Six on Saturday (23 January 2021)

Brrrrr. It’s rather cold outside this morning and there’s talk of sleet and snow in these parts on Sunday. I’m considering venturing out into the garden later, after a coffee and a slice of leftover Christmas cake, to tie in a few climbing roses and to remove some of the duckweed from the pond. Then again, I might just make myself another coffee, have an After Eight mint or three and watch the birds from the comfort of the sofa. But first things first; ’tis Six on Saturday time.

1. Last weekend I went through my existing collection of seed, disposing of several packets of this and that. I was quite ruthless and yet I still have more than I probably need. And I placed an order for some more on Sunday evening… and bought two packets on Friday.

2. Back in November I committed to planting crocus bulbs in the lawn. I was beginning to think they were never going to make an appearance, but over the past week I’ve noticed several shoots. Alas, I didn’t really think it through as many are coming up along the routes taken to get to the shed, bird feeders and patio. I fear most will be trampled on before they reach flowerhood.

3. Yesterday, as I was making my way to the patio to chill out with a pair of robins that furtle beneath the Daphne, I detected the unmistakable fragrance of the dwarf Christmas Box. It’s covered in buds (and berries) that are poised to unfurl. Only a few flowers have opened thus far but it won’t be long until these tiny blooms are filling the garden with their sweet and wafty scent.

4. Next up, another Wilko purchase. I’ll probably regret this come early summer when the slimy plant assassins of the night are snacking on the new foliage. However, if it survives and the flowers resemble the photo all will be forgiven.

5. The frost hardy Gardenia ‘Crown Jewels’ purchased last summer appears to be sporting some new growth. Fingers crossed it shrugs off further colder snaps.

6. And finally… The skeletons of some little alliums over by the Daphne; a welcome reminder of last summer.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

Six on Saturday (16 January 2021)

A wet and miserable day like today seems the perfect time to start planning and placing my seed orders. But before any hasty online purchases are made I’m going to spend an hour or so sorting through my leftover packets of seed, reminding myself of what grew well (Cosmos) and what was disappointing and will never be grown again (Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ will top that list). I’m also going to ponder whether to have a third and final attempt at growing the “easily grown in a cool greenhouse or sheltered spots” (but apparently not for me) South African Foxglove. Anyway, time for Six on Saturday.

1. Last year’s crispified flowers of the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ are still adding some structural interest in the garden, although I find quite a few of the flower heads on the lawn after a breezy day. I must look up how to prune this come the spring.

2. I spotted a goldfinch enjoying the seeds of a Verbena bonariensis earlier in the week. Those in the south facing front garden have started to sprout new growth. Although it readily self-seeds around the garden, I tried taking cuttings of these new shoots last year, without success. Undeterred, I’m going to give it another go.

3. There are signs of new life elsewhere in the garden too. The Black Lace Elder is covered in leaf buds. Alas, the Golder Tower Elder that I over zealously sprayed with a home made aphid-zapping soapy concoction last summer is not. Lesson learnt. There are plenty of buds lower down the 7 foot stems though. I’m considering chopping it right back to the ground in the spring in the hope of generating some vigorous new growth.

4. Next up is something of a panic buy. It seems a little early to be purchasing Dahlias but I spotted these in Wilko, there were only a few left and it would have been madness not to acquire a pack there and then along with another variety that I’ll share next weekend.

5. The Dahlias haven’t been the only plant purchases though, oh no! I had a £10 voucher from Sarah Raven last month and last Sunday, with just 1 day left before the voucher expired, I started making my way through her spring catalogue. Several plants and a packet of seed were ordered but before I knew it I had strayed onto the websites of other plant purveyors. Several more purchases may have been placed, most of which won’t be dispatched until March. However, one lot arrived on Friday, which took me by surprise. I’d not purchased online perennials before the first Lockdown. I quickly discovered that posted perennials can be somewhat underwhelming, so my expectations regarding the contents of this box were far more realistic than they would have been in 2020.

Hopefully these will one day become a fully grown Geranium of some sort, Anemone leveillei and Anemone ‘Wild Swan.’ I think I’ll leave them in their pots for now.

6. And finally… Around this time last year I bought a few pots of bulbs to create some early indoor pre-Spring cheer. I’ve done the same again. This photo was taken 2 weeks ago.

