Six on Saturday (10 December 2022)

Finally, some frost. In fact it got down to -5 degrees Celsius one night. The Zinnias and Cosmos are no more, which is how it should be really, and the car has needed de-icing the past few mornings. Alas, there are no frosted foliage photos in today’s Six on Saturday (at this time of year most of my SoSs are taken the preceding Saturday or Sunday as it’s too dark to snap this and that during the working week). Perhaps next Saturday. Today you’ll have to make do with a selection of mostly brown and crispy, the odd splash of colour and some rusty metalwork.

1. And we start with a pot of summer bulbs that I didn’t get around to planting out in a border: Allium ‘Millennium.’ There’s something very pleasing about Allium skeletons.

2. Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’ is still brightening a shady corner of the garden and possibly plotting a spot of world domination.

3. More brown and crispy up next. The yellow Aquilegia grown from seed a number of years ago has yet to produce any offspring. I’ve left the seedheads this year but forgot to harvest any. Fingers are crossed a few seedlings appear and that they turn out to be vaguely similar to the original plant colour-wise.

4. It’s getting very tricky to find anything pleasingly petalesque in the garden at the moment. This Cyclamen featured the other month but has produced even more flowers of late.

5. Over the years a number of metal garden ornaments have been added to the garden. Back in December 2021 these rusty metal ferns were purchased at a riverside shop in Exeter.

6. And finally… The leaves of the Cotoneaster horizontalis have turned all red and fiery. Moved last month, it’s been nice to see it in a more prominent position in the garden.

They were my Six on Saturday, a meme originally started by The Propagator. For more Sixes on Saturday, from all around the world, head over to the blog of the current Six on Saturday host, Jim.

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Six on Saturday (6 August 2022)

Another week and still no rain. Actually, no. I tell a lie. We had the briefest and lightest of showers on Wednesday where the rain pretty much evaporated on impact and that was that. Buying new plants during this drought would be foolhardy given the amount of watering they’d need initially… and yet I still found myself returning from Taunton Flower Show yesterday afternoon with several new purchases. However, I’ll save those for next week’s Six on Saturday (oh the suspense). Today? Today we start with brown and crispy.

1. Now brown and crispy isn’t usually something you’re aiming for in a garden during the summer… unless you’re wanting to collect seeds. A few of these seedheads from Aquilegia ‘Yellow Shooting Stars’ have been plonked in an envelope and labelled. I really need to get a move on and sow the Sweet Williams and Foxgloves this weekend if I want them to flower next year.

2. For the first time ever I managed to successfully overwinter Agastache and Verbena hastata (they were dug up and placed in the mini greenhouse). However, those that were were replanted in the sunniest borders (including this ‘Black Adder’) have really struggled over the past three or four weeks, requiring watering on a regular basis to reverse leaf droopage. I have a feeling I should have replanted them much earlier in the year so that they could get more settled in root-wise. Ah well.

3. When we moved here 10 years ago I spent a few years getting shot of an orange variety of Crocosmia that was taking over the garden. I think it may have staged a sneaky come back (it certainly isn’t the other variety of orange Crocosmia ‘Ping-pong’ I introduced a few years ago). It is pretty though.

4. Another plant that has a tendency to run a little too rampant is Linaria vulgaris (common toadflax). First sown from a packet of seed around 6 to 7 years ago out in the front garden, it’s not faring too badly in these arid conditions. It’ll need a spot of ‘editing’ at some point.

5. The pinkification process of the flowers of ‘Miss Belgium’ is now complete. This Hydrangea has coped well with the dry spell, no doubt helped by its shady position.

6. And finally… Zinnia. There have been but two Zinnia casualties so far, yet they’ve been down to the heat rather than the slugs or snails for a change (one of the few benefits of all this dry weather I guess). With the exception of Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’ (the green one) these are Zinnia haageana ‘Jazzy Mixture.’ They’re shorter, bushier and, for the second year running, far more slug and snail resistant than other varieties.

