Six On Saturday: Oops I did it again

With temperatures again in the 30s I went away for the week.  Yes, I know.  No real gardener ever leaves the garden in summer, not ever!  I did the usual frantic watering, moving pots into the shade and putting everything on trays or saucers and off I went.  My garden is well past its best so I was really quite relaxed.  I went in search of inspiration from some of the great gardens of England and I found that they too had gone over plants, roses devoid of flowers and scorched lawns.  But some ideas for late summer colour were found and I returned determined to take more care of my phloxes.

But here is what is happening in my garden this week.



Rosa Natasha Richardson is in her second flowering and is looking gorgeous.  I’m very happy with the background of Agastache Black Adder but she needs something the other side of her.  I’m still looking for her ideal companion.



Sometime in May I optimistically sprinkled some zinnia seeds that came free with a well known gardening magazine and in the week I was away they opened up.  They were sown at the foot of the now towering tithonia and in amongst the Pentsemon Plum Jerkum.   They have given me an extra spot of late summer colour.



You would not expect me to visit three gardens and come away empty handed now would you? I nearly did as Hidcote had sold out of Agapanthus Navy Blue – a later flowering variety that’s now on my wish list.  Fortunately across the road at Kiftsgate I found a lovely pink Salvia microphylla Blush Pink.  It should flower into November and be frost hardy.  If it does I shall be very happy.



I left my tray of Ammi visnaga out in a shady/sunny spot hoping they might put on a spurt of growth.  I really don’t know if they are going to make it into flower but I am going to plant them out anyway and enjoy their feathery green foliage in amongst the white zinnias as planned.



My vegetable patch has struggled this year, falling foul of lack of rain and my feeble attempts to water it.  I harvested the onions before I left and put them in the potting shed to dry out – as if they needed that!  Small but delightfully formed I think.



The apples are also much smaller this year.  I received an email from my apple juicing farm telling me that this is the earliest apples have ripened in 12 years.  I still don’t think mine are ready for picking and I’m hoping that the welcome deluge of rain that arrived on Friday will give them an extra boost.  I also need to decide what to do with this poor specimen.  Do I shorten the leader and keep the laterals in tight or will the leader strengthen over time?  So much learning to be done!

The bulb catalogues are arriving and even as I review how to improve the August and September garden my thoughts are turning to Spring.  I am well and truly on the gardening roller coaster and on the whole enjoying it.

Be dazzled by the diversity of gardens that get shown each week by checking the links given on The Propagator’s blog You will see that there is an occasional ‘cheat’ and this week The Prop has smuggled three extras into his six.  There must be a sub section somewhere that allows that then!

The apples are also so much smaller this year.  I received an email from my apple juicing farm telling me that this was the earliest apples had ripened in 12 years.  I still don’t think mine are ready to pick and I am hoping that the welcome deluge of rain that came on Friday will give them an extra boost.  I need to think what I do with this poor specimen.  Should I cut the leader much shorter and keep all the laterals in tighter or will the leader strengthen over time? There is so much learning to be done!


Six On Saturday: Scorchio again

Once again it’s very hot here with temperatures around 30 degrees plus.  The rain of last Sunday – really, the one day I have the family over and it rains – was welcome and filled two of the large water butts and one small one.  Total 868 litres plus some odds and ends from the greenhouse butts and I’m nearly through it already.  I am looking again at the garden to see what I can add in to extend the colour but planting will have to wait until September.  Here’s what’s happening at the moment.



A melon update: My second year of growing melons and you would have thought it would be a bumper year.  There have been plenty of flowers but only one has come good as a melon.  Two or three other melons formed but then rotted off.  I’ve been hard at work cutting back the side shoots and stopping the main stem.  Now I have to decide when is the optimum time to pick this precious fruit.



The grapevine over the pergola regularly produces grapes but at this time of the year they split and never ripen.  The previous owner said it was a Black Hamburg, which, as many of you will know, is an indoor variety.  Today the wasps are having great fun and it makes sitting under the welcome shade a little nerve wracking.  I think in future I will cut off all the grapes and have beautiful shade and no wasps!



The Hollyhocks have been to be featured again. They just keep on growing.  There was a touch of rust on the lower leaves early on but the hot dry weather seems to have kept it at bay.  Reader, I measured this one. It is eleven foot six inches!  Does that sound like a challenge?  Bring on the hollyhocks.  This one is growing up into a dead fruit tree.  It never got to fruiting stage so I can’t identify it, other than to say that I suspect is was a stone fruit, maybe apricot, which succumbed to leaf curl and oozing this year.



