Six on Saturday (23 March 2019)

Ahh. Stillness. After a few weeks of unsettled, blustery weather, we’ve had 5 days of calm. It’s been rather nice. Alas, it was still a bit blowy last Sunday when I did some more seed sowing. Packets of Antirrhinum, dwarf Sweet Peas, Cornflowers and Corncockle were chased across the lawn. Marigold seeds, collected from last year’s flowers, were carefully emptied from a brown paper envelope into the palm of my hand and promptly took flight. And a pot of dahlia seeds had to be resown after they were knocked over, alas not by the elements, but by my size twelve feet. Oh to have a potting shed.

Of all the seeds I’ve ever sown, I don’t think any have germinated quite so quickly as my first SoS.

1. Last Saturday I mentioned I’d sown a free packet of Morning Glory ‘Split Second Double’ that I’d got with the Garden News magazine. They were soaked overnight in tepid water and plonked in a pot, covered with a plastic bread bag and put on a windowsill. Five days later, one of them had begun to poke through the surface of the compost. Now, around 13 days after they were sown, they’re ready to be potted on.

2. The garden has always been a bit lacking when it comes to Spring colour. So last Autumn I purchased packs of daffs, narcissus and crocus. I’m glad I did as the existing daffodils in the garden (Little Witch) have been a big failure this year – lots of leafy growth but only one flower, which was soon flattened in the gales. The new bulbs have all done well. These fragrant Narcissus tazetta minnow are the latest of the new batch to flower…

… along with these tiny Narcissus tazetta canaliculatus.

3. While the wind has flattened most of the bluey-purple and pink hyacinths in the garden, the yellow variety appear to be made of tougher stuff!

4. Possibly my favourite of all the Spring flowers next; Chionodoxa. Planted a few years ago, they’re slowly beginning to spread in the border near the tiny wildlife pond. Last year they were a favourite with the slimy assassins of the night. This year they seem to be faring much better.

5. These cream double primroses were given to me over 10 years ago by a friend from work. They’ve been split many times and given to friends and family. They appear to glow in the evening light. I didn’t notice until I was zooming in that there’s a bug of some sort lurking amongst the petals of the larger flower.

6. And finally… Flower buds on the banksiea rose (Rosa banksiea ‘Luea’). I originally planted this against a West facing fence but it didn’t really do much and refused to flower. It was moved last Autumn to the South facing fence after I got shot of the not-in-the-slightest-bit-scented ‘highly fragrant’ Jasminum humile ‘Revolutum’ (which is now living happily at my mother-in-law’s). Judging from the new growth and the flower buds it appears to like the new sunnier position. Very exciting!

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 (16 March 2019)

I don’t know why but I’ve been far more organised this year with my seed sowing. I usually start in earnest in April but this time I began at the beginning of March. Maybe it’s down to having the new mini greenhouse. Maybe it’s down to all the bulby springlike colour in the garden (cue a sneaky not-actually-one-of-my-Six-on-Saturday-but-it-was-too-good-to-omit photo of daffodils)…

Maybe it’s the hope that earlier sowings will result in plants that are ready to flower that little bit earlier than normal. Or maybe reading other Six on Saturdays and following the friendly community of planty people on Twitter has just inspired me to get cracking sooner. Last weekend I sowed some Zinnia, Scabious, Aqueligia, Alyssum and Morning Glory ‘Split Second Double’. I’m not entirely sure I like the look of the latter but the seeds were free with the Garden News magazine, its a climber and the fences are still standing despite the never-ending gales so I thought ‘what the heck.’ Anyway, on to the first of my Six on… Sorry, what was that? How did the pruning of the tree go last weekend? Ah, I was hoping you might have forgotten about that. Let’s just say I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not much of a tree surgeon. The tree’s still standing, well what’s left of it, but it won’t be featuring in any shots of the garden for some time. On the plus side, my new telescopic pruning shears worked rather well. Perhaps a little too well.