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 (4 June 2022)

A brisk Six on Saturday today as there’s studying to be done, a cake to purchase for the Jubilee celebrations on the green tomorrow (although it’s not looking all that promising weather-wise) and various hayfever remedies to swallow, inhale, attempt to eye-dropperer in and suck on.

1. First up, a Verbascum of short stature: ‘Jackie in Yellow.’ Purchased back in 2020, it’s doing really well this year and its diminutive proportions are proving perfect for a small garden.

2. Last year’s Sweet Bills were a big disappointment as barely any of them flowered for some reason. Thankfully, normal service has been resumed.

3. In 2020 I was a little too overzealous in the application of a homemade aphid-zapping soapy garlic spray, killing off much of the foliage and all of the flower buds of the Samubucus nigra ‘Golden Tower.’ In January 2021, after a few deep breaths and the consumption of a chocolate cherry liqueur for Dutch courage, the elder was chopped right down to the ground. Thankfully, it proved to be a quick grower and by the summer the ornamental Elder was towering over me once more. This is the first time it has flowered since it was planted in the summer of 2019.

4. Allium christophii fairs much better than ‘Purple Sensation’ in my garden, the latter having mostly vanished since they were planted a few autumns ago. As well as proving more reliable, the metallic flowers of christophii are also far less fleeting than those of ‘Purple Sensation.’

5. Next up, Aquilegia. The yellow one was grown from a packet of mixed seed several years ago (I call it ‘Yellow Shooting Stars’) and the other one (‘Bordeaux Barlow’ I think) was purchased online back in 2021.

6. And finally… some of the Dutch Iris ‘Metallic Mixture’ are still in bloom, including this quizzical one by the small pond. I suspect a few more will be planted at some point.

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 (28 May 2022)

Apparently I’ve been participating in this Six on Saturdaying thing (a meme created by the Propagator) for 4 years. My, how the time has flown. I thought I’d struggle to find six garden related things to write about each Saturday but, to my surprise, it’s turned out that there’s more going on than I thought, even in the depths of winter. It has proved to be a great garden diary, allowing me to look back at what things were doing this time yesteryear. It’s also rather useful for looking up the names of plants that I’ve long since forgotten…

1. Like this Ixia. Back in the spring of 2020 I planted a packet of Ixia bulbs out in the south facing front garden. None of them made an appearance that first year and I’d presumed that was that. Then, last spring, one solitary specimen popped up. This year? We have two. They’ve grown on me and I may have to seek out some more bulbs when they’re back in season.

2. I also had to flick through some posts from around this time last year to remind myself what variety of Dutch Iris this is. It’s ‘Metallic Mixture’ and I think every single one of them has returned for a second spring.

3. Alas, my next plant may not feature in 2023. The Pyracantha has been trained to grow up against the trellis fence in an attempt to provide a bit of privacy between us and the neighbours. It’s taken 8 years or so, but it’s almost doing just that. However, the aging trellis fence may be getting replaced in the autumn with wonderfully anti-social, non-trellis panels, and I fear the Pyracantha may have to go, or at least get a very severe prune. One of its spiny branches nearly took an eye out the other day when I was pottering around the nearby mini-greenhouse and I sometimes wonder whether I planted it too close to the base of the fence, as it often requires watering during dry spells to prevent the leaves from turning brown and falling off. We shall see. The birds will miss the berries if it is got shot of.

4. Do you remember the rather shoddily grafted mini-standard ‘Friesia’ rose I purchased online during the first lockdown? Well, despite the dubious graft, it survived and is continuing to do well. I’ve not yet succeeded in taking a cutting from it but I’ll keep trying. The fragrance is wonderful.

5. More white up next. A perennial cornflower, Centaurea montana ‘Alba.’ I have a feeling this was originally from my mum who nabbed some from my sister’s garden.

6. And finally… An Aquilegia. There are a few starting to come into flower, but this one is probably the most striking colour-wise. It’s also prone to getting sat on as it grows near a rock that I often perch on to peer into the pond. It may need to get moved – or I may need to find another spot from which to pond watch.

