Six on Saturday: preparing the garden for winter (19 December 2020)

I’ve been re-reading the five books written by Lloyd Alexander that make up The Chronicles of Prydain series about a young assistant pig keeper called Taran. They’re a sort of Lord of the Rings for children and adults, only less wordy, more humorous, inspired by Welsh mythology, often profound and frequently moving. One of the characters, Coll, is a retired warrior-come-farmer who loves his garden, but I never really appreciated the gardening references until now.

“You are the oaken staff I lean on,” Taran said. “More that that.” He laughed. “You are the whole sturdy tree, and a true warrior.”

Coll, instead of beaming, looked wryly at him. “Do you mean to honour me?” he asked. “Then say, rather, I am a true grower of turnips and a gatherer of apples. No warrior whatever, save that I am needed thus for a while. My garden longs for me as much as I long for it,” Coll added. “I left it unready for winter, and for that I will pay a sorry reckoning at spring planting.” (from The High King)

I’ve been slightly remiss in preparing the garden for the winter this year. Not that I’ll be growing turnips come Spring, but I should probably give the standard Buddleia and the standard roses a slight prune to prevent wind-rock. I definitely need to clear the increasingly soggy piles of fallen leaves from the gravel path, and I still haven’t tidied the pond. I should have plenty of time to tackle these gardening tasks when I finish work on the 22nd December for Christmas (the days will start getting longer too!) Not that it feels much like winter temperature-wise at the moment and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Strawberries. They’re free range, roaming about the garden mostly unchecked, and I rarely manage to get to them before the slugs or birds do during the summer.

2. Another week, another Ilex. This one is Ilex Crenata ‘Dark Green’ and it went to look very sickly back in the summer of 2019. I chopped the shrub right back, dug it up and plonked it in a pot, not holding out much hope for its survival. Left to fend for itself, the little Ilex appears to have recovered.

3. The Daphne x transatlantica ‘eternal fragrance’ is still flowering. There haven’t been many months this year when the semi-evergreen hasn’t been in bloom. A grand shrub that really earns its place in a small garden.

4. Back in the summer I felt the need to add some more evergreen structure to the garden. As well as acquiring a lollipop topiary Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ I also added a standard Euonymus japonicus ‘Bravo.’ The variegated foliage is helping to provide some cheer on gloomy days. I’m trying to ignore a nagging feeling that I may have planted it too near the blue shed and a climbing rose.

5. A ray of floral sunshine, this Calendula is still going strong out in the front garden.

6. And finally… Inspired by Pádraig’s Six on Saturday I decided to add some Christmas cheer to the garden, hanging the odd bauble about the garden.

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 Stay safe and have a Happy Christmas.


Six on Saturday (29 February 2020)

Good grief. Another weekend, another storm. There have been moments of stillness during the week. Heck, there was even dazzling sunshine and blue sky. But when you’re stuck in an office all day this makes it all the more frustrating when you know, come Saturday, things will take a turn for the worse and you’re in for yet another weekend of wet and windy weather. It has toughened me up though. I’ve forced myself to get out in the garden to undertake this and that the moment the rain has stopped, and that leads me to my first Six on Saturday…

1. Last Sunday I made that trip to the garden centre to purchase a few bags of compost and to sample some carrot cake with a mug of coffee (it was raining, I needed a pick-me-up and I’m sure carrot cake counts as one of my five a day). Late in the afternoon the skies cleared a little and I headed out to sow my sweet peas in some seed trays that I’d made from leftover boxes. Some Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’ and Scabiosa ‘Summer Sundae’ seeds were also sown and I potted on the Lupin seedlings. Despite the gloom it felt good to be outdoors.

2. Fresh green leaves are unfurling everywhere at the moment. The Hydrangea, Miss Belgium, is sporting some nice, unnibbled foliage. I must chop off last year’s flower heads though.

3. Now this is freaky. The old Prunus cerasifera ‘Hessei’ got the chop last Autumn and I created a few log piles around the garden for wildlife. But look, it lives… sort of. Quite a few of the logs have sprouted new growth. I’m very tempted to try propagating some of the branches just out of curiosity.

4. The new Daphne odora, purchased over a year ago to replace the one that I’d moved around one too many times, is about to flower. I’m looking forward to appreciating their fragrance when they open.

5. I managed to photograph some of the crocuses as they opened earlier in the week. Some are still flowering though quite a few have got flattened in the wind.

6. And finally… During my trip to the garden centre last weekend I almost made it out without purchasing a plant. Almost, but not quite. Last February I purchased an Ilex Crenata ‘Dark Green’ as an alternative to box. It went to look very sickly in July and it’s never fully recovered. At the garden centre I spotted an Ilex crenata ‘Twiggy’ and initially I dismissed it, thinking it foolish to try a Japanese holly again. Yet I found myself walking past it again a little later. I picked the plant up, studying it more closely this time, but then put it down and walked away, feeling slightly smug at my demonstration of willpower.

Twenty minutes later, standing at a till, I found this in my trolley, shoved between the two bags of compost, two boxes of chicken manure pellets (it was a buy one get one free offer and t’would have been madness not to), a pack of coir pellets (I was curious), a bag of grit and another bird box. I’ve dug up the sickly ‘Dark Green’ ilex and planted ‘Twiggy’ in its place. Was it holly, I mean folly? Probably.

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