Six on Saturday: The first tulip is out and it is ‘World Friendship’

Cheerfully bright and looking very yellow in the sunshine, my first tulip of the year has arrived.  It is the aptly named ‘World Friendship’. A virtual high five to that! I’ve spent the week being very virtual – virtual meetings,  virtual events, virtual exercise and virtual language classes but I have also spent more time in the garden.   Here are six things that caught my eye.

One

The aforementioned World Friendship.  New to the garden last year and standing strong again this year.  Long may it last

Two

Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’.  A few years back, when I was new to this garden, I squeezed a few of these into the border.  No real idea why and no particular plan.  They deserve to have had more consideration, either more of them or some other plants to work with.  On the ‘to do’ list.

Three

The first of the plum blossom is opening out.  This tree was in a bad way three years ago.  Oozing from a large split in the trunk.  The split is gradually healing and the oozing has stopped but last year the leaves withered, you can just make them out in the background.  I’m giving it one  more season to see if it can pull through.  I’ve lovingly fed it with bonemeal once a quarter and my fingers are crossed.  While it flowers like this there is hope.

Four

The tomato plants have been potted on.  I keep meaning to sow a few more seeds – some cherry tomatoes and some yellow ones.  That’s a job for the weekend then.

Five

During my morning fast walk round the garden I spotted a drop of pink under the rose bush.  Closer inspection revealed the first flower of geranium sanguineum var. striatum.  This seems very early and it is a little darker than usual, but hey, who’s complaining. 

Six

The online gardening community is doing a great job of keeping us all going. Thanks to Mr P for hosting the links to all the SOS posts.  I’d also like to give a thumbs up to twitter gardener @GardeningGent who is organising a Sow a Sunflower event.  I was very pleased to finally locate some seeds so that I can take part.  Sow seeds on April 1st – no joke- and post a weekly photo of progress.  I’ll  be there. 

Here’s hoping your gardening activities are helping you to spread seeds of happiness.  Cold weather forecast but I think it may be time to take the plunge and prune the hydrangeas. 

Six On Saturday: No gloom here

I’ll reference the c word in order to wish everyone well in their life and work and as a nod to the historical record but there are encouraging things afoot in the garden to distract me. Here they are:

One

The magnolia is in bloom.  On time and ready to give a couple of weeks of joy.  A blue sky would add to the euphoria but it’s not available today!

Suddenly out of nowhere the delphiniums have shot up.  This is one of my most enjoyable moments of the gardening year.  They are up and so far are outpacing the slugs and snails.  I am jumping ahead of myself as I day dream about summer.  

Three

I inherited a patch of white hyacinths at the foot of the smaller fig tree.  Here they jostle for space with the green alkanet and in combination the two manage to look pretty good.  I think I am going to learn to live with the alkanet as my attempts to eradicate it have failed once again.  In its favour it does have a pretty blue flower.  

Four

I also inherited various daffodils dotted in random locations around the garden.  I dug them up and planted them all in a corner pending a decision on their fate and of course they get forgotten every year until they flower again.  I rather like this white one.  One day I will sort out the ones I like and find them a proper home.

Five

The blue anemones are peeking through the forget-me-nots this week.  And there is a tiny yew seedling, donated by the birds that sit in the branches of the viburnum tree above. 

Six

More excitement as the tomato seeds sown last week have germinated.  These are above a radiator, on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen.  Time to move them to a cooler spot before they get too leggy.

The garden is still soaked and it’s best not to spend too much time standing on the soil so I still have jobs to be done.  Meanwhile nature pushes on and how lovely it is. I hope you can find some positive distractions in your garden or those nearby.  My snowflakes are not in flower yet but I spotted a stunning clump of them just round the corner from me.  For more opportunities to admire other gardens just check in with Mr P who hosts all the SOS links which are guaranteed to dispel any gloom. 

Six on Saturday: Reasons to be cheerful

Ignoring the awfulness of Thursday when, here, it rained all day with a real insistence there are reasons to be cheerful. I feel there is a sense of spring in the air. The garden is giving me strong signs that it is time to emerge from hibernation, open up the seed packets and get growing. This week I’ve sowed lupins, dahlias, a first batch of tomato seeds and three pots of basil seeds. I even gave the autumn sown ammi a brief outing in the sunshine.  There isn’t much new on the flowering front but progress is being made.

One

The clematis amandii ‘Apple Blossom’ has broken into flower.  This is it’s best side, further along there are one or two bald patches.  I hope these will fill out over the year.

