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.

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Six On Saturday: Strange inspirations

I thought about pulling a ‘dog ate my homework’ one this week.  I had a good excuse – the  lightning cable has disappeared and downloading the photos looked distinctly unlikely.  But I did have six photos on the phone and I know the Prop expects every man to do his duty and so a spare was found.  Here’s my six.

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The Christmas break offered a few days to explore some culture and a visit to Tate Modern for the Burne-Jones exhibition provided unexpected inspiration for this week’s six.  The paintings on display featured many beautifully painted plants: irises, dianthus, lillies, pansies and sweet peas, all with their own significant meanings and truly I was going to give you six insights into flowers and art but I know this will resonate much deeper – Leopard slugs.

These are slithering around the main entrance to the museum.  They are by Monster Chetwynd  who is fascinated by the idea that ‘light emitting organisms may one day power street lights.’  Now I did not know this, but leopard slugs emit a blue glow when they mate and so Chetwynd’s slugs come adorned with blue LED lights.  When you next go late night slug hunting spare a thought for what you may be interrupting!

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Back to things that really are in my garden now.  My front garden hydrangea continues to give me joy.  Yesterday the brown flowers were caught by the late afternoon sun giving them a bronzed look.  The photo doesn’t do it justice, you will have to trust me on this one.

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The back door pot of thyme also caught my eye in a silvery way.

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And more silvery colour came from the lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantina.  Tiny signs of new growth are pushing through.  Very encouraging.

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The Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is also developing its lime green flower heads.  These were one of the first plants to be put into the new border two years ago and they look wonderful now they are reaching their full size.

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When I started the hunt for six to feature this Saturday I thought the garden was looking pretty grim.  But there is always something to enjoy as plants work their way through their life cycles.  The Cotoneaster that was resplendent with berries a few weeks ago is now a skeleton, indeed looking very much like a fish skeleton.  The geometric spacing of the branches is worth taking a moment  to stop and admire.

Phew! Made it!  The first six of the New Year.  May 2019 bring us all a bounty of beautiful things in our gardens.  To take a look at what is happening in gardens elsewhere call in at The Prop’s place – there’s some LED action going on there too!

Six On Saturday: The first rule of gardening is…

Things always take longer than you think.  I could have shared six photos from the one gardening job I had to do this week but I didn’t have the phone with me.  It started well.  The two roses I had bought from Thomas Stone arrived.  Thomas had suggested Rosa Madame Isaac Pereire for a sunny south facing border.  I’ll just put them in before it gets dark I thought.  No need to change I thought, this won’t take long.  There were a few trips up and down the path to locate the fish, bone and blood and the spade, oh and the hand fork for a few weeds, and then the  trug for the weeds to go in but then I was ready.  Suddenly that space didn’t seem quite big enough.  The fennel had to come out and those penstemons.  Down the path again for the fork.  Two penstemons, the fennel and a hollyhock later the rose was ready to go in with a sprinkle of FBB and some mycorrhizal powder.  On to the next one.  Again the space didn’t seem quite big enough so there were more penstemons to be moved.  Two found places in a new location but one had to be heeled in.  The verbena bonariensis also looked a bit close so that came out too.  Time to dig the hole.  The rose was going into a spot that turned out to be quite near the dead tree (which has been cut down and buried by mulch).  So back down the path for the loppers to cut through various tree roots.  Turns out this spot is also where I squeezed in several spring bulbs.  So they were relocated.  Finally time to put the rose in.  Darkness is now descending.  Where is the mycorrhizal powder?  Oh yes, under the heap of soil I dug to create the hole.  Rose goes in at last.  Tools collected up and put away, shed is very dark now and clearly full of spiders.  Jeans are filthy.  Hurrah, the roses are in.  But in the night I think Tony Tomeo flew over from the West Coast (into Heathrow).  In the States they plant their roses differently – with the union at soil level.  Here, I do as I’m told and plant the union about 2 inches below soil level. The next morning this greeted me!

