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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
It has been a very cold week in my part of the Cotswolds. Hard frosts followed by glorious blue skies and warm sunshine. I have friends who tell me that’s why they go skiing. I hate the cold and would never go skiing! But I do like frosty mornings and the way plants take on a new look.
Rosa ‘Darcey Bussell’ and Penstemon ‘White Bedder’
Iberis sempervirens and Erysimum linifolium ‘Variegatum’
I popped outside to chase away next door’s cat from my bird feeder and came across this fuchsia which, I readily admit, I had completely overlooked this year. It was hidden by dahlias and agapanthus but was obviously fine with that as it grew into a fine plant which I will endeavour to look after better next year. It was one of a pair that I planted some years ago but is now a singleton. Supposed to be hardy and up to 5′ tall but I have been routinely hacking it back to the ground in my annual February border clearance!
Sometimes, foliage is enough. This is particularly true if it is variegated, evergreen and glossy like this beautiful Osmanthus which is part of the ‘bones’ of the front border and is gently expanding into an attractive and trouble free shrub.
I hear from all quarters that it has been an exceptional year for Hesperantha. Gardeners are reporting it to be the best year ever and I must agree, mine have never looked so good.
I know I have mentioned this before, but when it’s as beautiful as this it deserves another plug. Hesperantha coccinea ‘Pink Princess’ is simply gorgeous and is today’s star performer. She shrugs off cold and rain and opens her pretty blush pink flowers as soon as the sun shines. One of this years best buys and will hopefully spread and perform as well as this next year.
I love watching the early morning frost turn to water droplets which hang like pearls on flowers and foliage. These are some examples from Thursday morning.
Salvia ‘Trelissick’ and Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’
Photinia ‘Red Robin’ and Euphorbia characias
A few years ago I gave up on Poinsettias for Xmas. They hate draughts and central heating, are fickle about watering and humidity, and almost always drop their leaves and go leggy by The Big Day and are consigned to the utility room. However, I am weak and prone to whims, so this little beauty found it’s way home with me. Pretty don’t you think? Like someone was painting nearby!
It’s been cold, wet and windy all week and I have spent most of it indoors going stir crazy! Despite my best efforts at catching up on all those jobs I promised myself I would do on rainy days, most of them didn’t get done. Lockdown 1.0 was wonderful in April and May, I was doing 10 hour days outside. Lockdown 2.0 is not much fun in the rain!
Still, the garden continues to cheer me and some species just go on and on regardless. These Scabiosa atropurpurea in shades of pink and purple have been in flower since May and may not stop flowering until I am forced to cut back the old growth in February.
I swear they keep changing colour from year to year. These were once all ‘Derry’s Black’ but after three years are now various pinks with just a few of the dark ones left. Some flowerheads are tight and neatly contained while others are open and blousy.
In the same border are the remains of my Echinacea pallida which have been a big attraction for our local Goldfinch population who perch precariously atop the seedhead, even in the wind and rain, to get at the seeds.
Ten years ago I made the mistake of planting some Callendula officinalis and have never managed to get rid of them since! They are real survivors and resist all attempts to eradicate them. They hide away unseen until , one day, ta dah! there they are again, in full flower and spreading their seed for yet another generation to come. They clash with everything else around them, grow absolutely anywhere, in any soil, in cracks and crevices, and literally never stop flowering. Some might call that the perfect garden plant!
The purple beech hedge is always the last to open and the last to change colour and, as it does, it provides this wonderful tapestry of golden yellows, greens and purple for a few weeks before finally turning brown for the winter.
I think perennial wallflowers are one of the hardest working plants in any garden and, despite their short life, are very good value and one of the easiest to propagate from cuttings. This Erysimum linifolium ‘Variegatum’ was given to me by a good friend this year as a tiny cutting and has flowered its socks off all summer in shades of salmon pink, brick red and purple. The pale yellow variegated margins of the foliage add interest and mark this plant out as something a little different.
A week on, and the Sorbus hupehensis foliage has turned a rusty brown which compliments the pink berries perfectly.
I have had a go at doing some winter pots. I usually plant my bulbs and top them with coarse grit to deter the squirrels but they look sad and empty through the dark days of December and January. So this year, not wallflowers as Monty Don suggested, but small evergreens which provide some colour and interest near the front door.
Erigeron karvinksianus, the Spanish Daisy or fleabane, is shrugging off the wind and rain and attempting to set a record for how far it can spread its seed across my garden. Any crack or crevice will do, any pot or flower bed, but it particularly enjoys the gaps in block paving!
My early October sown sweet peas have germinated well and will now sit in the cold greenhouse until the clocks go forward in March. will pinch out the tops twice to increase the flower power and prevent them from getting too leggy, although they are usually 30-40cm long when they get planted.
I ‘borrow’ this lovely red climbing rose from next door. It seems to prefer life on my side of the fence and rewards me with flowers continuously from May to December. It must be a very old variety as it has been there for at least 40 years. I wish all roses were as floriferous and trouble free as this one!
I have lifted the first of many Dahlia tubers, washed them off and put them in mushroom trays to dry before storing them in the shed. They need to be kept slightly moist to stop the tubers withering so I use old compost packed around them.
Still plenty to do despite the awful weather and this wretched virus but that’s all for this Six on Saturday.