Six On Saturday: Party time for Freya and Gareth

What a week of windy weather! Casualties have occurred but nothing too serious. A piece of the viburnum came down with Freya and Gareth took out a fence panel.

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I was wondering if I could get six new things out of the garden this week. While the storms rage the garden is in a bit of a lull. Storm Gareth opened up a new vista for me. The fence panel is still in one piece and can be lifted back into place. It is my neigbour’s fence but reinstating it will probably be a joint effort. In the meantime I can enjoy an extended view. I am now doubly sure that the fence needs to be covered with some evergreen planting.

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Also being battered but still looking good is the front garden Magnolia. The buds opened just as the winds arrived and although some have been lost there are plenty remaining.

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The plum trees in the garden are slowly moving into blossom. Last year’s crop was very low but the year before was bumper. I am going to be rigorous in my thinning out to try and even out these ups and downs.

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Progress is being made on the lawn extension. The slabs have been moved to the compost area – you can see I didn’t do this, they are so neatly stacked! The hydrangea is going to be moved and the turf will be laid in the next couple of weeks. My job is to dig out the bindweed.

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Seed sowing has begun. The tomatoes sown a few weeks back are ready for potting on. This first batch will be planted in the greenhouse. I will sow a second batch for outdoor growing in a couple of weeks. I was much reassured by a tweet from Bob Flowerdew, who in response to the query when is the best time to do things in the garden said ‘it is always two weeks ago!’ I did get my lettuce and rocket seeds sown a while back and I’m now thinking about the hardy annuals. Thinking but not yet doing!

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Some spring daffodils to end on.

There are more gardening up-dates to be found on The Propagator’s site. I would be very grateful if anyone using the new block editor on WordPress can tell me how to rename links. Using the long form is driving me mad! https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/six-on-saturday-16-03-2019/

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Six On Saturday: One thing leads to another

It’s funny how things work out. You start one thing, and before you know it something else needs doing. It has been cold, wet and windy but gardening jobs have been done. Some by me and some by the professionals.

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I planted a cherry tree. Some time ago a dead diseased apricot tree was taken out and I ruminated for a long while on what could go in the space. The old tree roots and the stump are still in the ground but I squeezed in a rose nearby. Hawthorn and rowan were high up on my list of trees to put in a little further along but then as some wild blackberries were taken out the increase in space seemed perfect for a fan trained cherry tree. The cherry tree arrived this week and I set to work planting it. This is the first tree I have ever planted so it was a momentous occasion. I wish trees came with recipe-like instructions. Tools for job: stake, tree tie, fork for forking out inevitable roots of previous inhabitants, loppers for cutting those larger roots, spade for digging hole, fish, bone and blood for fertiliser, trug to put said roots in, mallet for banging in stake, compost for improving texture of soil and last but not least the actual tree. As usual I underestimated the time it would take – an hour, which included me digging it up twice to make sure it was facing the right way!

Two

The bbq went last week and the spotted laurel went this week. My professional with the chain saw said ‘it isn’t a spotted laurel it’s an acuba. I looked up acuba and was informed that it’s common name is spotted laurel. Well it’s gone. On looking at the empty space I decided that the paving slabs were not very attractive and might be just the thing for putting down in front of the new compost bins. So rather radically for a SOSer I am going to add in some extra lawn! The paved area will be turfed. I hear howls of anguish from some quarters but that is the plan. The hydrangea may also be on the move as I think I have found a spot for it elsewhere in the garden

Three

This year I decided to have the fig and apple trees pruned by a specialist. Most are quite young trees but there is a larger older apple tree that needed a reshape. It wasn’t long before disease or insect damage was found in the fig trees. The upper end of the central branches had died back and in some cases was hollowed out leaving a bark case. There wasn’t anything to match it to on the internet so it is a mystery. A larger than expected amount had to be pruned out so the fruit crop is in doubt for this year. I hope this action will save the trees though.

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The clematis armandii chose this week to open out into flower. It is lovely but I can’t help thinking it is like a wearing your best flimsy frock to a Christmas night out – absolutely freezing! I am battling against the odds to train it in the direction I would like it to grow and I am quickly learning that the stems are only flexible for the first few inches. After that they break.

Five

Its probable against all the rules, but this week I moved the winter spinach. I need to get a space ready for the onions and the rotation plan meant the spinach needed to be evicted. It looks very settled in it’s new home, due in no small part to the outer slug eaten leaves having been pulled off.

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It was a cold wet and windy week but there was a moment of sunshine and the euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii was glowing brightly. An uplifting moment to end on.

