Six On Saturday: The borders take shape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Six On Saturday: Snow, sowing and growing

Clearly I have been spending too much time in the garden scouting out goodies for the Six On Saturday show.  I should have been cosy and warm inside reading the seed catalogues.  This has now been rectified and some seeds are on their way.  But it was the snow that arrived on  Wednesday.

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Wednesday was also the day scheduled for the builder to come and destroy  the brick walls of the old compost heap.  Bless him! He did come and the walls are no more.  I have three wooden bins ready to be installed but they can wait for warmer weather.  It was good day despite the snow.  All the garden rubbish went into the skip plus plenty more from the house.  The builder did not get frostbite and I didn’t run out of tea or milk!

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We moved to this house in 2016 and the garden was in need of a good weed and the addition of some new plants.  Each year another little patch of the garden gets my attention.  Last summer I managed to get this corner trellised and planted clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’.  It was a lovely surprise this week to see it putting on new growth and buds.

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For some unknown reason I missed planting out shallots and autumn onions.  Last year’s weather and lack of watering on my part did not lead to a bumper crop and the last few from the store have gone soft and been consigned to the bin.  The shallots did store better and they have encouraged me to try again.  A visit to the nursery is now urgent if I am going to get some purchases made before they sell out.

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I have been muttering for weeks that it is time to sow some sweet peas and as February approaches I feel that I might actually do it.  I find I always start talking about sowing sweet peas early but then actually do it a bit later.  These are my first two choices for this year but I am on the look out for a couple of extra packets, just in case.

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It’s still too early for me to be sowing tomato seeds but this year I do have some!  Last year in a bid to increase the number of varieties grown but decrease the number of plants I limited myself to six plants bought from my local plant sale.  This year I want to try ‘Green Zebra’.  For more variety I chose this seed collection which gives ‘Marmande’,  ‘San Marzano 2’ and a new (for me) yellow variety to grow – ‘Golden Sunrise’.  The ‘Green Zebra’ had to be bought separately.  I’m also looking forward to trying ‘Tigerella’.

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Here’s the compost area without it’s walls.  Once the bins are constructed I will see what tidying up I have to do round the edges.

All done for another week,  Mr P will be showcasing his goodies plus links to posts from around the gardening world.  Stop by and take a look.

Six On Saturday: Call yourself a gardener?

At this time of the year the garden here becomes shadier.  The sun slips lower in the sky and neighbouring trees cast their shadows.  Like the garden I am sliding towards my winter dormancy. But before I curl up there are a few more sixes to be posted.  Recently  I have muttered to myself, ‘Call yourself a gardener?’

The first was on the tragic occasion of admiring the emerging flower stem of a nerine and seconds later stepping on it.  The second on dead heading a rose still in flower, which was swiftly followed by chopping back branches on the tomato plants and finding a perfectly formed truss of green tomatoes among them.  But these things happen, don’t they?

My first six is also a disappointment

IMG_2908This week I dug up the last of my sarpo mira potatoes.  This is the total haul from two plants.  Barely enough to mash and I was certainly crushed.

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IMG_2909 (2)The tale of woe continued.  Into the greenhouse I went to pick some tomatoes.  I noticed that the romano peppers needed tying in again.  But as I brought the stems together to tie them in they snapped.  But these things happen, don’t they?  This photo was taken after a good many of the peppers had been used for the evening meal.

The sun was shining on these tragic events and the birds were singing so even as I chastised myself for not staking, not tying in, not watering, not being more careful, and not being out in the garden more I couldn’t avoid seeing some positives and here they are.

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IMG_2910This bright cheerful zinnia, grown from a tiny seed, continues to shine.

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IMG_2914The astrantia major are flowering again.

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IMG_2913Autumn is coming and softer colours take their place in the garden.  I call these ice plants but I’m going to venture to suggest the Latin name of Hylotelephium spectabile.  Yes or No?

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Miracles happen.  Last week I featured the bulbs of Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’, which had just arrived.  I planted them the very same day, idly thinking that I would have to wait a year before the flowered.  That would give me time to spread out the lamb’s ear plants that I wanted to surround them.  This week I found this amazing sight.

IMG_2916So I add to my crimes, ignorance.  I had no idea the bulbs would flower this year.  What a blissful ignorance it was.  Without it I would not have been half so thrilled and excited as I was when I saw this flower and I didn’t step on it!

