Six on Saturday: December delights

I had two incentives to get out in the garden today. Finding six gardening delights and collecting the greenery for decorating the house. I had a window of dryness this morning in what has otherwise been a very wet few days so armed with secateurs and the trusty phone camera out I went. The lawn is squelching and the borders are sodden. I hope the tulips can cope.

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A wheelbarrow of wet ivy that has to dry out in a couple of hours so that I can start creating the annual stair banister decoration.  This is a combination of fake berries, ivy, lights and what ever else comes to hand.  Collecting the ivy involved pushing in around the blackcurrant canes which released their wonderful scent.  That made my morning!

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In a dark corner at the back of the garden I spotted that the ‘Pretty Ellen’ hellebores are in bud and looking full of promise.

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The background to these hellebores is a covering of euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’.  These are supposed to have pink tinged leaves in the winter but I’ve yet to spot them.  I’m not complaining though as the white tinged leaves were singing out from the gloom today.

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More signs of things to come as the viburnums are coming into bud.  These are all very old shrubs, full of beetle holes but soldiering on nonetheless.  I’ve been snipping away at them for three years now, removing the dead branches and cutting back the shrubs around them, and I think I detect signs of stronger new growth and more flower buds.

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The first primrose has been out a few weeks now and really deserves a mention for reminding me that the cycle continues come rain or shine.

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Winning a place this week for its longevity is this astrantia major, with new buds that are making into flower.  Testament to the general mildness of the winter so far.

This will be my last SOS for a couple of weeks.  I wish everyone a very peaceful and happy Christmas and I look forward to catching up with all the news in the New Year.  Many thanks Mr P for hosting this meme, keeping all the links in order and generally being an all round good gardening friend! Did you have any idea of what you were creating?

Six on Saturday: Cold arrives

Colder weather and a cold for me.  I thought I should get on and find my six before the energy levels dropped off so I braved the rain and snapped away. Now the sun has come out and everything looks different, But too late, here are my brown offerings.

One

Not all is brown.  Here is sunrise over the garden earlier in the week.  The neighbouring trees silhouetted against the pink sky gave a dramatic start to the day.  There have been one or two more light frosts but so far it has been a mild start to the winter here.

Two

The temperatures have dropped though and the plants are changing their green colours for brown as the cold takes effect.  I had plenty of this plant in the garden when we arrived three years ago and I have dug out several large clumps.  Can any fern lovers identify it? Or is it bracken?

Three

Some of the anemone leaves have fully turned brown which contrast well with those that are still green.  I’ve been working round the garden removing the brown geraniums and soggy delphiniums and it is a delight to see that weeds are doing so well at this time of the year.  They just cannot be defeated!

Four

The north border that was planted this summer is still looking a little sparse.  I’m hoping the melica grasses will bulk up next year and I have more astrantia seedlings to move in to the gaps.  I have yet to order them but I plan to add in a vast quantity of snowdrops.  I’m thinking a bulk buy of 300 might do it.  That will be fun for February.

Five

The second wave of hellebores have opened up.  Common or garden white ones.  Sadly I lost three of these over the summer.  One end of this border is much sunnier than the other and those at the sunny end suffered from my negligent watering regime. I am regretting that now.

Six

 

The choisya is having a go at its second flowering.  It’s towards the western end of the north border so receives a little of the winter sunshine.  Perhaps today’s sun will encourage a few more buds to open.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be a dry day.  I am probably going to forgo the garden today for a day of sniffling and sneezing inside.  But then that sunshine could be just the thing I need.  More garden updates will be found at The Propagator’s site.  More news from the Prop and from the garden family worldwide.

 

Six On Saturday: First Frost

There is nothing like the first frost to wake up this semi hibernating gardener. It was a light one but it had me scurrying to get the last of the pellies into the greenhouse. Not that my unheated greenhouse offers much protection, the thermometer recorded 1.3 degrees.  Winter approaches and six things in the garden becomes an interesting challenge.  Here’s my motley collection for the week.

One

The last vestige of summer – the second flowering of the delphiniums.  Hardly enough to make a show but such willingness to have a go must be admired.

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Likewise for astrantia major.  This plant is happily self seeding in the garden.  There may come a day when I regard it as a thug but for now  I’m content to relocate the seedlings to other parts.

