Six On Saturday: There’s a hole in my water butt, dear Liza

Oh yes. There was rain and the water butts were full but the next day number one water butt was half empty. That’s about 75 litres of lost water. I was not a happy bunny. The remaining water was pumped down to the bottom of garden storage tank and a repair was made. Here’s hoping a bit of glue and some gorilla tape will seal the crack. It might be some time before I find out if it has worked. In the meantime, the garden has perked up a little. Here’s this week’s six.

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The courgettes were absolutely loving the downpour and responded immediately with a bright sunny flower. I’ve been picking very regularly and so far have avoided the giant marrow stage.

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I had left the onions to dry off in the ground as it was so hot. Once the rain looked certain I harvested them and moved to the potting shed to finish drying. This great picture was taken by daughter on her phone. How did she do that? As usual some onions have barely doubled in size but on the whole I’m happy with this year’s haul.

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My old established hydrangeas have had a tough time of it and look very bedraggled. But a new purchase (Limelight) put in to replace the old box shrub was watered regularly and although it’s still a small plant it has put out some impressive flowers. I think this one will fill the space very well.

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This eurybia is at the shady end of the border and has survived this summer’s conditions well. Mr P, our host, will surely recognise a familiar likeness to those he has in his garden.

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The first of the Japanese anemones have opened up. This one is in the shady north facing border, the same corner where there is some mysterious source of underground water and so this too has also come through the summer unscathed. Further up this border the anemone leaves are crispy brown and in need of tidying up.

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The old greenhouse is officially on borrowed time. The decision to purchase a new one has been made. Gulp. Dismantling the greenhouse, removing old crumbling base, laying new base and then installing the new greenhouse are all tasks beyond my skill set. But I’m pulling together the threads of the project and hope to be on the way once the tomatoes have finished. In the meantime the French marigolds, planted to dissuade the white fly from taking up residence, are flowering their socks off.

The temperatures are back to normal, there’s still some rainfall to be made up but I am persuaded that it is worth tidying up the garden. There’s alchemilla mollis to cut back and those crispy leaves to remove. The plums are almost ripe and small though they are I think it won’t be long before the apples are picked. It’s time to return to the garden and prepare for the next season. Happy gardening to you all.

Six On Saturday: Keeping it going

I sat this morning enjoying a coffee, a breeze coming through the open windows and the sound of wood pigeons in the air. The garden was in shade. All the makings of a perfect August day. A few minutes later the sun had climbed over the trees and the heat began to build. It will be thirty five degrees at least here today, no rain yet but there are rumours of thunderstorms to come. Yes please. Here’s six for the week.

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Although the birds and squirrels get to the ripe figs first, if I’m quick I can harvest a few of the smaller ones just before they ripen and in this way I’ve managed to secure a reasonable supply for us. They ripen quite quickly on a sunny window sill but I do look wistfully at those fat brown figs at the top of the tree.

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There’s work to be done in the garden. First, the clematis arch is keeling over, the clematis have already gone to seed which makes it look even more sad. I hope it can stay upright a little longer as I don’t have any plans to do work in the garden until the cooler temperatures arrive.

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Second, the greenhouse door came off its makeshift wire hinge a few weeks ago. Even with the no door and all the windows open and my collection of old sheets for shading it’s still around 39 degrees inside. It’s a very old greenhouse and I haven’t been able to locate the right new hinges so I’m thinking it may be time for a new one. Which might encourage me to spruce up this whole area. Watch this space.

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My collection of hollyhocks are a third of their usual height this year. This is good news: no staking is required. They also seem to be rust free. There’s a couple of positives to enjoy.

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The roses are valiantly putting out new flowers, smaller than the first flush but much appreciated. This is ‘Scepter’d Isle’

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I am really being tough with the watering. That’s what being on a water meter does! So it’s watering cans only and only those plants that are wilting are watered. The annuals have been left to their own devices but these nicotiana are in the vicinity of a newly planted hydrangea which is being looked after. They are reaping the rewards and so am I.