Gardeners come with different skill levels and it is great fun to be part of The Propagator’s Six On Saturday crowd, where we are all sharing, learning and always enjoying gardening.  I really recommend you stop by and take a look.

 

 

 

Six on Saturday: There’s a new wave coming

Every now and then a song gets stuck in my head and this week it is Kids in America by Kim Wilde. Kim’s a bit of gardener too btw, so it seems very appropriate.   If you don’t know the song I recommend you look at Kim’s performance of it on the train!

So as Kim says ‘there’s a new wave coming, I warn you’ and this week I am feeling more positive about the garden.  It actually rained last night for about 30 minutes and although there may be a few pests and diseases around the garden is shaping up for mid and late summer.  And here are the highlights:

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My first uplifting delight was spotting a flower on the Tithonias.  They were grown from seed and the packet indicates a final height of eight feet.  I’d say they are about four feet now and are full of promise. They should see me through into autumn.

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Somewhere along the way last year I picked up a recommendation for the Penstemon Sour Grapes and I would love to say thank you to whoever it was that put this plant onto my wish list.  I do thank you but I can’t remember who it was!  I planted it in amongst the Agastache Black Adder featured last week and, if I may say so, I think it works very well.

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I am also bowled over, as I am every year, by the evergreen agapanthus that I grow in containers.  They did look a sorry sight at the end of winter.  But those brown leaves were removed, a granular fertiliser added to the pots and now patience has been rewarded.  They are truly a wow in the garden for the second half of summer.

The second half of the summer is also the time when the veg patch starts producing.  Of course my lack of watering and the absence of rain has had an impact.  My courgettes are tiny – hard to believe I know. The new potatoes, first batch lifted this week, were also on the small side.  But they were truly delicious as was the first outdoor cucumber.  In the greenhouse the melons and tomatoes are rather like this Six – long and rambling!

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Last year the melon I grew suffered from red spider mite, thank you to Fred, a French gardener  for diagnosing this for me, and only one flower made it into a fruit.  This year I have been overwhelmed.   I tried to follow the RHS advice: ‘When fruit are gooseberry size, select the best four on each stem and remove all other flowers, fruit and leaves.  Stop the side shoots two or three leaves beyond these fruits, pinch out the main growing tips and remove new growths as they appear.’ But a week away from the greenhouse and I cannot tell a side shoot from a main growing tip and who knows which is new growth!  I am just cutting back to points where fruit has formed.  The variety is Pepito F1.  So far no mites!

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The whole greenhouse experience is new to me.  Last year I grew a few cherry tomatoes under the glass and they were quite well behaved.  This year the three varieties I chose, Alicante, Golden Crown and Marmande, have gone crazy.  Side shoots doubling in size by the day, leaf growth in abundance and finally a few tomatoes!  It doesn’t look like the marmande is producing well but we shall see.  These are alicante, they are not ready for picking yet but not long now.

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I thoroughly recommend Thomas Stone’s blogs in general and especially anything he posts on roses such as this one on moss roses.   I must extend my rose collection but for the moment mine are all repeat flowering english roses.  They do keep coming.  I gave them all a rose feed a few weeks ago, watered it in and the flowers are coming through once more.  This is Natasha Richardson.  I’ve shown it before and I include it again because it I was pleased that it too is a part of the new wave.

I always recommend this meme and the host The Propagator  as a great way to see what is going on in gardens around the world.  The people who post under #SixOnSaturday are all great sharers of their the knowledge and experience and I want to thank everyone for helping me grow my own knowledge.  Last week I posted a picture of my under the weather apple tree.  I looks like it has fireblight and I thank Tony Tomeo for sharing his knowledge.  Loving you all!!

 

 

Six on Saturday: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

 

It was the best time to spend a week on the Suffolk coast. High temperatures, blue skies and lazy days. But the worst time to leave the garden. First the best.

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A stop at the Beth Chatto gardens was made en route. I wanted to purchase Convolvulus cneorum, also known as shrubby bindweed.  It seemed strange to be looking for a plant with convolvulus in its name when most of us are digging out its less popular relative. But Christopher Lloyd planted it with  Erigeron karvinskianus and if it worked for him I’m going to give it a go.  It seems very popular in Suffolk:  I found it growing in the holiday garden alongside bindweed and I was soon spotting it everywhere. The silver foliage looked wonderful in the sunshine.

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If I maybe allowed to stretch the rules, here’s one I would like to have in my garden. It’s the scabious ‘Stafa’ planted here with knautia macedonica. This is a photo from the Beth Chatto garden.

