Six On Saturday: Cold April slows my progress

I’m not quite sure how but the garden seems to have been unscathed by the overnight minus temperatures of this week. The magnolia looks fine, the plum blossom seems intact and newly emerging perennials are undaunted. Another cold night is forecast for Sunday but then it looks like positive numbers for the rest of the week. I am still holding back on the seed sowing, but of course there is always an exception. I sowed a tray of nicotiana ‘Whisper’ yesterday. I think these are the smallest seeds I have ever sown, no wonder the guidance is not to cover them with any soil. Here’s six other things that feature in the garden this week

One

The tulips are appearing. I think these are ‘Negrita’. They are part of a mixed planting of ‘Ronaldo’ and ‘Spring Green’ which should be through in the next week.

Two

Forget-me-nots and tulips always seem to work well. I do let them self seed where they like but then I follow behind extricating them from the places that I don’t want them to inhabit.

Three

I think the removal of the willow tree from next door is going to give me some light on the corner of this bed so there will be some re-jigging this weekend to make room for a lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’. The geranium will be thinned out again – Wargrave Pink I think, it spreads very easily.

Four

I have some grown from seed thalictrum delavayi still being nurtured in the greenhouse. Next week they will start spending the days outside in preparation for planting out.

Five

Already living outside and should have been planted out by now, but you know how it is…. are these seedlings of the perennial digitalis lutea. For some time now I have eyeing these suspiciously, wondering if I had been carefully growing weeds. But they have put on a spurt in the last week and I am convinced they are luteas. Don’t hesitate to correct me if you think otherwise! (They are definitely not helleborus niger – just recycling!).

Six

My plan to plant out the last of the potatoes has been thwarted. Whilst digging the second trench I came across some rubble. Unfortunately that was only a herald of things to come. The next discovery was a much more resistant obstacle. The muscle men were called in and after further excavation they decreed that mechanical equipment would be required to break up what looks like the very solid foundations of an Anderson shelter. Live with it or lose it? I am waiting for a quote. The top of the foundation is about a foot deep so I could section the corner off and live with it. We shall see,

Oh for some kinder weather so that I can confidently commit to the garden rather than tiptoeing around the edges worrying about frosts or freezing winds. I ventured out one day last week to tie in the summer fruiting raspberries but was soon back in the warm. The calendula seedlings are reappearing so, despite my hesitation, the ground must be warming up. Time to man up and get out there! I’m sure The Prop will be inspiring me, as will the other gardeners that take part in Six On Saturday.

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: November shines its way in

November is my favourite winter month and so far it is looking good. The first light frosts arrived this week followed by blue skies. The perfect weather for shovelling the large amounts of mulch I have sitting in dumpy bags. Progress is slow but it’s a wonderful outdoor work out. I am not a tidy gardener but I am always very happy with the sharpness of the border after a mulch has gone down. So all is well in the garden at least. Here’s six things that caught my eye this week.

One

Last week’s halloween fungus was identified as Coral fungus, probably ramaria stricta. This week I have another mystery to be solved. The front garden once again supplies the object requiring an id. Sorry, no prizes!

Two

I have been busy cutting back soggy leaves, in this border it was the siberian irises getting the chop and nearly losing a leg was this little fellah. I usually have a robin as company in the garden but this year the amphibians have been muscling in. I am hopeless at telling the difference between frogs and toads but previous creatures have been identified as toads so I’m going toad for this one.

Three

November is the season for bare root roses and there are always some discounts available which is very tempting. I still have one or two roses putting out small flowers. This one is ‘Jaqueline du Pre’.

Four

And this one is ‘Natasha Richardson’. This one is very floriferous through the year. If I am tempted to try to fit in one more rose it might be ‘Munster Wood’. But at the moment I’m just looking….

Five

A few weeks back I showed the leaves on the persimmon tree as they turned colour. The leaves have all fallen now, leaving the fruit to take centre stage. It’s a good crop this year, destined for the birds as I am not a great fan of the fruit.

Six

I have one fuchsia in the garden, an inherited one so I have no idea of the variety and I am sad to say that it looks like it has fuchsia gall mite. The ends of the shoots are distorted. Here’s the flower rather than the damage. Cutting back the affected growth seems to be the main option. A job for the weekend.

The week ahead promises mild weather here, I’ll be mulching and collecting leaves. The old shed will be taken down and I hope the new one is still on schedule for delivery end of the month. Meanwhile I’ll keep in touch with other SOS gardeners through the links on Mr Ps site. This is the time of year when sunny photos from Australia cheer us up.

