Six on Saturday

Got to be quick today, off to play golf! Six things I found interesting this morning included this Waldsteinia ternata which I hardly notice for eleven months of the year but this morning it was resplendent and shouting to be admired, which I did.

Phizzy Pheasant. Not the sort of bird I encourage into the garden but he doesn’t seem to do any damage and just pecks around with his wife for an hour or so then disappears. The males can get very territorial and aggressive if they haven’t already found a partner but Phizzy is already paired up which is lucky for the postman!

Lovely peach Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles japonica, grown from a pip many years ago and now flowering in the drive border. The red, white and dark pink cousins are yet to appear.

An unusual double Anemone blanda which has popped up amongst the singles.

Flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum, nothing special but an excellent source of early nectar for bees and other essential pollinators.

Dhalia tubers shooting in the greenhouse are promise of a bright and colourful summer to come.

Enjoy your weekend.

Fore!

David

Six on Saturday

It has been a very good year for Narcissus and I am hoping it has something to do with the fact that I feed them with blood, fish & bone meal as they are coming through, before they flower. The botanical theory is that whilst they are pushing this year’s flower through the ground, the bulb is already forming next year’s flower so that is when they need nourishment, not after flowering as some would have you believe. It probably also has a lot to do with the weather, but that’s something we can’t control.

“Weed, feed, mulch” is my March/April mantra and the latter arrived on Wednesday ready for the weekend thanks to those nice people from Earth Cycle https://earthcycle.co.uk/

A large ‘dumpy bag’ is approx 1000 litres and is just enough to cover my important beds and borders with a 30mm layer to prevent annual weeds germinating, conserve moisture and add essential depleted minerals and nutrients to the soil. It works out at 10p a litre delivered to my door which I think is good value. And, I get a free dumpy bag for hedge cuttings and a pallet for my next compost bin!

I have a little colony of white violets which comes back every year and is a charming addition to the beech hedge where it seems to thrive in the leaf litter. It has been invaded by foxglove seedlings this year but I will relocate those tomorrow.

The ‘May flowering’ Narcissus poeticus, or ‘Pheasant Eye’ narcissus, are rather early this year! They are normally the last to flower but are way ahead of schedule. But they are not alone………….

Just a red tulip, nothing special, left in the ground to take their chances, are already flowering at least a month earlier than last year. Odd! They are obviously happy in this front border and get well fed alongside the herbaceous perennials.

Chaenomeles, or Japanese Quince, are a wonderful sight at the moment. Forgotten for the rest of the year, hacked back in August when the hedges are cut, they seem to enjoy their brutal treatment and flower all the better for it.

I love the way some plants adapt to their position. This Iberis sempervirens has decided to fall gracefully over the step, just a year after being released from its pot in the new rose garden. It will flower for weeks and takes no maintenance. Please excuse the mice, they are someone else’s idea of cute!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Late to the party today due to some real, actual proper gardening. All day, since 9am, non-stop. Loved every minute and enjoyed the endorphins it brought me after so many weeks of waiting and planning.

The flowering currants are looking good today although still some way to go before that Ta-dah! moment.

This lucky Lady found a home with its own water supply for the winter. Several of her sisters unfortunately disturbed today but those that were awake got relocated to a new home.

Very pleased with my rose cuttings which have all seemingly formed roots and are sending up new growth. Those that know about such things tell me to leave well alone until next winter and then pot them up separately ‘bare rooted’ and they should flower in 2022. Am I alone in marvelling at such a thing? Even now, I get a huge kick out of bringing cuttings to life.

.My first time using Strulch as a weed suppressing mulch and I have started with my strawberries. The mineralisation process of the straw is supposed to inhibit slugs and snails so this was a good place to start! I have another 5 bags to go so watch this space for opinions and results.

The new shoots of Sambucas nigra ‘Black Lace’ are stunning before they unfurl into leaves.

Myrtle got hit by the frost. Her new shoots will be snipped off and she will look as pretty as ever in a new outfit next week.

