Six On Saturday: February round up

I have a letter excusing my absence last week, it says I was on plant ordering duties. I am preparing for a new border and of course added in one or two plants for other areas in the garden that need an uplift. More to come on the new plants but this week is a contemplation of February. The garden was not a pretty sight. The weather was not good: one week of rain followed by a week of cold weather followed by a wet and windy week. These were not the conditions to lure one out into the garden. This week has been drier and warmer and when I did venture out there was plenty of damage to see. I think there will be losses and set backs but spring is on its way and that thought lifts the spirits.

One

A much loved pot that has been with me for many years now has a crackled look. It is home to some fabulous lilies. I could break the pot up and replant the lilies but first I am going to see if I can repair the damage with some milliput terracotta repair putty. Ever the optimist I think!

Two

My first venture out the week after the cold weather was thwarted. I had planned to empty 2019’s leaf mould onto the raspberry beds but the contents of the bags were still frozen solid. I had to wait a few days but now the job is done and the soft fruit beds have also had a dusting of fish, bone and blood feed.

Three

Two years ago when pruning the rose ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ I decided to plant some stems to see if they would take. Now why would I want more of this vigorous climber? Do I even have a suitable place for it? The cuttings were doing very well until the cold weather came, now the leaves have crisped up but the new shoots look good. If they survive a permanent place in the garden will be the reward.

Four

The tête-à-tête daffodils are popping up thick and fast now. Even those in the shady and colder borders are being forthcoming. I was ruthless last year and streamlined the daffodils to tête-à-tête, pheasant’s eye and thalia. I have not missed the larger daffodils.

Five

This beautiful group of crocus picks up the early morning sun in the front garden and were stunning on this particular morning. Note to self: must add more of these.

Six

Pulmonaria, from a clump shared by a friend, dug up and divided many times since. There is always a little piece that remains in the original planting sight which doggedly sets off to clump up again.

I’ve also sown some tomato seeds which are for the greenhouse. The chilli seeds were poor germinators, two out of twelve! Four more were sown and two have come good. If I can keep four going that will be plenty. The rocket seeds in greenhouse are struggling along and other greenhouse autumn sowings are waking up. All is moving in the right direction.

I’m sure The Prop will be moving in the right direction too, he will be running, sowing or hosting the SOS threads. Take a look and if you would like to join in then explore the participant’s guide. Happy gardening.

Six On Saturday: Idle thoughts

Thwarted from posting last week and with the garden frozen over this week, I am going with last week’s intended post with a few updates: Good news that February is here and because it is such a short month there are only 22 16 days to go before March arrives. This week Last week I was happy to see the very first tops of the chilli seeds pushing through and although I said I wouldn’t I did, sow sweet peas that is. One lost packet from who knows where was found and sown. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Three have germinated. So much rain fell this the week before last that most gardening was done by staring out of the windows giving the thumbs down gladiator style to plants that offended the eye. Here are the top contenders and some stayers.

One

The snowberry that had a mention a few weeks back is in a direct site line from the kithchen window and does nothing to enhance the view. I leave it because I don’t think I can successfully rid myself of it and what else would grow in this dark corner? I hanker for hamamelis but would it thrive? At the moment the snowberry is in line for the chop. And a week on, still is.

Two

Out the front the dry north facing border is host to bluebells, forsythia, and that shrubby honeysuckle with the tiny leaves. Underneath that the periwinkle runs riot. It is gradually spreading along the border. encouraging because at least something will grow there but actually getting out of hand. I will definitely be trying to confine this to a smaller space.

Three

The front garden is also home to a mahonia which was slowly being suffocated by an hypericum. The hypericum has been cut back several times now and gradually the mahonia is re-establishing itself. This has given a bit more interest to this border and the reddish foliage is looking pretty good now. More nuturing to be done here.

Four

While the parsnips were a little erratic in their germination last year some late sown parsley took very happily to a spot in the greenhouse and has been providing a generous supply throughout winter.

Five

Last week so many SOSers were presenting stunning sarcococcas. This week I can sort of join in. Sarcococca hookeriana, planted up in Februrary 2020, has opened its flowers and if I get really close I can smell the scent. I think it needs some time to establish.

Six

Its time to give some love to the primroses, steadfastly fighting off the slugs and providing a sunny smile in so many corners of the garden. I’m going to move some of these out front to go with the bluebells.

The early sun has gone and with it that uplifting sense of warmer times to come. The temperature is falling and there maybe snow here again tomorrow. Snow came, not as much as before but it has been a week of cold weather with temperatures in the greenhouse falling to minus 4.8 degrees. All change for next week and then surely it will be downhill all the way to Spring! For now it’s time start enjoying the inventiveness of fellow SOSers as we meet the command of Mr P to find six things in the garden this week. It’s a wide brief – it could be anything! All welcome to join in.