1. I tend to overlook the Iberis sempervirens (perennial candytuft) but I really shouldn’t. It’s a great little plant that just gets on with it. I’m going to try splitting it at some point as I’d quite like to have its cheerful white flowers elsewhere in the garden.

2. Talking of plants that just get on with it. The Lonicera frantissima (winter honeysuckle) featured in my 3 November SoS, just as the first of its flowers were beginning to open. Over four months later, just as its leaves are beginning to unfurl, the fragrant flowers are finally coming to an end.

3. Yet the deliciously scented Coronilla valentina subsp glauca (which started flowering at the same time as the winter honeysuckle) is still going strong and will probably continue to flower into next month.

As will the paler Coronilla subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ that grows in the back garden.

4. I thought I’d inadvertently done away with the Pasqueflower when I was rearranging the front garden border. But look! It lives!

Though it was lucky it didn’t get dug up when I planted the new lavender a couple of weeks ago. One of them will have to move. Possibly the Pasqueflower. But only after it’s flowered, as the last time I moved it prior to flowering it didn’t. I think there may be offspring too.

5. More newly emerging leaves. These belong to an Aquilegia. My sister’s garden is full of Aquilegia – they appear to spread everywhere. I wish mine would. I’m hoping for a few more plants from the newly sown seeds.

6. And finally… the standard/half-standard Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’. This was purchased to replace the Prunus mume ‘Omoi-no-mama’ that met an unfortunate demise last Autumn. Although the flowers aren’t fragrant like those of the tree it replaced, they are more prolific. At the moment it looks like a little snowball on a stick. I’m rather pleased with it.

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 (9 March 2019)

It’s been a wet and windy week and there have been a few casualties. One or two hyacinths have been flattened (they’re not as sturdy as they look once in full flower)

While others appear to have had second thoughts about braving the elements.

Last weekend I managed to do a bit of grass cutting, pruning and seed sowing. The big job for this weekend? Pruning the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’. I last tackled the tree two years ago when it received a rather severe chopping. It soon recovered. Still, I’m feeling (I initially typed felling – I hope that’s not a premonition) a little apprehensive. Fingers are crossed things will go okay and it’ll still look vaguely tree-like by the time I’ve finished. Anyway, on to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Tomatoes. In the past I’ve sown Sweet Aperitif but last year I wasn’t very organised and decided to purchase some tomato plants instead. I went for red and yellow Tumbling Toms, grown outdoors in pots. They did well and didn’t succumb to the dreaded blight as the Sweet Aperitif did in 2017.

 

This year I’ve got my derrière in gear and sown my own tomatoes and, rather excitingly, they’ve started to come up. I’ve gone for Wilko’s Minibel that, according to the blurb, ‘have a neat dwarf habit ideal for containers’, and Johnson’s Tumbling Tom Yellow. They’re starting their life indoors on the window sill in the spare bedroom. Watching seeds germinate and seedlings grow never gets old. Interestingly there also appear to be some rogue plants, presumably weeds, that were lurking in the compost.

2. Next up, saxifraga. I really like these but they never survive the winter. I’ve tried them in a few locations (including the gravel path) but with zero long-term success. This white one has gone in the newly extended bed next to the patio.

As has this reddy-pink one. I’ve decided to treat them like annuals.

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3. Some more daffodils have started flowering. I think this one is Little Witch. A daff of short stature that has usually proved to be sturdy and reliable, although this year it seems to be a bit lacking in buds. They were planted several years ago but have yet to spread.

I’ve no idea what variety this daffodil is. It’s another dwarf one.

4. The Buddleia that was grown as a standard from a self-sown plant 4ish years ago has been pruned back. I never cease to be amazed how much new growth this puts on each year. The poor old Daphne on the left is still hanging on… just.

5. The Primulas are coming into their own. Despite the gloom the native primroses still manage to look cheery.

And there are a few wishy-washy pink ones that may or may not be the result of a bit of cross-pollination of the promiscuous primula kind.

