Six On Saturday: Returning friends and small beginnings

I hope I’ve said this before because it needs to be said.  Thank you to  the Prop   for starting up this meme and for keeping us all in order.  There’s much to be gained from taking a look at all the posts that are contributed and there is a lovely supply of help and support on offer, so take a moment to stop by.  Thanks to everyone last week who pointed me in the direction of gauras and pennisetums.  I always thought that grasses were not for my garden but now I think I have the perfect place for them.  Time to move on to this week’s six:

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IMG_2877.JPGCutting back plants after flowering really can work.  The alchemilla mollis which were sheared to the ground have come through again and at this time of year they look beautiful with their dressing of early morning dew.

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IMG_2884This is Geranium ‘Brookside’.  It roamed through the garden in early summer, knowing no boundaries and so cutting it back when it finished flowering caused me no stress.  The plant needed to be tidied up.  This week I noticed it was flowering again.

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IMG_2878Also starting up again are the seedlings of Nigella, love in a mist.  I have a carpet of them which I should probably be thinning out and sharing around the garden.  But I might just leave them all here to keep the weeds down and see how they come through next year.

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img_2879.jpgIn the greenhouse I have managed to keep a tray of foxgloves and echinacea pallida seedlings alive and it looks like some potting on needs to be done.  Temperatures are on the up next week so they I hope they will put on some good growth once moved into a pot.

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IMG_2880Encouraged by the good example of others I decided to try some winter vegetables. I rescued a tray of rainbow chard and perpetual spinach from certain death and planted them out a few weeks ago.  The pesky slugs made straight for them but they have pulled through and growth looks good.

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IMG_2881Last November I planted out bare root roses in a new border and Darcy Bussell is still flowering.  I am impatiently waiting for the roses to become fully established but even in the first year the flowers have been rewarding.

I hope your garden or allotment is rewarding you and that we all manage to find a moment this weekend to appreciate them.

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Six On Saturday: In my dreams

Temperatures are falling and the evenings have a chill about them.  My third summer in this garden is coming to an end.  The previous owner (PO) loved to grow fruit, figs in particular and this week I woke from a dream where I had collected armfuls of sweet soft figs.  I am sure this was inspired by a tweet from Fred, a French gardener  who had been doing exactly that.  In my garden I watch as the birds flutter in and out of the fig trees magically finding in their branches the ripe figs that I keep missing.  All the ones I can see are green.

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IMG_2779Here’s the largest fig tree.  This was tentatively pruned back early this year but I can see it really needs to be brought down in size.  Ruthlessness is a gardening skill I am beginning to develop.  Cutting this tree back will give the summer borders more of a chance to keep going through into autumn.  I will be able to bear any loss of fruit as I don’t see much of it anyway!

 

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IMG_2780Because the PO’s interest were in fruit and veg the flower borders had been left to their own devices and I have been reclaiming them from the weeds.  One corner was in the grip of ground elder and I spent the first two summers digging it out.  I think I am now at the stage where I can plant this corner up.  My dreams have recently focused in on a white hibiscus and a Trachelospermum jasminoides to cover up a fence.  That’s my dream for autumn or spring planting.  For the moment this is how the corner looks now. Each summer I plant a group of annuals to keep the ground covered.  This year it was Zinnias which are filling out now.

 

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IMG_2768A close up of that corner showing the convolvulus cneorum bought at the Beth Chatto garden now in situ among the erigeron karvinskianus.  I’m happy with the front and I hope I will be happy with the back, now I need something mid border to bridge the gap.  I have persicaria on the wish list so maybe there is an opening for it here.

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IMG_2770Three 9cm pots of Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ were planted out earlier in the summer.  I have to be patient but next year I am expecting these diminutive plants to transform into dreaming spires of late summer interest. They should reach 1.2m.  Some way to go then!

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IMG_2773 (2)In my dreams, particularly in my day dreams, I see a luxuriously verdant garden seamlessly moving from one season to the next.  At this time of the year I find myself struggling.  The summer border becomes increasingly shady as the big fig tree branches out.  There is just enough sun to encourage the roses in a second flowering and this one is Gertrude Jekyll.

