Six On Saturday: Keeping my head down

It all feels a little grim out there so I’m focussing on the garden. Yes, pretty grim there too, at this time of year, but there’s always something to distract the attention from everyday life. The last of the tulip tree branches that landed in the garden a few weeks back have been shredded and the chippings were used to mulch the raspberries. Rain and foggy mornings have been the overwhelming features of the last week and those tulips bulbs are still waiting to be planted. The thin border seems to be missing some things and quickly the bare patches are being colonised by geranium ‘Gravetye Manor’. This will have to be taken in hand. I am thinking about planting some grasses along this border, something I didn’t think I would ever do here. But what is happening now? Here’s this week’s six.

One

These are the rain-soaked berries of sarcococca confusa, planted out to replace a box shrub. I’m very happy with this one and it’s doing well in the shadow, and dryness, of the front garden magnolia.

Two

I have dipped into planting grasses in a few spots in the garden. It was suggested to me that they combined best with plants with smaller flowers. But here I have planted them behind hydrangeas. This is calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. It’s difficult to show its true effect as it is still a young clump but the winter colour is wonderful.

Three

Winter structure is what a garden needs now, and I don’t have much of it! I used to have four euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii but three gave up the struggle to survive in a heavy clay border. For some reason this one battles on and is looking quite strong at the moment. There is always a seedling or two going spare so I have planted out one in a sunnier spot and I have one in a pot ready to drop into a suitable place come Spring. With free plants available I am happy to try them again.

Four

Lining up against a sunny brick wall suits the sage and rosemary shrubs. The rosemary is in flower again, something for the bees to enjoy.

Five

The seeds pods of iris foetidissima are splitting open and giving splashes of colour here and there. These come up underneath the rhododendron and viburnum trees, happily colonising difficult spaces. They are very happy in these tough corners and every now and then need to be thinned.

Six

I am just wondering if I am going to have a second crop of potatoes this year. These are the ‘left behinds’. Could there be a crop for Christmas? I’ll leave them in for as long as the green manure stays and then we’ll see.

There are some fabulous colours on show on Jim’s Garden Ruminations, plus some thoughts for future sixes. With some ingenuity we will get through the winter and keep our posting going. It could become bizarre though! Take a look at the links that appear throughout the day and see what emerges. Happy Gardening.

Six On Saturday: Hope springs again

Dare I say it? It is the last weekend of August. September is in sight and a sense of the seasons changing is in the air. This weekend is set aside for apple picking and it seems that the plums are also ready to pick. There was a good long downpour last Thursday and all the water butts are full again. Here’s six from this week’s garden.

One

I’d left my ‘Jazzy’ new potatoes in the ground, digging them up as and when needed. After the heavy rain of Thursday morning I thought I’d better dig them all up for fear of leaving in them the soggy ground. A few forks in revealed that the surface was nicely damp but down below things were still pretty dry. I did dig them all up, collected a few windfalls and picked the outside San Maranzo tomatoes. These are so much smaller than those in the greenhouse, but appreciated nonetheless. The potato haul was 8kgs, which I am more than happy with.

Two

It’s a good crop of plums this year. Variety unknown. As is common, they are suspect to plum moth so the early ripening fruits often have those darling maggots. This means that each plum is cut in half and checked over before use or more usually before freezing. That’s another job for the weekend.

Three

One way or another I always seem to end up with a packet of sunflower seeds and for no reason at all I usually sow a handful. This year’s plants have grown to heady heights, loving the heat and somehow drawing on a secret supply of water. They are going to seed now and have been tracked down by the local parakeets who are managing to balance on the flower heads and are feeding excitedly on the seeds.

Four

I’m slightly more proud of sowing the seed of thalictrum delavyi. From my less than perfect notes it looks like the seed was sown in 2020. Two years on then and they look firmly established. It’s quite difficult to capture their delicate flowers with the trusty phone camera but this isn’t too bad.

Five

Dahlias. Not a fan, but somehow I always have a few in the garden. This one was grown from seed last year and the tuber left in the ground over winter. I prefer the simpler variety. It has perked up considerably after rainfall.

Six

This hart’s tongue fern was also a sad sight before the rain came. Now plumped up again and flourishing. The garden’s resilience is encouraging.