Six On Saturday: Gardening noises

It started with the sound of rustling of seed packets. A little bit of taking stock, did I remember to order everything, can I sow this year-old seed again? Now the chilli seeds have been sown along with an early batch of rocket. If felt good to be rummaging around in the compost again. I’ve also stretched the hamstrings with a little light gardening. These bones are getting going. Here’s six from the garden.

One

I should have spruced these up before presenting them here. They are the last of the parsnips. In truth they are also the first of the parsnips. It was another year of sporadic germination of seed. I think I sowed three times and this was all that came good. They have since been washed, finely sliced and turned into curried parsnip soup. Delicious. Parsnip seeds will be sown again this year, ever the optimist.

Two

I have decided to significantly streamline the potato growing this year and I have chosen one variety. Yes, just the one – Belle de Fontenay. It was the most successful and tasty of those I grew last year so all my eggs are going into one basket, so to speak. Chitting has begun.

Three

This brachyglottis is featured because I love the silver line that edges the leaves. It is showing up really well at the moment.

Four

A little bit of cheat here, this is last week’s downward facing hellebores taken from underneath. Yes, that involved a little bit of stretching too. And impossible to focus!

Five

My mass planting of snowdrops in the north border is still being recalcitrant. I have high hopes for a February bonanza. But this little clump that hides under a hedge is doing rather well.

Six

Some things in the garden are just zinging along. These are the new shoots of the day lily ‘Gentle Shepherd’. The excitement is just too much for me!

The other interesting noises heard this week were the squelch, squelch of the lawn and the beautiful bird song. My predication for rain not snow last week was completely wrong. Several inches of snow fell and stayed until Wednesday when it was washed away by several nights of rain. I had to choose my gardening jobs carefully but it was lovely to be outside. This week’s bird spot was the aptly named blackcap, a warbler apparently. Perhaps it was responsible for the tuneful notes bouncing round the trees. Here’s a link to an RSPB recording of a blackcap singing. Hoping you find much to enjoy in the coming week.

Mr P as always hosts this meme, join in at anytime.

Six On Saturday: Cheerfulness

Cheerfulness has been in short supply but I detect an upsurge coming our way. Last week I was desperate for six wonders from the garden. This week I feel more positive. Heavy snow is forecast for tomorrow but I am sure it will be rain. The garden is truly on the move and the signs of new growth are everywhere. I pruned another four rose bushes and only have three more to do. The goldfinches have reappeared, feasting on the verbena bonariensis seeds. I also spotted them enjoying some seed heads of lavender that had escaped a cut back. The hellebores are looking lovely and the 300 snowdrops I planted in the north facing border are shyly stepping out. Here’s this week’s six.

One

Helleborus hybridus, every so slightly ahead of their February flowering and looking just perfect from above.

Two

Hellebore ‘Happy Day’. The first hellebore to self seed in the garden, choosing a crack on the edge of some paving to establish itself. Looks inhospitable to me and I might intervene and move it to a more generous spot in spring.

Three

Hellebores again. I love the deep colour of ‘Pretty Ellen Red’ in its double form. I’d love these to self seed to, but not so far and I always miss the point when the seeds develop. More vigilance required.

Four

The melica is on the move, melica altissima ‘Alba’. This really cheered me up, memories of floaty seed heads swaying in summer breezes, I can’t wait.

Five

A little variegated variety from a cyclamen of some sort. Hastily purchased, label forgotten but its really striking leaves by the front door always catch my eye.

Six

The fat buds of clematis ‘Apple Blossom’. An evergreen clematis from the amandii group. It flowers in the leaf axils of the previous year’s growth and as it has been in the garden now for two years there are a good deal more of those axils to bear beautiful flowers in late February.

Yes, we can do this. There’s the chill of February to get through but the March surge is on its way. Mr P continues to channel humour and sartorial gardening elegance (past few weeks) and is hosting his way through another volume of the SOS posts with his usual panache. Don’t miss out!

Six On Saturday: Mid January

I have three definites for today. I am hoping that by the end I will have been inspired and will have discovered three more. I know this is not how the professionals go about it. Planning for weeks ahead, caption writers fully briefed, photos crisply in focus and revealing bountiful seasonal colour, and by professional I am referring to my fellow SOSers as hosted by The Propagator. I can only admire and aspire. Here are my offerings.

