A Garden Review of 2014: Late Summer/Autumn

The third and final part of my series of a Garden Review for 2014 looks at late summer and autumn. (If you missed the previous posts, here’s a link to Spring, and to Summer). Before I begin, many thanks to those who have been joining me in showing a review of their garden year. It has been very enjoyable looking at all your lovely photos of flowers and insects. I’m adding links of your reviews at the bottom of today’s post.


This post is for my Mum today…

Happy Birthday Mum!



Mid-August: Autumn came early this year, and there were very visible signs of it in August already. The normal heat stayed at bay and it was very cool and damp for the second half of the month. Look at the acer changing colour already!


However, the rockery continued to look fabulous with the Perovskia taking centre stage, and the bees kept coming, despite the cool weather…



September came, calm and still most of the time, but thankfully we did not get a belated heatwave. This did my garden good and everything went on blooming for much longer than usual.

A newly acquired Caryopteris gave me and the bees a lot of pleasure all through this month, the sedums brought the butterflies back, and the Elder was laden with berries which the birds were gobbling up greedily. I decided to leave them all to the birds and do without my elderberry cordial this year!

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The leaves were changing colour, but autumn slowed down considerably. We had been about 2 or 3 weeks ahead of normal almost all year, so now it seemed nature was correcting itself, and the season was trying to get in harmony with the calendar again. The asters flowered and flowered and flowered, and the Rudbeckia was beautiful, even after the petals had dropped too…

(Click on any picture to see it closer up)

 Euonymous berries were abundant in the hedgerows nearby and a morning of foraging produced this vase full of autumn colour, which lasted for several weeks on the patio…


October really was golden – full of all shades of yellow, lighting up the garden – yes, it was the light in October that made the garden special…


And the colour of course!

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THE rose went on to flower profusely again


And the star of the rockery all summer was still looking good: Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’


To end my review, here is a vase put together in early November which summed up much of the last days of October…



What a fabulous gardening year it was!

That winds up my series, and once again, if anyone wishes to join me and review their garden year, please do and I’ll add you to the list below!

Other garden reviews from blogging friends wh0 have linked in so far:

Gillian at Country Garden UK (Summer 2014 Revisited)

Susie at pbm Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: Spring)

Susie at pbm Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: Summer)

Susie at pbm Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: Late Summer and Autumn)

John at A Walk in the Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: April-June)

John at A Walk in the Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: July-September)

Jason at Garden in a City (Days of the Little Bulbs)

Jason at Garden in a City (The Year in Butterflies)

In a Vase on Monday: Advent

I went for a walk in the rain this morning – not simply for the pleasure of it(!) but to find a few pieces of greenery for a vase, so that I could join Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme again; every week we are challenged to find materials in or near our gardens to bring indoors.

I was extremely lucky to find some berries too, as most are going over or dropping already: rosehips and Euonymous berries joined my bunch of firs, ivy and yew, along with a few red-tinged twigs.


And when I added the Amaryllis (or should I say Hippeastrum?! ;-) ) that my visitors brought with them on Sunday afternoon I had the perfect material to make a really Christmassy arrangement. MondayVase15th2

Here at my kitchen window I was able to muster enough light for a photo, using flash too, but the days are very dark now and I will be happy to see the solstice come and go next week.


Can you see the cookie tin on the left of the picture? ;-)

Have a good week, and do take a look at the other vases this week at Cathy’s place (Rambling in the Garden).

Christmas Cookies: Münchner Butterplatzerl

My all-time favourite Christmas cookies are Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents), which I posted many moons ago (see here!), but the other cookies that I always make – before considering if I have the patience/time/energy to make any others – are these simple butter cookies. Here are both on my Advent table…


Almost everyone I know who bakes their own Christmas cookies (and it’s a real tradition here) makes butter cookies, each a slight variation on mine; everyone seems to have at least one old recipe passed down through the generations, often written down on the browning pages of a handwritten recipe book. Some people brush these with egg yolk, others put icing on top, or even hundreds and thousands or other sugar decorations. But mostly they are left plain. An acquired taste? Maybe, but much appreciated by many who are reminded of their Oma’s cookies when taking a bite! And one bite is all they should be… using the smallest cookie cutters possible makes them less naughty and if you vary the cutters you can have a nice variety of shapes on your cookie plate too.


