Six on Saturday (4 April 2020)

The weather is set to turn warmer from tomorrow but last week was decidedly chilly at times. Yet when the sun shone it was very pleasant indeed sat on the swing seat with my gilet on, warming my chapped, decidedly older looking but impeccably clean hands on a mug of hot coffee. The garden appears to be stepping up a gear. Colour is appearing everywhere but not just courtesy of flowers, oh no. And that leads me straight to my first Six on Saturday…

1. A lot of plants in the garden are sporting fresh new foliage, bare branches becoming greener by the day. The evergreen box balls are looking particularly vibrant at the moment with new, rather fetching lime green leaves.

2. This Iberis featured back in January just as it was starting to flower. It’s in full bloom now and mingling nicely with the Grape Hyacinths. I must have another go at trying to propagate it, or perhaps dividing it, so that I can have some more dotted around the garden.

3. Last weekend was spent braving a brisk wind to paint the folding metal garden bench. It was beginning to look very faded and was starting to go rusty in places. I applied a first coat of black paint on Saturday afternoon and a second coat on Sunday. Actually, that’s not totally true. Some of it got a second coat.

When I were’t lad my Head of Year at school told us a story in assembly about a furniture maker who spent just as long sanding and varnishing the underneath of a table as he did the top. Someone once asked him why he did this as nobody would know what the table looked like underneath. The furniture maker simply smiled and replied “But I would know.”

Come Sunday evening I’d finished giving the top of the bench a second coat. It was cold and it was late but the tale of the furniture maker sprung to mind, as it often does. Could I really just leave the underneath of the bench with one very patchy coat of black paint? I pondered this for a while (well, a few seconds) and decided “Sod it, I’ve had enough.” The fiddly/intricate interlinking arches on the front of the bench were left unpainted too; I’ve decided to make a feature of the contrasting black and copper for now.

4. While I was painting the garden bench I discovered this yellow Hyacinth in the border behind it. I always forget this is here, which is a shame as it’s rather lovely.

5. Next up, the undisputed stars of the garden at present, the ‘Brown Sugar’ tulips. Where have you been all my life? I’m burying my nose in the fragrant flowers every time I wander to the patio. These are in pots but I’ll plant them in the borders when they’ve finished. More will be acquired at the end of the year.

6. And finally… The bee fly has been an almost constant visitor to the garden over the past few weeks, enjoying the nectar of Saxifraga, Grape Hyacinths, Primroses and emerging Forget-me-nots. On Thursday afternoon I found it taking a rest on the bottom of a ‘Black Lace’ elder leaf. They’re cute looking things.

And 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 (28 March 2020)

A week of blue skies and sunshine made the first full week ‘self isolating’ not half as bad as it could have been. Still, working from home has proved challenging at times. A dining room chair isn’t as comfy as an adjustable office chair (though a strategically placed cushion has helped). I miss multitasking with two screens (minimising this and that has proved decidedly troublesome). Chocolatey snacks are far too easy to lay my hands on and the working day seems a little longer somehow. On the plus side I’ve been able to spend tea and lunch breaks sitting on the swing seat in the garden watching a bee fly feeding on the nectar from the first of the flowering forget-me-nots, listening to the chirruping of the house sparrows and planning what plants will go where come the summer. With the weather set to turn decidedly chilly from today I suspect such breaks will be taken indoors next week. However, from tomorrow the evenings will be lighter and more after work gardening can commence. That deserves a contented sigh.

Last weekend I potted on the Antirrhinums. Well, most of them; as usual I sowed far too many, got bored of placing individual seedlings in pots and plonked clumps of them in the ground, leaving them to take their chances. Some new seeds were sown, I chopped back the Buddleia and gave the lawns their first trim. And just in time too as our green waste collection has been cancelled for the next few months. I don’t think there’s any major pruning left to do so that shouldn’t prove too much of a problem. As for lawn clippings, I’m going to opt for regular mowing without the grass collector as I’m sure I read that short clippings are beneficial to the lawn. Oh how I wish I had room for a compost heap! Anyway, enough preamble, lets get on with Six on Saturday.

