Six on Saturday (12 January 2019)

I don’t know about anyone else but January seems to be racing by; we’re almost half way through the month already. Last weekend I tackled the bittercress and some of the forget-me-nots that were growing happily away in the garden, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it’s supposed to be winter. And after reading through the comments of the very knowledgable and helpful SoSers last Saturday, I removed the ivy that I’d spotted in the bed near the bird table. Weeding is one of those satisfying jobs where you can instantly see the results of your labours. True, it can sometimes result in accidental tramplage of newly emerging daffodils (and a bit of cursing) or a slight twinge in your left knee when crouching down to tackle a dandelion, but it can often lead to the odd discovery, something you may not have otherwise noticed from up high. And that leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. I found this yellow primrose when I was tackling some weeds near the conservatory. There are a variety of Primula in the garden but I think the native primrose is my favourite. The slimy plant assassins of the night have obviously been out and about though judging from the leaves.

This Primula (dug up from my mum’s garden last summer) seems particularly popular with the local slugs and snails.

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2. A Christmas present next – Seedball Bee Mix. They look almost chocolatey but contain a mixture of wildflowers: birdsfoot trefoil, wild marjoram, viper’s bugloss, red clover and foxglove. Each ball contains 100 seeds apparently. I’m not sure where I’m going to plant them come the spring. Perhaps some could go in the lawn and some in pots?

3. Another Christmas present. I’m looking forward to reading Monty Don’s book which is crammed full of gardening tips and advice.

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4. The garlic is continuing to grow, in both the troughs…

… and in the ground. I may need to relocate the troughs further away from the bird table as some of the garlic has suffered a bit of damage from the Chinook helicopteresque wood pigeons that seem to insist on using the troughs as landing pads.

5. I received an email last Friday to say the new mini greenhouse I’d ordered soon after Christmas was out for delivery. On Sunday I spent some time making sure the paving stones that are going to form the base for the greenhouse were more or less level, even deploying a spirit level! This was no mean feat and quite how you go about making sure a whole patio is level, let alone three measly paving stones, I have no idea.

6. And finally… The mini greenhouse arrived Monday morning. A note from the delivery company said it had been left by the ‘white shed’ (which was a bit of a cheek as the shed is obviously Natural Stone with Jasmine trimmings!) I’ll be spending Saturday afternoon, and possibly Sunday (depending on the weather and how inept I am) putting it up. I just hope the instructions are lurking amongst one of the packets…

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 (5 January 2019)

It’s 2019, the Christmas merriment is over, the decorations have been taken down, I know what day of the week it is again and that strange phenomenon that afflicts my work trousers the same time every year has occurred once more – they’ve shrunk a little in the waist.

But New Year trouser shrinkage isn’t the only strange phenomena to have occurred during the past few weeks. Oh no, far stranger things have been going on in the garden…

1. The first of which is grass cutting. On New Year’s Eve I noticed that the back lawn had put on a surprising amount of growth since its last trim back in early November.

My little push mower struggles with the grass when it gets too long so it seemed wise to tackle it there and then. However, I don’t think I’ve ever mown the lawn this late on in the year before. I’m hoping the recent spell of chillier weather will continue for a while and slow things down a bit.

2. It’s not just the grass that has been stealthily growing during the mild winter we’ve had so far. Despite thinking I’d been pretty ruthless with the forget-me-nots last year, reducing them to just a few plants here and there, I appear to have failed miserably. They’re coming up everywhere.

3. As are the common red poppies, which is odd as they didn’t do very well at all last summer.

Californian poppy seedlings are also popping up all over the place. Unfortunately the orange ones tend to be more prolific than the yellow.

4. Weeds have been enjoying the recent mild weather, especially the bittercress. I don’t normally weed during the winter but it might be necessary to get shot of this particular nemesis before it flowers and sets seed.

This shiny leafed weed always thrives in the shady damp bed. I’ve no idea what it is.

And this ivy has appeared out of nowhere. I’m not sure whether I should keep it or not. Would it do okay in a pot, trailing nicely over the sides? Would it be good as ground cover? Or should I just get shot of it? Suggestions welcomed.

5. This is a view from the sofa in the conservatory. The fuchsia is still flowering and the vinca is looking good but will definitely need to be taken in hand soon. It’s doing a good job at softening the remains of an old bird bath but is in danger of taking over the bed.

