Six on Saturday: house plants

We have had Alice stuck at home isolating with Covid. She hasn’t suffered too badly but we didn’t want her infecting anyone else. That combined with the weather has meant I haven’t really been out in the garden. So this week is going to be a quick look at a few houseplants. Alice is quite enjoying being at home. I’ve stayed off with her part the time and mum the other half. We’ve kept up home learning like we did during lockdown to keep routine and avoid boredom. She’s writing and reading a lot more from the focussed time so probably done her good being off with us.

Opuntia Rubescens

Also known as the roadkill cactus from its flat shape. I bought this as my reward for the last RHS exam. It is replacing several small succulents on the kitchen windowsill. It has got to a bit cluttered so I decided I’d rather have fewer large plants. It’s got a good sunny windowsill where it can be left and only occasionally watered.

Ceropegia woodii

String of hearts is a trailing plant that I’ve propagated several times since I got it a few years ago It roots in water then I pot it on. It trails down from the corner shelf in the back room. Every so often it needs a hair cut as it reaches the ground. It needs watering about once a week in summer and less so in winter so it’s pretty minimal effort.

Tradescantia pallida

This was a 99p Morrisons purchase. I potted it on after purchasing and it has spread out well since then. I like the variegated leaves and the colours.

Kentia palm

This is looking a bit sorry for itself. I think this was partly underwatering and partly too low light.

It’s been repositioned to try and put some life back into it.

Pilea peperomiodes

The Chinese money plant is a popular one currently and produces lots of offsets for potting on to pass onto other people.

Aspidistra

I have a few aspidistras in the house and in the garden. The garden one has been badly attacked by slugs and snails this year. I could do with taking a clump out and growing it on inside. Aspidistras are generally regarded as dull as they don’t really do anything but I quite like having a decent sized houseplant that doesn’t require much care. It handles low light, minimal water. It can handle neglect.

It’s half term now and between Ofsted inspections and balancing home learning with Alice I’m ready for a little time off. It’s been a good half term with my class but I’d like to catch up on some garden jobs now. Hope you all enjoy your weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturday’s blog to see more blogs.

Six on Saturday: jungle garden

So this week is coming later than normal and will be a short one as Alice has tested positive with Covid. She has a bit of a snotty nose, but she said her sense of smell was funny so we got her tested. She came out negative on the lateral flow test before testing positive from the PCR so worth getting a proper test to avoid infecting others. We’ve also had an Ofsted inspection at work this week so been a pretty exhausting week all round with another one ahead looking after a bored child stuck at home.

This week saw the arrival of the garden jungle by Phillip Oostenbrink. I’d seen one of his lectures a few months back as well as following him through Twitter so had this on preorder. It looks to be a great addition to the garden literature around tropical/exotic gardening.

So to celebrate the release a quick look at six of the exotic plants in the garden still pulling their weight. The Bishop’s Children dahlias is still flowering well. It was grown from seed and has been in the ground 3 years now without lifting. Top corner we Podophyllum versipelle ‘spotty dotty’. This is an attractive foliage plant with nice broad leaves. It was a recommendation from Philip and a very good one. Below we have buckler fern, one of my favourites. Looks great in a pot for much of the year with little maintenance needed. In the bottom right corner Persicaria runcinata ‘purple fantasy’. This was a purchase from Stillingfleet Lodge a few months back. It’s in a pot currently. But as it grows I’ll divide it for use elsewhere. Bottom middle is Farfugium japonicum ‘wavy gravy’. It doesn’t photograph well but this has lovely curly foliage and is filling a shaded spot in the front garden. And last but by no means least are my Fatsias. I have both the plain and spider web type next to each other in pots. They sit near the front door and look good much of the year providing nice large palmate foliage.

Much shorter than normal this week. But hopefully, return to normal next week. Hope you are all keeping well and I may get some chance to catch up on other people’s blogs other the next week.

Six on Saturday: 9.10.21 bulbs

Well I sat my RHS exam on propagation. I was quite anxious beforehand but I think it went alright. I’m fairly confident I passed and we’ll have to see in December whether I managed the higher level of commendation. This week has been busy with the exam and then catching up on work after all my revision so this week’s is looking at the bulb purchases that have been building up.

Tulip grand perfection

Despite what this week’s blog contains I am not massively bothered by tulips. But they fill a gap between the early spring bulbs and the summer garden so I do usually plant a few. These tulips look like they should be a nice striking one paired with the existing queen of the nights. Though they inevitably won’t flower together throwing off the plan.

Queen of the nights

I already have queen of the night tulips in the ground but they gradually fade in our clay soil. Shrinking, rotting and getting dug up by mistake so it’s always good to top them up.

Giant allium

I’ve had a few taller alliums in the border this year with the Allium forelocks towering over the border and it has been quite good having alliums where I can shoot upwards when taking photos of the bees. They look a bit odd sticking out the border but the bees like them.

Tulips little beauty

These were Alice’s choice. She usually ends up picking red riding hood tulips with the striped foilage but she was taken by the colour of these. They are little short 10cm tulips so I’m not quite sure where we’ll put these so they show. They might need to be in a pot.

Iris danfordiae

I like irises in general but my early spring Iris reticulata pots are largely blue or purple. I saw these and thought it would make a bit of a change. Yellow is a welcome sight in spring standing out well in the darker months.

Tulip canasta

I usually pick a bag of tulips that are different from the more commonly cultivated ones. This has led to some beautiful forms and some fairly rubbish parrot tulips that didn’t hold their form well. These are a fringed tulip that I think will be quite striking.

Hopefully get back to featuring the garden properly next week. I’m working an extra shift at nursery next week so may not find anytime to plant these next week but it’s half term soon so should be able to get them in the ground soon.

Six on Saturday: root cuttings

It’s going to be a quick one this week as I am preparing for my next RHS exam on propogation. So for this week I am looking at root cuttings.

Plant health

When taking cuttings plants should be in good health as any disease is likely to be passed on through the cuttings. You want to avoid any already suffering with any issues such as chlorosis or other disorders linked to lacking correct feeding. This Acanthus I feature last week is an ideal candidate for root cuttings as they have a reputation for regrowing from the slightest bit of root left in the soil when people have tried to remove them. It is likely it will lose the varieagation when the root cuttings grow. But I would quite like the normal species variety as well. This is still in its pot so I can just take the cuttings by taking it from the pot. If it was in the ground it would need lifting or if it was too big you can scrape to expose the roots and do it in situ.

Cuttings

Ideal root cuttings should be about pencil thickness. This had several coming out the base of the pot which is what gave me the idea to take cuttings. You want to take the cuttings as close to the crown as possible. But as these were going to need cutting to get it out of the pot I thought I’d use these.

Root sections

Sections of root can be cut into sections about 7-10cm for vertical cuttings. These are going vertically into a pot so I went about 7cm for each one. If you are taking root cuttings from something with finer roots that can be laid out horizontally on the compost and these cuttings can be shorter.

I took a few from close to the crown as well. I’m chancing some of the smaller roots since this has a reputation for growing back well.

Compost

In an ideal world I’d use cuttings compost. But I don’t have any. I’ve gone with a seed compost with a bit of vermiculite mixed in. Then I filled the small 10cm pot.

The cuttings have gone around the edge of the pot. Just a little way in. I used a thin dibber to poke the hole and then placed them in but a pencil would do fine. Then I covered with a thin layer of about 0.5cm of compost. Then they’ve been placed in the unheated mini greenhouse. They should show signs of growth in spring when they can then be potted on into individual pots. Then by the next year they may be ready to plant out. So it is quite a slow method but they don’t take up much space and don’t need much attention. The label is probably one of the most significant parts so I actually know wheat I’ve got coming up in spring and give them the right care.

Hopefully the exam will go alright. Good luck to anyone else sitting their exams on Monday.

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Six on Saturday: 25.9.21

It’s been a busy week at work with lots to prepare so I haen’t managed much in the garden this week but a few jobs we’re achieved last Saturday. Then on Sunday we had a downpour in the afternoon that was flooding the roads. Luckily it didn’t rain Monday so it all had a chance to drain away so no damage done. Just a few floppy plants.

Potting on

One of the main jobs I achieved on the Saturday was potting on the foxgloves and the Primula candelabras. I will have more Primula vialii to do in a few weeks. But this was a good job off the list. They’ll be losses along the way but I’ve got a good few growing well currently.

Tesco rescue

This was a rescue plant from Tesco’s a month ago. It looked sorry for itself but I was confident it would recover fine and it has. Plenty of flowers over it.

Acanthus mollis ‘whitewater’

Alice wanted to go to The Works for craft supplies which happens to be in the garden centre. I spotted this Acanthus and I couldn’t resist the foliage. The flowers don’t look to be as nice as the contrasting flowers on the wild form. I need to think where to place it as once placed it will carry on regrowing from small root sections if I dig it up again.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘pink freckles’

And I also saw this. I’ve seen this plant on a few other six on Saturday blogs in previous years and I’ve always liked it. It’s a small delicate looking thing for deep shade.

Harvest moon

I haven’t made it in the garden much this week but did pop out at night to admire the harvest moon.

Aster

This aster is a tall leggy thing that suffers from powdery mildew. It needs plants infront of it to cover the fairly unnatractive stems. But for a couple of weeks each year it brings in the butterflies and provides colour as other plants fade. This year it hass attracted lots of comma butterflies which is an absolute joy as I hadn’t seen as many since a new housing estate was built destroying lots of nettles and brambles.

I’m going to be preparing for the next RHS exam so be busy this weekend reading up on propagation. Enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 18.9.21

It’s been a busy, but good week at work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening but there is still a lot looking good in my garden as we move into autumn. I’m hoping to get wood ordered for work this week to build some new raised beds. Then that project will keep me busy for a while.

  1. Geranium oxonianum lace time

This geranium is one of my favourites. It has flowered from spring to now and it will keep going. The delicate veining is lovely. They are tiny but worth pausing to admire. They spread but not as rapidly as wargrave pink.

2. Lupin

I grew these lupins from seed the year before last. They flowered earlier in the year but they suffered with aphids. I cut them back and the second flowering is coming through much stronger.

3. Heuchera planter

A local gardener has been selling plants to raise money for Marie Curie. She has made up lots of pots of mixed heuchera. With 4 or 5 heucheras in each pot, these were amazing bargains at £8.50. I hope she has managed to raise lots for charity as this is to make up for no local open gardens this year.

4 Primula germination

I have gone all out on primulas this year. I’ve started off lots of varieties from seed now and then they should be able to be potted on and be up to a decent stage next year. We have Primula candelabra, vialii, Miller’s Crimson, pulverulenta, and florindae. They have all germinated to some level. I got a lot of the seed from Furzey Gardens so it will be a nice souvenir if they make it full size.

5. Dragonfly close up

The dragonflies have been resting on the clematis and I managed to get out with the macro lens to get a few shots.

6. Dahlia tamburo

I’ve grown this dahlia for a few years. I love the flowers but the first few always seem to flower low down in between other stems.

The weather is hopefully going to be nice this weekend so with any luck I’ll get a few garden jobs done. I hope you all enjoy your weekends. I need to up my revision level for my next RHS exams but it’s propagation which isn’t too bad a topic.

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Six on Saturday: 11.9.21-New border

I have made it through the first week back at nursery. Looks to be a lovely class this year but it has been tiring being back. I discussed a few weeks back that I was cutting an old rose back. It was taking up too much space to justify the one burst of flowers. I am aiming to train it as a climber at the back. But what this has done is create a new large space to plant. This patch has never quite worked right. The plants have all been in good health but not really combining well. So I have started the process of planting up and filling the gap. I don’t take border shots very often. I tend to focus on individual plants but I am trying to work towards a more cohesive planting and it is useful to look at photos as they show the faults.

An overview

This is the space. To the right is a solid evergreen block of choisya. To the left is a large aster and sambucus. The aster is set to be divided this year. Along the back of the fence arching from the right is a climbing rose. Paul’s Scarlett climber. This has flowered briliantly this year. Also running through there is Clematis montana Marjorie. This a double flower that runs rampant. Moving in from the right on the ground we have the fern Asplenium scolopendrium. This is an evergreen fern with upright sword leaves. It doesn’t do much for most of the year. But it will remain in winter after other plants have shrivelled away. In front of the fern are some chives. These give that swishy foliage you can get from grasses but they are great for pollinators. There is a small Acer that may be removed as it doesn’t quite fit and they don’t really suit my conditions. Some primula denitculata at the front Then moving along there are some echinops. These are not really visible on the photo but these are a tall variety, Echinop ritro and will provide a decent bit of height at the back. They are wonderful pollen and nectar source for the bees. Some tiny wood asters and Erigeron to spill along the front of the border. The rudbeckia I think will contrast well againest the echinops. I have gone with a lot of plants from the Asteraceae family, the daisy family so I’ve added a few Iris sibericas to mix it up a bit.

A closer lock at the left

You can just see the Aster poking in on the left. The foliage is horrible but it is covered in flower buds ready to bring some colour to autumn. Central there is a tall grass. This should add a bit of contrast between the foliage and it has nice feathery seedheads. The rudbeckia is goldsturm. It is bright and cheerful for the end of summer. It supposedly self seeds quite well so hopefully get some free plants. The big basal leaves are Primula candelabras for some spring flowering interest. Just infront of the primula is Iris foetidissima ‘Aurea’ which is grown for the yellow leaves. This is evergreen and is mainly grown for the foliage rather than the flowers which are quite small. Then central at the front is Iris Karbluey. This is a Siberian Iris that can rise out of the Erigeron as it spreads. I’ve moved a few self seeded verbena into the border that can grow through some of the shorter spring flowering plants.

And the left

This side is a bit more subdued currently but will have colour through the year. The Acer is it remains will grow a few metres. The heuchera is Heuchera ginger ale from a local nursery, Long Riston Plants. Lovely foliage. Then front of the border there are Primula denticulata which are one of the early spring flowering species with lollipop flowers. Then I’m trying a patch of Hemerocallis Always Liberty. This is a pink day lily that should add a bit of excitement in summer. Then there is the evergreen fern previously mentioned to keep some winter interest.

Echinacea ‘white swan’

I’m taking a chance on the Echinacea as they don’t really like clay soil. But this patch has been improved a lot since we moved in so I’m going to try some and see if they return.

Echinacea ‘Prarie splendour’ rose

And my other has been bringing the bees in.

Rudbeckia goldsturm

I am enjoying this currently. The garden is shifting to autumn so some garden areas are looking a bit shabby. But this is providing a bright burst of sunshine. I still have the dahlias flowering and aster and gladioli to go but it is getting darker earlier and this stands out well in the morning and evening.

It may not look like much now but it will hopefully fill out nicely. I think I’ve got a reasonable mix of plants to go across the seasons. There is a bit of bare ground I’ve left for bulbs. I hope you are all doing well. I have plants to shift around the opposite border to get more from it next year. Though I don’t think I’ll get time this weekend. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 4.9.21 In-laws garden

Well this has been a good week for my gardening and horticultural interests. I recieved my RHS exam results and I passed the two units I took back in June, recieving a commendation for the soil unit. So, that’s all good. Then we’ve been away to the in-laws who have a lovely garden to enjoy. We even managed a garden visit to Burton Agnes on the way back which was nice to see. I’ve been for the snowdrops and for Halloween but never made it in Summer. I’ve finished my current RHS assignment on plant choice. I just need to write the plant profiles that go with each assignment. My next exam is on propagation so I figure I’ll be taking lots of cuttings to secure the knowledge. If you missed it, I wrote about heuchera yesterday including the propagation methods suitable for them. This week’s six is coming from the in-laws garden.

The apples

They have apples grown in a few different ways, including cordons along the path. But the shed apples were the stand out apples. They set the bar for red apples standing out beautifully along the back of the border.

Roses

There were lots of roses looking great, too many for one blog, so I am just posting a few of my favourites.

Anemones

The anemones grow in a few patches around the garden but they really do come into their own this time of year. Masses of flowers over a good period. One of my favourites but they’ve not grown that well for me. My own white one in the front garden is still quite small and the back garden ones haven’t looked too healthy this year so I am keeping an eye on them.

Birds

The garden sees a good variety of birds visiting. I saw green, bull and goldfinches and multiple tit species while watching the feeders. But I did also spy this sparrowhawk eyeing up the buffet table.

Dahlias

I grew a mass of dahlias in 2019 and I gave a lot away. Two ended up in the in-laws and they are still thriving.

Alice

And last but by no means least, Alice had a good run around in the garden. They have a good bit of space to explore and the garden is divided with gates and fences and island beds, steps up to different levels. So there is lots to enjoy for a little child. She requested her usual photo on the hand chair.

And having a good run about on the lawn.

I’m back to work on Monday after the school holiday so hopefully get a few bits tidied up tomorrow. The garden is holding together alright but I’m preapring for moving a few bits around in the border as we go into autumn. Hope you all have good weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturdays blog to see more posts.

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Flowers on Friday: Heuchera

Last week I started a series of plant profiles writing about Echinops. This week I thought I would talk about heuchera, partly because I just bought a new one, but partly because I do actually like their tiny little flowers. The vibrant red spikes of my coral forests are looking particularly nice at the moment. They are a useful plant providing evergreen structure over winter, suitable for pots or the border and filling shaded spots beautifully.

Heuchera are part of the Saxifragaceae family which puts them alongside saxifrages (obviously), Astilbes, Rodgersias, Heucherellas, Bergenias, Tiarellas and more in the same family. They are native to North America with most cultivars originating from Heuchera americana. Hybridization is common with around 37 species intermingling. They are distributed across a variety of habitats including mountains and beaches, but in general, they prefer part shade. They can be grown in full sun if they are provided with suitable moisture levels. Some varieties can cope better with the sun. Plantagoggo offers an extensive range and you can filter by conditions. They enjoy moist well-drained soil but can tolerate periods of drought. They will often look the worse for wear after hot weather but they are a tough plant capable of bouncing back with some care.

They are largely grown for ground cover and as foliage plants. The foliage comes in an amazing range of colours from lime greens through orange and reds and dark purples to almost black. They are a garden centre favourite for placing at the front of shops in autumn and winter where they will attract customers. The leaves remain evergreen through winter. Then in spring, they benefit from a spruce up. Pulling away dead leaves, clear the chaff and then a top dressing of compost around being careful not to bury the crown.

The flowers are very popular with bees. It came as a surprise to me how popular when I started growing them but the garden bumblebees love them. They flower for good periods too which is of great benefit to the bees. If you cut the flower stalks down they will often produce more.

While few people grow them for the flowers many are quite attractive, especially where they have a strong contrast to the leaves.

The wide leaves combine well with a lot of different plants within designs. They look good alongside other shade-loving plants like ferns and hostas. But equally, look good with the thinner forms of grasses. They can be grown in a variety of situations. I use them within the border where for much of the year they don’t stand out much. But come winter when much of the border shrivels away they carry on adding structure and colour through the darker months. I use them hidden amongst taller plants where they don’t show for much of the year but come into their own in winter. But I have also had good success growing them in containers as in the hanging basket above. Though, in containers, they are vulnerable to vine weevils.

They are vulnerable to a few pests and diseases with some varieties seeming to be more susceptible. Heuchera rust can be an issue in summer, particularly when warm and damp. This appears first as dimples on the leaves and can affect the look and vigour of the plant. When it strikes you cut the leaves off back to the crown, taking care not to cut the crown and remove them from your garden. Don’t compost them as this may put rust back into your soil in future. Leaves return pretty quickly. Heuchera rust will only affect heuchera so it rarely causes much of a drama. Vine weevil on the other hand love heuchera and can move onto other plants. Vine weevil are a beetle that eats the leaves. The bigger damage comes from the grubs that eat the roots. Often the first sign you get is when you lift part of a plant and the whole plant lifts off the ground. I have written previously about how I tackled them here. So far it seems to be working with the nematodes forming the main defence. My lighter green heuchera such as lime marmalade seem to have been more affected by both rust and vine weevil. It might be a coincidence but it does put off buying more of these cultivars unless cheap. This is a shame as they are some of my favourites as they contrast well against many other plants.