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IMG_2771A long term dream has been to fit in a water feature.  My original expansive daydream of putting a rill down the middle of the lawn was strongly vetoed and probably rightly so.  Instead I have in mind a much smaller feature to replace this laurel bush.  It also shades the summer border and doesn’t add any great interest to the garden.  Taking it out will leave a large hole – the first step towards the pond.

Dreaming and planning for the garden is much on my mind at the moment.  I was feeling the pressure of exhortations to prepare and plant up for next year.  It was all too much and I left the catalogues on the table and went out into the garden.  Even after the recent rains it was still dry and difficult to work but I relocated a few seedlings, planted out some mid summer purchases, cut back the lavender and rosemary and felt much better for it!

Many thanks to  The Prop for gathering together a diverse crowd of fellow gardeners who share weekly their gardening delights and sometimes the nasties! You are welcome to take a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six On Saturday: Fresh eyes give renewed determination

There is nothing like visiting the garden of a friend or relative for giving fresh impetus to your own garden.  After spending time last Sunday dispensing words of wisdom: ‘that  achemillia mollis can be cut back now’, ‘don’t let that lemon balm seed everywhere’ and  ‘that’s a weed and this is a tree seedling’, I came back to my garden and spotted a large clump of achemillia mollis seeding itself everywhere, nettles quietly gaining strength under the shade of the geraniums and grass creeping into the borders. It was time for a midsummer clear up.  A frantic spurt of dead heading and weeding ensued and there was that alchemilla mollis to deal with.

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The offending alchemilla mollis.  I wasn’t in a ruthless enough mood to start with so I just cut back the flowering stems.  The fresh new growth began to emerge from the shadows and I realised that if I had done this earlier and by ruthlessly cutting back the old growth by the handful those new shoots would have been taking centre stage earlier.  I know this but I rarely do it early enough!

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Down at the allotment end of the garden I noticed that the autumn raspberries were ripening.  The plants came as runners from my old allotment raspberries and this is their first fruiting year.  I’m so glad they survived the low rainfall which I’m sure owes much to their shady position.

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My clematis have all gone to seed now but I spotted one last flower valiantly soldiering on, thereby earning the right to be included in this six.

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Also on the clear up list was the rambling rose I chose to train up the back fence. It is ‘Wedding Day’.  A mad choice I confess but I planned to train it into my neighbour’s trees.  ‘Wedding Day’ is rampant and I didn’t keep it under control the first year.  This week I took it hand and tied it in as best I could, rose scratched arms is not a good look! Half way through the job I consulted my RHS book of pruning which tells me that ramblers come in three groups and the pruning is slightly different for each group.  Now I just have to find out which group ‘Wedding Day’ falls into.

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Since I have mentioned my neighbour’s trees, it is only fair that I show one or two.  This majestic willow catches the evening sun and is spectacular.

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I also benefit from another neighbour’s elder tree.  The berries are ripe now and some may find their way into fruit pie.  The colour combination of stem, leaf and fruit is just sumptuous.

Sharing gardening experiences is a great part of #SixOnSaturday and an important part of gardening.  I hope my ‘advice’ was well received but I will also share by potting up some of the seedlings I discovered in my clear up.  There are a good number of astrantia major, hollyhocks and verbena bonariensia for a start.  And I thank my neighbours for sharing their trees and giving me a fabulous frame for my garden.

For the links to other sixes pay a visit to The Propagator the hard working host of this meme.  Now time to get back to that clean up!

 

Six On Saturday: Oops I did it again

With temperatures again in the 30s I went away for the week.  Yes, I know.  No real gardener ever leaves the garden in summer, not ever!  I did the usual frantic watering, moving pots into the shade and putting everything on trays or saucers and off I went.  My garden is well past its best so I was really quite relaxed.  I went in search of inspiration from some of the great gardens of England and I found that they too had gone over plants, roses devoid of flowers and scorched lawns.  But some ideas for late summer colour were found and I returned determined to take more care of my phloxes.

But here is what is happening in my garden this week.

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Rosa Natasha Richardson is in her second flowering and is looking gorgeous.  I’m very happy with the background of Agastache Black Adder but she needs something the other side of her.  I’m still looking for her ideal companion.

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Sometime in May I optimistically sprinkled some zinnia seeds that came free with a well known gardening magazine and in the week I was away they opened up.  They were sown at the foot of the now towering tithonia and in amongst the Pentsemon Plum Jerkum.   They have given me an extra spot of late summer colour.

