Six On Saturday: I was surprised!

Surprised like most of us in the UK to have such warm temperatures in February at the beginning of this week and surprised to find a few more plants in flower.  I thought it was all looking a bit dull out there.  I haven’t really got to grips with flowering shrubs and early spring bulbs for the garden yet. But all in good time.   Here’s what surprised me this week:

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I could have sworn that I didn’t have any early daffs, but this tiny group of ‘Tete a Tete’ have just sprung up under a rose bush.  They must be a relic from past plantings and they look very well.  I am persuaded to add them to my bulb order wish list.

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These cowslips are from own planting.  They are in a sheltered corner and catch the morning sun.  I think they have been lured out by this week’s warmth.

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The north facing border must also been catching a few sunny rays.  The pulmonaria have opened up.  I originally had them in a south facing border but they were uprooted in the autumn and moved to the dark depths of the other side of the garden.  The slugs don’t seem to like them and I find their uncomplaining nature very agreeable!

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It’s a dangerous time to be out in the garden.  The bulbs are all coming through so I really must be careful where I put my feet as I try to keep on top of the weeds and slugs.  I’m also hoping there won’t be any casualties as a result of the dry summer weather.  I didn’t really think about the bulbs when I was mean with the watering.

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From a distance the clematis looked like a tangled mass of dried up browness.  Close up there was an impressive amount of new growth and it was quite clearly time for some pruning.  Job done!

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I have another skip on site.  For every project in the house there is the opportunity of sorting out something in the garden.   It’s curtains for the BBQ and the spotted laurel.  The laurel clearly got wind of its impending doom and put out some very attractive berries.  But my mind is made up – not a frequent occurrence – and the laurel will be gone by the end of the month.  The severely cracked BBQ has already been skipped and I have a larger seating area as a result.  Now I need to choose a garden bench.

I have a long wish list of plants that I have come across from reading the SOSs that get posted every week.  If you are looking for inspiration go to  The Propagator  for links to temptations for every season!

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Six on Saturday: Plan, plan and then cross fingers

Things are definitely on the move in the garden.  The bulbs are poking up their first leaves and here in London some of the perennials are beginning to stir.  Storm Eric poured in yesterday and is blowing itself out today.  The sun is shining and optimism is rising.

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There was a brief lull in the weather this week.  The snow disappeared and the ground wasn’t too wet so the opportunity was taken to plant out the asparagus crowns.  I dug out the trench, created the ‘w’ shaped profile and elegantly draped the crowns across the top.  The trench was then back-filled to just cover the crowns and over the coming weeks as the crowns send out shoots there will  be more back filling to ensure the crowns are well buried.  A scattering of fish bone and blood also went into the mix.  I opted for one long trench and I think I have space for a border of companion plants. Recommendations are to plant tomatoes and basil in an attempt to fend off asparagus beetle.  I am growing tomatoes from seed this year and I’m sure I will have some spare plants.  The extras can go by the side of the asparagus as a first barrier.  I’m happy to sow a few basil seeds as well.  That’s the first plan.  We’ll see if it works.

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The potatoes have been bought and chitting is underway.  The second plan is where to put the potatoes this year.  My veg plot has a three year rotation plot.  (I don’t grow brassicas).  Potatoes are followed by onions followed by root crops.  The lay out of the veg plot gives me two larger beds and then three thinner strips.  There is also one medium sized raised bed.  I have to decide if  I use the raised bed for half the potatoes and one of the larger smaller strips for the remainder.  You may be a little confused by now – as I am.  I have a few weeks to sort this all out.

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Beans will also have to fit into the plan and this year I am forgoing the climbing bean ‘Blue Lake’ in favour of a dwarf french bean.  The simple reason is I don’t enjoy untangling the beans and twine from the wig wam at the end of the season.  I also reasoned that the dwarf beans would fit very nicely into one of the thin strips.  A long term plan is to combine two of the thin strips, but that’s on the wish list.

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My final purchase of sweet peas seeds has been made.  Let’s see how ‘Iris’ and ‘Gwendoline’ get on with ‘April in Paris’.  The first batch of sweet peas was sown last weekend.  These will be sown in a week or two.

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Onion choices have also been made.  Sturon, Red Baron and Longor shallots.  I am going to start off the onions in modules this year ready to transplant as the weather becomes warmer.  A first time of trying this for me so fingers crossed here too.

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The first flower on the Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’  has appeared.  It is nestled under a Mahonia in the front garden.  Yes, Spring is on its way.

 

Six On Saturday: Is it summer, winter or spring?

The season is clearly changing but the garden seems to be in a state of confusion.  Here are six things from my garden this week.

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Natasha Richardson rose, one of the English roses that just keep on flowering.  Lovely pink flowers and new buds still appearing.  It could be summer!