One

The so called warm weather forecast for last week came heavily laden with rain and those days that were dry were cold. But I did have urgent pruning to be done and so I climbed the ladder and pruned the vine. I peered enviously into my neighbours garden, full of greenery from their fabulous selection of shrubs. There was a feeble resolution to plant more shrubs on this side but in reality I prefer the big bang of summer perennials. Back to the vine. It was a joy to prune as I had the right equipment – more later – but there is still plenty of dead wood in there. Another year has passed without the grapes amounting to anything edible but the summers stems provide a shady corner.

Two

How wonderful it was to receive a smart new pair of secateurs for Christmas. I’ve struggled on with several old pairs for some time, never managing to achieve a truly sharp edge despite many attempts with the whetstone. With these I was able to slice through the vines with absolute ease and probably cut them back more rigorously then I would have done with the old faithfuls.

Three

Whilst I was up the ladder a flash of reddish brown caught my eye not more than two metres away. It was a fox jumping the fence. I had noticed the same fox earlier in the morning roaming around the garden paths. I cleared up the cut branches and returned inside to warm up. At this point the shouting started, a vixen in the middle of lawn calling for a mate. The original fox turned up pretty sharpish and for I was treated to a full on display of foxiness. In the middle of the day, so much for foxes being nocturnal animals.

Four

Ah, I have remembered one more thing. Just before the latest of the lockdowns I met up with a friend who returned an earlier favour, I had shared some hollyhock plants and when they grew on in her garden they flowered in a wonderful shade of burgundy. I was bemused as I had collected the original seeds from plants that I thought were burgundy but mine had flowered as pale pinks and yellows. Somewhere in the seeds I had collected were the burgundy ones and now I have them back again. I’m hoping they come true.

Five

Ooh, getting difficult now. We had our first snowfall of the year overnight and I was planning on finishing up with some snowy scenes but rain followed and the snow has now been washed away. The snowdrops are just beginning to appear but are not quite worthy of a photo but here’s a rain soaked crocus!

Six

Finally, please accept this as proof that I am getting round all the roses. I still have many more to do. I was encouraged by the latest Dig Delve newsletter to be more ruthless with the pruning, and aided and abetted by the new secateurs I went to town, so of course the pruning took a little longer. I had actually set out to cut down the autumn fruiting raspberry canes but I had to pass the roses on the way. This distraction meant that only one section of raspberries were cut back and only two blackcurrant bushes lifted. At least I have some gardening jobs to get me through the second half of January.

Six On Saturday: Happy New Year Part Two

I feel it only right that I keep on wishing everyone a Happy New Year. It has been a wobbly start but we need to keep our stores of resilience up and good wishes from a friendly faces helps. I have been hiding from the cold and the wet but it is abundantly clear that nipping out to the garden with a pair of secateurs in hand while nosing around for six interesting things will not get the rose pruning completed. The roses are sending out the buds of new shoots so the job must be the focus for next week when I hear it might be a little warmer. I didn’t quite find six things in my garden so I am taking the liberty of topping up from this week’s exercise walk.

One

And the first one is a little cracker! Well, actually a little egret. The parks around us have brooks flowing through them and they have been overflowing in recent weeks. They are pretty much back to normal levels now but seeing the egret was a major surprise for me. I’ve only ever seen them before on visits to coastal Suffolk. It seems that they are increasingly common in the south east of the UK. This egret seemed very settled in a local stream and not at all bothered by runners, walkers, dogs and children passing by. I couldn’t not give it star billing.

Two

While I am on theme of new sightings I am, for good reason, sharing a photo of the persimmon tree again. There are only a few fruit left on the tree as the birds have been feasting for many weeks. As I don’t have anywhere to rush off to in the mornings I now spend some time staring out of the kitchen window observing the latest customers to this fine dining establishment. This week I was rewarded by the arrival of three to four redwings. Sadly I can’t show you them despite stalking them paparazzi style for far too long. But here’s a link to the RSPB site. That little smudge of red under the wing is very lovely.

Three

At the back of the garden, I have been reviewing the blackcurrants. They too are sending out new buds. I inherited these bushes and I suspect they are very old. They do crop fairly well if they are netted in time but the job of netting them securely is a chore. I am going to thin them out. I have about eight so I can happily halve the number and still have a good crop. I do have a back up plan to remove them all and start again with two brand new bushes which should be a doddle to net. I’ll see how this summer goes.

Four

One of the viburnums in the back garden is coming out into its lovely pink flowers. This is a tree sized shrub, once again inherited so I’m not sure of its name.

Five

Hellebores, of course. Niger to be specific. And very welcome too.