Also doing rather well are the rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’.  I have my eye on these for dividing this year.  Spreading this wonderful colour around the garden will be a pleasure.



I was late sowing the cosmos this year but they have started to come into flower.  This one is Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Click Cranberries’.  I’ve planted them in a block but I think this one will look good dotted around the border next year.



Lastly a zinnnia.  This is taken as a close up because my planting scheme went awry.  I planned to mix the zinnias and some ammi visnaga together but the ammi germinated late and is only just looking good enough to plant out.  Without the ammi to add some froth the zinnias look like soldiers on parade.  Maybe it will look better in October.

From here it looks like crispy lawns and parched plants for a little longer.  See what else is going on at The Prop’s blog – there you can find links to all the other great SOSs.

Six On Saturday: Time for a rethink

Finally rain arrived.  Great for the garden, less good for other plans.  I’m having family over for lunch on Sunday, and rain is forecast all day.  Outdoor entertaining will have to come inside and someone will be cooking in the rain!  This week has been very hot. The plants in the garden are scorched, the veg plot is desiccated but I managed to find six things in the garden:.



The lawn.  Quite an interesting view at the moment.  The crispy dry stripe is where, long ago, there was a path. The middle section is a mixture of green weeds and brown grass and the far corner is the part of the lawn that is always waterlogged through the winter.  There is local talk of underground streams but I think even these have dried up this summer.  The grass hasn’t been mown in months but a close look showed the creeping buttercup is, of course, creeping very nicely and the little acorns planted by squirrels are growing into mighty oaks.  The clover is mostly going to seed and providing food for the birds.  Such biodiversity.



The hydrangea in the front garden is usually uniformly pink but this year it is pink on the side that gets the sun and shades of pink, purple and blue on the less sunny side.  Curiously it is doing well in the heat.  The front garden is watered very sparingly – and this plant hasn’t been watered once.  I hope last night’s rain will keep it in good health.  It will probably die of shock.



The first ripened chilli in the greenhouse.  It’s a cayenne – looks pretty hot to me but apparently not a knock your socks off chilli.  Picked now and soon to be added to a tomato salsa.  The tomato crop is also ripening you can see a few ‘Golden Crown’ tomatoes in the background. Note for John K – I’m only up to four trusses.



The combination of tithonia and blackberries looks so autumnal to me.  There are lots of berries to pick and I haven’t watered these at all. Maybe they do have their roots down in an underground stream.  The tithonias have now made it to six feet and with the help of the magic water I think they may well make eight feet.



The shallots have been harvested. They were planted out in late November and again I didn’t water them so they are on the small side.  I have been so mean due to a  combination of lack of time and a short hose! Some of these are heading into a potato salad this weekend.



And finishing on a sort of ta-daa!  Work on the ‘ugly end of the garden’ project started. Temperatures were in the 30s and all was going well until the imminent thunderstorms meant the electrical equipment had to be packed away.  Now I  want the rain to stay away today so that the job can be finished.  Then I need to start planning again.  The beds get afternoon sun and I have asparagus on my wish list.  I’ve grown beans against the fence for two summers but I think it is too shady for a really successful crop.  More thinking to be done.

Who else is suffering and who is winning the rainfall lottery?  Those down under speak of cold winters.  Find out more by visiting The Propagator’s blog for this week’s links.

A small flickering of excitement in the N20 garden

Back in April I posted an update on the new paths and the plans for beautifying an ugly corner of the garden.  I was at the back of the queue to get the work done, rain (the wet stuff that used to fall from the sky) had caused a backlog and my project was really quite a small one.

Three months on and I have climbed to the top of list.  August approaches and London town is packing up for the summer so my small job might get done this week.

Here’s the before shot – I’m looking forward to posting the finished article soon.


Six On Saturday: Some seed sowing success

There is no doubt about it.  This has been a tough year.  But there are always some cheering sights among the wilting, stressed and sometimes dead plants.  The tithonias have reached five foot and the flowers are coming thick and fast.   All grown from tiny seeds.  Here are some others:



Scabiosa atropurpurea  ‘Black Cat’.  These have such lovely velvet petals.  The deep wine colour is fab too.