Six On Saturday: The veggie report

The harvest is in and it’s time to plan for next year. My SOS usually features the garden but there has been some action on the veg patch this year. Onions: fail. Dwarf green beans: not bad. Carrots: a handful. Tomatoes: slow to ripen but the outdoor ones have done well and no blight! Strawberries: better than last year. New potatoes: not many. Courgettes: just enough. Each year the list of what to grow gets smaller. No more leeks for me, no more swede and no broccoli, psb or otherwise. I had a go at red cabbage again this year and the slugs have stripped every last leaf from all six of my seedlings. That could be a last outing for cabbage. Enough words, time for some photos.

One

The tomatoes have been cropping steadily for a few weeks now.  Oh so slow to get going and nearly at their end now.  These are for the weekend.  It feels like the green ones will have to come in next week.  Temperatures in the greenhouse were down to six degrees last night. 

Two

Parsnips were always so easy to grow on  my allotment but the seeds struggle to germinate in this garden.  This year I managed to get three into leaf.   I will persevere with parsnips next year because there is nothing like a home grown roasted parsnip.   

Three

These are Pink Fir Apple potatoes, another great favourite and the crop wasn’t too bad.  Last night they were cooked jacket potato style and Sunday night they will be roasted as wedges.  

Four

I have two patches sown with Green Manure this year.  Both sown in September.  They will stay in the ground until November.  My plan is to dig them in just as the manure for feeding the veg plot arrives.  

Five

Carrots.  WilI I, won’t I grow again.  These are Nantes, they have a fantastic carrot smell and taste very good too, so on balance I will grow again.  Perhaps I will sow later in the season so that they are ready for eating now.  The danger is that the slugs start nibbling away at them underground.  

Six

This is as far as the melon got.  I tried hand pollinating this year to get some to grow before the bees arrived to their job.  It was not successful.  I am going to accept that my greenhouse, which is in shade until the afternoon, is not the best place for melons to grow.  

I have been released from furniture moving duties for the day, so there is a chance for some gardening to take place.  The winds of yesterday once again blew my neighbours fence down, the third time this year!  My very tall asters have a distinct lean and I feel a strong urge to dig them up and have done with them.  They are just too tall.  Other SOSers will be making plans for their garden this weekend so drop by the  Prop’s place to discover more.  Time for us all to enjoy Autumn. 

Six on Saturday: The first tulip is out and it is ‘World Friendship’

Cheerfully bright and looking very yellow in the sunshine, my first tulip of the year has arrived.  It is the aptly named ‘World Friendship’. A virtual high five to that! I’ve spent the week being very virtual – virtual meetings,  virtual events, virtual exercise and virtual language classes but I have also spent more time in the garden.   Here are six things that caught my eye.

One

The aforementioned World Friendship.  New to the garden last year and standing strong again this year.  Long may it last

Two

Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’.  A few years back, when I was new to this garden, I squeezed a few of these into the border.  No real idea why and no particular plan.  They deserve to have had more consideration, either more of them or some other plants to work with.  On the ‘to do’ list.

Three

The first of the plum blossom is opening out.  This tree was in a bad way three years ago.  Oozing from a large split in the trunk.  The split is gradually healing and the oozing has stopped but last year the leaves withered, you can just make them out in the background.  I’m giving it one  more season to see if it can pull through.  I’ve lovingly fed it with bonemeal once a quarter and my fingers are crossed.  While it flowers like this there is hope.

Four

The tomato plants have been potted on.  I keep meaning to sow a few more seeds – some cherry tomatoes and some yellow ones.  That’s a job for the weekend then.

Five

During my morning fast walk round the garden I spotted a drop of pink under the rose bush.  Closer inspection revealed the first flower of geranium sanguineum var. striatum.  This seems very early and it is a little darker than usual, but hey, who’s complaining. 

Six

The online gardening community is doing a great job of keeping us all going. Thanks to Mr P for hosting the links to all the SOS posts.  I’d also like to give a thumbs up to twitter gardener @GardeningGent who is organising a Sow a Sunflower event.  I was very pleased to finally locate some seeds so that I can take part.  Sow seeds on April 1st – no joke- and post a weekly photo of progress.  I’ll  be there. 

Here’s hoping your gardening activities are helping you to spread seeds of happiness.  Cold weather forecast but I think it may be time to take the plunge and prune the hydrangeas. 

Six On Saturday: No gloom here

I’ll reference the c word in order to wish everyone well in their life and work and as a nod to the historical record but there are encouraging things afoot in the garden to distract me. Here they are:

One

The magnolia is in bloom.  On time and ready to give a couple of weeks of joy.  A blue sky would add to the euphoria but it’s not available today!

Suddenly out of nowhere the delphiniums have shot up.  This is one of my most enjoyable moments of the gardening year.  They are up and so far are outpacing the slugs and snails.  I am jumping ahead of myself as I day dream about summer.  