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 (3 July 2021)

Yesterday morning I awoke with a start. I had this horrible feeling I’d forgotten to do something. But what? Had I left the front door unlocked? No, I’d definitely jiggled the handle before heading up the wooden hill. Had I left the skylight windows open in the conservatory? Again, no. I remembered leaping up to grab the handle of one of them to shut it and standing on the small coffee table to reach the other one. I’d definitely put the recycling out. Ah-ha! I’d forgotten to set the alarm! Nope, that had been set. Hmm, perhaps it was nothing after all.

It was only as I was getting dressed, 20 minutes later, that it suddenly dawned on me what it was I’d forgotten to do. I hadn’t returned the Zinnias to the security of the swing seat after watering them the previous evening. I’d foolishly left them on the ground, within easy reach of the slimy plant assassins of the night.

Abandoning socks and all thoughts of bringing the milk in or putting the kettle on, I raced downstairs, unlocked the back door and bounded over to the patio, fearful of what I would find. Just the other morning I’d discovered the stalky, leafless remains of what may have been either Dahlia or Coreopsis seedlings (identification proved tricky as the label had either a) been stolen or b) had never existed in the first place). Thankfully, all was well. The Zinnias had made it through the night unnibbled. Whether they’ll fare quite so well once planted in the wilds of the borders time will tell. My home brewed garlic spray is ready to be deployed though. Anyway, after that long winded introduction, it’s time for Six on Saturday.

1. First up is Penstemon ‘True Blue,’ grown from seed. On the front of the original packet it proudly says “flowers in the first year.” Well, this has taken over two but I’m not complaining. I had two plants originally, but its sibling appears to have gone AWOL. Never mind. Hopefully, once it’s a bit bigger, I’ll be able to take some cuttings. For some reason it looks more purpley than blue in this photo.

2. I think I buy a white Ragged Robin every year. They don’t appear to self-seed in my garden, dying back over the winter never to be seen again (unlike the reddy-pink variety that self-seeds all over the wildlife border). I always vow I won’t bother again and then I see one for sale. The stems appear to have turned purple lately (the photos with green stems were taken a few weeks ago).

3. Phacelia Tanacetifolia has featured in quite few Six on Saturdays of late. I found myself with a packet of seed in the spring and gave it a go. I wish I’d sown more now. Popular with the bees, it’s often grown as a green manure apparently.

4. Another annual sown from seed this year is this Orlaya grandiflora (White Lace Flower). Alas, only a few have made it to flowerhood but I will definitely be sowing some more next spring.

5. Next up is a plant described by Sarah Raven as “a new generation foxglove.” Digitalis x ‘Foxlight Rose Ivory’ is apparently a perennial and should go on flowering for a while. It’s rather nice and and I might see if I can divide it in time.

6. And finally… An Aquilegia. Bought as a plant last autumn it’s looking rather eye-catching, despite having been trod on a few times in an attempt to get to a bird feeder.

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 wander around a Welsh garden (with pictures and cine film footage)

Regular readers will be aware that I often refer to ‘the old ancestral home’ in North Wales that also serves as a free plant nursery. However, pictures have been few and far between. Until now….

The old and somewhat chilly-in-the-winter house has been in the family since the 1950s. A former farm, it was run by a great aunt for nearly 40 years and was home to dairy cows, pigs and a temperamental horse.

A biro sketch of ‘the old ancestral home’

The great aunt retired from farming in the early 1990s, selling the remaining cows (apart from an ancient Jersey named Bron) and set up home in the converted shippen across the yard with her widowed sister-in-law and fellow farmer. My parents purchased the old farm house and garden and moved in with their delightful offspring.

Over the years the garden has been transformed by our mum, with able assistance from our dad. It’s still changing, as all gardens do, with more borders having been added and existing ones extended in recent years, taking up more and more of the big lawn.

There’s still a fair amount of grass for Dad to cut. Once a very large vegetable garden that was rotovated by the great aunts every year, my siblings and I used to play tennis on the lawn during the summer months, especially come Wimbledon fortnight. A lack of court markings and a wobbly chicken wire net made accurate scoring (or challenging a sibling’s dodgy shot) rather tricky, and not quite knowing how the ball would bounce on the uneven surface always kept you on your toes.

