Scottish snowdrops

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Garden snowdrops in the February sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a lovely sunny day here today, so different to the weather we experienced in the middle of the week. My post to round off the month is one that I had intended to write last year but never quite got all the images together in time. Now more than ever, it seems very fitting to write about this peaceful-looking, delicate little flower, a symbol of hope for many, and one that brings signs of new life and spring at this time of year.

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Snow-fall earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The snowdrop (Galanthus nivalus) is one of the first signs of spring for many of us. Although they look so fragile and vulnerable, they are very hardy, and I can prove it. After several centimetres of snowfall this week, every single one in the garden has bounced back completely unharmed.

The pure white flowers with their bright green flashes can be found all over Europe from the beginning of the year onwards. They are native to southern Europe. In the UK, their history is a bit unclear but they have been noted in garden journals for a few hundred years, escaping to the wild some time later. During the Crimean War of the 1850’s, the hills surrounding the battlefields were reportedly covered in snowdrops. Soldiers returning from this war brought the bulbs back to their wives and sweethearts in the UK, and the Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus) took up its residence as part of the British landscape. There are over 2000 varieties of snowdrop, and the national collection of 350 varieties are grown on the Cambo Estate in Fife, East Scotland.

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Snowdrops in my garden today. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In February last year, I was taking a walk around some nearby country roads, admiring the scenery and enjoying the peace. Monzie is a small hamlet at the foothills of the Highlands, right behind the town where I live. I had never done the walk at this time of the year so it was a lovely surprise to round the corner in the road and come across so many wild snowdrops growing over the banks, over the old stone bridge and in the grounds of the local church, Monzie Kirk.

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Roadside snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Snowdrop-covered Monzie bridge. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Monzie cemetery and Kirk. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I was taking the photographs today in the garden, I noticed a couple of flower-heads had upturned. This is the first time I have seen the underside of the petals. Very pretty they are too.

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Underneath Snowdrop petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you enjoyed the images. Snowdrops really are a breath of fresh air at this time of year. Until next time, take care and keep safe.

February flurries and flowers

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February snow flurries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We’ve certainly had a lot of weather here in central Scotland since my last post. Sunshine, strong winds, heavy rain, snow and frosts. Yet I am happy to report that the garden is slowly coming to life; the birds are feeding constantly and singing ever louder, and at times it does feel that spring is on its way.

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February sunshine, snow and frost. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the month when the first proper spring flowers appear in the garden, the snowdrops. There are a few clumps here and there already, but towards the end of the month is when they will really takeover. At the moment, many are still in bud, with just one or two opened up to see the tiny green markings on the inside petals. So pretty and delicate, yet strong enough to stand up to all sorts of weather.

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Snowdrops in the shade and in the sun. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another sign of spring for me is when the crocus appear. I just managed to capture these beauties before they got crushed by a heavy downpour of rain. I hope they bounce back again.

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The first crocus of 2022. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The winter heathers started flowering at the very end of last year and are now looking very healthy, adding splashes of pink and white to the flower beds.

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Pink and white winter heathers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Hellebore is fully open now with others not far behind. The Hebe that started flowering in December is still producing blooms. I am delighted to see the first bright red shoots of rhubarb up and coming, promising delicious rewards later in the year, and the deep pink Rhododendron is slowly opening up – a bit later than in other years.

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Blooms and shoots: Hellebore, Hebe, Rhubarb and Rhododendron. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There are more storms and wintry weather on the horizon for the UK in the week ahead so perhaps it is just as well that the garden isn’t too far advanced at the moment. Until next time, thanks for stopping by and my best wishes to you.

Spring is in the air

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Early spring sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. What a difference a couple of weeks has made to the weather here in central Scotland. February started off with snow and ice, and more followed. The temperatures plummeted. But as the month drew to a close, the skies cleared, the sun came out and at last the spring flowers have started to bloom.

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Icy windows in early February. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mid February snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This past week, the air temperature has increased by several degrees and there have been several “blue-sky” days. Great news for the spring flowers, the warmth and sunshine has brought a few into flower at long last. Looking back over past Februarys, I think the cold spell this year has put the garden back at least a couple of weeks. The snowdrops and Hellebores in particular seem late to open up this year.

