Six on Saturday: Headless Chicken

There were so many possibilities for today’s theme: ‘forgive me for I have sinned’ and ‘midsummer madness’ being close contenders but headless chicken won out – running around in an illogical and disorganised way summed up my gardening this week. I couldn’t get to the garden for about four days and was being driven mad by the rain that fell whenever I had a free moment. Friday was the first opportunity to garden and there was so much to do. But of course as you set out to do one thing another catches your eye. The first distraction was to salvage some delphiniums that had been caught by the wind. Then at this time of the year the alchemilla mollis and geranium ‘Brookside’ take over the garden path and as the grass needed mowing they had to be cut back or they would have been crushed by the lawn mower. The roses were begging to be deadheaded and my prime task of cutting back the geranium phaeums was plummeting rapidly down the ‘to do’ list. The weather stayed fine and the jobs were done. My sins were forgetting to drench the martagon lilies in lily beetle spray – all the foliage stripped away and looking terrible, and not supporting the leucanthemum x superbum. They get to a height of one metre and every year I foolishly think they can support themselves but not of course in the wind and rain. The madness refers to the crazy amount of self seeding that has gone on the garden this year: the borders are crammed. In between times I did manage to take a few photos.

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The three top culprits when it comes to self seeding are the astrantias, alchemilla mollis and geranium ‘Brookside’ but if you like an ‘informal’ look then it’s winner!

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The regal lilies are just about going over but their scent is still strong and these did get a regular drench with the lily beetle spray. It was about 95% effective, I have spotted three or four of the charming lily beetle grubs but the foliage is still intact.

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This is ‘Munstead’ lavender. In the past I have lost ‘Hidcote’ lavenders over the winter and although I much prefer the darker colour I chose the lighter ‘Munstead’ for this spot on the patio. So far so good. I cut it back to about an inch or so off the ground in September/October.

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Oh dear. Another sin. I bought these salvias two weeks ago and here they sit patiently waiting to be planted out. I keep changing my mind as to their final location and, second sin, I don’t have enough compost to pot them on. They are ‘Mainacht’ and ‘Shneehugel’. My first thought had them destined for separate borders but they look comfortable together.

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Sometimes the answer to a gardening dilemma is right under your nose. I was looking for something upright for a front of border gap and as I edged the grass I rediscovered these. Stachys officinalis or, as it also seems to be known as, betonica officinalis. I bought these about four years ago, planted them in a spot they did not seem to enjoy and so moved them round and promptly forgot them. This year they have come good and I think there is enough sun in the other spot for them to flourish there as well. Eventual height is said to be 60cms, so far these are about 30cms.

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The scented leaf pelargoniums have been slow to get into flower this year, but this one ‘Prince of Orange’ is leading the race. It’s in a pot on the steps beside the hydrangeas.

The Propagator has some lovely looking plants in his six and a real nasty! As has been the case here, the slugs and snails have been out in force and have destroyed a clump of lobelia. It’s looking as sorry a sight as my martagon lilies. But there are plenty of lovely flowers from around the world in the SOS thread. Check the links and enjoy!

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: Free gifts

Finally it is happening. The garden is creeping into colour. The weather has had an interesting effect. Some tall plants are not as tall as they might be, others are racing away. Some plants grown from seed are sulking in the cold and yet seedlings in the garden are popping up everywhere. I remember receiving a gentle warning via Twitter that astrantia major would run riot and this year it has. Seedlings in every corner. Yet parsnip seedlings that I swear I saw two weeks ago have disappeared. Eaten by slugs I wonder? Geranium phaeum has done very well this year and I will have plenty to relocate to other corners. But on to the free gifts and colourful arrivals.

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Warmed by a few days sunshine, the roses are beginning to unfold. This is r. ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ and was planted out in the winter of 2018. It is full of bud and I can’t wait to see it in its full glory in the coming weeks.

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Several weeks after many SOSers were showing the geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ mine have finally flowered. I acknowledge they are in cooler part of the garden, which unusually still has a few tulips just about in flower.

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Free gifts is the theme for today and this aquilegia ‘Lemon Sorbet’ came from a free packet of seeds. Being a double it’s not pollinator friendly but there are plenty of self seeded single aquilegias in the garden.

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A few weeks back I was asking the twitter community what my coarse geranium look-alike plant might be. It arrived from nowhere and quickly took hold. A wild geranium was the speedy reply. I left in it place and have been rewarded by a wonderful spread of flowers. One day it will be moved to a wilder part of the garden.

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Definitely pretty in pink is this bloody cranesbill, geranium sanguineum var. striatum. A low growing perennial for the front of the border with delicate darker veining.