This part of the garden used to be a pig shed. The breeze block ruins remain and have been turned into a feature, with the odd little ‘room’ overlooking fields on the other side. The standard Cotoneaster on the right was grown and trained by our Nana and planted here by Mum many moons ago.

The Valerian and Sisyrinchium striatum (or Pigroot, which is rather apt) is doing its spready-softening-the-edges thing while a tall ornamental ‘waftus-about-in-the-breezus’ grass gets on with its wafty-about-in-the-breeze thing.

The border on the other side of the lawn was made a lot deeper a few summers ago. A new Rowan flowered for the first time this year and hopefully there’ll be berries come the autumn.

Another extended border nearby creates a path that leads to an island bed…

…and eventually a wildlife border, complete with tiny pond.

This fragrant Clematis clambers over a nearby wall.

Making your way back from the wildlife border you notice that there are quite a few faces hidden about the garden…

… including this chap.

A new discovery; a Candelabra Primula, possibly the offspring of a pinky red plant and an orange variety found elsewhere in the garden, is growing nearby.

Soon after the big move from town to country my siblings and I helped dig out a fish pond. It’s still full of fish, mostly the great great great grandfry of goldfish from way back when, although passing herons have been known to snack on them from time to time.

This Knautia grows near the pond and last weekend a seedling was acquired for the senior sibling’s garden.

Some of this Woolly Rock Jasmine (Androsace languinosa) may also have found its way into a pot and into the aforementioned senior siblings car.

It grows in a small rockery in what was the original front garden. Head on through the arch and you end up in the veggy garden.

This is the other side of the front garden, and the view from my old bedroom.

The Honeysuckle that grows along the top of the wall is rather ancient. Although not as ancient as some of the roses in this giant border, including this lightly fragrant, multicoloured beauty.

Believed to date back to the 1950s, someone on Twitter has suggested it could be ‘Masquerade,’ introduced in 1949. It certainly looks very similar and the date ties in.

Formerly a rose bed, some old cine film footage from the mid 1960s (featuring the great aunt’s mum; our mum’s nana) doesn’t quite show the corner where this rose grows. All manner of self-seeded loveliness abounds in this part of the garden and it looks almost prairie-like at the moment.

Aquilegias of various hues can be found in full flower…

… including this unusual looking one.

And up in the gravel bed, near the garden gate, is this short Sisyrinchium that I’ve been attempting to grow for years. For reasons unknown mine rarely flowers. Perhaps more sun is required.

And there we are, a wander around the grounds of ‘the old ancestral home.’ I’m hoping it won’t be another 10 months until I get to visit again and that some of the cuttings and seedlings acquired last weekend thrive and provide a permanent reminder of home in my tiny Somerset garden.

Six on Saturday (19 June 2021)

I’m going to try and ignore the fact that the longest day is almost upon us and the nights will begin drawing in. It seems too soon for such things. I’m also trying to ignore the daft Minerva Rose whose flower buds promise so much as they begin to open but then shrivel and turn brown around the edges for some reason. Hopefully it will sort itself out. I probably shouldn’t ignore the aphids that have now discovered the Golden Tower Elder nor the nibbled Zinnia seedling on the ‘slug and snail proof’ swing seat (I think a slimy critter has made its way across a stem of a nearby climbing rose that has formed a handy bridge to the delectable delights).

However, I can’t ignore the sorry state of the standard Buddleia. I blamed the wind for the snapped young branches initially. But the other day I observed a wood pigeon attempting to land on it (presumably channelling it’s inner sparrow) to get at a bird feeder. It flattened a few fairly substantial looking stems in the process and was swiftly seen off by an annoyed, arm waving gardener. Alas, I found another four long, leafy Buddleia appendages on the ground yesterday after a calm day weather-wise. The bird feeder has now been moved. But enough gardening gripes. There’s more good than not-so-good in the garden at the moment which leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Several years ago I spotted a Common Valerian plant in a ‘wildflower’ section of a garden centre. It did well initially, producing the odd offspring, but numbers had begun to dwindle. I sowed some seed last spring and several plants have finally done their thing this year, producing tall stems adorned with frothy floating white clouds of fragrant flowers.

