Six on Saturday (7 December 2019)

Well that’s it, the garden has finally been put to bed for the winter. The swing seat has been covered up, the borders have been tucked up all nice and warm with a mulch of well rotted manure and a blanket of fallen leaves, and that last big job that I’d been putting off for ages, has finally been completed…

1. Oh yes! Last Sunday the Jasmine received its annual chop. In a few hours it went from this…



To this…



The sun even came out just as I finished the job and I’m sure I heard a choir singing “Hallelujah.”



For all its benefits (nice foliage, beautifully scented flowers and the privacy it provides along the trellis fence) the Jasmine is a thug. This stem was running along the length of the border



putting down roots wherever it touched soil.



2. The Cyclamen have spread themselves around the garden in a far more civilised manner. They stopped flowering a while ago but this has allowed their foliage to take centre stage.




4. Now apparently my next SoS is on a list of invasive non-native species, although so far this one seems to have behaved itself. Cotoneaster horizontalis, a plant acquired from the old ancestral home up in North Wales a few years ago, is fast loosing its leaves. Yet even without foliage the structure of the plant remains interesting.




5. Some more autumnal colour up next, Poulton’s Pride Rhubarb. This was a new addition to the garden in the spring. We’ve resisted picking any stalks over the summer, allowing it to get established. Compared to my mother-in-law’s two plants it looks a little puny. I suspect it needs more space.



6. And finally… You have no idea how glad I am to get to my sixth SoS. For some reason WordPress has switched to something called ‘Block Editor’ and typing this blog has been hellish. The rest of the weekend will be spent trying to switch it back to ‘Classic Editor’. I will try to maintain some sort of inner zen-like calm by picturing this new Viola (a new purchase last weekend). Wish me luck.



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 (30 November 2019)

The garden has almost been put to bed for the winter. Yet there’s still one task left to do, a task I’ve been putting off for a while now. Unfortunately I’ve run out of other gardening chores to prioritise over this horticultural horror and the weather is set to be dry tomorrow. It’s time to face my nemesis. On Sunday I’m chopping back the Jasmine. Then again… Perhaps a trip to a garden centre to purchase some gift vouchers as Christmas presents would be a better use of my time. They might even have some bargain bulbs, and they’d need planting pretty sharpish. Not that I really need any more bulbs, which leads me to my first SoS.

1. I picked up that last minute accidental purchase of tulips from the sorting office last Sunday. Thirty Clusiana Tubergen’s Gem, a small yellow and red tulip that will hopefully naturalise

… and twenty-four Brown Sugar tulips that should produce orangey-brown blooms in the spring. Most of the Brown Sugar bulbs have gone into pots, although I’m slightly concerned the compost I planted them in was too wet and may cause them to rot. Fingers crossed they’ll be okay as the flowers are supposedly scented.

2. Talking of scent, the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ has turned all autumnally.

Its fragrant flowers open in April but the buds have already started to form. Unfortunately I’ve snapped a few of the surprisingly brittle branches off while brushing past it to retrieve bags of compost from down the side of the blue shed.

3. Next up, some cuttings of Penstemon ‘Garnet’ taken last month. They appear to be doing okay.

And the parent plant is still just about flowering.

4. For the past few weeks I’ve been pondering the acquisition of another plant to provide some more vertical structure in the garden. I was originally leaning towards a standard Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’, thinking it would also provide some evergreen interest, but I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough space in the spot I had in mind, near the patio. It also didn’t fulfil the criteria of trying to provide all year round fragrance in the garden. In the end I went for a bare root rose tree, Harlow Carr.

Planting the rose was relatively easy. Putting the stake in beforehand was a nightmare. Hammering something into the ground so that it’s perfectly straight is beyond my capabilities (the rotary washing line stands at a jaunty angle once adorned with laundry, despite spending ages trying to achieve vertical perfection with a spirit level). A free stake was provided with the rose but I managed to snap it at the base after attempting to pull it up for a third time. Luckily I had a spare one at hand, but it still took several more painstaking goes. Hang on, I wonder if that’s how the word ‘painstaking’ came about?

5. Surveying the stake and rose from all angles involved quite a bit of marching back and forth in my wellies, something the lawn could have done without after weeks of wet weather. It’s looking very sorry for itself. Gravel paths and muddy footwear aren’t a good combination. I should probably get the garden fork out to help with aeration and drainage. In fact I could do that instead of chopping the Jasmine.