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So there I was having a lovely time on the coast, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the North Sea, vaguely aware that temperatures were soaring elsewhere, when idly checking in on Twitter I come across a conversation between The Propagator and Fred, a French gardener discussing drip feed systems for the greenhouse tomatoes and the constant watering required elsewhere.  I had soaked the greenhouse plants before I left, left seedlings in trays of water and given the garden as much of a soak as I could.  What would I find on my return?  The plant here – which I confess is not in my garden – is marram grass.

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Well the hollyhocks seemed to have enjoyed the heat.  These have been grown from seed gathered from the old allotment plot.  I thought I had collected the deep burgundy ones.  Last year’s  seedlings came up yellow and this year’s are white.  So far not a burgundy flower among them.  But they are very impressive.

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In the greenhouse, the tomatoes had just about held on, the chillies and basil were drooping and an optimistically sown tray of tagetes had shrivelled to a crisp.  I was relieved to see that the only two euphorbia seeds to germinate had made it through as had some potted on Ammi visnaga – who where very tardy in their germination.  I had recently been given two young plants of Japanese cucumbers which had also just survived.

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The best news was that the blackcurrants, which grow on a shady side of the garden are just ripe – so the job for today is picking them before they go over.

I’ll also be doing a week’s worth of dead heading – the roses look a sorry sight, plenty more watering and planting out the japanese cucumbers and my new bindweed!  Visit The Propagator  to see what other SoSers are doing this weekend.  Enjoy the sunshine.

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: The strange case of the two tier rhododendron and other oddities

So Monty Don recently said  ‘Gardening is easy. Stick it in the ground the right way up and most plants will grow perfectly well.’ Which is essentially true but every now and then strange things happen:

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I think I know why my rhoddy looks like this.  It’s possible that the tree was planted soon after the house was built, which would make it about 100 years old.  I think it had been left to its own devices and being on a north facing border it had reached forward for some sun.  I think the previous owner then cut it back hard at the bottom to regain some of the lawn.  My evidence: when we moved in I discovered a large pile of wood stashed behind the foliage.  Since then the bottom of the tree has regenerated and this year has put out some fabulously healthy flowers and more luscious green leaves.  But the top of the tree struggles on with yellowing leaves and smaller and much later flowers.  My guess is the bottom is sapping the energy of the top.  So do I radically cut back the top, probably reducing the height by half – which feels like vandalism, but if it needs to be done….or do I lightly prune the top every year until the tree balances itself out again?  It has plenty of water and although north facing it does get early morning and late afternoon sun so I think the conditions are okay.  Any thoughts?

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This beautiful iris came free, picked up from the allotment sharing bench.  I think it is  ‘White City’ and last year they were all the palest blue colour fading to white.  This year there is an interloper.  Now since it was a large clump divided from an even larger clump maybe the purple iris has been there all along and has only  just flowered. Or has it been cross pollinated?  Either way I am enjoying them both.

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Is my Sneezeweed trying to tell me something?  I bought some last year with the aim of adding some late colour to the borders but it has been in flower since May.  Label says ‘Flowering period: late summer’.  My, the year is going fast!

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Back to some normal happenings.  These stunning Siberian irises came as several divisions from a friend’s collection.  This is their second year in the garden and they have multiplied amazingly, definitely a case of growing perfectly well.

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The equally successful Astrantia ‘Claret’.  I did try to grow some from seed but that didn’t happen so I happily bought some 9cm pots which have bulked up well in their second year.  The roses in bud behind are ‘Blush Noisette’ – so close to popping but not for this week!

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I must give a shout out to the growers at the Finchley Horticultural Society who also seem to have the knack of making gardening easy.  I decided to diversify my tomato growing this year.  Instead of 15 plants of one variety grown from seed I have six plants of three varieties bought at last week’s plant sale.  I’ve missed the roller coast ride of raising them from seed but I’m going to enjoy the variety: Marmonde, Golden Crown  and Alicante.  I was also tempted by some chilli plants and a couple of Romano peppers.  I’ve taken the plunge this year and planted them direct into the soil instead of in grow bags.  Let’s see what the greenhouse soil has got in it!  I have grown my own basil which I’ll be planting around the tomatoes.

There’s an extra gardening day again in the UK.  Will it be hot and sunny, hot and thundery or a wash out?  Let’s hope we can all find a way to enjoy the weekend whatever.  More gardening stories can be found at The Propagator’s blog.  The contributors also seem to be growing very easily.