Six on Saturday

Another very cold and frosty morning in Cheltenham. Not a lot of activity at the moment other than rose pruning when the day warms up and assessing jobs to be done when February comes around. February is my weed/feed/mulch month and I am itching to get started.

These Chaenomeles japonica fruits are hanging on before they finally wither and drop off. In my garden, nothing seems to eat them. I have tried putting them out on the lawn for blackbirds, pigeons and other fruit eating birds but they are always ignored. Strange when you consider they are perfectly edible and apparently make good quince jelly.

Lots of fat buds on the Photinia fraserii ‘Red Robin’ bushes promising a good flush of red tips in April

The purple Honesty has almost shed all it’s mother of pearl seed discs, just leaving their ghostly outline. I am hoping for a good show next year if they decide to germinate. It is one of those plants that only seems happy if it decides where to grow itself. This one arrived by chance from the adjoining hedgerow where it revels in the poor soil and total lack of maintenance.

Even too cold for the snowdrops this morning and I don’t blame them. It was -5°C at 8am.. They will perk up once the sun warms them.

Such a beautiful clear blue sky silhouetting the birches. They had their annual trim this week to keep them looking good.

The prunings make good plant supports too!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Surveying the damage!

The snow of a week ago disappeared in just 24 hours leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. Anything remotely tender left in greenhouses, porches or sheds has been lost to the minus 10C we experienced here in the chilly Cotswolds.

Shrubs and perennials. normally robust and capable of withstanding ‘normal’ winter temperatures, were struck down under a thick blanket of snow which then froze for 7 days straight. This Penstemon ‘Hidcote Pink’ which I have had for 10 years is probably no more, the emerging shoots having been killed off.

Even the top growth of Pittosporum was frosted to death which is so unusual here, even in a relatively hard winter.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Amongst the death and dying, there is new life emerging from the cold soggy ground which provides hope of better times to come. The days are now getting longer, Christmas is nearly upon us and I have given myself a present to help to work off the turkey and keep me occupied next week when the family goes home.

Yes! A ton of fresh willow woodchip! My friend Tom, the local tree surgeon and all round good guy, turned up as promised with a load of free mulch for under the established trees and shrubs. Willow, according to Tom, is perfectly safe used fresh like this due to its lack of anything resinous or toxic, which is a problem with anything coniferous. Willow has a high water content and does not leach anything nasty into the soil as it breaks down.

And it looks like my Tradescantias have come through okay, their snow duvet having melted to reveal bedraggled but living foliage.

They may take a little tidying up and a good feed in the spring to coax them back into action, but they all seem to have proved they can withstand pretty bleak weather.

A very Merry Christmas to you all.

David

Six on Saturday

The snow and ice which blanketed the Cotswolds last Sunday is still here but only for a few more days according to the forecast. It has created beautiful wintry scenes but has also brought traffic to a standstill on side roads like ours. Fortunately, the Amazon deliveries have been getting through!

It is truly amazing that anything survives in temperatures of -7 degrees and I am waiting with baited breath to survey the damage. Some losses may not be evident until next year so I will keep my fingers crossed.

My major concern is for my National Collection of Tradescantias which is currently covered by a 4″ duvet of frozen snow. They are reputedly hardy to minus 10 degrees and I hope there is some truth in the theory that the snow actually helps to insulate them from the harshest night time temperatures.

This illustrates the reason to leave seed heads for the birds over winter. The Agastache, Rudbeckia and Echinacea have been a great source of food for Goldfinches and Tits over the last week. They are hard wired to do this, seemingly preferring the natural resources to the many birdfeeders I have around the garden. The Rowan and Pyracantha berries have been stripped by Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares as well as the odd Wood Pigeon, and I have seen more Thrushes in the last week than at any other time of the year.

Funny how everything becomes black and white in the snow! These roses should have been pruned by now but are a thing of beauty on a cold frosty day.

David looks very fetching in his white hat!

Have a great weekend

Hopefully back here on Christmas Eve!

David

Six on Saturday

Not a particularly inspiring or glamorous opening picture I admit, but a bunch of Dahlia tubers washed, labelled and upside down drying off in the shed is all I managed in the torrential rain this week. A dirty job for a filthy day but at least that is one ticked off the list.

A few weeks ago, a local gardener called Dave Matthews contacted me via my blog to ask if he could take some scion wood from my Rose ‘Jude the Obscure’ for grafting purposes. I had no difficulty finding this rose 3 years ago but it it has apparently since disappeared from sale. Of course, I agreed, and this morning he came from Stroud to Cheltenham to take some prunings which he proposes to graft onto another modern rose (not wild rose rootstock) to propagate it. Watch this space!