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My  heeled in plants joined several others in a spot I am trying to keep clear for onions.  It now houses several delphiniums relocated to make way for the gaura and penesetums, a hebe from the front garden, a polemonium – recovering from slug attacks, and now the fennel and penstemons.  They’ll have to find new homes in the New Year.

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In all the trudging up and down I did notice the first of the white hellebores – just in time for Christmas.  It is being photo-bombed by primrose leaves.

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Fat balls have been made for the birds. One part fat, two part whatever is around – dried fruits, bread and some oats.  Of course the squirrels get to them first!

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The blackcurrants have gone!  I kept four for myself – heeled in around the garden and the others have gone to good homes.  The smell as they were dug up was wonderful. Now I have a blank canvas on the north border for my white shade loving plants.

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Time to wish you all Happy Christmas.  Decorating the house has just begun and my small contribution to seasonal light pollution is the wrapping of a string of lights around a bay tree.

It’s a busy time of year but if you need a moment of peaceful relaxation then drop by at Mr P’s.  He maybe playing a bit of Slade but everyone is welcome!

 

Six On Saturday: frost arrives and a rose

The first lingering frost arrived this week.  A scraping the ice off the windscreen and frozen bird bath sort of frost.  A ‘don’t walk on the grass frost’.  But another of the bare stem roses arrived too.  So I did walk on the grass in order the plant the rose.  Here’s my six:

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The frost came on a clear sunny day and as I was scanning the garden front and back for suitable greenery for the house I remembered that I have a rather large fir tree that sometimes deigns to drop a few fir cones.  I gathered two and looked longingly up at the rest.

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I periodically wail about the lack of shrubs in the garden but whenever I get the chance to put something into a newly cleared space I choose a rose.  This week ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ arrived.  I must thank the good folk at Ulting Wick garden in Essex who tweeted about this rose for a north facing situation.  It’s a climber and I’m hoping it will romp away all over that brown fence of mine.

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I just got my photo of the cotoneaster and the ivy into last week’s six in the nick of time.  This week the berries have been stripped and the leaves have all gone.  My festive offering for this week is holly.  But no berries.

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I still have a drop of colour in the garden.  The hydrangea is turning down its bracts (I think I’ve got that right but please correct me if I’m wrong!) and showing off the pink undersides.

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My neighbours’ viburnum are beginning to flower quite beautifully now.  Ours has one single solitary flower head.  All suggestions as to how get more will be gratefully received.

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The buds on the rhododendron are forming.  This is a very large specimen on the north facing border.  The north facing border is the focus of my attention for 2019.  Watch this space for  indecision, digging  and hopefully, developments.

All the links to other SOSs from gardens around the world can be found at our genial host’s site The Propagator Blog.  If it’s cold outside stay inside and have a good read!

Six On Saturday: a few ups and downs

The view of the garden from the kitchen window gives a grandstand view of the antics of the squirrels.  This week they have been tracking down the last few tiny edible figs and often knock off some of the others in the process.  As does the wind and the rain, which is all very helpful as there are still a great many figs to be taken off.   In all the gloom of this week there have been a few spots of colour:

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I still have berries on the cotoneaster leading to me to conclude that there is still plenty of food around for the birds.  The combination of the red berries and leaves and the ivy strikes a perfect Christmas note.

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I tweeted this photo earlier in the week and unashamedly share it here.  For one of my twelve days of Christmas I have six paraqueets-a-nibbling.   This tree is a real bright spot in the winter gloom and looks all the crazier with the addition of some neon green.

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This sad looking skimmia is not providing the much hoped for winter colour.  It was planted out last year underneath the magnolia and I had lovely visions of masses of red berries which have come to nought.  The skimmia was dug up and potted again, pending allocation to a better spot. Some place with more light and not so dry I think.

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The aforementioned magnolia is beginning to do its stuff again –  these new buds were  cheering to see.