There’s more gardening celebrations to be found on The Propagator’s site. Yes, crispiness abounds but it’s always possible to find something to enjoy. Lift your spirits with a visit to the other SOS garden posts. Happy gardening.

Six On Saturday: It’s getting better

The garden has been surging forward in this last week of sunshine. But hold on, there is cold weather to come. April can be a cruel month. Even so, gardeners are getting busy and anticipation is high. Here’s six from this week’s garden.

One

The thalia have arrived, my favourites. But no sooner do they open out then the slugs slither up the stems and nibble the flowers. Sad, but I have learnt to shrug my shoulders, sigh and move on.

Two

I am showing the muscari again! I had some left overs in pots, awaiting an opening in the garden. I have now put them into a shadier border and the colour looked so strong in the shadows. I’ll get away with it this year because they benefited from the warmth of a sunny corner before I planted them out. Next year I might find that this spot is just too shady for them.

Three

The perennials are really bulking up and the lovely leaves of thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’ look great. The dark stems are already quite striking. These are in a shady spot too and do very well.

Four

The seed potatoes are chitting away but back in February I planted up three or four in an old compost bag and left them in the greenhouse. The top shoots have just come through so another layer of compost will be added. I might have some early new potatoes in April.

Five

The tomato seeds sown in early March have been potted on. These are destined for the greenhouse. For the moment they are in the spare bedroom.

Six

The pergola project is moving forward with very little sucking in of breath! There is a possibility it will be done next week. In anticipation of a smart new pergola, a smart new garden table was purchased. The old pergola is doing a good impersonation of being a solid structure, but the truth is hidden. All four support legs are rotting away. Now I am anticipating the sunny months to come. In my dreams I also see a trachycapus fortunei swaying in the breeze. Does anyone have experience of growing those in pots?

I am, as always, delighted to compliment The Propagator on his dedication to SOS. All the links to this joyful meme will be found there. Wishing everyone a great gardening weekend.

Six on Saturday: Thinking aloud*

Having spent the last few months day dreaming of garden projects it is time to get real and decide what is going to be put in place and what’s not. I’d love to have a multi stem silver birch and have a space in mind for one, but it would mean displacing three Darcy Bussell roses and it would create a dry spot where the gooseberries grow. That’s not happening. Last year I talked myself out of planting up a grass corner on the grounds that it would be too shady. This year I am going to do it. I might lose a plant or two but that happens every year, usually due to slugs. I didn’t plant Jean D’Arc crocuses, deciding that, as they are Dutch varieties, they would be too large. This year I will go big and order them. February is a month of anticipation, pole position on the grid, foot hovering over the accelerator, but patience is required. There’s plenty of time yet. So ease back and enjoy what is happening now with this week’s six.

One

I noticed that flowers had started to appear on the rosemary bush. This and the sage were inherited and the sage was showing signs of age last year. I was ruthless in shaping it up and cutting out some very old stems. This year will show whether this results in rejuvenation or demise.

Two

The very first of the crocuses have shown up. These are in a dry spot underneath a magnolia so I am always impressed that they make it through every year.

Three

The annual showing of the fat buds of clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’. This plant helps the garden through February and into March. It’s scented and has pretty white/pink flowers.

Four

This is sarcococca hookeriana ‘Winter Gem’. A smaller growing (70cm) variety with a pinker flower. It has been a slow starter but in its second year it’s beginning to fill the space.

Five

The front garden hydrangea has a much more open texture than the back garden ones. It’s a lace cap variety and it looks pretty good in winter. The fat buds of this year’s growth are appearing.

Six

Aah, the egg box is no longer empty. The ‘Jazzy’ potatoes have arrived and chitting has begun. Vroom, vroom!

Blue skies are arriving and although it’s a cold morning the afternoon could see some gardening tidying being started. If that doesn’t happen there’s always the chance of an online garden mooch through the SOS links on The Propagator’s site. Take a look, join in, all welcome.

*with due acknowledgement to the radio programme of a similar name.

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.

Three

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.

Six

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: Back in the garden

As I didn’t turn up last week let me start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year with much good gardening to enjoy and less and less of that covid stuff.