6. And finally… Another Penstemon, Laura, has been flowering for months and is still going strong. I took a few cuttings of this plant last year but while they look healthy enough they’ve yet to bloom. Maybe next year.

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 (23 November 2019)

Until last year I’d never fully embraced bulbs. There were a few clumps of daffs, planted when we first moved here, the odd mini iris, crocus and a small scattering of grape hyacinths (which bizarrely didn’t spread) but that was it. Last Autumn I made more of an effort bulbwise and it was certainly worthwhile; there was spring colour aplenty. Keen to add further springtime zing (or at least replace the bulbs that I’ve sliced through since then) I bought some more, and last weekend I finally got around to planting them. Not with a great deal of enthusiasm I have to admit. But it’s done. Or at least it was. But more on that later.

1. In addition to the Jetfire and Falconet narcissus that featured last week, I’ve planted some more Minnow and Pheasant Eye. Simple yet elegant.

3. Next up, alliums. I’ve added some more Purple Sensation…

This white variety….

And I’ve also given garlic another go.

The garlic was a bit of a disappointment this summer as very few separated to form cloves. Fingers are crossed it does better this time. I’m trying it in the troughs again.

3. Last November I tried growing tulips for the first time in a few years. One pot of some early flowering dwarf variety or other was something of a disappointment and I was ready to swear off tulips for good. However, the second pot was a big success and won me over. This time I’ve gone for several varieties. In addition to the mixed lilyflowering tulips that featured last week I’ve also planted these

and Doll’s Minuet

Some have gone into pots and others have been plonked in the ground.

They were the last of the bulbs to be planted and I breathed a big sigh of relief when it was done and got on with some mulching. Unfortunately I’ve accidentally ordered some more since then; a scented variety that sounded intriguing and some dwarf tulips that are supposed to naturalise. And for just £2 extra I got double quantities of each. Where are they going to go? Good question. I have no idea.

5. Now it’s taken me a while but I finally got around to planting some of the plants grown from seed during the summer, including ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ foxglove seedlings and Sweet Williams. As usual, I sowed far too many for our small garden so I’ll be giving these leftovers to my mother-in-law later today.

5. At some point I’ll need to cover up the swing seat. Alas I can’t do that until I’ve chopped back the dreaded Jasmine. However, the folding garden bench has been put away in the shed until the spring and the troughs of garlic put in its place. For the next 3 months or so the garden will be viewed from the warmth of indoors, and soon only at weekends. Hmm, that’s a gloomy thought.

6. Thankfully, I purchased a few trays of Violas last weekend to plant on top of the potted tulips. I love Violas.

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Their cheerful faces will provide a much needed splash of colour through the winter and into spring. I may need to get some more today.

And they were my Six on Saturday on this wet and miserable morning. 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 (16 November 2019)

The first frost struck early last Saturday morning, finally finishing off the Zinnias, Dahlias and most of the Cosmos. It was something of a relief. As nice as all the late flowers were initially, most were beginning to outstay their welcome. The garden needed tidying ready for bulb planting, yet I lacked the heart to pull plants up or chop them back while they were still in flower, despite looking increasingly bedraggled. No, the frost did me a favour. It also allowed the Zinnias to go out in style.

But any hopes of getting out in the garden to start preparing it for winter last Saturday were soon dashed when the heavens opened. Fortunately, Sunday turned out to be rather nice and the big tidy up started in earnest.

Before long bare earth was exposed, pots were emptied and trugs were filled and, rather inevitably, shrubs were moved. Which leads me to my first SoS…

1. The Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ got moved last autumn as part of the great shrub shuffle of October 2018. Back then I spent ages pondering the perfect new location for it. However, I hadn’t anticipated purchasing a rose, Gertrude Jekyll, a few months later. At the end of January I planted Gerty to the right of the Viburnum, against the fence. But enjoying her deliciously scented flowers during the summer proved tricky. So last Sunday the rose and the Viburnum were dug up. The latter was moved a few feet to the right to create space on the left for Gerty. I may regret this decision if she gets too big and I can’t squeeze past her to get down the side of the blue shed to the compost, pots and water butt without getting attacked by thorns. We shall see. I can always chop Gerty back rather than grow her as a climber if I need to… or move everything around again.

2. Moving plants inevitably lead to accidental bulb carnage. I’ve purchased a few bags of new bulbs over the past month or so in anticipation of such casualties and to add to last year’s springtime colour. We’re not talking 100s of bulbs but a dozen or so, not-really-trying, could-do-better, small bags of the things. I’m hoping to get some of these in the ground over the weekend. First up are these Falconet narcissus. I do like a fragrant narcissi.

