Six on Saturday: Happy Birthday garden

It was five years ago give or take a week that I took possession of this garden. I inherited some wonderful soft fruits, apple, plum and fig trees, hydrangeas, sage and rosemary but the borders had been used for vegetable growing and the weeds were getting hold of everything. It’s time to look back and enjoy the new look. One thing remains the same – a large rhododendron that was probably here when the house was build about 110 years ago.

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The rhodendron is probably a ponticum as suggested by Tony Tomeo and Jim of Garden Ruminations, both regular and longstanding SOSers. I have to give this a show, out of respect to its longevity. It was a good two weeks later in flowering this year, this was taken in the first week of June.

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The long border. This is the main border of the garden. It was a blank canvas to start with and I was able to grow some vegetables at the bottom end while I set to clearing the top end of weeds over the first summer. It was then planted up with euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii and bare root roses ‘Wisley’ and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ that winter. Much has been added over the last four years and now it is a riot of cottage garden exuberance.

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The thin border, to the left of the second slide, only about half a metre wide but backed by an old wall. It had to be clothed in climbing roses, ‘Blush Noisette’ was the choice with other shrub roses, including ‘Scepter’d Isle’ added along its length. Yellow and white tulips and ‘Thalia’ daffodils hold court in spring, followed by alliums. Delphiniums, astrantias, alchemilla mollis and this year I’ve added lychnis coronaria to the summer display. The path was a cracked and unsafe layer of concrete and in summer 2017 it was overlaid with some grey riven sandstone slabs,. How lovely it felt to have solid ground underfoot.

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The hedge border – so called because a hedge of eleagnus, bay and viburnum that separate the garden from the soft fruits. The first job was to increase the width so that plants could be added in front of the hedge. A border of two halves. There are roses, of course, Darcy Bussell at one end and Jaqueline du Pre at the other. Filled out with thalictrum, perscaria and geraniums – ‘Kashmir White’ and the ever-forgiving ‘Wargrave Pink’. A new arch has been added at one end and the planting around the base is being reconfigured.

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One of the last corners to be developed was the north facing area. Originally home to a second swathe of blackcurrant bushes on the garden side of the hedge boundary, after a summer of glut I decided I could clear this and plant up another border. All the bushes went to a good home and I followed a scheme suggested by Joe Swift in a Gardeners’ World magazine. It was planted out in 2018 and is gradually bulking up. My absolute favourite are the grasses along the back – melica altisssima ‘Alba’. There is evergreen structure in the form of pittosporum ‘tobira’ nanum, late summer brings in the japanese anemone ‘Honorine Joubert’ and I’ve added in snowdrops and astrantia.

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The top corner of the raised side of the garden. A work in progress even today. I spent many a day digging out ground elder, taking away several ferns, probably dryopteris filix-mas – thanks again Jim – and relocating the hydrangea. A stand of beautiful magenta phlox were allowed to stay. Tulips Ronaldo, Spring Green and Negrita take centre stage in spring. Totally Tangerine, geranium psilostum and kniphofia take over in summer. I think there is room for a good salvia here, perhaps ‘Mainacht’.

More to do, more to plant but good celebrate progress so far. This weekend those roses need deadheading and the tomatoes need tying in. Happy Gardening to all, and especially to The Propagator who leads us all down the merry SOS path!

Six On Saturday: Sun and rain

Definitely a week of two halves. Glorious sun, soaring temperatures followed by torrential rain and tumbling temperatures. The magic water was much needed though and I managed to give the apples trees a dressing of bonemeal which is now well watered in. The zinnias are all planted and the last of the tomatoes are out. My bête-noire, the fox, snapped a beautiful cucumber plant but luckily I had a spare. Here’s this week’s six, mostly taken when the sun was shining.

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The garden was filled with the scent of roses on those sunny days. Here is Darcy Bussell. I usually have a row of salvia ‘Amistad’ running behind these which looks glorious late in the year. The salvias have not survived the winter so I set about a re-think. I was dissuaded from my first choice of verbascums after a conversation with The Quilting Gardener – who warned of mullein moth caterpillar attack and of course slugs. I’ve decided to leave the space free this year and give the roses room to roam.

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The euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii seed heads were popping on Monday so it was time to pull on the protective clothing and cut back the flowering stems. Here the sisyrinchium striatum works well against the background of the euphorbia. There’s a cheeky photo-bomb from geranium ‘Brookside’.

