Six on Saturday

Everything is going bonkers! Weeds are outgrowing the plants, all the early flowerers have suddenly realised it’s mid-May and they had better get a shift on. The dry April has been replaced by ‘mixed’ weather conditions. Rain then sun then cloud then rain again, it just can’t make its mind up! This Cerinthe and the feverfew are fighting for position in the cottage garden border.

The Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus grown from seed a few years ago are delightfully scented and pack a real citrus yellow punch in late spring, way before the other taller varieties behind strut their stuff. I suppose it’s a survival of the fittest thing, get in early, do your thing, get out.

Have you ever seen anything more delicious than this?! Rosa ‘Boscobel’ is one of the best roses in my little collection and is one of the few David Austin roses that manage to hold their frilly heads up instead of drooping under the sheer weight of their flower power. Highly recommended if you are looking for a modern repeat flowering shrub rose with modest scent, healthy foliage and the most gorgeous flowers.

Nobody bothered to tell Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’ that it’s only mid-May and she shouldn’t be flowering just yet. She is starting subtly though, six inches off the ground so no-one can see!

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) should come with a warning label which says “regardless of what you would prefer, this plant will decide on its own position and grow accordingly”. Last year it was sown in the narrow cottage garden border where it flowered prolifically, went to seed and decided it preferred the adjoining gravel path, which has a weed suppressing membrane beneath! It needs no goodness, just to be left alone.

My Tradescantias are coming into flower and I am busy recording interesting things about their habits, flowering dates and cultivation. This one is Tradescantia bracteata from the mid-west of the United States and one of the shorter, more well behaved species. Delicate foliage and lavender blue flowers are a beautiful combination in a grassy plant, or weed as my wife calls them! Ah well, they feed my obsession and make me happy in my old age!

Have a great weekend, I am off trout fishing near Chipping Norton today to see if the Mayflies are about. Wish me luck!

David

Six on Saturday

Firsts

This weeks post is all about ‘Firsts’. First roses, ‘Let’s Celebrate’ is a good place to start. Sweetly scented, dark glossy healthy foliage and frilly baby pink flowers. What’s not to like.

Tulbaghia violacea, bit of a fuzzy photo but it was breezy! The first beautiful violet flowers and lots more to come. Simply stunning en masse or on its own, like this one.

Sweet Pea ‘Painted Lady’, one of the oldest varieties and still one of the best. The very first sweet pea to flower and just wait ’til next week!

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Summer Sky’. These two will be flowering for months producing armfuls of flowers for the house and for visiting friends. The perfect flower for a vase lasting at least 7 days and usually 10 if you keep shortening the stems and changing the water.

The French Lavender opened fully this morning and the bees were on it immediately. Totally neglected, on dreadful poor, dry soil in full sun and never watered. The perfect plant!

Leucanthemum vulgare, Oxeye daisies to you and me, right next to the neglected lavender and also ignored until now. Then, suddenly, this happens! One day you turn around and the boring green foliage erupts into flower and catches your attention. Stunning!

There it is then. Six firsts for a Saturday.

Enjoy your weekend.

David

Six on Saturday

Sometimes, the fresh new growth of trees and shrubs is just as beautiful as colourful flowers. Our purple beech hedge is amazing at this time of year as the tightly curled leaves emerge from the tight bud.

I rained last night and the drops of water made the new soft leaves look even more stunning.

I love the flowers of alliums but hate the leaves because I have a garden plagued with slugs and snails. The damp foliage attracts them like a magnet and this is the inevitable result. I visited an open garden near Malvern last weekend and a lady with 50 hostas told me she has no molluscs or slugs in her garden. I am not sure I believe her!

The autumn sown Sweet Peas are doing well and the first flowers are already forming. These will probably not be viable as the nights are still too cold but by the end of the month this obelisk should be covered with beautiful blue, white and pink flowers which will be picked every other day for the vase.

Geum ‘Banana Daiquiri’ given to me by a friend last year and loving its new home in the sunny border. One of the shorter geums which is ideal for placing beneath taller, later flowering perennials.

