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Blooming lovely garden, but isn't it nearly Christmas?

By Linda Stewart

Published 17/11/2015

Autumn colour: some of the fruits and flowers still in bloom
Autumn colour: some of the fruits and flowers still in bloom
Autumn colour: some of the fruits and flowers still in bloom
Autumn colour: some of the fruits and flowers still in bloom

It's the countdown to Christmas, yet our gardens are filled with the vibrant colours of late summer.

Thanks to an unusually mild autumn, gardeners are enjoying a prolonged growing season.

Nasturtiums, roses and even sweet pea are brightening up dank corners, even though our gardens have been raked by gales and lashing rain and caterpillars were still appearing a few weeks ago.

Alice McIlhagger, a mum of two who lives in Ballinderry Lower, said she is still harvesting raspberries for her jam-making business, Brambleberry Jams.

Her walled garden is bursting with sweet peas and nasturtiums, while jasmine is still blossoming in the greenhouse.

"I've got raspberries in fruit and there are sweet pea and nasturtiums which you wouldn't really expect to see - they're doing amazingly well," she said.

Meanwhile, Craigavon civil servant and mother of two, Laura Stevenson, is proud of glowing pelargoniums at her front door.

"They really brighten the long winter. The step is west facing and sheltered so I get away with having the colour for longer," she said.

"I've been told that green fingers run in my family. I'm honestly amazed that I have as much colour at this time of year as I'm a novice gardener. Plant food has a lot to do with my success."

Sasha Workman says her Holywood garden is still blooming with hydrangea, nasturtiums, kaffir lily and borage which is being visited by a bee.

She said: "The veg garden should still be very productive. Rainbow chard is not only gloriously colourful but culinarily useful all winter. Blue green leek and kale, mustard, pak choi and purple balls of raddicchio, bright green celery and carrots will provide food and cheer for some time yet."

Averil Milligan, National Trust head gardener at Rowallane Garden in Saintfield, said: "Even as December approaches, there is still lots of colour to be found across Northern Ireland. From the oranges and reds of the fallen leaves to the deep greens of the shrubs and trees.

"At Rowallane we have seen a stunning display this year, which is particularly beautiful in the morning light. It's a great time to make the most of the outdoors."

Today is expected to start mostly dry but the Met Office says thickening cloud will push rain across much of Northern Ireland by lunchtime, and be persistent at times. Rain will clear overnight with some early brightness tomorrow, before becoming wet and windy. It will clear to scattered showers by Thursday, with winds turning north-west later. Friday brings colder weather, with increasingly wintry showers.

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