6. And finally… Grape hyacinths (or Muscari). I’m a big fan (I know some gardeners aren’t).

They’ve never really attempted to make a bid for garden domination, staying put in the one spot near the back door. When I re-did the gravel path last August I dug them up and dotted them here and there. I think it’s done the trick. They have a lovely fragrance too if you get up close.

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 (2 March 2019)

Well, it was good while it lasted. The unseasonably warm and sunny weather has come to an end and it’s due to turn really nasty tomorrow. I’m glad I didn’t take the plunge and uncover the swing seat. Last weekend I managed to get most things I’d set out to do in the garden done. The first lot of seeds of the year were sown: a few tomatoes, dahlias, sweet peas and some cosmos. The last of the borders was tidied and mulched, one of those satisfying tasks that instantly makes the garden look better (unfortunately the resident cats also rather like it – the perfect litter tray apparently). I spent a while realigning the two paving stones in the back lawn to make them flow more nicely with those in the new gravel path (although my wife couldn’t tell the difference) and I made a bit of a mess of the lawn (top-dressing with slightly soggy compost was a big mistake). One or seven plants may also have been purchased last weekend, including a couple of lavenders for the newly tidied front garden, and the first of this week’s Six on Saturday…

1. And it’s a controversial one in our household. A fern (Tsusima Holly Fern). I’ve wanted to get one for a long time now. I like their unfurling frondy ferny foliage. My wife however isn’t so keen and there was a bit of face pulling when I casually plonked this in the garden centre trolley. The dwarf conifer was the last controversial plant purchase. But I ask you, how can you not love this fern? This cute little fern. Who’s a pretty fern then? Who’s a pretty fern?!

2. Now I must admit I pulled a bit of a face when my mother-in-law gave us this the other week. Initially I wasn’t very keen. I’m not a fan of big and blowsy primulas and this one looked suspiciously blowsy. However, it’s grown on me and I actually rather like it now it’s been planted.

3. The hyacinths have started to open. This one looks almost iridescent.

4. I’d forgotten all about the tulips I’d planted at the end of November. The violas have been stealing the limelight and I’d not noticed the tulips pushing up through them. These are more advanced than those in another pot. I think they might be the Humilis Persian Pearl.

5. The mixed pack of crocuses I planted in the Autumn have done rather well (apart from a few daft ones that have a tendency to flop over).

However, I think this one might be my favourite. From a distance the flower looked as though it was pure white, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be far more interesting. So far it’s one of a kind.

6. And finally… Oxlips (not cowslips as I originally assumed). These flowered twice last year and I’m hoping they’ll seed themselves around a bit. The flowers are simple, understated and rather elegant, although they’d probably have looked more elegant if I’d taken a bit more care with my mulching.

And they were my Six on Saturday. If you’d like to join in (and you know you want to) head over to the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com where you’ll find guidance on how to participate and links to other Six on Saturdays from all over the World.

Six on Saturday (23 February 2019)

Two years ago, when my wife and I were renewing our ‘Two Together’ discount railcard, the 30-something chap issuing the new card cheerily commented how it was great that such an offer existed for middle-aged couples. I’d just turned 41, only had the odd grey hair around the temples and thought I wasn’t aging too badly. And my wife? Well naturally she wasn’t aging at all! Surely middle age only kicked in at 50? Presuming I lived to be a 100. It came as a bitter blow. I mumbled thank you as he handed the railcard over and we walked away in a bit of a daze wondering what had just occurred. We were still young, damn it.

Last Saturday I spent the entire afternoon doing a bit of light gardening; moving the odd shrub I’d resisted moving back in October, tidying up the bed at the front of the house, chopping things back, mulching, digging up a few perennials (and promptly forgetting where I’d temporarily placed them prior to replanting) and a spot of watering. Before I knew it the sun was starting to set. It was time to call it a day. Unlocking the shed for a fourth time after discovering yet another tool I’d forgotten to put away, I was aware of a slight, oooh, twinge here and there and felt rather weary. The next morning I awoke with aching legs, arms and back. I’d overdone it and I thought back to the railway station chap’s remark two years ago. Perhaps there’s no denying it any longer. Maybe I am indeed <gulps> middle-aged. Then again, perhaps I’m just out of practice after the winter! Anyway, it’s Six on Saturday time.