For more uplifting moments take at peek at the links available on https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/six-on-saturday-09-03-2019/

Six On Saturday: I was surprised!

Surprised like most of us in the UK to have such warm temperatures in February at the beginning of this week and surprised to find a few more plants in flower.  I thought it was all looking a bit dull out there.  I haven’t really got to grips with flowering shrubs and early spring bulbs for the garden yet. But all in good time.   Here’s what surprised me this week:

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I could have sworn that I didn’t have any early daffs, but this tiny group of ‘Tete a Tete’ have just sprung up under a rose bush.  They must be a relic from past plantings and they look very well.  I am persuaded to add them to my bulb order wish list.

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These cowslips are from own planting.  They are in a sheltered corner and catch the morning sun.  I think they have been lured out by this week’s warmth.

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The north facing border must also been catching a few sunny rays.  The pulmonaria have opened up.  I originally had them in a south facing border but they were uprooted in the autumn and moved to the dark depths of the other side of the garden.  The slugs don’t seem to like them and I find their uncomplaining nature very agreeable!

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It’s a dangerous time to be out in the garden.  The bulbs are all coming through so I really must be careful where I put my feet as I try to keep on top of the weeds and slugs.  I’m also hoping there won’t be any casualties as a result of the dry summer weather.  I didn’t really think about the bulbs when I was mean with the watering.

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From a distance the clematis looked like a tangled mass of dried up browness.  Close up there was an impressive amount of new growth and it was quite clearly time for some pruning.  Job done!

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I have another skip on site.  For every project in the house there is the opportunity of sorting out something in the garden.   It’s curtains for the BBQ and the spotted laurel.  The laurel clearly got wind of its impending doom and put out some very attractive berries.  But my mind is made up – not a frequent occurrence – and the laurel will be gone by the end of the month.  The severely cracked BBQ has already been skipped and I have a larger seating area as a result.  Now I need to choose a garden bench.

I have a long wish list of plants that I have come across from reading the SOSs that get posted every week.  If you are looking for inspiration go to  The Propagator  for links to temptations for every season!

Six On Saturday: Last of the winter jobs, moving into spring

A cold week with several foggy mornings ended with some welcome warmth.  The sunshine lifts the human spirit and that of the plants.  The last of the winter cut back needs to be done, excepting the penstemons which I will leave until April.  I did cut the grapevine back last week, just in time.  The tomato seeds did not get sown.  This first sowing is destined for the greenhouse and I must get them done this weekend.  Sowing for plants to be grown outside can be left for a little longer.  While reading the comments on Jim Steven’s SOS for last week I came across his link to a blog by The Laid Back Gardener and found my way to  Goldilocks and the three seedlings which is a great story about sowing tomato seeds.  I recommend it and hope that this year I’ve got my sowing just right.

Here’s my six for the week:

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The first sowing of sweet peas have germinated.  ‘Midnight Blue’ with a 56% success rate and ‘April in Paris’ achieving 94%.  There may be a few laggards to come through for ‘Midnight Blue’ but they’ll have to get a move on as this weekend they will go out into the cooler potting shed.

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Mr P who hosts this blog, and does us all a wonderful service, is a great grower of plants from seeds.  His latest success is lupins and I am much put to shame by his efforts.  By coincidence this week I received three small pots of lupins for planting out.  This is my first foray into lupins, previously not one of my favourites but  I was tempted by a twitter post of ‘The Pages’ and decided to order a few.  The colour is carmine red – let’s see what they look like in a few months time.  Of course, they will have to survive slug attacks first.

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IMG_3304Speaking of twitter, I have already shared my labours of last weekend there but I am happy to share the success with you all here.  The compost bins were finally built.  The bins are a slot-in build and took hardly anytime at all.  I will have to tidy up the front surface which will require nice words to delightful builder again!  In the meantime I have some compost heap turning to do.

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IMG_3325The deciduous shrubs are beginning to leaf up.  I love the fresh green colours.  This is my mystery shrub in the front garden.  It has black berries over the winter but unfortunately I can’t remember the flower type.  I’ll watch it carefully this year and see if I can identify it.

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img_3323.jpgThese hyacinths were going to be my forced hyacinths for Christmas but when they were brought into the warm they came with a plague of flies and were banished to the garden.  It’s good to see them in flower now.

 

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This is my long border.  The plants left standing over winter for their seed heads will be cut down now.  I’m going to post a photo each month taken from the same spot to record the wonderful transformation that takes place over the summer months.  It’s all very gloomy today as this was another foggy morning but there is much potential!