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Scottish snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The first of the Hellebores. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the sunshine, the crocuses are opening up and attracting bees which is good to see, and in the shady borders, there are primroses, one of my favourite spring flowers.

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Yellow crocus and primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The pink Rhododendron is gradually opening up. I love the colour of this variety, the blooms look like tufts of candyfloss.

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Pink Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I was given 3 Hyacinth bulbs by a gardener friends for Christmas and as I type this post, I can smell their perfume wafting around the house. They are are tallest, most flowery Hyacinths I have ever seen, and the colours in the petals ranges from deep, vibrant blue, through to lilac with hints of pink. The perfume is intensely spicy and fragrant.

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Delft blue Hyacinths. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my post this week, another indoor image I captured at the weekend when the sun was shining into the conservatory. The rays hit one of my hanging crystals just at the right point and cast a rainbow on the wall. A very cheery sight.

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Spring sunshine rainbow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, I hope you are able to get outdoors and enjoy some spring sunshine and the very special flowers around at this time of year. Take care and keep safe ūüôā

Winter whites

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Snow-covered apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Greetings from snowy Scotland. I hope you are keeping well and warm. The weather hasn’t changed since my last post. Snow has been lying on the ground for a while and there have been intermittent snowy showers almost every day. Fortunately it’s not lying very deep and right now it is raining.

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Winter 2021, snowy garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is quiet at this time of year and having a bit of a rest, but I have found a few signs of life. I’ve been taking photos for the past couple of weeks but nothing has really changed. I was hoping that the snowdrops would have opened out by now but the petals are still clamped closed.

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Snowdrops still in bud. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Usually the Cotoneaster hedge at the front of the house is untouched by the birds. It’s bright orange-red berries offer some colour when there is nothing much else around. This year the hedge has been stripped by pigeons. I did find a smaller plant that still has its berries. Perhaps it is too awkward for the birds to get to.

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Two Cotoneasters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just round the corner from the now barren hedge is the white Hydrangea bush that flowered so abundantly last summer and autumn. I always leave the faded blooms on the plant until the weather warms up. This is believed to help preserve the new leaf buds. The dried blooms have caught a light dusting of snow which makes them look quite pretty.

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Snow-covered faded Hydrangea blooms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The Hellebores seem to be taking forever to show this year. I can see the flower buds forming at the bases of the plants but only one plant has produced stems so far. It’s been in bud for a couple of weeks now. I think it’s only going to be tempted into bloom if the weather warms up by several degrees ūüôā

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My first Hellebore of 2021. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a brief post from me this week. I’m heading into the kitchen again at the weekend, so there will be a recipe post from me next time. Until then, stay well and have a good few days.

Winter garden round-up

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A splash of much-appreciated Winter colour, early Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So far this year, Mother Nature has provided 4 seasons in 1 month. There have been several mild days; a few blue-sky, frosty days; a couple of snow-laden days, and in between, grey skies, rain and gusty winds. The poor bulbs and bushes don’t know whether they are on the way up or whether they should still be hibernating.

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Earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Snow-covered apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The snow has now gone, and the temperature has gone up several degrees. I’m happy to say that plants and bulbs that were covered at the beginning of the week, have survived and are blooming again.¬† The crocus were a couple of weeks early this year, so they must have had one hell of a shock on Monday night when the weather changed. The rhubarb shoots have begun to unfurl since the snow melted. I think I will pop a large pot over this clump at the weekend, and force a few stems for spring.

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Yellow crocus, snow-covered and snow-survivors. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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New rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

At the beginning of the week, all the snowdrops in the garden were still tightly closed, but as the thaw took hold and the temperature rose again, many of the buds have opened. These are such pretty, dainty little flowers, and are a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. Have a good few days whatever the weather brings with it ūüôā

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New season snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

 

 

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 ūüôā

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

March, in like a lion….

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Under a yew bush, a lion and thistle embossed, iron screen stands boldly behind the first Tête-a-tête of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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The old saying about March certainly rings true for the start of this month here in central Scotland, but there are a few signs of spring in the garden. The snow has gone, and the temperature has risen (slightly). Today¬†though¬†the weather’s¬†been blowing a gale and it’s¬†very, very¬†wet. I’m still not feeling that spring is here entirely.