The thick layer of composted bark fines I used to mulch the Silver Birches has not deterred the spring bulbs which have had an extra 75mm to push their way through. Another couple of years and it should be spectacular.

Have a great weekend and stay safe

David

Six on Saturday

Today is all about shooting! New shoots, everywhere. As soon as the days begin to lengthen and the skies brighten, plants sense it is time to get started again. This Photinia fraserii ‘Red Robin’ is a good example. It’s just a shame they will get clipped off at the end of April.

My growing collection of Day Lillies (Hemerocallis) is already up and away and I love the lush new foliage.

Roses, roses and more roses! This is their second year so they have only had a light pruning while they are still making roots. Sixteen new bareroot roses were planted last February and, I am relieved to say, they are all still alive!

The fat Wisteria buds are swelling nicely ready to burst into flower in April. This one is Wisteria chinensis ‘Prolific’, a delightful pale lavender blue. Still a very young plant but one which should easily clothe this year’s project, a pergola to screen the south facing patio.

The new shoots of Thalictrum ‘Anne’ which will easily put on 2m of growth by June and display her beautiful mauve flowers, each one with bright yellow stamens which must shine like beacons to the bees,

Early stirrings from the Tree Peonies.

The last remaining Snowdrops holding on for a few more days and welcoming the Chionodoxa (Scilla) under the Silver Birches.

Phlox and Aconitum racing away.

The Sweet Peas sowed last October and pinched out twice to restrain their tendency to get leggy in the greenhouse will hopefully get planted out in two weeks when the clocks go forwards if the weather is kind to us.

Have a great weekend and stay safe.

David

Six on Saturday

It was all going so well. Then I dropped my phone and smashed the screen. I say phone, but in truth it is my all encompassing communication device. You don’t realise just how important it is and how much you rely on it until you lose it, break it or have it taken away! Mine was sent off to a repair company in Kent never to see the light of day again. Written off, unserviceable, beyond economic repair – take your pick, it was bust and wouldn’t be repaired. Two weeks later and here we are again with a bright new shiny phone. Peace reigns, blood pressure has reduced, apps, contacts and photos have been restored thanks to Mr Google, and normal service has resumed.

My front door pots have been improved with the arrival of pink hyacinths in bloom. They were rescued from last year’s pots and have done well to flower so well again. Always a big decision whether to chuck it all away and start again fresh each year or try to save and store from year to year. I can’t bear to throw perfectly good plants, flowers or bulbs away, I will always try to find them a home and as my wife is fond of saying, “they’ve got two chances”.

Great excitement on Tuesday when the Which? Gardening Trial Seeds arrived in the post. The Dahlia ‘Bishops Children’, Bidens ‘Golden Nuggets’ and Agastache ‘Liquorice Blue’ were sown immediately and put in the heated propagator. The beefsteak tomato, French beans and lettuce will be sown later this month or April. I enjoy monitoring the performance issues requested and giving feedback at the end of the season. It makes an interesting distraction from growing just for pleasure.

This is proof that it is wise to follow good practice and leave the top growth on Penstemons until after the last frost. The new growth below is protected whilst the old growth takes the hit. I cut mine back by a third in December to prevent the wind from rocking themselves out of the ground. I also take a dozen cuttings just in case and pass them to friends if I don’t need them. This one is ‘Hidcote Pink’, probably the hardiest and longest lived of them all.

Just a random daffodil but one with the most gorgeous two tone orange trumpet backed by chucky egg yellow petals. Nothing special to a narcissus connoisseur but special to me and hopefully the people passing by.

The Euphorbia characias has perked up after all the snow, frost, wind and rain of January and February and is now almost upright again. A self sown two year old who will probably have to be relocated or passed on to a friend before it becomes huge and blocks the path. There are plenty more seedlings springing up in the wrong place too! Fortunately they re-establish easily when young so I pot them up and grow them on. People pay good money for what some would consider ‘nuisance’ plants.

If I’m not around next Saturday, it will be due to the Magic Money Plant and its unique powers of influencing the Camelot balls to drop in the right order. I’m in it to win it!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Tuesday!