I used New Year’s Day to spend some time in the garden cutting back the autumn fruiting raspberries, sprinkling a light dusting of bonemeal around and then mulching with a layer of leaf mould. The fruit trees have had their quarterly dusting of bonemeal and soon the winter prune of the fig tree will be tackled. It felt like Spring already but a frost was to come with temperatures of -3 degrees centigrade recorded in the greenhouse. Now it seems we are back to a spell of warm and wet weather. In general the garden takes it in its stride. Here’s Six for the New Year.

One

I tweeted this frosted rose bub last week. This is the last rose I have to prune but it keeps on putting out new flowers. I think it is going to need a healthy dose of fertiliser come Spring to give it an energy lift. New buds or not it must be pruned soon.

Two

Also on the pruning list are the gooseberries, can’t imagine why I am putting this job off! But I have a new weapon in my armoury against those thorns. A much appreciated Christmas present of Gold Leaf gardening gloves which will offer some protection when I finally get round to tackling this task.

Three

I did grab a quick moment between showers to move a rose. ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ had been lingering in an unhospitable corner trying to valiantly to put on a show for about three years. Not much progress had been made so I decided there was nothing to lose by digging it up and offering a slightly more hospitable spot. I confess to losing part of one root in the process which is a shame as there wasn’t much to start with. Clearly it was not happy where it was. I used mycorrhizal fungi and a helping of Fish, Bone and Blood to help the good Dr on his way.

Four

Some new seeds have been purchased. After the poor crop of ‘San Marzano’ this year I thought it was time to invest in new seeds. I also chose ‘Principe Borghese’ – sucked in by the shiny tomatoes on the packet! I haven’t grown Mangetout for some time but they deserve another go so a packet of ‘Snow Wind’ was thrown in for good measure.

Five

Seed potatoes have also been chosen but are yet to arrive – hence the vacant egg box! I was going to grow a French variety ‘Cherie’ this year but would you believe it, due to Brexit difficulties in sourcing and the high tariffs on things that can be sourced the supplier cannot provide them. Of course you can believe it! So it’s back to ‘Anya’ for me.

Six

The hellebores must get a look in. I’ve been cutting back old leaves here and there and enjoying the slowly developing show. These are ‘Pretty Ellen Red’ in the rain. They share a shady corner with some euonymus.

I have itchy fingers desperate to order new plants for the garden, a few more evergreens for structure and some herbaceous perennials for the border. In another month I hope it will be full steam ahead with more of the garden plans for the New Year.

I’ll be dropping in on The Prop host of SOS and other SOSers over the next few days. It will good to see everyone again. Happy gardening year to you all.

Six On Saturday: Out of control

It’s never a good time to have a twinge-y knee but this mixture of plentiful rain and some sunshine has sent the garden and its weeds into overdrive. Storm Evert blew through yesterday and the hollyhocks were swaying about like seasick passengers on a cruise ship in roiling seas. I nipped out in between the downpours to take some photos. These give you a selective view of the garden. In truth the long border is mass of geraniums that are still waiting to be cut back along with knautia, alchemilla mollis and of course a good selection of weeds. Here’s the good side of the garden for this week.

One

A few weeks back I had a good moan about the zinnias having been eaten by the slugs. Fortunately a small group of them survived and are now in flower. It’s such a shame that they are a slug favourite, I think they do a brilliant job of giving late summer colour. These are ‘Purple Giant’ and ‘Orange King’. I really am giving up dahlias but I will probably sow zinnia seeds next year.

Two

I am always a little amazed at the price of some 9cm plants from online suppliers. But having nurtured these echinacea pallida from seeds sown at least four years ago I can understand why. I can’t remember how many seeds were sown but I only managed to get three though to plants. They spent probably two years in pots until they looked strong enough to cope with those rougher plants in the garden, they flowered last year and look so much better this year. But I hear that echinacea are short lived. Time to sow more seed.

Three

These standard echinacea I did buy in 9cm pots and they have been in the garden for four years. It sounds as though this is a good span. They look pretty settled to me and I can’t believe they are going to disappear any time soon. They are not too crowded out by other plants which may help. Live long please!