6. And finally… bulbs. These might be daffodils (with some viola, honesty and other as yet unidentified seedlings.

Crocus and a whatsamajig…

Some something-or-others…

And rather excitingly I think these might be the ranunculus…

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: looking back over 2018 (29 December 2018)

Taking a stroll around the garden yesterday I struggled to find anything of interest that I hadn’t already shared recently. Later, as I was sitting in the conservatory watching a flock of long-tailed tits nibbling away at a fat-filled coconut shell and helping myself to what I vowed would be the last Beech’s dark chocolate ginger of the day, I pondered what had happened garden-wise over the past year. Were there six gardeny things of note that could make up a Six on Saturday? Five dark chocolate gingers and a Lindt chocolate bauble later I decided there were.

1. We rarely get snow in Taunton, Somerset. So having two lots of heavy snow within weeks (1 March and the 18 March) came as a bit of a shock.

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The first lot was heavier and was accompanied by freezing rain, something I’d never seen before. The flowering daffodils recovered okay though.

2. From cold and wet to hot and very dry. By mid June the South facing front garden was beginning to suffer due to the lack of rain and by the end of July the front lawn was decidely crispy. Things weren’t much better in the back. The trees on the Green opposite the house began to shed their leaves and everything just looked rather autumnally.

By September everything had recovered but the drought has made me consider changing the planting scheme out the front. It always looks colourful in May but has always struggled later in the summer. The neighbours had a big front garden revamp earlier this year (as well as going all out with the Royal Wedding celebrations). They adopted our curvy bed theme but went with quite different plants to ours. As the summer went on I realised they’d been far more sensible, choosing plants that seemed to cope with the heat and lack of rain far better than ours did. I’m thinking a bit of mulching might be in order come the spring (I usually only do the back garden) and I have a few drought tolerant plants ready to go in.

3. The lack of rain and an empty water butt prompted me to improve our water storage capacity. We went from one water butt to two.

And when it finally rained and the second one started to fill I was strangely chuffed and even filmed the momentous moment.

And I didn’t stop at two water butts, oh no. In September I rigged up some guttering to the blue shed and attached another one. It didn’t go very smoothly (a recap can be found here) but I’m hoping it’ll mean we use less mains water for gardening and help delay or prevent having to collect our shower water (which is always a bit of a chore).

4. 2018 has been the year of moving things. The wildlife pond was moved so that it would get more sun and there was the great shrub move of October 2018. However, there were two big changes that affected the overall design of the garden this year. The first was the re-shaping of the lawn. When we moved here in 2012 the lawn was rectangular.

Over the years I’d dug up some of it to create a few curved beds, but most of the brick edging had remained in place (it had seemed too big a task to remove it back then). It looked a bit odd, an almost circular lawn within a rectangle. In April, armed with mallet, pickaxe and trusty towel, I removed the bricks (the cement proved to be far more bashable than in 2012) and created as circular a circle as possible using a screwdriver and some string. It was then edged with the recycled bricks.

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5. Though the circular lawn was an improvement it created a rather shapeless looking gravel path.

In August I set about creating a gently curved path, altering the shape of some of the beds. It made quite a difference to the overall feel of the garden.

In theory the curvy path and round lawn means I won’t be digging up any more turf. However, I’m wondering whether I should take up a few of the patio slabs over on the right next year to create a bit more space for new plants…

6. And finally, sheds. The green shed was here when we moved in but was slowly rotting away. It was time for a change.

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A new shed was purchased with a cunning plan in mind. Having the door on the long side has freed up space for a new mini greenhouse on the short side. And I’ve finally taken the plunge and ordered 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. All the best for the New Year.

Six on Saturday (22 December 2018)

Well the 21st December has been and gone. From here on in the nights will be getting shorter and the days longer. Hurrah! At the moment the garden is looking rather soggy but there are plenty of signs of life. Bulbs are beginning to poke through the ground and some of the winter flowering shrubs are doing their thing and err, flowering during the winter. And there’s still the sweet box and Daphne odora to look forward to yet.

