Six on Saturday: 24.8.19

This week I’ve been spoilt for choice for my six. Some will make it into next weeks six, while others haven’t made the cut. I’ve somewhat neglected the back garden while I’ve been sorting the front garden but I’ve discovered bindweed so I need to very carefully weed the borders to try and stop it establishing.

1. Zinnias whirligig

I started growing these from seed in trays. I then moved them straight into the ground and forgot about them. Then when I saw flowers emerging I almost removed them as weeds but asked for an ID on Twitter. The pack came with a variety of types in. They’ve been popular with the insects and there very pretty. I’d grow them again but I would probably put them further forward in the border as they are hidden a bit behind dahlias.

2. Clematis

This clematis was already in the garden when I took over the garden. It barely flowered so I gave it a hard prune and it has been giving a few more flowers each year. It is growing out of a thicket of shrubs and then gradually colonising the top of the fence.

3. Agapanthus

I planted these as bulbs last Autumn as they formed part of our wedding flowers. We had our anniversary this week and one is in flower. The others have put on foliage this year but no flowers. I’m growing them in pots as the advice states they like to be crowded. Hopefully next year I’ll have a few more to show.

4. Cosmos candy stripe

I’ve grown double click and candy stripe as a big mass. Double click featured a few weeks ago. Now it’s the turn of the candy stripe.

So far the majority of the patch has come out as double click but I have a few of the candy stripe dotted through. These are white with a pink edge. They are recommended as good for insects and I’ve seen a good group of hoverflies over them each day.

And a few other insects enjoying just resting on them.

5. Lily ‘Casa Blanca’

This almost didn’t make the cut this week but I decided I’d include it. It flowered while we were away and was getting past its best when we returned. It’s a pure white lily from Sarah Raven as part of her scented collection. The lilies have suffered from lily beetle this year. I’ve grown this in a pot this year but I may move it into the ground for next year. I’m not too bothered if it survives as it isn’t really exciting enough as just one. I’d need to but a couple for proper impact. It doesn’t really work in combination with my other plant choices.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

This was another Sarah Raven choice and has been a stunner. It’s been sold as a small variety for pots. I have only used one short stake and I think it would have managed without. The dark flowers are absolutely stunning and it has taken pride of place outside the extension window visible to all.

Lots of insects have been settling on the large flowers as a convenient resting point to survey the garden. It has been a good week for wildlife in the garden. I’ve had swarms of long-tailed tits of up to 40 coming in, tons of insects and a lot of frogs around. These dahlias seem to be hot spots for posing insects wanting their photo taken.

The dragonflies have been regular visitors. I love seeing the dragonflies and this year I think I’ve had more than ever. The size and their primaeval nature make them fantastic to watch.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week six as much as I’ve enjoyed admiring them. As well as the much-needed weed of the back garden I’ve got a large fern donated from my mums garden to plant and a couple of gorgeous heucheras to plant. Happy gardening!

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Summer Holiday: Part 2-Highcliffe Castle

After our starting point of Guildford, we moved onto house sit in Christchurch for our Summer holiday. Our first day out was to Highcliffe Castle. Highcliffe Castle was built in the 1830s by Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown though only part of this survives. The house changed hands ending up the property of the Catholic Church in the 1950s. It was bought by local businessmen in the 1960s before much was damaged by fire. The castle deteriorated into ruin before it was bought on by compulsory purchase from the local council.  The grounds and beach were opened to the public but it was too expensive to restore the house. Heritage Lottery funding allowed restoration to take place in the 90s.

When we arrived wedding photos were taking place but Alice was too eager to run through the passages in the hedges.

Inside the castle was good for kids with lots for Alice to do. Many of the displays were interactive with sound for her to listen to. She enjoyed playing in the kitchen serving everyone food.

She looked quite good as a maid but didn’t keep it on long enough for a decent photo.

She meticulously stacked up the rectangles to fill a stained glass light box. She didn’t want anyone else having the rectangles!

She did some very careful tracing.

Then very careful colouring upstairs.

There was a gallery of street art on. Most wasn’t to my taste but some caught my eye.

More dressing up upstairs.

The inevitable icecream.