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This is the area set aside for a cutting patch. I have planted out dahlia cacti mix and have some china asters – free gift seed packet – to go in this weekend. I have direct sown calendula ‘Indian Prince’ and malope trifida ‘Vulcan’, also a free seed packet. Unfortunately the seedlings hell bent on growing are those from a packet of radish seeds that I knocked over and the thousands of seedlings that didn’t get killed in the less than hot compost heap. I spread a good thick layer of said compost over this bed for the winter and this week the seeds have surged into growth. I doubt they will be anything to be welcomed.

I have a few trays of seedlings doing the in/out routine this week but the root develop has been quite slow. Hopefully this spell of warm weather will move things along. The sad looking tomatoes in the greenhouse have picked up and those set aside for the outside will go in this weekend. The kitchen grown cucumber is in the greenhouse, the courgettes might go out this week depending on root growth, the chilli peppers have finally moved from the kitchen to the greenhouse and the bell peppers are in a grow bag. Enjoy the long weekend in the UK and much kudos to The Propagator, host of SOS. He completed his 100K run last weekend, a fund raiser for Macmillan Cancer and now intends to garden all weekend! Happy gardening to everyone.

Six On Saturday: Wildlife, don’t you just love it?

I do love the pair of goldfinches that come regularly to the bird feeder now, and the nuthatches that remind me of Robin, the boy wonder. But don’t get me started on the squirrels who run along the top of the garden wall and perch there so cutely whilst eating the rosebuds. But worst of all is the fox. A regular visitor to the garden who feels so at home that when, last week, our paths crossed he merely looked briefly in my direction, seemed to nod politely and strolled on. Clearly he was soon back again for a night out in the garden, not managing to find the gents loos and so pooing randomly in several spots and then using the back newly planted flower bed as the dance floor. The hydrangea ‘Limelight’, so carefully nurtured from a dead looking stick in March to a lush and verdant shrub in May was decimated. Bah! Humbug! I say. Extra security has been put in place.

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The poor ‘Limelight’ is now fenced in until it gets a little sturdier, perhaps the fox will find a new route home. I am on the verge of ordering a generous helping of Scoot which may or may not deter the fox. I fear the route through the garden is a favourite one as he is regularly spotted strolling through the veg patch and nimbly jumping the fence.

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Once I had recovered from that outrage I discovered a further disappointment. The ‘Mount Everest’ alliums are looking very shabby. This happens every year but this clump looks very sad and without any sign of a flower spike. Luckily others in the border have sent up stems otherwise it really would have been a bad week.

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On to happier sights, the geranium phaeum is romping away. Now happily seeding itself, perhaps to such an extent that I may need to do some thinning. But for now I’m enjoying the deep purple flowers.

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Even after four years in this house I am still a little neglectful of the front garden but glancing out of the window one morning I thought this sweet woodruff and bluebell combination looked particularly fine. These are on the dry shady side of the front garden where only the strong survive.

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Next door to the sweet woodruff I am trying out geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’. Planted out in 2020 and so far so good. Billed as spreading to half a metre – one metre I shall be very happy if it achieves that.

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Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is just opening out. The die back on these leaves is less noticeable as the foliage of other plants disguises it. Gradually the garden moves on towards summer.

In other news, the San Marzano tomato plants look as though they have caught cold, they may not survive. The courgettes and extra cucumbers have germinated, and the carrots are a no show so far but I think I have spotted one or two parsnip seedlings. I have spotted flower buds on the Totally Tangerine, whilst the Prop’s (our delightful host for SOS) continues to shine brightly. All other SOS posts can be found on the Prop’s site, stop by and enjoy the ever more colourful gardens on show.

Six On Saturday: Pinky, greeny, white flowers

Around time of year I’m usually on my way to Suffolk with a stop off at the Beth Chatto gardens. The gardens are open now but the trip to Suffolk is off. Which is a shame because a week on the Suffolk coast next week might be a blessed relief. Temperatures here are forecast to make 30 degrees. At least the garden has had a very good soak and the water butts are almost replenished. Here’s this week’s six.

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I’m opening with this is mallow, or malva moschata.  I didn’t realise just how pretty it was until I took the close up.  Beautiful and it is a regular self seeder that fills a corner of the garden quite happily doing its thing with very little attention.

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The hydrangeas which were gasping for a drop of the good stuff are very happy now.  This one is hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’.  Being one of the Endless Summer ranges apparently it can flower on new and old wood. Something I did not know before today.  

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The lilies that are in a pot by one of the pergola legs opened up last weekend. Just in time to provide some scented evening distractions.

