Six on Saturday: beware the clumsy gardener (15 June 2019)

The wind and rain has battered the garden all week. However, last weekend the plants had more to fear from a size 12 footed gardener than from the weather. Making the most of a brief respite from the rain, I pulled up the remaining forget-me-nots in an attempt to make room for some of the plants currently occupying the swing seat and patio. In went the cosmos, all of the morning glories, moon flowers, pink dandelions and the Wilko dahlias that I bought as tubers earlier in the year, foolishly thinking they looked big and strong enough to withstand the munchings of slimy molluscs (shows what I know).

Yet all this tidying and planting resulted in casualties aplenty. I managed to stand on a Crepis Rubra minutes after planting it which was totally crapis major. An attempt to tie in a pink climbing rose on the trellis fence ended with me holding a detached four foot long branch covered with buds and muttering to myself. Crouching down to plant a cosmos I lost my balance and broke a Penstemon that was just coming into flower. And squeezing past the bird feeder to plant two Linaria seedlings I snapped the ends off a few Viburnum branches… and trampled on a Verbena. As the week went on the weather continued my good work, flattening one of the cornflowers and breaking several branches off the big buddleia. Ah well, time for another Six on Saturday.

1. I didn’t get around to planting the new snapdragons last weekend but at the moment it doesn’t matter. Quite a few of last year’s batch have survived the winter and are flowering away. I grow the same variety each year, Wilko’s Circus Clowns.

Snapdragons are great in a small garden as they’ll go on flowering well into the Autumn with regular dead-heading. I think a lot of these may have seeded themselves. Some bees have sussed how to get inside the flowers to the nectar. Other’s aren’t so savvy.

2. Self sown poppies next. They’ve gone mad this year, some plants becoming whoppers and overshadowing their neighbours.

I’ve had to pull up a few but I’m trying to resist pulling up too many as the bees love them. The fleeting beauty of the flowers add nice splashes of vivid red here and there.

3. I think this patio rose is the healthiest looking rose in the garden. It’s been flowering for weeks now and has a lovely scent too.

4. Talking of scent, the ‘Eternal Fragrance’ Daphne is in full bloom now. It flowers off and on throughout the year. It’s got much larger than I was expecting (we’ve had it 6 years now) and requires a trim every so often.

I describe the scent of the flowers as ‘fluty’ (I have no idea why, but it make sense to me) and the garden is full of their wafty fragrance.

5. This bargain Campanula was a new purchase a couple of weeks ago.

I have a feeling I bought one last year, though if I did it didn’t survive the drought. So far this one has withstood the wind and rain and luckily it’s tucked away in a corner where I can’t do it any harm.

6. And finally… Last year, for the first time ever, I used my late father-in-law’s power drill. In the past I’d always made do with one of those hand-powered turny-handle drills, but that wasn’t an option when I wanted to put up a solar powered security light (although I did give it a go). So I braved it, managed to put the light up and didn’t end up in A&E. Last weekend I used it again to put up these new shelves (and to reposition the security light).

The shelves are meant for indoors but I fancied some on this wall to put a few plants on. Hanging baskets were ruled out as it’s already something of an obstacle course for my wife to get past the shed and the water butts with her bike. The jar contains some of the victims of last weekend’s gardening. I’ve put some spare Alyssum plants in pots in the hope that they might greet us with scent when we come through the gate, but I wonder whether a more fragrant plant might be required; at the moment we’re greeted with the scent of the Danish Oil that I used to treat the shelves.

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.

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Six on Saturday (8 June 2019)

Be careful what you wish for. Last weekend I wished for rain to replenish two empty water butts. And rain it has, filling the water butts, topping up the small wildlife pond and giving the garden a much needed soak. But that’s enough now. I don’t need anymore for a little while thank you. I’ve got grass to cut, things to plant and some outdoor shelves to put up. Thankfully I took some photos earlier in the week as Friday proved a complete wash out (though I did venture out to take this one).

Some plants are rather prone to getting flattened in the rain (the oxe-eye daisies and a linaria have required some emergency support) and a few, like Mrs Bradshaw, are leaning drunkenly to one side. However, they’re still standing (yeah, yeah yeah). But it was all too much for one former star of the garden, which leads me rather sadly to my first Six on Saturday.