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I ventured into unknown territory awhile ago and planted up some hyacinth bulbs for forcing for Christmas.  At the appointed time they were brought into the warmth of the house.  But this week they were  banished into a cold exile outside.  Their crime?  Well the bulbs are innocent but the cloud of tiny black flies that came with them were not greatly appreciated.

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I’ve got a few things going on in the potting shed.  The scented leaf pelagoniums have been cut back, the last of foxgloves are going to overwinter there now along with a few cuttings of penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ and pellies.  I am also trying to keep alive a few seedlings from euphorbia oblongata but I feel these are already slipping from my grasp.  I foresee causalities along the way.

Even though I may lose some seedlings over the winter the eternal optimism of the gardener continues.  New seed orders have been placed and the wish list continues to grow.  Enjoy your winter garden – plants and wildlife,  and if you are seeking inspiration look no further than The Propagator’s blog which will start you off on a world wide tour of gardens.

Six On Saturday: The power of seeds

On the whole it was a gloomy, wet and windy week here but a little milder than of late. It was with some trepidation that I ventured out into the garden to collect this week’s six but gardens have a great way of taking care of themselves and providing a few surprises.

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One of the major projects of this year was the laying of the garden path.  It was laid on top of the old path which worked well in most places but as the path rounded the corner to meet up with the lawn the height differential came into play.  The weather was so hot and dry that plans to build up the lawn height were put on hold until about a month  ago.  Part of the lawn was stripped off and the soil level was built up.  My lawn is a patchwork quilt of grass, creeping buttercups, wild yarrow, clover, daisies and much more.  The stripped off turves did not hold together and when re-laid there were several scrappy patches which needed seeding.  I had given up hope of the new seed germinating but I really was very excited to see that the first new shoots have appeared.

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This new growth reminded me of one or two other things in the garden that had sorted themselves out.  Last winter I lost a French lavender plant given to me as a house warming present.  It had done so well over its first summer but winter was just too much for it.  Or so I thought.  A few weeks ago I noticed new shoots of lavender appearing alongside the English lavender I had planted in its place.  This is the strongest of the bunch and I’m hoping that sheltered by the English lavender it might make it through this winter.  There are a couple of smaller seedlings that I am going to lift and overwinter in the greenhouse.  I would love to report back to the giver that I do still have the French lavender.

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This young yew tree was given to me by the birds!  I can’t bring myself to pull it out and would love to find a corner of the garden where I can nurture it along into something significant.  Maybe I can start up my own wild hedgerow along the back fence.  I’ve got a few wild blackberries that need to be taken in hand.  Throw in a dog rose and some years of patient waiting and I could be onto something.

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The back fence is already home to Iris foetidissima and these have helpfully self seeded very successfully.  The orange berries glow brightly through the gloom and a good colony of these in the dark corner will provide a much welcomed lift to the spirits through winter.

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I collected some Hollyhock seeds to bring with me to the new garden and now the seeds from those plants are starting to colonise well.  I have had to take a few in hand as they managed to get themselves going some distance from the main site.  I never know what colours are going to appear which is part of the fun.

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Another great self seeder is the foxglove.  I did not have any in the garden so I bought a packet of seeds and did some sowing around the end of August.  There was a good success rate and I have moved some out into the garden and left some to overwinter in the unheated potting shed.  I’m hoping this belt and braces approach will give me a reward.

The fireside keeps calling me but the garden won’t let go just yet!  Have a look at what everyone else is up to by visiting The Propagator’s blog – there’s no way Mr P will be putting his feet up just yet!

 

Six On Saturday: No rest for the gardener!

This six thing is a good discipline for me.  At the first sign of cold weather I am very tempted to hunker down but I know there is plenty to do and walking round the garden this morning was a good reminder to get on and do it.  Here’s what I found.  Be warned: there’s a bit of a brown theme.

