It’s a fast-paced, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Six on Saturday today. Alas, there’s no time to show off my newly clipped box balls, share my continuing Black Lace Elder aphid woes or provide an update on the nesting robins (although they got down and jiggy with it the other day). Oh no, I’m curtailing the preambleage and cutting to the chase.
1. And we start with Aquilegia, After a slow start they’re finally up, up and away, including this yellow variety, grown from a packet of seed that came free with The Garden News magazine a few years ago. If flowers made a sound I reckon these would make a wooshing noise. They’re like floral shooting stars.
2. Back in the spring of 2020 I planted a packet of Ixia bulbs of various hues. None of them made an appearance come the summer and I’d presumed that was that. However, this solitary specimen has popped up. I’m not sure I’d bother with them again, but the bees seem to like the flowers.
3. Another week, another ‘Metallic Mixture’ Iris, a yellowy-pinkish-brown one. Alas, they’ve not been quite as mixed as the Thompson and Morgan illustration led me to believe.
I’m beginning to suspect there aren’t going to be any reds, lilacs and dark purples pictured below. The Irises that have flowered thus far (the yellow variety above and the blue lot from last week) aren’t even pictured. It’s ever so slightly disappointing but hey-ho.
4. Up next, a Rock Rose or Helianthemum that made a cameo appearance in last week’s SoS. It’s another one of those plants acquired from the free nursery up in North Wales, with ruffled, crepe paper petals of red and yellow iridescenciness.
5. The almost metallic looking flowers of Allium Christophii have gradually been opening up in the back garden. They’re a new batch planted last November to replace those that have disappeared over the years. Fingers are crossed that these will gradually spread.
6. And finally…. the big blowsy fragrant flowers of ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent.’ A standard rose, this is her second year in the garden and so far she has remained black spot and aphid free.
It’s getting a lot trickier to choose just six things for Six on Saturday. After a slow start the garden appears to have moved up a gear, offering new surprises every day. This gardener has also moved up a gear, tackling a few jobs he has been putting off for a while. Tulips (and an ants’ nest) were removed from pots and replaced with tomato plants and several trays of annuals. An overly rampant climber that was beginning to weigh down a section of trellis was chopped back rather severely. And a rather sickly aphid infested Black Lace Elder has been tackled the past few evenings (the sparrows, so diligent at searching out aphids on all the other plants, have tended to ignore these for some reason).
I’m now impatient for the foliage of the daffs and other spring flowering bulbs to die back so I can make a start planting out the dahlias and late flowering annuals that are currently occupying the swing seat and garden bench, safe out of the reach of the slimy ones. However, perhaps I should make the most of this brief respite and simply enjoy the garden. If I could only find something to sit on…
1. First up this week, Alliums. I planted a mixed pack of them last autumn, including some more Purple Sensation. It’s possibly my favourite Allium, although the flowers don’t tend to last as long as those of other varieties.
2. This silver-leafed daisy out in the front garden was acquired way back when from that free nursery up in North Wales (my parents’ garden). It’s been flowering away for many weeks now and is still going strong.
3. Another plant that started its life at the old ancestral home up in Wales is this Geranium. I thought I’d been a bit ruthless keeping it in check last summer but the purple beauty has bounced back.
4. Another week, another Dutch Iris. This is from a pack of ‘Metallic Mixture’ planted in the autumn. I suspect more will feature over the coming weeks.
5. Next up, a lupin. One of my lupins, grown from seed back in 2017, is in full flower but the one pictured is ‘Persian Slipper.’ It’s stouter and more curvy of leaf than other varieties. As nice as lupins are in flower I think I prefer them at this stage, although the bees don’t.
6. And finally… Do you remember the rather shoddily grafted mini-standard ‘Friesia’ rose I purchased online during the first lockdown? Well, despite the dubious graft it’s doing rather well.
I still have it strapped up though, just in case. Here it is from another angle.
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. Right, I’m off to prepare for a talk via Zoom later this morning. I’ve not given an online talk before; finger’s are crossed that it isn’t a complete disaster.
Finally, a spell of calm, warm, dryish weather. It’s about time. With the tomatoes and sweet peas hardened off ready for life in the great outdoors, I need to get cracking and free up some pots for them, starting with the removal of the long since finished tulips. I was also planning on giving the Coronilla a prune now that it’s almost finished flowering. However, that task has had to be postponed for the time being and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday.