1. When I pulled up onto the drive after work on Thursday evening it was evident that all was not well in the front garden. There had been a casualty. The white foxglove that featured in a SoS a few weeks ago was lying face first across the flower bed, snapped off at the base.

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All this wet and occasionally windy weather appears to have proved too much for it (though if we receive an electricity and gas bill within the next few weeks I may suspect the meter reading man of foul play). Alas, there’ll be no offspring from this one which is a shame. However in the back the pink foxgloves are now flowering away nicely.

2. This rogue sweet pea was a pleasant surprise. Self sown from last year’s batch, it’s growing up through through the viburnum in the bed next to the pot containing this year’s sweet peas. Those in the pot have yet to show any signs of buds.

3. The Sweet Williams are in full flower. I grew some from seed last year but got a bit panicky a few months ago when I couldn’t find them. A garden without Sweet Williams wasn’t an option so a tray of emergency replacement plants was purchased.

However, I needn’t have worried. My own plants have appeared. I must sow next year’s batch soon.

4. As well as sowing more Sweet Williams I really need to get around to planting some of the dahlias, cosmos and other plants that are occupying the swing seat and the patio (well, what’s left of it). I just need to pull up the rest of the forget-me-nots and a few of the Californian poppies to create a bit of space. The pink dandelion plants (Crepis Rubra), grown from seed a few months ago, are bursting to get out their pot. The leaves look extremely dandelion like and I have a feeling I’m going to end up pulling them up thinking they’re weeds. Plant labels may need to be deployed.

5. Last week’s mystery plant was identified by some knowledgeable planty folk as Phuopsis stylosa. Another mystery plant has started flowering. I’ve tried the PlantNet app and I think it might be rapeseed, presumably brought in by a bird. It’s rather pretty.

6. And finally… The new Gertrude Jekyll rose that was purchased in January as a bare root plant is finally flowering. Cue one or three closes ups…

I’m growing her as a climber, though at the moment she’s only a few feet high.

I’m hoping in time that I’ll be able to train her towards the blue shed where we’ll be able to enjoy her strong rosy scent more easily. That’s the plan anyway.

Unfortunately she’s rather close to a bird feeder and required a makeover prior to her photo shoot in order to dislodge a few sunflower hearts from her blooms. What was that? You’d like to see her from another angle? Oh okay then, here’s one more…

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 (1 June 2019)

Tomato plants should come with a health warning. Oh they look all innocent enough in their little pots, waiting to be planted outside in big pots where, hopefully, they’ll spend the rest of their days flowering and producing tomatoes. But over the past week I’ve become rather wary of them. Last Monday, when I was removing the first young tomato plant from it’s pot, I felt a sharp pin-prick type sensation on my finger. Puzzled I looked down and found a bee on the root ball. We looked at one another for a while, both a little baffled, before I gently placed it on the lilac. After seeking out a bit of sympathy from her indoors (I felt my first ever bee sting was worthy of some fuss) I carried on where I’d left off and planted all but one plant which I’d promised someone at work.

On Wednesday morning before heading off to work, I nipped outside to collect the aforementioned tomato plant, casually bending over to pick it up. While I was straightening up I felt a slight twinge but didn’t give it another thought. But as the day wore on the twinge became less twingey and more oooh-ee, by evening rather aaargh-ee and by the middle of the night decidedly oooh-aaaarah-ee (though slightly less yokelly sounding). My back is still giving me some grief but keeping active seems to help ease the pain so there’ll be a bit of light gardening over the weekend, even if it is only squishing aphids. And that leads me to my first SoS…

1. Oh yes, ’tis lupins again! A few of them are flowering away nicely now, though it’s a constant battle keeping on top of the sap sucking pale green aphids that enjoy them so much. Yet they seem less of a problem when compared to the sap sucking black aphids that are appearing everywhere; on the garlic, the chives, the philadelphus, red campion and dahlias… But back to the lupins. Some of them are actually looking rather well.

However, is it wrong to feel a little dismayed that so far the only lupins that have made it to flowerhood are all purple? Don’t get me wrong, I like purple. Very much. Still, I’d have quite liked the odd yellow or pink one. That’s the problem with a packet of mixed seed, you never know what colours you’re going to end up with. I also have a suspicion that the one below might actually be a cutting I took from the more sturdy Persian Slipper variety rather than one grown from seed.