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The delphiniums are towering high this year, and only just about surviving the heavy rainfall. I collected seeds from these dark purple ones last year and now have new plants that will add more colour to the garden for next year.

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This tiny plant lives at the front of a banked up part of the garden so even though is small it is high enough to be enjoyed. It’s ‘Ballerina’, a dwarf geranium with beautiful veining.

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A combination of self-seeded knautia ‘Macedonica’ against a wall of climbing ‘Blush Noisette’ roses. A happy chance.

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Oh dear me. Not everything is glowing. The cutting patch which was topped up with home compost has just revealed what was in hiding: thousands of baby verbena bonariensis seedlings. I do not need more of these so they will be ruthlessly culled. I will use some more of the dahlias and asters grown from seed to fill the space.

Don’t forget to visit The Propagator’s site for all the SOS posts. More rain forecast here for the beginning of the week but then perhaps we will be into a settled patch again. I will just enjoy the thought that all that water must be good for the potatoes!

Six On Saturday: The garden is on the move

I have spent every spare moment this week moving the compost and finally on Friday the bins themselves were dismantled. The space is ready and waiting for the landscaper. It is a little muddy underfoot, hopefully a few dry days will sort that out. I have two builders bags of compost, some of this will go to earthing up the potatoes later in the season and some needs a little more time decomposing. Two toads were carefully relocated in the process. All in all it was a good job done and I am giving myself a pat on the back. Meanwhile the garden is moving on a pace. Here’s what I spotted this week.

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I was admiring via twitter the clumps of leucojum on display at St Timothees Garden and wondering when mine would put on a show. On Friday I saw the first flower. Not quite a clump yet but pleasing all the same. A note has been made to order more bulbs.

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The primroses that have been in flower for some time but they have really filled out this week. They are possibly my favourite spring flower, such a gentle yellow and yet still able to take centre stage.

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The clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ enjoyed the sun on Friday. It is full of bud now and the flowers are just opening. A few gardens down from me I can see my neighbour has something very similar and it is full flower. What a difference aspect makes.

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The border delphiniums are pushing on and of course the slugs are not far behind. This tasty shoot is so far untouched, Long may it last. I checked the roots of the delphiniums in the potting shed this week and they are coming along nicely but who was also snuggled up nicely in the pot? A tiny slug of course.

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Beautiful tulip buds. Such a welcome sight in the garden, good things are unfurling and soon the colour pops will be bursting out.

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Another welcome sight is this wonderful green growth in amongst the dead brown matter of the erigeron karvinskianus. There are just one or two new stems so far. I’ll keep a close eye on them and over the next week or so I will start cutting away the dead stuff. This and one or two other losses in this border will provide an opportunity for a re-think.

The epoxy resin for the pot repair has arrived and it looks like next week will be dry so I might get the chance to see if a miracle can be worked. If not, thanks to Paddy’s suggestion, I will be using the damaged pot as a feature somewhere else in the garden – which is rather a tempting idea. The Prop will be around as usual, hosting the meme and running, running running. Happy gardening to everyone.

Six On Saturday: I’m not enjoying this cold weather

I thought I would get straight to the point. It has been misty, foggy, and damp week with cold winds. March is not inspiring me to get out into the garden. And when I do step outside I am greeted by more signs of frost damage. A scene to awful to share is the brown curled up mass that used be a well established clump of erigeron karvinskianus. The RHS give it H5 for hardiness. This means hardy in most places throughout the UK even in severe winters (-15 to -10). I can only hope that somewhere underneath the browness there are some fresh shoots emerging. This is the fifth winter in the new garden and this is the first time there has been so much damage from the cold weather. I am thinking it is a combination of the very cold weather followed by some early morning sun. Here’s what I am sharing this week.

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Cold or not, there are jobs to done and last week I carried out a very modest land grab from the lawn. The motivation for this audacious activity was borne out of an idle moment. On looking out of the window I realised that the transition between flower garden and veg patch was not a pretty one. I decided on impulse that an arch was needed to break up the view. With more impulsivity I immediately ordered a rusted steel ornamental arch. Of course the arch needed a certain width of garden space and the border was not quite wide enough. Manic digging took place, pavers re-positioned and an empty trench needing top soil was the result. This tiny corner border now has a little more substance to it. At the end of last week I did get round to dividing the snowdrops and I have filled one corner of the trench with some of the divisions. My local nursery has just opened again so I am planning a daring and thrilling visit to purchase some top soil. I am also consulting my SOS wish list to see what plants I need.