The Christmas holidays have also begun. No more work until the 2nd January 2019. Eleven days to look out at the garden during daylight hours, watch the birds feeding, perhaps do a little planning for the spring, enjoy the odd mince pie and chocolate and, oh yes, enjoy time with family. Anyway, on to my first Six on Saturday…

1. The Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ has a few flowers out at the moment. It seems to flower throughout much of the year and I wouldn’t be without it. I’m hoping ‘Pink Perfection’ does just as well. Time will tell.

2. The plants making up the little nursery over by the swing seat seem to be doing okay, with the possible exception of one of the three coronilla seedlings potted up in April which is looking a little ropey. I’m not entirely sure it’s going to make it through the winter. The nursery includes a few purchases that I never got around to planting as well as some cuttings, mystery plants/weeds and herbs.

3. Last week I featured a purple vinca/periwinkle. Now a white one has flowered. They’re a bit thuggish and I suspect some have escaped into the neighbour’s garden. Still, they provide all year round ground cover and a splash of colour in a shady part of the garden.

4. The sedum went over weeks ago but it’s still proving some nice structural interest in the garden (front and back). It’ll be chopped back in the spring.

5. The coronilla out the front has been in full flower for several weeks now and will hopefully go on flowering well into April and perhaps beyond. At the moment you have to get up close to the flowers to fully appreciate their scent, but come the spring, when it gets a bit warmer, the scent will become wafty, greeting you as you come up to the front door. I make no apologies that this will probably feature as a SoS quite a lot over the coming months.

6. And finally… remember the Graham Thomas rose hip from the 17 November?

Well, it’s deepening into a rather nice red. Looking out at the garden from an upstairs window I noticed a lot more of these hips on the neighbours’ side of the trellis. They’ve obviously been getting to enjoy the flowers too!

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. Merry Christmas.

Six on Saturday (15 December 2018)

I’m a bit bored of the wet and windy weather we’ve been having lately. Many a night of late I’ve lain awake listening to the wind and rain, worrying whether any of the aging and slightly rickety fence posts have finally snapped and pondering the implications this will have for all the climbers. I like my winters bright, still, dry and frosty. These mild and damp conditions seem strangely unhealthy. I’m sure the garden pests are relishing it.

1. Which leads me straight into my first Six on Saturday. Late last Sunday afternoon, during a brief respite from the rain, I went for a wander around the garden, on the look out for colourful, flowery and leafy things to photograph. In the shadiest part of the garden I found that some of the periwinkles (or creeping vinca) have begun to flower.

They have a tendancy to take over, rooting wherever a stem touches the ground. However, they are evergreen and seem to flower, off and on, throughout much of the year. I didn’t spot it until after I’d taken the photo, but if you zoom in you can see a green aphid-like critter sheltering in the centre of the flower. I’m not sure this bodes well for next year!

2. My wife took a cutting of a Viburnum that was growing in the tiny garden of the first house we rented. I think it’s Viburnum farreri. It’s about 7 or 8 years old now but only started flowering two years ago. That first time it had just a few buds but it’s gradually beginning to produce more flowers. They have a nice scent too.

3. Talking of scent, the Coronilla subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ that grows in the back garden has just started flowering. It has a paler flower and a greyer leaf than the Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca in the front garden and has never done quite so well. I suspect it’s because it doesn’t get as much sun. This one was sold as a climber and is being trained up a bit of trellis.

Here’s a picture of the one out the front…

4. All of the garlic in the troughs is coming up, and nicely in formation too. There’s no sigh of the cloves I planted in the flower bed yet though.

5. The Lonicera fragrantissima (or Winter honeysuckle) is in full flower. The other weekend there were a few honey bees and a hoverfly enjoing the nectar. And look – blue sky! It didn’t last long.

6. And finally… the orange berries of the pyracantha don’t usually seem to be that popular with the birds. Most years they’re ignored and wither away. This was how the pyracantha looked way back in September and up until last weekend nothing had changed; the berries remained unscoffed.

However, on Sunday I noticed that the majority of the branches had been stripped bare of their berries. I’m assuming blackbirds, though I’ve not seen any feasting on them. So does this mean we’re in for a hard winter or that the birds are just a bit less fussy than usual?