Viburnum Plicatum ‘Mariesii’ looking spectacular in the shrubbery this morning alongside the acid yellow of Euphorbia palustris and the backdrop of Photinia ‘Red Robin’

Finally for this week, I could fill a whole blog post with the myriad colours and forms of Aquilegia in my garden, most of which I did not plant. Some of them started off life as the ‘Barlow’ series many years ago but have morphed into all sorts of things now. More Ken & Deirdre Barlow than Nora Barlow!

Ah well, that’s my six for this Saturday. Off to take the granddaughter to Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford for the day. Gardening will have to wait until tomorrow!

Bye for now.

David

Six on Saturday

Tiny Mint Moth on a nepeta leaf. Just 5mm long and wide but perfect in every miniature detail.

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ at 7am unfurling her flowers to welcome the day. Simply stunning.

Dahlias in the greenhouse and growing rapidly. Overwintered 24 tubers this year in pots of old bulb compost and they have all survived. It’s going to be a fabulous display once I get them into the ground at the end of May.

I love this miniature Euphorbia cyparissias which scrambles through the front of the shrub bed. The intense acid yellow is a bit shouty but certainly livens up the border at this time of year before the aquilegias take over.

Peony flowered tulips with unusual stripey foliage which have been in the border for ten years and come back every year. No idea of the name but I just call them Mabel.

Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) with Erysimum ‘Parrish’s’ and Ophiopogon (Lilyturf), such a nice combo on the steps and will flower for weeks until the roses take over in June.

Got to dash, the sun’s out and I’ve got a million things to do in the garden!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

We are having a spell of frosty nights here in the Cotswolds and I am determined not to lose the emerging Wisteria flowers this year so out came the fleece on Wednesday and so far, so good. However, the forecast is saying -4 degs C tonight so fingers crossed!

The Amelanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus) is flowering and looks glorious on a sunny morning like this. Rather like magnolias, you have to enjoy their brief flowering period when it happens because it is fleeting.

Our 30m long hedge of Photinia x fraserii ‘Red Robin’ showing off its new red tips. It provides a useful wildlife corridor for Dunnocks and Blackbirds who scuttle around in the leaf litter beneath and stay safe from prying eyes!

I believe these are Narcissi ‘Ice Follies’ but I am not sure. They are certainly the largest headed daffodil in the garden and must have been here when we bought the bungalow in 2009 because we didn’t plant them. A happy accident with the Anemone blanda.

Never been keen on Kerria japonica. Scruffy, straggly things with yellow pom pom flowers and always seem to spread in the wrong places. This lot started at least 5m further up the border 10 years ago when I stupidly planted a freebie from a friend. I think their days are numbered!

Got to dash, I am off to our Cotswold Cottage Gardening Group meeting in the village today with some spare plants to sell and give to friends. To me, that’s the joy of gardening, sharing plants, ideas and experiences with other gardeners. I find them the nicest people of all.

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Glorious weather for late March but a return to frosty nights is forecast next week. Some things like this Chaenomeles won’t mind but I am very concerned about my young Wisteria chinensis ‘Prolific’.

Just as the flower buds were about to burst open, a late frost killed them all last year at about this time. So, it looks like fleece will be required for a week or so to protect the emerging flowers.

My latest attempt at a solitary bee nest box! Not sure how successful it will be but I have already noticed ‘C’ shaped notches being cut out of rose leaves so the leaf cutter bees are nesting somewhere!

The professionally made one is untouched at the moment but perhaps in a better position, not so exposed. I once had a bee trying to make a nest in a hole in my front door as I was trying to paint it!

The hardwood cuttings of rose ‘The Generous Gardener’ I took 18 months ago have rooted well in pots and the remaining 8 plants have been planted out around bent wire supports . The idea is to train the young stems up and over to form a bell shape, hopefully covered in soft pink flowers. I will let you know if it works in June!

Best year yet for my wife’s little Magnolia stellata. Last year it only had 5 flowers! Feeding and mulching has obviously worked this year.

Surely it’s too early for Tulips?! These obviously don’t think so. I have still got narcissi to open and some snowdrops in flower but tulips already. Bonkers!