1. Last weekend I spotted a robin with a beakful of leaves heading to the aforementioned fragrantly floriferous shrub. Back in early 2019 I had a go at making a robin nest box, painting it in a rather fetching, if somewhat standoutish, coastal mist blue (it was the only paint I had left at the time). Nobody took up residence. I’d assumed it was going to go unoccupied this year too, but I was wrong. It’s quite exciting but I must admit to feeling a bit anxious too (the odd cat and magpie visit the garden sometimes). We shall have to see what happens.
2. Equally as exciting are these flowering Primula prolifera. Grown from seed kindly provided by Jim a few years ago, this is the first time they’ve flowered.
3. Continuing the yellow theme, the self seeding California Poppies out in the south facing front garden are out in all their blazing orange-tinged glory.
4. Now you may or may not remember my Escallonia hedge woes. Patches of the hedge that we share with a neighbour have become bare and brittle in recent years, the leaves falling prematurely with leaf spot. While the neighbour sprayed his half of the hedge with something, I’ve been regularly watering and feeding our half since March. There are signs of fresh new growth along the whole of the hedge but I fancy our half has more flowers, far more than it had last year, and they’re proving very popular with the bees. Fingers crossed it can be saved.
5. Up next, another Geum. ‘Lemon Delight’ was purchased from Dorset Perennials back in January. It’s rather dainty and a little shy compared to the bolder “hey look at me” varieties such as ‘Scarlet Tempest’ and ‘Mrs Bradshaw,’ but just as lovely. I purchased another Geum from them last week, despite claiming I was going to refrain from acquiring any more.
6. And finally… More of the Dutch Iris are coming into bloom, including this white one that almost glows at dusk.
I’m bored of the weather now. Actually, I think I was bored of it a while ago. It’s been another week of dodging showers whilst tackling this and that (although Wednesday was rather nice). The border in the front garden was neatly edged and, somewhat inevitably, ended up a little bigger. There was a spot of emergency tying in and staking during the gales of Thursday and Friday (note to self: put shoes on properly before venturing deep into a border; there won’t always be a box ball to break your fall). And some more seed sowing and potting on was achieved, which leads me relatively swiftly to my first Six on Saturday.
1. This year I left my Zinnia sowing until later so that they could be grown outdoors from the very beginning, doing away with the need to harden them off; anything for an easier life. After a potting on session last weekend, the swing seat is now fully occupied by these late flowering annuals as well as a few other slug and snail favourites. The nibbled remains of a chocolate cosmos and a few dahlias have since joined them; hopefully they will recover.
2. I don’t think I’ve featured the Weigela for many a year. Grown from a cutting by my mum way back when, it’s looking particularly good this spring, foliage and flowerwise.
3. Back in 2020 I acquired a few new Geums including Totally Tangerine and Scarlet Tempest. This year I’ve acquired two more: Lemon Delight (which may feature next week) and this Tequila Sunrise. I have a few other varieties on my wish list but I’m attempting to exercise some restraint for the time being as I need to make sure I have at least some space for annuals. That’s the plan anyway.
4. A pack of mixed Alliums was planted in the autumn. Naturally I’ve long since forgotten what varieties it contained. This is ‘the white one.’
5. Next up, the Korean Lilac of short stature. On a warm, sunny day the fragrance of these small flowers can fill the garden. Hopefully we may get one of those soon. It’s come into bloom around 3 weeks later than last spring.
6. And finally… Oh yes, the Dutch Irises have begun to bloom. I added a few new varieties in November. Fingers crossed they flower over the coming weeks.
Well, that was a wet week. The garden is certainly looking lush thanks to all the rain and milder temperatures, but some things have looked a tad soggy at times, including this gardener as he’s carried his seedlings outdoors in the mornings and brought them all back indoors in the evenings (having checked the bottoms of pots for sneaky slugs and snails). The juvenile plants have bore it rather well for the most part, except for a scabious that really hasn’t enjoyed it’s daily constitutionals. It’ll soon be time to start planting some of them out and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday.
1. Last year’s tomatoes were something of a disaster. They took forever to get going and by the time they’d finally started to produce fruit the summer was over and few tomatoes had a chance to ripen. This year is looking much more promising. I’m growing a cherry variety called Minibel. These small bushy plants shouldn’t require any support and will live outdoors in pots as soon as I’ve evicted the tulips.
2. As well as acquiring a few ‘Totally Tangerine’ Geums last year I also ended up with a ‘Scarlet Tempest.’ It’s been flowering for the best part of a month and is still going strong. On Wednesday I discovered I’d planted my two Totally Tangerine Geums right next to each other, so when this orange flushed red beauty wasn’t looking I dug it up and swapped it with the smaller TTG.