IMG_E2612 (2)

Antirrhinum majus ‘White Giant’.  Not quite so giant as I imagined but these were really teeny tiny seeds to start with so I am glad they have got this far.  I thought I would be planting them in the middle of the border to give some tall white spikes but when the time came it was obvious that they wouldn’t be able to fight their way through geranium ‘Brookside’ so they were planted along the edges of the path.



Echinops Globe Thistle.  An experiment in having something different in the border.  Much loved by blackfly but in truth, so far, not much loved by me.  I will see how they go, perhaps I’ll like them more when they turn bluer.  I think I got my plants mixed up and really meant to sow eryngium!



Sweet peas: Midnight Blue, by far and away the most successful of my sweet peas.  The very lovely Gwendoline, Black Knight and Anniversary are in a shadier spot and are not happy!  Only two of the Anniversary seeds germinated. I’ll try them again next year but I will have to find a better site for them.



Not from any seed that I sowed but doing a great job of extending the border colour are these echinacea purpurea.  They work well with the self seeded verbena behind and they might be good self seeders themselves.  Apparently they don’t like drought but so far so good.


Lastly a dahlia mystery.  I bought six dahlia tubers at the same from the same place.  All labelled Thomas Edison.  They are beginning to open up and I realise I have two varieties. Now I think about there was one pot that seemed less vigorous than the others.  The colour is much darker than comes across here.  How interesting!

Still not a drop of rain here, to see how other gardens are fairing take a trip to The Propagator for all the links to many, many lovely #SixOnSaturday posts.  Happy gardening.


Six on Saturday: There’s a new wave coming

Every now and then a song gets stuck in my head and this week it is Kids in America by Kim Wilde. Kim’s a bit of gardener too btw, so it seems very appropriate.   If you don’t know the song I recommend you look at Kim’s performance of it on the train!

So as Kim says ‘there’s a new wave coming, I warn you’ and this week I am feeling more positive about the garden.  It actually rained last night for about 30 minutes and although there may be a few pests and diseases around the garden is shaping up for mid and late summer.  And here are the highlights:



My first uplifting delight was spotting a flower on the Tithonias.  They were grown from seed and the packet indicates a final height of eight feet.  I’d say they are about four feet now and are full of promise. They should see me through into autumn.



Somewhere along the way last year I picked up a recommendation for the Penstemon Sour Grapes and I would love to say thank you to whoever it was that put this plant onto my wish list.  I do thank you but I can’t remember who it was!  I planted it in amongst the Agastache Black Adder featured last week and, if I may say so, I think it works very well.



I am also bowled over, as I am every year, by the evergreen agapanthus that I grow in containers.  They did look a sorry sight at the end of winter.  But those brown leaves were removed, a granular fertiliser added to the pots and now patience has been rewarded.  They are truly a wow in the garden for the second half of summer.

The second half of the summer is also the time when the veg patch starts producing.  Of course my lack of watering and the absence of rain has had an impact.  My courgettes are tiny – hard to believe I know. The new potatoes, first batch lifted this week, were also on the small side.  But they were truly delicious as was the first outdoor cucumber.  In the greenhouse the melons and tomatoes are rather like this Six – long and rambling!



Last year the melon I grew suffered from red spider mite, thank you to Fred, a French gardener  for diagnosing this for me, and only one flower made it into a fruit.  This year I have been overwhelmed.   I tried to follow the RHS advice: ‘When fruit are gooseberry size, select the best four on each stem and remove all other flowers, fruit and leaves.  Stop the side shoots two or three leaves beyond these fruits, pinch out the main growing tips and remove new growths as they appear.’ But a week away from the greenhouse and I cannot tell a side shoot from a main growing tip and who knows which is new growth!  I am just cutting back to points where fruit has formed.  The variety is Pepito F1.  So far no mites!



The whole greenhouse experience is new to me.  Last year I grew a few cherry tomatoes under the glass and they were quite well behaved.  This year the three varieties I chose, Alicante, Golden Crown and Marmande, have gone crazy.  Side shoots doubling in size by the day, leaf growth in abundance and finally a few tomatoes!  It doesn’t look like the marmande is producing well but we shall see.  These are alicante, they are not ready for picking yet but not long now.