Two

A small group of anemone blanda have deigned to push through again.  No sign yet of a new batch I planted in the north border.  I’m hoping a little more warmth will persuade them to show up.

Three

The fritillaries are dangling their lanterns again and reminding me that I must invest in a few more of these to make the impact stronger.

Four

The tulips leaves are marching on.  I particularly like these striped ones from ‘China Town’ 

Five

There is a rose to be seen! Battered by wind and rain but managing to look pretty even so.

Six

I was very happy to see some new growth on the alpine alchemilla.  I thought I’d lost this after the squirrels made short shrift of it when they planted a few acorns in the same spot.  Shame on me for being so despondent. 

The ground is still very wet, the weeds, particularly the bittercress, are enjoying the damp conditions and I’ll have to get to them soon before they find the energy to flower.  That means I’ll be in the garden which can’t be a bad thing.  And would you believe it, I’ve just had a delivery of 300 in-the-green snowdrops!  They are so late coming due to the poor conditions for lifting them from the fields.  That sorts out my morning.  Mr P has all the updates from other SOSers.  Plenty to admire and inspire! Cheerfulness all round I think.

Six On Saturday: Last Hurrah for November

I am going to ignore the gloomy wet week that has just past and revel in the blue skies and frosty morning of today. The water in the bird bath is well and truly frozen and the grass is fully frosted. It was a cold night. Time to enjoy the winter garden.

One

The beautiful view from one end of the garden.  Most of the leaves are now down but this tree is still glowing with autumn colour.

Two

The frost made finding six garden delights much easier.  These are the frosted leaves of  Cistus × purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’.

Three

Frosted Primrose leaves.  A sigh of relief goes with this picture. There were some lingering scented leaf pellies in this pot and I just got them into greenhouse in time.  Last night in the greenhouse it was -.08 degrees.

Four

The seeds of the verbenia bonariensis are going to provide a chilly snack for the birds today.  But if they come late morning things might have improved.  As I took these photos the sounds of dripping water indicated that the sun was melting the frost away.

Five

My parsnips.  They’ve had a couple of frosts now so its time for me dig up a few and see how they fared over the summer.  Definitely an improvement on last year when none of the seeds germinated.

Six

More beautiful leaf colour but also a bit of fail here as I didn’t prune the gooseberries in July and haven’t yet got round to doing the winter prune.  Still there’s plenty of time – if I can be persuaded out into the garden.

So now we settle into winter dormancy for the plants.  For me,   I will finish the rose pruning, take down the passion flower and prune the soft fruits and the grapevine.  I will, I will.

I wonder what is on Mr P’s to do list?  Stop by and find out and catch up with other SOS news from around the world.

Six On Saturday: Winding down

There’s no denying it. The leaves are falling and every now and then a cold night sneaks in. It’s time to move to those autumn/winter jobs. I left two tomato plants standing after the big greenhouse clear out but even those must be dealt with now. The mower blades will be set to high as the mower is used to collect leaves and tulip bulbs will be planted. This weekend I will take the scented leaf pelagoniums into the greenhouse but I needed a some more compost for their over-wintering pots, Of course that was fatal:

One

A trip to the garden centre, even at this time of year, is a dangerous thing.  Compost was purchased – peat free of course – but the route back to the exit went via the reduced bench and there were a few 3l pots of Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’.  Well they might as well sit in my garden as stand in the garden centre, don’t you think?  Especially at a bargain price of £4.50 a pot.  They’ve gone into my new orange and magenta border.  Dreams of next summer already!

Two

Speaking of borders here is the long border in its autumn clothing.  It’s definitely winding down here.  The asters at the far end keep going but the roses are putting out smaller and smaller flowers and the autumn crocuses were felled by the rain.

Three

The cuttings of salvia ‘Amistad’ were growing so strongly that I decided to pot them on.  I used a very gritty mix to start them off and the root system had developed well.  I’ve got six at the moment in the hope that I can get three through the winter.

Four

In the front garden the hydrangea that this year flowered blue has faded into the usual autumn colour.  I enjoy its muted tones at this time of the year.  I was not so fond of the blue, a result I think of the mulch it received last winter.

Five

Also looking autumnal in the front garden is my mystery plant.  It does flower but I never seem to catch a photo of it.  The single black berries are very attractive.  I think it is some form of cotoneaster.