3. Each year I plant more of this fragrant Pheasant Eye. A late flowering Narcissus, it’s adding a nice dash of white to the garden. As these have opened I’ve been keeping an eye out for another white Narcissus that was planted in the autumn, Sinopel, but thus far I’ve only spotted one rather nibbled plant which is a bit disappointing.
4. Up next, a creeping Phlox. This variety never disappoints, although something has been nibbling on the flowers.
5. At some point I’m going to have to figure out where to plant this young climbing rose. I ended up with two accidental cuttings of New Dawn after I shoved two pruned offcuts into the ground back in 2019, not really expecting them to take. I gave one away last summer but this one has been kept for the garden.
6. And finally… something of a mystery but also a pleasant surprise. I grew some Hesperis from seed in 2019 and plonked them in the back garden where they bloomed the following year. Alas, they don’t appear to have produced any offspring out the back but somehow or other this one has appeared in the front garden.
Operation ‘harden off some of the plants grown from seed to create more space in the greenhouse’ (not a very catchy title) didn’t go quite to plan last week. Things started off well enough, but when the blustery winds and heavy rain arrived on Tuesday I was forced to take pity on the poor things and leave them indoors. And indoors they remained until Thursday when the whole process resumed once more. Today isn’t looking all that promising with more strong winds forecast. The persistent chilliness is becoming a little wearisome too. But enough weather whinging, ’tis time for Six on Saturday.
1. Planted back in 2019, Lilac ‘Belle de Nancy’ is looking mostly lovely at the moment, except for her rather bare branches. There are leaf buds all the way down the stems but many don’t seem to be doing much of anything. Perhaps it’s still early days and unfurlage of the heart-shaped leafy kind will ensue over the coming weeks.
2. I thought I’d dug up most of the Perennial Cornflowers in the front garden last year but there appear to be more than ever this spring. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely and the bees love the flowers, but they can take over a little. I read somewhere that the flowers smell of apricot jam. I must take a sniff sometime.
3. You may remember that I’d misplaced my ‘Blue Lagoon’ Tulips; the pots labelled as ‘Blue Lagoon’ turned out to be ‘Violet Beauty.’ However, I think I’ve found them in an unlabelled pot. What was that? They’re not very blue? Well no, I knew they were going to be more purple that blue. Sorry? They’re not very purple either? That’s what I thought. In fact, they don’t really match the images on the Hayloft website either. Hmm, perhaps they’re not Blue Lagoon after all.
4. Growing in the same pot as ‘Blue Lagoon’/’Not Blue Lagoon’ is the fragrant perennial Viola ‘Etain.’ This last featured in a SOS at the end of October 2020 and back then I said I was going to take cuttings. I haven’t but I must.
5. This little Aubrieta was planted right at the back of the sunny border, near the dwarf Eucalyptus tree, last year. It’s rather hidden away and only visible if you stand in one particular spot on the patio. Appreciating its purpley beauty up close isn’t easy without treading on this or tripping over that, so the old zoom was deployed to photograph these flowers.
6. And finally… Last year I finally succumbed to the charms of the Geum ‘Totally Tangerine.’ I ended up buying two plants; one an online purchase made during the first lockdown, the other, a much more substantial flowering plant from a garden centre. I’m assuming this is the garden centre one and it’s been in bloom for a few weeks now. I’ve added quite a few Geums to the garden over the past year but I think ‘Totally Tangerine’ might be my favourite.
Growing plants from seed is a great way of filling your borders, allowing you to grow loads of your favourite flowers for peanuts. Sow sparingly though; sprinkle a whole packet of 500 Antirrhinum seeds in a tray of compost and you’ll come to regret it come pricking out and potting on time.
Mind you, not all of the seeds you sow will make it to flowerhood. There are always the odd no-shows as well as casualties along the way. You’ll probably find yourself offering words of encouragement to ailing seedlings or uttering dark mutterings as you wander around the garden or greenhouse at night, seeking out slugs and snails that have taken a fancy to this and that. But come the summer you’ll experience an immense feeling of satisfaction when carefully nurtured tiny shoots of green have grown into fully fledged flowering plants.
The sight of newly emerging seedlings never gets old. It’s both wondrous and exciting and each spring I’ll try growing something I’ve not tried before. Yet there are several plants I sow from seed every year, the ‘old reliables’ that are long flowering, insect friendly and easy to grow. What was that? “What are these long flowering, insect friendly and easy to grow ‘old reliables’ of which you speak?” I’m glad you asked.