Four

Agapanthus is another plant that costs an arm and a leg at the garden centres. After seeing an impressive group of dark blue ‘Midnight Star’ at Hidcote some years ago I decided that I must have some here. I bought some 9cm pots at the aforementioned arm and a leg price and waited for the impact. Three years on I think we are nearly there. They are fronted by achillea ‘Antique White’, a pity bench purchase from a few years ago.

Five

Echinacea is a bit of theme this week. I love these ‘White Swan’. I grew some from seed which are coming along well but I think this group is from a 9cm pot. I will definitely sow more of these to keep a continual supply for the garden.

Six

As posted earlier in the week on Twitter, the potatoes grown in a container were upended and the ever-pleasing job of rummaging for the treasure began. I grew Belle de Fontenay this year, which are classed as second earlies/main crop. Four small seed potatoes were planted in a 17 litre container which was half filled with compost. This was topped up as the leaves came through. I was very happy with the haul of 3kgs, some smaller but a good proportion were of a generous size. The best advantage of growing like this is that there’s no danger of leaving the odd potato in the ground to grow on next year. I might be a convert. I have two rows growing in the ground which will be dug up as and when needed.

More rain is forecast, at least the water butts are full and are being put to good use for watering in the greenhouse. Something has been eating the peppers but I have picked the first one, french beans are cropping slowly, tomatoes just beginning to ripen, courgettes coming through at a good pace and the loganberries and blackberries also just ripening. Don’t mention carrots this year, virtually no germination, the onions might get a little larger and the rocket which has been a steady producer has succumbed to flea beetle. Storm Evert brought down a few apples which reminded me the trees are in need of a summer prune as does the grapevine which is truly out of control. While it rained I watched the RHS video on what I should have been doing. Here’s hoping things are good in your garden. The Propagator has posted sunny holiday snaps and will still manage to host the links to other SOS gardens. More sun needed here please so that I can make a start on gaining control again.

Six On Saturday: Spoilt for choice

The garden is in its stride. Roses unfurling in every corner and perennials jostling each other to claim their spaces. Aphids and ladybirds are fighting it out, the bees thrum busily in the borders and birdsong fills the air. It must be summer. Here is six from this week’s garden.

One

The foreground is taken up by persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’. It spreads, so far quite reasonably but it’s one to watch. Behind is Rosa ‘Jaqueline du Pré and behind that the thalictrum ‘Black Stocking’ from last week, all combining to fill a shadier area.

Two

On a sunnier fence the rambling rose ‘Wedding Day’ is opening up. The first buds are yellow turning briefly to apricot before settling into white. Only flowering once, it’s important to enjoy every moment.

Three

The final rose for this week is ‘Wisley’, chosen because it tolerates some shade. Here it is probably in the shade for about the half the day. It does well, the colour stays true and does not fade away as it might in areas of stronger sunshine.

Four

On to more prosaic elements of the garden. The potatoes in a container are romping away in terms of foliage. I hope this translates to a good crop. They look better than those in the ground, they are certainly receiving more watering.

Five

Aah, sad times now. Earlier in the year I thought the Japanese anemones had caught the frost. But now I think it may be more serious. Some searching suggests crown rot. The leaves are crinkling up at the edges and new shoots are wilting away. I have cut out all the damaged foliage but it seems to be spreading through the plant. Looks like I will have to say goodbye to this one and sadly to the one next to it. Any advice gratefully received.

Six

Apples are forming and falling as the June drop takes effect. All the apples from the garden are made into apple juice. This year our supply of juice has already run out and we are buying from the supermarket. Even though we are choosing English apple juice the taste is nowhere near as good. Roll on harvest time when we can go back to raising a glass of the home grown again.

We are heading for a heatwave on Sunday and Monday. The weekend will involve watering, especially the greenhouse tomatoes. The coriander looks ready to bolt, but mint and basil look sturdy. I still have annuals to plant out, but it feels like the garden is moving into a stable period when deadheading and watering are the most important jobs. But most important of all is taking some time to sit and enjoy it all. Keep cool and enjoy your weekend and perhaps take a moment to chat with other SOSers on The Propagator’s site.😎

Six On Saturday: I’ve got sunshine on a rainy day

Forgive the slight tweak of The Temptation’s lyric but it is definitely raining here. Fortunately I managed to get some gardening done yesterday, moving round one small corner border that had been niggling me for a while, sowing the second row of parsnips and radishes and direct sowing some seeds for the cut flower patch. I’m hoping to ride the wave of this weekend’s rain followed by warmth. The sunshine in this six comes from earlier in the week.