Six

The greenhouse clear out meant bringing in the romano peppers.  A few had just about ripened and a week in the kitchen has moved them on a bit more.  Time to eat them!

A cold night is forecast  for Sunday and my evergreen agapanthus are already showing a few yellow leaves.  The time for fleece has arrived.  It’s also time to see who else is taking winter precautions.  A trip to Mr P’s site is called for.  Who’s still got colour and who is wrapping up for winter?

Six On Saturday: Potatoes. What do I know?

If there’s one thing I know about potatoes it is that King Edward is the best potato for roasting. IMHO. I have spent the last few years moaning about the size of those that come in the supermarket bags. Too small and what a pain they are to peel. So I took matters into my own hands and bought a few to grow. Here’s the result.

One

As you can see I did no better than the supermarket buyers.  But worse is to come.  I don’t grow many potatoes but I like to have a few varieties.  The mix this year was Arran Pilot, Belle de Fontenay, Ratte, King Edward and Pink Fir Apple.  I buy them loose, filling up a bag and separating each variety with a slip of paper.  I chitted them and planted out the first and second earlies in a raised bed.  The King Edward and Pink Fir Apple went into the ground in a separate bed.  Arran Pilot did well but was not very interesting.  Belle de Fontenay was a joy and is definitely on the list for next year.  Ratte was a strange one.  Good taste but surprisingly floury for a new potato.  It did very well as a crushed new potato.  But how would the King Edwards turn out.  After several weeks of rain I finally got round to lifting the main crop.  The King Edwards did not look like King Edwards at all.  In fact they looked suspiciously like a new potato with a nice looking shape.  It very slowly and painfully dawned on me that I had mixed up my potatoes and had been happily digging up the King Edwards throughout August and subjecting them to large amounts of mayonnaise or butter and chives.  The shame of it! Thankfully I had a few left in the fridge which will be getting a good roasting very soon. There is more to share.

Two

Now on to the results of the ‘main crop’.  The result is sadly very pathetic.  There were only a handful of Pink Fir Apple and barely more than that from the mislocated Ratte.  The size is tiny.  The upside is I don’t have to peel them and there is the chance for one more potato salad.  Barring the Arran Pilot I will grow these varieties again next year.  I will keep improving the soil and will try to water more often.  Maybe results will be better. Who knows?

Three

Happily other things in the garden are doing well and have benefited from the October rain.  The hydrangea has put out several new blooms, they are such generous flowerers when the conditions are right.

Four

I have a second flush of delphinium flowers.  This is my reward for cutting them back as soon as they had finished flowering.  Those that I didn’t get round too quite so quickly have not delivered and who can blame them.

Five

Sometime ago I whined about the zinnias being late but they arrived and have been amazing.  The bees still have something to come into the garden for and the colour is beautiful.  If I remember rightly these came from a free packet of seeds. A bargain and a definite for next year.

Six

Last week I said I would be optimistically looking at my sweet peas to see if they had germinated.  I sowed the left over seeds from this year and some I had from a few years ago.  Last week they had just broken the surface and this week they are an inch or two high.  Time for tough love, they have been removed from the sunny windowsill and placed in the greenhouse.  Overnight temperatures there dropped to five degrees one night this week.

Thanks to Mr P for starting this meme off.  It works for me and if you are tempted to join in then take a look at the participant guide on The Propagator’s site.  I’m hoping to plant some more bulbs this weekend.   Let’s hope I can tell my onions from my daffs!

Six On Saturday: Slow plants, rampant plants and the steady ones

This week was a game of two halves. A cold beginning and now a heatwave. I hope this will persuade a few more tomatoes to ripen. The courgettes keep springing surprises on me in the form of marrows and the french beans carry on being well behaved. The flower garden has seen a few rearrangements with more to come. The first of the six for this week is a welcome discovery.

One

A tiny spire of lirirope muscari ‘Big Blue’. Not quite living up to it’s name yet.  It has been three years in  development.  Billed as a perennial forming dense clumps it has just managed a clump of 10cms.  I think I have shocked it into doing something as a few weeks back I threw out two other sister plants on the grounds that they had done nothing at all.  Somehow I overlooked this one or perhaps it looked the stronger.  I’ll be watching it closely now.

 

Two

Also gaining a stay of execution is this unknown red rose.  It was here in the garden when we arrived and I have planted around it but always thinking that one day it would be moved or given up.  Every year it persuades me that it deserves to stay and it has twisted me round its little finger again.