They can be propagated by several methods written about previously. The most common method being division. They spread well over a couple of years. They often get a bit too woody so division is good for refreshing the plant. I did have some success with rooting cuttings, but it was slow with a high failure rate. Divison and cuttings have the advantage that the plant will be a clone of the parent. So, if you want a particular colour you need to use these methods. They do also self-seed quite freely. However most offspring I have ended up with a return to a block colour. The attractive veining on many cultivars hasn’t been present in the offspring. I grew heuchera from seed last year. I tried a few varieties but I think greenfinch was the most successful. Initial germination was high. But many didn’t survive when potted on. Many people reported that they found the seedlings grow so far and halted growth. I found they benefitted from a regular liquid feed to get them past this point. It was worth growing from seed as even with the losses along the way I’ve probably still ended up with double figures of plants.

I hope that was useful to some of you. It’s useful for me to carry on writing them to secure my knowledge ready for RHS exams. It’s a plant I’ve made use of a lot. It’s a good time of year to look for purchasing them as the retailers stock more ready for autumn and winter interest.

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Six on Saturday: 28.8.21

It’s been a nice week with a few decent gardening jobs achieved. I enjoyed my trip to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens last week but still need to find some space in the border for a few of the purchases. I also wrote about the environmental impact of bedding plants. I expected some negative feedback about this post but I’m pleased to say I received lots of positive feedback. The ones of you who disagree are too polite to say, so thank you for the positive responses and the many shares.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Prarie Splendour’ rose

I saw this little Echinacea cheap in the flower shop. I like them as plants but I’m not sure they’ll agree with my clay soil so I’m going to test this one and see how it survives. It looks a bit daft as one stem on its own. They look better in decent clumps but I didn’t want to spend money on several if they can’t survive our winters. They are pretty but also popular with the bees and good landing platforms for butterflies.

Wood Asters

These were a wedding present and I don’t think I have a record of exactly what it was. I think it’s a type of wood aster. They are just short, maybe around 20cm with small white daisy flowers and pointed leaves. In theory, if I’m right it should be good for shade. It’s gradually spread and seeded along a little stretch.

Nasturtiums and caterpillars

The cabbage white caterpillars are working their way through the nasturtiums. Luckily I like seeing the butterflies. The caterpillars don’t do any other major harm for me as I’m not growing any brassicas or veg they might destroy. So I’m happy to leave them to it.

Nibble, nibble, munch, munch.

Border changes

I have cut my Charles DeMills rose right back to a framework I’m going to train as a climber. I decided it was taking up too much space in the border for the one burst of flowers that can easily be ruined by rain. Whereas, if it is on the fence it isn’t really taking up any space and it should still manage a few flowers. This now leaves a big gap in the border to fill. I’ve arranged a few of the plants I’ve got available to see how they work together but haven’t planted them all yet. I planted a clump of Primula candelabras I got last week but working out the rest. I’ve got two Iris sibericas I think could be happy here and the points would look nice. Then I maybe need something with a broader leaf to contrast. I have a few Primula denticulatas, drumstick primulas that could go here. They are spring flowering. Then maybe look at some taller summer flowering plants for behind. I’ve got some echinops that I may use. I wrote about them yesterday to check up the ideal conditions.

Sparrowhawk

I’d noticed the birds had been a bit on edge the other day so I assumed the sparrowhawk was about, but I got treated to a decent view of it sat on the fence. The back door was open already so I managed my clearest photo yet before it swooped off.

Dahlia

I think this may be tamburo but it has come out much redder this year as I don’t have any other dahlias that match this form with the majority of mine being single. It is normally a darker red but for some reason is bright red this year. Unless I have just forgotten about another. We’ll see. Either way, it’s bright and flowering well, if a bit late.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s six. Don’t forget to check out the founder’s blog to see links to other people’s six choices. I have a day out ahead so no gardening for me today but I am hoping to get the border changes I mentioned sorted over the next week.