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


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?!


Six on Saturday

If it’s not snow, hail and sleet, it’s rain….lots of rain, relentless rain, running down the hill in a torrent rain. And yet, the garden remains relatively unscathed, the hardy winter species toughing it out, even enjoying the conditions. This Cyclamen coum is one and just coming into flower, delayed by the three inches of composted bark I heaped on the area it inhabits.

Alongside the Cyclamen are hopefully the beginnings of massed snowdrops beneath the Silver Birches. I lifted and divided over 200 bulbs ‘in the green’ last year but they look like little lonely soldiers until they get re-established in their new homes.

The remains of the established clumps are a little sparse now but they will soon recover. I am by no means a Galanthophile and only have five or six different varieties but to me they are the first flowers of spring, a time to be joyful and look forward to better days ahead.

Seed sown wallflowers which are flowering in their second year. A welcome sight in amongst the detritus of the herbaceous border.

My nemesis weeds are Hairy Bittercress and Lesser Celandine, both of which are impossible to eradicate. At this time of year I start the process of removal but I know it is a fruitless task. I have been battling with these two plus the ubiquitous sun spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia for over ten years and made virtually nil progress!

A job I missed in November, reduce the growth on Salvia ‘Hotlips’ by a third to stop it rocking in the wind and uprooting itself. Must do it tomorrow!

This young self sown Euphorbia characias landed happily in the right spot so was left to grow. It looks like it might be producing some flowers in just it’s second year. I love the acid green bracts and flowers which brighten up dull days and improve my mood.

That’s all folks! Stay safe and let your gardens be your solace in these difficult times.


Six on Saturday

Erysimum ‘Parrish’s’

Happy Boxing Day to one and all! I do hope you managed to enjoy Xmas day with family or friends. Our gardening club WhatsApp group posted pics of what was in flower in their gardens yesterday and these were some of mine.

Primula vulgaris

Primroses are beginning to appear under the beech hedges and the shady shrubs. They look so fragile but are actually as tough as old boots.

Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’

I love this little Erysimum and have got loads of cuttings to spread it throughout the garden next year.

These wild alliums are a real nuisance. I stupidly allowed one or two to go seed many years ago and simply cannot eradicate them now. They are easy to lever out with the bulbil attached but there are hundreds every year!

Finally, I am pleased with my winter pots by the front door this year. They add a little bit of colour and cheer on dark days and remind me of better days to come.

Stay safe

Xmas Quiz 2020 – Round Eight Answers and Final Scores!

Well, that’s it, the Xmas Quiz is over for this year. I hope you enjoyed it, learnt a few things and had a bit of fun!

Here are the answers to the Round Eight Picture Quiz – Name that Gardener!

Give yourself one point for each correct answer

From top left to bottom right:

  1. William Robinson
  2. Vita Sackville-West
  3. Sir Roy Strong
  4. Rosemary Verey
  5. Piet Oudolf
  6. Margery Fish
  7. Lawrence Johnston
  8. Kim Wilde
  9. Judith Haan
  10. John Grimshaw
  11. Gertrude Jekyll
  12. Geoffrey Smith
  13. Gay Search
  14. Fergus Garrett
  15. Carl Linnaeus
  16. Beth Chatto
  17. Arthur Billet
  18. Anne Swithinbank

If you got all 18 right, very well done! Arthur Billet was the tricky one, he took over from Percy Thrower as presenter of Gardener’s World!

The maximum available score for the eight rounds was 164. How did you do?

I hope you kept a note of your scores for each round. Please add them up and either post them on my blog in the comments section, leave a comment on our Facebook page, send them in a CGS email or message them on our WhatsApp Group page.

Thank you for taking part. I look forward to announcing and congratulating the winner!

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Let’s hope the Vaccine works, the economy doesn’t collapse and we have a happy and healthy 2021!


Xmas Quiz 2020 – Round Eight!

This is the Eighth and FINAL Round!

But first, here are the answers to Round Seven!

Give yourself one point for each correct answer

1. From where do Amaryllis bulbs originate? South Africa

2. Traditionally, white chess pieces are made from which wood? Holly

3. In England, a Yule log is traditionally Oak. What is it in Scotland? Birch

4. Which is the most popular type of tree sold at Christmas in the UK? Nordmann Fir

5. Bedford Fillbasket, Cromwell and Wellington are all types of what? Brussel Sprout

6. What type of bedding plant can survive the cold months? Pansy

7. The leaves and flowers of the Christmas Bush are often used for decoration in which country at Christmas? Australia

8. Which spice is added to oranges to provide a pleasant smelling Christmas decoration? Clove

9. In 1841, Prince Albert erected the first Christmas tree at which Royal residence? Windsor Castle

10. Mistletoe is a type of what? Parasite

Round Eight – FINAL Round!

Name That Gardener! Put a name to the following famous faces. They are all well known TV, Celebrity or historical figures in horticulture.

From Top left to bottom right – One point for each correct answer

Best of Luck!

Answers here on Wednesday.


Six on Saturday

Not a particularly glamorous start but gardeners are not the squeamish type, so a picture of composting worms hard at work should not offend the sensibilities of my blog readers.

I bring the wormery into the greenhouse for the winter to keep it dry and slightly warmer and the worms reward me by carrying on with their vital work, munching all our kitchen waste. They produce approx 100 litres of rich compost (worm poo) each year which I mix into peat free potting compost at the rate of 10:1. The ‘worm liquid’ (worm wee) is diluted in the same ratio and used as a nutritious liquid feed for tomatoes and potted plants. I swear my agapanthus, in particular, thrive on it and flower better as a result.