Three

The first of the hellebores has flowered.  This is a very early variety known as ‘Happy Day’.  I picked it up from a plant sale once upon a time and I’d like some more of them but I haven’t been able to locate them.  I never seem to be around when they are setting seed – note to self: must try harder.  It is time to have a look at the leaves of hellebores and remove last year’s foliage.  More advice on this can be found in this RHS article .

Four

All those good gardeners who have winter structure in their gardens will be smiling smugly now as I try to find the last three.  I don’t have much in the way of seasonal shrubs which I always mean to rectify but never quite get round to.  My long border winter structure comes from four euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.  Every year they take it in turns to look unhappy.  Believe it or not, this is one of the healthier ones.  This year’s sad specimen is being closely watched but I now have two seedling understudies waiting in the wings.

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This is a part of the garden that’s waiting for some inspiration.  It is a narrow border and this half of it has been home to wild blackberries and a thornless cultivar since before we arrived.  This week’s job was to cut back last year’s fruiting canes and bring the whole thing under control again. The berries are welcome in the summer and no doubt some will be kept but each year I manage to get a little more this border turned over to flowers.  Maybe next year I’ll push on to the end of the path.

Six

Last week I borrowed a weeping willow tree from my neighbour and this week I am borrowing a gorgeous rose.  Who knows what it is, but it is leaning over into my garden and looks full of curiosity.  This weekend I will be browsing  rose catalogues from the comfort of an armchair in search for a new climber for this garden.  The passion flower is going and a new rose is coming.

Tulips and roses are in my thoughts for November.  The weather has been relatively gentle here so far.  That cannot be said for other parts of the UK.  I hope you are not suffering flooding or constant rain and that there is something still be found in your gardens.   All will be revealed in Mr P’s roundup and no doubt there will be blue skies from the other side of the world.

Six On Saturday: All will be well

It’s lovely how one phone call can lift the spirits.  Friday was the coldest day of the year for my garden and I was thinking about presenting a six shades of brown.  There were some truly great contenders but in the blink of phone screen my mind set changed and some colours came into focus.

One

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Shouting most loudly to be included this week is the lovely hellebore double ‘Pretty Ellen’.  Even with the downward aspect of the flowers the colour gives a warming glow to a shady corner of the garden.  I think I should have more of these and so I shall look into how to propagate them.  I imagine it will be a slow process.

Two

The viburnums in the back garden are fairing rather better than those in the front garden.  One is a large and oldish looking tree which has the pinker flower and the other is a smaller tree with more consistently white flowers. Both are much loved by viburnum beetle – which I’ve never seen, just the holey evidence of their presence.

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It may be cold out there but the rosemary bush has a gentle dusting of pretty purple flowers.

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The iberis sempervirens that covers the rocky wall of the north facing border is also beginning to flower.

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The leaves of Arum italicum looking beautifully glossy and untroubled by slugs.  I read that these combine well with snowdrops.  My snowdrops are being very shy this year.  It looks like I may have lost some which is very careless of me.  I think it will be another week before a snowdrop picture graces one of my posts.

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The last of my six gives the clue to my delightful phone call.   Last weekend I tackled a good part of the cutting that back that was needed.  Roses were pruned, geraniums and alchemilla mollis cut back and the builder’s bag that is serving as my temporary compost heap was overflowing.  I was longing for the day when the brick structure would be demolished.  I pushed over a few of the less stable bricks and poked and prodded the rest.  Hurrah, no more waiting.  My delightful builder has two free days and will arrive next week with an array of suitably destructive tools and a skip.  I will spend the weekend ferreting out all the debris that accumulates in the garden and down the side of the shed.  All will be well with the world.

For more stories from gardens around the world go to the links on The Propagator site.  Now there’s a man who loves his compost!

 

 