2. Grown from the same packet of seed as the yellow variety that featured last week, this Aquilegia was photographed in mid flight, zooming across the conservatory border.

3. Next up, Philadelphus ‘Bette Etoile.’ It was dug up and banished to the back of the hot dry border in early 2020 after I grew bored of its straggly nature and the annual aphid attacks. Left to fend for itself, I didn’t expect the troublesome mock orange to last long but it did surprisingly well and it’s doing even better this year. The easiest way to appreciate the orangey fragrance of the flowers is to make your way behind the blue shed rather than risk tiptoeing through the border.

Admittedly you have to be careful not to get snagged on the Gertrude Jekyll Rose or entangled in the dangling stems of a Montana Clematis. You also have to avoid skidding on some spilt horticultural grit or tripping over numerous stacked pots and the odd bag of compost. But once you’ve made it to the back of the shed, carefully squeezed your head through the narrow gap between the water butt and the fence, and inhaled deeply, the effort to get there all seems worthwhile.

4. This Erodium manescavii, grown from seed kindly provided by Jim, is flowering a lot earlier than last year. It’s also developing into a much more substantial plant. I’ve sown some left over seed so fingers crossed I’ll have a few more in the future.

5. Another week, another Iris. Presumably from the Iris ‘Metallic Mix,’ this one is all dark and brooding… and slightly out of focus.

6. And finally… A white Geranium (possibly ‘Alba’) from that free plant nursery up in North Wales. Which is where I’m headed today. I’ve studied the Covid rules for both England and Wales and I’m not really any the wiser to be honest, but I think so long as I don’t have more than 6 hamsters in the car from three extended households all is good.

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 (12 June 2021)

It’s a fast-paced, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Six on Saturday today. Alas, there’s no time to show off my newly clipped box balls, share my continuing Black Lace Elder aphid woes or provide an update on the nesting robins (although they got down and jiggy with it the other day). Oh no, I’m curtailing the preambleage and cutting to the chase.

1. And we start with Aquilegia, After a slow start they’re finally up, up and away, including this yellow variety, grown from a packet of seed that came free with The Garden News magazine a few years ago. If flowers made a sound I reckon these would make a wooshing noise. They’re like floral shooting stars.

2. Back in the spring of 2020 I planted a packet of Ixia bulbs of various hues. None of them made an appearance come the summer and I’d presumed that was that. However, this solitary specimen has popped up. I’m not sure I’d bother with them again, but the bees seem to like the flowers.

3. Another week, another ‘Metallic Mixture’ Iris, a yellowy-pinkish-brown one. Alas, they’ve not been quite as mixed as the Thompson and Morgan illustration led me to believe.

I’m beginning to suspect there aren’t going to be any reds, lilacs and dark purples pictured below. The Irises that have flowered thus far (the yellow variety above and the blue lot from last week) aren’t even pictured. It’s ever so slightly disappointing but hey-ho.

4. Up next, a Rock Rose or Helianthemum that made a cameo appearance in last week’s SoS. It’s another one of those plants acquired from the free nursery up in North Wales, with ruffled, crepe paper petals of red and yellow iridescenciness.

5. The almost metallic looking flowers of Allium Christophii have gradually been opening up in the back garden. They’re a new batch planted last November to replace those that have disappeared over the years. Fingers are crossed that these will gradually spread.

6. And finally…. the big blowsy fragrant flowers of ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent.’ A standard rose, this is her second year in the garden and so far she has remained black spot and aphid free.