Mr P has all the links to the SOS meme as usual. Since it is too hot for active gardening some gentle reading may be the order of the day. Enjoy the blue skies.

Six On Saturday: Heat!

I can’t avoid stating the obvious: it’s been hot this week. I have resorted to hanging sheets in the greenhouse to try to provide some shade but there have still been some wilting tomato plants. The water butts are empty and I don’t see any rain in the forecast. Too hot to garden, too hot to write and so here is a quick six from the garden this week.

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At least this part of the garden looks cool. Ferns and the ‘Kashmir White’ geranium make a great combination in a slightly shadier spot.

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My first foray into a dark leaf heuchera. This is ‘Grape Timeless’ which I always think should be ‘Grape Time’!

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The over-wintered salvia ‘Amistad’ has just begun to open out. A long laster, this should be in flower until autumn.

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Every year the astrantias burst forth and remind me of what an absolute dream they are. This one is ‘Roma’.

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Last winter I moved a climbing rose ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’. It was growing against a shady fence but not really enjoying it. It’s not in the best of health but amazingly it has produced a beautiful flower. I am nurturing it and hoping that this isn’t its last effort before a demise.

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And ending on an amusing note: This is the greenhouse. No matter how many times I check there is always a side shoot missed on the tomatoes. In addition to the sheets, I have been liberally throwing watering cans of water over the path to keep the humidity up and hopefully the red spider mite down. The marigolds are there to keep the white fly down and oxalis is there because I can never be rid of it!

For more hot gardens tune into The Propagator who hosts this meme. Stay cool, water wisely and as always, take time to enjoy the garden.

Six On Saturday: Frosty but the garden pushes on

The majority of mornings have been frosty and the days that followed were cold. Last week was not a week that led to gardening of any sort other than the wishful thinking sort. Wishful thinking can lead to trouble: new schemes imagined, grand plans take root and the siren voices of online shopping call. I resisted immediate action. Let’s just wait another month. Although it feels like a quiet time it is the lull before the storm. There is clear evidence of growth and the last of the cutting back will have to be completed throughout February. Here’s six for this week.

One

My skimmia ‘Kew Green’ is looking less than healthy and I think I know why. It is planted towards the edge of a walled border and I think some of the walling extends inwards into the border. I think the roots on the front side of the skimmia have reached the buried bricks and don’t have enough soil to grow out into. I am going to move it towards the back of the border and see if that solves the problem.

Two

Unfortunately the empty egg box makes another appearance. Due to problems with suppliers – and I think we know what that means by now – my order for ‘Anya’, my second choice seed potato cannot be fulfilled. I have now chosen ‘Jazzy’. It’s twice the price so it had better be twice as good.

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The greenhouse is home to the overwintering pelargoniums and the lemon tree. This week the lowest temperature was -2.1 degrees centigrade and I didn’t even think to fleece the pellies. The lemon tree has a double wrap of 17gsm fleece. A cursory glance indicates that lemons and pellies survived.

Four

Asplenium scolopendrium, or Hart’s tongue fern. I’ve added three of these to the inhospitable back border. They’ve been in place for about a year and seem to coping well. The very back corner of the border is given over to a small log pile. It’s in the rain shadow of a fence and I don’t think much will grow there, except perhaps euphorbia robbiae which is incredibly tolerant, and of course invasive. The mulch is Strulch.

Five

Hellebores and snowdrops continue to entertain. Pretty Ellen Red, the double version, has opened up.

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And the 300 or so snowdrops planted throughout the north facing border two years ago, which didn’t do too well the first year, are looking a little more promising this year.

As always, thanks to the Propagator for keeping this show on the road and enjoy your gardening week

Six On Saturday: Time to stop dithering and do. Probably.

The trees that surround this garden have just started to change colour, there was a cold north wind for a day or two but in general the weather is still quite mild. I am dithering about whether to take things into the greenhouse this weekend or next. Dithering is one of my favoured gardening techniques, employed in every season. It’s just the way I garden. After some dithering this morning and several changes of plan, here’s this week’s six.