Three

These were in the garden last weekend and have definitely gone now.  But they will be making a comeback as apple juice.  The apple trees all had a professional prune this year and look better for it.  The apples on the oldest tree were smaller but seemed to be just as plentiful.  I have 51 bottles of juice to collect.

Four

The passion flower (passiflora caerulea) has an incredible structure, fascinating to look at but it’s becoming too rampant.  I plan to completely remove it from the arch it grows over and see if it can be dug out completely.  I keep finding seedlings of it around the garden so I think I may be on the losing side.

Five

This blue scabious seems to have only just got into it’s stride, it was moved to a new location at the end of last summer so perhaps it took a while to really settle down.  Great things are expected next year though.

Six

Time for an experiment. I have sown some green manure seeds for the first time.  The onions came out and the seeds went in.  I have to remember to dig the growth over in 40 – 90 days.  I hope it does what it says on the packet.

That’s my six for the week.  To see more go to The Prop’s site.  His six and many more will  be revealed.

 

Six On Saturday: Harvest time

The high points of my gardening year are the June riot of colour and the September harvests. In truth we have been enjoying raspberries, figs and blackberries for a few weeks now. The erratic early summer weather did for one of my cucumber plants but the survivor put out enough cukes to keep the salad bowl well supplied.  There is colour in the garden thanks to the roses and phlox but this week is mainly a veg and fruit focus.

One

Dwarf French beans.  These are Safari.  This is the first time I have grown a dwarf variety and so far so good.   They have cropped well enough for me and taste good.  They don’t seem as squeaky as other French beans.  I’m freezing those that are surplus to requirements.  They are perhaps slightly fiddlier to pick than climbers from a wig-wam but I won’t have to untangle all that twine at the end of the season.  I sowed a second round a few weeks ago which I hope will give me a crop in October.

Two

Tomatoes in the greenhouse.  My greenhouse is in partial shade and the windows need a clean but temperatures still climb.  They have only just started to ripen in the last week or two.  There are  plenty of tomatoes but will they all ripen? These are San Marzano 2 and Tigerella.  I also grew Green Zebra, Golden Sunrise and Alicante.

Three

Onions, small but good enough.  The onions did better this year due to the higher rainfall.  I don’t plant many because  I never have much luck with stored onions.  I am sure these will be used up before they start sprouting.  The variety is Sturon and I will grow these again next year.  The red onions were even more diminutive and were used up very quickly.  They were growing in the rain shadow of one of the apple trees.  I will try to do better with the red onions – time to start the winter Japanese varieties now.

Four

The large fig tree has cropped well this year and for some reason I didn’t see the squirrels stealing the fruits.  Perhaps the wasps put them off.  Picking the figs had to be carried out with great care.  This tree is going to get the big trim over winter and it is much needed.  On Friday I watched the wind blow through the leaves with some trepidation.  I’m hoping we don’t get a big winter storm this year.

Five

It is apple picking weekend here.  This is because the next few weekends are taken up with other plans so it is now or never.  All the apples will be picked and taken off for juicing.  In a week or so I will collect the results.  I finally got round to buying a telescopic apple picker which I hope will mean less teetering on the ladder.

Six

There is one flower for the week.  This stray sunflower has  been brightening up a corner of the garden.  It is like a lighthouse shining through the dark, calling to the butterflies and bees.  I didn’t plant it and can only think that it came from the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder.  For which I am very grateful!

Apart from the great apple harvesting that has to be done this weekend I am hoping to make a start on some bulb planting.  I’ve not placed a big order yet but I have some crocuses and Tete a Tete daffodils to ease me in.  Planning for Spring has started.

Mr P  hosts the Six On Saturday meme and all the links to other posts can be found in the comments section.  September on show from gardens around the world.  Lovely.

Six On Saturday: Movers and Shakers

I’ve been feeling the garden needs a bit of a shake up.  This week was a staycation and it provided the opportunity to visit a few places and take in some garden inspiration.  Dan Pearson Studio has planted up a public park at Handyside Gardens, Kings Cross. Plenty of grasses of course but I spotted some wild strawberries used as underplanting. I’ve made a note for the future. In Oxford I laid eyes on a beautiful blue plant that is proving hard to id. Your thoughts are most welcome. On a very hot bank holiday Monday we visited the Ulting Wick open day.  I went to view the dahlias.  I know they are the one of the best flowers for late summer but I’ve not mastered the art of placing them in my garden.  It just doesn’t seem to be dahlia friendly.  I was also in search of some orange inspiration to balance out all my magenta colours.  I struck lucky.