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You would not expect me to visit three gardens and come away empty handed now would you? I nearly did as Hidcote had sold out of Agapanthus Navy Blue – a later flowering variety that’s now on my wish list.  Fortunately across the road at Kiftsgate I found a lovely pink Salvia microphylla Blush Pink.  It should flower into November and be frost hardy.  If it does I shall be very happy.

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I left my tray of Ammi visnaga out in a shady/sunny spot hoping they might put on a spurt of growth.  I really don’t know if they are going to make it into flower but I am going to plant them out anyway and enjoy their feathery green foliage in amongst the white zinnias as planned.

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My vegetable patch has struggled this year, falling foul of lack of rain and my feeble attempts to water it.  I harvested the onions before I left and put them in the potting shed to dry out – as if they needed that!  Small but delightfully formed I think.

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The apples are also much smaller this year.  I received an email from my apple juicing farm telling me that this is the earliest apples have ripened in 12 years.  I still don’t think mine are ready for picking and I’m hoping that the welcome deluge of rain that arrived on Friday will give them an extra boost.  I also need to decide what to do with this poor specimen.  Do I shorten the leader and keep the laterals in tight or will the leader strengthen over time?  So much learning to be done!

The bulb catalogues are arriving and even as I review how to improve the August and September garden my thoughts are turning to Spring.  I am well and truly on the gardening roller coaster and on the whole enjoying it.

Be dazzled by the diversity of gardens that get shown each week by checking the links given on The Propagator’s blog You will see that there is an occasional ‘cheat’ and this week The Prop has smuggled three extras into his six.  There must be a sub section somewhere that allows that then!

The apples are also so much smaller this year.  I received an email from my apple juicing farm telling me that this was the earliest apples had ripened in 12 years.  I still don’t think mine are ready to pick and I am hoping that the welcome deluge of rain that came on Friday will give them an extra boost.  I need to think what I do with this poor specimen.  Should I cut the leader much shorter and keep all the laterals in tighter or will the leader strengthen over time? There is so much learning to be done!

Six on Saturday: Send in the locusts!

Don’t bother they’re here!  Well not actually locusts, the latest garden pest to arrive is the sawfly caterpillar.  I caught a crowd of them devouring my nasturtiums and radishes.  And following a tweet from Horti Hugo  I scampered off to check the gooseberries.  I couldn’t see a single caterpillar but the evidence was there:

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I’ve cut my losses on the gooseberries this year.  Life got busy at the wrong time and I didn’t get that netting done so I picked all that I could and I will have to wait for next year.  The blackcurrants have been netted and at least there are plenty of berries there for us all to enjoy.

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Pottering gardener alert:  I decided there was far too much leaf on the tomatoes in the greenhouse and my goodness, turn your back for moment and those side shoots put on a spurt.  The side shoots were removed and some of the longer branches were cut back.  I know this is usually done as the tomatoes ripen but I decided that it needed to be done now.  I did find several green tomatoes hiding beneath the foliage so I think I did the right thing.  The long side shoot at the bottom has also gone now!

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Still no rain here and the hydrangeas are wilting.  Here’s my favourite one which is framed on either side the by striking foliage of the siberian irises.  They did get a good watering after this photo was taken and picked up nicely.

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I am delighted to report my first dahlia flower – not one of those bright stunners but a rather subtle white and green affair.  It’s blanc y verde from a Sarah Raven collection.

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The penstemons are coming through now.  I thought I had carefully recorded the name of this one when it was purchased, but no.  I think it was firebird but could it be garnet?  Maybe there is a pot somewhere with a label on it!

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It’s still June, so I’m still featuring roses.  I really like this one because it is so different to my other roses.  It’s Jaqueline du Pre, a semi double Harkness rose.  I love the stamens.

For all the links to sixes from gardens around the world go to The Propagator’s blog – all the ups and downs of gardening and gyo will be on display.

Six On Saturday: How does your garden grow?

Quite contrarily is my answer! After the slug onslaught the aphids have arrived. Blackfly on the dahlias, nasturtiums and echinops and greenfly elsewhere. It hasn’t rained here in yonks, the onions are ‘delicately’ sized and the parsnips are refusing to play ball.  They are tempting me with one or two possible cotyledons but maybe I am deceiving myself. I continue to water in hope rather than expectation.  Let’s see if there are any silver bells or cockle shells to be found:

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The containers, planted up in May, are coming along well.  Cheering me up on the whole, until I realise they are verging on the dessicated!