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1. One of the shrubs moved last Saturday was the Buddleia/Buddleja Buzz. It used to live in the square pot in the front garden but never did very well. A few years ago it was moved to the back garden but things were starting to get a bit crowded. Having decided to alter the planting scheme in the South facing front garden (things tend to get frazzled come midsummer) the Buzz has returned to the front, but in the ground this time. I’ll give it a hard prune in March.

2. The garlic is looking well. Fingers crossed things are doing just as well beneath the compost.

3. The dwarf conifer has been moved from the bed containing the new Hibiscus to the bed at the front of the conservatory in an attempt to provide a bit more shrubby structure. It can be a tad shady here and most gardening books seem to suggest conifers prefer a sunny location. I’m not entirely sure how happy it’ll be. We’ll see.

4. Possibly the most visually pleasing and thrilling SoS of all time. Prepare to be awed…

This hardy fuchsia, once a 3 foot annual show of unstoppable floweryness, was moved last Spring to a shadier spot and failed to do much of anything, barely growing more than a foot and offering but a few sporadic flowers. It’s been moved again, this time to the sunny back border. I’m not very hopeful.

5. Remember those miniature iris I came home with last week?

They got planted on Sunday (after I’d done several pre-gardening warm up stretches) and by the middle of last week had all opened.

6. And finally… The first daffodils have started to flower. It’s amazing what a difference a bit of sun has made. Just a few days ago the dwarf daffs were still in bud…

And now they’re in full bloom…

And they were my Six on Saturday. If you’d like to join in (and you know you want to) head over to the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com where you’ll find guidance on how to participate and links to other Six on Saturdays from all over the World.

Six on Saturday: there’s change afoot (16 February 2019)

Last Sunday morning I was feeling a bit fed up. It seemed every weekend was turning out to be grey, wet, blustery and generally miserable. It had been weeks since there’d been a chance to do some proper gardening. I was missing my ‘fix’. But by 2pm the rain had finally stopped and I ventured out in my serious gardening get-up (paint splattered jeans held up with Monty Don inspired braces, my ancient green fleece and my old gardening shoes) determined to get a few things done before the showers resumed. A few more patio slabs were dug up (possibly a new problem to add to compulsive plant purchasing and shrub moving), the new Hibiscus was planted and a bit of weeding was done. The rain held off, the sun made the odd appearance and the fragrance of the Winter Honeysuckle and Sweet Box filled the garden. The afternoon flew by and my mood was buoyant.

And it’s continued to be buoyant. As the week has gone on the sun has risen that little bit earlier and set that little bit later each day, there’s been blue sky, a bit of warmth, and dusk has been accompanied by the welcome sound of birdsong. There’s change afoot. The garden is stirring. Whisper it quietly (cos it’s early days yet) but Spring appears to be on its way. However, enough waffling, it’s time for my first Six on Saturday.

1. Another box containing something rather box like…

…an Ilex. I’ve decided the bed nearest the conservatory requires some evergreeny structure but rather than go for an actual box plant I thought I’d give this a go instead. A pessimist by nature, I worry about box blight striking. So I’m curious to see how this compares to good old buxus.

2. Last week I was a bit miffed that my mixed pack of crocuses had apparently all turned out to be yellow and cream. However, I was wrong! Look, crocuses of purple hue!

3. All of our hyacinths were originally grown indoors and later plonked in the garden after they’d finished flowering. They come back each year, although not usually as large and showy as they were as indoor plants.

4. The Viburnum farreri has finished flowering and has now started to come into leaf. It had more flowers than it did last winter but has yet to achieve its full floriferous potential. Perhaps next winter.

5. I nipped out during my lunch break on Tuesday to buy a few bags of compost and ended up with a pot of iris too. I do like miniature iris.

