Six On Saturday: Celebrity opening

The new arch was installed last weekend after a little to-ing and fro-ing over how to put it up without having to prune the apple tree. One of the three cuttings of the rose ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ was planted at the base and all was well. I was then incredibly lucky to be able to have a celebrity cut the ribbon and officially declare the arch open and ready for use.

One

Yes, it is Perry the mascot of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games! #PoseWithPerry. What a treat, our first post lockdown visitor – outside only. I may be as mad as ‘mad Alf’ can be in putting this rose at the bottom of an arch but the cutting was sitting in the garden waiting for a home, so it was swiftly put to good use. Now for the other side. Has anyone grown clematis ‘Freckles’? I am very tempted by the flowering period of November to February but I’m not sure about the flower’s eponymous freckles.

Two

The warm weather brought out the blossom on the first of the plum trees. After four years of ‘let’s give it another year’ this tree had finally been condemned. When we took over the garden the tree was suffering from a split in the trunk that looked terminal but each year the tree healed itself a little more, as the trunk improved so the leaves seemed to dry up and die and the fruit crop diminished. This year the tree is covered in blossom, so inevitably it will get another year’s grace. Sadly temperatures of -2 degrees are forecast next week which may cause some damage to the blossom,

Three

The front garden magnolia buds fully opened up and for while there will be a pink cloud outside the bedroom windows. This is the view on a dismal grey day, so much lovelier in the sunshine but I missed the opportunity!

Four

I have been buying some plants for the shadier areas of the garden and my plan was to plant this hydrangea ‘Limelight’ in a particularly dark corner. Of course it will do better if it has a little more light and with the discovery that one of the blackcurrants has died overwinter I now have a better place for it. I feel quite relieved, but I am would be interested to know if anyone grows hydrangeas in deep shade?

Five

Having promoted the hydrangea to a better place I was serendipitously handed the perfect plant for shade. This is helleborus foetidus. I collected some helleborus hybridus from the Finchley Horticultural Society and there was one lonely foetidus among them so it came home as well.

Six

The thalia are out in all their glory now. They are such beautiful spring flowers and with three flowers to a stem they are very rewarding.

I have sown only one tray of flower seeds so far, some dahlia cacti mix which have germinated. The half hardy seeds I have decided to sow a little later than usual. Next week’s weather is colder and as the greenhouse is unheated I don’t think new sowings will do much. Half of my second early/main crop potatoes are in but I discovered a trench full of rubble where my second planting was due to go. More digging to be done. Spring onions, second tomatoes, and cucumbers are making progress. I have just about enough room on the windowsill for some climbing french beans to be started off this week but everything else is on hold until the cold winds change and the weather warms up again. The Propagator as always hosts SOS with humour – and is not really planning to concrete over his years of dedicated work. This week he features glorious daffodils shining in the sun. Happy gardening to all.

Six On Saturday: Gardening noises

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

Six

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

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

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

Six On Saturday: Cheerfulness

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

Six

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

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

Six On Saturday: Happy New Year Part Two

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

Six

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

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

Six On Saturday: Reasons to be cheerful

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

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

Six

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

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

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

Six On Saturday: Time to be kind to ourselves

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

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

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

Six

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

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

Six On Saturday: The tulips are marching on

Yes I have more tulips and great news: the elusive Ronaldo has appeared and not by zoom from Italy – or maybe he’s in Portugal now. I digress. Here’s what’s lifting the spirits this week

One

The holy trinity of tulips: Ronaldo, Negrita and Flaming Spring Green as they were intended to display.  I still only have two Ronaldo on show, but I have time, I can wait. 

Two

Speaking of waiting, I plan to have the poshest potato patch in N20. Following a tip from Tea Break Gardener I dug a trench along the edge of this year’s potato patch and planted it with a tulip collection.  The first of four to appear is this lovely red one, ‘Sarah Raven’.  They will be joined by ‘Mariette’, a brilliant pink lily shape, ‘Lasting Love’, triumph group, a pinky red and ‘Ballerina’ lilly flowered, orange of course. 

Three

Elsewhere the tulips have been joined by irises.  These came from a friend when we moved here so have been in the ground for four years and I have an urge to divide them.  That’s going on the jobs to do list.

