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My Garden Journal 2019 – November

I started my entries for November by commenting. “November takes us deep into autumn, the red hot colours of foliage dominate but little gems of flower colour provide spots of colour that attracts us. This November the dominant colour has changed to yellow by the end of the first week.”


On the second page I continued, “We continue to be busy revamping areas of the garden and began the month reworking the Rill Garden. We cleared the borders and rill and pond of all herbaceous plants. After clearing out the rill it was replanted. In the Winter Garden to the right of the rill we added a new selection of shade-loving plants.”


The two Brunnera are B. ‘Alexander’s Great’ and B. ‘Little Jack’ and between them is the unusual shade lover, Azara splendens.

Two epimedium have been planted in the renewed border in the dappled shade, Epimedium ‘Spine Tingler’ and Epimedium ‘Mandarin star’

“We had a new  stable door fitted which we needed to protect with coats of yacht varnish.”


“Half pots we planted with dwarf bulbs and top-dressed with horticultural grit.”

“General views around the garden show just how much colour there still is to enhance the look of our patch.”

“Wildlife is full of surprises as we still see and hear so many bees feeding on our mahonias,  fatsias, and ivies. Whenever we garden buzzards and kites entertain us with their acrobatic displays in the sky overhead. Migrating starlings, and thrushes fill the sky with gossip.

“There are usually a dozen or more blackbirds in our patch who gorge themselves on the berries we grow for them, especially our cotoneasters, of which we grow several species and cultivars.”

“We continue to be busy whenever the weather allows, re-developing the two gravel circles in the front garden.”

So that is my garden journal for November 2019, and now we are waiting to see what December brings by way of ending the year.

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The Avocet Collection

It feels so magical when you discover a chance seedling that is a natural hybrid that has happened under your nose with no help from the gardener. It is equally special when a surprise seedling is so special and different that you want to give it its own name. We have a few of our own Avocet plants that occurred in this way, two Hellebores, two Hollies, a Cotoneaster, a Willow and a Cornus.

I thought it would be interesting to share them with you and let you see some photos of them to see what you think.

Firstly I will share our two Hellebores, the first pictured below we called Hellebore “Jo’s Jewel”after our daughter Jo who creates beautiful jewelry. It has flowers of a delicate pink with tiny purple dots inside and faint hints of green at the base of each petal turning deep green at the base. The reverse of the petals are of a deeper pink colour. The petals are rounded in shape.


Our second selected Hellebore has purple-pink outer petals with fine lines of a deeper purple and spots adorn the inner petals. Each petal, although rounded comes to a point. We have named this seedling after our daughter-in-law, Sam so we call it Hellebore “Sammi’s Smile”. So these sister seedlings are named after two sisters!


Our Ilex was selected from dozens of seedlings grown from berries from our garden at our last garden prior to our Avocet patch. We grew them on our allotment nearby and watched and waited to see if anything special developed. After a few years they began to show their potential and naturally most were pretty ordinary apart from half a dozen with very dark stems and foliage. We kept these and composted the rest. We carefully watched these finalists develop until we could identify their growth habit, leaf and stem colour and their flowering and berrying. Eventually we ended up with a select three with very dark and shiny stems and leaves, two we thought would make good standards that we could topiarise, and a third which seemed more delicate.


Our third selection we have called Ilex “Avocet Flat Black” and after ten years it has grown to just 3ft tall and 5ft across. It has delicate dark shiny foliage and black stems, it flowers well and its flowers attract bees and hoverflies. The deep red berries are enjoyed by our resident Blackbirds and the shrub is enjoyed by our garden visitors.

Here is our Ilex “Avocet Flat black” in flower and attracting bees.

Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange” is a plant we grew by taking cuttings of a few branches of a friend’s Salix alba britzensis which showed very rich orange coloured stems. These stems glowed so brightly when caught by the sun. The friend was called Wendy hence the name we christened our plants, Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange”. We grew our cuttings on until large enough to take cuttings from them and so on. We grew a few on as standards that we could pollard and three of these now grace our Rill Garden. They look wonderful and so brightly coloured! See how the sun brings out the orange and makes the branches glow brightly. The first photo is taken under cloud, the second and third in sunlight.

We pollard these willow trees to thicken their trunks and force them to grow fresh, colourful stem growth each spring.

Our selected seedling Cotoneaster was again planted out on our old allotment near our previous home and garden. We selected out one very strong growing plant which looked far superior to the rest, its stems darker than usual, its leaves also darker coloured and heavily textured. When it matured enough to flower it did so profusely, attracting bees and hoverflies. These were followed by deep red berries, ruby red in fact, and highly glossy. Each berry is like a red gem, a ruby, and so we named it Cotoneaster “Jude’s Ruby”. It is much admired by visitors on our garden open days and group visits, who often ask if we have cuttings for sale. We are now trying to build up stock. Cuttings seem slow and not very reliable so we will also try growing from collected seeds.