2. Next up, a mystery plant. I think my wife spotted this at the East Lambrook nursery section last year but I can’t find a label. Does anybody recognise it?

Here’s a close up.

3. The pyracantha is looking rather ropey at the moment. Some of the flowers are fine.

But others are not.

It tends to look a little sickly during the winter but usually perks up at this time of year.

I’ve started watering it each evening in case it’s down to a lack of rain (it grows right up against the fence) but in the back of my mind I’m thinking fireblight. I hope not.

4. These metallic looking spiky alliums appear to have benefited from mulching as they’re much taller than they’ve been in previous years. I really need to add some later flowering varieties to the garden.

5. Back in 2013 I purchased one meagre looking ox-eye daisy. These days I spend a fair amount of time pulling it up from here there and everywhere. I don’t regret introducing it to the garden though. The flowers are lovely and the insects like them. I only wish they’d stand up straight and unsupported as they do when you see them in meadows and on verges.

6. And finally… A geum. Mrs Bradshaw. We have two and they’re doing well this year, adding a splash of red around the place along with some poppies.

She looks rather nice next to the orange perennial wallflowers that are still going strong weeks after they first started flowering.

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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: one year on (25 May 2019)

I think it was T. Bangles that said ‘Time it goes so fast when you’re having fun’. It came as a surprise to discover it’s been a year since I joined in with Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propagator that has introduced me to a friendly lot of gardeners from all over the world and led to the discovery and purchase of plants that I never knew I needed.

When I started I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find six things in our small garden to write about each week, particularly during the winter months. Yet Six on Saturday has made me take more notice of what’s happening on our little patch of green and it’s made me appreciate that there’s always something going on, even in the depths of winter. At this time of the year though it can be a tad tricky choosing just six things in the garden to share. But I’ve made those big tough decisions and so onto to my first SoS…

1. Foxgloves. I used to be very wary of Foxgloves as a kid, thinking that if I so much as touched one I’d most likely snuff it. This time last year the pink foxgloves were flowering merrily away out in the back garden but they’re only just coming into bud at the moment. However, a few white ones are flowering in the sunnier front garden. They self seed each year and you never know what colour combo you’re going to get. I’ve not had this white one with purple spots before.

2. Over the past week and a half I’ve started hardening off plants. The tomatoes and the morning glory have been the top priority as they’re getting too big for the mini greenhouse and I’m hoping to plant these out over the long weekend.

I have a tendency to start hardening plants off when they’re rather small (I get bored of potting on and the constant watering). I was planning on putting some of the zinnias and dahlias into the ground rather than big pots this year but they’re so tiny at the moment I fear the slimy plant assassins of the night would make short work of them. They’re going to have to spend a few more weeks on the swing seat, which is a pity because I’d quite like to sit on it.

3. A new purchase made last Saturday, Primula vialii ‘Red Hot Poker’. I used to have one that grew next to the small pond. It came back year after year until I decided to split it. One half was planted in a bed near the bird bath and the other half was re-planted near the pond. The plant placed near the bird bath was doing well until it was dug up, along with a white Ragged Robin, by a badger. The other half died back over the winter and was never seen again. This new one is going near the pond.

4. The deliciously scented Margaret Merril featured in my first SoS and has just started flowering. She was moved to the new patio bed early in the year and seems to be doing okay so far.

5. I know, I know, I can’t quite believe it either. Lupin buds! I grew several lupins from seed two years ago. For the first two years they were cosseted and vigilantly protected from slugs, snails and aphids. But when they failed to flower last year I washed my hands of them. The ungrateful so-and-sos were going to have to fend for themselves. Three or four have survived and this one (which I’ll admit to having assisted lately by squashing the odd aphid or three) has several buds and is almost as tall as the hibiscus. What was that? Err, no, the hibiscus still looks decidedly deceased, though I scratched the surface of a few stems the other day and found green so perhaps all is not lost.

6. And finally… Yes, more Dutch Irises. Purely yellow ones this time. Some of the others are beginning to go over but these, near the pond, don’t get quite so much sun as the rest and flower that little bit later. I’m going to miss them when they’ve finished.

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: a riot of colour (18 May 2019)

At this time of year the front garden tends to be a riot of colour. It gets less attention than the back, mainly because I only tend to tackle it when I think the neighbours are out (I’m not the most sociable of souls!) The neighbour’s revamped their section last year, borrowing our curvy theme, and so now it all sort of merges into one long bed.

