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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

Four

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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Six

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.