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I also tackled another border this week, which is probably why I am so moany about cold weather! I decided that the very back of the garden is too shady to grow vegetables and so a shade-happy selection of plants was ordered. I am not very good at fitting in that all important evergreen structural layer but this time I have included some hart’s tongue ferns. These were planted out last autumn and with a H6 for hardiness they are unscathed. They have been joined this week by tiarella cordifolia, hosta undulata var. albomarginata aka Thomas Hogg and Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Alba’. When (if) they break through, I will also add in some thalictrum delavayi ‘Album’. I am currently also using this border to store a small hydrangea and a blackcurrant bush – as you do when you move something and don’t quite know what to do with it.

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The north border of the garden was planted up about a year ago with three sturdy specimens of pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’. Hardiness rating H3, since you ask. This means ‘ -5 to 1 degrees centigrade, half-hardy – unheated glasshouse / mild winter’ in the UK. Which may explain why they look like this now. Oh well, perhaps they will respond to a good trim when the time comes.

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I hope I am not tempting fate, but the delphinium seedlings which overwintered in an unheated greenhouse have started to put out their new shoots. I sowed seeds saved from the purple ones in the garden. It’s a balance between turning a plant soft and losing it but I have decided they can stay inside for a little longer.

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Sorry, it’s another oh dear! Gardening can be very trying at times. Fifth winter here, as I might have mentioned, and in the first summer I planted four euphorbia characias subspwulfenii to form the centre piece to the long border. One of them is doing stupendously – the background filler. Two of them are ticking over quite well and one just suffers – the foreground. So much suffering in fact, that I have had to replace it twice. Fortunately there is always a seedling to hand and so on we go. One day I will give up, my symmetry will be abandoned, and I will plant something that likes this particular spot. I just wish I knew what is so bad about this particular spot.

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While I am finding it all rather cold, the hydrangeas are pushing on and are begging to be cut back. Surely not you fools, there will be a frost and your fresh green buds will drop off. Please do not tempt me. I am going to ignore you for another week. There are dahlias to pot up first.

I had a little fun with word press this week – living dangerously again – and used a large drop cap! I do need to get out more. I am sure the Prop has been out and about as will have other SOSers. To take a peek at all the garden news on offer just stop by The Propagator’s site. All the links are there.

Six On Saturday: Seedlings

This is the sort of SOS that will separate the forward thinkers from the skin of the teeth types and I nailed my colours to the latter mast some time ago. The weather is atrocious here but there was a brief moment of less than torrential rain so I nipped out to the greenhouse and snapped this six.

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Ignore the label – these are not Lutea!

Foxglove seedlings. Somehow, and much to my delight, I had one white foxglove among the forest of purple ones this year. I collected seed and will patiently wait to see if a) I can get them through the winter and b) if they come through as white foxgloves. Oh, the jeopardy!

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Fighting the damp conditions and the slugs

More collected seeds. This time from purple delphiniums. I think I am already in danger of losing some of these as the greenhouse has been rather damp of late and I fear the worst.

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Aquilegia seedlings, sown some time ago and I am already down two of them.

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Thalictrum delavayi seedlings, in need of potting on. Such delicate little things that will, if all goes well, grow on to make plants of over a metre tall. Possibly in danger of being overtaken by moss and algae. Oh dear.

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The astrantia major in the garden is really making itself at home and needs to be taken in hand from time to time. Some are pulled out but I have potted some on for next year to fill gaps in a shady border.

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A second sowing of basil has come good

I have a forest of basil plants that I hope will keep going for a couple of months longer. These have been one of the most enjoyable crops this year!

Well, I seem to have ended in in the new block editor this week. I have always failed to edit the link. Let’s see what happens. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/six-on-saturday-03-10-2020/ No I can’t give it a short and snappy name – any ideas folks? As they say, a rose by any other name … so just follow the link to Mr P’s page of delights and take a stroll through the comments section to find your way to the SOS collection of gardens. Keep dry!

Six On Saturday: Apples, plums, flowers and bees

It’s been harvest time this week. So without further ado I give you this week’s six.