If you’d like to join the SOS band of gardeners that go immediately to the participant guide on Mr P’s site.  SOS is a mix of the pottering gardener like myself, the adventurous like Mr Propagator and many more lovely people all willing to share their experience and knowledge.  Take the plunge!

 

 

 

 

Six on Saturday: Ready, steady, go!

Life became busy last week and the balance tipped away from things gardening focused.  These times come along and all will pass – soon I hope!  It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again but the sunny days were followed by cold nights and the greenhouse temperatures were down to -1.  The garden is straining at the leash, the March surge is coming and I still have winter jobs to do.

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The grapevine over the pergola must be pruned this weekend.  It’s a job I normally do in November.  What was I doing then? Or in December or January?

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The tulips and bluebells are coming through well.  I spotted this bulb strangely lying on the surface.  I bent to pick it up, cursing squirrels, but no.  It was well rooted into the ground.  I don’t have an explanation.  Could it be an allium bulb that didn’t get planted deeply enough and has wriggled its way upwards?  I decided to bury it rather than dig it up and plant it deeper as I didn’t have the time to sort it out.  Maybe a job for the weekend.

Three

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The onion sets are in their modules in the greenhouse.  I am hoping to have the time to plant the shallots out this weekend.  That ‘to do’ list is getting longer.

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The garden doesn’t have a single crocus or iris reticulata in it, something to be rectified in the next bulb buying session but the primroses look cheerful enough for now.

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And the first flowers of pulmonaria officinalis planted in a north facing border are coming out.  It’s also good to see their spotted leaves.  The common pulmonaria doesn’t seem to fall prey to attack by slugs.

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The lovely leaves of aquilegia are unfurling.

I have some final preparation of a bed on the north facing border to finish off ready for the March plant out.  Plants have to be ordered and I know I will be tempted to add in a few extras for elsewhere in the garden.  I’m getting ready but need to be steady for a while longer before it’s all go in March.

I hope your garden preparations are going well.  Mr P is, as usual, hosting this group and all the links to gardens around the world can be found on his site.

 

 

 

 

Six on Saturday: Plan, plan and then cross fingers

Things are definitely on the move in the garden.  The bulbs are poking up their first leaves and here in London some of the perennials are beginning to stir.  Storm Eric poured in yesterday and is blowing itself out today.  The sun is shining and optimism is rising.

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There was a brief lull in the weather this week.  The snow disappeared and the ground wasn’t too wet so the opportunity was taken to plant out the asparagus crowns.  I dug out the trench, created the ‘w’ shaped profile and elegantly draped the crowns across the top.  The trench was then back-filled to just cover the crowns and over the coming weeks as the crowns send out shoots there will  be more back filling to ensure the crowns are well buried.  A scattering of fish bone and blood also went into the mix.  I opted for one long trench and I think I have space for a border of companion plants. Recommendations are to plant tomatoes and basil in an attempt to fend off asparagus beetle.  I am growing tomatoes from seed this year and I’m sure I will have some spare plants.  The extras can go by the side of the asparagus as a first barrier.  I’m happy to sow a few basil seeds as well.  That’s the first plan.  We’ll see if it works.

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The potatoes have been bought and chitting is underway.  The second plan is where to put the potatoes this year.  My veg plot has a three year rotation plot.  (I don’t grow brassicas).  Potatoes are followed by onions followed by root crops.  The lay out of the veg plot gives me two larger beds and then three thinner strips.  There is also one medium sized raised bed.  I have to decide if  I use the raised bed for half the potatoes and one of the larger smaller strips for the remainder.  You may be a little confused by now – as I am.  I have a few weeks to sort this all out.

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Beans will also have to fit into the plan and this year I am forgoing the climbing bean ‘Blue Lake’ in favour of a dwarf french bean.  The simple reason is I don’t enjoy untangling the beans and twine from the wig wam at the end of the season.  I also reasoned that the dwarf beans would fit very nicely into one of the thin strips.  A long term plan is to combine two of the thin strips, but that’s on the wish list.

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My final purchase of sweet peas seeds has been made.  Let’s see how ‘Iris’ and ‘Gwendoline’ get on with ‘April in Paris’.  The first batch of sweet peas was sown last weekend.  These will be sown in a week or two.

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Onion choices have also been made.  Sturon, Red Baron and Longor shallots.  I am going to start off the onions in modules this year ready to transplant as the weather becomes warmer.  A first time of trying this for me so fingers crossed here too.

