Six On Saturday: ’tis the winter season

Not being one of the very early risers the gloomy mornings are only just starting to have an impact on me. Fortunately there are only two weeks to go until the shortest day and then we will be on the up again. Winter frosts have turned most of the herbaceous borders brown which is a reminder to me to get those soggy plants removed.  I was looking forlornly out of the kitchen window this morning wondering what my six would be when I realised that the garden was full of birds. The persimmon tree was hosting several species and one in particular caught my eye. Out came the book of birds and I was able to identify a redwing.  Once again Mr P’s Six On Saturday regime has come up trumps.  Armed with optimism I sallied forth to see what else was going on in the December garden.

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One step outside the back door and the first reward was spotted,  The mint that had frazzled up and died in the summer is pushing through again.  This was grown from seed this year so I’m very pleased to see it’s resurgence.

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Two steps more and I was reminded of the annual moss cull that takes place at this time of year.  The birds descend and pull up the moss from the cracks in the paving.  They fling it around with gay abandon, they have no need for the moss now.  I imagine they are searching for insects.  What else could it be? I have some sweeping up to do.

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Down the steps, the hydrangeas are in their last throes of pinky-brown.  Some have advanced further into winter foliage and some have new buds forming.

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The leaves are down from the trees.  There seemed to be a never-ending supply of them but now they are piled up in the leaf cage it doesn’t look like much.

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Round the back in the nursery corner the salvia ‘Amistad’ that overwintered from last year is still in flower.  I am coming to view this plant as a late summer contributor.  I have six cuttings in the greenhouse that are doing well, so far.  There have been casualties though.  The salvia nemorosa caradonna cuttings have gone from three to one and the lavender looks a bit wobbly.

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It feels like a few years ago now but some time in the recent past I sowed a whole packet of euphorbia oblongata seeds.  Forty five I seem to remember.  I managed to get three plants which hovered between life and death for some months.  I tipped them out into the garden to do or die and one of them looks quite healthy now.  It will, of course, die over the winter.  But maybe not.  I’ll keep those fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed that your winter gardening throws up some joys.  I am thinking about the spring bulbs that are doing their thing below the surface at this very moment.  I have also thought about slugs that are lurking so tomorrow’s job will be to clear the sogginess.

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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Pop, pop, pop!

As usual just as the garden got going I headed off to Suffolk for a week. I emptied out the greenhouse and soaked everything as best I could. But the week turned out cooler than forecast and on my return I could breathe a sigh of relief and give a smile of delight. The warmer temperatures that followed the rain had done its work. The garden had popped.

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These lillies were in bud as I left.  They’ve definitely popped and now flood this corner of the garden with their beautiful scent.  They’ve been growing in this pot for many years now, when I remember they get fed but otherwise they are left to their own devices.  Thankfully no sign of lilly beetle yet.

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The lavender is sparkling in the sunshine today.  Last year I needed to replace a French lavender that didn’t over winter.  I picked up a  ‘Hidcote’ but then changed my mind and bought a ‘Munstead’ and I am enjoying the softer colour.

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The knautia macedonica have burst forth and are humming with bees.  They are just at the stage when I can cope with dead heading them – cutting out the first flowering middle stem is easy but a week on and I will be lost in a sea of new blooms and seed heads.

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The hydrangeas that suffered so much last year have fought back and look rather stately against the backdrop of the sage mound.  I think they will suffer today if temperatures reach predicted heights.

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Penstemon ‘Plum Jerkum’ has joined the gang, a lovely deep colour.

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These are the trays of annuals that I have left to plant out.  That’s my gardening job for the weekend but I will save it for tomorrow when the heat is less intense.  I have cleome, zinnia, a few nicotiana and other assorted bits and pieces.  They are going to fill the gaps where the agastache and pennisetum villosum didn’t over winter.  I also have dead heading of roses and picking of sweet peas to do – sounds like a perfect summer.

Mr P , host of this meme, shares his six wonders and the comments section gives the links to other posts from around the world.  Worth a look when it all gets too much in the sun!