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I’ve been dithering for some time about fumigating the greenhouse. I didn’t get on top of the whitefly this year. The encarsia wasps used a month or so ago made an impact but didn’t fully clear the infestation. As the temperatures were warm enough I finally deployed the ‘garlic bombs’ that had lurking around for some time. I don’t know what the whitefly made of it, but my stomach definitely heaved when I opened up the packaging. Of course I should have taken a photo of the smoke filled greenhouse, with the smoke gently seeping out of every opening. Far more dramatic. But I didn’t, so sadly this will have to do. Let’s hope the fumigation has had an effect and I promise to do better next year.

Two

I needed to get the greenhouse sorted out to make it available for some tender plants. The last of the peppers and chillies were picked before the fumigation and I had yet another go at removing the oxalis. There’s some mild weather forecast for next week but the lemon tree will have to go inside soon. It has had a good year outside and seems to have fully recovered from its near death a few years back. There are flowers, new fruits and some not quite ripe fruit. The greenhouse is not heated so when winter arrives the lemon tree will get a fleece wrap.

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This euphorbia mellifera has also done well this year. It arrived as a self-sown seedling about this time last year and Jim of Garden Ruminations identified it and warned me that it would grow and grow. How right, as ever, he was. It didn’t flower this spring, I’m hoping it will next spring and then I will do as Jim advised and cut it back.

Four

I have five pots of the large evergreen agapanthus that are tender here and need a fleece wrapping every winter. They are showing signs of needing it now. Last year I discovered that pegs are great for holding the fleece in place.

Five

The leaves of the trachelospermum jasminoides, star jasmine, have just begun to turn red. It’s making slow progress up the fence but year by year it is thickening up. I don’t have much in the garden that gives this darker autumn colouring, no Japanese maples, no cotinus and no dogwoods either. I just don’t seem to have the right spaces for them, so these red leaves will be especially enjoyed.

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Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’. I’ve probably shared these before, but anything that looks this good in the last week of October deserves another mention. I planted three 9cm pots two years ago and they have filled up the space well this year. Such a rich colour.

I still have narcissus bulbs to plant and a few tulip bulbs lined up to go in the ground in November. The foliage of day lilies and the deciduous agapanthus is in need of cutting back before it becomes a soggy mess but there are plenty of plants that I will leave standing over winter. We can’t be too choosy about which wildlife we support in this way and from today’s walk round I can see that the slugs are enjoying the garden all too well at the moment. Yes, jobs to be done. It’s not hibernation time yet. Don’t forget that The Propagator hosts this meme and shares all the links to other SOS posts. Happy gardening.

Six On Saturday: The height of summer

It looks like last week’s prediction of beautiful weather after the summer solstice is coming good.  Of course it will be extreme, that is only to be expected these days! Greenhouse windows wide open and pots regularly watered.  Here’s hoping the garden stands up to the next onslaught.  The pests are increasing their attacks – sawfly on the gooseberries, slightly less than last year, slugs and snails everywhere, box moth caterpillar munching the box and whitefly in the greenhouse.  I am using encarsia wasps to combat them. But there is much to enjoy at this time of year.

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This is a side view of the long border.  It is now approaching its mad, chaotic crescendo.  Geraniums, knautia, roses, penstemons, astrantia and salvias all pushing and shoving to make an appearance centre stage.  I love this disorderly behaviour but every now and then creep in to put in a little essential staking.

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The sun was shining the wrong way when I took this photo but I hope you can get the sense of the lovely combination of salvia nemorosa and astrantia major. They are are dream together.

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This is penstemon ‘Firebird’.  I like the penstemons for taking on the baton of flowering from the alliums.

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In the greenhouse the first tomatoes have appeared.  But pride of place goes to the lettuce. Growing lettuce outside has always been hit and miss for me so this year I tried a few in the greenhouse.  I now have an awful lot of lettuce to eat, I am hoping the hot temperatures are not going to ruin it.