Six On Saturday: The first rule of gardening is…

Things always take longer than you think.  I could have shared six photos from the one gardening job I had to do this week but I didn’t have the phone with me.  It started well.  The two roses I had bought from Thomas Stone arrived.  Thomas had suggested Rosa Madame Isaac Pereire for a sunny south facing border.  I’ll just put them in before it gets dark I thought.  No need to change I thought, this won’t take long.  There were a few trips up and down the path to locate the fish, bone and blood and the spade, oh and the hand fork for a few weeds, and then the  trug for the weeds to go in but then I was ready.  Suddenly that space didn’t seem quite big enough.  The fennel had to come out and those penstemons.  Down the path again for the fork.  Two penstemons, the fennel and a hollyhock later the rose was ready to go in with a sprinkle of FBB and some mycorrhizal powder.  On to the next one.  Again the space didn’t seem quite big enough so there were more penstemons to be moved.  Two found places in a new location but one had to be heeled in.  The verbena bonariensis also looked a bit close so that came out too.  Time to dig the hole.  The rose was going into a spot that turned out to be quite near the dead tree (which has been cut down and buried by mulch).  So back down the path for the loppers to cut through various tree roots.  Turns out this spot is also where I squeezed in several spring bulbs.  So they were relocated.  Finally time to put the rose in.  Darkness is now descending.  Where is the mycorrhizal powder?  Oh yes, under the heap of soil I dug to create the hole.  Rose goes in at last.  Tools collected up and put away, shed is very dark now and clearly full of spiders.  Jeans are filthy.  Hurrah, the roses are in.  But in the night I think Tony Tomeo flew over from the West Coast (into Heathrow).  In the States they plant their roses differently – with the union at soil level.  Here, I do as I’m told and plant the union about 2 inches below soil level. The next morning this greeted me!

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Two  

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My  heeled in plants joined several others in a spot I am trying to keep clear for onions.  It now houses several delphiniums relocated to make way for the gaura and penesetums, a hebe from the front garden, a polemonium – recovering from slug attacks, and now the fennel and penstemons.  They’ll have to find new homes in the New Year.

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In all the trudging up and down I did notice the first of the white hellebores – just in time for Christmas.  It is being photo-bombed by primrose leaves.

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Fat balls have been made for the birds. One part fat, two part whatever is around – dried fruits, bread and some oats.  Of course the squirrels get to them first!

Five

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The blackcurrants have gone!  I kept four for myself – heeled in around the garden and the others have gone to good homes.  The smell as they were dug up was wonderful. Now I have a blank canvas on the north border for my white shade loving plants.

Six

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Time to wish you all Happy Christmas.  Decorating the house has just begun and my small contribution to seasonal light pollution is the wrapping of a string of lights around a bay tree.

It’s a busy time of year but if you need a moment of peaceful relaxation then drop by at Mr P’s.  He maybe playing a bit of Slade but everyone is welcome!

 

Six On Saturday: Is it summer, winter or spring?

The season is clearly changing but the garden seems to be in a state of confusion.  Here are six things from my garden this week.

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Natasha Richardson rose, one of the English roses that just keep on flowering.  Lovely pink flowers and new buds still appearing.  It could be summer!

Two

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Penstemon ‘Plum Jerkum’.  This suffered in the scorching sun of summer but it is happily putting out new flowers now.  It was a great companion to the Tithonia, which truly does know summer is over and is slowly curling up at the edges.

Three

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There are one or two last flowers on the rudbeckia but most have gone to seed.  I will leave them standing through the winter to give some shape to the border.

Four

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The agastache ‘Black Adder’ is also in its winter clothing.  This was an absolute winner this year.  Great colour and always thrumming with the sound of bees.

Five

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Elsewhere in the garden there are signs of Spring.  The primroses are out and offering a reminder that the slugs and snails are still active.

Six

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At the very back of the garden in a shady sheltered corner the hellebores are putting out new flowers.  I am sure these didn’t appear last year until January.  This one is Pretty Ellen.

I’ve got bulb planting to do this weekend.  The start I made last weekend resulted in only 18 bulbs being planted.  As usual I was distracted.  The dahlias needed cutting back, zinnias were pulled up and some of the foxglove seedlings were planted out.  This weekend I will be trying to put a few tulips in the border without crashing in on those that are already there.  Could be interesting.  Wishing you all well with your gardening pleasures. If you want to see what everyone else is up to visit The Propagator for all the latest links to other Six On Saturday posts.

Six on Saturday

I was going to dial in my apologies for this week.  There is much potential in the garden but could I really subject you to six photos of emerging shoots.  Could I cobble together something or would it end up a busted flush?  Well the social streak in me is strong and I enjoy being a part of the #SixOnSaturday meme so here I am again.

One

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As the new growth on the perennials comes through I cut back the old stems.  But the seed heads on these Agastache foeniculum can provide some winter interest in the border for a while longer.  They are  ‘Alabaster’ and give lovely white spires of flowers for the butterflies to feast on in the summer.