Six

Back out into the open spaces around me, I am finishing up with a tree heavy with mistletoe. There are many stories relating to the powers of mistletoe: warding off evil, cures for diseases and provider of vitality and vigour. But we must remember that mistletoe leaves, stems and berries are all poisonous and so it is best enjoyed from afar and its best to settle for the health giving properties of a long walk.

Once again, I wish you all well, SOSers far and wide, Our generous host The Propagator continues to weave our gardening posts into a wonderful thread. Do drop by to see all the links to other posts in this meme. Keep safe and well everyone.

Six On Saturday: Happy New Year

It’s hard to keep the mind on a positive track in this chaotic world and the garden that provides much enjoyment through the year can feel, well, rather uninspiring in winter.  But the Prop does not offer winter breaks and SOS continues. After a few mornings of looking at the frosty garden from a distance I went out on a recce. Here’s what I found.

One

First a surprise.  The vinca is in flower again.  One brave soul sheltering among the leaves.  It lifted the spirits.

Two

The viburnum in the front garden that flowers only on one side is true to form this year.  But there is promise for the future as there are definitely more flowers than last year. 

Three

More encouraging signs.  Primroses have been spotted over the last few weeks, just one or two small ones here and there. 

Four

Winter berries on a cotoneaster.  This has always been a mystery plant in the garden.  Variously thought to be villosus or possibly moupinensis,  I really have no idea but the black berries look rather bewitching. 

Five

While much of the garden is showing off various shades of brown the variegated leaves of euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ fill a dark corner of the garden.  Sometimes known as winter creeper, which seems to be an entirely appropriate name. 

Six

Snowberries.  Not mine, because my snowberry does not seem to keep its berries.  I hope this is because the birds eat them, but it is possibly because every year, several times a year, I go at it with the loppers trying to make some sense of the thicket of stems.   I would have dug the snowberry out by but I doubt you can ever dig out a well established snowberry.  

Positive vibes restored, it is a Happy New Year.  I wish you all happiness and health in the year to come.  I’m going to top up the good feelings with a dose of Nina Simone – it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good!  There is also some blue sky showing through the window so perhaps a spot of rose pruning would be a sensible job to get on with. Happy gardening. 

Six On Saturday: Reasons to be cheerful

After a deluge of rain this morning there is a patch of blue sky to be seen. I’ll enjoy it while I can. This week’s six comes from Thursday’s garden when the sun shone for most of the day and the clear sky of the evening revealed a waxing silver sliver of a three day old moon. It was a good day and there was much to appreciate.

Although the sun shone, the garden was very wet and an hour of pruning the roses and tidying up the alchemilla mollis led to cold wet hands. I chose my six for the week and headed inside again. Here’s what I found to cheer me.

One

Raindrops on the euphorbia characias. I hope this Mediterranean plant copes with all the rain. I have lost two over the years but there always seems to be a self seeder to move into the gap.

Two

I inherited quite a few these and have dug most of them out as they were very large and dominated one particular corner of the garden. I kept a few and this one is just going over into winter browness but for the moment the yellowing leaves look rather good. What is it? I have no idea, could it be a dryopteris?

Three

The low sun was shining through the hedge at the back of the garden and the silvery seed heads of the thalictrum took on a seasonal sparkle.

Four

Oh so wet, but it was a joy to see the new buds of hellebore ‘Pretty Ellen’ red. Moments later the leaves had been trimmed back ready for the flowers to have free rein.

Five

A glistening mix of ivy and arum italicum that colonise the inhospitable ground under the snowberry.

Six

An anonymous free gift. Was it from the birds or the wind? Another form of euphorbia but not one that I have planted in the garden. Neighbouring gardens both have substantial euphorbias so maybe it’s one of theirs. I am letting it stay so time will tell.

It was also cheering to see, as reported by other SOSers, the emerging shoots of spring bulbs. There are a few months to go but things are on the move, spring is being prepared.

For more gardening cheer pop along to Mr P’s, the whole jolly band of SOSers gather there over the weekend to exchange bon mots, support, encouragement and no doubt seasonal good wishes. Wishing all of you peace, health and happiness and see you in the New Year.

Six On Saturday: Time to be kind to ourselves

I’m giving myself a big fat gardening tick this weekend. Not the ones that bite and cause no end of problems but the ones that acknowledge a job done. Tick. Tulips planted. I really had been sinking under the weight of not having done this. The weather had been awful. I knew it was going to be a tough job. I definitely had other things to do, although truth be told, they too were strangely being put off in favour of, well, in favour of not much. Finally there was a dry moment between bouts of chilly damp fog and I ventured out.

