Six On Saturday: The height of summer

It looks like last week’s prediction of beautiful weather after the summer solstice is coming good.  Of course it will be extreme, that is only to be expected these days! Greenhouse windows wide open and pots regularly watered.  Here’s hoping the garden stands up to the next onslaught.  The pests are increasing their attacks – sawfly on the gooseberries, slightly less than last year, slugs and snails everywhere, box moth caterpillar munching the box and whitefly in the greenhouse.  I am using encarsia wasps to combat them. But there is much to enjoy at this time of year.

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This is a side view of the long border.  It is now approaching its mad, chaotic crescendo.  Geraniums, knautia, roses, penstemons, astrantia and salvias all pushing and shoving to make an appearance centre stage.  I love this disorderly behaviour but every now and then creep in to put in a little essential staking.

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The sun was shining the wrong way when I took this photo but I hope you can get the sense of the lovely combination of salvia nemorosa and astrantia major. They are are dream together.

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This is penstemon ‘Firebird’.  I like the penstemons for taking on the baton of flowering from the alliums.

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In the greenhouse the first tomatoes have appeared.  But pride of place goes to the lettuce. Growing lettuce outside has always been hit and miss for me so this year I tried a few in the greenhouse.  I now have an awful lot of lettuce to eat, I am hoping the hot temperatures are not going to ruin it.

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My salvia ‘Amistad’ did not survive the winter or so I thought. But just days after buying three new plants I spotted shoots on two of the old ones.  I dug those up and moved them to a nursery bed where they are making slow but steady progress.  I might have some flowers by August.  In the meantime the new ones romped away and are looking dramatically sultry.  As I planted the new ones I snapped a stem but encouraged by everyone’s advice that salvia ‘Amistad’ cuttings are easy peasy I planted it up.  It took almost immediately so now I feel awash with these wonderful salvias.

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This fuschia is another small success.  It came with the garden and I spent the first few years saving it from the clutches of bindweed and couch grass. Once freed I gave it a judicious prune and this year it is flowering well and in much better shape.  Its a var. unk. to me but maybe someone can identify it.  I love the strong colours.

If you’d like to see some more Six On Saturday posts from other sixers then go along to The Propagator’s blog.  There is much that will inform and amuse!

 

 

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Six On Saturday: Taking the rough with the smooth

It’s an emotional life being a gardener.  This week I have experienced frustration with the slow growing dahlias, sadness for the agastache that didn’t come through the winter and anxiety over the lack of rain.  Fortunately there have been plenty of joys too.  Here’s six good things from the garden.

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The monthly look at the border.  From this angle the delphiniums are blocking the view of the roses that are just coming into flower.  Everything is filling out very well and for the moment the water butts are providing enough water. As I enjoyed all the new growth I was struck by how I have, almost without exception, gone for height on this border.  Not much gradation going on here, but I like it.  The brown patch is still awaiting inspiration and so for the third year will be home to the annuals grown from seed. I’m thinking about trying libertia chilensis (grandiflora) here – more height.

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Now for the detail of the main border.  This is allium ‘Mount Everest’ which in itself it lovely but there’s a little disappointment here as I planted 12 bulbs two years ago and topped them up with six more this year.  Flowering result this year: four.  They do grow tall but the flower heads are quite small.  I suppose any larger and they would wobble on their long stems.

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Behind the delphiniums lurk rosa ‘Wisley’ and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.  This week ‘Wisley’ gets to be the star.  The roses were planted three years ago and this year they are excelling themselves.

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Behind the ‘Wisley’ roses are a clump of ‘White City’ irises.  Again they have been in the ground for three years, having come to me from a division of a friend’s clump.

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Climbing up the back fence, in shade in the morning but catching the sun by the afternoon is ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’.  This was planted out last autumn and I am impressed by it’s the speedy progress and generous flowering.  A winner.

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The not quite open irises featured last week have burst forth and are stunning.  These also came from a friend’s garden and I have promised to pass them on again to two more friends.

So this week’s little homily is there’s good and bad in life and in the garden but keeping the good in focus is what’s important!  I looked up the meaning of homily and I rather liked this definition: advice that is often not wanted.

It’s another long weekend in the UK and I shall be helping out at a local plant sale on the Sunday. Also on the to do list are planting out the overwintered pellies into the summer containers and prepping the veg beds for the beans, courgettes and cucumbers.  I shall also be peering optimistically at the parsnip and carrots sowings, and undoubtedly doing some watering. Happy gardening to all.  For the links to more SOS postings go to The Propagator’s blog and feast your eyes on what’s on offer.

