Reading the Signs: Verbascum thapsus

This summer was extremely hot and dry, and I found myself scouring various weather forecasts in my hope for a few drops of rain. Our weather forecasts are usually pretty accurate here, as we are quite far inland, and not directly near any mountain ranges. But long-term weather forecasting is trickier… unless you talk to Mr Sepp Haslinger, a pensioner from the south of Bavaria, who reads the signs of the Verbascum seedheads….


Native to Europe, commonly known in the UK as Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus can grow to up to 2 metres tall. The flowerheads start setting seed at the base, while the tops continue to grow and flower. By examining the development of these seadheads and flowers from the base upwards, Sepp Haslinger predicts the weather for the coming winter.

Mr Sepp Haslinger: “The man who knows what the winter will be like”

Königskerzen, Wetterkerze, Vorhersage, Schnee, Winter

The Verbascum is commonly called “King’s Candle” in German (Königskerze), but another common name here in Bavaria is “Weather Candle” (Wetterkerze) as it has been used for predicting the weather for centuries. Loose infloresences apparently indicate snow-free periods, while particularly long specimens with many flowers can suggest winters with a lot of snow.

Over the past four years Mr Haslinger’s forecasts have been accurate, and local snow clearing services rely on him for deciding on whether to set on extra employees or how much salt and grit to order for spreading on roads. This year they are doubling their orders, as Mr Haslinger has predicted a “winter of the century” with more snow than we have seen in a long time… the first snowfall is “definitely in mid-October”, and “abundant”!

(I’m glad I have got most of my bulbs planted – I must tie up the Miscanthus next in preparation!)

Here he is, reading his Verbascum on the Catholic holiday – the Feast of Assumption – in early August – I’m afraid there is no translation as his dialect is rather hard to understand even for me, but do take a look to get the general idea how he does it!

The 73-year-old weather prophet, who jokingly admits he would have been burnt at the stake as a witch a few centuries ago, says that it will not only be a very snowy winter this year, but also a very long one, with snow sticking around until Easter 2016. There will be periods inbetween with less or no snow, but Advent will be white – good news for the Christmas markets and the hot mulled wine stands – although Sepp warns them to strengthen the rooves of their booths! The winter equinox and Christmas will probably be milder, but in the New Year it will turn cold and snowy once again. All in all it will be “a hard winter”.

(Not really what I wanted to hear, but we will see!)


Have you heard of any unusual ways of predicting weather?


In a Vase on Monday: Autumn Shades of Pink


The blue sky has once again made it a fabulous day for taking pictures, and the garden is looking so colourful still – here I have captured some of it in my Monday vase for Cathy’s meme (Rambling in the Garden).


Pink seems to be the predominant colour at the moment with cosmos and sedums, a few roses and my bright pink aster which I decided not to include for fear of blinding you all with pink!


At the base of the vase I scattered the first leaves to fall from our Japanese Acer – can you see the orange leaves in the background?

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The pink vase is new: marked down to make way for the Christmas decorations that are now filling the shelves – and that was in September still!

Here are some photos I just took of the Acer – it is probably at its peak now, and with rainy weather forecast I thought I’d better get some shots quick.

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Now you must visit Cathy, who is also in the pink today with her vase!


In a Vase on Monday: Abundance


Cathy at Rambling in the Garden took Simplicity to its heights today, with her Monday vase of delicate violet Colchicum flowers. (You must take a look!) And she inspired my title too, asking if we had chosen simplicity or abundance this week – well, I wanted to put everything in my vase today! But I did at least restrict myself to a colour coordinated pink and blue theme. (Although the orange Tithonia are soooo lovely still!)



Asters, Plumbago, Caryopteris and Verbena are at the blue end of the spectrum, while the pinks are Roses, Sedums, more Asters, Cosmos, Persicaria and Linaria.


I used to hesitate at cutting flowers from my garden, but this meme has taken away my fear – there really is enough out there, and a few stems removed for a vase indoors is not at all noticeable. Cutting and bringing flowers into the house is also such a pleasurable activity.

Here are a few more pictures of my overflowing vase. It really does make me feel good to have so much colour and beauty in my home!

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Now please do visit Cathy to see what all the other Monday vase creators have chosen: Simplicity or Abundance.