However, last weekend was fine, and I managed my first major gardening session for several weeks. I was relieved to see that new life is creeping back into the garden again. The first Tête-a-tête are in flower, and my barrel of crocus seem to have suffered no ill-effects from being under snow for several days, and bloomed in the weak sunshine for a few hours. Ever since I took these images, they have been tightly closed.

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Crocus after the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Snowdrops are the main feature in the garden at the moment. The splash of white petals and the bright green foliage bring some welcome interest and signs of life amongst the dying residues of winter and the mostly bare soil.  March_garden_Snowdrops_growing_under_a_beech_hedge

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Charming and delicate, snowdrops are one of the first signs that spring is on its way. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Rhododendron is also in bloom. One of a few different varieties in the garden, this scarlet one is always the first to flower, and often, flowering not long into the new year; however, this year it has been curtailed by the frosts and snow.

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Scarlet Rhododendron bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My lovely pot Hyacinth has come into full flower this last week. The fragrance is sweet and spicy, and quite intoxicating. The 2 blooms are so heavy and full, I have had to add support to the pot.

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Pink pot Hyacinth in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s the end of my garden round-up for this month. I’m heading back into the kitchen now to get my next recipe post ready.¬†Until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed¬†for the second part of the March saying to come true……..Bring on the lambs!

 

Overnight seed and berry porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Oatmeal and seed porridge with berry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It still feels more¬†wintry than spring-like¬†here in central Scotland. We have had a blue-sky day today, the first for a while, and the temperature is slowly rising. The snow is beginning to thaw slowly, but most of the garden is still covered in a thick, white crust of powdery snow. The snowdrops under the hedge¬†are the first to¬†emerge at long last and I am relieved¬†to see that they have survived their week inside a snow-cave¬†– what robust little flowers they are ūüôā

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After-the-snow snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite warming breakfast dishes is porridge, and it seems a lot of people agree: porridge has become the super-star amongst breakfast cereals, and the supermarket shelves are stacked out with different varieties and all sorts of flavours.

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Pinhead oatmeal for “proper” porridge”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like¬†my porridge made the traditional way,¬†which means¬†I¬†prefer to use¬†oatmeal (or groats)¬†rather than¬†rolled oats. However, it’s not an instant breakfast and requires some organisation: the oatmeal requires overnight soaking¬†before it can be cooked. But if you have a slow-cooker, you can cut down on the preparation: just mix everything up in the slow-cooker the night before¬†and leave it on¬†a low setting until the next morning, by which time it’s ready to eat as soon as you want it.

The oatmeal in the picture above¬†is a local Scottish brand and is not guaranteed gluten-free. As you will know, oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but there is a contamination risk from other grains during processing, so if you do have a serious gluten allergy, you¬†should seek out gluten-free oatmeal.

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Slow-cooker porridge: oatmeal, water and salt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t fancy leaving your slow-cooker on overnight, slow-cook the porridge¬†as you like, and once cooked and cooled, the porridge will keep in the fridge for a few days. You can take out a portion and reheat it with you favourite soya, rice, nut or oat milk when you’re ready. Just pop a portion in a microwave-proof bowl, mash it with a fork and stir in some milk, then¬†reheat on High for about 1 ¬Ĺ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat¬†the porridge¬†in a saucepan, with milk,¬†in the same way.

The following quantity will make about 8 servings: pour 1.1litre water into your slow-cooker and stir in 175g pinhead oatmeal. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Cover with the lid and switch the cooker on to the Low setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, overnight (for 8-10 hours), until thick and soft. To serve, stir well and serve with hot, non-dairy milk mixed in. Add sugar or syrup to sweeten if you like, and top with sliced banana, fresh berries, grated apple, dried fruit etc.

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Homemade seed mix and my frozen summer berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For an extra nutritious start to the day, I like to stir a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds into my bowl porridge and top with some summer berry compote.

For the seed mix, grind 3 tbsp. flax seeds with 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds РI use a coffee grinder to do this. Stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. ground almonds, pecans or Brazil nuts. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use to sprinkle over anything you like for some extra nutritious nuttiness!

The berry compote is made from my freezer supply of home-grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I simply put a quantity, still frozen, in a saucepan with the lid on and sit the pan over a very low heat until the berries soften and cook. I add a little vanilla sugar once the berries are cooked. Delicious eaten hot or cold.

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A spoonful of my favourite oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins