Six on Saturday: 28.3.20

Well, it’s been an interesting week. I’ve worked potting on hundreds, into thousands of dahlias, marigolds, and petunias. We’ve been the only garden centre open in the area but it came as no surprise when I got a call yesterday to say I was no longer needed. I’ve enjoyed my short time as a grower despite everything going on. But I can know help at home and stay safer. It’s been a hard strain on Amy as a teacher, teaching from home and looking after a three-year-old at the same time. So still plenty of positives. Plus it was my birthday this week. A bit of a cake shortage but I got a few nice presents.

1. Frost

We’ve had a good few nights of frost this week. The hydrangeas are looking like their leaves may have suffered a bit and the camellia looks like its flowers will suffer a bit when they open. That said, it does look pretty on many of the plant’s first thing in the morning. I’ve held off some of the veg sowings in the new raised bed until after the weekend when the temperature is gradually going to rise again.

2. Acer-Going green

The Acers have foolishly started opening their leaves. So far they seem to be doing alright but I won’t be surprised if they get some frost damage. Here is going green bought last year. The bright green is a welcome sight in spring and more so currently.

3. Daffodil-Sealing wax

These were bought from the bargain trolley at the start of January. We each choose a pack of bulbs and these were Amy’s choice. They are about the only variety I know the name of as the rest have been bought as part of cheap mixed bags.

4. Forget-me-nots

The forget-me-nots are coming into flower for the first time this year. They self-seed themselves around the garden. They bring little bursts of cheer and various insects enjoy visiting.

5. Mini-greenhouse

It was my birthday last Tuesday and I got a mini-greenhouse from Amy and Alice. This is now filled mainly with sweetpeas and lupins. I would like to have a sift around so I can get it up against the warmth of the house and on the sunnier side but I wanted it tucked in for now as it has been windy. I should be able to put the sweet peas out soon. I’ll plant most up next week and keep a few back in case they die off. The lupins will be fine out but I’ve got the space so they can sit there for now. The tall plant sticking out is one of the passionflowers I grew from seed last year.

6. Direct sow

I’ve been giving Alice packs of seeds that can be direct sown to keep her occupied. So far she’s done some nasturtiums and here she was sowing a pretty dark red double cornflower. She has gone quite heavy in one corner so I may need to do some thinning if any of them grow.

So, a strange week. But I am more fortunate than many out there right now. I’m looking at my work dismissal more in terms of keeping me and my family safe than as a lost opportunity. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Manure to go down on the raised bed and seeds to sow. A bit of weeding to do and some potting on that needs doing. I hope you are all managing alright through this crisis and finding reasons to be cheerful.

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Building a raised bed

As part of the RHS course, I need to look at veg production which is currently one of my weakest areas of knowledge. I have grown potatoes as a teacher with classes and I’ve always grown something to eat each year in pots: tomatoes, lettuce, beans, etc. But, for the course, I need to know details such as spacing for various veg. With the state of food shops, it seemed like a good idea to get cracking on growing. It’s also an excuse to remove another section of lawn. I could quite happily change the lawn into a potager but we’ll try just one raised bed for now.

I built this last week before we went on official lockdown starting with a trip out to the builder’s yard. Three boards and a few corner braces and I had the start of the frame. One board was cut in half to make the short sides and then screwed together. It’s just a small bed at about 2m by 1m. But it’s long enough to grow a few different choices. The lawn here is pretty worn so we’re not losing pristine grass.

A layer of card went at the bottom to suppress the grass.

A layer of leaves from the leaf mulch bags went down on top. It’s not as well broken down as I’d like but it should carry on breaking down and adding some nutrition to the bed.

I added the compost and a frame made from two willow trellis panels. The two panels were leant in together and opened to lock into each other in a tent shape.

I sowed dwarf broad beans last week to go up the frame and then I have radishes and lettuce to go in the space. Alongside this, I have a few tomatoes from work to grow in pots and some early potatoes chitting inside. It won’t give us a mass amount of food but the routine of tending to it and watering it will help give some routine during the lockdown and adds another activity to help engage Alice’s attention while she’s off. Wish us luck!

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Tuesday poetry-The garden Nicholas Grimald

A little bit of poetry to take solace in while we are in strange times.

The Garden
THE issue of great Jove, draw near, you Muses nine!
Help us to praise the blissful plot of garden ground so fine.
The garden gives good food and aid for leech’s cure;
The garden, full of great delight, his master doth allure.
Sweet sallet herbs be here, and herbs of every kind;
The ruddy grapes, the seemly fruits, be here at hand to find.
Here pleasance wanteth not to make a man full fain;
Here marvellous the mixture is of solace and of gain.
To water sundry seeds, the furrow by the way
A running river, trilling down with liquor, can convey.
Behold, with lively hue fair flowers that shine so bright;
With riches, like the orient gems, they paint the mould in sight.
Bees, humming with soft sound (their murmur is so small),
Of blooms and blossoms suck the tops; on dewed leaves they fall.
The creeping vine holds down her own bewedded elms,
And, wandering out with branches thick, reeds folded overwhelms.
Trees spread their coverts wide with shadows fresh and gay;
Full well their branched bows defend the fervent sun away.
Birds chatter, and some chirp, and some sweet tunes do yield;
All mirthful, with their songs so blithe, they make both air and field.
The garden it allures, it feeds, it glads the sprite;
From heavy hearts all doleful dumps the garden chaseth quite.
Strength it restores to limbs, draws and fulfils the sight;
with cheer revives the senses all and maketh labour light.
O, what delights to us the garden ground doth bring!
Seed, leaf, flower, fruit, herb, bee, and tree, and more than I may sing!

Nicholas Grimald

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Six on Saturday: 21.3.20

This week has seen many hundreds of petunias and fuschias potted on alongside a lesser number of begonias. The first tomato plants I potted on at work are now making it onto the shop floor and are selling well. I can’t decide whether it’s just the time of year or whether people are planning to dig for victory but the grow your own seems to be selling well.

1. Fairy garden

I’ve finally got round to sorting Alice’s fairy garden. She bought this solar panel teapot a few weeks back. It has little lights inside illuminating it at night. We worked together covering the pot surface with various stones and glass gems. A pond area and grass area have been designated.

She recently got a few new residents as well.

2. Feeder cam

I won a nest camera kit last year. However I pretty much never get birds nesting so I decided to remove the camera and install it within a fence feeder tray. It’s wired and can be connected to my laptop to get a closer view of what is visiting. I was inspired by having seen Karen’s blog showing her new wildlife camera. She has a superior version with its own power source and no wires. But I’ve had this camera a year and done little with it so feel better for giving it a purpose.

Currently, that’s nothing. But the birds will find it soon I’m sure.

3. Bargain shrubs

I’ve been pretty good about not buying from work but these were super bargains. The Magnolia ‘Susan’ is a small variety that I can hopefully manage in a pot. They don’t really suit my conditions but at £1.49 I’ll take a chance. Then the Ilex creanta ‘Stokes’ will probably used in the front garden. I planted a hedge line already. So I may use these to thicken it up a bit. Or might keep these just keep them to try and do box type balls.

4. Daffodils

The daffodils are out in force now around the bench of happiness. These were planted when we first moved in and are now well established. They were just cheap bags of mixed daffodils. I’m not that fond of daffodils but Amy likes them and they do bring some cheer to this corner before the ferns and hostas get going again.

5. Bulb lasagne-muscari

The crocus is still going strong in the front pots and the muscari are coming through in the back pot now. Tulips to follow. These have been good little Tesco bargains.

6. Dahlietta Surprise Becky

The first dahlia of the year is flowering. This was bought as a plug when I went for my interview at the garden centre. It has been growing on inside and we now have the first flower. I’ll be pinching out in a day or two and taking the growth back a bit to encourage bushiness but for now, it’s stunning. I had one of these little container dahlias last year and it went for months on end. I’m hopeful this one will do the same.

I hope you are all ok in these strange times and getting some comfort from your gardens. I got round to updating my contents and added a 30 days wild page of ideas. Many of them can be done in the garden if you are confined to quarters. Don’t forget to check the other six on Saturday blogs through the founder’s blog. Check the comments on his latest for more blogs. Stay safe out there.

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Six on Saturday: 14.3.20

Welcome to this week’s six on Saturday. I’ve had another good week at my new job. This week has mainly involved potting on pelargoniums and petunias. Then I’ve done a few practical jobs. I’ve built a good few barbeques for the shop floor and a few benches. The most commonly asked customer questions are about if it’s too early to plant different things out. We have shifted out the last of the winter bedding plants and deliveries are coming in for the new season. It’s interesting to see what is popular amongst different people and what is the best seller each week. This week I’ve suspicious feeling toilet paper may trump plants but we’ll see.

1. Sparrowhawk

Last weekend I saw something zoom past at the end of the garden. It twirled around and dragged a blackbird to the ground. It settled on the lawn and I saw I had a sparrowhawk. I’ve seen them come through before but this was the first time I’ve seen one settle on the lawn. Probably a male as quite small. I know some people don’t like them eating the birds visiting their feeders but they only end up in an area if there are enough birds to support them.

2. Iris Germanica

I have had these two irises sat in the cupboard for a month or two and decided it was time to plant. I’d moved the bleeding heart alba out of the cold frame so potted these up. Then shift them to a bigger pot once they get going. The sweet peas are doing well in there too. Forming leaves now.

3. Beach finds

On last weeks beach walk, I found a bit more driftwood and this metal pole with bits of rock. It’s been added to one of the pots.

4. Hydrangea pruning

I did the hydrangeas hair cut last week. I always worry I’ve gone too far but they flourish each year so must be doing something right. Even if I did go a bit far I’d only miss out on flowers for a year. Pretty tough now they are established. To prune them I cut just behind the mops and after where I can see the leaf buds coming out. Then dead growth with no leaves is thinned out.

5. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai’

I’d been envious of everyone else’s prunus incisa the last few years. I saw one in the bargain section incredibly cheap. I thought it might be dead at the price but thought it was worth a chance. It is coming back to life with wonderful blossom so looks like they were just clearing it ready for the new stock of them.

The blossom hangs delicately from the branches.

The bottom of the pot has been dressed with moss. There was a bag of hanging basket moss selling at 99p at one of the garden centres. I thought it would make for a nice mulch to the pots and add a Japanese element to the pots.

6. The lawn

The lawn has been in a very sorry state the last year. With having to move everything off the patio for the builders and then the builders going over it for several months it has a lot of bare patches. I’ve spread grass seed and the last of the soil improver bought last month to see how about getting it re-established as a lawn. It does make it look worse initially but it should recover quickly enough. I finished raising the brick edging I hadn’t completed a few weeks back. It should keep the divide between the lawn and borders a bit neater and make it easier mowing.

The crocuses have established themselves in dribs and drabs. Not the sea of colour I’d like but they should spread year on year.

As the UK prepares to go on lockdown I hope you have stockpiled compost and garden supplies to keep you busy. Check out the rest of the six on Saturday posts through the Propagators blog and read the participant guide if you fancy taking part. I hope you’ve enjoyed my six on Saturday and enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 7.3.20 The patio

I have completed my first week of work at the garden centre. 100s of petunias, pelargoniums and tomatoes have been potted up. 100 hanging baskets made. I’m working with a friendly bunch of people, the sun has been shining, the robins have been singing. A good first week. It hasn’t taken my love of gardening as I’ve still potted up my own lupins on an evening. I have done well resisting all the plants. My only purchase this week was grass seed which would have been purchased anyway. The lawn is a mess. I’m not sure I can even refer to it as a lawn anymore. The biggest temptation at the garden centre, a 2m Acer in the reduced section, has gone so that’s one less to seduce me.

This week I have been working on putting the patio back together. After a year of building work, the pots can go back on. We’ve had to continually shift things around. This is part of why the lawn is so bad as it had pots and garden furniture sat on it for much of last year. It’s a work in progress as looking out the pots aren’t quite in the right place. But, I’m happy to be able to at least make a start.

1. Shady corner

I’ve started the patio shift around by sorting the plants into the conditions they like. This end of the patio is shaded for more of the day. It still gets a fair amount of sun as it’s south-facing but between the two walls, it has less light than the other end of the patio. The pots here contain a mixture of ferns and heucheras, grasses, hydrangeas and more. Most of the pots with irises have also got hostas in. So the irises are starting to fade now but he hostas will come out as they fade. looking at the photos I’m going to shift the pots around to try and push them up to the line of the cracked concrete floor to cover that up. I’ve discussed on a previous blog how I’m collecting driftwood to add a bit of edging to the pots. It gives it a bit of a feel of a path even though we don’t often come out of this door. It’s not obvious from the photos but the pots are raised at different heights. Some are on platforms made from tile samples on top of bricks. Others are just on bricks and some are on the ground. It still needs a bit of rearranging but I’m happy with the plants. They’ve largely held up well through winter and I can see signs of growth on the deciduous ones.

2. Alice’s kitchen

Alice’s mud kitchen I’ve made a feature of within the patio and the planting. She likes using it here scooping out the water onto the plants. The kokedama sat on the top seem to be happy there. The moss is gradually greening up. The pots are foxglove seedlings that I may have dumped there for now.

Then the shelves are filled with a mixture of decorative objects and things for filling, emptying and pouring. She’s been quite into perfume making at the moment.

The fairy seems to have taken up residence here with the bird stake featured last week behind.

3. Display table

The table I painted a few weeks back has taken its place on the patio. These pots were Tesco specials. They have Crocus, Muscari and Tulips in. The Crocus are coming through now and then they should be followed by the Muscari, then the Tulips. Once these are done I will probably try and empty the bulbs. If I can separate them the crocus can be added to the lawn. The table and patio are filling up with charity shop finds. The urn was a 50p find. I thought the colours would complement many of the irises and fit in amongst many of the shade lovers but it has gone here for now.

Then the table is scattered with charity shop finds. Alice wanted me to have this one to go match her dragonfly lantern on her mud kitchen.

4. Plant stand and box cold frame

The plant stand has got the tins of sempervivums I featured a few weeks back. The rest is ab it of a mess. The compost is sitting here as between me, the builders and the weather the lawn is a mess. Once the weather has died down a bit and the crocus have gone over I’ll spread the rest of the soil improver mixed with some grass seed on the lawn. I’d like to add some stepping stones across the back lawn and drill some drainage holes to protect in future years but I’ve a few other projects in mind I’ve already got the materials to complete.

The really useful boxes at the back are in use as cold frames. These are a cheap option that is easy to move in and out of the house if necessary. I used this method for the dahlias last year and it worked well. Currently, the most exciting thing in there is the white bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos Spectabilis Alba) from Wilco’s. These have put on good growth and should be able to go in the front garden soon.

5. Log store

The log store has been restocked last weekend. We were almost out of wood and thought we might need a bit more before it starts to warm up again. The stores also look neater oddly for being full. The pots here are largely just dumped there while I work out where they will end up. I like the Pinus mugo there but not sure about the others. The big black tub is Alice’s fairy garden which is about to get an overhaul for the new season. There are agapanthus in a couple of the pots. These will hopefully return and look good in summer but not very interesting at the moment. There are two cordylines dotted around the patio. These came from my last house and have quite good stems on them. They need to go in the ground and I don’t really have a space they’ll suit. But, I don’t have the heart to get rid of them.

I’d put up hanging brackets a few weeks back to add the solar lights. I had this lantern spare so thought that it would go nicely in the middle.

6. The backdoor

The backdoor is currently the weakest of the pot displays. The water butt proved very useful through last year and I managed much of my watering through the summer using it. The pots closest to the sliding doors have got sempervivums and agapanthus in. The barrel has a Fuschia in which hasn’t really died back for winter and is already putting on new flower buds.

The pots here are more of a randomly assembled collection than the planned effect of the shaded corners. The metal tray with the conifer is Alice’s dinosaur garden. The Christmas tree was bought as a cheap one for inside and hasn’t found itself a proper pot yet. The tall pot with Katherin Hodgson irises is lovely but doesn’t really combine with the other pots. It has a hosta in which will start rising up soon. The other metal pots have Allium karataviense in. This is a short allium with a large ivory globe. It was one of the first alliums I ever bought but currently, they just look like empty pots.

By the back door are sempervivum and sedum pots. These I like and they are in a good position for getting the sun and warmth they need. The rest of this patio area needs a bit more thought.

I’ve just got the one day off this week before returning to work. Then I will have Friday and Saturday off normally. I’m glad to still have one family day as it was looking like I would work each day. I’m not aiming to do many garden jobs today. I’ve got a few pots to tidy and some strawberry planters I want to fill with sempervivums but I’m not sure if I’ll manage to get time. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 29.2.19

Well, we have a rare event, a six on Saturday on the 29th of February. It’ll be around 28 years until we get another. If I’m still doing Six on Saturday hopefully the garden dreams will have become a reality by then.

1. Crocus

I planted 100 croci in the lawn a few months back. They often get lost in the border so it utilises the lawn space by providing flowers for the bees before I start mowing again. The first ones are coming into flower. I think some may have rotted in the wet weather but I think enough have come up that they should establish. I’ve not got the fine spread we saw at the in-laws last week but in time they should spread.

I have a few croci in the borders from previous years. They often get lost in the undergrowth but here is one visible looking pretty with the rain droplets.

2. Moving hydrangeas

I dug the Korean Dwarf Lilac out last month as it was getting too large for space. It was blocking the view down the garden from the extension room. I’ve moved a pink Hydrangea macrophylla from the end of the garden into the gap. The larger hydrangea next to it will be getting a cut soon. The Choisya ternata is also due to have a haircut. Then the two hydrangeas should grow into each other giving a low hedge of pink flowers that we can still see over from the house. Not quite the Hydrangea walk of Exbury but it should work better than the dwarf lilac.

Then I have moved Hydrangea Libelle from its pot into the border where I’d dug the hydrangea above out of. I had hoped to keep it as a small plant in a pot for the patio but its growth in one year makes me think that’s not possible. I’ve also shaved a little bit off the lawn to give the plants here a bit more space. To the left behind this is one of the Hydrangea paniculata ‘limelights’ I planted last year. These two Hydrangeas have slightly different flowers and foliage but I think will combine well. To the right is the Ilex altaclernsis ‘golden king’. This holly will grow up providing a medium evergreen tree. This should give the hydrangeas the shade they like and provide a good backdrop to these. The surrounding area has a few ferns and hostas that are still establishing. The area needs a bit of a tidy but it should look good by summer. Having cut off a little corner of the border there is a little bit of space for new additions to the border. I do have some hardy geraniums or bearded irises that might go here.

3. Raising edging bricks

Along with shaving a little bit of the lawn I’ve raised the height of the bricks I’d used to edge the lawn. The border soil kept covering them so this should help. I also rounded this corner as the grass never grows well here as it’s too shaded. No sense trying to fight it putting grass seed down. The border looks a bit neater for having its edge back. The bricks should get a clean off with all the rain we are now having to wash off the soil left on top while I was raising them.

4. Pruning roses

I finally got around to pruning the roses. I’ve trained in the climbing roses. The aim is to train several stems horizontally to encourage flower production.  the two climbing roses are gradually developing a decent framework. It’s not quite textbook training but’s not a bad effort. Both have clematis growing through that are also getting to reasonable points so I should get a greener fence with bursts of flowers through the year.

5. Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

I’ve had this Acer sat in a corner for a while. I’d bought it a while back as a discount purchase. It should have £70 but was down to £15. A decent price for a tree about a metre and a half in height. Acers don’t really suit my sea winds but I like them enough to persist. This is in a reasonably sheltered spot with climbers working up the fence. That will give it a bit more protection. I’ve given it a mulch with ericaceous soil to help it settle in. This particular Acer should give bright green foliage in spring then fiery orange and red foliage in autumn.

6. Bird stake

I found this pot decoration in the charity shop clutter shelf. I thought it would make a nice garden decoration. I’ve used one of my rusty bird feeder poles I was considering getting rid of to combine them to make a little decoration for the pot display.

It’s been a productive week of getting through jobs despite the weather. I start in my new garden centre job next week. I’m still under strict instructions to not buy tons of plants. We’ll see if I manage it next week. I do need some more compost but this whether I was working at a garden centre or not. Wish me luck!

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