One

Sunny, bright and bold. These were not my choice of tulip combination, they came free with a bulb order. I can’t say I even wanted to plant them but I used them to line a short path to the veg plot and they haven’t done too badly.

Two

Much more in line with my preferred tulip is ‘Angelique’ a double which can sometimes be a little OTT but hiding in amongst the thalictrum it is just right.

Three

Last of the tulips for this week is one of my favourites. ‘Spring Green’. I have it planted with ‘Angelique’, with ‘World Friendship’ and in a trio with ‘Ronaldo’ and ‘Negrita’ Here the petals are just catching the light as the sun moves round the garden.

Four

Back into the sunshine. The camassias that were planted into very wet ground last autumn have pulled through. These are camassia leichtlinii caerulea, they should reach a metre high. I’d say they are a little off that at the moment!

Five

My one container of potatoes has come into leaf and so it is time for the first top up of compost. These were planted a few weeks after those that went in the ground but they have come through at the same time. Those in the ground may have been planted deeper.

Six

The onion sets started in modules went into the ground this week and are I’m sure they will be enjoying the steady stream of magic water that is forecast for this morning.

The water butts are almost full, the earth looks well soaked and warmer weather is on its way. The slow start to the growing season seems to be ending and summer lushness is on its way. Yes, we finally have the month of May.

Don’t forget to tune in to The Propagator’s page for more SOS posts from around the world. Happy Gardening.

Six On Saturday: Cold April slows my progress

I’m not quite sure how but the garden seems to have been unscathed by the overnight minus temperatures of this week. The magnolia looks fine, the plum blossom seems intact and newly emerging perennials are undaunted. Another cold night is forecast for Sunday but then it looks like positive numbers for the rest of the week. I am still holding back on the seed sowing, but of course there is always an exception. I sowed a tray of nicotiana ‘Whisper’ yesterday. I think these are the smallest seeds I have ever sown, no wonder the guidance is not to cover them with any soil. Here’s six other things that feature in the garden this week

One

The tulips are appearing. I think these are ‘Negrita’. They are part of a mixed planting of ‘Ronaldo’ and ‘Spring Green’ which should be through in the next week.

Two

Forget-me-nots and tulips always seem to work well. I do let them self seed where they like but then I follow behind extricating them from the places that I don’t want them to inhabit.

Three

I think the removal of the willow tree from next door is going to give me some light on the corner of this bed so there will be some re-jigging this weekend to make room for a lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’. The geranium will be thinned out again – Wargrave Pink I think, it spreads very easily.

Four

I have some grown from seed thalictrum delavayi still being nurtured in the greenhouse. Next week they will start spending the days outside in preparation for planting out.

Five

Already living outside and should have been planted out by now, but you know how it is…. are these seedlings of the perennial digitalis lutea. For some time now I have eyeing these suspiciously, wondering if I had been carefully growing weeds. But they have put on a spurt in the last week and I am convinced they are luteas. Don’t hesitate to correct me if you think otherwise! (They are definitely not helleborus niger – just recycling!).

Six

My plan to plant out the last of the potatoes has been thwarted. Whilst digging the second trench I came across some rubble. Unfortunately that was only a herald of things to come. The next discovery was a much more resistant obstacle. The muscle men were called in and after further excavation they decreed that mechanical equipment would be required to break up what looks like the very solid foundations of an Anderson shelter. Live with it or lose it? I am waiting for a quote. The top of the foundation is about a foot deep so I could section the corner off and live with it. We shall see,

Oh for some kinder weather so that I can confidently commit to the garden rather than tiptoeing around the edges worrying about frosts or freezing winds. I ventured out one day last week to tie in the summer fruiting raspberries but was soon back in the warm. The calendula seedlings are reappearing so, despite my hesitation, the ground must be warming up. Time to man up and get out there! I’m sure The Prop will be inspiring me, as will the other gardeners that take part in Six On Saturday.