Six On Saturday: revelations

My inspiration for this week’s six comes from a ‘conversation’ with a fellow sixer on how nice it is see the garden as a whole as well as the splendid photos of individual flowers. So here we go:

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This is the western end of the north facing border.  I’ve been de-weeding it for about two years! It gets slightly more sun particularly at the right hand end where osteospermum flowers very happily in the summer.  Of course I haven’t managed to include that corner in this selection. But you can see the large healthy choisya on the right and the two tone unhealthy choisya on the left and the middle. Honestly, it is one plant.  When that’s flowered it’s going and this is where the wish list plants will go.  This week I added skimmia ‘Kew Green’ to that list.  In the middle I have planted the climbing rose ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’.  I’m expecting great things as I need it to cover that fence fast.

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This is the narrow border against the wall and the border where I was trying to squeeze in more tulips last November.  I did succeed in getting some ‘World Friendship’ in, these are the yellow ones but I have two pots full that didn’t make it into the ground.  The climbing roses are ‘Blush Noisette’ and ‘Scepter’d Isle’ is just coming up to fill in the gap in the wall.  I’ve decided I need a clematis here as well, but which one?  The verbena bonariensis also grows up against the wall here.

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The short border that faces east.  This is a very wet border so the perfect place for cowslips, Siberian irises and the hydrangea ‘Blushing Bride’ which does need its annual prune.

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I call this the hedge border.  The hedge of box, bay, eleaganus and viburnum marks the change to the veg plot behind.  It’s slightly north facing at one end but enjoys the afternoon sun at the other end.  The soil is very heavy clay here and the wonderful salvia ‘Amistad’ have not survived the winter.  They did make the perfect backdrop to the three r. ‘Darcy Bussell’ so I am tempted to plant them again and take cuttings for insurance.

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The turf has been laid.  This is the top end of the south facing long border.  Previously shaded out by the large BBQ and the large laurel, I now have a planting opportunity for some sun lovers.  I may be in line for some crinum bulbs.  It’s not a plant I know but I’m told it likes the sun so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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Tulips of course.  These are the ones in pots.  The orange ones, unknown,  were dug up with the hydrangea plants and don’t seem to have minded too much about being disturbed.  The purple were featured last week and I can confirm, once and for all, that they are ‘Ronaldo’ planted alongside ‘Flaming Spring Green’  and the yellow behind them are ‘World Friendship’. Which is a good note to end on!

More world friendship is on offer at The Prop’s blog.  Enjoy your garden this weekend, don’t fret about the weeds and feed the roses!

Six On Saturday: Busy, busy, busy

There is much going on at the moment.  Projects in the house and the garden are keeping me busy.  Last weekend was good gardening time.  The first and second earlies are now all in the ground.  The onions grown in modules were planted out and the hydrangea has been moved.  The choisya got a stay of execution!  It is in bud so how I could I chop it down?  It is definitely one plant with a split personality: one side healthy and one side poorly.  Here’s what else is happening:

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I failed to get all my new tulip purchases in the ground last winter.  My bulb planter was reduced to a mangled mess, my hands hurt and I kept hitting the spots where previous tulips were lying dormant.  The surplus went into pots which were lined up against a south facing wall.  The warm weather has encouraged them to flower.  The purple ones are ‘Ronaldo’ which I was expecting to be a deeper red.  In the other pots are ‘World Friendship’.

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I am making progress on my lawn extension project.  In preparation for the new turf – which arrives on Monday – I set about digging up the hydrangea.  It turned out to be two hydrangeas, one very nearly dead!  Deep in amongst the hydrangeas were tulips.  I lifted these and very quickly planted them up again in pots.  I hope they won’t notice the disruption.  So far so good. I can’t wait for the new lawn patch to be laid!

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The two hydrangeas may eventually be recycled somewhere but for the moment they have been planted in the north facing border along with my overwintered foxglove seedlings.  This will do for now as next  door to this section is the doomed choisya.  More thinking needs to done for what goes in here when that finally comes out.  Current front runners are choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’, a pinus mugo and possibly a camellia.  But I’d also like to fit in a sarcococca confusa.  Any other suggestions for interesting north facing shrubs gratefully  received.  Ideas for smaller plants for the front are also welcome.

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The north facing border is getting most of the attention this year.  June 2016 is a memorable time as that is when we moved in – and I’ll leave it at that!  After nearly three years in the house I have worked my way round to this side of the garden.  This patch here is reserved for the deep shade white planting scheme by Joe Swift as featured in Gardeners’ World magazine August 2018.  The first planting has been made.  A local nursery was offering a good discount on Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris – the climbing hydrangea.  Two 10l pots were purchased.  More planting to follow but the Melica altissima ‘Alba’ is proving difficult to locate.