Here’s my recipe – adapted over the years from a distant source I no longer remember – and sadly not the one my partner’s Oma had in her head and never wrote down… but near enough.

Münchner Butterplatzl (Munich Butter Cookies)



  • 500g (1 lb)plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g (1 1/4 cups) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 130g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 tbsps vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsps sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt

So simple – just mix all the ingredients to a soft dough, kneading briefly to bring the dough together, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 15 minutes. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper and preheat oven to 170°C. Cut into four pieces and return three to the fridge while rolling out the first portion on a well-floured surface. Using small cookie cutters in different shapes cut and place on your baking tray. (Tip: dip your cutters generously in flour again and again to stop them getting sticky). Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden. Be careful as they burn very quickly! Repeat with the other three portions, reusing your baking trays in alternation.

Allow the cookies to cool on a rack, and store in airtight tins for up to four weeks.


Do you bake cookies for Christmas?

Have a great weekend!


A Garden Review of 2014: Summer

The second part of my Garden Review 2014 looks at the summer months, and will hopefully make you all sigh and smile as you think back to your gardens last summer!  Do join in if you can. And thanks to those who already have. It’s wonderful therapy looking through bright and “flowerful” photos!


June: “Although it’s barely 20°C with the odd shower passing through, I still feel like summer has arrived…” were the opening words of my first post in June. It got very hot soon after, but the earlier showers had given the garden the reserves it needed to get through a short heatwave mid-June, and three very dry weeks. The Lychnis coronaria loved it!


The Lychnis filled all the driest spots where other plants just shrivel up. (Above with Campanulas and below with Linaria). In German Lychnis are Lichtnelken – Licht is light, and Nelken are carnations/pinks… very apt.


 Another resilient flower that was fabulous again this summer is the Centranthus ruber. I only cut it back a couple of weeks ago – yes at the end of November – but it was still flowering after six months! Almost all my butterfly photos are on or near the Centranthus.  In the slideshow below you can see the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth on it. The other butterfly is a Marbled White on some pink vetch.

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The day lilies were as gorgeous as ever, but I always forget just how much I love them. I remember a (non-gardening) visitor asking me once what they were, and then she said “I don’t like them”. I was speechless!


Another June favourite is the strong yellow of St John’s Wort, which brings the garden to life, and the insects love it of course.



July got off to a hot start, but with many showers the whole month was extremely humid. The Centranthus continued to attract beautiful creatures – here the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth…


And the bees loved the Echinacea. (And so did I!)

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Early August was perfect, but the heat was not to last as mid-month the tail end of hurricane Bertha swept across northern Europe. But the Centranthus and red rose, along with some Hollyhocks, continued to provide more lovely colour…

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 Signs of autumn were already there by mid-August… more of that in my final Review post next week. In the meantime I hope this brought a smile to your face, and I would love to see your garden reviews of 2014 too!


In a Vase on Monday: Two Surprises

The first surprise today was the hint of blue sky and a very brief burst of sunshine. (We had sleet later on though!) The second surprise was what I found to put in a vase two vases for Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme. Although I must admit a lot of the material is recycled from previous vases!


(That cyclamen is the same one I had on my patio in September… and it’s still alive!)

The little star cookie cutter in the front was there to remind me to get my third batch of cookies started – they are now ready to be baked tomorrow morning. I’ll be posting a recipe for some soon. :)

So, back to the vase: the Leycesteria (caramel berry) was still looking nice after two weeks in a vase, and the Mahonia bud that featured last week is partially opened. A sprig of Lamium and some golden Euonymous – also from last week’s vase – are still looking very fresh too. So these, and a little greenery were recycled. The golden Chrysanths on my front door step are past their prime but have not caught any frost yet, and one little rosebud was begging to come into the warm. There are a few Abutilon flowers in there too – the Abutions are still flowering their socks off outside, despite the cold.