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My salvia ‘Amistad’ did not survive the winter or so I thought. But just days after buying three new plants I spotted shoots on two of the old ones.  I dug those up and moved them to a nursery bed where they are making slow but steady progress.  I might have some flowers by August.  In the meantime the new ones romped away and are looking dramatically sultry.  As I planted the new ones I snapped a stem but encouraged by everyone’s advice that salvia ‘Amistad’ cuttings are easy peasy I planted it up.  It took almost immediately so now I feel awash with these wonderful salvias.

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This fuschia is another small success.  It came with the garden and I spent the first few years saving it from the clutches of bindweed and couch grass. Once freed I gave it a judicious prune and this year it is flowering well and in much better shape.  Its a var. unk. to me but maybe someone can identify it.  I love the strong colours.

If you’d like to see some more Six On Saturday posts from other sixers then go along to The Propagator’s blog.  There is much that will inform and amuse!

 

 

Six On Saturday: The borders take shape

This garden has a long history of growers. The very first owner here was a prize winner for a plate of three raspberries and the second owner was a committed fruit grower.  When I came along the fruit growing had taken priority and the borders were being taken over by weeds and grass.  There are still plenty of weeds and fruit bushes around but flowers are gradually being reinstated.

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The monthly long border shot.  This year I have gone for two smaller wigwams of sweet peas.  I planted out the early sowings last weekend.  On the left  ‘April in Paris’, a white variety and on the right ‘Midnight Blues’.  I now have a gap where the large wigwam went and although I have some annuals lined up to fill the space I feel the need for an evergreen shrub to give more form to this end of the border.  The delphiniums are shooting away and with storm Hannah blowing through I need to get out there and do some tying in.  In case you are wondering, the bamboo cane is there to remind me not to step on the emerging echinacea ‘White Swan’.  Roses, geraniums and knautia are also making good progress, ready to take over from the tulips and euphorbia.

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The left hand end of the north border. This used to be home to a stand of blackcurrant bushes and in turning over the soil for the nth time I found a label: Ben Tirran.  Four of those bushes went on to new homes so I will pass on the information.  The others have been found temporary homes elsewhere here.  So this end of north border was ready to plant up this year.  First to go in were two hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, climbing hydrangeas for the back fence.  Last weekend I planted 23 geranium sanguineum ‘Alba’ and six anemone ‘Honorine Jobert.  I have two more geraniums waiting to go in once the front row three of pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’ arrive.  I’ll fit the last two geraniums in around them.  The black pots along the back row are representing 10 melica altissima ‘Alba’.  These are proving elusive at the moment and I am hoping I don’t have to resort to a well known but more expensive on-line supplier.  I am following a plan from Joe Swift – Five plants for a deep shade border – as published in Gardeners’ World August 2018.  I also have some seedlings of astrantia major to fit in and finally I plan to add snowdrops for some early interest.

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At the other end of the north border the Choisyas are opening up.  This can mean only one thing.  The days are numbered for the ailing one.  For the moment I’ll enjoy the scent and the green and white colours.

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Patiently waiting to fill the space soon to be vacated by poorly choisya is a skimmia ‘Kew Green’.  Most descriptions use the very attractive phrase ‘no need to prune’.  The scent is described as’ lilly of the valley’ and it does well in shade.  Sounds perfect.

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I was lucky enough to inherit a greenhouse, old and needing some glazing repairs but it looked wonderful to me.  I put in some automatic openers but the frame on one side sticks in one corner and I haven’t solved the problem.  Last week the frame gave way at its weak point – the glass.  I made a temporary repair with some left over plastic and clingfilm but storm Hannah has curled her lip!  I am hoping the local company that helped out with the glazing last time will come to my aid again.

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The sowing of tomatoes for the greenhouse are coming along well.  Time to move them on I think.  That will encourage me to get that window repaired.

The weather has changed dramatically.  Cold, wet and windy.  I am grateful for the rain as already the water butts were getting low.  Fingers crossed that the wind isn’t too damaging, there is so much blossom around now.  I hope your garden stays safe and don’t forget to take a look at Mr P’s blog for more news from SOSs around the world.