Three

I inherited a patch of white hyacinths at the foot of the smaller fig tree.  Here they jostle for space with the green alkanet and in combination the two manage to look pretty good.  I think I am going to learn to live with the alkanet as my attempts to eradicate it have failed once again.  In its favour it does have a pretty blue flower.  

Four

I also inherited various daffodils dotted in random locations around the garden.  I dug them up and planted them all in a corner pending a decision on their fate and of course they get forgotten every year until they flower again.  I rather like this white one.  One day I will sort out the ones I like and find them a proper home.

Five

The blue anemones are peeking through the forget-me-nots this week.  And there is a tiny yew seedling, donated by the birds that sit in the branches of the viburnum tree above. 

Six

More excitement as the tomato seeds sown last week have germinated.  These are above a radiator, on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen.  Time to move them to a cooler spot before they get too leggy.

The garden is still soaked and it’s best not to spend too much time standing on the soil so I still have jobs to be done.  Meanwhile nature pushes on and how lovely it is. I hope you can find some positive distractions in your garden or those nearby.  My snowflakes are not in flower yet but I spotted a stunning clump of them just round the corner from me.  For more opportunities to admire other gardens just check in with Mr P who hosts all the SOS links which are guaranteed to dispel any gloom. 

Six on Saturday: Reasons to be cheerful

Ignoring the awfulness of Thursday when, here, it rained all day with a real insistence there are reasons to be cheerful. I feel there is a sense of spring in the air. The garden is giving me strong signs that it is time to emerge from hibernation, open up the seed packets and get growing. This week I’ve sowed lupins, dahlias, a first batch of tomato seeds and three pots of basil seeds. I even gave the autumn sown ammi a brief outing in the sunshine.  There isn’t much new on the flowering front but progress is being made.

One

The clematis amandii ‘Apple Blossom’ has broken into flower.  This is it’s best side, further along there are one or two bald patches.  I hope these will fill out over the year.

Two

A small group of anemone blanda have deigned to push through again.  No sign yet of a new batch I planted in the north border.  I’m hoping a little more warmth will persuade them to show up.

Three

The fritillaries are dangling their lanterns again and reminding me that I must invest in a few more of these to make the impact stronger.

Four

The tulips leaves are marching on.  I particularly like these striped ones from ‘China Town’ 

Five

There is a rose to be seen! Battered by wind and rain but managing to look pretty even so.

Six

I was very happy to see some new growth on the alpine alchemilla.  I thought I’d lost this after the squirrels made short shrift of it when they planted a few acorns in the same spot.  Shame on me for being so despondent. 

The ground is still very wet, the weeds, particularly the bittercress, are enjoying the damp conditions and I’ll have to get to them soon before they find the energy to flower.  That means I’ll be in the garden which can’t be a bad thing.  And would you believe it, I’ve just had a delivery of 300 in-the-green snowdrops!  They are so late coming due to the poor conditions for lifting them from the fields.  That sorts out my morning.  Mr P has all the updates from other SOSers.  Plenty to admire and inspire! Cheerfulness all round I think.

Six On Saturday: Last Hurrah for November

I am going to ignore the gloomy wet week that has just past and revel in the blue skies and frosty morning of today. The water in the bird bath is well and truly frozen and the grass is fully frosted. It was a cold night. Time to enjoy the winter garden.

One

The beautiful view from one end of the garden.  Most of the leaves are now down but this tree is still glowing with autumn colour.

Two

The frost made finding six garden delights much easier.  These are the frosted leaves of  Cistus × purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’.

Three

Frosted Primrose leaves.  A sigh of relief goes with this picture. There were some lingering scented leaf pellies in this pot and I just got them into greenhouse in time.  Last night in the greenhouse it was -.08 degrees.

Four

The seeds of the verbenia bonariensis are going to provide a chilly snack for the birds today.  But if they come late morning things might have improved.  As I took these photos the sounds of dripping water indicated that the sun was melting the frost away.

Five

My parsnips.  They’ve had a couple of frosts now so its time for me dig up a few and see how they fared over the summer.  Definitely an improvement on last year when none of the seeds germinated.

Six

More beautiful leaf colour but also a bit of fail here as I didn’t prune the gooseberries in July and haven’t yet got round to doing the winter prune.  Still there’s plenty of time – if I can be persuaded out into the garden.

So now we settle into winter dormancy for the plants.  For me,   I will finish the rose pruning, take down the passion flower and prune the soft fruits and the grapevine.  I will, I will.

I wonder what is on Mr P’s to do list?  Stop by and find out and catch up with other SOS news from around the world.

