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! 🙂


Six On Saturday: Reaching the heights or lost in the foothills?

I’ve definitely had the feeling of losing the battle this week.  Slugs and snails are eating their way through the young plants – cosmos, lettuce, borlotti beans are high among the casualties.  The parsnips are refusing to germinate – third sowing and the last! And it looks like the fox has taken a shine to wandering through the agastache at night. I’m also losing the battle to keep everything watered, no rain and the water butts are empty again.  It looks grim.  But this is Saturday and optimism rules:



Definitely reaching the heights are these delphiniums, I think they must be six feet tall.  Taken as a division from the parental garden many years ago, they were divided again when we moved here and I am very pleased to see them thriving this year. I was meticulous about staking and tying them in but they have exceeded my expectations!



Also climbing upwards are the stems of Knautia macedonica.  These were planted out from 9cm pots last autumn and have settled down well.  They seem slug proof unlike some of the plants I have recklessly invested in.  Fortunately I remembered to stake them – just in time.  The bees love them.



Down in the foothills where most of the slug damage is being done are these delightful dianthus deltoides.  They sulked after the garden move last year but have come good now.  No damage to report.



Up again in the heights is this lovely clematis, inherited from the previous owner.  I thought I had killed it last year as I tried to separate it out from the bindweed and lemon balm but it made a comeback.



A combination of higher foothills and the heights is provided by the lovely rose Blush Noisette and the Astrantia Claret featured in an early six.


And seeming to be safe in the foothills but, I hope, heading for the heights are these Tithonias.  Grown from seed, one group was planted out a few weeks ago, straight from modules into the ground.  The other group I potted on, returned them to the greenhouse and finally planted them out in the week. This group has made much more growth.  So it looks like potting on is the best option.  The final height is said to be 8 feet.  I’ll report back!

It’s June and I hoped I would be pottering by now.  Well almost, I have some spare cosmos and some zinnias which really do need to go out.  And I’m going to count watering as pottering – so nearly there.  I hope you are too.  Take a look at  The Propagator’s blog , where you’ll find the host of this meme, the ‘rule book’ and all the links to other sixer posts.

Six On Saturday: Temptations resisted?

The first temptation has been resisted.  Having spent last weekend removing slugs from the border, it put me in mind of the children’s song about worms ‘Big fat juicy ones, Tiny little squiggly ones’ and I was tempted to post six varieties of slugs.  But we’ve all had enough of them haven’t we?

I was also tempted to post six geraniums or six roses.  I think I’ve also bought at least six new plants in the last month – temptations not resisted.  I decided to mix it up:



A rose and geranium combination in recognition of the arrival of June.  The rose is Gertrude Jekyll, so beautifully scented.  It really does fill the air with perfume.  The geranium is Brookside.  This is definitely asserting itself this year, the long stems thread round the other planting giving height to the border.  The RHS say stems are reasonably short at 50 cms but I would say medium height.



A rose and lavender combination and one of the new plants bought.  The rose is Natasha Richardson, opening pink and fading to a pale pink.  I was wondering what to underplant it with and eventually realised that the French Lavender living next door looked a good combination so I bought one more to plant towards the front.



A geranium on its own.  The eye popping Geranium psilostomen, also in its second year and achieving an impressive height.  It is pretty much self supporting although I have put a hoop in on the path side to keep it in its place.



Another new plant: Salvia Armistad.  Featured more for the slug damage to the lower leaves.  I did wonder if this will survive a winter in my clay soil but decided to try it out.  On second thoughts it might not survive the summer if the slugs keep munching it.  I am going to try nematodes.



Last year I extended my collection of Astrantias.  I added Roma to the border.  It’s not come through as pink as I was expecting but I will give it time to settle.  It’s subtlety might be what the border needs.  I’ve already decided the geum in the back needs to be moved. Pink and yellow is not my favourite combination.