One such old reliable is the hardy annual Scabious. They come in a variety of colours (including lilac, red, white and pink) and will flower throughout the summer and autumn with regular dead-heading. The slugs and snails tend to leave them alone (always a bonus) and some will often survive a winter or two, forming bigger plants the following year if chopped back in the spring.
Now I must admit it took me a while to discover the joys of Cosmos. They’re speedy germinators, have fine, feathery foliage that is generally ignored by gourmet gastropods, and go full-on-floriferous from around July all the way through to late autumn with regular dead-heading.
These annuals come in a variety of colours, flower shapes and sizes and do well in borders or in pots on a sunny patio. Just remember to pinch out the tops of leggy seedlings to create bushier plants.
Up next, Calendula, an easy and quick to grow hardy annual that does best in a sunny position, flowering throughout the summer and autumn.
And they don’t just come in orange these days, oh no. Another favourite with pollinators, start them off in pots or sow straight into the ground in the spring and if you’re lucky you may find they self-seed the following year. Talking of self-seeders…
There are some flowers that you will only ever need to sow once, prolific self-seeders that will do the work for you in subsequent years. I sowed a packet of Forget-me-nots straight into the borders way back in 2012 and they’ve spread themselves here, there and everywhere ever since. A biennial, sow them outdoors in early summer and you’ll have flowering plants come spring.
They’re easy enough to pull up to keep them under control, but their small blue flowers mingle rather nicely with most plants and they’re a big favourite of the bee flies.
Another self-seeder that just gets on with it is Honesty (Lunaria). Sow this shade tolerant biennial in early summer and you’ll have white or purple flowering plants in the spring and pretty silvery paper disk-like seed heads by winter. It’s another good mingler, though like the Forget-me-nots, you may wish to pull out the odd plant to curb any attempts at world domination, perhaps potting some up for family and friends.
And finally… Sometimes you don’t want your flowers subtle. Sometimes you want bright and bold. Summer flowering California Poppies are another of those sow-them-once-and-they’ll-probably-be-in-your-garden-for years-to-come plants. Chop them back when they start to get a little leggy and they’ll flower again later in the year. I often plonk a few of their cheerful blooms in a bud vase to provide some indoor floral sunshine and never grow bored of watching their petals close up in the evenings and unfurl in the mornings, even indoors. These cheerful plants will usually last a few years but more often than not you’ll find their distinctive grey-green feathery leaved offspring growing close by.
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Finally, rain! On Tuesday I had three completely empty water butts and one half empty/half full (delete according to your outlook on life). On Wednesday I awoke to find the two connected to the guttering of the house completely replenished. Plants are certainly looking a lot perkier but I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on some of my seedlings; I fear the slugs and snails are going to have an extra glide to their slide.
Later today the process of hardening off the sweet peas will begin. Once they’re ready to live out the rest of their days in the garden I’ll have space in the mini greenhouse for the adolescent Black-eyed Susan and Tomato seedlings that have been living a far too cushy life on window sills. The Black-eyed Susans are growing at a frightening pace despite pinching out the main shoots. Still, they’re not in quite the same league of rampant growiness as my first Six on Saturday.
1. Clematis Montana may well be the only clematis I haven’t managed to finish off. It’s buds have just started to open and the egg custard/nutmeg scented flowers are looking rather splendid, especially against a blue sky.
It grows up and occasionally over a fence. I usually chop it back hard every other year or so, but last year I decided to send it over to the blue shed, bridging the gap with some wire. I may come to regret this (shoots have already made it inside the shed) but it’ll be easy enough to stop the monster Montana in its tracks should I need to.
2. From Montana to Mahonia, not something I thought I’d find myself writing as I’ve always been a bit anti-Mahonia. The flowers are lovely and fragrant but I’ve always found the leaves to be freakishly out of proportion somehow. I know, I know, I have issues. But a few years ago I came across Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ and found myself adding it to my maybe-one-day wish list. On a trip to a garden centre early in April I spotted this little Mahonia, the last one, and it’s now planted in the rather shady conservatory bed to help provide some more structure. The leaves are pleasingly ferny (and in proportion) and the flowers will be an added bonus come late summer and autumn.
3. Growing in the same bed as the Mahonia are these Blue Bells, the native English variety. Those growing in another bed are almost certainly a hybrid lot that I’ll attempt to get shot of once they’ve finished flowering, although I don’t fancy my chances of success.
4. Next up, a Saxifraga. A White one. They never survive the winter here for some reason so I treat them as annuals.
5. The Forget-me-nots have been flowering for a while but they’ve gone full-on frothy now. Once they’ve started to die back and set seed they’ll be removed to make space for other things.