 

 

Six on Saturday: Rain delays

It was a no show here for snow but the rain fell insistently most of the week.  I would love to be planting out the first early potatoes but the soil is cold and wet so this week’s six starts in the greenhouse.

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Just in time, I have potted up the new dahlia tubers. My dahlia wish list consisted of Arabian Night, Magenta Star, Cafe au Lait and Mary’s Jomanda.  But I bought Thomas Edison.  Six of these will go into the borders and a combination of Blanc y Verde and Furka will go into three terracotta pots.  They are resting in the greenhouse for now.

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Settled in the greenhouse I gave the strawberry plants a tidy up and donated them a bag of my recently acquired council compost.  I am on a steep learning curve with the greenhouse.  Red spider mites made themselves known last year and the soil feels very depleted.  I have manured and mulched, added chicken pellets and another bag of council compost has gone on the other side, even so I may grow the tomatoes in grow bags again this year.

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A gardener’s dilemma: mystery seedlings.   Are they from something I grew in the greenhouse last year? Or a throwback to something the previous owner grew?   They look interesting so I have left them for now.

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It really was time to release the autumn sown sweet peas from their pot.  These are from seed collected from last year’s plants.  I am curious to see how well they do.  The plant in front is Weigela ‘Florida Variegata’, just coming into leaf.

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And as I walked down the path I noticed that my ailing euphorbia is showing the very slimmest glimmer of life.  A few new shoots at the end of one stem.  I’m keeping that one too. Perhaps it will catch up with its neighbour!

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Planting out the recently purchased Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ will also have to wait a while.  I need to have some sturdy trellis installed and then grab a break in the rain.  Thank you to all those who shared pictures of your clematis in flower.  It convinced me that this was a necessary addition to garden. I’m looking forward to next year’s flowers and their scent.

For more inspiration visit The Propagator’s blog.  The links to other #SixOnSaturday posts will take you on a gardening journey around the world!

Six on Saturday

Some things on  the gardener’s to do list are there for several weeks.  My list has a few that have been hanging around for months.  I am pleased and relieved to present the first of my Six on Saturday for this week.  I have finally bought and planted out some onions.

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Far from thoughtfully researching the most interesting, disease resistant and high yield bulbs I could find I simply bought what was in the nursery – radar, electric and jermor for the shallots.  The wire mesh and freezer basket are in place to keep the birds off until the onions are fully rooted.  I will leave these on for some months as I have learnt the lesson of taking them off too early.

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Still on the to do list is cleaning the inside of the greenhouse.  I promise you the outside did look wonderful about a month ago.  The ghostly apparition seen here is the lemon tree.  Having bought myself a  min max thermometer – another one crossed off – I could not avoid seeing the inside temperature fall to zero.  So I wrapped the lemon tree in 17gsm fleece.  The  top section has two layers of fleece and I have my fingers crossed.  Underneath the fleece I have decorated the tree with sachets of Amblyseius californicus mite.  These are a preventative control against spider mite.  And washing down the inside will also go some way towards eradicating those pests.

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The leaves of Pulmonaria officinalis are looking fine at the moment.  This was a plant share and I am promised that the slugs avoid this one.  It has really bulked up from the tiny divisions planted earlier in the year.  You can also just spot a bit of new mulch.  Mulching is not complete yet but a start has been made.

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There is often a surprise to be found when looking for the six and this week it was finding a new flower on the hydrangea.  What a contrast the white makes with the pink of the autumn colouring

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Boxes of tulips arrived a while ago and planting up the borders has begun.  These Violet Beauty are joining Queen of Night, Barcelona and Shirley to form a line either side a path that runs through the border.  This border was first planted from about this time last year and it’s on the to do list to write up the story of its development.  I will. I will.

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There is one last shout of colour in the garden.  The container pelargoniums are stubbornly hanging on.  Cold weather is forecast for this weekend so its seems right to give them their five minutes of fame now.

Looking forward to seeing what’s going on in your garden.  Thanks to The Propagator for hosting the wonderful Six on Saturday.  Read his blog posts and all the other Six on Saturday posts from around the world at The Propagator my plant obsession