Four

Yes, more tulips.  Those along the inner edge of the long border have come into flower this week.  This is a mix of ‘Shirley’, ‘Queen of Night’, ‘Barcelona’ and ‘Violet Beauty’.  They’ve also been in the ground for four years and are beginning to show their age.  They flowers are not so large and one or two clumps are thinning out.  I have a dilemma: to lift them all and start again with another combination or to add in new bulbs.  Just don’t expect me to make a decision any time soon.  

Five

The beautiful apple blossom has stolen the show in the sunshine.  Even the apple tree that was moved about a year or two ago is laden with blossom.  The result of some expert pruning by a man I know.  This week the ailing  plum tree was pruned by me. It took hours! I decided that the other plum could have the benefit of an expert’s touch.  When it’s done I’ll share the photos of both trees and you can see if you can tell the difference. 

Six

This is so out of season, but in the north facing, deep, dark corner of my garden the hellebores and anemones have just come into flower.  These brave plants deserve to be featured for overcoming the hostile conditions.  I’d love to hear any recommendations for cold, dark, and I should say dry corners.  I’m looking for ground cover suggestions.  

I’ve been sowing more seed, planting the main crop potatoes and celebrating the appearance of three lupin seedlings that were sown on the 29 February.  I’ve noticed a few dead bodies in the borders and I am pondering on a plan to re-plant a small border that’s a bit of a mish-mash at the moment.  This lockdown is giving me time to daydream and rather dangerously there are opportunities to buy plants on line.  For more news on our lockdown gardens take a look at The Propagator’s site.  He corrals all the links for the SOS meme.  Great job!

 

 

Six On Saturday: The fourth week of February approaches

The fourth week of February is a significant week because this is the week I plan to sow some seeds.  Surely if I write this down I will do it?  The sap may be rising in the garden but my mojo is lagging behind.  I have had enough of howling winds and constant rain.  I have some gardening to be done as well as seeds to sow. There was some encouragement from the walk round today.  I can see the geraniums beginning to break through again, the camassias planted last year are coming along and I noticed the cowslips are in bud.   Last week’s primroses, pulmonarias and crocuses are still looking good and the hellebores continue to shine.  Here’s this week’s six.

One

Not one of my favourites but it a good indicator of the change of season.  That stalwart of front gardens, the forsythia has broken into flower.

Two

I’ve added a number of hellebore niger to the garden this year and they have just got their flower heads up off the ground.  I have some lovely soft pink hellebores but these white ones can be seen from the windows, shining beacons of light in the eternal rain.

Three

The annual splurge of euphorbia characias wulfenii is well under way.  Look carefully and you will see the ailing specimen of the four I have.  The regular downpours are not helping it in anyway and are completely destroying my artful symmetry.

Four

The clematis armandii continues to pump out the flower buds and soon there will be flowers.  I’m looking forward to those.

Five

I am training rosa Madame Alfred Carriere along the back fence and it was good to see these side shoots appearing this week.  More promise of things to come.

Six

I’ve been lucky not to have suffered any real damage from the winds.  No shed roof blown off, no broken windows in the greenhouse.  The fir tree in the front garden has stood firm, only shedding a great quantity of cones and one or two twiggy bits which has given the otherwise grey space a certain rustic woodland charm.

The Phillip Larkin poem ‘Coming’ has been on my mind this week, so I will leave you with these thoughts:

A thrush sings, Laurel-surrounded In the deep bare garden, Its fresh-peeled voice        Astonishing the brickwork. It will be spring soon, It will be spring soon –

Time to get the Fish, Bone and Blood sprinkled around and don’t forget to check in with Mr P for more signs of spring and if you get the chance, enjoy your gardening.

Six On Saturday: The walk of shame

What on earth will I find for this weekend? Finding six things to share brings home hard the reality that those gardening jobs are quietly building up – gooseberries to be pruned, raspberries to be cut down, the passion flower, long ago condemned, is still twining its way round the arch and the mild weather is doing the weeds the power of good. Everything is shooting away and gloomily I fear the worst. A prolonged cold spell must be on its way, I am postponing any cut backs in anticipation of a blast of icy weather but am I deluding myself? Shame over and done with, here’s the six good things I found this morning.