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The mahonia in the front garden is looking particularly fine this year.  I hope this is due to the meticulous prune I gave it last year – dead, diseased, crossing etc all done by secateurs rather than a chop over with the shears!

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The long border in March.  My monthly photographic update.  The tulips here will be out in April/May.  The delphiniums are shooting away so fast they have outrun the slugs.  Also racing ahead are the hemerocallis ‘Golden Chimes’.  I have new plantings of sanguisorba tanna and some extra alliums – but I can’t remember which ones, nor can I track down the order.  Another garden mystery to unravel.

I’m hoping to find time for some gardening this weekend and will no doubt be inspired by the garden reports of fellow sixers.  If you are looking for inspiration check out the links at The Propagator’s blog.

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: frost arrives and a rose

The first lingering frost arrived this week.  A scraping the ice off the windscreen and frozen bird bath sort of frost.  A ‘don’t walk on the grass frost’.  But another of the bare stem roses arrived too.  So I did walk on the grass in order the plant the rose.  Here’s my six:

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The frost came on a clear sunny day and as I was scanning the garden front and back for suitable greenery for the house I remembered that I have a rather large fir tree that sometimes deigns to drop a few fir cones.  I gathered two and looked longingly up at the rest.

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I periodically wail about the lack of shrubs in the garden but whenever I get the chance to put something into a newly cleared space I choose a rose.  This week ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ arrived.  I must thank the good folk at Ulting Wick garden in Essex who tweeted about this rose for a north facing situation.  It’s a climber and I’m hoping it will romp away all over that brown fence of mine.

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I just got my photo of the cotoneaster and the ivy into last week’s six in the nick of time.  This week the berries have been stripped and the leaves have all gone.  My festive offering for this week is holly.  But no berries.

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I still have a drop of colour in the garden.  The hydrangea is turning down its bracts (I think I’ve got that right but please correct me if I’m wrong!) and showing off the pink undersides.

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My neighbours’ viburnum are beginning to flower quite beautifully now.  Ours has one single solitary flower head.  All suggestions as to how get more will be gratefully received.

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The buds on the rhododendron are forming.  This is a very large specimen on the north facing border.  The north facing border is the focus of my attention for 2019.  Watch this space for  indecision, digging  and hopefully, developments.

All the links to other SOSs from gardens around the world can be found at our genial host’s site The Propagator Blog.  If it’s cold outside stay inside and have a good read!

Six on Saturday: Shamed into action

I have been shamed by my fellow sixers!  The shorter days and colder temperatures have me reaching for the blanket, the gardening books and a cuppa.  I was even considering not posting a six!  But reading Mr P’s links to today’s sixes have encouraged me to get out in the garden.  I have not sown my sweet peas seeds, planted any bulbs and only just in time did I fleece my tender agapanthus plants.  But then none of us are perfect are we?  The very least I could do was to share six from my garden this week:

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img_3032.jpgI garden in London and so get a little complacent about frosts.  But this week the lawn has had a light frosting and it was clearly a sign that cold weather gardening had to start.  Last year’s fleece was in shredded tatters in the shed and I hate all those white flaky bits.  I hot footed it to Homebase and found some delightful green bags of 35gsm fleece with very handy draw string pulls.  I usually fleece up the agapanthus armed with a stapler but these jackets were easy to pull over the plants and the fetching shade of green is slightly less obvious than white.  Job done.

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IMG_3034I was certainly lulled into complacency by the balmy days I experienced in Suffolk last week but the cold evenings are changing the colours of the garden.  The persimmon tree is looking beautiful even as the leaves are falling.

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IMG_3033The previously sun scorched hydrangeas are also taking on their winter hue.

 

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IMG_3031But elsewhere the summer container plants are still in good health and I will leave them out throughout the winter.  In mild years I have been able to carry the geraniums over into the next summer.

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IMG_3036The white antirrhinum sowed from seed is still in flower at this end of the garden but elsewhere I have collected seeds from another plant that has done its bit for summer.

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img_3035.jpgI recently planted out some gaura and pennisetums  in a west border and alongside them I put in some Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, which still thinks there’s time to put on a display.  Thank you!

Thank you too, to everyone who shares their gardens on a Saturday.  You provide inspiration, support and encouragement and always make me laugh!  What more can you ask for?  Well, if anyone’s free to plant a few hundred bulbs….