3. Last year Jetfire featured in a lot of SoSs. Inevitably I added them to ‘the list.’ I’ve no idea what ‘relaxed petals are (presumably the opposite of tense petals). <update: a fellow SoSer has pointed out that the packet actually says ‘reflexed petals.’ A visit to the opticians is required!> I’m looking forward to them flowering.

4. After a successful attempt at growing tulips in a pot earlier in the year I’ve decided to give them another go. This time I’ve gone for a couple of varieties, including these lilyflowering tulips. I may try growing some in the ground, perhaps in the front garden.

5. Next up, the remains of the former Prunus have now been arranged to create a few log piles for wildlife. They’ve taken on a rather nice reddy colour.

6. And finally… Though the frost finished off a lot of the flowers last Saturday, this plucky Calendula is still flowering away. I’ll leave it be for now.

And they were my Six on Saturday on this cold and frosty morning. 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: all about trees (9 November 2019)

When my wife and I bought our first house in the summer of 2012 there were two trees in the garden; a large maple of some sort near the old shed…

… and a dwarf ornamental plum tree, Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’, outside the back door. The maple was too large and was chopped down, dug up and replaced with the little plum tree that same summer.


Each spring the tree has produced beautiful white blossom and it’s provided the birds with a safe pottering place near the bird table. However, as the years have passed by the dwarf plum tree has grown ever larger, quickly surpassing its alleged 2m x 2m height and spread in 20 years. Pruning it only seemed to encourage more vigorous growth and there were concerns that it might have been growing too close to a retaining wall. After a lot of umming and ahing the decision was made to replace it with something more manageable. Last Sunday I decided I’d make the most of a rare spell of dry weather and prepare poor Hessei for the big chop. This week’s SoS is all about that rather sad yet necessary task.

1. Preparation: This was the tree early on Sunday morning. I’d given it a bit of a prune a month or so ago thinking that there would be less to chop back come the big day. However, it had had other ideas, putting on a couple of feet of new growth. Before I could chop the branches right back though I needed to remove the solar powered fairy lights that had been adorning it for the past three years. A painstaking ten minutes were spent untangling the lights and all seemed to be going well until I got to this bit. A branch had grown around the cable and swallowed it up. There was no option but to chop through the fairy lights.

2. The big chop: The pruning saw and loppers were deployed and soon the poor tree was nothing more than a trunk. A fun-filled hour or so (with a break for lunch and some emergency cheesecake) was then spent chopping up the thinner branches so that they would fit into the two trugs (aided by a bit of jumping up and down) ready for decanting into my mother-in-law’s green waste bin.

Remember the fairy lights that the tree had gobbled up?

Here’s a cross section of the branch with the cables running through it.

3. The big dig: Initially that was all I was going to do. Rain was forecast for 3pm, I had a great big blister forming on the palm of my right hand (note to self – wear gardening gloves) and hey, what was the rush? Much better to leave the worst bit of the job, digging out the stump and roots, for another weekend.

Three hours later, a heavy drizzle falling and the light fading fast, a decidedly damp gardener, who was now semi blind having been forced to remove his mud splattered spectacles, was calling the tree all the names under the sun (which was but a distant memory by then) and frantically waggling the trunk back and forth in a desperate attempt to shake the damned thing free, while his long suffering and equally damp and mud splattered wife was fumbling under the tree, trying to locate the last few pesky roots and chop through them with the loppers. By 4.30pm we had prized the trunk from the ground and carried it triumphantly through the herbaceous border to the sodden lawn.

4. Logs: And there it lay, until Friday when, armed with a chainsaw loaned from a work colleague, I sliced it up into logs while my wife observed from a safe distance with her finger poised, ready to dial 999 (it was my first go with such an implement and for reasons unknown my wife and mother-in-law seemed to expect the worst).

5. Treelessness: It’s been rather sad looking out at the garden over the past week and seeing this view. The birds haven’t been too impressed either. A coal tit landed on the bench while I was stood next to the shed the other morning and gave me an accusatory look.

6. The new tree: After I’d sliced up the old tree with the chainsaw I planted the new one; a Eucalyptus gunnii France Bleu. It’s an evergreen that should, in theory, get no bigger than 2-3m tall (the overall size seems to vary from supplier to supplier) if left to its own devices. Alternatively, it can be pruned right back if needed. We shall see.