I can’t resist the temptation to revisit one of last week’s six.  I must say thank you to  Jim Stephens  John Kingdom and Tony Tomeo  who gave me advice on the two tier rhododendron.  With their help I’ve discovered that my ancient plant is the invasive, common R. ponticum.  I’ve been up the ladder to take a photo of the the top tier which is now in flower and I think the top and bottom are the same, that is, it is not a more rarefied rhoddie grafted on to the ponticum root stock. It’s quite a monster and dominates that side of the garden so it does need to be tamed a little.  I think I’ll be getting help with that one.  The first photo is the bottom flower, the second the top tier flower, the third the whole tree and the fourth the tree as is looked last week.

Each new Six On Saturday post brings new temptations, this week a rose on  Thomas Stone’s blog  has caught my eye.  On the list for the autumn temptations!  Be tempted at The Propagator’s blog where you’ll find links to all the Sixes.

Six On Saturday: The strange case of the two tier rhododendron and other oddities

So Monty Don recently said  ‘Gardening is easy. Stick it in the ground the right way up and most plants will grow perfectly well.’ Which is essentially true but every now and then strange things happen:



I think I know why my rhoddy looks like this.  It’s possible that the tree was planted soon after the house was built, which would make it about 100 years old.  I think it had been left to its own devices and being on a north facing border it had reached forward for some sun.  I think the previous owner then cut it back hard at the bottom to regain some of the lawn.  My evidence: when we moved in I discovered a large pile of wood stashed behind the foliage.  Since then the bottom of the tree has regenerated and this year has put out some fabulously healthy flowers and more luscious green leaves.  But the top of the tree struggles on with yellowing leaves and smaller and much later flowers.  My guess is the bottom is sapping the energy of the top.  So do I radically cut back the top, probably reducing the height by half – which feels like vandalism, but if it needs to be done….or do I lightly prune the top every year until the tree balances itself out again?  It has plenty of water and although north facing it does get early morning and late afternoon sun so I think the conditions are okay.  Any thoughts?



This beautiful iris came free, picked up from the allotment sharing bench.  I think it is  ‘White City’ and last year they were all the palest blue colour fading to white.  This year there is an interloper.  Now since it was a large clump divided from an even larger clump maybe the purple iris has been there all along and has only  just flowered. Or has it been cross pollinated?  Either way I am enjoying them both.



Is my Sneezeweed trying to tell me something?  I bought some last year with the aim of adding some late colour to the borders but it has been in flower since May.  Label says ‘Flowering period: late summer’.  My, the year is going fast!



Back to some normal happenings.  These stunning Siberian irises came as several divisions from a friend’s collection.  This is their second year in the garden and they have multiplied amazingly, definitely a case of growing perfectly well.



The equally successful Astrantia ‘Claret’.  I did try to grow some from seed but that didn’t happen so I happily bought some 9cm pots which have bulked up well in their second year.  The roses in bud behind are ‘Blush Noisette’ – so close to popping but not for this week!



I must give a shout out to the growers at the Finchley Horticultural Society who also seem to have the knack of making gardening easy.  I decided to diversify my tomato growing this year.  Instead of 15 plants of one variety grown from seed I have six plants of three varieties bought at last week’s plant sale.  I’ve missed the roller coast ride of raising them from seed but I’m going to enjoy the variety: Marmonde, Golden Crown  and Alicante.  I was also tempted by some chilli plants and a couple of Romano peppers.  I’ve taken the plunge this year and planted them direct into the soil instead of in grow bags.  Let’s see what the greenhouse soil has got in it!  I have grown my own basil which I’ll be planting around the tomatoes.

There’s an extra gardening day again in the UK.  Will it be hot and sunny, hot and thundery or a wash out?  Let’s hope we can all find a way to enjoy the weekend whatever.  More gardening stories can be found at The Propagator’s blog.  The contributors also seem to be growing very easily.

Six On Saturday: Red, white and blue

Oh go on,  indulge me!  It’s Harry and Meghan’s day and here’s my Six:



I’ve planted up the containers.  I’m very predictable.  It’s always two geraniums and something else.  This year I have two trailing ivy leaf geraniums, this one is Merlot.



And the something else is a trailing bacopa snowflake.