One

Dahlia ‘Orange Cushion’.  Only one available so I snapped it up and hope to be able to propagate it next year.  The dahlias at Ulting Wick are very impressive, I won’t be matching them for scale of planting but I’ve made a start.  I’ve come to accept dahlias and even those with bronze foliage. I can see how to  use it in the mix.  I have great plans for next year.

Two

Some kniphofias, divisions from the Ulting Wick stock and sold by the bag full.  This bag had some new spires so I should get a few weeks at least out them.

Three

All those oranges seemed to call out for a blue and there was a handy pot of salvia pratensis.  On the right is the mystery plant spotted in Oxford.  I thought it was also a salvia but does anyone have any ideas?

Four

With my head full of thoughts for next year I decided that things have to move round in the garden,  This anchusa azurea has been flowering away at the back of the border for a couple of years now and it is so often overlooked.  I need to find a space for it show off in.  I thought it was ‘Loddon Anna’ with a slightly less intense blue than ‘Loddon Royalist’ but I couldn’t find any images for ‘Loddon Anna’.  Did I make it up?

Five

Many of the gardens I saw this week had good shows of hylotelephium spectabile.  Which is simply known as the ice plant in this house.  I’ve inherited these and have let them do their own thing which often involves collapsing through lack of water.  Now I’ve seen them put together with other planting I am going to consolidate the groups I have into one display…somewhere in the garden, for next year!

Six

Staying put and doing both moving and shaking is pennisetum villosum.  The very first flower spike.  I need a few more to complete the picture but you get the idea.  Floaty pennistetum with floaty gaura.  I never thought I would have grasses in the garden either but I have been won over here too.

I soaked up ideas from gardens visited over the years but also from the many wonderful posts from fellow SOSers.  Too many to name check but as always I recommend you take a look at the links on Mr P’s  site.  Thank you to the sixers who have inspired me.  You have widened my horizons and added to my garden.  There, that’s enough sucking up, I have some planting to do.

Six On Saturday: Clinging on to Summer

Last week had a very autumnal feel. Cooler temperatures, windy and wet but I did have the time to spend in the garden and it was not a pretty sight. The sweet peas have mildew, the knautia gone to seed and everything looks a little bedraggled. My first of the six for this week is a sorry sight but it gets better.

One

The apples are ripening but one tree in particular has a bad case of brown rot. I must have lost at least half the crop so far and apparently there is nothing to be done about it.  I pick up all the windfalls and remove any of the affected apples from the tree and throw them away.  So far the other apple trees do not seem to be affected and some of the younger trees are now producing a good crop which will compensate for the lower yields on this tree.

Two

I am still adding to the August garden to keep the colour going.  My local garden centre tempted me back in with a timely money off voucher which made the helenium ‘Short and Sassy’ more attractively priced.  After that I headed for a local nursery that offers plants at a much more reasonable price and paired the helenium with perovskia ‘Blue Steel’.  This is a smaller, more compact variety, chosen for my thin border.  I managed to get these planted out into  a very dry garden before the rain set in.

Three

The bees were flocking to the helenium and perovskia before they were even in the ground.  This echinops has a similar pulling power.  For this reason alone it has remained in the garden but it is in danger of going in the great rethink that is on the horizon.  Some things need moving around and some may have to go.  Such is gardening.

Four

I inherited a large collection of water butts from the previous owner and they have been invaluable in helping to keep the garden watered but there is the eternal problem of mosquitoes and after suffering a number of bites (also not a pretty sight) I decided I would try adding olive oil.  This is the most popular suggestion that comes up on an internet search, the second most popular is keeping goldfish in the water butt. It’s interesting how the same ideas come up in different places. I am trying it out in one water butt.  Will I be able to live with oily watering cans?  Has any one else tried it?

Five

The coneflowers took a bashing from the wind and the rain, more staking required if that is going to be the pattern for summer. They have been in the garden for two years now and are clumping up well.  They are a good bridge from the end of summer into autumn.

Six

I have some  new agapanthuses this year: ‘Navy Blue’.  In their first year in the garden they have managed to produce one stem per plant, more patience required before the full affect can be enjoyed.  I have to be good at remembering to feed them up before they flower. They are giving me a summer feeling for a little longer.

For more end of summer flowers call in at The Propagator’s garden.  Our host of the SOS meme shares the links to other SOSs in the comments section.