Six On Saturday: Happy New Year

It’s hard to keep the mind on a positive track in this chaotic world and the garden that provides much enjoyment through the year can feel, well, rather uninspiring in winter.  But the Prop does not offer winter breaks and SOS continues. After a few mornings of looking at the frosty garden from a distance I went out on a recce. Here’s what I found.

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First a surprise.  The vinca is in flower again.  One brave soul sheltering among the leaves.  It lifted the spirits.

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The viburnum in the front garden that flowers only on one side is true to form this year.  But there is promise for the future as there are definitely more flowers than last year. 

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More encouraging signs.  Primroses have been spotted over the last few weeks, just one or two small ones here and there. 

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Winter berries on a cotoneaster.  This has always been a mystery plant in the garden.  Variously thought to be villosus or possibly moupinensis,  I really have no idea but the black berries look rather bewitching. 

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While much of the garden is showing off various shades of brown the variegated leaves of euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ fill a dark corner of the garden.  Sometimes known as winter creeper, which seems to be an entirely appropriate name. 

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Snowberries.  Not mine, because my snowberry does not seem to keep its berries.  I hope this is because the birds eat them, but it is possibly because every year, several times a year, I go at it with the loppers trying to make some sense of the thicket of stems.   I would have dug the snowberry out by but I doubt you can ever dig out a well established snowberry.  

Positive vibes restored, it is a Happy New Year.  I wish you all happiness and health in the year to come.  I’m going to top up the good feelings with a dose of Nina Simone – it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good!  There is also some blue sky showing through the window so perhaps a spot of rose pruning would be a sensible job to get on with. Happy gardening. 

Six On Saturday: The shed has landed

Pride of place this week has to go to the new shed. So let’s go straight to it.

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The old one went a week or two ago, leaving a large open space for me to contemplate. I was wondering why I had ordered a same size replacement when surely I could manage with a smaller one, but too late, the shed was on its way. It is very new and shiny. How lovely it is not to have to lift the door up off the ground before trying to open it and how lovely not to have a soggy floor every time it rains.

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I have some new borders to plant up. This one is at the very back of the garden in the area used for produce. This is a very inhospitable plot for veggies, dry and shady and nothing has fared well here. Now the plan is try some plants. First in were three asplenium scolopendrium or hart’s tongue ferns. In the spring I will add thalictrum, hostas, tiarella and aquilegias. The logs in the corner come from a fig tree, read on for their sad story.

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Earlier in the year tragedy struck the smaller of the fig trees. I can’t believe it didn’t make a six at the time. Whilst trying to remove the alkanet from around the base of the tree I realised it was moving around quite a bit. Further examination revealed it to be rotting from soil level so it was quickly taken down, sawn into chunks and stored at the end of the garden. The space I was left with was planted up with annuals and an old dahlia that was lurking in a pot. The dahlia did well but it won’t be a permanent fixture. The first real frost arrived this week so I will lift the dahlia and then settle down to thinking up some plans for this border, a sunny spot thank goodness.

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More new plans to put in place for this patch of ground. I took out both white currant bushes and a good number of gooseberry bushes earlier in the year and sowed a green manure mix. That has now been dug in and mulched over. Now the ground is ready to receive a new redcurrant bush and a new white currant bush. All the bushes will now have more room to breathe and hopefully I will be able to net them more successfully against the birds.

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It is the that time of year again, when the cotoneaster horizontalis gets to be a star of the show. This was not one of my favourite inherited plants and I thought it would be on the list to dig up asap. But those red berries are very attractive at this time of the year and the blackbirds need something to nibble on. It stays.

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There’s a little spark of lime green in the border coming from the euphorbia oblongata. This will be its first winter out in the garden after having been grown from seed. It is described as fully hardy but short lived. I hope I get another season out of it.

There are a few jobs still to done, not least the last of the tulips to be seen to. The mojo just wasn’t there last week to get on and do that but the cold weather has arrived and they must be planted soon. Temperatures in the greenhouse went down to -0.9 degrees for one night this week, winter is coming.

Mr P continues to host this merry band of sixers for which many thanks are given. Stop by and take a look. Enjoy your winter gardening, here the wildlife is taking over. Parakeets and squirrels have come for the persimmons and the birds are regular visitors to the feeder. All very entertaining.

Six on Saturday: Proper January cold

Blue skies and cold temperatures, the real January has arrived. On a walk round the suburban streets here I gently peeked into front gardens and spotted the first camellias opening up, beautiful sprays of red nandia berries and the delicate yellows of winter flowering honeysuckle. Blue Monday has passed and all is well. Inspired by what I had seen I looked more carefully at my garden and here’s what I found.

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The first crocus is in bud, beautifully veined and full of the promise of butter cream flowers.

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The cyclamen bought on the cheap a year ago have decided to flower, the white is delicately flushed with pink, just perfect.

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The magnolia tree is in furry bud and some had even dared to open, perhaps a little too soon.  Temperatures for tonight are forecast to be lower and I’m hoping there won’t be too much damage done.

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In expectation of cold weather the evergreen agapanthus have been fleeced since November but the fleece, in its second year of use, is crumbling away.  If anyone can recommend some more reliable fleece I’d be pleased to hear from you.  I’ve gathered this together and tied the top up with string.

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In the greenhouse the temperature overnight on Friday just managed to stay above freezing.  I was thrilled to see the new growth on these rose cuttings that came all the way from  fellow SOSer, Fred in France.  I am very excited to think that I might have some beautiful white miniature roses soon.  Thanks Fred.

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There are new buds on the cotoneaster villosus which, again, I have to hope won’t be crushed by frost.  So much excitement and so much jeopardy.  Is this why gardening is so thrilling?

Could this be the weekend the vine is pruned and the hellebores planted out.   Dry weather is forecast but will my fingers stay warm for long enough?   I’ll also have a look at the plans of other SOSers by visiting The Propagator, host of this meme and leader of the pack.  Happy gardening to all.

 

Six On Saturday: Strange inspirations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six On Saturday: a few ups and downs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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