1. First up, Tahiti. When I first grew these last year I wasn’t sure I liked them. However, they won me over and I planted some more bulbs last Autumn. They’re slightly fragrant too.

2. This Pasque Flower in the front garden almost went unnoticed as it was being smothered by a lavender. It always ends up smothered by a lavender. Usually I move the Pasque Flower (which results in a period of sulking). This time I moved the lavender as the border in which they are growing inexplicably grew larger after edging the lawn.

3. This standard Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens can also be found in the front garden, growing in a pot. Last spring the flower buds shrivelled up for some reason so I’m a little anxious how it will fare this time. It was given a trim in the summer and I refreshed the top layer of compost last Sunday, adding some chicken manure pellets. Fingers crossed we’ll have powder blue flowers this year.

4. Next up, more buds. After a successful dalliance with tulips last spring I planted several varieties in November. I’m not sure which these are. Possibly Brown Sugar tulips or Doll’s Minuet. Maybe both. They have some pretty hefty looking stems. However, some tulips are already in flower…

These Single Early Prince Mixed tulips (not the most exciting name as far as plants go) are looking lovely in their pots and a few are also flowering in the borders. The yellow flowers are slightly fragrant which is a pleasant surprise. Yet they’re not the only tulips blooming, oh no!

5. These tulips of short stature are providing a bit of floral drama. Again, some are in pots and some are growing in the ground. In theory they’re supposed to be Clusiana Tubergen’s Gem, a small striped yellow and red tulip that can naturalise if content. Yet there’s no sign of yellow on any of those that have flowered so far. It’s a bit of a mystery. I can only assume a mix up occurred when they were packed by the nursery.

6. And finally… In my last SoS I was pondering the acquisition of some pale blue and white Grape Hyacinths to add to the blue variety that featured last week. I figured I would acquire some next year, but as luck would have it I found both at the County Market shop last Saturday, just before it closed. They’ve been planted along the curving path where they’re adding some much needed spring-like cheer.

And 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 (21 March 2020)

It’s been a funny old week. On Monday it was off to work as normal but at 5pm on Wednesday, having closed the doors to the public, my colleagues and I left the building with laptops and boxes of this and that to see us through potential weeks/months of working from home. I drove away feeling slightly bemused in the purely coincidental but rather eerie end-of-the-world like gloom.

I was originally due to be in London this weekend, taking in a play and visiting this and that while my wife attended another course. Instead I’ll be enjoying my happy place, the garden. There’s a climbing rose to prune, a Sedum to move, seeds to sow, seedlings to pot on, weeds to pull up and, if the lawn ever dries out a little, grass to mow. It’ll provide an opportunity to forget about the everyday and not-so-everyday worries for a little while and to appreciate the joys of nature. And at this time of year there’s plenty to appreciate as the garden begins to step up a gear.

1. The blossom of the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ exploded into action last weekend, helping to brighten up what was a miserably wet Sunday. I hadn’t realised until this year that the flowers start off white but gradually take on a slightly pinkish tinge as they age. This is its second spring and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t plant one years ago.

2. As the ‘Tête-à-tête’ begin to go over other Narcissus are taking their place. The fragrant ‘Faclonet’ is is similar to ‘Jetfire’ colour-wise. It’s only negative is that it tends to look down at its feet, something a ballroom dancing teacher often used to tell me off for when my wife and I were taking lessons: “you won’t find any money on the floor you know” she’d say. I never did either.

3. Another Narcissus up next; ‘Minnow’. The slimy plant assassins of the night seem particularly fond of its petals and I was beginning to fear I wouldn’t find an unnibbled one to photograph. I don’t remember it featuring on the slug and snail menu last year. Even the ‘Jetfire’ in the bottom right picture looks perturbed.

However, one little plant has escaped their attention.

4. I have some new seeds to sow at the weekend. Once I’ve done that I really need to prick out these snapdragon seedlings. My Antirrhinums didn’t do very well last summer, succumbing to rust. Fingers are crossed that they’ll do better this year. The three Himalayan blue poppy seedlings growing in the pot at the front came up weeks ago but haven’t really done much since. Will they make it to flowerhood? Watch this space.