I thoroughly recommend Thomas Stone’s blogs in general and especially anything he posts on roses such as this one on moss roses.   I must extend my rose collection but for the moment mine are all repeat flowering english roses.  They do keep coming.  I gave them all a rose feed a few weeks ago, watered it in and the flowers are coming through once more.  This is Natasha Richardson.  I’ve shown it before and I include it again because it I was pleased that it too is a part of the new wave.

I always recommend this meme and the host The Propagator  as a great way to see what is going on in gardens around the world.  The people who post under #SixOnSaturday are all great sharers of their the knowledge and experience and I want to thank everyone for helping me grow my own knowledge.  Last week I posted a picture of my under the weather apple tree.  I looks like it has fireblight and I thank Tony Tomeo for sharing his knowledge.  Loving you all!!



Six on Saturday: Short and sweet

Life is very busy at the moment and it has been hard to find the time to spend in the garden, watering is being neglected and the veg patch is suffering.  The courgettes are tiny and the borlotti beans are barely climbing up the bean pole.  The latest pest is mice who are taking tiny bites out of the leek stems.  So here’s a very short six:


IMG_2555Phlox. Evidence of my poor watering regime!  I am just about keeping the flowers going.


IMG_2546The flower stem of Acanthus mollis.  I took a small division from a large plant when we moved house two years ago.  It was tiny but it has taken hold and this year produced the first flower stem.  Fred has some of these!



IMG_2565Passion flower – Fred has some of these too.  His are p. edulis but  I wonder if this is Passiflora caerulea The link is to the RHS page.  Since this survived the cold winter I think it could be a caerulea.  It came with the new garden and grows rampantly over an arch.


IMG_2554The apples are growing but I have these brown leaves.  Same happened last year so I don’t think it is a watering problem – but then again I didn’t water the trees last year either.  Any ideas.  Dahlia lovers among you will have noticed the photo bomb from D.Thomas Edison.  My first foray into a non white dahlia!



IMG_2566 (2)Agastache Black Adder – it my very hot dry sunny border.  The perfect place for it but as a new plant it does require regular watering.  It’s one I am trying to keep and maybe this is where I introduce some grasses.


IMG_2557And of course I have to keep watering the containers.  I am managing to keep these going by collecting the cold water than comes through before the hot in the kitchen tap.  What a palaver! But I am enjoying these scented leaf pelargoniums.

That’s my six, for more links please visit The Propagator.  I have been so busy I haven’t read last weeks comments but I am hoping next week slows down and I can catch up soon.  And of course I should say – haway the lads – or something similar. Those who know will know!

Six on Saturday: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times


It was the best time to spend a week on the Suffolk coast. High temperatures, blue skies and lazy days. But the worst time to leave the garden. First the best.


A stop at the Beth Chatto gardens was made en route. I wanted to purchase Convolvulus cneorum, also known as shrubby bindweed.  It seemed strange to be looking for a plant with convolvulus in its name when most of us are digging out its less popular relative. But Christopher Lloyd planted it with  Erigeron karvinskianus and if it worked for him I’m going to give it a go.  It seems very popular in Suffolk:  I found it growing in the holiday garden alongside bindweed and I was soon spotting it everywhere. The silver foliage looked wonderful in the sunshine.


If I maybe allowed to stretch the rules, here’s one I would like to have in my garden. It’s the scabious ‘Stafa’ planted here with knautia macedonica. This is a photo from the Beth Chatto garden.


So there I was having a lovely time on the coast, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the North Sea, vaguely aware that temperatures were soaring elsewhere, when idly checking in on Twitter I come across a conversation between The Propagator and Fred, a French gardener discussing drip feed systems for the greenhouse tomatoes and the constant watering required elsewhere.  I had soaked the greenhouse plants before I left, left seedlings in trays of water and given the garden as much of a soak as I could.  What would I find on my return?  The plant here – which I confess is not in my garden – is marram grass.


Well the hollyhocks seemed to have enjoyed the heat.  These have been grown from seed gathered from the old allotment plot.  I thought I had collected the deep burgundy ones.  Last year’s  seedlings came up yellow and this year’s are white.  So far not a burgundy flower among them.  But they are very impressive.


In the greenhouse, the tomatoes had just about held on, the chillies and basil were drooping and an optimistically sown tray of tagetes had shrivelled to a crisp.  I was relieved to see that the only two euphorbia seeds to germinate had made it through as had some potted on Ammi visnaga – who where very tardy in their germination.  I had recently been given two young plants of Japanese cucumbers which had also just survived.


