November has been mild, not always sunny but mild. The large willow at the bottom of the garden is still holding onto its leaves.
I am starting to get the benefit from changes I have made in earlier years. This year the four Salix alba Chermesina (or Scarlet Willow) that I planted in January of 2014 are just how I had imagined them. Unfortunately, they have been so vigorous that they are covering the Mahonia “Soft Caress” that I planted in front of them. I had not paid sufficient attention to the flowering period of this Mahonia which is much earlier than I had expected, about the beginning of October in my garden. This does not qualify it as winter flowering, so I must find it a better place.
Another 2014 addition was the Mahonia “Charity” which has put good growth on now and has lots shoots filled with flowers and buds.
The Mahonia is a magnet for bumble bees and it sounds like summer when I work nearby.
I have a large patch of Phacelia not too far from the Mahonia but it does not have the same pulling power at the moment and the bees do not stay on the flowers so long.
The star of the garden at the moment is the Anisodontea “El Rayo” ( I think the full name must be Anisdontea capensis “El Rayo”). It was given to me by our friend Michel who could not remember the name and I understood it (wrongly!) to be a variation on Hibiscus syriacus which was attractive to bees. As I have a lot of these Hibiscus I did not give it pride of place and it has only started flowering this autumn.
It is well appreciated by the bees who go for the nectar and the pollen.
It is not only the flowers that provide colour in the garden now. The berries of the Leycesteria formosa are a pink/purple turning almost black when ripe. I don’t see a lot of ripe berries so the birds must be helping themselves.
On the 27 November it was warm enough for a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) to stretch her wings and warm up on the house wall.
I had not pulled out the old Cosmos to leave the seeds for the birds and to self sow but new flowers have appeared on the dried up brown stalks.
Underneath, a Cosmos sulphureus had already decided to go for it and not bother waiting for spring to germinate.
Even a wild violet that had strayed into the garden had decided to flower.
But December brought our first frosts and cold weather turning the violet into an iced decoration.
My new Anisodentea was completely frosted.
It looked completely charming.
As did my Mahonia “Charity” with its delicate ice spikes attached to the flowers. I had no doubt which of these flowers would survive the frosts as Mahonia is a well known winter flowering shrub but I was wrong!
After three continuous nights of frost the older flowers on the Mahonia have given up and turned white but the Anisodontea looks virtually untouched. Today the honey bees were back on the flowers and a queen Bombus terrestris was availing herself of the nectar.
I have no idea how long the Anisodontea will continue flowering but today the temperatures were rising again and the forecast is good for next week.