6. And finally… the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ is now in full flower and looking rather splendid. It needs a good pruning to allow a bit more rain to get to the plants beneath it during the summer, and apparently the best time to do this is as soon as it’s finished flowering. The tree received a rather severe prune two years ago while in full leaf (the solar fairy lights that adorn it nearly came a cropper) but is just as large now as it was back then.

From what I’ve read online the thing is supposed to take 20 years to reach a height and spread of 2m. Pah! Here it was when we moved in over 6 and half years ago and here it was last summer.

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: It was a dark and stormy night… (9 February 2019)

In the wee small hours of Thursday morning I awoke to the sound of a howling gale outside. I lay there for a while worrying about the same thing I always worry about during stormy weather – the aging fences. Having trained a variety of plants up them, I don’t relish the potential hassle if they’re flattened and need replacing. But I decided there was no point worrying, there was nothing I could do. Just relax. Forget about the fences. Ignore the ominous sounds outside. Just try to get back to the land of Nod.

But then I suddenly remembered the swing seat cover. Earlier in the week I’d noticed that one of the corners of the cover had become detached from the scary/cute (delete as appropriate) hedgehog ornament. I’d forgotten to reattach it. Damn. It was 1.30am. Could I really be bothered to do it now? After all it would probably be fine. Nope, I needed to find my inner Zen, forget about the gales and the swing seat cover just as I’d managed to forget about the fences… hmm, were they still standing? No, stop that. Empty my mind of all thoughts, including the thought of emptying my mind of all thoughts. Embrace slumber.

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Five minutes later, holding a pocket torch in my mouth whilst attempting to reattach the corner of the swing seat cover to the hedgehogs (which look even more sinister at night) I felt strangely calm. Out in the garden the wind didn’t sound quite so bad as it had when I was lying in bed. But adding to this sense of calm was the rather lovely scent of my first Six on Saturday…

1. Oh yes, it’s the Sweet Box… again! Small flowers yet a mighty scent. I much prefer this small compact variety than the bigger and rather straggly version we have near the back door. It’s in full flower now. The berries are also rather attractive.

2. The bulbs under the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ tree were doing rather well when I took this photo earlier in the week (they’ve received a bit of a battering since those gales and Storm Erik). Crocuses and a solitary snow drop. I spotted some pots of flowering snowdrops on sale in town last weekend and I think I’m going to purchase a few to provide this one with a bit of company.

3. Talking of purchases, last weekend’s visit to Wilko (one of my favourite shops as it seems to stock pretty much anything) resulted in a few plant related buys including a pack of freesia. I’ve always fancied growing these as my wife and I are keen on their scent. Come March I’ll need to find a spot for them.

4. I used toilet roll tubes for my sweet peas last year and they did a grand job. I’m collecting more for this year’s sweet peas but I’ll still be reusing my vast array of plastic pots for seedlings (and will continue to do so until they’re no longer fit for purpose). However, I spotted these fibre pots for a pound. Apart from the plastic wrapping, it’s rather encouraging to see the shops providing an increasing number of alternatives to the plastic variety.

5. Remember the mysterious unboxed accidental purchase from last week?

Well, I unpacked it and here it is – a nondescript twiggy thing/standard ‘Marina Blue’ Hibiscus.

I’d always admired the flowers of a large Hibiscus that grew in a front garden I used to pass on my way to and from work. It was a show during late summer and the flowers remind me a bit of crepe paper. I’ve been pondering getting a Hibiscus for a while now but wasn’t sure where I’d put it. The recently extended patio bed (which may be extended a tad more) has hopefully provided the ideal spot. The grand plan is that it’ll add a bit of height and obscure the view of the patio/path a bit (depending on where you are) so that you can’t see all of the garden in one go (admittedly a bit tricky in a small garden). Apparently you can prune it back each year if required so I’m hoping it won’t get in the way of any sheets hanging on the washing line.

6. And finally… a birthday present. A bird feeder in a box. It’s an ingenious idea and it was easy to put together (I didn’t require any adult supervision).

We get a good variety of birds feeding in the back garden but I’m going to attach this one to the outside of the living room window where hopefully we’ll get to enjoy the odd feathered visitor up close.

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.