Six On Saturday: The borders take shape

This garden has a long history of growers. The very first owner here was a prize winner for a plate of three raspberries and the second owner was a committed fruit grower.  When I came along the fruit growing had taken priority and the borders were being taken over by weeds and grass.  There are still plenty of weeds and fruit bushes around but flowers are gradually being reinstated.

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The monthly long border shot.  This year I have gone for two smaller wigwams of sweet peas.  I planted out the early sowings last weekend.  On the left  ‘April in Paris’, a white variety and on the right ‘Midnight Blues’.  I now have a gap where the large wigwam went and although I have some annuals lined up to fill the space I feel the need for an evergreen shrub to give more form to this end of the border.  The delphiniums are shooting away and with storm Hannah blowing through I need to get out there and do some tying in.  In case you are wondering, the bamboo cane is there to remind me not to step on the emerging echinacea ‘White Swan’.  Roses, geraniums and knautia are also making good progress, ready to take over from the tulips and euphorbia.

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The left hand end of the north border. This used to be home to a stand of blackcurrant bushes and in turning over the soil for the nth time I found a label: Ben Tirran.  Four of those bushes went on to new homes so I will pass on the information.  The others have been found temporary homes elsewhere here.  So this end of north border was ready to plant up this year.  First to go in were two hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, climbing hydrangeas for the back fence.  Last weekend I planted 23 geranium sanguineum ‘Alba’ and six anemone ‘Honorine Jobert.  I have two more geraniums waiting to go in once the front row three of pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’ arrive.  I’ll fit the last two geraniums in around them.  The black pots along the back row are representing 10 melica altissima ‘Alba’.  These are proving elusive at the moment and I am hoping I don’t have to resort to a well known but more expensive on-line supplier.  I am following a plan from Joe Swift – Five plants for a deep shade border – as published in Gardeners’ World August 2018.  I also have some seedlings of astrantia major to fit in and finally I plan to add snowdrops for some early interest.

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At the other end of the north border the Choisyas are opening up.  This can mean only one thing.  The days are numbered for the ailing one.  For the moment I’ll enjoy the scent and the green and white colours.

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Patiently waiting to fill the space soon to be vacated by poorly choisya is a skimmia ‘Kew Green’.  Most descriptions use the very attractive phrase ‘no need to prune’.  The scent is described as’ lilly of the valley’ and it does well in shade.  Sounds perfect.

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I was lucky enough to inherit a greenhouse, old and needing some glazing repairs but it looked wonderful to me.  I put in some automatic openers but the frame on one side sticks in one corner and I haven’t solved the problem.  Last week the frame gave way at its weak point – the glass.  I made a temporary repair with some left over plastic and clingfilm but storm Hannah has curled her lip!  I am hoping the local company that helped out with the glazing last time will come to my aid again.

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The sowing of tomatoes for the greenhouse are coming along well.  Time to move them on I think.  That will encourage me to get that window repaired.

The weather has changed dramatically.  Cold, wet and windy.  I am grateful for the rain as already the water butts were getting low.  Fingers crossed that the wind isn’t too damaging, there is so much blossom around now.  I hope your garden stays safe and don’t forget to take a look at Mr P’s blog for more news from SOSs around the world.

 

 

Six On Saturday: Last of the winter jobs, moving into spring

A cold week with several foggy mornings ended with some welcome warmth.  The sunshine lifts the human spirit and that of the plants.  The last of the winter cut back needs to be done, excepting the penstemons which I will leave until April.  I did cut the grapevine back last week, just in time.  The tomato seeds did not get sown.  This first sowing is destined for the greenhouse and I must get them done this weekend.  Sowing for plants to be grown outside can be left for a little longer.  While reading the comments on Jim Steven’s SOS for last week I came across his link to a blog by The Laid Back Gardener and found my way to  Goldilocks and the three seedlings which is a great story about sowing tomato seeds.  I recommend it and hope that this year I’ve got my sowing just right.

Here’s my six for the week:

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The first sowing of sweet peas have germinated.  ‘Midnight Blue’ with a 56% success rate and ‘April in Paris’ achieving 94%.  There may be a few laggards to come through for ‘Midnight Blue’ but they’ll have to get a move on as this weekend they will go out into the cooler potting shed.