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All the apples from all the trees are picked in one go and are taken to an juicing farm.  This year’s crop seemed to be less than last year and when the juice was collected it was proved to be so.  Thirty five bottles against fifty one last year.  There has been some significant pruning undertaken for one of the trees to get it back into shape and this was where we noticed less apples.  Perhaps next year it will be back to bearing a higher crop.  

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As we had the apple picker out we decided to go for the plum tree too.  All the plums were gathered in and the fruit was halved and stoned before freezing.  I have never had much success with plum jam so the plan is make endless plum and frangipane tarts. 

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Cutting back the perennials promptly does pay dividends, the delphiniums have rewarded me with a second flowering.  

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Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’ is a good height for the front of the border and flowers well.  I have dead heading to catch up with which will keep it going. 

Five

The rain and occasional sun seem to be powering the garden on.  Last week’s flattened cosmos were hauled upright and staked to within an inch of their lives.  This revealed them to be nearly five feet high.  Impressive going when I think back to those tiny seedlings that appeared in spring. 

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Finally the bee, on a separate planting of cosmos.  The bees seem to be on a resurgence in the garden.  They float from these cosmos plants across the path to the agastache in great numbers.  Always fascinating to watch.

But I have much to do.  The hollyhocks are ready to be cut down and the roses need another round of deadheading.  I also have plans to move plants and the bulbs have started to arrive.  The ideas for next year are gently bubbling away.  

Mr P sets a good example as always, managing to file a SOS post whilst on holiday.  He has spotted nerines which sadly reminds me of the bagful of bulbs that I bought last year which I fear will come to nothing.  I have a few leaves poking up from some I put in a container but those in the ground seem to have failed. Hey ho! 

Six On Saturday: Good things being delivered

It was the perfect week to be on holiday with nothing to do as it was too hot to do anything. The dead heading was left but there was no avoiding the need to water in the greenhouse. Tomatoes, melons, strawberries, lettuce and basil are all motoring along. Outside the green beans are being picked along with raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants.  Here’s the view of the garden this week.

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I have to share this view of the allotment end of the garden although it’s not to my credit.  I had a few calendula plants in the garden a couple of years ago and if they are not ruthlessly controlled they run riot! Beautifully so, but I need to fight back.  I’m enjoying the splash of colour for the moment but an afternoon spent pulling them out is on the agenda and next year I will be hoeing them off, immediately, no ground given.  Honestly. 

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It is now four years since the move to this house and the garden borders are transformed.  Each year a new corner or two comes under scrutiny.  This year it was the passion flower draped arch and trellis.  I could see that a honeysuckle also entwined its way around the uprights but it never flowered.  One side of the passion flower has been taken down and the honeysuckle probably got a bit of a cut back in the process.  Perhaps this is why it has flowered for the first time.  It’s a great addition.

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The scented leaf pellies are back in their summer pots and are decorating the patio.  The peat free compost does dry out quickly on the surface so daily watering was necessary.  This one is ‘Prince of Orange’.

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The cheerful Shasta daisies seem to be twice as high this year.  They were started from seed about four years ago.  They grow up into the wild blackberries that are another corner of the garden awaiting some attention.  It looks like there will be a good crop there too. 

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Most of the delphiniums are going to seed now and need to be cut back but this one came through a little later.  It was a pot luck buy at a plant sale, just marked delphinium.  I’ve had it for three years now but it always only puts up one spike.  Is that a thing for certain types of delphinium ?  

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To finish I offer this combination of blackcurrant sage and a penstemon  – could it be ‘Apple Blossom’?  The  sage looked a little sad after the winter but it responded well to a cut back and is now threading its way around the penstemon. 

Cooler temperatures for next week will see me back in the garden catching up on the dead heading.  The roses need to be fed to help them produce the next wave of flowers and I think I’ll have a nose around the late crop new potatoes.  If nosing around gardens is your thing then go immediately to Mr P’s he has the most divine photo of the rose ‘Generous Gardener’, it’s a must see! 

Six On Saturday: Beautiful blues (and pinks and whites and oranges)

Having had a few days off at Sofa-on-Sea, I am returning to the fold with six from a parched garden. So much promise of rain, so little delivered. The water butts, and I have several, have run dry, the lawn is cracking and yet the bindweed just doesn’t give up. The greenhouse has been emptied of seedlings and young plants and those not yet planted out are now finding cover under the pergola.

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First something lovely in blue. The anchusas were grown from seed Continue reading

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:

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

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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. 

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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: 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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!