In a Vase on Monday: In the Bleak Mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter, Frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen snow on snow, Snow on snow

In the bleak mid-winter, Long ago

(English Christmas carol based on the poem by Christina Rossetti)


Shall we have tea on the patio?


I hope you will forgive me cheating slightly this week, but at still 4 degrees below zero by lunchtime I didn’t think I would stand a chance of finding anything but evergreen cuttings for a Monday vase. The ground is frozen solid and it is snowing again. I will not be beaten though!


Look at the Forsythia I brought in on December 4th… finally flowering properly!


But with the fire glowing and the heating on full blast its days are now numbered…


A Christmas gift on the 23rd included two freshly cut Hippeastrum/Amaryllis flowers. One went into my Advent vase, which has been refreshed with more berries from our hegderow and is going in to its third week now…


And one went into a smaller vase with more greenery. I followed the advice Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) gave after she read an RHS article and I tied the base of the Amaryllis stem with a rubber band – it has definitely helped keep it from splitting.


As winter progresses Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme really does become a challenge… I am already thinking ahead to the first vase of 2015!

Take a look at Cathy’s lovely Paperwhites today, and the other vases linked in from around the world.

Have a good week!

In a Vase on Monday: a Candle for the Solstice

At three minutes past midnight the winter solstice occurred here in Germany, and I am glad! This means that the shortest day is behind us and soon we will notice a little more light.


In the meantime we need all the light we can get, so here is my contribution..


That’s Elvin, our house elk, peeping out from behind….


It is not exactly a vase, I know, but the materials are from my garden/ the hedge just outside my garden – rosehips, spindle berries, fir and larch cones and a little greenery. So I am linking in to Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme again and would like to thank her and all the other creators of vases who have been such an inspiration to me this past year! Take a look at today’s contributions, including some shocking pink(!) at Rambling in the Garden.

Here are a couple of updates; firstly, last week’s vase looks just as fresh as day one… except for the Amaryllis/Hippeastrum, which barely lasted the week in a vase. If you should decide to cut one for a vase, follow Cathy’s advice and put wire around the stem to stop it splitting or bending.

And now the branches I cut on the 4th of December to bring indoors (see my post here); I gave up on the Elder producing even a leaf, and was not surprised it still shows no signs of life… maybe the German Wikipedia list of possible “Barbara” branches to flower in winter should be updated! I removed the water from the vase to simply use it as decorative twigs. 🙂

The hazel catkins have been opening for several days now and look very effective with their dusty hint of yellow.


And the Forsythia is showing a few flowers, although I think it would need a warmer spot to flower properly at this time of year.


(If anyone else tried this, I’d love to know how your branches did!)

So, now to wish you all a very

Happy Christmas!


“Lighting one candle
from another –
Winter night”

by Yosa Buson (18th century Japanese poet and painter)

Have a wonderful week, stay warm and dry, and take care!




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)

John at A Walk in the Garden (A Garden Review of 2014: October-December)

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 vegan butter, cut into small pieces
  • 130g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 tbsps vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsps sugar)
  • 1 tbsp non-dairy milk or yoghurt
  • 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!