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The first flower on the Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’  has appeared.  It is nestled under a Mahonia in the front garden.  Yes, Spring is on its way.

 

Six On Saturday: How does your asparagus grow?

It has been a very cold week here with heavy frosts and snow on Thursday evening. February has arrived and plans for the year to come are gathering pace.  Seeds have been delivered and also, unexpectedly, asparagus crowns.

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I ordered them on the understanding that despatch would be in February for planting out in March.  They arrived a few days ago during the coldest spell of the winter.  Much as I prefer to stay in the warm at these times I did plant out 125 snowdrops on a very sleety day in February a few years ago, I have form for gardening in the winter.  This time I feel misled.  I registered my concerns with the supplier who assures me that the majority of UK asparagus can now be planted any time over winter when the ground is not frozen.  But my ground is frozen.  I am therefore advised to store them temporarily with a covering of dry sand or compost which stops them drying out completely.  This I have done.  I now have my fingers very much crossed.  Wish me luck.  The supplier will be updating their website and I could be digging trenches this weekend.

 

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As February has arrived I feel it is time to show a snow drop or two.  As mentioned, I did have fun planting these!  I planted them at the base of the fruit trees in the garden.  One hundred and twenty five snowdrops do not go very far but they do take a long time to plant.  I was hoping they would naturalise and spread themselves out into the empty spaces, but it looks as though that is going to take some time and I am sure that if I count them up I would be noting some as AWOL. Having said that they do look good in the snow.

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A view of one section of the soft fruit beds in the snow and more evidence of winter gardening madness.  Last weekend I decided it was time to cut back the autumn fruiting raspberries.  It was a sunny morning and I was lured outside.  I failed to factor in the wind chill – it was freezing but I pushed on.  Once the secateurs were in action it was hard not to stop and the gooseberries also got some attention.  They succumbed to a sawfly attack last year so I focused on opening up the middle of each bush.   I still have the blackcurrants to do, they are budding up already.

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Whilst stowing the asparagus crowns in the greenhouse I checked in on the overwintering pelagoniums.  They seem to be looking okay.  This is the first time I’ve tried overwintering and the gardening fingers are crossed for them too.

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The delightful builder was very industrious when he visited recently and used up the wood left over from facing the breeze block walls of a raised bed to spruce up the large water storage tank.  I’d always thought it was an ugly thing but it was functional.  However I had coffee with my neighbour recently and realised she had a perfect sight line from her window direct to the water tank.  It was not a pretty sight.   I am pleased the left over wood got used up and perhaps the Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ that is hiding under the snow will be more inclined to creep up the sides now.

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Lastly some variegated box capped with snow.  Plain and simple.  It forms one end of a hedge line separating the garden from the veg plot.

Interesting times these, for the SOS crowd.  What is going on in their gardens or in their gardening minds?  Mr P’s site will have all the answers.  It may be February but there will be much to discover.  Share your experiences too – here’s a participant guide.

 

Six On Saturday: Snow, sowing and growing

Clearly I have been spending too much time in the garden scouting out goodies for the Six On Saturday show.  I should have been cosy and warm inside reading the seed catalogues.  This has now been rectified and some seeds are on their way.  But it was the snow that arrived on  Wednesday.

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Wednesday was also the day scheduled for the builder to come and destroy  the brick walls of the old compost heap.  Bless him! He did come and the walls are no more.  I have three wooden bins ready to be installed but they can wait for warmer weather.  It was good day despite the snow.  All the garden rubbish went into the skip plus plenty more from the house.  The builder did not get frostbite and I didn’t run out of tea or milk!

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We moved to this house in 2016 and the garden was in need of a good weed and the addition of some new plants.  Each year another little patch of the garden gets my attention.  Last summer I managed to get this corner trellised and planted clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’.  It was a lovely surprise this week to see it putting on new growth and buds.

Three

For some unknown reason I missed planting out shallots and autumn onions.  Last year’s weather and lack of watering on my part did not lead to a bumper crop and the last few from the store have gone soft and been consigned to the bin.  The shallots did store better and they have encouraged me to try again.  A visit to the nursery is now urgent if I am going to get some purchases made before they sell out.

Four

I have been muttering for weeks that it is time to sow some sweet peas and as February approaches I feel that I might actually do it.  I find I always start talking about sowing sweet peas early but then actually do it a bit later.  These are my first two choices for this year but I am on the look out for a couple of extra packets, just in case.