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Mr P who hosts this blog, and does us all a wonderful service, is a great grower of plants from seeds.  His latest success is lupins and I am much put to shame by his efforts.  By coincidence this week I received three small pots of lupins for planting out.  This is my first foray into lupins, previously not one of my favourites but  I was tempted by a twitter post of ‘The Pages’ and decided to order a few.  The colour is carmine red – let’s see what they look like in a few months time.  Of course, they will have to survive slug attacks first.

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IMG_3304Speaking of twitter, I have already shared my labours of last weekend there but I am happy to share the success with you all here.  The compost bins were finally built.  The bins are a slot-in build and took hardly anytime at all.  I will have to tidy up the front surface which will require nice words to delightful builder again!  In the meantime I have some compost heap turning to do.

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IMG_3325The deciduous shrubs are beginning to leaf up.  I love the fresh green colours.  This is my mystery shrub in the front garden.  It has black berries over the winter but unfortunately I can’t remember the flower type.  I’ll watch it carefully this year and see if I can identify it.

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img_3323.jpgThese hyacinths were going to be my forced hyacinths for Christmas but when they were brought into the warm they came with a plague of flies and were banished to the garden.  It’s good to see them in flower now.

 

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This is my long border.  The plants left standing over winter for their seed heads will be cut down now.  I’m going to post a photo each month taken from the same spot to record the wonderful transformation that takes place over the summer months.  It’s all very gloomy today as this was another foggy morning but there is much potential!

If you’d like to join the SOS band of gardeners that go immediately to the participant guide on Mr P’s site.  SOS is a mix of the pottering gardener like myself, the adventurous like Mr Propagator and many more lovely people all willing to share their experience and knowledge.  Take the plunge!

 

 

 

 

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: It was nice to see Nice

I’m just back from a week in Nice, France and so I am giving you six things from there.  Some of these did give me ideas for my garden here and others are just interesting plants. So here for your pleasure are the sun soaked gardens of Nice.

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IMG_2834From the Albert 1er gardens just off the Promenade des Anglais.  A great selection of tropical plants, all of which were unknown to me except under the vague heading of palms or cactus like things.  This one did have an information board close by so I can tell you it is Asparagaceae Dasylirion Longissium LEM. or Totem du Mexique.  Frost resistant to -12 degrees apparently.

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IMG_2855From a sun baked border at the Musee Matisse in Cimiez.  A mixture of the familiar and the exotic.

On leaving the museum we ventured into an olive grove park and from there up some steps to a monastery where we were rewarded by the sight of the beautiful gardens of the monastery which were open to the public.  The last three of the six all come from this garden.

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IMG_2861I have long wondered if I should incorporate some grasses into the garden and I love this combination.  Does anyone knows what the planting is?  I don’t think it would fit the scale of my garden but it was so light and feathery that it did go on the ‘in my dreams’ list!

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img_2862.jpgMore beautiful grasses and ?  I hope the photo is clear enough for you to put forward suggestions.

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A view of one of the long borders looking great at this time of year and a detail shot.

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IMG_2856A riot of colour to end on.  I wish I could get my garden to look like this in September! Maybe this is the result of good deep borders and planting for height.  Something for me to consider.

I hope Mr Prop will allow the deviation from the rules – I seem to remember holiday snaps are allowed. I also hope everyone is enjoying their garden at this time of year.  On my return I did find the roses and verbenas still going strong and the asters beginning to open up so there was much to appreciate.

Six on Saturday

Having spent the last few days wondering if three or three and half on Saturday would pass muster I finally knuckled down and came up with six.  It may sound as though it’s an onerous task to post weekly.  But no,  I am enjoying the discipline of looking at the garden in a focused way.  It may even be making me a more productive gardener!

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A week or so ago I succumbed to this impulse buy from a supermarket.  Of course, when I arrived home I thought where on earth am I going to plant them?  Their pretty little viola faces seemed rather dwarfed once positioned in the garden.  This week serendipity struck.  I remembered I had three neglected terracotta troughs.  I think they will be just right for some block planting and then I can place them along one side of a raised bed.  Perfect.

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Inspired by a tweet from Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire I am sharing with you my borders in February.  First is the border that was extended in November.  The line of snowdrops and emerging daffodils under the hedge shows where the old border ended.  They will be moved to the front after flowering.  The roses were planted in November: three Darcy Bussell and a Jaqueline du Pre.  Perhaps now I need an artistic rose to complete the cultural theme.