Although I am trying to discourage the prolific self-seeder Centranthus ruber, commonly called Red Valerian, from the beds and borders, it is quite a useful plant for gravel margins and dry stone walls where it happily grows on fresh air. There is certainly no soil or nutrient for at least 30cm under the gravel so how it survives is a mystery. Still flowering in late November and showing no sign of giving up yet.

I encourage Ivy to clothe my boundary fences because of its value to wildlife. I always have at least one Robin’s nest and one Wren’s nest in the Spring, the flowers provide nectar for wasps and bees in Autumn, and now the pollinated berries will shortly provide food for hungry Blackbirds and Pigeons over the winter. One of the very best plants to have in the garden if you don’t listen to the myths!

The pastel pink shrub rose ‘Bonica’ which has flowered repeatedly since May and will continue as long as this mild weather lasts. Not the strongest scent nor the prettiest shape but recommended for it’s sheer flower power and persistence.

I have found that one of the best cottage garden hardy annuals which self seeds is Cerinthe major purpurascens or Honeywort. One plant, if left to seed, will produce hundreds of offspring which can be easily lifted and potted up rather than trodden on in the gravel path!

Well, that’s it for another Saturday.

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

A bit late today due to a community bulb planting work party! It was fun working with other like minded gentle village friends, and 2000 Tete-a-Tete later we were all ready for a much needed cuppa! I came home and this Tradescantia (Andersoniana Group) ‘Iris Prichard’ was begging to be photographed as my first offering on this beautiful Saturday.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ in full flower and which has grown at remarkable speed to clothe a 6’x6′ trellis in just 3 years. Flowering a little earlier than the books say it should but it goes on all winter regardless of weather conditions. It is facing North so it brightens up a dark corner of the garden. Strongly recommended for its flower power.

Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot Lips’ just never stops flowering until the first hard frost shocks it into dormancy for another year. Such fantastic plants which are trouble free, perfect for pollinators and easy to maintain if you cut them back in two stages, a third now and a third in early April, otherwise they can get a bit leggy and straggly. This one has been moved around the garden three times and didn’t flinch.

The hardy Chrysanthemums didn’t like the rain last week and are showing a few signs of wear and tear but a Queen Bumble didn’t mind in today’s sunshine.

I love the changing shades of autumn colours on the Beech hedge. By trimming it in August it keeps its leaves over winter and provides welcome shelter for the garden birds. It also gives us more privacy and a wind break as this part of the garden is very exposed.

I moved the Tulbaghia violacea into the greenhouse weeks ago to dry it off for the winter but it is still warm enough for it to reward me with more beautiful violet flowers but also a sharp oniony smell when I open the greenhouse door in the morning. Ah well, you can’t have everything, beauty often comes at a price!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

It is getting more and more difficult to find six interesting things for the blog but some things, like this Rose ‘Camille Pissarro’ continue to surprise me. Flowering as strongly in November as he was in June and no sign of giving up any time soon.

This unnamed wallflower, not a perennial just one of the annual cheiri types, is still here after three years and producing lots of self sown seedlings. I left it because I like the flower colour, less gaudy than most and unobtrusive at any time of the year.

Earlier this year I resolved to link my seven old water butts together to try and capture as much rainwater as possible. However, I am not patient enough to stand while a watering can slowly fills from the tap. I am a dipper. I plunge my can in the open water butt at the top instead! The problem is that some of my butts are old juice barrels with no lid. So, I experimented with joining them all together at the bottom by their taps or outlets whereby they all empty at the same rate. This means my open dipping butt never seems to go down! Every time it rains, the water from my 18′ x 8′ shed and greenhouse fills 2 of the barrels which in turn fill the other 5. This gives me a constant 1500 litres of water all year round. The manifold of old hose pipe and ‘T’ pieces was a bit of a faff but it all works beautifully!

A few Saturdays ago I mentioned the self sown cosmos seedlings and wondered whether they would survive the winter. Well, I needn’t have worried because they have all flowered! Never had this happen before and I think it must have been the hot summer and mild autumn which promoted germination and flowering in just a few short weeks.

The shrubby salvias, like this ‘Trelissick’ are still going strong with lots more flower buds and fresh growth at the base. I tend to cut the top third off about now to avoid wind rock, but I can’t bring myself to do it just yet!

And finally, let’s end on Hardy Geranium ‘Orion’ which has been flowering non-stop since May and is a real stunner. One of the sterile hybrids like ‘Patricia’ and ‘Rozanne’, she keeps flowering in the vain hope that pollination will occur, and seeds will form, but they never do.

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

It rained every day this week which made weeding a lot easier in my claggy clay soil and I whizzed through my ever increasing ‘to do’ list. Darcey Bussell’s skirts got wet but she didn’t seem to mind!

The last Penstemon flowers of the season are hanging on to give the bees a treat on sunny days. They have put on a wonderful display since May and seem to be unaffected by the changing climate. If anything, they enjoyed the drought this year and didn’t need a drop of water. They are having a lot now though!