I am blaming the Covid vaccination for my tardiness, I had a bad reaction and felt a bit down last week so missed my usual Six on Saturday slot. Still, better late than never!

These Devon violets are enjoying their unexpected transfer to Gloucestershire and spreading like mad in the poor soil above a dry stone wall. One of my favourite spring flowers and a reminder that pretty and tough is a great combination.

Seed sowing has started but only some hardy annuals for my planned mini-meadow around the apple tree. Ox-Eye Daisies, Cornflowers, Linaria, Phacelia and Nigella at the moment. Patience required for the rest! Seed box sorted, order of sowing selected, pots cleaned, compost purchased, propagator soil warming cable turned on and working. All too easy to jump the starting gun!

I am not as keen on Snowdrops as many of my friends, and certainly wouldn’t spend the kind of money some do on some of the rarer varieties, but I have to admit to being quite excited about the doubles. This Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ is quite a stunner when turned up to reveal her underskirts.

The Snowdrops and Cyclamen are looking happy in the spring sunshine today. Amazing to think they were hidden by snow just two weeks ago. Soon they will be joined by a carpet of Anemone blanda in blues, pinks and white. They are just poking their heads above ground to check their timing.

The early narcissus are now braving the wind and rain but only the toughest can stand up tall and straight like these. Others have their heads bowed and may not fully recover their posture. There must be a perfect ratio of height, stem thickness and flower size which makes some of the less fashionable stalwarts shrug off the elements, while other taller young ladies with spindly legs crumble under the weight of their Easter bonnets.

Finally, a rather sorry-looking clump of Euphorbia characias, battered and bruised from wind, rain, frost and snow, is now beginning to lift its head to the skies to welcome the sunshine. Considering its natural home is the dry rocky slopes of the southern Mediterranean it must be fed up with our weather! Like us all, it will recover and in a few weeks won’t remember what all the fuss was about!

Bye for now

David

Six on Saturday

It will be my first attempt at growing tuberous begonias this year and I am just stunned by how such unpromising, shrivelled, brown gnarly things could possibly produce such beauty and abundance. Of course, they may not! Like a lot of advertising these days, the picture on the right may be after ten years! However, from little acorns (tubers)……….

My little patch of hardy Cyclamen coum have doubled since last year but are still very few. Mind you, they started from one pink and one white so haven’t done bad. They seem to like it under the Silver Birches in the leaf litter and composted bark mulch. I am told they are mostly propagated by ants which like the sticky sweet coating on the seeds and disperse them in the process. I do have a lot of ants! Every year my lawn resembles seaside sand dunes in summer thanks to the ants and their elaborate tunnel highways.

My first vase of home grown early daffs. Hopefully the first of many. These were picked in bud and opened within a few hours of being brought indoors. Remarkable! Nature never ceases to amaze me!

This is year one of the transplanted snowdrops and, understandably, a bit sparse as yet!. Received wisdom from those in the know suggested planting “groups of six bulbs 12″ apart” which is roughly what I did. Eventually, the groups are all supposed to join up and look ‘au naturel’. It will be awhile!

The Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ shrugged off last weeks snow and are resplendent in their powder blue and speckled yellow. But, who was Katharine Hodgkin? A quick internet search revealed only that she was raised by EB Anderson in the 1960s but not who the elusive Katharine was. Wife? Mistress? Neighbour? Answers on a postcard please.

They are going to regret it! Surely these tulip ‘Queen of Night’ are emerging far too early? They normally don’t appear until March to flower in May. They have done well to survive at all from year to year in my clay soil., This is their fourth year in the ground without any cosseting or covering so I am impressed with their resilience, if not their timing!

Have a great weekend.

Wrap up warm, it’s going to be cold out there!

David

Six on Saturday

This is going to be a fudge because I have yet to set foot outside today. When I woke at 6am it had already been raining for hours and it continued all morning, turning into sleet and finally into snow. I don’t mind telling you, it depresses me! I believe I suffer from the winter malady known as Seasonal Affective Disorder which makes me withdraw into my shell and become moody and more irritating than usual. My poor wife, she is a hero!