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Penstemon ‘Plum Jerkum’.  This suffered in the scorching sun of summer but it is happily putting out new flowers now.  It was a great companion to the Tithonia, which truly does know summer is over and is slowly curling up at the edges.

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There are one or two last flowers on the rudbeckia but most have gone to seed.  I will leave them standing through the winter to give some shape to the border.

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The agastache ‘Black Adder’ is also in its winter clothing.  This was an absolute winner this year.  Great colour and always thrumming with the sound of bees.

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Elsewhere in the garden there are signs of Spring.  The primroses are out and offering a reminder that the slugs and snails are still active.

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At the very back of the garden in a shady sheltered corner the hellebores are putting out new flowers.  I am sure these didn’t appear last year until January.  This one is Pretty Ellen.

I’ve got bulb planting to do this weekend.  The start I made last weekend resulted in only 18 bulbs being planted.  As usual I was distracted.  The dahlias needed cutting back, zinnias were pulled up and some of the foxglove seedlings were planted out.  This weekend I will be trying to put a few tulips in the border without crashing in on those that are already there.  Could be interesting.  Wishing you all well with your gardening pleasures. If you want to see what everyone else is up to visit The Propagator for all the latest links to other Six On Saturday posts.

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: Limbering up

There have been the occasional forays out into the garden over winter but I have been mainly gardening from my armchair or computer.  That’s all about to change and it is important to make the right start.  It’s time to limber up, get those muscles going again and really importantly, stretch them out after your gardening session.  Take care of your back!  The warmer temperatures lured me into the garden and here is what I found.

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It’s not all flowers and veg out there.  I uncovered this creature whilst turning over a pile of turf that had been left to rot down.  He was buried under the soil and he quickly pushed his way back down again. It reminded me that the wildlife have pretty much had the run of the garden over the winter and I need to go carefully as I start to make my presence felt.

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The landscapers who laid the path left some free gifts.  I have two pieces of 6 x 2, which I am sure I will put to good use – or they can join the rest of my ‘might come in useful one day’ collection. I do have more immediate plans for these sections of re-enforcing  grid.  I’m going for the industrial chic look and will use them as supports for a climbing rose.  I will let you know how I get on.

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The hydrangea buds are bursting forth.  I think I’m pretty safe to cut back the old flower heads now, but I’m going to leave it another week – after I’ve seen what the next beast brings.

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Sweet pea update:  Gwendoline is just coming through, Black Knight is about an inch high, Midnight Blue is definitely making a show but Anniversary is a non starter at the moment.  All were sown on 15 February.  My pot of autumn sown sweet peas need to be planted out but I’m trying to get hold of some hazel poles.  Request made, response awaited.

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The mahonia in the front garden is about to shine forth.  The bees love it, the smell is great and it is one of the few yellows that I like in the garden.

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By contrast, a yellow I’m not so fond of:  the forsythia.  I find it just a bit too much to take en masse.  But a few branches in a vase are a definite statement of spring.

For more news of spring explore The Propagator’s blog.  I spied a lovely tulip bud there.  Happy Gardening: In the UK it’s time to spring forward with the clocks!

Six on Saturday: Paths

The much welcome higher temperatures are having their effect and growth in the garden is very apparent.  Roses, irises, phlox and clematis are all pushing out new shoots.  But I’ve not been doing much gardening this week.  I’ve been observing the garden through the window as the new path is being laid.

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IMG_2039My old path was broken, uneven and collected water.  The new path will be well drained, carefully sloped and smooth.  But I am already missing the patina and idiosyncrasies of the old path’s age.  The builders are taking great care to keep the new path clean but I will be out there soon rubbing in the mud and possibly some yoghurt!

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In another area of the garden I am replacing a very broken up brick path and here I am using brick again.  I’m slightly curious about the brick with the number on it but I feel much happier about this path as the clay bricks already have an aged feel.   This was the most dangerous path in the garden, twisted ankles beckoned at every step.  I am looking forward to striding down this path with confidence.

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IMG_2030 (1)The laying of the paths sadly means that some things in the garden get trampled on or have been dug up to allow for the base to be laid.  I don’t think I will see any fritillaries this year and I know that one or two tulips have been snapped off.  As I always say ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’.  And of course I will have the chance to add something new to omelette!  On the upside I will lose the ugly concrete edges and gain a precious couple of inches of border.

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IMG_2035I managed to get out the greenhouse this morning and was very pleased to see that the rocket seed sown on 16 February has germinated.  The sweet peas sown at the same time are only just breaking the surface but they too are on their way.

