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!


In a Vase on Monday: Light and Dark

December crept up on me and I didn’t even manage to get my Advent decorations up in time for the first Sunday in Advent… shame on me! Some of my neighbours have trees outside decorated with white lights, or lit stars and white fairy lights in their windows. WordPress has also started the snow again. And I haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie yet… I’ve got some catching up to do this week!

However, I DID manage to put this vase together for Sunday afternoon, along with some simple scones…


The photography is appalling I know, but the light levels were low yesterday, and today was not much better. Cathy’s challenge is becoming just that now – a challenge to find materials in my garden for a vase and then get a decent shot of it too!


The close-up above shows the mix of foliage I picked: almost black Mahonia leaves with a tightly closed bud at the centre, some pine needles, Euphorbia, Lamium and the golden Euonymous bringing light to the arrangement. And below you can see on the left a sprig of Buddleia.

(With a flashlamp and flash it looks deceptively like golden sunshine, don’t you think?! 😉

Well, I can dream…)


There was also a single rosehip remaining that hadn’t already shriveled up, so I carefully cut that too – ouch. It adds a bit of colour, the sedum being so dark now.


The cones in the foreground are from trees in our garden too – the little Larch cones are so pretty for Christmas decorations, so I will have to hunt for a few more.

Have you started decorating yet?

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme “In a Vase on Monday”… do go over and take a look at what Cathy and many others have arranged in their vases this week. (Cathy’s vase is simply fabulous today!)

Have a great December!