Never mind, I am going to win the Lotto ‘quadruple rollover’ tonight which will magically make everything all right! Lurking behind my desktop computer is a pot of Crassula ovata cuttings, otherwise known as the Jade plant or, as my mother called it, the Money Plant! I am following a family tradition and placing my lottery ticket on the Money Plant which will obviously induce a massive win. I know what you’re thinking and no, my mother never won a thing, not a sausage! Neither have I, well nothing big; the occasional free lucky dip but nothing more. But tonight, of course, is going to be different!

Because rain stopped play today, out came the seed boxes and planning was in full swing. This is just a small sample of the many seeds which will get a chance at gracing my garden this year and next. Some of them are old HPS and CGS seed exchange seeds going back to 2014! However, if just 10% germinate I will be happy. Who needs 250 Antirrhinums anyway?!

So, as I haven’t got a lot of lovely photos to show you today, here are some I prepared earlier, a lot earlier! A taste of better things to come regardless of whether we are allowed to get together with family and friends. Our gardens will still bloom and provide comfort.

Zinnia ‘Envy’ with Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder’, two of the best pollinator plants you can grow from seed to flower in the same year. These are on the list for this year along with

this unusual Nicotiana ‘Mutabilis’ which, as the name suggests, has different coloured flowers varying from lime green, yellow and pink to brick red and cream. The evening scent to attract pollinating moths is quite strong although not as strong as the sylvestris species. The saved seeds are from 2018 but enough should germinate.

One of the top three bee pollinators in my garden is Agastache foeniculum or Giant Hyssop, which I propagate every few years to replace the old plants which are short lived. This white one came from a packet of ‘Liquorice Blue’ seeds but no matter; the bees loved it all the same!

The little Canna iridiflora is easy from the ‘Indian shot’ seeds I save each year. It is pretty and adds an exotic touch in a pot on the patio. It is a great talking point and, if we ever have any visitors again, will no doubt do the same again this year. The huge Tropicana Cannas in the hot border now stay in the ground all year and reached almost 2m last year, but these diminutive versions are rather more tender and I treat them as annuals.

My final offering is another moth pollinated annual which I grow for fun, Zaluzianskya ovata or Night Phlox. It is easy from seed and sits in a pot on the patio table where, on warm summer evenings, it opens and emits the most delicious fragrance to attracts moths and other night flying insects. During the day the purple flower buds are closed tight to avoid the sun. Nature is wonderful!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend

Stay safe

David

Six on Saturday

We are forecast to get 6 inches of snow tonight so things will look a bit different tomorrow!

These emerging Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ and crocuses will definitely be buried but they are tough and will enjoy their cosy blanket.

The snowdrops won’t mind either. Much tougher than they look. This little clump was lifted and divided last year and recovered as if nothing had happened.

I have been very impressed with these sweet Scabious, Scabiosa atropurpurea, which seem totally hardy and seed themselves around, even in my cold alkaline clay soil. Considering they come from around Greece and Turkey, they do well in Cheltenham! I am never quite sure what colour I am going to get which is half the attraction.

I am not so impressed with the Dutch Iris I made the mistake of planting some years ago when I got them as a free gift with an order from J Parker Bulbs. For many months they look like a straggly weed and then flower, very briefly after which the foliage usually folds itself flat on the ground until it turns brown and is removed. Not what I would describe as a good value plant. No wonder they were giving them away!

This Euphorbia palustris however, is an absolute cracker of a plant and gets five stars for being hardy, reliable, a strong grower and a statuesque beauty. Needs a bit of support, but don’t we all!

Remarkably, here we are in late January and the Poinsettia I bought back in November is still going strong. Usually by now, all the lower green leaves would have dropped off and it would be looking a little skeletal. I found the answer to a healthy Poinsettia – cold tea. Yes, the dregs from the teapot seem to be a fine tonic and keep it looking perky!

That’s my Six for this Saturday.

Now, where did I put that snow shovel?!

David