I’m re-doing our planting scheme a bit this year (when the neighbours are out of course) as come mid June a lot of the plants start to get frazzled in the heat. Earlier in the spring a buddleja buzz was moved from the back garden to the front, some new sun loving lavenders were planted and I have a few Stipa grasses from that free garden nursery up in Wales ready to go in; only there isn’t room for them yet. The theme in the front at the moment is barely contained chaos, but I rather like it. And it’s in the front garden where you’ll find my first SoS …

1. Sea pinks or thrift remind me of the Isles of Scilly and in particular the island of Bryher. I really need to split these later in the year as I fancy having a few in the back garden.

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2. Behind the sea pinks is a Californian poppy.

It seeded itself last year and featured in a Rhyming Six on Saturday. Back then it looked like this.

It was definitely more yellow than orange. This year it’s full on orange (although the photo below has given it a yellow tinge that isn’t there in reality). I’ve long suspected something funny was going on with the yellow Californian poppies. I’d always assumed they’d died and that the orange ones were more just successful. But now I’m thinking the yellow ones revert to orange as time goes on. Very odd.

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3. Next up, more irises! They tend to be a bit of an eyesore when they go over but at the moment they’re the stars of the garden.

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This white one is almost feather like.

Though I’m not sure what went wrong with this runty looking lot.

They also look rather nice reflected in one of my new budget widowesque mirrors too.

4. However, a few of the Purple Sensation alliums have now opened fully and are giving the irises a bit of competition in the old beauty stakes. I’ve never had much luck with alliums before but this new batch appear to be doing okay in the newly gravel enriched border.

5. Next up, a mash up of the white of the iris and the purple of the allium: a white perennial cornflower, possibly Centaurea montana ‘Purple Heart’, originally propagated by my mum from one of my sister’s plants. I’ve planted these a fair old distance from the blue variety which have leanings towards world domination and are pulled up on a regular basis. I seem to have three of the white plants now so it could be that they’re just as prolific. Time will tell.

6. And finally… No, not the hibiscus (still a leafless twig I’m afraid, though I did dream it had sprouted leaves the other night). It’s another ranunculus and a seductive looking one at that, almost poke-your-eye-out-should-come-with-a-health-warning-kind-of-sexy.

And it looks just as good when it’s retiring for the night.

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 (11 May 2019)

Typical. You take your first week of leave and it turns out to be mainly cold, wet and breezy only for the weather to improve just in time for your return back to work. Ah well. Despite the dodgy weather the scabious and dahlia seedlings were potted on, visits were made to establishments of the plant purveying kind, strolls were taken in the countryside and the odd tasty meal out was enjoyed. There were also travellings of the M5, M54 and the A-good-lord-not-another-roundabout-which lane-do-we-want-this-time-5 kind which leads me to my first SoS.

1. Last Saturday my wife and I travelled up to my Ancestral home in the North of Wales for a few days. I took up some pots of plants for my mum but inevitably came back to Somerset with far more.

An anonymous geranium, allegedly white though possibly pink (my mum doesn’t label things either), some stipa grass (pre-ordered a few months ago), a thyme, a primula candelabra, some rudbeckia and a sneaky fern which will join that other fern you can see in the background. I’m gradually creating a stealth fernery – just don’t tell my wife.

2. The hibiscus is still not showing any signs of life. To add insult to injury my mum’s hibiscus (a special from Aldi purchased a few years ago, no more than a foot or so high and growing up North where it’s decidedly chillier than down in the South West) has leaves. Leaves! I will release my pent up frustrations here as I’m trying to remain positive in front of the hibiscus, offering it encouragement and support and providing it with a safe, non-judgemental, pressure-free environment in which to… well, do nothing while all the other plants in the garden just get on with it, doing their whole leafy-growy-flowery thing without any fuss. *Sighs* I must remain positive and patient.

3. I planted a mixed bag of ranunculus last Autumn.

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Some are beginning to flower and rather nice they are too, if a little spindly. Here’s a white one.

This is a ruffly yellow one.

And here’s the bud of a pink one that’ll hopefully feature next week if the wind or a wood pigeon doesn’t flatten it before then.

