Over the Christmas holiday we’re staying with my daughter Lizzie in Kingston-upon-Thames, on the southern edge of London not far from Henry the Eighth’s Hampton Court Palace. It’s the place where the Saxon kings of England were crowned, we just walked past the stone on which they were crowned on the way back from dinner this evening. And today I took a short walk.
I walked round the block where Lizzie lives and noted everything in flower in her neighbours' front gardens. It’s an area of semi-detached, brick houses built in the 1890s (duplex town houses to American readers, I think) with tiny front gardens. The number of plants in flower was amazing. Here is the list: Aster novi-belgii cultivar, Brachyglottis (Senecio) ‘Sunshine’, Calendula cv, Campanula poscharskyana, C. portenschlagiana, Centranthus ruber, Choisya ternata, C. ternata ‘Sunrise’, Convolulus sabatius, Cornus alba ’Sibirica’, Corydalis lutea, Cyclamen persicum cv, Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, Escallonia cv, Fuchsia (various bedding types), Hebe (six different), Hypericum ‘Hidcote’, Impatiens cv, Jasminum nudiflorum, Kerria japonica ‘Flore Pleno’, Kniphofia cv, Lamium maculatum, Lobelia (trailing bedding type), Lobularia maritima (Alyssum) cv, Lonicera periclymenum, Mahonia ‘Charity’, Nicotiana alata, Pelargonium ( “geraniums” - more than a dozen different ivy-leaved and zonal types), Primula (five hybrid primroses and polyanthus), Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’, Rosa (seven garden roses of various kinds, including ‘Iceberg’ with leaves, flowers and hips), Solanum laxum (S. jasminoides ‘Album’), Viburnum x bodnantense, Vinca difformis, Viola (many different pansies).
If you count all the different cultivars, it comes to well over sixty – in just three or four hundred yards.
Many were hangovers from summer, a few were spring flowers feeling precocious. The most interesting, in many ways, was the dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’. Normally, it’s showing off its naked, bright red stems at this time of year. But it was more or less in full leaf, and in flower, and it also carried a couple of bunches of white berries! Its stems were less bright than usual because they were shaded by all the leaves!
Normally, only about three or four of these would be in flower at the end of December. It’s certainly been a strange season.