Malus domestica ‘Sturmer Pippin’

If you spot an apple tree still bearing fruit at this time of the year, chances are it will be a Sturmer Pippin. This is a very late cropping variety that was highly regarded in the Victorian period because it keeps so well on (and off) the tree; it will remain hanging on into January if the birds don’t get there first! This is a useful late apple to grow, because in September and October there are so many other autumn treats from which to choose. So exactly when you harvest the fruit depends upon geographical location, location in...

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Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Britzensis’

Willows are a diverse lot, but if it’s shout-out-loud winter colour you’re after, then look no further than my subject today – it simply cannot be ignored in the December garden.  Known also as the scarlet willow or the coral bark willow, the young stems are nearer orange than red, and they create a fiery glow right through until the end of March at which point the colour is at its most intense. It is by then looking so spectacular that it can be difficult to reach for the pruning saw: but prune it you must, unless you have...

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Rosa × odorata ‘Bengal Crimson’ AGM

Last night the temperature fell to -3.2 degrees, yet still this china rose is in flower. Okay so it’s not a blaze of colour as in the summer months, but I’m so impressed by its persistence. On any given day during this very damp grey autumn I have counted at least a dozen flowers, and many more buds, on our rose. I read that city dwellers get flowers all year round which doesn’t surprise me in the least (there is a good specimen in the Chelsea Physic Garden). So, I’m aware that ours would benefit from a little more...

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Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’

Syn:Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’ Lesser celandine ‘Brazen Hussy’ William Wordsworth wrote no less than three poems in celebration of our native, lesser celandine, so can you imagine the raptures if he had come across ‘Brazen Hussy’? Closely related to the buttercup, this tuberous rooted perennial takes me by surprise every year: one minute the earth is bare, the next it pops up as if by magic. Its polished, heart-shaped, bronze-black leaves form a ground-hugging mound from which the golden yellow flowers cheerfully shine out as if to declare that spring really is on the way (although this week it...

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