4. Several years ago I bought a packet of iris (Dutch I think) that if memory serves me correct were supposed to be scented. They weren’t. They were originally grown in a pot but were later scattered around the garden. Most of the time they usually only produce one flower, which is a shame, but I prefer them to the bearded iris and the flowers last a while. They’ve slowly multiplied over the years. This is the first one to flower.

I can’t decide which is its best side, so here it is from another angle.

Some of the others aren’t far behind. This yellow one was in bud on Friday morning…

But by the evening, and despite of the rain, unfurlage had occurred…

5. Now I’ve not had much success with alliums in the past (they don’t like our heavy clay soil) but I decided to give them another go, adding a bit of gravel to the back bed to improve the drainage a little. The new batch of Purple Sensation are definitely looking more robust than previous efforts (though there are a few blind ones) and some are just beginning to open.

Yet I’ve been rather taken with this much smaller variety that haven’t received any special treatment and were just plonked wherever there was space.

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So far they’ve all been white. Understated elegant beauty.

6. And finally… Remember the Dwarf Korean Lilac from last week, its buds poised, ready to burst open?

Well the fragrant flowers have finally opened en masse.

It’s at times like this that I wish some plants would just go on flowering throughout the whole of the summer.

I’ll just have to make the most of heady scent while it lasts.

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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 (4 May 2019)

Thankfully Storm Hannah didn’t wreak too much havoc in the garden last weekend. There was a fair bit of batterage but with the exception of a few snapped Buddelia shoots and a slightly dishevelled Lupin everything, including the fences, was still standing when the winds finally eased late on Saturday evening. Phew.

Sunday afternoon was spent carefully planting out one of two trays of Alyssum seedlings. Well, I certainly started off carefully, gently lifting small clumps of seedlings from the compost and gingerly separating each one, untangling their roots and planting each individual seeding into the ground, ensuring I left a suitable amount of space for each one to grow. Halfway through the tray I became less careful and towards the end I’d resorted to random mass plonkings of tangled seedlings with an increasing casualty rate. Note to self: sow less Alyssum next year. I’ve decided to give the other tray away. I’m going to have to give some tomato plants away too, which leads me to my first SoS.

1. The Yellow Tumbling Toms and Minbel were potted on a few weeks ago…

and have since gone a little mad…

A few have even started flowering. I’ve not had tomato plants flower this early before and I’m not sure I want them too as they’ve yet to be hardened off for life in the great outdoors. I’m wondering if I should remove these early flowers to encourage stronger plants. Next year I may sow them a little later.

2. The Morning Glory ‘Split Second Double’ have also taken off. I’ve had to remove the bottom shelf in the mini greenhouse in order to add a small cane to each pot for the plants to grow up. But the canes aren’t going to provide them with adequate support for long and removing another shelf isn’t really an option. I think these morning glories are going to have to be hardened off (stop smirking) ready for planting out.

3. Now there’s nothing glorious about my next SoS. The standard Ceanothus was a new purchase early last year and was a dazzling show of pale blue flowery fluffiness back then. Not this year. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong. I thought I’d kept on top of watering (it grows in a pot) and it’s been given the odd liquid seaweed feed but the majority of buds appear to have shrivelled up. It’s a bit disappointing. I’ll give it a light prune later in the month, which thinking about it I forgot to do last year.

4. Still, it’s far more healthy looking than the Hibiscus. I think this may feature each week from now on until a) it finally shows signs of life or b) it’s officially declared dead. Now I could be imagining it but I fancy the branches have taken on a slightly darker hue of late.

If I was a glass half full type of chap I’d wonder whether this hints at life, sap rising up the branches ready to produce buds. However, I’m more of a glass half empty kind of fellow and I’m wondering whether this is a sign that it’s getting increasingly more deceased. I may have to resort to scratching away a little of the bark to see if there are any signs of green… but not yet.

5. I didn’t know whether to go for a close up of daisies or perennial wallflowers for my next SoS. Both grow next to the Hibiscus. I’ve gone for the latter with its bright orange fragrant flowers.

6. And finally… While the Ceanothus has been a bit of a failure this year and the Hibiscus continues to keep me guessing, the Korean lilac Syringa meyeri Palibin has proved as reliable as ever despite being moved a few feet earlier in the year when work first began on the patio reduction. It’s poised, ready to burst into flower and will soon fill the garden with heady scent.

Though one flower appears to have jumped the gun.

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.