6. And finally… I appear to be somewhat lacking in flowering Honesty this spring, though there are plenty of seedlings coming up in the wildlife bed. Perhaps I was a little too ruthless pulling up last year’s seedlings.
April seems to be racing by. Last Sunday I tackled a few jobs I’d been putting off, planting pots of this and that (including some Sweet Williams that really should have been planted last autumn), creating more planting space (another patio slab has come up) and potting on a few seedlings. Alas, there’s still no sign of rain and, as I’m down to my last water butt, ‘bucketing’ has commenced. It’s a term my wife came up with for the slightly tedious activity of showering with a bucket to collect water for the garden. It’s now a verb. He buckets, she buckets, we bucket, they bucket. To have to bucket in April seems odd though. It’s normally a summer activity. But enough preamble. It’s Six on Saturday time.
1. First up, Iberis something-or-other has been flowering for a a few months now. An attempt to take cuttings last year ended in failure but a few weeks ago I found a stem that had rooted in the ground.
I dug it up, planted it a little further along the curvy path border and behold! Flowers!
2. Another plant that has been flowering for a while now is the Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance.’ I think I say this every year but every garden should have one. It produces fragrant flowers throughout much of the spring, summer and autumn. In fact it can be tricky finding a time to give it a light prune.
3. Next up, Tulip ‘Green Dance,’ one of many varieties planted back in November. Tall and rather elegant when the flowers are closed, most of these were planted in the ground. Will they reappear next April? I hope so but I won’t get my hopes up.
4. The cold spring has extended the flowering period of the narcissus but it’s held back a few plants. Back in 2020, the pink buds of the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ had begun to open by the 11th April. It’s a few weeks later this year. I think this could well be my most favourite shrub, producing deliciously fragrant flowers. It may feature again once in full bloom.
5. A last minute substitution (apologies to a white Saxifraga), this small standard Ceanothus thyrsiflorus Repens lives in a pot out in the south facing front garden. It will hopefully be covered in six-legged buzzy wing-ed things once the flowers open fully.
6. And finally… More tulips. Three varieties growing in pots on the patio. World Friendship (the yellow lot), Burnt Sugar (the orangey pink lot) and Purple Doll.
Has someone turned the thermostat down? We’ve had a light frost most mornings of late and while the cold appears to be helping to prolong many of the earlier spring flowers (some narcissus have been in bloom for weeks now), outdoor sowings are taking their time to do much of anything. Perhaps I’ve just got used to unseasonably warm and early springs. While I’m grumbling about the cold I might as well grumble about the lack of rain too, although the dry weather does appear to have curbed the all-you-can-eat plant buffets of the slimy plant assassins of the night. Silver linings and all that. Anyway, time for Six on Saturday.
1. These were the first lot of seeds I sowed back in February: a white Black-eyed Susan and Convolvulus tricolor ‘Royal Ensign.’ They’re by far the healthiest looking of all my seedlings. I’ll pinch out the Black-eyed Susan (on the left) to encourage more stems and to keep them small until they can be planted outdoors after the risk of frost has passed. I’ve slipped up with the ‘Royal Ensign’ though. Figuring they’d be great for growing up the garden arch I failed to notice these are in fact a dwarf variety. Ah well.
2. Growing in the border with shrubs and perennials is the most tropical looking plant in the garden: Rhubarb ‘Poulton’s Pride.’ It can supposedly be harvested for 10 months of the year, from February through to November. This is its third year. The tulips (‘Violet Beauty’) are still going strong behind the Rhubarb but other tulips have begun to bloom.
4. This is ‘Lilyflowering Purple Dream’ which is rather lovely.
5. And this is a dwarf tulip ‘Czaar Peter’ which is… well, I’m undecided. A Wilko purchase, I must have liked it when I picked up a packet last year. But when I was planting them, back in November, I’d gone right off them. Now that they’re flowering I find I like them one minute but I’m less keen the next. Would I plant them again? I’ll get back to you.
5. I won’t need to get back to you about my next tulip though. Tulip sylvestris is a stunning, bendy-stemmed fragrant yellow beauty. Most of my tulips are in pots but I’ve tried this lot in the ground. It’s a wild native tulip that according to Sarah Raven will be in the garden for decades once planted. I hope so, I just need to make sure I don’t accidentally slice through the bulbs later in the year.
6. And finally… When I planted the new standard Bay tree in the autumn I didn’t expect flowers in the spring, but flowers in the spring is what I’ve got and rather interesting they are too up close. Thankfully, it’s escaped the cold and a mid winter move unscathed.