Two

Other plants do not fair so well over the winter.  Here are two plantings of Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’.  Those planted at the sunnier end of the border are holding their own but those at the shadier end are disappearing fast.  This is their first year in the garden so it will be interesting to see if they pull through.  But if not, I have the spot at the shadier end earmarked for some more hellebores.  It’s so important to have the right plant in the right place!

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Yes, here is another hellebore photo.  I am becoming a great fan of them and love it when the white ones catch the sun.

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There was a tweet in the week about a rosemary being in flower.  Yes, it is in my garden too.  This border has the sun from early morning to mid afternoon and with its back against the brickwork the rosemary does well here.

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Also doing well are the penstemons. Known for being on the tender side, the advice is not to cut them back until new growth starts to come through.  These penstemons have come through the winter in strong leaf but I won’t cut them back until the weather is warmer and then I will cut back to points of strong growth a couple of centimetres up from the ground.

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And here’s where I bust my flush!  It’s an emerging shoot.  No apologies for being excited to see so much new growth on this iris.  It is an allotment share from a well established clump and has a lovely tall stem with white flowers but I don’t know the variety.  I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and this shows that spring, although postponed for a week,  is on its way.

The Propagator is the place to go to read more #SixOnSaturday posts, just what’s needed after a chilly session in the garden.

Six on Saturday

I’m beginning to feel some sympathy for the long lasting month of January.  Maligned in the old song ‘January, you’ve been hanging on me’ I’ve come round to thinking it does have much to offer.  My hands are cold as I’ve just come in from completing what is the first of my sixes.  Yes, I have been in the garden this week and here’s what I found.

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This morning’s main job was to prune the grapevine.  It produce grapes which inevitably split just as they seem to be ripening so I’ve come to accept that its main role is to shade the pergola.  This is my second year of pruning it (I’m in a new garden if you are new to this six) and I’m getting bolder.  This time I cut out a whole branch on the grounds that it was very clearly crossing.  Otherwise I restricted myself to cutting back to one or two buds, which were clearly  visible.  I think I did this job just in time.  The tree in the background is my neighbour’s enviable willow.

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January is the month for pruning some types of fruit trees.  Earlier on I pruned the Persimmon tree and this week it was the turn of the apples and figs.  The smaller ones I did myself but I called in the professionals for the large fig and a large apple tree both of which had got to a height that had defeated me and my ladder. Which is not actually that great a height.  This photo is the apple tree after the prune.  It is much lighter, but I think the reshaping will take a year or two.

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I recently spotted a bargain buy of 6 helleborus niger and they arrived mid week after a deluge of rain.  The lawn was sodden and the heavy clay soil of the borders was sticky and uninviting but in they went.  The seem to have settled very well. There’s also a bit of colour from some primroses.  I prefer the yellow common primrose but these are staying in for the moment.  Just behind you can see the first of the daffodils pushing through.

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January is also the month when the first snowdrops appear.  Mine, planted in the green last year, are now getting into their stride, edging the line of small apple trees.

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So despite the cold, windy and wet weather that we have had recently the garden is waking up.  Today I also spotted the first new shoots of the lovely magenta phlox that is dotted around the back border.  I can’t wait for these to be in flower again.  But first I’ll need to cut out last year’s dead stems.

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Finally, a rosebud.  It may not make it into a fully formed flower if the rain and cold weather continue but it is another cheering sign that the seasons are changing.

Yes. It’s a thumbs up for the end of January at least.  For more news and views from the other sixer gardens stop  by The Propagator’s blog for links to the posts for this Saturday.

 

Six on Saturday

January.  The second month of winter and often the coldest.  A walk round the garden to collect this week’s six was pretty grim.  But these are the cycles of the year and just when you think it’s all weeds and brown stuff something comes along to cheer the soul.  Let’s deal with the weeds and brown stuff first.

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Here’s the celandine that insinuates it way into so many nooks and crannies.  It’s looking very comfortable at the bottom of the hydrangeas.  Much as I despair of it, I know that it is a sign of better things to come.  The cheerful yellow flower just about passes muster and in no time at all it will be hiding away until next year.  This is one I have learnt to live with.

Two

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More weeds.  This is ground elder corner.  I spent a great deal of time last year digging out ground elder by the bag full.  I then planted up the space with annuals because I know I will be digging it out again this year.  The annuals have been pulled up and of course the weeds have jumped at the chance to put on a display.  But any day now… Please note: the broken flower pot is my frog shelter and not my careless gardening!