And the first of the blues is Polemonium caeruleum or Jacob’s ladder.  I strayed from my plan to plant in blocks and just bought one of these.  I am now trying it out around the garden to be sure I find the perfect spot for it.



The second red is of course a geum, Blazing Sunset.  Bought last year at the Finchley Horticultural Society plant sale – which is where I shall be on Sunday, manning a stall.



The second white is a Cistus or rock rose.  There is a label for this somewhere,  but for now I am joining our noble leader in the var. unk. club! (I think it might be Alan Frapp).



The second blue was a difficult choice but I’ve decided to save my favourite one for next week… For this week it’s going to be Geranium himalayense ‘Gravetye’.  It’s just coming into flower and is doing a great job filling out the new border.

Okay, so maybe the blues are a little purple and one of the reds is on the verge of orange but I think you get my drift!

Happy weekends everyone, be it weddings, football, plant sales or gardening!  And save some time for reading all the other sixes as featured at The Propagator’s blog.

Six On Saturday: Building up the layers

Another crazy week in the garden.  Doing the hokey cokey with the greenhouse plants: in, out, in, out and trying very hard not to shake them all about and the layers in the new borders are building up.  This week it is the turn of the alliums.



These are Purple Sensation. I hope they stay around long enough to look good with the Rosa Blush Noisette which is just in bud behind.  Now the path is complete I need to find some low growing edging plants to drown out the weed seedlings.  Or maybe I move the geraniums forward.  Hhmm,  I think I’ll do that.



These are Allium Mount Everest, looking suitably tall.  The tulips are really past their best but there is enough life in them to make the border look quite colourful.  Some of the Mount Everests have done a disappearing trick, about six have gone awol causing me to set up a spreadsheet for the autumn bulb order.  Otherwise I am sure to forget that I need more.  I like the height they give to the border at this time of the year.


And the bonus tulip is …orange! These are in a border that only gets afternoon sun and they are lasting rather well.  I though Queen of Night was the lone gatecrasher in this border but this late arrival is a real stand out.



The pheasant eye narcissus have been a joy in the last few weeks.  Their scent drifts across the back of the garden and they are looking very happy in combination with the bluebells and pulomonaria.  This corner is going to look quite empty when the spring flowers finish.  More layering to be done.



This is geranium phaeum which came with me in pots from the old garden.  This is its second year in the new border and it has really established itself well.  It’s far more stately and elegant in this garden than it ever was before.  I do love a geranium and will be dividing this up and spreading it around.



And lastly, the dwarf azalea has revealed its true colour and I think it has earned the chance to move out of its pot and into the border.  It is just the right height for the front of the north west facing corner.  But there is work to be done on that border, currently the most neglected part of the garden, home to ground elder, geranium robertianum and the ubiquitous sherperd’s purse.  The RHS advice gleefully informs me that ‘a single plant is able to produce an average of 2-3000 seeds each, with three generations per year.’  Plenty still to be done there then.

Don’t forget to check in with The Propagator, host of the Six On Saturday meme for a mesmerising selection of gardening delights from around the world.  Happy gardening.



Six On Saturday: Branching out

I foresee blue sky photos for this week’s sixes.  And about time too!  Here are mine.


IMG_2252The trees in the garden are beginning to put on a show.  First up is the persimmon tree.  There was a bumper crop last year but I’m not a fan.  I inherited it with the garden and it does look fabulous in winter when the leaves have dropped and the orange fruits remain.


IMG_2255I also inherited a number of apple trees and here is some delightful apple blossom from one of them.   Again, there was a bumper crop last year, we don’t store the apples and there are only so many we can eat so the majority of them are taken off for juicing.  We are still drinking the 2017 vintage.


IMG_2258The leaves on the fig trees are just opening.  Not such a good year for figs for me last year and the squirrels always get the best of them.  I managed to bag a handful!



IMG_2257And after my winter pruning efforts  it is always a great relief to see new leaves on the vine.  It does produce grapes but so far they have split before we get the chance to taste them.  The grape variety is Black Muscat, which I understand is also known as Black Hamburg.  Again, I was fortunate enough to inherit this well established vine which shades the pergola.


