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.

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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.

Six on Saturday (24 November 2018)

“What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.” I’ve always taken heed of these wise words of the poet William Henry Davies. Every morning, before setting off for work, I take a moment to look out at the garden and watch the antics of the birds on the feeders. As a worrier this provides me with a moment of calm, a minute or two where I take a brief break from trying to anticipate what lies in store for the rest of the day. However, as winter fast approaches and the hours of daylight continue to dwindle, I’m aware that very soon I’ll only get to see the garden and its feathered visitors on Saturdays and Sundays and the odd day off. I’ll miss these early morning pre-work worry free moments but I’ll make the most of the calming and restorative power of garden gazing and pottering during the winter weekends.

1. Every spring I admire tulips in other people’s gardens and eye them rather enviously on Gardeners’ World when Monty or Carol wax lyrical about the beautiful varieties that are available. However, the last time I attempted to grow tulips (in a pot) they didn’t do very well and I’ve given them a miss ever since. Yet tulip bulb planting has featured a fair bit in other gardening blogs and tweets over the past couple of weeks and I began to wonder whether it was time to give them another go. Last Sunday I succumbed to the lure of the tulip and purchased a few packs during a visit to our local garden centre. I’ll be planting them later today or tomorrow, as soon as I’ve retrieved a few pots from behind the blue shed (never an easy task).

2. I think the Viola may be my favourite plant. Pansies are a bit too blowsy for me, but there’s something very endearing about violas.

They provide a welcome splash of cheerful colour during the winter, offer a bit of scent up close, and will go on flowering well into the spring.

With any luck they’ll do a bit of self-seeding and pop up elsewhere in the garden. And there’s a huge variety of colours to choose from.

3. Talking of cheerful colour and self-seeding. The Snapdragon growing in the crack between the house and the drive is flowering again.

And there are still a few flowering in the back garden too. I think these may run violas a close second.

4. Sea pinks (or thrift) remind me of holidays on the Isles of Scilly. This clump grows outside the front door and has started flowering again.

5. The Japanese anemone that I purchased last month is still in bloom. I still haven’t decided where to plant it yet. Maybe near the Daphne odora (which, rather surprisingly, appears to be doing okay after its move a month or so ago).

6. And finally… My wife and I went for a walk in Taunton’s Vivary park last Saturday to suss out a new cafe for my weekly Saturday coffee and cake fix (Americano, black, no sugar in case you’re interested and pretty much any cake really, though I am particularly partial to carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting).

After a nice coffee and generous slice of vegan chocolate and cherry cake we walked back through the park and discovered this lovely scented Viburnum:

Initially I identified it as Viburnum ‘somethingorotherus’. But yesterday evening, when I was scrolling through Twitter, I came across this tweet asking if anybody knew what this was…

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A knowledgable tweeter identified it as a Viburnum bodnantense. I reckon the one we saw in the park could be the same variety. What do you think?

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 (17 November 2018)

As the garden turns ever more sodden, I finally finished that to-do list. There are still a few small shrubs to move (it’s been almost 4 weeks since my last relapse https://onemanandhisgardentrowel.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/a-shrub-moving-six-on-saturday-27-october-2018) and a couple of perennials purchased in the summer to plant. I’ve also pondered the same question I ponder every Autumn: to mulch, or not to mulch? But I’m wondering whether I might leave all of these tasks until the Spring now, if only to avoid digging up or slicing the newly planted bulbs and creating a muddy mess. I think it may be time to hang up my garden trowel for the winter and spend the next 3 and a half months simply pottering, observing and planning for the Spring.

1. One of the last two things on my to-do list was to plant the Ranunculus bulbs that I bought in October. I don’t know why but I’d never heard of Ranunculus until I read Jane’s Six on Saturday last month (http://janesmudgeegarden.com/saturday-splendours-sos-oct-13). They only had a double variety at the local garden centre but they look rather cheerful. The bulbs are quite unusual, a bit spidery looking.

2. Looking at some of my past Six on Saturdays I realised I’d intended to plant the Sweet Williams way back at the end of September.

Last Sunday they were finally put in the ground. While I was planting them I was surprised to find that one of this year’s Sweet Williams is having a mini third flush of flowers.