And they were my Six on Saturday on this cold and frosty morning. 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: weekend weather woes (2 November 2019)

At this time of year you really are at the mercy of the weekend weather if you’re a full-time nine to fiver. It’s all very well having the odd day of dry weather during the week. That’s no good to me, stuck at work, indoors. If it’s wet and miserable at the weekend (as it has been most weekends) then you’re pretty much stuffed gardening-wise. Temperatures took quite a dip early on in the week, getting down to 0.2°C one morning, but the weather was bright and sunny. But now we’re back to mild, wet and blustery, just in time for the weekend. At this rate I’m never going to plant any of the Foxgloves, Sweet Williams or bulbs. On the plus side it does mean I don’t need to tackle my first SoS…

1. The Jasmine. I dread the annual chopping back of this rampant climber. It seems to be the most chorey of gardening chores. The longer I can put this task off the better. This photo was taken last Sunday. Despite the sun and blue sky the garden was sodden and cutting the lawns proved a bit of a challenge with the push mower.

2. The Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ has been in the ground a year now. It’s grown a little but I think it may be quite some time before it surpasses the height of the fence and starts to provide a bit of privacy. I must exercise patience.

Day by day the leaves are turning a lovely deep red. Last year I very nearly didn’t get a chance to capture its autumnal splendour as it shed most of its foliage rather suddenly. I’ve been more vigilant this year. The photo above was taken last Sunday and the one below on Friday.

3. The Sedums (possibly Autumn Joy) have also turned a rather nice red. They were covered with bees in late August, just as the flowers were beginning to open…

… and into September when the flowers took on a pinker hue.

This is how they look now (well, earlier on in the week when the sun was shining)…

4. The Foxgloves, Sweet Williams and a few other perennials have been sat outside for weeks now, waiting for me to get around to planting them. However, the September and October sowings are nicely tucked away in the mini greenhouse. This is Erodium manescavii, grown from some seed kindly provided by Jim. I must look up what it actually looks like fully grown and flowering.

The Linaria seedlings are also doing okay, though looking at this photo I think I need to turn them round in order to straighten them up a bit.

5. Next up… the obligatory Zinnia photo. I thought their days were numbered last week when the temperatures took a dip. But no, they’re still going.

6. As are my final SoS, the Cosmos. These are growing in the front garden and have been flowering away nicely despite my rather erratic dead-heading.

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 (26 October 2019)

Notes to self; purchasing half a dozen bags of well-rotted manure during one’s lunch break and leaving aforementioned bags of well-rotted manure in one’s car for the rest of day will leave one’s car smelling slightly farm-yardy for days. Handling half a dozen bags of well-rotted manure during one’s lunch break will also leave one with a similar farm-yardy aroma, particularly apparent when sat eating one’s lunch in the staffroom. Anyway, let’s get straight on to my first Six on Saturday…

1. It’s been slightly nippy in the mornings of late, getting as low as 4°C earlier in the week. Things are still flowering away, including the Scabious, but inevitably not all of the buds will open before the first of the frosts hit.

2. The patio rose ‘Violet Cloud’ has flowered non-stop since early summer. It’ll need chopping back in the spring and possibly moving as it’s spilling over the edge of the lawn.

3. It’s been a poor year for the antirrhinums/snapdragons this year. Most of them have caught some sort of blight and snuffed it. However, this little fellow in the front garden has bucked the trend.

4. Up next, Erigeron karvinskianus, otherwise known as Mexican fleabane. It flowers throughout the summer and autumn and is particularly popular with the hoverflies. As lovely as the flowers are you do need to keep it in check as it tends to seed itself around with reckless abandon.

5. The faded blooms of the Hydrangea ‘Miss Belgium’ are looking just as good as they did back in July. Oh to have the space for another Hydrangea.

6. And finally… Remember the box from last week?

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Well, it contained (drum roll please)… a Eucalyptus gunnii France Bleu. I’ve spent many a month pondering what could replace the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ should it get the chop. I finally settled on this dwarf gum tree. In theory it should get no bigger than 2.5m x 2m. Admittedly the Prunus wasn’t supposed to get any bigger than 2m x 2m in 20 years (pah!) but apparently this Eucalyptus can be chopped back hard if necessary. I hope I’ve made the right decision. Time will tell. The evergreen leaves should certainly provide a bit more privacy during the winter.

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.