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This is my long border. As you can see the foxes/squirrels love spreading the mulch around.  I have used roses and euphorbia as the framework and I am filling in around them with astrantia, gernaniums, scabious, penstemon and a variety of annuals. The borders at Waterperry are famous for their careful staking of plants.  Here’s a tip from Pat Havers, Head Gardener there.  They start staking their perennials in April.  I always leave my staking until it’s too late.  This year I will do better.

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Hedges.  The background to the new border is a mixed hedge.  Elaeaganus, bay and viburnum.  I like the bay and viburnum but I would love to replace the elaeaganus with a darker green hedge to give a stronger background to the foreground plants.  Sometimes you have to garden with what you have.

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Last week I mentioned that I prefer primula vulgaris to the stronger coloured primroses appearing in the nurseries.  The brightly coloured versions add colour at this time of year but the pale yellow of the common primrose is always the winner for me.  I grow them in my spring corner.  First the primroses and snowdrops appear, followed by anemones, bluebells and aquilegia and then I am hoping last October’s planting of pheasant eye narcissus will steal the show.

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And lastly, the February issue of Gardeners World came to my rescue.  Mint is beginning to come through now and they suggest breaking up small clumps of it to pot up for the greenhouse.   This will give an earlier crop.  The perfect job for the weekend.

There’s a cold spell ahead and it’s a gloomy day today, but there is always something to enjoy.  I hope you find time to garden or to reflect on your garden this weekend.  It’s a lovely thing to do.  More international gardening thoughts can be found at The Propagator who hosts this meme.

 

 

Six on Saturday

I’m beginning to feel some sympathy for the long lasting month of January.  Maligned in the old song ‘January, you’ve been hanging on me’ I’ve come round to thinking it does have much to offer.  My hands are cold as I’ve just come in from completing what is the first of my sixes.  Yes, I have been in the garden this week and here’s what I found.

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This morning’s main job was to prune the grapevine.  It produce grapes which inevitably split just as they seem to be ripening so I’ve come to accept that its main role is to shade the pergola.  This is my second year of pruning it (I’m in a new garden if you are new to this six) and I’m getting bolder.  This time I cut out a whole branch on the grounds that it was very clearly crossing.  Otherwise I restricted myself to cutting back to one or two buds, which were clearly  visible.  I think I did this job just in time.  The tree in the background is my neighbour’s enviable willow.

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January is the month for pruning some types of fruit trees.  Earlier on I pruned the Persimmon tree and this week it was the turn of the apples and figs.  The smaller ones I did myself but I called in the professionals for the large fig and a large apple tree both of which had got to a height that had defeated me and my ladder. Which is not actually that great a height.  This photo is the apple tree after the prune.  It is much lighter, but I think the reshaping will take a year or two.

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I recently spotted a bargain buy of 6 helleborus niger and they arrived mid week after a deluge of rain.  The lawn was sodden and the heavy clay soil of the borders was sticky and uninviting but in they went.  The seem to have settled very well. There’s also a bit of colour from some primroses.  I prefer the yellow common primrose but these are staying in for the moment.  Just behind you can see the first of the daffodils pushing through.

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January is also the month when the first snowdrops appear.  Mine, planted in the green last year, are now getting into their stride, edging the line of small apple trees.

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So despite the cold, windy and wet weather that we have had recently the garden is waking up.  Today I also spotted the first new shoots of the lovely magenta phlox that is dotted around the back border.  I can’t wait for these to be in flower again.  But first I’ll need to cut out last year’s dead stems.

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Finally, a rosebud.  It may not make it into a fully formed flower if the rain and cold weather continue but it is another cheering sign that the seasons are changing.

Yes. It’s a thumbs up for the end of January at least.  For more news and views from the other sixer gardens stop  by The Propagator’s blog for links to the posts for this Saturday.

 

Six on Saturday

This week’s six has a snow damage focus.  Last Sunday’s snow and frosts have taken their toll.  The ground has remained frozen and winter is here.  Let’s start with a carry over from last week.

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Here is the  missing picture of my bracken /fern for you to consider.  There are a number of these in the garden.  Are they Bracken of Fern I ask myself, this site might help  Fern or Bracken? It’s all in the pinnate .  Whatever they are, they are ready for the Continue reading