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The carrots, that were also proving a little reluctant, finally came good in a third direct sowing.  This time I cast them onto the soil and sprinkled a little potting compost over the top.  Who knows why they decided to germinate this time!  I just have to keep them watered now.

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The courgettes, bought as small plants from the Finchley Horticultural Society plant sale, are no trouble.  Oh, I forgot.  They do need watering.  But maybe the drought conditions will keep them on the manageable side.  The lovely flower and yellow fruit cheer me up on the way to the parsnip inspection.

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The gooseberries had quite a late pruning and the crop does not seem so bumper this year.  But is this because I have yet to net them from the birds? Sigh, I do have a lot of netting to do.  The blackcurrants, which I really took in hand – thinning them out ruthlessly – are doing well.  They are beginning to ripen, but you guessed it, they haven’t been netted yet either.

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Contrary, but in a good way, is the lemon tree.  Looking for all the world like it was dead and gone after a good chilling in the greenhouse over winter, it was subjected to not one but two cut backs and has responded well.  The glossy green leaves and the beautiful scent coming from the one or two flowers it has put out more than make up for the odd shape.  Good to see.

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A rose, Scepter’d Isle. Absolutely lovely.  These are my pretty maids all in row!

I hope your plots, veg patches and gardens are giving you joy.  There are lots of superb photos of the strawberry crop out there on twitter, which are underlining the need to replace my tired specimens, inherited from previous owner and cropping poorly.  Visit  The Propagator,  our host’s blog for more gardening encouragements: good things we can aspire to and duff things that we share the pain of.  No grammar corrections please! 🙂

Six On Saturday: Reaching the heights or lost in the foothills?

I’ve definitely had the feeling of losing the battle this week.  Slugs and snails are eating their way through the young plants – cosmos, lettuce, borlotti beans are high among the casualties.  The parsnips are refusing to germinate – third sowing and the last! And it looks like the fox has taken a shine to wandering through the agastache at night. I’m also losing the battle to keep everything watered, no rain and the water butts are empty again.  It looks grim.  But this is Saturday and optimism rules:

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Definitely reaching the heights are these delphiniums, I think they must be six feet tall.  Taken as a division from the parental garden many years ago, they were divided again when we moved here and I am very pleased to see them thriving this year. I was meticulous about staking and tying them in but they have exceeded my expectations!

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Also climbing upwards are the stems of Knautia macedonica.  These were planted out from 9cm pots last autumn and have settled down well.  They seem slug proof unlike some of the plants I have recklessly invested in.  Fortunately I remembered to stake them – just in time.  The bees love them.

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Down in the foothills where most of the slug damage is being done are these delightful dianthus deltoides.  They sulked after the garden move last year but have come good now.  No damage to report.

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Up again in the heights is this lovely clematis, inherited from the previous owner.  I thought I had killed it last year as I tried to separate it out from the bindweed and lemon balm but it made a comeback.

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A combination of higher foothills and the heights is provided by the lovely rose Blush Noisette and the Astrantia Claret featured in an early six.

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And seeming to be safe in the foothills but, I hope, heading for the heights are these Tithonias.  Grown from seed, one group was planted out a few weeks ago, straight from modules into the ground.  The other group I potted on, returned them to the greenhouse and finally planted them out in the week. This group has made much more growth.  So it looks like potting on is the best option.  The final height is said to be 8 feet.  I’ll report back!

It’s June and I hoped I would be pottering by now.  Well almost, I have some spare cosmos and some zinnias which really do need to go out.  And I’m going to count watering as pottering – so nearly there.  I hope you are too.  Take a look at  The Propagator’s blog , where you’ll find the host of this meme, the ‘rule book’ and all the links to other sixer posts.

Six On Saturday: Temptations resisted?

The first temptation has been resisted.  Having spent last weekend removing slugs from the border, it put me in mind of the children’s song about worms ‘Big fat juicy ones, Tiny little squiggly ones’ and I was tempted to post six varieties of slugs.  But we’ve all had enough of them haven’t we?