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Brown stuff:  My kerria is in a bad way.  Last year the RHS reported on kerria blight and  my kerria have it.  The RHS advice is that it is caused by the fungus Blumeriella kerriae and that it is best managed by removing all infected plant material and either burning it or disposing of it at a local council composting facility.  That’s a job to add to my lengthening list.

Four

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Good grief! The tulips planted in pots are just appearing.   I planted two layers per pot and it may be that the top layer is a little shallow.  I hope they manage to put on a good show when the time comes to flower.  Time for some finger crossing.

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Can you date a garden by the plants that grow there?  When was the height of planting for Bergenia cordifolia?   It’s not one of my favourites but it is listed as a perfect pollinator; it’s hardy; good for ground cover and it flowers early.  The leaves have lasted all winter and spotting this emerging flower was a happy moment.

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Another uplifting moment was achieved with some contortion.  Hellebores are so modest, their flower heads studiously nodding downwards, but getting down to their level is well worth the effort.  This one is Pretty Ellen, featured in an earlier six but now getting into its stride.  I have just about won the battle with the fox who was using hellebore corner as a route through the garden.  Repairing the fence panel saved the hellebores from further trampling and the fox simply found another rotting panel to wriggle through.  I’m happy to allow the fox that route as it is in the corner behind the shed.

Wishing you all good things in your garden, winter is half way through and spring is fast approaching.  For more gardening news and views visit  The Propagator my plant obsession for a great selection of links to gardens from around the world.

Six on Saturday

After a few weeks away from these posts and the garden there is much to be done.  No time for looking back on past successes and inevitably remembering all that didn’t get done.  Here’s what is happening in my garden now.

One

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The first buds on the Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii have appeared.  I planted four as 9cm pots in Autumn 2016 and so this is the first flowering year.  Although one of the four is still suffering from an unknown malaise, possibly too wet a position, the other three are romping away and giving me the beginning of a structure to the new border.

Two

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This is Hellebore Happy Day.  I bought this from a market stall, seduced by the discounted price.  On doing some research I discovered that it is a Hellebore Niger which has been specially developed for early flowering, mainly from October to December.  I can confirm that it was early to flower and I am interested to see how long it keeps going. It is providing a good splash of brightness in the winter gloom.

Three

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Not yet in flower are these snowdrops.  These are also part of the new garden planting.  This time last year I dug out a good sized rectangle of grass around the fruit trees and on a cold and sleety day I planted about 100 snowdrops in the green along one edge of each of them.  In retrospect I should have planted greater numbers to create a bigger impact.  I will review them when they flower this year – one for a future six.

Four

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Getting to know a new garden is a long term process.  Understanding which parts dry out soonest, which stay wet and soggy and which are the sunny corners takes several years.  This osteospermum is a division of an existing plant that I moved in the summer.  It was probably the wrong time to move it, but the parent plant was very leggy and I was trying to weed around it.  Parts of the plant broke off as I tried to disentangle it.  With a gardener’s optimism I dug a hole in a sunny corner and planted the divisions.  I now know that the sunny corner is also very sheltered as the osteospermum has continued to flower through the winter.  Now I need to see what else will enjoy that spot.

Five

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Here’s a view of one corner of the veg patch.  The last of the parsnips have been pulled and eaten.  I grew Tender and True from seed planted in late April.  The other beds were for Carrots Nantes 2, Cucumber,  Onions and Shallots.  The cardboarded raised bed was for courgettes and sweet peas.  The far bed was the cut flower patch, which will host potatoes this year.  I’m a semi planner.  I won’t be doing multi coloured charts but I will rotate crops and I will be planting more varieties this year.  There may be a pencil plan in a notebook but I think that will be it!  I will share the progress here.

Six

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Saving the best for last, this morning I collected my new Niwaki herbaceous sickle from the post office.  I can’t wait to use it.  The borders are in need of a tidy but this morning we had the first frost for many weeks and I shouldn’t be walking on the frosted grass.  I can do along the paths and maybe there will be time when the frost has melted.  I came across this tool in Thomas Stone’s blog   Christmas gift ideas for the gardener in your life.  I am sure I am going to be tempted by more of Thomas’ suggestions.  Christmas may be over but the gardening carries on!

I hope you have some time to enjoy your garden or allotment this weekend. 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