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

Six on Saturday

Good morning from a bright and sunny Cheltenham! The Violas gave me a cheery wink when I went out with my camera to see what was interesting enough to photograph amongst the detritus and windblown plants in my garden.

The Alstroemerias are suddenly enjoying the cooler temperatures and producing loads of stems to pull and bring indoors. This one is ‘Summer Break’.

Rosa ‘Darcey Bussell’ is flowering for the third time and, although she is not as shapely as usual, she certainly puts on a show! Most of my other roses are ready for the early winter chop but Darcey just keeps going.

The NIgella damascena has shed millions of seeds into the gravel path which will have to be carefully culled to leave a manageable number to flower next year. I do love a self-seeder as long as the resulting progeny are where I want them!

A few weeks ago I popped a cutting of Tradescantia pallida into a shot glass to root which it kindly has. It has also decided to flower for me! This is the third flower so far and I suspect there are more to come. Isn’t nature wonderful!

I can’t bear to throw good plants away and these bedding pelargoniums which flowered all summer outside in big pots are now tucked up in the cold greenhouse where they continue to flower their heads off. If we have a mild winter they will survive and be used again next year; if not…….compost heap here we come, but only when they have died of natural causes!

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

A rather quick six this morning as I have to prepare for our gardening group meeting this afternoon. We are hosting a talk and demonstration by Harriet Rycroft, formerly the Head Gardener at Whichford Pottery. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy the scarlet flowers of Hesperantha coccinea which are just beginning to flower alongside the Alstroemerias. Talking of which…..

The Alstroemerias are much happier in the ground and in the only bit of ‘moist but well drained’ soil in my garden. They were not happy in pots but have since recovered well and are flowering away merrily now. I have Indian Summer, Summer Break, and Summer Sky.

Not a great picture due to the low sun this morning but cheerful happy faces of Viola and Cyclamen welcoming visitors by the front door.

The narcissus are planted up in their terracotta pots and topped with horticultural grit to deter the rodents and cats. It also prevents the compost splashing up the render! The pots sit on the gravel margin so they have good natural drainage.

The clumps of perennial garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, are brightening up the cottage garden border. We never use the leaves, far too strong for our taste, but I grow them for their wonderful pure white flowers which go on for weeks in late summer. Although they produce masses of seed, they never seem to spread like a lot of alliums do.

Salvia greggii ‘Red Bumble’ still going strong and will flower up to the first frosts. I love these shrubby salvias and have found the best way to prune them is in two stages, like roses. I cut them back by a third in December and down to fresh growth in April, roughly two thirds in all. It seems a bit brutal at the time but it keeps them tight and a good shape, and they flower better for longer.

Finally, an extra pic of Dahlia ‘Star Wars’ in the foreground. A new one this year chosen by my son-in-law for its dark, almost black foliage, and eye-popping flowers with dark centres.

Have a great weekend

David

Six on Saturday

A day late due to the exceptional circumstances of the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II. I was away with our family when I heard the news.

A very sad few days for the whole country and more to come, but our gardens provide us with great solace and a place to think, reflect and draw strength. There is still plenty of colour too, including this rare and special Tradescantia (Andersoniana Group) ‘David’s Blaby Blue’, named after a young man who died in tragic circumstances in Blaby, Leicester.

The ginger lily, Hedychium flavescens, is just coming into flower. The smell is rather like sweet cinnamon but the flowers are here and gone in a flash. It didn’t like the intense heat this summer and needed gallons of water which makes it a very needy plant in my book. Probably not one to grow in periods of drought!

The front border is still performing well and the powder blue Salvia uliginosa alongside the acid yellow of Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is a nice combo. You can just see the second flowering of the delphiniums which I cut down to the ground only a few weeks ago.

The Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’, is almost ready for harvest, the sweet juicy pink fruits gradually turning a dark pink. Not even enough for a few bottles but delicious on my morning granola!

The Box Moth caterpillar ridden Box ball featured in my last Six has gone and has been replaced by Teucrium chamaedrys, or Wall Germander, a short, upright and well behaved evergreen flowering plant which, I am assured, is pest and disease free, probably due to its aromatic leaves.

Let’s finish on a dahlia, a delightful hybrid dahlia which I grew from the seed some years ago and whose flowers are different every year. This year the pink has diminished and lemon yellow is the dominant colour. All I know is the bees love it, and so do I.

Enjoy your garden this weekend and reflect on the life of our late wonderful Queen and all those who perished in 9/11 on this day 21 years ago.

David

Six on Saturday

If there’s one thing I have learned about gardening over the years, it is that it is full of disappointments. You have to learn to roll with the punches, take the rough with the smooth etc. I have had Box bushes in many forms, pyramids, balls, low hedges and spirals but now, they’re all dead or dying. The cause is the dreaded box tree moth caterpillar, which has rampaged through the entire area where I live in Gloucestershire leaving scenes like the one above in almost every garden.

These notorious caterpillars can eat their way through a box bush in double quick time leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Young caterpillars are just over an inch long and a greeny yellow colour with black and white striping. The older caterpillars protect themselves from predators by building a distinctive pale white tent of webbing when they feed. In winter the small caterpillars hibernate in an envelope of two box leaves that have been spun together the previous autumn.

The adult box moth, Cydalima perspectalis, which it becomes is a rather beautiful creature with white wings edged with brown and is just over an inch wide from wing tip to wing tip. It arrived in the UK from Asia in 2008 and has quickly spread to all parts of the country, including Scotland.

No point in spending vast sums of money on expensive treatments unless everybody for miles around does the same, otherwise it will be back next year! No, time for pragmatism, the Buxus has had it’s day and it’s time to find an attractive replacement. I always try to see things like this as an opportunity, not a problem.

I think, on balance, the most admired rose in the garden this year has been ‘Ebb Tide’. It’s colour and fragrance have attracted more comments of approval than all the others, even though it does not have the strongest scent or the best flowers. A strongly growing, healthy and trouble free rose, almost thornless and repeat flowering.

The recent heatwave and consequent drought has badly affected the Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ which is remarkable and disappointing. It has never happened before. I thought they were bombproof! I have certainly had a patch of the old Montbretia in the back garden which I have never done anything with, in dry poor soil, under a tree and they survive anything. Ah well, another opportunity beckons!

The beautiful flowers of Salvia uliginosa otherwise called Bog Sage! It certainly needs a constantly moist soil and lets you know when it needs a drink by drooping its flowerheads, which it does almost daily in this weather! Adored by bees, tall and willowy, it should be grown more in cottage style gardens.

The little Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’, has produced a great crop of fruit in just it’s second year. The grapes are becoming a darker shade of green and getting that musty bloom before they turn dark red with their characteristic pink flesh in the autumn. Learning how to prune them has been a revelation, not too dissimilar to wisteria in that you take off the whippy growth in the summer after the fruit has set and then a second harder prune in winter.

The fat red berries on the dark leaved Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ give this shrub an extra appeal at this time of year. Those who hard prune it miss out on this treat as they flower and fruit on the previous year’s wood, a bit like a Philadelphus or Cotinus. I now do a three stage prune to get new stems from the base, new stems from semi-pruned older branches and the height, flowers and fruit on untouched central branches. It seems to work!

Have a great weekend

David