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From Cornwall to France the Yuccas have been flowering and here I offer a flowering cordyline.  Which by coincidence came all the way from Cornwall some twenty years ago.   It has lived in a pot for all those years, with a belated move to a larger pot about three years ago.  It has never flowered before and I don’t know if it will again but here it is for now. 

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This clear white geranium is sanguineum ‘Album’ used in the northern corner of the garden and is finally in flower.  

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And just around the corner is this inherited geranium.  White with beautiful pink veining. It was quite a large clump so I divided it up and dotted it around the garden on the shadier side and it has done well in all locations.  I wonder if it could be ‘Kashmiri White’.  

I’m going to be making the most of this cool weekend to get some gardening jobs done.  The last stragglers of the annuals to be planted out.  There are tomatoes to be looked over – those side shoots are sprouting fast and the second sowing of french beans to be put in the ground.  Enjoy your gardening jobs and look in at  The Prop’s Place for his six  (I have fallen for sidalcea ‘Rosaly’) and all the links to other good gardening blogs.

Six On Saturday: Looking good on the surface but work to be done

I like to think that by June I’m on top of the garden. That I’ll just potter around dead heading and pulling a few weeds but essentially I will be sitting back and enjoying the balmy days and sweet perfumes. Not last week. The temperature dropped, the winds blew and there was some entirely unsubstantial wet stuff that pretended to be light showers. This all amounted to enough to keep me inside but enough to turbo charge Continue reading

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: Some shady specials and some for sun

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover the first plant in my six for today. I saw it an NGS garden visit and serendipitously spotted two small pots of it for sale at the Finchley Horticultural Plant sale last year. It has come on in leaps and bounds so without further ado here it is:

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Tellima grandilfora aka fringe cups.  It is an absolute winner for the dry shade in my garden.  This version has pinkish flowers that fade to greeny white.  How clever is that?  There is another version, tellima grandiflora odorata, that is scented but I didn’t stumble across that one.  I could easily be tempted to track one down for another shady corner though. 

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I’m also enjoying geranium macrorrhizum in the very dry shade in the front garden.  The bluebells there are just going over but that blue and the magenta of the geranium has looked good over the last few weeks.  This is a space where only the strong survive, and this geranium just gets on with it.

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In the sunnier long border the ‘Mount Everest’ alliums have appeared.  These were much complained about for putting on a poor show and last year I decided to add in some allium nigrum.  It seems the threat of being usurped has spurred ‘Mount Everest’ on and they are making a go of it this year.  The nigrums are some weeks behind and are much shorter at the moment.

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I had to feature the sun loving osteospermums this week because I had never noticed their blue centres.  Shame on me and thanks to Off the Edge Gardening for pointing this out.  Apparently this is a sign of a hardier osteo.  

It’s May, the roses are popping out everywhere and filling the air with beautiful scent.  So the last two spaces go to them.

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An unknown red climber that I inherited.  It was a weak and straggly specimen that I cut completely to the ground three years ago.  It put on the growth again quite quickly but this is its most floriferous year so far.  It does battle with the alkanet – which I am going to try to dig out very soon.  Again, that is.  Last year’s half-hearted attempt just didn’t do it.

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Madame Alfred Carriere.  Another climbing rose that is making good progress over the back fence. It is in shade for the most of the day but catches the late afternoon/evening sun from the west.  This is it’s second year and it is beginning to live up to its nickname of ‘Mad Alf’.  I am very happy for it to go as mad as it likes.  There is plenty of fence to cover.

There is some wonderful weather for today and perhaps early tomorrow but cold air is coming.  There may be a need to fleece some things and it is definitely not time for the pellies to leave the greenhouse but I think another week might bring us into more consistent temperatures.  Wishing you all perfect gardening weekends. I am late posting today but I see I am in good company.  Mr P was distracted by having Friday off but he managed to get a post in on time and will be marshalling all the links to other SOSs.  

 

Six On Saturday: Things I have learnt this week

It would be perfect planning to have six photos about six things I have learnt this week but I don’t. I have a few general observations and then six unrelated photos. First observation is that no matter how many tree seedlings I pull up there will always be another thirty ready to come through. Second observation: there is no rhyme or reason to what germinates and when. The gardener can only have a go – well that’s the decision I’ve reached. I was up to four lupin seedlings, now down three. Two courgettes have germinated, four are still lounging around. I could go on. Last observation: I am an impatient gardener and having more time on my hands has made me worse. The roses have been in bud for days, possibly even weeks now. Why haven’t they opened? Because it’s not time – in this garden. Here’s my six for the week.

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Most of the tulips are going over but the camassias have opened up.  I see now that I Continue reading