IMG_E2256There is a great foaming wave of Choysia in one sunny corner of the garden.  It’s perfectly lined up with a view from the window.  Many thanks again to the previous owner.


IMG_2250Finally, all my own work!  The white triumphator tulips are still hanging on and are a great companion to the irises that have just begun to flower.  There is also a glimpse of the almost open allium ‘purple sensation’ – something for next week!

Wishing you all a great gardening weekend – and the extra day in the UK.  More time to read all the sixes on show at The Propagator’s blog. Blue skies all the way.

More rain but a new project is in the planning

A new border was created in the garden last November.  What was really not more than some space under a hedge was widened to allow for some roses to be planted.  Three Darcy Bussell and one Jaqueline du Pre.  It’s going to be a very cultured bordered.  A mixed planting of tulips was also added and these have just flowered.

IMG_2234 (2)

The tulips are Angelique, China Town – with the white edged leaves and Spring Green.  You  may also have spotted a couple of rogues!  If Queen of Night could ever be called a rogue.  I’ll have to try to lift those two very carefully and relocate them.

After the border was extended two new paths were laid this year and I can now walk down the garden and round to the compost heap in relative safety.

The edges have been filled with soil and weeding, in between the regular bouts of rain, is an ongoing task.  But as parts of the garden begin to take shape others are calling out for some attention.

The walk round to the compost heap leads to the back of the garden which is given over to an assortment of gyo spaces.  There are some very productive soft fruit bushes: gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and loganberries, and other beds that have been allocated to allotment staples such as potatoes, onions, parsnips and carrots.  There is also this.


Anyone familiar with The Rivendell Garden blog might understand why I have come to think of this as my very own edifice.  It bears no comparison to John K’s beautiful structure and nor will it be home to such an impressive collection of plants.  But there are plans to beautify it.

It is in two sections separated by a gap which was, on arrival, half full of garden rubble.  A year or so later and I have nearly filled it with all the various bits and pieces that I have come across as I dig, dig, and dig in my futile attempts to rid the garden of weeds.


The bag of sand to the right comes in handy for preventing miniature rock falls.

I have decided the time has come to take the situation in hand.  The cardboard that had been used to suppress the weeds has been removed.  I’ve dug it over, making good friends with Tony Toad in doing so. Now one half is covered with a good length of black weed suppressing membrane and the other is providing home to some perennials due to be moved out to the main garden, when it stops raining.  A recent trip to a nearby fencing supplier provided me with the inspiration.  I decided I could face the whole thing in timber slats and finish off the top edges with more wood to give me a solid top to work from.  No more wobbling on the frost shattered brick edges. Yippee!  I have got as far as receiving a quote for the work – for it is beyond my meagre skills – and all is looking good.  But guess what? My chosen supplier is behind with his work, due of course, to the rain! I’m in the queue, patiently waiting my turn, and trying to keep on top of those weeds which are, like the toads, loving this weather.


Six on Saturday: The race is on

Aah, what a gentle occupation gardening is.  Full of quiet moments pottering among the flowers, pulling carrots, picking strawberries.  Or are you, like me, engaged in the mad dash to get it all done before June!


The cold and the rain delayed much of my gardening efforts but this week I finally finished cutting back the hydrangeas.  In my defence there are seven of them and only three have been waiting patiently.  Here you can see that the first flowers are forming.


Seed sowing for vegetables is happening almost daily.  Leeks, carrots, red cabbage, spring onions, climbing french beans are all in the greenhouse. Some carrots have been direct sown along with parsnips, radishes and lettuce.  The rocket sown in February is now out in the ground. And the last of the potatoes – Sarpo Mira and Belle de Fontenay have finally been planted.  Phew!


The onions and shallots planted out in November are enjoying some warmth.  I have been very interested to see that many people plant their onions in modules and don’t move them outside until later.  I am going to try this next year.  I did protect these against the birds but that was all removed this week.


