Gardening Magazine

In A Vase On Monday – A Change of Mood

By Julie King

Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to share a vase of flowers picked from my garden every Monday.

“The first of December always makes my heart beat a little faster. The day it all starts. The festival that is Christmas has begun. The vulgar commerce of it all may have started weeks ago, but in this house the season starts today.” Nigel Slater from The Kitchen Diaries II.

This quote from Nigel Slater sums up how I feel at the start of the festive season. I may have bought a few cards, stockpiled some wrapping paper and made the Christmas pudding in November, but I have kept Christmas very much behind the scenes until today. In our house it all begins today – the decorations will be dragged from storage, the porch and driveway are twinkling with fairy lights (I am very particular about lights and they have to be traditional warm white and I do mean twinkling – not flashing) and I will start to write cards and wrap presents.


The 1st of December is when I begin to gradually decorate the house, always beginning in the kitchen as this is where I seem to spend most of my time during December. I like to keep the festive touches quite simple in the kitchen – too much clutter quickly becomes oppressive in a much used room.


Decorations are based around greenery, candles and fir cones. An advent calendar made up of 24 tiny stockings (bought many years ago) is strung across the kitchen window and filled with chocolates and an advent candle is burnt at tea time as often as possible (it is a standing joke that I always insist on having one, but never manage to finish it in time for Christmas).


Imagine my delight when I went to the greenhouse yesterday to find the Paperwhite narcissi that I had planted in early November in flower. They were tight buds until yesterday, when they opened just in time for the festive season. As I have explained before I rarely grow the bulbs inside as I prefer to use them as cut flowers. I plant bulbs successionally throughout the winter months in the greenhouse bed, where I find they flower in 4-5 weeks on sturdy stems.

This week I cut the stems to the same length and placed all the flowers in a tall narrow cylinder vase, which has supported the stems well. I placed the vase inside my zinc pot and added pine and ivy to fill out the arrangement (the pot needs to be lined with cellophane before adding water as it leaks. All flower vessels other than china and glass should be treated this way as they often leak causing damage the surfaces they stand on). After months of dahlias and chrysanthemums having a truly scented flower in the kitchen is divine – I am transported back to Christmases past and also looking forward to other lovely scents to come – hyacinths, lily of the valley, sweet peas etc.


To add a festive feel I have used a row of tealights in an old wooden box and a pair of white reindeer picked up at the garden center whilst buying compost earlier this week.


I also made a smaller arrangement to balance the window ledge in this silver julep cup. In the cup is berried ivy, a few sprigs of eucalyptus and the last of my chrysanthemums ( I have cleared the greenhouse bed to make room for more Paperwhite bulbs).


It is hard to capture the whole window ledge on camera and of course you are missing the lovely scent, but hopefully you can get the idea.


You can also see these dying roses lying on the work top. I had been taking apart a vase of flowers when I realised I needed to take my photos before it went dark. I had kept these roses hoping they will dry and can be used in some way in my decorations for the drawing room. I will be talking more about these roses later this week, when I finally publish the posts about my recent trip to London.

Last week was a very hard week for me as my trees came down – I have felt quite deflated and not in the mood at all for writing. I have lots of photos to share showing the trees coming down and some lovely aerial shots of the garden taken from a cherry picker. There is also a time lapse video taken by one of the tree surgeons of the trunk of the tallest tree being cut down on my FaceBook page if you would like to take a look. I tried, but was not able to share it here.

Pink Roses

My mood is much more optimistic this week – I love celebrating Christmas and this year have my sister-in-law and her husband and my 4 year old nephew joining us from Florida, so santa and his reindeer will be calling again which is always very exciting! Also I had a meeting this morning with a lovely bride to be to start planning the flowers for her April wedding – I cannot think of a better way to be starting the new gardening season than with planning a spring wedding!

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks festive flowers and that you will pop over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the increasing number of others joining in have made this week. I promise to be back on Wednesday with my first post about that lovely London trip.

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