I just couldn’t resist posting another series of images of spring flowers. It is my favourite time of the year and this year the garden seems more abundant than ever, bursting with colour in every corner.

Whilst  the sky has been blue and the temperature relatively warm during the day, the nights have been chilly, and only this morning the lawn was covered with frost.

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Muscari and Snakeshead fritillary. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There is plenty of blossom forming on the fruit trees, and the sprigs nearest the walls are already in bloom and sweet-smelling. The bees will be smiling.

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Victoria Plum, Morello Cherry and Doyenne de Comice Pear blossoms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been in and out of the garden all week keeping my eye on the progress of the bluebells because they are exceptionally early this year. In the sunny spots, the stems are getting longer and the buds bluer, and today I discovered one wee bell-shaped flower fully open in amongst a thicket of twigs, and here it is, my first bluebell of 2019 🙂

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My first bluebells of 2019. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the most prolific plants in the garden is Euphorbia. This time of the year the flowers are lime-green and yellowy and look stunning in the sunlight. They really brighten up the dullest parts of the garden and make an eye-catching display with the fading pink and white hellebores in the background.

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Euphorbia with hellebores. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My last images of my post this week are of a beautiful pink Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus) with its many layers of delicate petals. I don’t seem to be able to grow them in big clusters, just the odd one comes up here and there. The other is a very “early bird” in the garden this year, a single Mountain Cornflower (Centaurea montana). Usually these thistle-like flowers grow in abundance from early summer and onwards throughout the autumn, but this fellow has popped up several weeks ahead of the others.

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Persian buttercup and a Mountain cornflower. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for this week. Have a good few days – enjoy the sunshine if you have it. I’ll be back in the kitchen with an Eastery recipe for next week’s post.

The end of winter

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In full bloom at the end of February, white Pieris Japonica and pink Rhododendron. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Today is officially the meteorological end of winter, which means that tomorrow is the first day of spring; hoorah to that! It has been a very warm and sunny end to a month that has been one of the mildest Februarys on record across the whole of the UK. It has been a pleasure to be out-of-doors, so many birds are singing and there are many insects buzzing all round the garden.

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A busy bee in the sunshine collecting pollen from a dogtooth violet. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Looking back over previous blog entries, I can see that every image I am posting this week is 2 to 4 weeks earlier than in previous posts. The snowdrops have been glorious this year, and have grown in thick white and green carpets both in the garden and in nearby hedgrows. For the first time I can recall I was able to detect their sweet and spicy fragrance as the sun shone on the blooms. I took this image a few days ago just as the fine weather started in earnest. The snowdrops in the sunny parts of the garden have gone over now, but there are a few clusters still lighting up the shady corners of the borders and under the thickest hedges.

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Snowdrops enjoying the sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a good year for crocus too. The bulbs I planted last year in an old wooden barrel have put on a very colourful display. They have recently been joined by Tête-à-tête, which are also growing all round the garden, giving a sunny glow and a sweet aroma to many of the flower beds.

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Large wooden barrel of crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Narcissus Tête-à-tête. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend I spotted the first tiny blue dot in one of the paths which was a sign that my favorite of all spring flowers, the Chionodoxa, were on their way. Sure enough, over the course of the next few days, small electric-blue clumps of star-shaped flowers have sprung up all over the place.

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Striking blue Chionodoxa. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not only the flowers that are excelling themselves this year, the rhubarb patch is very much alive and kicking. I love the bright red stems of the new shoots and curled leaves. The stems look tempting enough to eat already, but I will resist and be patient.

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A fairy ring of young rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have posted plenty of Hellebore pictures in the past, and I end my post this week with another one. This beauty was new to the garden last year and has only 3 flowers, but the blooms are delightful. I hope it thrives in its new location, and look forward to seeing more blooms in the future. Until next time, happy Spring 🙂

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Double white speckled Hellebore. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Bare trees and blue skies

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Small pear and cherry trees in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy February everyone! Any thoughts I had of an early spring have gone out the window these past couple of weeks as temperatures in the UK have plummeted. So far, there has been little snow to speak of, but there have been many a frost-laden night and day. The saving grace amongst all the chilliness is a beautiful blue-sky and bright sunshine we have been blessed with most days.

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Copper beech in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Icy sunrise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So, on with my quick round-up of what’s going on in the garden right now. The snowdrops and crocus have been in flower for a couple of weeks and seem to be coping well with the sunny days and freezing nights.

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Early 2019 snowdrops and golden crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Hellebore of the year has now been joined by a couple of other blooms, but other varieties are still firmly in bud.

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Hellebore trio. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the winter pansies have been chewed. Each flower head lasts about 24 hours once it opens before some wee beasty makes a meal of it. I managed to capture this pansy’s delicate, pretty petals before it becomes part of another insect supper.

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A winter bug’s next meal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a good season for the winter heathers. This pink heather is full of blooms. There aren’t so many pink flowers around at this time of year, so this one is  a welcome burst of colour. Sadly the early flower heads of the pink rhododendron I photographed at Hogmanay have inevitably perished in the frost.

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Pink winter heather in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Perhaps my next garden post will be more spring-like – who knows? So until then, wrap up warm and keep cosy. Have a good few days 🙂

 

 

Hogmanay in the garden

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Welcoming in 2019. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health and every success in the year ahead. I hope that you have had a good Christmas holiday, and now we wait to see what 2019 brings to us all.

My Christmas holiday has been very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been mild considering the time of year and has given me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tackle a few jobs like pruning the old apple tree.

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Recently pruned gnarly old apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The holidays started on a very chilly note with a heavy frost on Christmas Eve which made everything look very festive and sparkly in the sunshine and crisp, fresh air. Frosted_Hydrangea_lawn_paths_and_greenhouse_glass

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Frosty garden on Christmas Eve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Out in the garden today, things were looking a little different from a week ago. No frost, just mild, breezy air and patches of blue in a heavily clouded sky. 2018 has certainly given us some unusual weather and I think this is having an impact on the garden now. Several plants are much more advanced than usual: the snowdrops are almost out in flower; the buds on the early spring flowering rhododendron are breaking open, and one Hellebore is already in full bloom. The usual oddities are around too: a solitary stalk of fresh flowers on a very sad-looking, bedraggled lavender bush, and a few new red-fringed orange carnation buds are about to open for a second flowering. Snowdrops_in_bud_and_a_white_hellebore_in_bloom

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Hogmanay flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll sign off this post with an image of some “lucky” white winter-flowering heather to bring us all good fortune over the next 12 months 🙂

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins