Six on Saturday

I suspect I won’t be alone in talking about the drought this week! But it is too easy to moan, I like to get on with things and believe it will get better, like it always does! This Silphium perfoliatum is a good case in point. It is a little shorter than last year and the flowers are slightly smaller, but it is coping like it is designed to do in the prairies of North America.

This short and stocky little Helianthus ‘Happy Days’ is another one enjoying the heat alongside the Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum. It is protected from the fierce heat of the afternoon sun by the shrubs and trees which tower over it and seems quite happy, despite the lack of water.

However, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ needs her daily drink to survive and I have been determined to keep her happy to enjoy her beautiful big bounty of flowers, the size of footballs. The colours fade quickly in this heat and relentless sunshine and I should probably have planted her in a shadier spot, but I wanted to see her from the kitchen window and for others to enjoy her too.

My potted pineapple lily, Eucomis bicolor, is struggling too but seems determined to put on a show. Her fleshy leaves wilt in the heat but the flower stems stand erect and unconcerned, pulling in the bees all day long.

This gaudy Phlox paniculata is on its last legs, gasping for breath but soldiering on in the mixed border. I chuck a bit of water around the roots if I am passing with the watering can, but there’s a small part of me that obviously doesn’t care if she lives or dies!

Finally, the wonders of nature. I have been monitoring this tiny spider for days as she spins her web over the Euonymus. Truly, a work of art!

Have a great weekend and remember, the rain will come!


Six on Saturday

Blackberry ‘Merton Thornless’, absolutely delicious and currently picking a bowlful every day before the Blackbirds get them. The plant is enormous, far too big to net, but there are more than enough for everyone.

Dahlia ‘Union Jack’ , also known as ‘Star of Denmark’ is one of the oldest known cultivars dating back to at least 1832 but not grown much any more probably due to its lax habit. The flowers are too large and heavy for the spindly stems which droop under the weight. Anyone who has seen the original species dahlias like ‘merckii’ will recognise this unfortunate trait and understand why it went out of favour. I am now its Plant Guardian to make sure it remains in cultivation, despite its unpopularity!

Whilst most things in my garden are dying of thirst and underperforming, the fruit is amazing and revelling in the heat. These Japanese Wineberries are coming thick and fast and provide a welcome treat for topping the breakfast granola. The sticky little berries, like shiny miniature raspberries, are easy to grow and well worth it.

Aster trifoliatus subsp. ageratoides ‘Stardust’, lovely little species aster but terrible name! Another plant which has me as its Guardian but doesn’t need any help from me to survive. A real thug which refuses to stay in one place. A small 1 litre pot acquired 5 years ago is now a border all of its own and still spreading. Its stems root when they touch the ground and it sends out underground runners as well. Pure white starry flowers against mid-green foliage is a winning combination though.

Phlomis ‘Rougemont’, a sport of Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem Sage) discovered by chance in the grounds of the Rougemont Hotel in Exeter some years ago and now in my care. Unusual variegated felted foliage and a whorl of bright yellow hooded flowers adored by bumble bees. Only in a pot at the moment but due to be transferred into the garden when I can find the right spot, which is always the problem!

This Phlox paniculata was in the garden when we moved here 13 years ago, has been lifted and divided several times, and is now in several spots. It was destined for the compost heap last year but I gave it a reprieve and now quite like it so it can stay for another year or until I find something which deserves the space more.

Let’s end with one of my favourites and such a pretty flower with impressively large petals, Tradescantia (Andersoniana Group) ‘Red Grape’.

Have a great weekend


Six on Saturday

An unusual six this week to match the unusual weather. I often find Slow worms in the compost heap, totally harmless legless lizards and something I enjoy seeing as I pull back the old carpet. I have no idea how they find their way in or out but they enjoy the warmth and humidity, as well as the endless supply of free food!

Monarda didyma ‘Panorama’ grown from seed many years ago, is not sufficiently robust for my liking. It doesn’t like my clay soil and needs constant watering to put on any kind of show which, in my view, is not sufficient to warrant space in my main border, However, I keep saying ‘one more year’ and she is still there, quite pretty this year for a change but only because I have spent a fortune watering the border constantly to keep everything alive.

One plant that has flourished in the heat is Scabiosa atropurpurea and I am blessed with a veritable forest of the stuff! I mentioned this last week but it is worth mentioning again due to it’s incredible tolerance of heat and parched soils, something we are likely to encounter in future years. It is also a prolific self seeder so, as long as you are prepared to weed out the ones in the wrong place, this is one you ought to be growing and once established, you will have it forever.

Rudbeckia laciniata, the tall species which needs a little support in windy locations but loved by bees and butterflies. I find it wilts in the heat of the day but recovers in the evening so I tend to water it in the morning rather than the evening, if I remember! It provides stature and presence in a mixed border, and even if you are a bit sniffy about yellow daisies, it has its place alongside blue things like my Agapanthus in the background. I have seen it with Eryngiums and tall blue Campanula lactiflora which is a great combination.

Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’ is a terrific cultivar with the darkest leaves of any I have seen. The bright and cheerful yellow flowers are a brilliant contrast and make it an outstanding combination from a distance. High water demand though and must be fed constantly to perform throughout the summer into autumn, so not easy to plant and leave for more than a few days. The deadheading is a chore too but, like Sweet Peas, is the secret to keeping it flowering.

I have never experienced heat like it in the UK, but on Monday & Tuesday, it was sufficiently strong to scorch the leaves of my white Lilac and has probably killed my Viburnum plicatum mariesii which is now frazzled and has dropped most of it’s leaves.

That’s my six for this extraordinary week. I look forward to reading the trials and tribulations of other Sixers!

Hope you have a good weekend


Six on Saturday

The Agapanthus africanus have been wonderful and made a real statement across the front of the bungalow drawing admiring glances and comments from passers-by. Due to the recent very hot days, they are going over now but they will make way for the herbaceous ones in a few weeks time.

My favourite summer flowering onion, Allium angulosum, or Mouse Garlic. Possibly the best bee plant in the garden. Long lasting flowers, doesn’t seed about, short, stocky and utterly reliable. Just five small bulbs have produced this clump in three years.

Another David Austin creation, rose ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and she certainly is. Beautiful tight creamy buds opening to a creamy white frilly powder puff with a gorgeous citrus scent. A late bloomer to enjoy when some of the early roses have gone over.

Cichorium intybus, the common native Chicory, arrived in my garden a few years ago and is now a permanent resident. I treat it with caution as the seedlings put down a serious taproot very quickly after germination and are difficult to remove. The new plant rosettes look a lot like Dandelions but with slightly more rounded serrated leaves. The roots are roasted, ground up and made into a chicory essence. You might remember Camp Coffee which is a brown liquid, consisting of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. It is generally used as a substitute for coffee, by mixing with hot water or with warm milk in much the same way as cocoa, or added to cold milk and ice to make an iced coffee. I grow it just for it’s unique blue flowers, I hate the coffee!

I lost all the first flower buds on my early flowering Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’ to an April frost so I am enjoying the second flush of rather smaller, but no less beautiful lilac-blue flowers.

Tradescantia virginiana ‘Brevicaulis’, meaning. rather unkindly. “short necked”, is in full bloom and very healthy compared to most of my other cultivars which are now looking exhausted, having completed their intensive 8 week flowering and seed setting.

Finally, Echinacea pallida, the species with the droopy petals and enormous cone which attracts bees and butterflies like no other. I grew it from seed a few years ago and was so pleased with myself for getting it to grow because they are not that easy to germinate. They need that awful cold/hot/cold/hot process known as ‘stratification’ which involved space in our fridge, much to the disgust of my long suffering wife!

Have a great weekend. I hope you can find a way of keeping yourself and your gardens cool and hydrated during this exceptional weather.


Six on Saturday

The evergreen Agapanthus africanus have just begun to flower and they look stunning this year. I have reduced my stock to just three plants in 20 litre plastic pots which are now in their third year since splitting them. 16, 18 and 20 flower stems which is the most ever. The heads are fully 30cm across on stems 1.2m high. They make quite a statement!

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ almost at full throttle now with her big beautiful creamy flowerheads being cradled by hazel supports beneath. I love this shrub but it does need a lot of water and support to do well. Quite a needy plant in my garden. Others tell me it is trouble free in theirs. It’s all about the soil!

Just behind Annabelle sits pink Linaria purpurea ‘Canon Went’, alongside his common purple cousin and the indestructable and long lasting pink Diascia personata which should definitely be grown in more gardens. I haven’t met anyone who knows this plant which is such a shame as it is such a good doer.

This is an extra pic to show how well the combination works.

This was controversial at my garden opening recently. It is the true Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, the root of which has been used since Roman times to treat insomnia. It is a very tall plant, 1.8m high, with a beautiful pinky white umbellifer flower which has an odd sweet smell which, as I found out, is not to everyone’s liking! I think is is rather musky and spicy but one visitor described it as the smell of “wet pants”!

The Petchoas (a cross between a Petunia and a Calibrachoa) in the basket are doing rather better now but not showing much sign of trailing yet. The colours still don’t excite me, I find them too subtle and a bit dull for the impression a basket by the front door is supposed to make. I think they work better in pots at low level. I won’t be using them in baskets again!

Some years ago I grew seeds of common Scabiosa atropurpurea, a distant cousin of the common field scabious, which thrives in my dry summer clay and self seeds everywhere. They now pop up in every variation of red, pink, purple, white and cream. One of the best plants for pollinators, tall and self supporting, long lasting, unfussy and beautiful. All from a single free packet of seeds on the front of a gardening magazine.

That’s my six for this week.

Have a great weekend


Six on Saturday

The paths in the cottage garden are slowly merging into the beds which makes for a better appearance but more difficult to walk on. The plants soften the edges and lean out for more light.

I love the way plants mingle and merge with each other, jostling for position and trying to outdo each other for light and space. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is an expert and uses the other plants to give her a leg up.