And this is it now.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday (9 January 2021)

One of the main things that Six on Saturday has taught me over the past few years is that even during the short cold days of Winter there’s always something going on in the garden. There may not be as many cor-look-at-that-stunning-flower photography moments, but when you start looking you always find some signs of life and reminders that the garden will be green once more and filled with floriferousness aplenty come the spring.

1. Some signs of life seem a little early though. These new unfurling leaves on the Hydrangea ‘Miss Belgium’ took me by surprise. It seems far too soon for such goings on and I’ve not chopped off her faded flowers from last year yet.

2. The Persian Slipper Lupin is also sporting new foliage. This variety tends to fare a bit better than other lupins when it comes to slugs, snails and aphids. It got relocated a few months ago when I was doing a bit of rearranging so it’s nice to see it has survived its move.

3. Now this one is more of a sign of signs of life; of the feathered variety. Over the past week the blackbirds have polished off most of the Pyracantha berries (with some assistance from a male blackcap). I guess they’ve been saving them for a cold spell. Only a few bunches remain, over by the mini greenhouse where they aren’t quite so easy to get at.

4. Next up, a photo of the frosted foliage of the Esceallonia hedge out the front. 20 years old and shared with the neighbour, it has been looking increasingly sorry for itself over the past few years. Sections have become brittle and bare of leaf in the summer and other Escallonia hedges on the estate appear to be suffering from the same problem. I tried cutting one plant right back to the ground last spring and a section of the stump sprouted some new growth, but not much. It was also sprayed every now and then with an organic black spot treatment and given a regular feed during the summer, but I’ve not noticed any obvious improvement. Our neighbour doesn’t seem too concerned but I wonder whether the whole lot will need digging up and replacing at some point. I hope not.

5. Since the Autumn the edge of the shed roof, just above the guttering, has been sporting an increasing number of green mossy clumps. I do like a bit of moss.

6. And finally… Daphne odora II is sporting flower buds. Hopefully it won’t be long until the fragrant flowers open and I can tiptoe across the border again, trying to avoid trampling on the emerging shoots of bulbs, to inhale their delicious scent and take another photo.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday: frosty foliage (2 January 2021)

Before I had a garden I used to think January was a gloomy old month. Nowadays I feel a bit differently about it. Though there’s a while to go until spring arrives, there are early signs of hope as bulbs begin to poke up through the soil and the days gradually start to lengthen. There are winter flowering shrubs to appreciate, the antics of the birds to enjoy and beautiful frosty morns to marvel at. Talking of frosty morns…

1. Thursday and Friday dawned bright and sparkly, turning most of the evergreens into variegated versions of themselves. While the Daphne x transatlantica ‘Pink Fragrance’ hasn’t flowered anywhere near as prolifically as the white Eternal Fragrance, it’s starting to add some welcome structure to the border near the conservatory door.

2. The standard Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ is also helping to provide some evergreen winter interest in a nearby border. It looks like there’ll be flowers soon too.

3. For reasons unknown I don’t think I featured a flowering Verbena in 2020. Madness. Still, it looks just as lovely with its frosted seedheads.

4. Before the frost I was struggling to think of six gardeny things and feared I may finally have to resort to a Box Balls SoS. But you’ve been spared that fate. Here’s a close up of one instead.

5. Next up, the prettified foliage of the patio rose ‘Violet Cloud’.

6. And finally… a Rudbeckia. Yes, it’s still going and looks very much like it has been sprinkled with sugar in this photo.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. All the very best for 2021 everyone. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday (26 December 2020)

I’m not sure whether you’re supposed to greet people with ‘Happy New Tier’ when you move up a level or not (we’ve gone up to 3 today). Perhaps only if you move down. I hope everyone is having as good a Christmas as possible given the situation. I’ll be heading out into the garden later to make sure the swing seat cover is secure before Storm Bella arrives. But not before I’ve helped make a raspberry tiramisu and a Caerphilly Crumble for Boxing Day dinner, though as Mrs OMAHGT and I can rarely find Caerphilly cheese and usually end up using Cheshire instead, the crumble may have to be renamed. Anyway, time for Six on Saturday.

1. Last Sunday afternoon I surprised myself and tackled quite a few of those gardening tasks on my to-do list, including clearing the tiny wildlife pond. An overly enthusiastic water buttercup that was taking over has been removed. This is the second time I’ve planted too vigorous a plant in the pond (a water mint was got shot of last year after it made a bid for freedom into the border). A bit more research will be required before I find a replacement. Still, hopefully the pygmy water lily will do better next year with less competition.