One

More hellebore love as the hybridised ones begin to open up.  Irresistible.

Two

The beautiful unfurling of the aquilegia leaves has begun, and diamond drops of rain add to its charm.

Three

The first flowers of the bergenia have appeared.  I’m one of those who underated these plants but I’m working around them, adding in some other leaf forms to create a textured area. It’s a work in progress and I’ll share more as the other plants grow on.  I found an interesting blog from the Beth Chatto garden which mounts a strong defence for the their use in the garden.

Four

The climbing hydrangeas, planted last year to cover the brown fence, are sending out buds right, left and centre.  I’m hoping for a good display of flowers this year but I think it will be a while before the fence is hidden.

Five

This brachyglottis also falls into the bergenia category for me.  Not much loved but once again I am beginning to appreciate it for being a good doer.  It had become very leggy but some serious cutting back last year has perked it up no end and it is looking very healthy.  It sits well under-planted between a mahonia and a viburnum.

Six

The iberis sempervirens is another flower making an early appearance.  Billed as a mid-spring reliable, its appearance in what is still mid-winter seems a little odd.  It is in a sunny corner in a sheltered spot so perhaps this is all normal.

I just need a few more weeks before spring really appears. I will make another promise to myself to get out into the garden and do some jobs.  Sounds like the shame is making a re-appearance.  But not to worry, I’ll ignore it until next week’s six.

Thanks to Mr P for instituting this regime – no, really I do mean that.  I am sure my garden is a better place for it.  If you’d like to be kept on your toes take a look at the blog and see what is going on in everyone else’s gardens.

Six On Saturday: Part daydreams, part jobs to do

I had one last family gathering last weekend before the Christmas and New Year jollities were over and so it is only now that I come to thinking about the New Year in the garden. There are more signs that things are waking up. the first tips of bulbs are pushing through and the roses are shooting. There must be a cold snap to come but so far it continues to be gloomy and mild. A brief spell of sunshine enticed me out to finish planting the very last of the cowslips and I generously potted on some ammi seedlings that were destined  for the compost heap. My six for the week includes jobs to done  and the first of the late winter/early spring flowers.  It may still be winter but my thinking time is spent on plans for the summer.

One 

This is the first snowdrop to appear under the apple trees.  A very cheering sight but also a reminder that I didn’t plant enough here.  I was beaten back by the roots of the apple tree.  I have learnt my lesson on the need for quantity though and have ordered 300 snowdrops to add to the north border to give some early interest.  I hope that does it.

Two

The grape vine over the pergola needs the old grapes removed and its winter prune, something that mustn’t be left too late.  This is a well established vine but it never quite makes it to producing edible grapes.  There are a reasonable number of bunches but just as they ripen they shrivel up.  Even the birds turned their beaks up at them.  I am going to love bomb it this year with regular watering and seaweed extract feeds.

Three

This is the straggle of passion flower stems that clothes the arch.  I may have mentioned this before but as yet it still on the list: my job is to cut these down and try to dig out the roots.  The arch doesn’t have much going for it at the height of summer and I am hoping that a move to the traditional combination of roses and clematis will provide a more attractive view.

Four 

 

The hellebores are coming through now.  This is a hybrid bought from the Finchley Horticultural Society plant sale last year.  I have just order some more  hellebores, taking advantage of seasonal reductions – it is so hard to resist.

Five

This double hellebore, tucked away in a far corner of the garden,  is a favourite.  It is always a treat to find it in flower again.

Six

Celandines, yes but more importantly an empty space.  The celandines are making a land grab but, having cleared out a small self seeded hornbeam, they will be moved on again as the space is designated as the new home for a sarcococca hookeriana ‘Winter Gem’.  A smaller growing  version that I hope will fit into the narrow border.  The celandines will be dug out but never eradicated.  I have come to accept them and they are a sure sign that the season is moving on.

Almost mid January, almost mid winter, we are on the trajectory to spring.  The seed tin has been opened and the dreams of summer are beginning.   I’ve started thinking about seed potatoes and whether or not this is the year to add some grasses to the borders.  Enjoy your garden daydreams and follow those of other sixers at The Propagator a great blog to read and where the links to other sixes are listed.