3. I also spotted a self-sown Virginia stock flowering near the patio. These were first grown in a pot a few years ago, primarily for scent. They were a disappointment; leggy and decidedly fragrance free as far as my nose was concerned. However, now that they’ve begun to colonise the beds near the patio, I’ve come to appreciate their subtle colours and amiable nature.

4. There’s still a bit of colour in the font garden, mainly courtesy of the scabious/scabiosa (delete as appropriate), the Sedum and the ever reliable Verbena bonariensis, which has flowered for months now. The goldfinches enjoy the Verbena seeds during the winter and it’ll happily sow itself here there and everywhere in both the front and back gardens.

5. While I was attempting to take the photograph of the Verbena (always a struggle on a breezy day) I spotted this pink Achillea. We’ve had a few Achillea over the years. They always start off well enough but before long they become spindly and the flowers decidedly floppy. I thought I’d pulled them all up but this one seems to be as tenacious as the wild yarrow that’s taking over the front lawn.

6. And finally… When I was chopping back the Jasmine the other weekend I accidently chopped off the last of the flower buds of the Graham Thomas rose. I was a tad annoyed as it would have been nice to have enjoyed a few more of the lovely yellow flowers that have featured in several of my Six on Saturday posts (here’s a recycled photo from earier in the year…)

However, chopping back the Jasmine did reveal a few rose hips that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

Hmm, does anybody else have an irrational compulsion to do something like this to the second rose hip photo…?

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And they were my Six on Saturday. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, take a look at the site of the chap who started it all over at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

Six on Saturday (10/11/2018)

Last Saturday afternoon I decided I’d make a real effort to get my derrière in gear and start working my way through a list of garden tasks that I’d been putting off for weeks. I had jasmine to chop, guttering to put up on the blue shed and a water butt to attach to it, the zinnias, tomatoes and sweet peas to pull up, the swing seat to cover, the garden bench to put away, the garlic, Sweet Williams and ranunculus to plant, and pots to tidy. There was quite a bit to do and not much time to do it in as the weather wasn’t looking all that promising for the weekend. The sooner I started these tasks the better. But then I pondered whether I should have a cup of tea first and perhaps finish off the last of the chocolate hobnobs. No. No more prevaricating. The jasmine, guttering, water butt, deceased annuals, swing seat, garden bench, garlic, Sweet Williams, ranunculus and pots weren’t going to chop, put up, attach, pull up, cover, plant or tidy themselves.

Ten minutes later, sipping at my piping hot tea (black, no sugar, just in case you were interested) and munching away on the last chocolate hobnob, I looked out at the garden. Everything still looked very leafy and green in places and it seemed hard to believe that the trees and many of the shrubs would soon be bare. Yet one week later, after several days of wind and rain, the garden has undergone quite a transformation.

1. Early last week, before heading off to work, I noticed that the leaves of the new tree/stick (Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’) had turned a lovely autumnally colour. “A great SoS photograph opportunity” I thought, heading off to work, and I figured I’d take a few snaps of it during my day off on Friday. However, by Wednesday morning I realised it was losing its leaves at an alarming rate and I took a photograph of it there and then in case it was bald by Friday (and it very nearly was).

It was a similar story with the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’. Last Saturday it still had most of its leaves and they hadn’t yet taken on their autumnal hue (from early summer they’re a sort of burgundy colour with a whiteish tinge along the edges). However, a few days later their colour had completely changed and by Friday morning many of the leaves had fallen.

2. Last Sunday I chopped back the jasmine on our side of the trellis fence. It tends to grow to hedge-like proportions during the summer.

3. I spent Friday morning rushing around the garden in an attempt to complete last weekend’s to-do list before the rain and gales arrived. The metal garden bench was purchased during the summer to replace the rotting wooden one that was already here when we moved in 6 years ago.

Rather cunningly it folds up and has now been stored in the shed.

4. The swing seat was also covered up ready for the winter. The first time we put the cover on the swing seat we had gales in the night. When we awoke the next day the cover had vanished (we later found it in a neighbour’s drive). Having learnt a valuable lesson, we now wrap some string around the middle to prevent it from flapping around quite so much and we also anchor one corner to a rock, another corner to a lump of cement (created after a failed attempt to cement the rotary washing line holder in the lawn) and one corner to another heavy object…

When we moved here we discovered this rather sinister looking ornament in the garden.