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 May 2020)

My wife and I braved a trip to our local garden centre yesterday and we ended up with a ‘Compassion’ climbing rose (I have no idea where it’s going to go) and a serious case of Totally Tangerine Geum envy. A TTG I’d ordered online back in April finally arrived late last week. It was tiny, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that it was bound to be cheaper than a much larger garden centre specimen. Turns out it wasn’t. The oh so much bigger garden centre plant was exactly the same price (cheaper if you factor in delivery charges.) Ah well. To my surprise it’s a 2nd anniversary Six on Saturday today. My how time flies.

1. Although my Totally Tiny Tangerine Geum may not flower this year there is something vaguely tangeriney flowering in the back garden. I spotted this Ranuculus growing behind a box ball. I think this is from a new batch planted in November. Those that bloomed last year have yet to make an appearance.

2. Another week, another Dutch Iris. A pure yellow one this time.

3. The Pyracantha was a bit of a disaster last year. For reasons unknown the leaves started to turn brown and drop off, as did the flower buds. Initially I feared it might have been the dreaded fire blight but I don’t think it was. This spring I’ve watered and fed the shrub (when I’ve remembered) and it’s looking a lot healthier, although there are still a few bare branches and brown and crispy flower buds.

4. Continuing the theme of brown and crispy. Some of the Aquilegia grown from seed last year are proving to be a tad frustrating. Many of the buds have shrivelled up or have only partly opened to produce deformed looking flowers. However, some buds are finally beginning to develop fully. I’m calling this one Rhubarb and Custard. Behold…

5. The Foxgloves have been flowering for the past week or two now but I’ve kept substituting them at the last minute, figuring I have plenty of time to feature them in a future SoS. However, this white/palest of pinks Foxglove is a one-off and after a similar white one in the front garden met an untimely end last year I thought it best to include it now. You never know what colour combinations you’re going to get when it comes to self seeded Foxgloves. I hope it survives the 40mph gusts forecast for later today.

6. And finally… The only surviving Lupin from a batch grown from seed a few years ago has begun to flower. It has gone untouched by slug, snail or aphid for months and I’m ever so slightly suspicious of it’s robust health and unblemished foliage and blooms.

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 May 2020)

For the most part gardening helps me to forget my worries about this and that and provides an opportunity to appreciate nature up close in our little patch of green. Potting on seedlings in the evenings, cheering on the sparrows as they pick off aphids and smiling at a small posse of starlings as they search for leatherjackets in the lawn and shamelessly steal the grubs from each other; all of these things have helped maintain my inner Zen over the course of the week.

However, gardening can sometimes lead to minor despairings, mutterings and dark doings. I’m having real issues with Zinnias this year. Germination has been poor for some reason and many of the seedlings that have come up have either been eaten by slugs or simply keeled over. I’ve sown more and woe betide any slug that crosses my path (I’ve been wielding my trowel in ninja type fashion against the slimy plant assassins of late). Thankfully, there’s plenty of things in the garden to help me shrug off my minor Zinnia woes and that leads me to my first of this week’s Six on Saturday…

1. Mrs Bradshaw, a Geum, is adding some nice splashes of vivid red in the garden. I’ve acquired a few more varieties of late and I’ve finally got around to ordering Totally Tangerine.

2. For reasons unknown I’ve been unable to capture the true blueyness of my next SoS. This Lithodora grows underneath the dwarf Lilac and seems to be doing particularly well this spring. Both my phone and camera were deployed in photographing it, but the deep blue of the flowers end up up looking decidedly washed out.

3. Now this was an exciting discovery. I sowed a packet of Aquilegia seed last year, free with the Garden News magazine. The first one to flower turned out to be purple, which was nice enough, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t wowed.

Then on Thursday evening I discovered this elegant yellow one. Some more are about to bloom so I’m curious now to see what other colours there might be.

4. The Dutch Iris have begun to open. These will feature a lot over the coming weeks. For now I will limit myself to this white variety. You have no idea how much restraint that took!

5. The standard Buddleia received a severe pruning in March. After a slow start it’s finally got going foliagewise. These shoots should be several feet high in a month or two, if they don’t get snapped off in any high winds.

6. And finally… The first of the Purple Sensation Alliums have opened. Globes of purple perfection, alas hidden somewhat behind the garden bench!

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.