Six On Saturday: Winding down

There’s no denying it. The leaves are falling and every now and then a cold night sneaks in. It’s time to move to those autumn/winter jobs. I left two tomato plants standing after the big greenhouse clear out but even those must be dealt with now. The mower blades will be set to high as the mower is used to collect leaves and tulip bulbs will be planted. This weekend I will take the scented leaf pelagoniums into the greenhouse but I needed a some more compost for their over-wintering pots, Of course that was fatal:

One

A trip to the garden centre, even at this time of year, is a dangerous thing.  Compost was purchased – peat free of course – but the route back to the exit went via the reduced bench and there were a few 3l pots of Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’.  Well they might as well sit in my garden as stand in the garden centre, don’t you think?  Especially at a bargain price of £4.50 a pot.  They’ve gone into my new orange and magenta border.  Dreams of next summer already!

Two

Speaking of borders here is the long border in its autumn clothing.  It’s definitely winding down here.  The asters at the far end keep going but the roses are putting out smaller and smaller flowers and the autumn crocuses were felled by the rain.

Three

The cuttings of salvia ‘Amistad’ were growing so strongly that I decided to pot them on.  I used a very gritty mix to start them off and the root system had developed well.  I’ve got six at the moment in the hope that I can get three through the winter.

Four

In the front garden the hydrangea that this year flowered blue has faded into the usual autumn colour.  I enjoy its muted tones at this time of the year.  I was not so fond of the blue, a result I think of the mulch it received last winter.

Five

Also looking autumnal in the front garden is my mystery plant.  It does flower but I never seem to catch a photo of it.  The single black berries are very attractive.  I think it is some form of cotoneaster.

Six

The greenhouse clear out meant bringing in the romano peppers.  A few had just about ripened and a week in the kitchen has moved them on a bit more.  Time to eat them!

A cold night is forecast  for Sunday and my evergreen agapanthus are already showing a few yellow leaves.  The time for fleece has arrived.  It’s also time to see who else is taking winter precautions.  A trip to Mr P’s site is called for.  Who’s still got colour and who is wrapping up for winter?

Six On Saturday: Potatoes. What do I know?

If there’s one thing I know about potatoes it is that King Edward is the best potato for roasting. IMHO. I have spent the last few years moaning about the size of those that come in the supermarket bags. Too small and what a pain they are to peel. So I took matters into my own hands and bought a few to grow. Here’s the result.

One

As you can see I did no better than the supermarket buyers.  But worse is to come.  I don’t grow many potatoes but I like to have a few varieties.  The mix this year was Arran Pilot, Belle de Fontenay, Ratte, King Edward and Pink Fir Apple.  I buy them loose, filling up a bag and separating each variety with a slip of paper.  I chitted them and planted out the first and second earlies in a raised bed.  The King Edward and Pink Fir Apple went into the ground in a separate bed.  Arran Pilot did well but was not very interesting.  Belle de Fontenay was a joy and is definitely on the list for next year.  Ratte was a strange one.  Good taste but surprisingly floury for a new potato.  It did very well as a crushed new potato.  But how would the King Edwards turn out.  After several weeks of rain I finally got round to lifting the main crop.  The King Edwards did not look like King Edwards at all.  In fact they looked suspiciously like a new potato with a nice looking shape.  It very slowly and painfully dawned on me that I had mixed up my potatoes and had been happily digging up the King Edwards throughout August and subjecting them to large amounts of mayonnaise or butter and chives.  The shame of it! Thankfully I had a few left in the fridge which will be getting a good roasting very soon. There is more to share.

Two

Now on to the results of the ‘main crop’.  The result is sadly very pathetic.  There were only a handful of Pink Fir Apple and barely more than that from the mislocated Ratte.  The size is tiny.  The upside is I don’t have to peel them and there is the chance for one more potato salad.  Barring the Arran Pilot I will grow these varieties again next year.  I will keep improving the soil and will try to water more often.  Maybe results will be better. Who knows?

Three

Happily other things in the garden are doing well and have benefited from the October rain.  The hydrangea has put out several new blooms, they are such generous flowerers when the conditions are right.

Four

I have a second flush of delphinium flowers.  This is my reward for cutting them back as soon as they had finished flowering.  Those that I didn’t get round too quite so quickly have not delivered and who can blame them.

Five

Sometime ago I whined about the zinnias being late but they arrived and have been amazing.  The bees still have something to come into the garden for and the colour is beautiful.  If I remember rightly these came from a free packet of seeds. A bargain and a definite for next year.

Six

Last week I said I would be optimistically looking at my sweet peas to see if they had germinated.  I sowed the left over seeds from this year and some I had from a few years ago.  Last week they had just broken the surface and this week they are an inch or two high.  Time for tough love, they have been removed from the sunny windowsill and placed in the greenhouse.  Overnight temperatures there dropped to five degrees one night this week.

Thanks to Mr P for starting this meme off.  It works for me and if you are tempted to join in then take a look at the participant guide on The Propagator’s site.  I’m hoping to plant some more bulbs this weekend.   Let’s hope I can tell my onions from my daffs!