2. Now that we’ve passed the shortest day the countdown to spring has begun. And behold! Some bulbs have started to come up. I’ve no idea what they are but they’re a rather cheering sight.

3. My wife and I spotted these two garden bird ornaments whilst wondering around a garden centre back in the summer. They now live on the garden shelves.

4. Last March I attempted a bit of woodwork, something I haven’t had a go at since the early years of high school. It’s meant to be a nest box for a robin. The thing stands out rather with its ‘coastal mist’ paint job but the Coronilla is starting to conceal it… a little. I doubt a robin will take up residence though.

5. Remember that Cotoneaster seedling I found growing in the garden last year? It has formed one solitary berry. I’ve no idea what variety of Cotoneaster it is but I thought I’d try and train it as a standard. Trouble is I don’t really have a good spot for it and I frequently find myself digging the thing up and moving it every time I want to make room for this and that.

6. And finally… Holly. Well, sort of. It’s an old stained glass Christmas tree decoration that I made from a kit thirty-something years ago. You had to put the metal frame on a baking tray, add some coloured beads, plonk it in the oven for a bit and viola… I mean voilà! It’s ageing much better than I am.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday: preparing the garden for winter (19 December 2020)

I’ve been re-reading the five books written by Lloyd Alexander that make up The Chronicles of Prydain series about a young assistant pig keeper called Taran. They’re a sort of Lord of the Rings for children and adults, only less wordy, more humorous, inspired by Welsh mythology, often profound and frequently moving. One of the characters, Coll, is a retired warrior-come-farmer who loves his garden, but I never really appreciated the gardening references until now.

“You are the oaken staff I lean on,” Taran said. “More that that.” He laughed. “You are the whole sturdy tree, and a true warrior.”

Coll, instead of beaming, looked wryly at him. “Do you mean to honour me?” he asked. “Then say, rather, I am a true grower of turnips and a gatherer of apples. No warrior whatever, save that I am needed thus for a while. My garden longs for me as much as I long for it,” Coll added. “I left it unready for winter, and for that I will pay a sorry reckoning at spring planting.” (from The High King)

I’ve been slightly remiss in preparing the garden for the winter this year. Not that I’ll be growing turnips come Spring, but I should probably give the standard Buddleia and the standard roses a slight prune to prevent wind-rock. I definitely need to clear the increasingly soggy piles of fallen leaves from the gravel path, and I still haven’t tidied the pond. I should have plenty of time to tackle these gardening tasks when I finish work on the 22nd December for Christmas (the days will start getting longer too!) Not that it feels much like winter temperature-wise at the moment and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Strawberries. They’re free range, roaming about the garden mostly unchecked, and I rarely manage to get to them before the slugs or birds do during the summer.

2. Another week, another Ilex. This one is Ilex Crenata ‘Dark Green’ and it went to look very sickly back in the summer of 2019. I chopped the shrub right back, dug it up and plonked it in a pot, not holding out much hope for its survival. Left to fend for itself, the little Ilex appears to have recovered.

3. The Daphne x transatlantica ‘eternal fragrance’ is still flowering. There haven’t been many months this year when the semi-evergreen hasn’t been in bloom. A grand shrub that really earns its place in a small garden.

4. Back in the summer I felt the need to add some more evergreen structure to the garden. As well as acquiring a lollipop topiary Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ I also added a standard Euonymus japonicus ‘Bravo.’ The variegated foliage is helping to provide some cheer on gloomy days. I’m trying to ignore a nagging feeling that I may have planted it too near the blue shed and a climbing rose.

5. A ray of floral sunshine, this Calendula is still going strong out in the front garden.

6. And finally… Inspired by Pádraig’s Six on Saturday I decided to add some Christmas cheer to the garden, hanging the odd bauble about the garden.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe and have a Happy Christmas.

Six on Saturday (12 December 2020)

Last Sunday afternoon I finally finished planting my spring bulbs. It was a relief to tick it off the ‘to-do’ list. That just leaves the pond to tidy up, a Korean Lilac to move (it’s too close to the new garden arch) and the borders to mulch… unless I leave the border mulching until the spring. Decisions, decisions. One job I don’t need to worry about this weekend is rose planting, which leads us straight to my first Six on Saturday…

1. A bag containing not one, not two but three bare root roses arrived in the middle of the week. I went for another Little Rambler climbing rose for the other side of the garden arch (I pondered getting a different variety but decided to opt for symmetry), a Chandos Beauty for my wife and a purple Minerva. I was a bit panicky when they were delivered and planted them during my lunch break assuming they needed to be plonked in the ground there and then. But after reading the planting instructions it turns out they could have stayed in the bag as was for up to two weeks.