The carpet of Anemone blanda is getting a lot of comments from passers-by at the moment. The flowers open and close with the sunshine and work well with the lemon yellow daffodils, primroses and pink Chionodoxa.

That’s all for now. Sadly, I have tested positive for Covid so will have to spend all weekend in the garden. Oh well, ho hum!

David

Six on Saturday

Euphorbia characias, nowhere near as tall as last year but with plenty of flowers to enjoy. Considering it is native to the hot and dry Mediterranean, it is a plant which has become well adapted to our wet winters. It it is happy enough to self seed everywhere too!

My congested bed of Hesperantha coccinea did not produce many flowers last year which was probably due to a lack of timely watering and exhausted soil. The RHS recommended lifting, dividing and replanting into soil with added compost so up they came! A bag of rich mushroom compost with added manure and a few fistfuls of Growmore should help them perform better.

Something I haven’t witnessed before is stripy Carex ‘flowering’ in my winter hanging basket. I just hope I don’t end up with seedlings popping up everywhere!

This week, I launched my new website to support my National Collection of Tradescantias. I have called it Spiderwort because that is the common name for the hardy species in North America. I would love you to have a look and let me know what you think of it so far!

The link is https://thespiderwortcollection.wordpress.com/

It is early days and I have a lot more information to upload, but any early thoughts would be welcome. The plan is to post updates at least weekly throughout the main growing season, April to August, and to record plant performance, pests and diseases, flower power and individual traits which die-hard enthusiasts should find interesting. However, I fully acknowledge that die-hard enthusiasts for this species are few and far between and I won’t be offended if you decide not to follow my Tradescantia journey of discovery!

Erysimum ‘Parrish’s’ continues to flower as it has done all winter long. I marvel at their stamina and flower power. She currently has darker flower colours than they will be in summer when the brick red and light purple will be added to the mauve. Unlike most Erysimums, this one enjoys being cut back hard in April to encourage new shoots.

I love the fresh new shoots of Roses. I also breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t kill them with my drastic pruning. Fingers crossed for no more hard frosts! I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to pruning roses; as well as taking out any diseased, dead, spindly and crossing stems, I like to have an open centre, varying heights and pruned to an outward facing bud. Many theories abound including the use of hedge trimmers and just a quick haircut, but I find pleasure and satisfaction in giving this job a bit more thought and care.

Finally, half a clump of Sanguisorba ‘Pink Tanna’ on it’s way to a friend’s garden in exchange for Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ already received and planted. Gardeners are such a generous bunch!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

The garden plants escaped any major storm damage. No fences down, greenhouse intact, trees all still the right way up. However, my very heavy and expensive glass topped patio table was upended and flew against the wall causing a million tiny bits of safety glass to spread themselves far and wide. I will be picking it up forever! Fortunately, Bramblecrest still provide replacements but at £180 + delivery, it was an expensive storm!

Finally, some decent weather has arrived after the storms and I can get out there and start some actual gardening. The 1000 litres of soil improver is still sitting on the drive where it has lain for two weeks untouched! The Anemone blanda is loving the sunshine between the showers and is stretching her little faces upwards to catch the early morning rays.

Th Cyclamen coum are hardier than their delicate appearance would suggest. They can take everything the weather throws at them. The snowdrops are gradually fading after giving a great show, even holding their flowers aloft in 70mph winds last week. Next, it’s the turn of the daffs and hyacinths.

This multi-headed little beauty always cheers me up when she appears. The label disappeared eons ago so I can’t help with a name.

I don’t have many Hellebores, I found that they all gradually turn out to be a sort of muddy purple colour but these are a couple of beauties.

Finally, a Wallflower, Erysimum cheiri, which was sown four years ago , has flowered every year since and looks better than ever. The books say it is a biennial but this one appears to be perennial. The solitary bumble bees were all over it today.

Well, that’s my six for this Saturday.

Have a great weekend.

David

Six on Saturday

Just a pretty Poly to welcome you all on this dreary, windy and wet Saturday morning. Thankfully, my finger and toe crossing worked and we came off relatively unscathed after Eunice came in like a wrecking ball yesterday. Just one piece of broken glass, two lost floor mats and an upturned wheelie bin. All roof tiles intact, all fence panels still in place and, best of all, no lasting damage to my garden plants or greenhouse.