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I have been mulching and manuring this week and the less than productive veg beds were beneficiaries.  I still have more to empty out, but the calendulas need to be pulled up first.

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The gooseberry bushes need to be pruned.  I have watched the RHS video three times now and so I should be fully qualified to be let loose on them.

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A week of cold weather, rain and a light frost has moved the garden firmly into winter.  It now looks soggy, brown and collapsed.  It’s about now I start having ‘the cutting back’ debate.  Does it get done now or in the spring? I will try to do it now as I am always surprised by how early the garden comes back to life and I inevitably end up cutting back both the dead and the emerging shoots in spring.

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This is one of the allium heads I missed in the summer cut back.  I have managed to get all the alliums for next year planted but I still have about 75 tulip bulbs to put in the ground.  I overestimated the numbers for one grouping and the extras will be planted up in pots, which is on my list for this weekend.

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Whilst most of the garden is shutting down some plants do manage to keep up the show over winter and even look good in the rain.  This is euphorbia characiassubsp. wulfenii.

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There’s also some colour in the front garden coming from the cream edged leaves of this variegated pittosporum.  Thankfully I can just enjoy this display.

I hope there is something to enjoy in your garden at this time of the year and also that we all get some time to be getting our (northern hemisphere) gardens ready for next year.  The Prop’s blog will give the links for today’s SOS and there’s sure to be some colour from gardens in the southern hemisphere if your soul needs an uplift!

 

 

 

Six On Saturday: Farewell old friends

For me November has been a sunny month but the mists of autumn arrived on Friday.  The softened light wrapped itself around the garden and the muted colours blended together like a good Harris tweed.  I loved it.  Today the skies are blue again, a brief respite as next week promises a good blast of winter chill.  The gardening year is moving on.

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I had the opportunity to be out in the garden this week and my bulb planting success rate increased.  I started out with 258 to plant.  I put away the ‘Mount Everest’ Alliums and Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’ last week, leaving me with 240 bulbs.  This week the extra Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ went in along with most of the Thalia. Planting the yellow tulip ‘World Friendship’ in the narrow border led to a little swearing as I encountered one or two of last year’s friends.  I took a rain check on them for another day.  So I have 106 tulips to go, 10 Thalia and 50 of the tiny allium sphaerocephalon. I plan to get them in before the cold spell arrives.

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It was a week of tidying up and fond farewells were said to some old friends.  The last of zinnias and cosmos went to the compost heap. The verbena bonariensis were brought back in check with self seeders despatched to the heap or relocated.  I now have a clear patch in the south east facing border for 60 of those extra tulips and the remaining allium sphaerocephalon.  I’m feeling the need for an anchor plant in this corner, something that would work well with the trachelospermum jasminoides.  Suggestions welcome! It’s a sunny corner as it also picks up some afternoon sun from the west.

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Most of the leaves have fallen from my trees and the leaf pile is growing steadily.  There are still plenty to come as the leaves on the trees in neighbouring gardens are still hanging on.  Whilst I am not a regular gardening diyer I did turn my hand and trusty staple gun to producing this leaf bin.  Say no more!

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At this time of year my thoughts turn to plans for next year.  After two and half years in this new garden I am getting round to the north facing border.  This photo shows the section that is currently home to a stand of blackcurrant bushes.  I love blackcurrants but I do also have another stand in the veg plot so the ruthless gardener is going to make an appearance and these will go to be replaced by a planting of white shade lovers completely inspired by a Joe Swift article in the August edition of Gardeners’ world.  Watch this space.

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Also on the project list is a new compost area.  The current heaps are in crumbling brick bays.  I’ve emptied out two sections and installed a builder’s bag nearby to take the new pile.  Once the other two sections are empty I will be calling in some muscle to knock down and wheel away the bricks. Then Father Christmas will bring me some new wooden bins – I’ve had an early word!