We very nearly got rid of the Hedgehogs from Hell but realised they were rather useful in helping to hold down the swing seat cover. However, they’re banished to the back of the blue shed each spring.

5. I still haven’t planted the Sweet Williams or the ranunculus. However, yesterday I finally put the garlic in.

We usually plant shop bought garlic in my mother-in-law’s vegetable patch. It didn’t do very well this year, so this time we’ve opted for proper garlic bulbs. Some have gone in troughs and some have been planted in one of the flower beds.

6. And finally… Last Saturday, after I’d finished that cup of tea and chocolate hobnob, I spent what was left of the afternoon putting up the gutter on the blue shed and attaching the water butt to it. When I put up guttering on the new shed a few weeks ago it had gone really smoothly. It was easy. Straightforward. A piece of cake. This time things didn’t go so well. There was a tree to contend with, the connecting-guttering-together-clippy-things broke, twice (resulting in some cursing), there were miscalculations of the measuring kind, dropped screws, water butt issues (mainly of the drilling-the-hole-on-the-wrong-side kind), more cursing, drizzle and, as the light began to fade, a bit of despairing.

However, it got finished. Getting to the new water butt (we now have three) isn’t going to be particularly easy. You have to make your way down the side of the shed, where I hide the compost, pots and other stuff…

… and then make your way round the back. I’ve advised my wife that if I ever go missing she’d best check here first. She’ll probably find me lying in a heap amongst the pots with those hideous, though admittedly useful, hedgehogs grinning at me.

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: waiting in the wings (3 November 2018)

Well, we held off turning on the heating until the 31 October. I’m sure we made it into November last year. Yet the past week has been decidedly nippy and we’ve had at least four frosty mornings. Still, I love frosty mornings. They’re invigorating and feel as though they’re doing the garden some good, helping to keep some of the garden nasties in check.

1. Unfortunately, the frosts signalled an end to some of the colourful summer stars of the garden. The dahlias and zinnias have finally thrown in the towel.

Though just behind the zinnias you can just make out a solitary sweet pea that’s still going.

2. There are some plants in the garden that haven’t taken the slightest bit of notice of these slightly sub-zero temperatures. The antirrhinums, roses, verbena, Erigeron karvinskianus and this scabious are still going strong. There’s even a Californian poppy or two flowering out the front. They’re made of tougher stuff, but eventually their flowers will cease.

However, while most plants are preparing to hunker down for the winter or will soon be joining the great big compost heap in the sky, there are some that are preparing to burst into flower, adding a bit of cheer and even some delicious scent during the dark, winter months ahead.

3. I hadn’t noticed the berries on the Dwarf Sweet Box until the other day. They’re a lovely mixture of crimson and black that look rather nice next to the glossy evergreen foliage.

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But when you peer even closer you can make out the flower buds that will open in a few weeks or so and release their strong sweet scent.

4. The Coronilla valentina subsp glauca (catchy name) seemed to be a victim of its own success. Despite being pruned a little each year, by spring it had become rather large and was unable to support its own weight. I tried to prop it up with a stake and some metal plant supports but it was just too top-heavy. It had flowered nonstop throughout the winter and was still flowering when I made the decision to chop it back to the ground in April.

I wasn’t sure it would recover as the gardening books suggest it doesn’t respond well to heavy pruning. But it seems to have done it the world of good. And look closely…

… you’ll see it’s about to flower again. It grows by the front door where its scent greets you when you set off for work in the morning and return home in the evening. From what I understand they’re not very long-lived. But when I chopped it back I discovered a few seedlings so I’m hoping we’ll have at least one replacement when this one finally gives up.

5. So far the Lonicera fragrantissima (or winter honeysuckle) is doing okay after the Great Shrub Move of October 2018 and the first of its flowers have just opened. Like the Coronilla, this scented shrub will go on flowering throughout the winter and into spring, providing bees with an early source of nectar.

6. And finally… though it seems a long way off, some plants are already offering a glimpse of what they’ll have to offer next spring. The Vibernum carlesii ‘Compactum’, another wonderfully scented shrub, has started to form small flower buds.

And knowing that they’ll eventually become pink-tinged buds and snow white flowers come late April/Early May will be a rather cheering thought during those damp, dark and chilly winter months.

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.

A shrub moving Six on Saturday (27 October 2018)

Hello. My name’s Graeme and I’m a compulsive shrub mover. It had been 9 weeks and 1 day since I’d last moved a shrub. I was doing well. But last Sunday I had a bit of a relapse.