I am sure we are all familiar with emerging Delphiniums, the gourmet food of slugs at this time of year. I don’t have many for that very reason. I just can’t bear the sight of munched plants and try to avoid hostas and other such slug and snail delicacies rather than use chemical solutions. However, discussing this with a friend recently, I was presented with this:

Delphinium requienii, a hardy biennial form from the South of France with thicker shiny leaves which slugs avoid! It grows on my friends allotment and is a prolific self-seeder there. It might as well be perennial, she says, because its offspring come true every year from seed. Different flowers from both perennial Delphinium and a different genus from annual Larkspur, this should become a permanent resident of my sunny herbaceous border.

The tall, late flowering, dark blue Agapanthus, which was becoming swamped beside a burgeoning Pittosporum tenuifolium, has been lifted and divided into 4 quarters this week, each one now in its own large pot. It didn’t seem to notice being hoicked out of the ground, sliced up with a spade and moved to a new home. It has continued to put on new shoots and is apparently perfectly happy.

On Monday, my Valentine’s Day present to my darling wife arrived on a lorry. 1000 litres of beautiful, dark, crumbly recycled green waste soil improver. She was not impressed. I tried to explain that this was the ultimate eco friendly, recycled, low carbon footprint alternative to red roses flown in from Kenya but she was having none of it. Looks like I will have it all to myself!

If anyone is interested in treating the other half to a similar gift, it came delivered on a pallet lorry from Earth Cycle in Chichester and this is their website. https://earthcycle.co.uk/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Pure%20Brand%2BUK%2BAll%2BSPART&Campaign=Pure%20Brand%2BUK%2BAll%2BSPART&Source={Bing}&Medium={cpc}&msclkid=99a752d3052c147231bd30c3cc99b51d

That’s it for this week. Next week I will be sharing some information about my new website all about my Tradescantia Collection which you can follow if you wish.

Have a safe weekend

David

Six on Saturday

It was time to pot-on the sweet peas this week to give them 6 weeks to establish a good root system before planting out at the end of March. Some people are surprised by me doing this. Most people grow them in a pot and then just plant that out, even though the roots have probably been going round the pot for many weeks trying to find water and nourishment. I think this additional stage is worthwhile to get stronger stocky plants which are well fed and better prepared for life outside when they are hardened off in mid-March. It only took a few days after pinching the tops out for them to start producing side shoots which will result in nice bushy plants with more flowering stems and therefore more flowers.

I sow two seeds into each cell of root trainers and, most of the time, both seeds grow. I don’t soak them or chit them as some recommend, I have never found this necessary if you plant fresh seed in October/November. As soon as they have grown two pairs of leaves I pinch out the top and let them start to produce side shoots. I start pinching out in mid January and by now they have all been pinched out and ready for potting-on.

The root trainers produce really good root systems and I think it is essential to give them plenty of room at this stage. I have tried cardboard toilet roll tubes but they just turn to mush and can only accommodate one seed. You also can’t pot them on unless you put the whole thing into a pot which seems to defeat the object of sowing them in the toilet roll tube in the first place! Root trainers are definitely the best.

The two little plants separate easily without any damage to the roots and are potted up individually in 9cm pots or, my preference which is Sweet Pea bags. Hard to come by these days, I think I bought mine from Roger Parsons many years ago. Like pots, they last for ever. However, I have given so many away over the years to intrigued friends that I now only have 30 left, so I use 9cm pots as well.

They both fit nicely in a mushroom tray for moving them about and watering and provide the same amount of compost and growing room. I don’t add any feed in the compost at this stage, other than what is already provided by the supplier in the bag. I don’t want to encourage too much soft growth before they are ready to go outside.

So there we are, Six on Saturday all about Sweet Peas! Sorry, but there’s not much else going on this week. Lots more next week though, February is weed, feed and mulch time and I have 1000 litres of blended soil conditioner arriving in a dumpy bag on Monday! Valentines Day present for the wife. So romantic!

Have a great weekend

David