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I’m looking forward to the bricks going as I will be getting a skip, which, perhaps sadly, I always find very exciting!  I am inspired by One man and his garden trowel, a fellow sixer to share with you ‘down the side of my shed’.  Hiding beneath those autumnal leaves is a great collection of old paving slabs and miscellaneous bits of metal excavated from the garden over the year.  Once the skip arrives it will indeed be farewell old friends!

Good luck with your garden plans.  Find out what everyone else is up to by checking in with Mr P.  All the links to SOS appear throughout the day.

 

 

 

Six On Saturday: Is it summer, winter or spring?

The season is clearly changing but the garden seems to be in a state of confusion.  Here are six things from my garden this week.

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Natasha Richardson rose, one of the English roses that just keep on flowering.  Lovely pink flowers and new buds still appearing.  It could be summer!

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Penstemon ‘Plum Jerkum’.  This suffered in the scorching sun of summer but it is happily putting out new flowers now.  It was a great companion to the Tithonia, which truly does know summer is over and is slowly curling up at the edges.

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There are one or two last flowers on the rudbeckia but most have gone to seed.  I will leave them standing through the winter to give some shape to the border.

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The agastache ‘Black Adder’ is also in its winter clothing.  This was an absolute winner this year.  Great colour and always thrumming with the sound of bees.

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Elsewhere in the garden there are signs of Spring.  The primroses are out and offering a reminder that the slugs and snails are still active.

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At the very back of the garden in a shady sheltered corner the hellebores are putting out new flowers.  I am sure these didn’t appear last year until January.  This one is Pretty Ellen.

I’ve got bulb planting to do this weekend.  The start I made last weekend resulted in only 18 bulbs being planted.  As usual I was distracted.  The dahlias needed cutting back, zinnias were pulled up and some of the foxglove seedlings were planted out.  This weekend I will be trying to put a few tulips in the border without crashing in on those that are already there.  Could be interesting.  Wishing you all well with your gardening pleasures. If you want to see what everyone else is up to visit The Propagator for all the latest links to other Six On Saturday posts.

Six on Saturday: Shamed into action

I have been shamed by my fellow sixers!  The shorter days and colder temperatures have me reaching for the blanket, the gardening books and a cuppa.  I was even considering not posting a six!  But reading Mr P’s links to today’s sixes have encouraged me to get out in the garden.  I have not sown my sweet peas seeds, planted any bulbs and only just in time did I fleece my tender agapanthus plants.  But then none of us are perfect are we?  The very least I could do was to share six from my garden this week:

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img_3032.jpgI garden in London and so get a little complacent about frosts.  But this week the lawn has had a light frosting and it was clearly a sign that cold weather gardening had to start.  Last year’s fleece was in shredded tatters in the shed and I hate all those white flaky bits.  I hot footed it to Homebase and found some delightful green bags of 35gsm fleece with very handy draw string pulls.  I usually fleece up the agapanthus armed with a stapler but these jackets were easy to pull over the plants and the fetching shade of green is slightly less obvious than white.  Job done.

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IMG_3034I was certainly lulled into complacency by the balmy days I experienced in Suffolk last week but the cold evenings are changing the colours of the garden.  The persimmon tree is looking beautiful even as the leaves are falling.

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IMG_3033The previously sun scorched hydrangeas are also taking on their winter hue.

 

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IMG_3031But elsewhere the summer container plants are still in good health and I will leave them out throughout the winter.  In mild years I have been able to carry the geraniums over into the next summer.

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IMG_3036The white antirrhinum sowed from seed is still in flower at this end of the garden but elsewhere I have collected seeds from another plant that has done its bit for summer.

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img_3035.jpgI recently planted out some gaura and pennisetums  in a west border and alongside them I put in some Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, which still thinks there’s time to put on a display.  Thank you!

Thank you too, to everyone who shares their gardens on a Saturday.  You provide inspiration, support and encouragement and always make me laugh!  What more can you ask for?  Well, if anyone’s free to plant a few hundred bulbs….