I struggle to understand why some plants from hot countries, like Peru and Chile, seem to do better in the UK when it’s getting cooler and wetter! These Alstroemerias are revelling in the current conditions and flowering their heads off. I am picking armfuls for the house every week.

Salvia uliginosa still growing strongly and flowering in her rather haphazard way. The tall stems are a bit lax for my liking and gradually become horizontal after days of wind and rain but nothing stops it from flowering and it soon picks itself up again. A number of passers-by have stopped to ask what it is and are very surprised when I tell them it is a Salvia. I don’t tell them its common name is Bog Sage!

I think I may have overdone the Viola pot a bit! The Cyclamen in the middle are getting smothered and as for the scraggy bit of Ophiopogon…! Cheery, happy little faces though, I love them.

And finally……a bit of an oddity. This Rose ‘Let’s Celebrate’ has produced some very odd flowers with petals that don’t fully open making it look a bit like Eaton Mess! Could be the cooler nights or maybe the rain; I just hope it is not a permanent affliction!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

Over here in the Cotswolds, we are enjoying unseasonably warm weather which is extending the gardening year well beyond what we would normally expect. Yesterday, we took some friends to visit Bourton House Garden near Moreton-in-Marsh on a sunny, warm afternoon and we were in short sleeves!

Amongst the many unusual plants they display there, my favourite was ‘Poor Man’s Rhododendron’, Impatiens sodenii, the dramatic but frost tender perennial relative of Busy Lizzie, but huge, up to 8′ tall. Bourton House Garden was full of them in all colours.

The chrysanthemum I retrieved from my Grandad’s garden when he died in 1991 is still going strong and is now immortalised by a local nursery which propagates and sells it as Chrysanthemum ‘George Simons’. As tough as any hardy chrysanthemum can be, this very tall cultivar survived the attentions of my Grandad’s chickens during the second world war and is now spread around friends and family to keep it going.

I am the Plant Guardian of Chrysanthemum ‘Romantica’, a button chrysanth which went out of fashion many years ago but which is worth saving if only for its sheer exuberance at this time of year. It is smothered with hundreds of small pinky white flowers which shine through the gloom of an autumn day.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ is beginning to open for her winter show. She will carry on flowering until February draping the arch with her waxy bells and shrugging off anything the weather throws at her.

Another Chrysanthemum local to the area is ‘Bretforton Road’ which, I believe, was found by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers literally growing on the roadside and named accordingly by him.

Finally for this weekend, a tray of self-sown Delphinium requienii seedlings dug out and potted up ready for next year. I have had a lot of interest in this plant since my friend Yvonne introduced it to me earlier this year. A biennial form which does not get eaten by slugs and snails. Tall spires of pinky mauve flowers in May and June make this a real winner.

Have a great weekend.

David

Six on Saturday

And, just like that, Autumn is upon us! The Liquidamber styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ began her decline at the end of August this year, a full month earlier than usual, so her leaves are already turning crimson as they lose their sugar and end their life cycle for another year.

The Amelanchier lamarckii is also turning from its summer green to that gorgeous, golden honey shade before they too drop and carpet the ground with colour. This is not death but renewal, and both trees will come back bigger and stronger next year.

The previous owners of our bungalow must have planted some Rose of Sharon bushes, Hypericum calycinum, which, despite my best efforts, are still around making a nuisance of themselves 13 years later. I pull them out but they always return. This one escaped my attention by hiding under the beech in the drive border but I must dig it up before those berries fall and cause even more mayhem next year. A real persistent survivor from the 70’s when it was all the rage. Little did they know!

This little patch of Persicaria affinis did not enjoy the full glare of the hot sun in July and sulked for weeks afterwards. Even copious amounts of water did not coax it into flower but now, suddenly in October, it is back again in force! The little pink fluffy bunny tails are enjoying the cooler conditions and the low sun in the lee of the hedge and delighting me every morning as I raise the kitchen blind.

The Chinese Mountain Ash, Sorbus hupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’, is laden with fruit after a barren season last year. It may be a variety that has a rest year, I am not sure. What I do know is that the pesky Wood Pigeons will be on it shortly performing their acrobatics to strip the tree of every last berry. They are quite comical and never seem to break a branch no matter how precarious their endeavours!

This is a bit of a dilemma. The Cosmos which was planted here, which fell over and was removed weeks ago, obviously shed a lot of seed behind my back and has produced dozens of babies. I doubt they will survive the winter but even if I were to dig them up, I have nowhere warm enough to put them. What to do? Leave them and watch them turn to mush and die? Pot them up and leave them in the greenhouse to turn to mush and die?

This was it before it was removed. Too pretty to lose forever. Watch this space!

Have a great weekend

David