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IMG_2037My daffodils are still in bud, the pheasant eye narcissus are coming along but the pulmonaria is definitely in flower.  The clump was planted last year from divisions given to me by a friend.  I think I’m going to divide this up again this year and use it to soften the edges of that new path.

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IMG_2040And here’s a couple of new ingredients for that omelette.  Some nerines – bowdenii Ostara, and dahlias.  The dahlias are a combination of greeny whites and are destined for pots.  The path should be finished by Wednesday, whereupon I will become a gardener again.

I hope you have all been able to get to your garden and observe all the changes taking place.  Pop along to  The Propagator  to see what else is going on in gardens around the world.

 

 

 

 

Six on Saturday

I was going to dial in my apologies for this week.  There is much potential in the garden but could I really subject you to six photos of emerging shoots.  Could I cobble together something or would it end up a busted flush?  Well the social streak in me is strong and I enjoy being a part of the #SixOnSaturday meme so here I am again.

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As the new growth on the perennials comes through I cut back the old stems.  But the seed heads on these Agastache foeniculum can provide some winter interest in the border for a while longer.  They are  ‘Alabaster’ and give lovely white spires of flowers for the butterflies to feast on in the summer.

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Other plants do not fair so well over the winter.  Here are two plantings of Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’.  Those planted at the sunnier end of the border are holding their own but those at the shadier end are disappearing fast.  This is their first year in the garden so it will be interesting to see if they pull through.  But if not, I have the spot at the shadier end earmarked for some more hellebores.  It’s so important to have the right plant in the right place!

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Yes, here is another hellebore photo.  I am becoming a great fan of them and love it when the white ones catch the sun.

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There was a tweet in the week about a rosemary being in flower.  Yes, it is in my garden too.  This border has the sun from early morning to mid afternoon and with its back against the brickwork the rosemary does well here.

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Also doing well are the penstemons. Known for being on the tender side, the advice is not to cut them back until new growth starts to come through.  These penstemons have come through the winter in strong leaf but I won’t cut them back until the weather is warmer and then I will cut back to points of strong growth a couple of centimetres up from the ground.

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And here’s where I bust my flush!  It’s an emerging shoot.  No apologies for being excited to see so much new growth on this iris.  It is an allotment share from a well established clump and has a lovely tall stem with white flowers but I don’t know the variety.  I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and this shows that spring, although postponed for a week,  is on its way.

The Propagator is the place to go to read more #SixOnSaturday posts, just what’s needed after a chilly session in the garden.

Six on Saturday

After a productive morning in the garden I now present my #SixOnSaturday.  And it is not quite as I anticipated.  My plan was to sow a few seeds and get the pruning of those blackcurrant bushes finished off.  It was a frosty start so I thought a light brushing down of a few cobwebs in the potting shed would be a good warm up.

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We all have our favourite tools and for me brushing down the cobwebs is done with the old brown brush.  First I had to find it.  So the rickety old shed was emptied out.  The brush was found about half way through the emptying but I’d started so I had to finish.  First job of the day turned out to be a spring clean of the shed.  The second job – look away now if you are faint-hearted – was also shed related.  If you are ready, read on.

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The dangers of plastic bags to wildlife are much in the news and I can only think that this rat fell foul of one my garden refuse bags.  I’m not a great fan of sheds at the best of times and my survival instincts were on the alert for large spiders.  I was not expecting to find this.  But it was dead, recently so I think, and so I coped rather well.  Disposed of it, had a cup of tea and with nerves steadied, moved on to brush down those cobwebs.

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Whilst I had my feet up in January, those more resilient than I were washing down greenhouses, washing up pots and scrubbing plant labels clean.  Well today I made a start on a few of those jobs in preparation for a little bit of seed sowing. Once some of those jobs were done, sweet pea Black Knight, Gwendoline and Anniversary were planted in root trainers and the first rocket seeds were planted in modules. I decided against planting the half hardy antirrhinums as the greenhouse is on the cold side and I think they can wait until early March. As a bonus I’ve included the latest photos of the autumn sown love-in-a-mist and end of summer penstemon cuttings.

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I sowed the love-in-mist in seed trays and when I potted them on I took the chance of planting a few directly into the soil.  They have survived the winter so far.  In the background is one of the foxgloves sown from seed last year and planted out at the same time.  The foxglove should be in flower this year.

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A little dot of colour to end on.  The first of the anemones has pushed through and opened out.  I had thought the autumn mulch had buried them, but one or two are beginning to appear.

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The half price tray of white cyclamen bought a while ago are evolving.  They have begun to take a gentle pink blush.  I wasn’t expecting this either but I find it far preferable to the dead rat.

For more garden excitement from around the world go to The Propagator for this week’s links to a lovely selection of six on saturday, generally horticulturally related but with the occasional meander off the garden path.

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.