2. The faded flowers of the ‘Miss Belgium’ Hydrangea are still providing some interest. They’ve turned an unusual greeny-pinky colour.

3. Ilex crenata ‘Twiggy’ was dug from the ground in early spring to make space for a standard lavender. It seems to be happy in a pot over by the blue shed, though I think it will be a while until it needs any pruning.

4. I put up a few nest boxes towards the end of February. Nobody moved in. However, I spotted a pair of blue tits inspecting this one earlier in the week so it looks like they have already started sussing out potential nesting spots for next year. It’ll be interesting to see if we have any occupants in the spring.

5. Talking of birds, I noticed this robin watching me plant the remaining spring bulbs on Sunday, all the while singing very softly. This was one of the few non-blurry snaps I managed to take; an interesting pose as he/she eyes the feeder.

6. And finally… The buds of the Coronilla in the back garden have started to open. It’s a paler variety than the one that grows out in the front and more of a climber too. It’ll go on flowering now until April. Hopefully, when the sun shines and my sense of smell returns I’ll be able to appreciate the fragrant blooms.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday (5 December 2020)

A brisk Six on Saturday as I’m feeling cream-crackered. I suspect the most green-fingered thing I’ll do today is put up the artificial Christmas Tree, but fingers crossed I may resume the bulb planting tomorrow.

1. First up, a houseplant. They don’t feature very often in my Six on Saturdays but this was rather noteworthy. I’ve been growing bored of the post-Covid loss of smell and taste. On a whim I decided to rub a Pelargonium leaf between finger and thumb to see if I could detect the slightest whiff of the lemon-sherbety foliage. And you know what? I could!

2. Keen to see if I could detect the scent of any other fragrant foliage I went outside and sought out a Corsican mint I planted earlier in the year. Again, success. This bodes well.

3. Several weekends ago I planted up a pot for a bit of evergreen interest during the winter months. It contains a new fern (don’t tell my wife), a variegated ivy, a red cyclamen and some primula or other.

4. Talking of evergreens, the Clematis ‘Freckles’ is continuing to climb up the garden arch. It’s growing surprisingly quickly.

5. I always forget I have the Cotoneaster horizontalis as it’s hidden away in a corner behind the Buddleia. To take this photo I had to clamber over a few bags of manure and negotiate several trays of primula, getting snagged by a standard rose in the process. I must tidy things up a bit.

6. And finally… This Rudbeckia ‘Daisies Mixed’ is still going strong. The least said about the ‘Cherry Brandy’ variety the better.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.

Six on Saturday (28 November 2020)

I have ‘the’ Lurgy. My wife caught it at her workplace and I tested positive on Monday. Neither of us started off with the classic symptoms where they advise you get a test (a new and persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of smell or taste). We both began with runny noses, slightly funny feeling throats (leading to the briefest cough every so often) and headaches; more like cold symptoms initially. My wife has completed her 10 days of self isolation and is feeling better. I’m getting there, I just have strangely painful eyes and feel achey. On Monday I wasn’t sure if the achiness was down to the Covid or from overdoing it in the back garden last weekend. And that leads me to my first SoS…

1. Bulb planting. It’s not a job I particularly enjoy and as usual I managed to slice through some of those planted last year.

2. On Sunday I started planting some of the tulips. I’m going to have to evict the sweet peas sooner rather than later as I’ve run out of pots.

3. Inevitably bulb planting resulted in moving the odd plant or two, including this young Sweet Box (possibly Sarcococca hookeriana ‘somethingorotherus.’) The parent plant was got shot of last year as it was getting too big and messy and had a tendency to sucker. This little fellow must have grown from some rooty remains lurking beneath the surface. It’s been relocated near the bird bath where its fragrance can be better appreciated early next year.

4. Talking of fragrance, the first of the Winter Honeysuckle flowers have started to open. Normally I would wax lyrical about the scent of these flowers. However, I can’t smell a thing. Both my wife and I lost our sense of smell around day 4 or 5 after testing positive. Trying to suss out if the milk is still okay to use is proving rather tricky!

5. Hopefully my sense of smell will have returned by the time the flowers of the Coronilla open.

6. And finally… in order to free up pots for tulips I finally got around to digging up some carrots that were sown way back when. They weren’t going to win any prizes.

They were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Stay safe.