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It’s still too early for me to be sowing tomato seeds but this year I do have some!  Last year in a bid to increase the number of varieties grown but decrease the number of plants I limited myself to six plants bought from my local plant sale.  This year I want to try ‘Green Zebra’.  For more variety I chose this seed collection which gives ‘Marmande’,  ‘San Marzano 2’ and a new (for me) yellow variety to grow – ‘Golden Sunrise’.  The ‘Green Zebra’ had to be bought separately.  I’m also looking forward to trying ‘Tigerella’.

Six

Here’s the compost area without it’s walls.  Once the bins are constructed I will see what tidying up I have to do round the edges.

All done for another week,  Mr P will be showcasing his goodies plus links to posts from around the gardening world.  Stop by and take a look.

Six On Saturday: All will be well

It’s lovely how one phone call can lift the spirits.  Friday was the coldest day of the year for my garden and I was thinking about presenting a six shades of brown.  There were some truly great contenders but in the blink of phone screen my mind set changed and some colours came into focus.

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Shouting most loudly to be included this week is the lovely hellebore double ‘Pretty Ellen’.  Even with the downward aspect of the flowers the colour gives a warming glow to a shady corner of the garden.  I think I should have more of these and so I shall look into how to propagate them.  I imagine it will be a slow process.

Two

The viburnums in the back garden are fairing rather better than those in the front garden.  One is a large and oldish looking tree which has the pinker flower and the other is a smaller tree with more consistently white flowers. Both are much loved by viburnum beetle – which I’ve never seen, just the holey evidence of their presence.

Three

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It may be cold out there but the rosemary bush has a gentle dusting of pretty purple flowers.

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The iberis sempervirens that covers the rocky wall of the north facing border is also beginning to flower.

Five

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The leaves of Arum italicum looking beautifully glossy and untroubled by slugs.  I read that these combine well with snowdrops.  My snowdrops are being very shy this year.  It looks like I may have lost some which is very careless of me.  I think it will be another week before a snowdrop picture graces one of my posts.

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The last of my six gives the clue to my delightful phone call.   Last weekend I tackled a good part of the cutting that back that was needed.  Roses were pruned, geraniums and alchemilla mollis cut back and the builder’s bag that is serving as my temporary compost heap was overflowing.  I was longing for the day when the brick structure would be demolished.  I pushed over a few of the less stable bricks and poked and prodded the rest.  Hurrah, no more waiting.  My delightful builder has two free days and will arrive next week with an array of suitably destructive tools and a skip.  I will spend the weekend ferreting out all the debris that accumulates in the garden and down the side of the shed.  All will be well with the world.

For more stories from gardens around the world go to the links on The Propagator site.  Now there’s a man who loves his compost!

 

 

Six On Saturday: Another inspiration

I am a great admirer of Dan Pearson’s garden writing and have an email subscription to his online magazine, Dig Delve.  Dan unfailing comes up with beautiful words to describe the progress of his garden and Huw Morgan supplies the stunning photographs.  Last week’s edition A New Year was no exception. The very first sentence caught my attention: ‘Winter is a time to look.’  And so I did.

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The seed head of Echinacea purpurea

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Seed heads of Agastache ‘Black Adder’

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Seed heads of Rudbeckia fulgida  ‘Goldsturm’

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The flower of Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

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I also managed to do some gardening this week.  It was the coldest day of the week and I had some digging to do.  I had been smugly admiring the newly cleared plot on the north facing border.  It looked lovely but I know that soil can be deceptive and underneath lurk the roots of the very worst of weeds.  One end of the plot turned over quite nicely.  I only needed to remove the odd blackcurrant root that had been left behind.  I gave the dug over patch a mulch of leaf mould and as the toes were tingling I retreated inside for some warmth. The next day I set out to tackle the second half.  A different experience unfolded.  The weeds were lurking at this end of the plot and as I dug the roots out I remembered the enchanter’s nightshade that loves this corner and then the creeping cinquefoil  came to mind.  I really don’t like that one.   A couple of trugs full of roots were removed and I know I still haven’t got the upper hand.

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The first rapid fluttering of a nearby robin’s wings always makes me jump out of my skin but we soon get used to each other and this robin seemed very happy to pose for the occasional photo.  In return I turned over a few worms for him.

It’s been cold but beautifully dry here so I’m hoping to finish off my digging this weekend.  I’ve then got roses to prune and some perennials to cut back.  I’ll be leaving those seed heads standing until the new growth starts to come through.  Wishing you all well with your garden jobs.  To take a look at what has been occupying fellow SOSs this week stop by at Mr P’s blog and links.