I think long and hard about shrub placement. I consider how big a shrub will grow, how much space I should allow for said growth, whether it requires full sun, partial shade or full shade. I ponder whether its overall shape will be pleasing on the eye and whether it will fit in with the overall feng shuieyness of the garden. And after all this pondering I’ll plant the shrub, water it, take a few steps back, admire it… and then decide I really should have planted it slightly more to the right and dig it up again.

Sometimes I’ll leave a shrub in the same position for a year or two until I change the shape of a bed and all of a sudden the shrub will look out-of-place. Sometimes I’ll see a plant in a garden centre that I really must have but there’s only room for it if an existing shrub is repositioned elsewhere in the garden. And sometimes there are circumstances that necessitate the moving of a shrub that no one really could have predicted at the time it was planted. Here are 5ish shrubs and a tree that I moved or planted last weekend.

1. When my Compulsive Shrub Moving Disorder kicks in I usually laugh in the face of shrub moving lore. Autumn may be the best time to move a shrub but I can’t wait that long. If it’s in the wrong location it must be repositioned post-haste. Three years ago, during the height of summer, I was struggling to squeeze past the Lonicera fragrantissima (or winter honeysuckle) to get to the bags of compost I keep down the side of the blue shed. It was an annoyance. It had to move. Immediately.

So it was replanted close to the trellis-topped fence where I thought it would provide some privacy. It was watered a few times each day everyday for several weeks and had been growing there happily ever since. Unfortunately, the jasmine that grows along the fence and trellis has also been growing away happily during that time and now becomes almost hedge like by mid summer, swamping the winter honeysuckle and a number of other shrubs in that bed, despite being chopped back each year.

This year I waited until the autumn (more out of necessity than common sense – the clay soil was undiggable during the hot dry summer) and I moved it further way from the fence and nearer the back door where I’m hoping its scent can be better appreciated.

2. Unfortunately, this meant I had to dig up the Daphne odora, a plant that the gardening books tell you resents having its roots disturbed. And it really does. I’ve dug it up before and it took rather a long time to recover, losing a lot of its leaves (it still looks rather leggy). But needs must and the daphne has been moved to the other side of the garden next to the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ which has also been shifted to the left to the exact same spot that, three years ago, was occupied by the winter honeysuckle and, until last weekend, was occupied by the…

3. …Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile‘. By June the orange blossom had grown too tall, leggy and aphiddy, and that’s right – made getting to the bags of compost stored down the side of the blue shed rather tricky. So the orange blossom has now been planted in the spot where the winter honeysuckle was situated until last weekend, though further away from the fence and the jasmine (I hope you’re keeping up). It’s not been looking too happy the past few evenings but it perks up overnight after it’s been watered.

4. To the right of the Philadephus is a Viburnum farreri. My wife grew this from a cutting she took from the garden of the first home we rented together. It started life in the back bed behind the garden bench and later moved to the bed with the jasmine. Last weekend it too was shifted further away from the fence.

5. There’s only one shrub in the garden that hasn’t been dug up after it was planted and that’s the Daphne x transatlantica ‘Pink Fragrance’. I finally committed to planting it last weekend after ‘trying it out’ for a month in its pot in the newly extended bed, near the back door. Measurements were taken, anticipating future growth based on its white cousin near the patio. It should be fine. It’s in the perfect spot. There should be absolutely no reason to move it. No reason at all.

6. And finally… Occasionally, a Compulsive Shrub Moving Disorder can lead to something more serious: a Compulsive Tree Moving Disorder. Sometimes you can get away with compulsive tree moving (the Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ was transplanted successfully over six years ago). Other times it can have tragic consequences; the Prunus mume ‘Omoi-no-mama’ didn’t make it. However, the replacement tree has arrived. It’s a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’. It looks quite big in this photograph.

But now it’s been planted it looks tiny (I don’t think the giant stake helps). Yet I’ll be patient and resist the urge to dig it up and move it. Once again careful thought has been given to its alleged future overall size. Hopefully it’ll start to put on a bit of new growth come the spring and in years to come it will look perfect in the spot I’ve chosen.

Anyway, I’m not going to worry about it. Instead I’m going to gaze at some pretty flowers in the garden and relax.

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.