This little patio standard rose from T&M was supposed to white but turned out to be a lucky mistake as I just love the soft peachy apricot colour. It sits in a pot by the patio table and has a subtle fragrance. If anyone knows what her name might be, I would be grateful for a comment please??

Dianthus carthusianorum, a tall pink with clusters of gorgeous dark red buds which break out into pale pink flowers over a long period in June and July. I spotted this in the long borders at Hidcote and bought three in the plant shop. One has since died but the other two are romping away and clumping up well with more flower stems each year. Thriving on neglect, they love my dry alkaline clay in summer, not too keen on my wet clay in winter!

My camassias have not flowered well over the last few years and a quick internet search revealed that, although they don’t like being moved, they don’t flower well if they are congested. This was obviously the reason because having dug up what I thought would be the five bulbs I planted 7 or 8 years ago, there were now over fifty! I have cleaned and dried them in the greenhouse and will re-plant them, farther apart this time, in September. They like damp heavy soil and do well naturalised in grassland but I am going to try them in pots of loam based compost where I can regulate the water and see if I can get them to flower with narcissus. I think the blue and yellow will look lovely together in spring.

Petchoas, a cross between a petunia and a calibrachoa, which I was recommended by the editor of Which? Gardening magazine last year. I’m not sure about them! I bought Caramel and Cinnamon but I find the colours too subtle and dull for what should be a bright and zingy hanging basket. It is claimed that they don’t need deadheading but I have found that not to be the case and pick off the dead flower heads every morning. However, as my favourite training consultant used to say, “try a lot of stuff, keep what works!”

Finally, Delphinium requienii, or perennial Larkspur, which is a tall, unusual stately plant acquired from a friend who has it on her allotment where it seeds around freely. Seems to flower in it’s second year from a rosette of shiny leaves which slugs and snails leave alone! I rather like it and look forward to passing on some seeds and seedlings for others to grow.

Have a great weekend


Six on Saturday

It’s Rose time! ‘Camille Pissarro’ looking a bit like raspberry ripple ice cream. Certainly good enough to eat!

The rose garden in early morning sunshine. The different scents of roses and sweet peas plus the constant sound of pollinators buzzing around collecting pollen and nectar makes it a magical place for an early morning cuppa.

Bulb pots emptied and replanted with summer bedding plants. Bulbs dried in the greenhouse and ready to be stored in paper bags in the shed until September.

Nigella damascena in full flower now and looking good with the acid yellow feverfew. These two are both prolific self seeders and I find myself taking out more than I keep, otherwise they would be everywhere. I like to garden with a light touch and try to make it look as natural as possible, particularly in the cottage garden borders.

The little pink fox grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’ is covered in bunches of tiny flowers which should, in theory, become delicious purple grapes in September. I had just one bunch last year but winter pruning and another year’s maturity has resulted in incredible growth. It almost beggars belief how much growth these grapevines can put on in a single season, some of the new stems are already a metre long.

Finally, a friend of mine asked me to try to get Fuchsia ‘Lady in Black’ cuttings to root in my Hydropod propagator as she has tried conventional methods without success, Looks like we have liftoff!

Have a great weekend


Six on Saturday

This week has been absolutely manic and garden visiting is now in full swing. We are so lucky to have so many lovely gardens to visit here in the Cotswolds. Last weekend was Eckington Village with 30 private gardens and Barnsley Village including Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House.

My garden is rather smaller and insignificant by comparison but still just as lovely at this special time of year. Delphiniums just opening and buzzing with bees, their tubular flowers drawing them in.

The Sweet Peas now coming thick and fast and will be cut every other day for the vase. I just adore their scent and so do my elderly neighbours who love it when I knock on their door with a bunch every few days.

Rose ‘Roald Dahl’ and what a stunner! He is a big boy, our Roald, so big that he needs a bit of support to hold him up. I pruned him quite hard this year but he has grown even bigger! Such gorgeous flowers, and such healthy foliage, a real tale of the unexpected!

Next to Roald sits ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, and she certainly is! Pure white elegance and a scent you could drown in. There is something rather exotic and erotic about these modern roses which makes them so delicious.

I have never been a fan of Dutch Iris and these freebies are not only in the wrong place, they are taking up space for something more to my liking. Definitely coming out this year!

Not often seen or sold but Neillia affinis is a hardy deciduous flowering shrub that deserves to be in more gardens than it is. Nobody in my circle of gardening friends has it and I don’t really know why, it is attractive and bombproof. A kind friend gave me a piece a few years ago since when it has done well in the shrubbery with the bonus of these delightful pink flowers in May.

Rose ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’. This is a useful short rambler in that it is almost thornless, very healthy and not too vigorous. The orange buds open to small, pale apricot blooms with a yellow base, then fade to peach, pink and white. I have it covering a fence mixed in with Wisteria chinensis, hoping the two would be compatible and so far so good. The colour of the emerging and fading flowers look as if two different roses have been planted together.

Have a great weekend of gardening.


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!


Six on Saturday


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.