The best news was that the blackcurrants, which grow on a shady side of the garden are just ripe – so the job for today is picking them before they go over.

I’ll also be doing a week’s worth of dead heading – the roses look a sorry sight, plenty more watering and planting out the japanese cucumbers and my new bindweed!  Visit The Propagator  to see what other SoSers are doing this weekend.  Enjoy the sunshine.

Six on Saturday: Send in the locusts!

Don’t bother they’re here!  Well not actually locusts, the latest garden pest to arrive is the sawfly caterpillar.  I caught a crowd of them devouring my nasturtiums and radishes.  And following a tweet from Horti Hugo  I scampered off to check the gooseberries.  I couldn’t see a single caterpillar but the evidence was there:



I’ve cut my losses on the gooseberries this year.  Life got busy at the wrong time and I didn’t get that netting done so I picked all that I could and I will have to wait for next year.  The blackcurrants have been netted and at least there are plenty of berries there for us all to enjoy.



Pottering gardener alert:  I decided there was far too much leaf on the tomatoes in the greenhouse and my goodness, turn your back for moment and those side shoots put on a spurt.  The side shoots were removed and some of the longer branches were cut back.  I know this is usually done as the tomatoes ripen but I decided that it needed to be done now.  I did find several green tomatoes hiding beneath the foliage so I think I did the right thing.  The long side shoot at the bottom has also gone now!



Still no rain here and the hydrangeas are wilting.  Here’s my favourite one which is framed on either side the by striking foliage of the siberian irises.  They did get a good watering after this photo was taken and picked up nicely.



I am delighted to report my first dahlia flower – not one of those bright stunners but a rather subtle white and green affair.  It’s blanc y verde from a Sarah Raven collection.



The penstemons are coming through now.  I thought I had carefully recorded the name of this one when it was purchased, but no.  I think it was firebird but could it be garnet?  Maybe there is a pot somewhere with a label on it!



It’s still June, so I’m still featuring roses.  I really like this one because it is so different to my other roses.  It’s Jaqueline du Pre, a semi double Harkness rose.  I love the stamens.

For all the links to sixes from gardens around the world go to The Propagator’s blog – all the ups and downs of gardening and gyo will be on display.

Six On Saturday: How does your garden grow?

Quite contrarily is my answer! After the slug onslaught the aphids have arrived. Blackfly on the dahlias, nasturtiums and echinops and greenfly elsewhere. It hasn’t rained here in yonks, the onions are ‘delicately’ sized and the parsnips are refusing to play ball.  They are tempting me with one or two possible cotyledons but maybe I am deceiving myself. I continue to water in hope rather than expectation.  Let’s see if there are any silver bells or cockle shells to be found:



The containers, planted up in May, are coming along well.  Cheering me up on the whole, until I realise they are verging on the dessicated!



The carrots, that were also proving a little reluctant, finally came good in a third direct sowing.  This time I cast them onto the soil and sprinkled a little potting compost over the top.  Who knows why they decided to germinate this time!  I just have to keep them watered now.



The courgettes, bought as small plants from the Finchley Horticultural Society plant sale, are no trouble.  Oh, I forgot.  They do need watering.  But maybe the drought conditions will keep them on the manageable side.  The lovely flower and yellow fruit cheer me up on the way to the parsnip inspection.


The gooseberries had quite a late pruning and the crop does not seem so bumper this year.  But is this because I have yet to net them from the birds? Sigh, I do have a lot of netting to do.  The blackcurrants, which I really took in hand – thinning them out ruthlessly – are doing well.  They are beginning to ripen, but you guessed it, they haven’t been netted yet either.




Contrary, but in a good way, is the lemon tree.  Looking for all the world like it was dead and gone after a good chilling in the greenhouse over winter, it was subjected to not one but two cut backs and has responded well.  The glossy green leaves and the beautiful scent coming from the one or two flowers it has put out more than make up for the odd shape.  Good to see.



A rose, Scepter’d Isle. Absolutely lovely.  These are my pretty maids all in row!

I hope your plots, veg patches and gardens are giving you joy.  There are lots of superb photos of the strawberry crop out there on twitter, which are underlining the need to replace my tired specimens, inherited from previous owner and cropping poorly.  Visit  The Propagator,  our host’s blog for more gardening encouragements: good things we can aspire to and duff things that we share the pain of.  No grammar corrections please! 🙂