5. Ah, Grape Hyacinths. Not loved by everyone apparently, but I’m a big fan. For the past few years I’ve been splitting them and planting clumps elsewhere in the garden. I’m tempted to order some paler varieties next year.

6. And finally… Last Saturday afternoon I planted the new climbing rose, Teasing Georgia, in the small bed behind the swing seat. Despite knowing the weather was set to turn wet the following day, I didn’t fancy having to move the swing seat again in a few weeks’ time in order to take off the winter cover, treat the wood and replace the rotting willow screen canopy. So it was tackled there and then. All was going well until the old canopy slipped from my grasp, fell down the back of the swing seat and landed on top of the newly planted rose (you may have heard the cry of horror at around 3.30pm).

Miraculously, the rose survived completely unscathed and a coat of Danish oil was applied to the swing seat and myself just before tea. On Monday evening I set about attaching the new canopy, dropping it on my head this time rather than the rose. The swing seat is now ready to fulfil its purpose as a slug and snail free seedling sanctuary over the coming months. Until then, if the weather warms up a bit, it might get sat on.

And 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 (14 March 2020)

I don’t know about anyone else but March seems to be racing by. Next weekend isn’t going to provide any opportunity for gardening so I’ll be cramming in as much as I can over the next two days, if the weather plays nice. Although the forecast isn’t looking very promising for tomorrow there’s a rumour that things are set to improve next week. I hope so. There are perennials to move, seedlings to pot on, lawns to edge and seeds to sow. Well, more seeds to sow, which leads me pretty sharpish to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Last Sunday I had a bit of a seed sowing marathon. Dahlias, Rudbeckia, Calendula, Cosmos, Zinnias, Pink Dandelions and African Foxgloves were sown in somewhat breezy conditions, one or two seeds taking flight. Some pots are now sat on window sills upstairs while others are in the mini greenhouse. I’ve already run out of space, which is a worry as I ordered a few more packets of this and that after perusing the Chiltern Seeds catalogue earlier in the week.

2. To the right of the mini greenhouse is the Winter Honeysuckle which has been flowering since December. Now the leaves are back the flowers are coming to an end. It’s been providing a source of nectar to some big bumble bees over the past few weeks and I’ve been inhaling the fragrant blooms each time I pass, making the most of them while I can. As soon as the flowers are no more I’m going to chop one big stem to the ground to help encourage some new growth. That’s the theory anyway.

3. The flower buds of the Daphne odora that featured a few weeks ago have opened. Photographing this was no mean feat as the border in which it’s planted is a clayey claggy mess. Growing near the small wildlife pond, it’s not in the most sensible place to appreciate the fragrant flowers but it was the only spot I could find. However, my mother-in-law’s large and ancient Daphne manages to fill her garden with scent so hopefully this one may do the same in years to come (I have made a solemn oath not to move it, so hopefully it will do okay).

4. Now the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ was planted in a much more sensible location right next to the blue shed where its fragrant white flowers can be easily enjoyed come April. The buds are swelling nicely and the new leaves are looking all fresh and spring-like.

5. I experienced Jet Fire envy last spring as it featured in a lot of SoSs. Bulbs were planted in the autumn, though the clump on the left was purchased in bud from the local Country Market shop. Initially I was slightly disappointed when the flowers opened as the trumpets didn’t seem very orange, but as the days have gone by the colour has deepened and the petals have done their sweepy-back-whooshy thing. More will be acquired come the autumn.

6. And finally… I planted a rose tree (Harlow Carr) and a small rose (Togmeister) in the patio bed in November. I’ve been pondering getting a scented climbing rose for the tiny bed behind the swing seat in an attempt to make this area a fragrant hotspot during the summer and last Sunday, after a bit of research, I ordered a yellow climber called Teasing Georgia. This package was waiting for me on Thursday.

She’s supposed to be happy in bit of shade, something a Passion flower currently growing in this spot appears to struggle with. Alas, I’m off to work this morning (most inconvenient) so bare-rooted Georgia will be plonked in a bucket of water to await my return in the afternoon. I just hope there’s enough room for me to move the swing seat out of the way; it wasn’t something I planned for when I dug up some of the patio last year.