Our other shrub seedling also features the colour ruby red but not berries, coloured stems instead are its main feature. We named it Cornus “Avocet Ruby”. We selected it from seedlings which appeared on the bank bordering the wildlife pond, and were hybrids between Cornus Midwinter Fire” and other dogwoods grown for their coloured stems. We are now taking cuttings to help build up some stock from which we will be able to sell specimens to our garden visitors. The picture below shows its autumn colouring. Once these yellow leaves fall the brightly coloured stems of yellow, orange and ruby red are revealed in readiness for glowing so brightly in late winter sun.

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My Garden Journal – December

To celebrate the moving from 2015 into 2016 I thought an appropriate post to publish would be my final monthly garden journal entries for 2015.

This is the final month of reporting on my garden journal where I have been keeping track of what has been happening in our Avocet garden. December should be a month of cold nights, frosts and wintry showers but this year it has been a month of strong winds and rain accompanying mild temperatures. We have still only had one frost in this last bit of the year. Our Dahlias remain outside as we move into the first week of December as we are waiting for frosts to blacken their foliage which would allow us to prepare them for their winter rest.

Opening up my garden journal onto the first pages for December reveals photos of berries which are such a strong feature of our winter garden.

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My first entry for December reads, “The berries of our trees and shrubs give bright splashes of colour in the Winter Garden.”

My photos show berries of Hypericum, Sarcoccoca, various Hollies and one of our Sorbus.

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We have many different Cotoneasters throughout the garden giving shiny berries in many red shades – ruby, scarlet, crimson – and one even has yellow berries. They are so easy to grow but add so much to the garden. Each variety has a different habit and foliage in different shades of green, different sizes, shapes and textures. But what is common to them all is that they are true favourites of our berry eating thrushes.”

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The greenhouse features next in my December Journal as it is during this month that it fills up with tender plants which we want to overwinter.

“The greenhouse is very full and busy in December. Our Fuschia thalia after flowering outdoors for months is still full of bloom now but in the sheltered environment of the greenhouse. Accompanying this special Fuschia, our succulents are also sitting out winter under shelter, after spending the summer and autumn in the Rill Garden.” 

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I tried to show the uniqueness of the Fuschia and its incredibly bright colour with watercolours.

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My final quote for 2015 from the little book by Jenny Joseph, “Led by the Nose” appears as we turn the next page.

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Fragrance outdoors in this season is not so much a twinkle in the eye as a sniff in the nosmic imagination. You will see the tips of bulbs and look forward to being overcome by spring.” 

Below these words I share photos of a few of the flowers that are sharing their scent with us this month, roses and perennial wallflowers.

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“Roses and Perennial Wallflowers invite us to get our noses close to their blooms so that we can enjoy the sweetest of scents. Other plants need us to rub their leaves before they share the secrets of the scent with us.” 

The accompanying pictures show two such plants, salvias and mints.

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The colour yellow can cheer up the garden in the deep dark days of December, so I moved on to see what plants were giving us these golden tints.

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“On gloomy days in December when there is no sign or chance of sunshine, we really are grateful to plants that give us cheerful yellow flower and foliage.”

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Opposite my tour of our garden yellows I make mention of the members of the ?thrush family that share our garden with us in the winter.

“Let me introduce you to our Winter Thrushes, drawn in a stylised fashion.”  I hope you enjoy them.

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We next turn from the colour yellow to bright pinks, Nerines.

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“Nerine bowdenii is the shocking pink of winter. It is difficult looking at these dry bulbs to think that such bright and wonderfully shaped flowers can burst from them.”

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Seed heads are the theme of the page opposite the Nerines.

“Seedheads on perennials and grasses play such an important part in our Winter garden. We have even bought ourselves a trio of seedhead sculptures made from stoneware.”

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So now we turn the page to the very last entry in my 2015 Garden Journal.

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As December slowly comes to an end for 2015, we are already looking ahead. Jude’s little nursery is well-stocked with young plants which we will sell on our open days and to garden clubs who visit Avocet. The greenhouse keeps our tender plants warm and snug. They are patiently awaiting Spring 2016.”

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Young plants that we are growing on for sale at next year’s open days are sheltering in a plastic mini-greenhouse to encourage them to grow strong and healthy ready for next year. They look pretty sad through the winter though as most are herbaceous perennials.

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