I was also tempted to post six geraniums or six roses.  I think I’ve also bought at least six new plants in the last month – temptations not resisted.  I decided to mix it up:

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A rose and geranium combination in recognition of the arrival of June.  The rose is Gertrude Jekyll, so beautifully scented.  It really does fill the air with perfume.  The geranium is Brookside.  This is definitely asserting itself this year, the long stems thread round the other planting giving height to the border.  The RHS say stems are reasonably short at 50 cms but I would say medium height.

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A rose and lavender combination and one of the new plants bought.  The rose is Natasha Richardson, opening pink and fading to a pale pink.  I was wondering what to underplant it with and eventually realised that the French Lavender living next door looked a good combination so I bought one more to plant towards the front.

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A geranium on its own.  The eye popping Geranium psilostomen, also in its second year and achieving an impressive height.  It is pretty much self supporting although I have put a hoop in on the path side to keep it in its place.

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Another new plant: Salvia Armistad.  Featured more for the slug damage to the lower leaves.  I did wonder if this will survive a winter in my clay soil but decided to try it out.  On second thoughts it might not survive the summer if the slugs keep munching it.  I am going to try nematodes.

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Last year I extended my collection of Astrantias.  I added Roma to the border.  It’s not come through as pink as I was expecting but I will give it time to settle.  It’s subtlety might be what the border needs.  I’ve already decided the geum in the back needs to be moved. Pink and yellow is not my favourite combination.

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I can’t resist the temptation to revisit one of last week’s six.  I must say thank you to  Jim Stephens  John Kingdom and Tony Tomeo  who gave me advice on the two tier rhododendron.  With their help I’ve discovered that my ancient plant is the invasive, common R. ponticum.  I’ve been up the ladder to take a photo of the the top tier which is now in flower and I think the top and bottom are the same, that is, it is not a more rarefied rhoddie grafted on to the ponticum root stock. It’s quite a monster and dominates that side of the garden so it does need to be tamed a little.  I think I’ll be getting help with that one.  The first photo is the bottom flower, the second the top tier flower, the third the whole tree and the fourth the tree as is looked last week.

Each new Six On Saturday post brings new temptations, this week a rose on  Thomas Stone’s blog  has caught my eye.  On the list for the autumn temptations!  Be tempted at The Propagator’s blog where you’ll find links to all the Sixes.

Six On Saturday: Stepping up a gear

Suddenly I have that feeling that I won’t get it all done in time.  But roses have been fed.  Seeds have finally been sown: Tithonia and nasturtium, carrots and leeks this week.  More annuals will be sown next week and those potatoes will be planted.  Here’s what’s in my garden today.

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A border was extended in November and I dug up a batch of bulbs to make way for the roses that will be the star attraction.  Impatiently I threw all in the bulbs in a corner of the border and forgot about them.  Of course with no care to the planting they have emerged as a perfect clump of colour.

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Continuing the yellow theme, the cowslips planted in a damp corner last year  have spread themselves out and look very settled.

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More spring colour on a subtler note comes from these Thalia narcissi.  I love the multi-stem format.  I’m mentally planning for next year and more of these are on the list.  I also want to plant some Paperwhite and White Lady narcissi together with a couple of clumps of Leucojum – now that I’ve perfected the planting in clumps technique.

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I thought that I had lost these fritillaries when all the work on the path was done.  But the new path is slightly narrower and these were just outside the trample zone. The slightly wider border is going to allow me to plant more of these too.

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The garden is full of birds and bird song at the moment.  I was planning to cut back the Verbena bonariensis but a charm of goldfinches were breakfasting on the seed heads this morning so I have been persuaded to leave that for another time.  Sadly  the free version of wordpress doesn’t allow video content so I can’t share the bird song, including the resident woodpecker, with you.  I’ll see if I can post to twitter (lol).

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Back down to earth: the inside of my shed!  The blackcurrants and gooseberries are all in leaf and I need to start thinking about how I protect them from those wonderful birds.  My favourite netting is the twisted coil of soft net but my local nursery has stopped stocking this one.  Last year I bought lengths of semi rigid plastic net which was easy to cut and fix to bamboo canes to make something resembling a fruit cage.  What do you use?  Do you have a favourite?

It is so amazing that so many are sharing their garden news under the Six on Saturday meme.  Go along to The Propagator and feast your eyes.  And keep gardening!

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.