The job was as difficult as I had imagined. Weeks of rain had taken its toll on the heavy clay soil. I gave up trying to plant out the pretty pink double ‘Angelique’ and ‘Spring Green’ in the clay border and found a home for them amongst the lavenders. I dug up a dahlia and threw in about 60 bulbs of ‘Queen of Night’, ‘Shirley’, and ‘Violet Beauty’ in the hole and then as the light faded and the fingers numbed I planted the remaining bulbs in a pot. Not even a special pot, just a plastic one that was to hand in the shed. But it was job done and I was euphoric. It wasn’t the carefully thought out scheme that I had in mind but those tulips are going to be very wonderful next year even if they are in all the wrong places.

So here are the photos for this week’s six:

One

The stunningly attractive tulip pot so full of promise of things to come. Tick. Bonus plant: rose still flowering.

Two

I have never lifted dahlias for the winter here so I quite amazed at the number of tubers that I discovered. Now stored away in a box in the garage I have no idea where this one is going come the end of Spring.

Three

I give myself another tick for getting round to spraying the allium heads I had dried over the summer. My first tip of the hat to Christmas. I shall artistically arrange them in a vase, soon.

Four

I’m on a roll now. Another tick for keeping the bird feeder topped up. This is the best I can do with an iphone (old version) through the kitchen window and sadly I cannot share a photo of the very charming one legged sparrow that comes every day to hoover up the spillage left by the other birds.

Five

And I did order new fleece. Last year’s purchases are flaking away with every new breeze. I am trying this rather posh version this year. Maybe it will last longer.

Six

A beautiful hellebore to end on. I’m pretty sure its ‘Pretty Ellen’ white. It is lovely to have white in the garden as December gloom settles in.

The shortest day is in sight. Not long to go before the early bulbs push through. We can do it! If you are in need of a tick, gardening or otherwise, please consider one duly despatched. Ticks for everyone! Well done. Much appreciation too for Mr P who little knew what he had started. He definitely gets a tick for his drawers!

Six On Saturday: The shed has landed

Pride of place this week has to go to the new shed. So let’s go straight to it.

One

The old one went a week or two ago, leaving a large open space for me to contemplate. I was wondering why I had ordered a same size replacement when surely I could manage with a smaller one, but too late, the shed was on its way. It is very new and shiny. How lovely it is not to have to lift the door up off the ground before trying to open it and how lovely not to have a soggy floor every time it rains.

Two

I have some new borders to plant up. This one is at the very back of the garden in the area used for produce. This is a very inhospitable plot for veggies, dry and shady and nothing has fared well here. Now the plan is try some plants. First in were three asplenium scolopendrium or hart’s tongue ferns. In the spring I will add thalictrum, hostas, tiarella and aquilegias. The logs in the corner come from a fig tree, read on for their sad story.

Three

Earlier in the year tragedy struck the smaller of the fig trees. I can’t believe it didn’t make a six at the time. Whilst trying to remove the alkanet from around the base of the tree I realised it was moving around quite a bit. Further examination revealed it to be rotting from soil level so it was quickly taken down, sawn into chunks and stored at the end of the garden. The space I was left with was planted up with annuals and an old dahlia that was lurking in a pot. The dahlia did well but it won’t be a permanent fixture. The first real frost arrived this week so I will lift the dahlia and then settle down to thinking up some plans for this border, a sunny spot thank goodness.

Four

More new plans to put in place for this patch of ground. I took out both white currant bushes and a good number of gooseberry bushes earlier in the year and sowed a green manure mix. That has now been dug in and mulched over. Now the ground is ready to receive a new redcurrant bush and a new white currant bush. All the bushes will now have more room to breathe and hopefully I will be able to net them more successfully against the birds.

Five

It is the that time of year again, when the cotoneaster horizontalis gets to be a star of the show. This was not one of my favourite inherited plants and I thought it would be on the list to dig up asap. But those red berries are very attractive at this time of the year and the blackbirds need something to nibble on. It stays.

Six

There’s a little spark of lime green in the border coming from the euphorbia oblongata. This will be its first winter out in the garden after having been grown from seed. It is described as fully hardy but short lived. I hope I get another season out of it.

There are a few jobs still to done, not least the last of the tulips to be seen to. The mojo just wasn’t there last week to get on and do that but the cold weather has arrived and they must be planted soon. Temperatures in the greenhouse went down to -0.9 degrees for one night this week, winter is coming.

Mr P continues to host this merry band of sixers for which many thanks are given. Stop by and take a look. Enjoy your winter gardening, here the wildlife is taking over. Parakeets and squirrels have come for the persimmons and the birds are regular visitors to the feeder. All very entertaining.