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 (8 December 2018)

I don’t know about you but lately I’m tending to take my Six on Saturday photographs the weekend before they’re posted. More often than not they’re taken late on a Sunday afternoon when I suddenly realise there are only a few hours of daylight left and there won’t be another opportunity to take any more photographs until the following weekend. Last Sunday, as I pottered round the garden, phone in hand ready to take some stunning close-ups of flowers, leaves or buds, I realised I was struggling to make up six unless I featured the usual flowering stalwarts that have featured many times before (primarily the snapdragons). So I decided I’d take a break from sharing plants and go for objects and ornaments in the garden instead.

1. These metallic mushrooms were purchased at the Taunton Flower Show a few years ago. They’re weathering rather nicely underneath the standard Buddleia.

2. I can’t remember if the little bird bath was a purchase or a gift. We acquired it when we were renting our first house. It was a new house that backed on to the back of allotments. The garden was tiny but we attracted a large variety of birds to the bird table and naturally a bird bath was required for them to have a drink and take a little dip.

3. When we bought our first house six years ago we found it came complete with a proper bird bath in the garden. Unfortunately, and I forget the specifics, I broke it (I think I was struggling past it with the remains of the raised bed that I was dismantling enthusiastically with a sledgehammer). My mother-in-law kindly bought me this one as a replacement. It’s much tougher that the original one; it was used by some blighter in an attempt to break into the house last year via the conservatory. They failed and attempted to break into the neighbour’s house instead. Thankfully the scoundrel was caught.

Watching birds enjoying a bath never grows old, though apologies for the rather unsteady camerawork…

4. A newt/lizard/gecko found in Lyme Regis. He lives next to the pond. I find myself talking to him sometimes. I don’t know why.

5. Yes, it’s those love ’em or hate ’em hedgehogs that we found in the garden when we moved here. I was surprised to discover they had a few fans when I was rather disparaging about them in a SoS a while back. They’re helping to hold down the swing seat cover over the winter, hidden away out of sight!

6. And finally… I’m always keen to attract wildlife to the garden (well, desirable wildlife). We’ve had this small bee hotel for a couple of years now. I completely forgot to check it during the summer but it looks like some leaf-cutting and masonry bees have made use of it again which is rather nice.

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 December 2018)

Well, it’s the 1 December and the start of the meteorological winter. However, if you prefer to determine when your seasons begin and end based on the astronomical method, winter won’t arrive until the 21 December. I think I follow the meterological seasons. It seems to match the ebb and flow of the garden and nature more closely (although apparently that’s a whole other way of determining your seasons – the phenological method) plus spring gets here that much sooner. Why wait until the 20 March to celebrate the start of spring when you can celebrate it on the 1 March?

While some of the antirrhinums, scabious/scabiosa/scabiousesses (delete as appropriate) and a rose are still just about flowering, the garden definitely has more of a winter look about it now. The rain and gales over the past week have rendered most of the deciduous shrubs leafless, with the odd exception of the Philadelphus which is still looking quite green and leafy.

1. This photograph of the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ was taken last Sunday when we had a rain free day. It’s turned a lovely colour. However, glancing out into the gloom a few mornings ago, it was looking a lot barer. Next year’s flower buds are developing nicely though.

2. In addition to the dwarf sweet box, which featured in a SoS a few weeks ago, we have a larger variety (Sarcococca confusa, I think). It’s rather messy looking and, as you can see here, tends to sucker.

Yet it’s a mass of flower buds that will hopefully soon open and release their sweet fragrance.

3. The Daphne odora appears to have coped okay with being moved a third time. Last year it took a while to recover from being repositioned and didn’t flower at all.

This time however we have flower buds! My mother-in-law has one of these and it fills her garden with heady scent early on in the year. After this one has flowered I’m going to give it a light pruning to see if it will encourage new growth further down the rather bare branches.

4. The leaves on the Cotoneaster horizontalis have begun to turn all autumnally and will soon fall.

5. On that rain free Sunday I planted the tulips that featured in last week’s SoS.

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One pot has the 15 bulbs planted in three layers. This was the first layer, with a bit of added grit. The ‘frost resistant’ pot has seen better days. The snow and ice we had last winter caused quite a bit of damage. I’ve planted the 7 Humilis Persian Pearl bulbs in another pot.

6. And finally… after I’d planted the tulips I topped the pots off with the newly purchased violas

And rather jolly they’ll look too over the coming months, their cheerful faces looking towards the house.

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.