The belated Boxing Day flower count


It doesn’t have to be Boxing Day (a day I tend to spend lying around the place groaning and/or putting some ancient movie on when the broadcast TV turns out to be shite). Sometimes it can be New Year. Sometimes it’s any day in between… but generally, at about this time of year, I get out into the garden with a notepad and pencil and see what’s in flower. I knew there’d be camellias, as the big white double is covered:

overcast camellia

This year I really should have used a waterproof diver’s notebook as it was a bit on the sleety side, but there was sweet FA not that much in flower anyway, apart from the camellia (I managed the count but not the blog post due to the need to lie around groaning).

I had the other Usual Suspects: verbena bonarensis, my yellow jasmine hedge, a daphne, the Christmas-flowering cherry. There was also a single daisy in the lawn and some geraniums – pelargoniums – in the greenhouse. And a mad penstemon – here’s the rather poorly photographed (low light levels, honest) proof:


Looking back over my records I can see that some of the things I think of as oddities appear year after year. There’s generally, for instance, at least one insane osteospermum and a couple of agyranthemum flowers. I’ve had hellebores (not this time) and leucojums (almost), and one year I had a knautia – but flowering in midwinter seemed to knacker the knautia and it disappeared, never to be seen again. This may well happen to the penstemon; I do hope not.

The notes are also useful for weather jottings. In 2005, for instance, we had snow on Christmas Day, so I did the count on 2 January. The next year there was much more flowering – a skimmia, rosemaries, a Geranium macrorrhizum, an anthemis and a heuchera – but my notes say ‘no significant frost as yet’. And despite recording ‘a huge quantity of rain’ in 2007, there were still crocuses; in fact there have been every year – until now. Oh, and probably one other year: there’s no count at all from 2010, when the garden looked like this:

brrr 2010

My notes say ‘IMPOSSIBLE – garden under 5in snow minimum, fell a week ago [BTW – we were later than the rest of the UK and began to feel we were missing out], temps so low that it didn’t go away. Some snow on tops since mid Nov, Beddgelert got to -15, Dolwyddelen colder’.

Now, a few days after New Year, we are under a lovely heavy frost. I’m calling it ‘lovely’ because we didn’t have a single decent frost last year, and I need a few more to kill off the bugs. Of course it’s also killing off the plethora of seedlings that have sprung up everywhere, and may be affecting the geraniums in the greenhouse, but it’s a proper frost. Phew. And some of the sunsets have been fab:


Not quite the last sunset of 2015, but nearly.

All the best to everyone, and to their gardens, for 2015. And may your penstemons always get their flowering seasons right.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Helen says:

    I am surprised year after year what is flowering but you have to really look which I think is always good.

    1. kate says:

      It is, I agree, but I could have waited a bit – sleet going down your neck does not help with close inspection!

  2. hoehoegrow says:

    I love those random flowers at quite the wrong time of year! What induced that Penstemon to think “Yep! Time to flower now!” ? I have a few roses which put out hopeful little flowers when it is clearly far too cold, and I applaud them for it!
    Happy New Year to you !

    1. kate says:

      Bonkers, isn’t it? The knautia from a few years ago certainly regretted it, I do hope this penstemon doesn’t feel the same… silly plant…

  3. Cathy says:

    Aha – so penstemons DO have their own minds (see my Sap is Rising post and ensuing comments)!! I do enjoy your posts, Kate, and I applaud you for giving up moaning and groaning (albeit briefly) to go and do your ‘Boxing Day’ count for our benefit as well as yours. Your count and reference to previous counts just shows that plants will generally do what they like 🙂

    1. kate says:

      They do, they do, they do! (This one, though, is clearly deficient, so I’m not sure what that says about the minds of penstemons in general.)

      I loved your comparison on that post, by the way – I must be more organised!

  4. interesting exercise Kate, I was so intimidated after viewing a couple of blogs on garden bloggers bloom day (they had so many blooms) that I have never joined that meme and often avoid bloom posts but I am thinking of doing some this year to get me to see just what is blooming, it is interesting that although some flower frequently at this time of year we are so conditioned to think of them flowering when the weather is better we still find it unusual, love your camellia, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Oh, I know, Frances, I stopped doing GBBD posts because after about June all I had was foliage – I’ve worked hard to improve that, but I’ve not been brave enough to return to GBBD! (It is interesting from the point of view of almost making diary notes, but I find I can do that by looking through my photographs anyway.)

      My other camellia is joining in, starting toady – one of the best things about being back on acid soil is the camellias. Woopee!

  5. Lying around groaning is obligatory on Boxing Day. We were horribly lazy, and watched lots of bad movies, but hey, we walked lots on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Your penstemon is a tad confused, maybe its just practising for later, while it thought nobody would!d be watching… We’ve still not had a frost!

    1. kate says:

      How odd on the frost front – we’ve had several now, and the penstemon has stopped flowering (phew). Laziness is also obligatory at Christmas!

  6. wellywoman says:

    One day I’ll keep records like that. Maybe that can be next year’s resolution, I’ve got enough to be getting on with this year. 😉 We have had a few frosts and quite hard ones and yet the Verbena bonariensis is still standing, well, standing is stretching it. It’s more of a drunken lean but it’s still alive which is odd. It isn’t in flower though, just the usual suspects in my own garden I’m afraid.

    1. kate says:

      It’s not so much a resolution as a way of getting off the sofa!
      My Verbena are all almost flat (and one of mine is still alive, too, more like passed out about 4am in Newcastle’s Big Market than just leaning) – the winds last night saw to that, even though we escaped lightly by comparison. Only two frosts so far and I’m hoping for more, even though that’s two more than last year.

      1. wellywoman says:

        Just tidying up in the garden today and my Verbena are still actually growing with loads of buds on them. Love the analogy. 😉 I’m seeing lots of hints of spring but trying to remind myself we’ve got quite a bit of winter still to come.

        1. kate says:

          Indeed we have, and the weather forecast today – snow, eek, noooooo – reminded me of that. That and the fact that it is time to prune the Rosa rugosa hedges.

          (Hedgetrimmer – but that doesn’t remove the dead bits. It comes down to hands. Hands and physical injuries.)

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