Have a lovely week full of colourful abundance! ;-)

In a Vase on Monday: Peace

I read last night that today is the UN International Day of Peace. What good such a day can do, I cannot imagine. I am sure we are all very much aware of the troubles all over the world right now, especially in the Middle East – up to ten thousand refugees (mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are entering Germany daily at the moment – but a day designated for thinking about the desperate need for more peace around the globe can certainly do no harm.

I therefore decided to take the theme of peace into my Monday vase this week – joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her weekly meme. Why not pop over and visit her and see Cathy’s creation and all the other vases linking in from around the world. Or join in and make your own contribution using materials from your garden!


Cosmos “Purity” is the star of this vase – one of the cosmos that flowered well, albeit somewhat late this summer. It looks gorgeous against our clear blue sky this morning!


I associate the colour white with peace, and another white flower I grew from seed is the Cleome. Unfortunately the flowers are now looking a bit tatty and the leaves have been almost completely devoured by caterpillars. The seeds are ripening and I shall scatter a few and save the rest for sowing next year.


I have identified the custard yellow Echinacea above as “Aloha”, and decided to use it to contrast with the yellow centres of the Cosmos flowers.

Other flowers included are the white Achillea millefolium, which I planted last autumn and which has now got established despite the drought. Tough little plants!


And the creamy Scabiosa ochroleuca – this sort spreads like mad in my well-drained soil and can get quite a handful, but is easy to pull out in spring.


Various grasses fill out the vase with silvery and golden hues.


To finish off on a serious note, a quote for today…

“I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Have a good week, and thanks for stopping by!


September Favourites and 4th Blogging Anniversary!


WordPress sent me a message yesterday to congratulate me on 4 years of blogging… where did those 4 years go?!

To celebrate here are some of my favourite things this September, captured late yesterday afternoon. The sun briefly joined me too.

The photo above is my favourite view at this time of year, with the sun lighting up the dwarf Miscanthus ‘Adagio’. The Acer in the foreground is just starting to change colour, as are the Ceratostigma plumbaginoides below, which provide for gorgeous ground cover till November.


Another favourite is this beautiful Echinacea – supposedly “Orange Passion” but very different from the one I had last year (which the slugs ate) so I was possibly sent the wrong one. I shall call it “Custard Passion”!


The old Tuesday view is looking slightly dishevelled at the moment – a lot of the lavenders have been cut right down, and some will need replacing completely next spring, but I still love looking across the rockery to the acer and the birch trees beyond…


This Rosa rugosa surprised me with a few more flowers – it has kept going all through the summer.


And this Knautia macedonica ‘Mars Midget’ is a real joy – it flowered in July and then I thought it had succumbed to the drought, but as soon as the weather cooled down it started flowering again.


Nearby the Caryopteris is starting to open. The bees love it, and aren’t those tiny petals exquisite?


Finally, a look at some of the plants potted up on my patio, which are giving me great pleasure right now…

What is giving you most pleasure in your garden right now?

Thank you to everyone who reads, likes or comments on my posts – I have had so much fun blogging and sharing thoughts with you over the last 4 years. Here’s to the next 4!


In a Vase on Monday: Bad Hair Day!

As you can see from my photos, it is raining today. This meant a quick dash to pick a few bedraggled stems for my Monday vase, as I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden once again in her challenge to fill a vase every week with materials from our gardens.


Bad Hair Day

When the clematis got tangled up in everything I decided this title was very apt!

As the rain suddenly came on heavier I hurried to fill my vase and then left it outside on the patio table.


A white Cleome, with its spidery foliage, is at the centre along with Perovskia, which has a very wild growth habit in the steep rockery, sprouting out at all angles.


Several different grasses were added, the Miscanthus looking rather fetching, if a little untidy…


And I added some foliage from my ‘monster’ Cosmos that has grown like mad and produced thick stems, but to date not a single flower. Several other people have had the same trouble with cosmos this summer, so I am wondering if the seed was somehow mutated!


The Clematis tangutica has really taken off this year, almost obliterating the obelisk it is growing through. It clearly didn’t mind the heat and drought we had. I love the seedheads just as much as the little yellow flowers.


Thanks to Cathy for hosting this meme – do go and visit her to see what she and many others have put in their vases this Monday.