The little vase below contains more of the same, along with some of the last geranium flowers and some more of the Abutilon. There’s one snapdragon in there too… I still haven’t had the heart to clear the outdoor pot it is in, as it is still lovely and green.


I am so pleased I could join Cathy from “Rambling in the Garden” again – and with so much colour too. Take a look at her vase and the other contributions for this week – they are all inspiring!


Have a lovely week everyone!


A “Barbara Branch” 2014

On the 4th of December every year – St. Barbara’s Day – I cut the branch of a spring flowering shrub to bring indoors, and then wait for it to open by Christmas. In my case this is usually Forsythia or Hazel, but cherry blossom or apple blossom also works, as does plum and apparently elderflower (!), which I have never actually seen. Time then to try it out, but I can only imagine some leaves will unfurl.



(It was begging for some Christmas decorations and since I don’t have a Christmas tree this is a perfect substitute!)


It is called a “Barbarazweig” in German, and it is supposedly good luck if it opens by Christmas Eve. The legend of Saint Barbara is that she caught her robe on a branch while being led into prison. She placed the broken branch in water and it flowered on the day she was sentenced to death for her faith.



(Can you see the yellow flowers already trying to open? They have been showing for several days outdoors, so the whole branch may open sooner than expected… is that lucky too?!)


It is said the branch should have had a frost on it, but I’m not sure this is really necessary. Luke-warm water and a not-too-warm room are best for the first two weeks, then it can be moved to a warmer spot. I must remember to change the water every two or three days.



The only disadvantage of Hazel is the pollen when the catkins open, so one to avoid if you suffer from hayfever. ;-)


I will of course let you know if any of my branches flower before Christmas!

Do you ever cut a Barbarazweig?

A Garden Review of 2014: Spring

The idea of reviewing the garden year is primarily to relieve the winter grey with some bright sunshiny photos of flowers that bloomed in my garden. Last night, as I started sifting through my spring photos, this project had just the effect I had hoped for; I was smiling and felt so much happier afterwards! I can recommend it!

I decided to do three posts: Spring, Summer, and Late Summer/Autumn – one each week running up to Christmas. Anyone who wishes to join me and post some photos of the seasons past will not only make me and lots of other readers happy – it will honestly make you smile looking back through old photos, as I did!



March: While reports across the Ocean told me of a long and cold, snowy winter in Northern America, Europe had an extremely mild and wet winter, and barely any snow. Spring came relatively early and as always I was overjoyed to see the first flowers: Hepaticas. Above is my Hepatica nobilis ‘White Forest’.

The Mahonia was lovely this year, not having to cope with being frozen back during winter. With its honey-like smell and golden petals it attracts bees and other insects very early on.


March continued with the delicate Ribes flowers, cheerful Narcissi and Corydalis solida…

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April was mild and spring marched on at a pace, with reports of us being a good three weeks ahead of “normal”. An Orange Tip on the Aubretia, which flowered better than ever this year, was one of those “jumping for joy” moments we gardeners frequently have!


As the month progressed, I was convinced we would have summer in June and by July it would all be over – so much was in flower early. My roving Geranium phaeum was in full flower by the middle of the month…


Then came the cowslips, pink Pulsatilla, Summer Snowflakes, and the gorgeous Tulips (“Purple Dream”) next to lime green Euphorbia and white Narcissi in the west-facing rockery…

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May was, as you can imagine, an explosion of colour. One of my favourite flowers this year was my Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’…


The Aquilegia flowered for much longer than usual, the meadow just beyond our garden gate was fabulous, and my first peony opened too. The Alliums were also a real show – I had forgotten how pretty they were until looking back!

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But the nicest surprise in May was this water lily showing up out of nowhere…


Aah, that’s better. And all that is to look forward to again next spring too! I shall now go and look through the photos for June…

Have a great week!