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 (7 March 2020)

Despite the wind and rain last weekend I managed to nip out into the garden in-between showers and make a start on tidying up this and that. The faded flowers of the hydrangea ‘Miss Belgium’ were snipped off and some cuttings of the Verbena bonariensis and the zombie Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ were taken. I potted up some newly acquired pompom dahlia tubers from Wilko just in case those I left in the ground over winter have rotted away (after all this rain I fear the worst) and I chopped back the Phlox, Buddleia ‘Buzz’ and the Hylo-telly… the Hylo-telephony… um, the name’s on the tip of my tongue… Nope, it’s gone; I chopped back the Sedums.

It was a start, but there are no end of weeds that need pulling up, foxgloves and forget-me-nots to reposition and seeds to start sowing. I was hopeful the garden was going to dry out a bit during the week as Monday and Tuesday were bright and sunny. Alas, the rest of the week was wet (though thankfully not windy) and it looks like I might be dodging showers again this weekend. Ah, well, there’s still plenty of time to get things started and, as the evenings get ever lighter, I’ll soon be able to undertake some after-work gardening, weather permitting. Anyway, enough woe-is-meing. Time for my first Six on Saturday.

1. This lupin is looking remarkably healthy and suspiciously unnibbled. It’s strangely unnerving. I can only assume the slimy plant assassins of the night are just biding their time, toying with me, lulling me into a false sense of all-will-be-well-with-the-lupins-afterall security before making their move.

2. The newly unfurling leaves of the Sambucus nigra Golden Tower, a new addition to the garden last year, were looking good in the sunshine earlier in the week. They look a bit like mini rhubarb at the moment and it’s hard to imagine they’ll eventually turn a yellowy green.

3. The Hyacinths have begun to open. This one, near the small wildlife pond, is growing on a slightly raised bed making it easier to appreciate the heady fragrance.

4. My parents purchased this Trachelospermum jasminoides for the garden when they visited last summer. My wife has always wanted one but it’s taken me this long to figure out where to plant it. I’ve settled on the sunny back bed near the patio. I’m hoping in time it will replace the increasingly shabby looking bamboo screen that was here when we bought the house. The drystone/rubble wall behind it is mostly comprised of the mortary bits chipped off the bottoms of paving stones that have been taken up over the years to create more planting space. They look better from a distance.

5. I’m hoping the Trachelospermum will release its wafty scent when I’m sitting on the patio come the summer. In the meantime I’ve been enjoying the fragrance of the nearby Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ (which has a paler yellow flower and a greyer leaf than the Coronilla by the front door). It’s been blooming since the end of December and is still going strong.

6. And finally… Throughout spring and early summer last year I waited patiently for a twiggy, leafless Hibiscus that I planted in February 2019 to spring to life. Alas, it never did (the full tale of woe can be found here) and a replacement was received and eventually flowered. Having resigned myself for a long wait to see if this one had made it through the winter (apparently they can be notoriously late to come into leaf) I was amazed to see this tiny bit of green so early on in the year. I’m well chuffed.

And 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 (29 February 2020)

Good grief. Another weekend, another storm. There have been moments of stillness during the week. Heck, there was even dazzling sunshine and blue sky. But when you’re stuck in an office all day this makes it all the more frustrating when you know, come Saturday, things will take a turn for the worse and you’re in for yet another weekend of wet and windy weather. It has toughened me up though. I’ve forced myself to get out in the garden to undertake this and that the moment the rain has stopped, and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Last Sunday I made that trip to the garden centre to purchase a few bags of compost and to sample some carrot cake with a mug of coffee (it was raining, I needed a pick-me-up and I’m sure carrot cake counts as one of my five a day). Late in the afternoon the skies cleared a little and I headed out to sow my sweet peas in some seed trays that I’d made from leftover boxes. Some Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’ and Scabiosa ‘Summer Sundae’ seeds were also sown and I potted on the Lupin seedlings. Despite the gloom it felt good to be outdoors.

2. Fresh green leaves are unfurling everywhere at the moment. The Hydrangea, Miss Belgium, is sporting some nice, unnibbled foliage. I must chop off last year’s flower heads though.