Incredible but true, this early daffodil flowers before Xmas every year. Most of my other daffs are barely out of the ground but this one likes to be seen first, Obviously a bit narcissistic!

Right next to it is Narcissus canaliculatus, a miniature daff with the tiniest white petals and chucky egg yellow cup. My chrysanthemum border is planted with lots of narcissus where they provide early colour and the ugly dying foliage is hidden by the chrysanths as they grow.

Many of the cuttings produced in the Hydropod in late September were just too small to stay outside over winter so they are tucked up in the greenhouse where they continue to form strong root systems. I have just taken the final Erysimum and Penstemon cuttings which may or may not make roots in the Hydropod. I am not sure how much temperature plays a part in vegetative propagation compared to hormones, so we will see!

Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) continues to flower periodically throughout the winter and is a lot hardier than its glaucus foliage would suggest. It is a real survivor in my garden and I am constantly digging out seedlings in the gravel paths and between paving. Lovely plant though and great for pollinators.

The last of the leaves are now in the composter. Have you noticed, you can’t buy leaf mould, you have to make your own. Probably because this lot will only produce 50 litres at best, but as a top dressing for woodland plants like hellebores and cyclamen it can’t be beaten!

Have a great weekend.


Xmas Quiz 2020 – Round Seven!

Welcome back! Two Rounds to go!

Here are the answers to Round Six – The Missing Letters Round!

Give yourself one point for each correct answer

  1. AZALEA Loved by Victorians
  2. IRIS Someone over the rainbow (Greek Goddess of the Rainbow)
  3. PETUNIA A good hanging (Hanging basket plant)
  4. DAISY Lawn pest
  5. PRIMROSE Vulgar? (Primula vulgaris)
  6. JASMINE A Disney Princess (no, I didn’t know either!)
  7. HYACINTH A Bouquet? (Keeping Up Appearances?)
  8. LILY Savage (Paul O’Grady – Lily Savage)
  9. VIOLET Ultra? (Ultra Violet)
  10. POPPY To Remember (Remembrance Day symbol)

Round Seven – Multiple Choice!

Choose the correct answer to these ten questions.

One point for each correct answer

  1. From where do Amaryllis bulbs originate?
    a. South America
    b. South Africa
    c. South Korea
    d. South Sudan
  2. Traditionally, white chess pieces are made from which wood?
    a. Ash
    b. Plane
    c. Holly
    d. Chestnut
  3. In England, a Yule log is traditionally Oak. What is it in Scotland?
    a. Pine
    b. Birch
    c. Rowan
    d. Elm
  4. Which is the most popular type of tree sold at Christmas in the UK?
    a. Norway Spruce
    b. Fraser Fir
    c. Nordmann Fir
    d. Scots Pine
  5. Bedford Fillbasket, Cromwell and Wellington are all types of what?
    a. Cabbage
    b. Carrot
    c. Parsnip
    d. Brussel Sprout
  6. What type of bedding plant can survive the cold months?
    a. Petunia
    b. Pansy
    c. Begonia
    d. Lobelia
  7. The leaves and flowers of the Christmas Bush are often used for decoration in which country at Christmas?
    a. Sweden
    b. The USA
    c. Denmark
    d. Australia
  8. Which spice is added to oranges to provide a pleasant smelling Christmas decoration?
    a. Cardamom
    b. Clove
    c. Cinnamon
    d. Carraway
  9. In 1841, Prince Albert erected the first Christmas tree at which Royal residence?
    a. Windsor Castle
    b. Buckingham Palace
    c. Sandringham
    d. Kensington Palace
  10. Mistletoe is a type of what?
    a. Parasite
    b. Epiphyte
    c. Allotrope
    d. Heliotrope

Round Seven answers and the FINAL Round Eight questions will be here on Monday.

Good Luck!

Xmas Quiz 2020 – Round Six!

How are you doing with the quiz so far? Hope you are enjoying the challenge! Three more rounds to go!

Here are the answers to Round Five, the Second Picture Round (Slightly More Difficult!)

Give yourself two points for each correct common name, three points for each correct Latin name and five points for both!

From top left to bottom right:

  1. Widow Iris – Iris tuberosa
  2. Pincushion Protea – Leucospermum cordifolium
  3. Hyacinth Bean – Lablab purpureus
  4. Night Phlox – Zaluzianskya ovata
  5. Canary Island Geranium – Geranium palmatum
  6. Chicory – Cichorium intybus
  7. Viper’s Bugloss – Echium vulgare
  8. Bergamot/Bee Balm – Monarda didyma
  9. Leopard’s Bane – Doronicum orientale
  10. Coneflower/ Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia laciniata
  11. Arizona beggarticks – Bidens aurea
  12. Perennial Sunflower – Helianthus

Round Six – A Flower By Any Other Name!

Each of the following cryptic clues is a word that is both a flower and a female name

One point for each correct answer

  1. _ _ _ L _ _ Loved by Victorians
  2. _ R _ _ Someone over the rainbow
  3. _ _ T _ _ _ _ A good hanging
  4. _ A _ _ _ Lawn pest
  5. _ _ _ M _ _ _ _ Vulgar?
  6. _ _ _ M _ _ _ A Disney Princess
  7. _ _ _ C _ _ _ _ A Bouquet?
  8. _ _ L _ Savage
  9. _ _ _ L _ _ Ultra?
  10. _ O _ _ _ To Remember

Round Six answers and Round Seven questions here on Friday.

Good Luck!