Seed sowing for flowers is ongoing.  The teeny tiny seeds of antirrhinum White Giant have produced teeny tiny leaves.  Tithonia and nasturtium look a little stronger, but does that mean finding time for potting on?  Zinnias and calendulars have pushed through.  But I have yet to sow any cosmos! How is this possible I ask myself?  I’m not panicking.  Last year I direct sowed some in early May and planted some in modules as late as the end of April . . . Ok,  brief panic!


It has felt a little frantic but it is important that we take ‘time to stand and stare’ and I have really enjoyed the tulip display, the result of a mass November planting.  These are Queen of Night, Shirley, Barcelona and Violet Beauty.  I love them!


And these are Angelique – a pink double, Spring Green – a viridiflora and China Town – a shorter viridiflora with white edged leaves, beautiful.  These were quite tightly planted in two groups in a new border to leave space for some bare root roses that were arriving later.  There is definitely room to spread them out a little, which is the plan, unless of course, I am tempted by some lovely perennials that I know will be featuring in a couple of local plant sales in May.  Have space, will fill it!

And whilst standing and staring I noticed the irises and alliums are just about to open, and the first strawberry flowers are showing.  Oh yes, we will soon be pottering!

If you’d like to stare at a few more Six On Saturday posts stroll over to The Propagator’s  blog for all the links.  Sit back and enjoy the display.





Six on Saturday: Counting the cost

I’ve waited hopefully, cut back hard, watered optimistically but the time has come to admit defeat.  Well almost – I will be making one or two last ditch attempts to prevent the inevitable flatline.  Okay, let’s reveal the damage caused by my neglect, lack of experience or possibly the oh so harsh winter.



Fred, Fred, I think the lemon tree is dead!  The move to this new garden was all the more exciting because there was a greenhouse.  Oh what exotics I would be able to grow.  Fred will remember the melons that succumbed to red spider mite.  And now the lemon tree, after one summer of delivering beautifully scented flowers, looks very sickly.  It was stowed in the greenhouse for winter,  fleeced when the temperatures fell and an extra layer added when -7 degrees was imminent.  It was watered and fed but as the temperatures rose and the fleece was removed the outcome did not look good.  I am, on Fred’s advice, going to cut back all the brown leaved stems and I’ll wait a while to see if any new growth emerges.  But I have a feeling another lemon tree will be bought and perhaps a greenhouse heater!



Fred may have some advice for me here as well.  The French Lavender received as a housewarming gift also looks dead.  I am going to cut this back to the base of all the stems and do some more of that optimistic watering and waiting.  If not, another Lavender will be bought!  Or maybe this is this space for a small daphne?



For this one I am going for the very cold wet winter as cause of death.  But I suppose it also comes under the heading of right plant, wrong place.  These straggly stems are the last remains of Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’.  I don’t think they are going to  make it at all.  Perhaps this is the place for some hellebores.



A few more greenhouse deaths: a pelagonium cutting – underwatered, and a salvia cutting – I think, but of course I didn’t label it.  This was doing fine until I went away for a few days and the greenhouse temperatures hit 40 degrees.  At least I know the automatic vents work.



Yes there’s more.  This rose came with the garden.  I released it from bindweed, pruned it, fed it and enjoyed a profusion of pinky apricot flowers.  It really performed and then it died. I think I didn’t water it enough.  It takes a while to work out the intensity of the sun in a new garden.  I cut it back as ruthlessly as I could bear and waited but there is not a sign of new growth and it has to go.  This is quite an interesting opportunity as I plan to extend the other end of this border which will make R.Natasha Richardson the centre point.  Time to work out what will go either side, something that likes it hot and dry I think.


I am being philosophical.  It’s all part of getting to know a new garden and understanding the physics of greenhouses!  I couldn’t bring myself to provide a completely dead six and of course the tulips are coming out. So here’s what is zinging in the garden (for now): Unknown tulip and Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.  Perfect when accompanied by sunshine and blue skies!


I am sure there will be some more cheerful sixes in this week’s #SixOnSaturday collections.  All the links will be at The Propagator’s blog.  Take a look and be inspired, as I know I will be, to enjoy your garden this weekend.