3. Now this is freaky. The old Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ got the chop last Autumn and I created a few log piles around the garden for wildlife. But look, it lives… sort of. Quite a few of the logs have sprouted new growth. I’m very tempted to try propagating some of the branches just out of curiosity.

4. The new Daphne odora, purchased over a year ago to replace the one that I’d moved around one too many times, is about to flower. I’m looking forward to appreciating their fragrance when they open.

5. I managed to photograph some of the crocuses as they opened earlier in the week. Some are still flowering though quite a few have got flattened in the wind.

6. And finally… During my trip to the garden centre last weekend I almost made it out without purchasing a plant. Almost, but not quite. Last February I purchased an Ilex Crenata ‘Dark Green’ as an alternative to box. It went to look very sickly in July and it’s never fully recovered. At the garden centre I spotted an Ilex crenata ‘Twiggy’ and initially I dismissed it, thinking it foolish to try a Japanese holly again. Yet I found myself walking past it again a little later. I picked the plant up, studying it more closely this time, but then put it down and walked away, feeling slightly smug at my demonstration of willpower.

Twenty minutes later, standing at a till, I found this in my trolley, shoved between the two bags of compost, two boxes of chicken manure pellets (it was a buy one get one free offer and t’would have been madness not to), a pack of coir pellets (I was curious), a bag of grit and another bird box. I’ve dug up the sickly ‘Dark Green’ ilex and planted ‘Twiggy’ in its place. Was it holly, I mean folly? Probably.

And 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 (22 February 2020)

Thankfully, the garden survived Storm Dennis unscathed and the rickety fences are still standing (something of a miracle as a new sturdy looking fence in a nearby garden was flattened). Having been off gallivanting these past few weekends, today and tomorrow will be spent at home. I’m hoping to sow some sweet peas and prune back a patio rose today (if the weather improves) and on Sunday I’m off to a garden centre to pick up a few bags of peat free compost as I’m down to just the one bag, something that always leaves me feeling strangely uneasy. I have vowed that during my visit to the garden centre I will be strong, resisting the temptation to purchase anything resembling a bulb, corm, twig or leafy thing. Willpower will be deployed. Oh yes! There will be no new plant-like purchases featuring in next week’s Six on Saturday. Err, did that sound convincing? No, I didn’t think so either. Ah well, time for for my first SoS…

1. Delphiniums. I sowed the Pacific Giant variety last summer. At the time I thought it was folly and I still don’t think it will end well for them. Previous Delphiniums, purchased as plants, haven’t lasted long, savaged by slugs and snails in the spring, never to recover. Having died back in the autumn, these have sprung to life again. I began to harden them off last September, preparing them for life in the great outdoors. However, the slimy ones soon found them and they were returned to the mini greenhouse where they have spent the winter. They’ll have to fend for themselves at some point though.

2. Last weekend I braved Storm Dennis to head up to the old ancestral home in North Wales for a long weekend. These beauties were photographed during a brief spell of sunshine on the Monday, after the storm had passed.

I’d been feeling a bit dismayed about the lack of crocuses in our own garden this year. However, I may have been a little too hasty in my woe-is-me-ing as I noticed quite a few of these yesterday. Later today, weather permitting, I shall be poised, ready to photograph them when they open.

3. Our garden is seriously lacking in snowdrops. Yet up at the ancestral home there were clumps of gorgeous Galanthus everywhere. I’m going to place an order with the free nursery in Wales for some of these.

4. Next up, tomatoes! Yes, they’ve finally appeared and a very pleasing sight they are too.

5. Now I have a bit of a love/not-quite-hate relationship with Vinca/periwinkles. I love their evergreeniness and the flowers. I’m less keen on their tendencies towards world domination. They get chopped right back a few times a year but inevitably some make a run for it. I think the purple variety has made it under the fence and into the neighbour’s garden.

6. And finally… I’ve always fancied a nest box but feared that with several feeders scattered around our small garden it was unlikely that anything would take up residence. Curious, I acquired this one a few weekends ago. I don’t think it’s deep enough for blue or great tits, though perhaps wrens may find it suitable. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

And 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.