She had a good climb outside between rain.

Then a bit of a stroll of the grounds before she had a meltdown as her clothes were wet.

The grounds are mainly made up of woodland.

Highcliffe was a good spot to visit for a family. Quite a number of activities for the kids to do as they go round. Alice enjoyed herself. There is a stroll down to Avon Beach but she isn’t quite ready to walk that far. In my next blog, we visited Christchurch, then still more of Exbury, Peppa Pig World and the Gruffalo to come.

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Front Garden update 3

Having returned from holiday I have got back out to continue with my front garden revamp. While we have been away the front path has been taken up. The crumbling concrete path has been replaced with smart pavers. Last time I wrote about the front garden I was leaving off planting part of the garden as there was still the path to complete. Now I’ve been able to get out and planted up a bit more of the space.

The view from above

The views from above shows the right side where I started planting has started to fill out well. The plants closest the path went in yesterday. I’ve given them a good soak in to help establish them. I’ve been sticking to ferns, hostas and heuchera so far. I’m aiming for a mixture of foliage with different shapes and colours. The garden is North facing thus all the shade lovers but luckily I like foliage plants. I’m keeping the flowers minimal and getting the colour through the leaves.

The view from above shows there are still some gaps to fill. I’ve used some coleus and alchemilla to fill gaps while the other plants fill out. I’ve bought stepping stones for half the circuit. They lead to the water butt, then back round to the path. The idea being I can water all the areas from the stone to limit how much I step on the ground. Alice does a circuit round each time she comes out the door which is quite useful for stopping her running out onto the road. The stepping stones in the bottom part of the photo are just temporary until next month when I’ll buy stepping stones to complete the circuit. These were log cookies we had spare from the wedding.

The wall where the bins are was on the point of collapsing so we’ve had it replaced with a fence similar to the other side. It’s odd but the bins feel tidying for having a fence taller than them. We are planning long term to build a bin tidy out from the fence to hide them. Next door has started tidying their garden. They said I’d shamed them into tidying, though they did say it jokingly rather than edged with venom. They are looking to plant something in the middle of their circle, then put fresh weed matting and gravel down. I’m trying to encourage them to continue the hydrangea love. But I think that would suit the spot: shaded, minimal effort, long period of interest.

Front door

The supports over the front door had partially rotted and we were considering removing. The gaps were filled with expanding foam, then the edge with wood filler. It’s had the first layer of primer. We are deciding whether to paint white or to go dark grey to contrast with grey of the bricks. The path looks much improved for the new pavers.

On either side of the door, I have placed these planters. They were intended to be used as window boxes but I can’t support them well under the window and they aren’t really big enough. I think they are looking smart here though. The coleus in front of the planter was grown from seed and is adding some temporary interest. I’m planning to add some snowdrops or crocus to the planter for some Spring interest. The hostas will die down for winter. The ferns are evergreen but will brown off to be replaced by fresh fronds in Spring.

The hanging basket was looking a bit dry from us being away so I’ve cut back some of the trailing plants. I think it’ll grow back with a bit of care.

Stepping stones

I have selected concrete steppings stones in the shape of log cuts. They aren’t the fanciest but they will gradually be surrounded by the plants. Each is slightly different so it doesn’t look too uniform.

Now I have an idea of where the stones are going and the path is done I’ve added some more plants. The hostas are mostly hosta fortuneii. These were bought for £1 or £2 in Winter on sale when they look like a pot of dead growth. I’m also taking a chance on placing the aspidistra outside. This has come from my classroom but I don’t have space for it in my next year’s classroom. I’m hoping close to the house it will have enough warmth to survive. My China Moon aspidistra in the back garden survived last winter so hopefully, this will too.

Ferns

A few more ferns have been added. These are mainly wispier varieties like Dryopteris and Polystichum. I’m not sure how these will cope with the sea winds so I’m going to need to keep them well watered initially and we’ll see how they go. So far I’ve mainly planted varieties like Asplenium with wider fronds that can cope with the winds.

Waterbutt

The water butt has proved invaluable since installing it. I have been able to manage the majority of the watering over the Summer from just this saving me carrying water through the house. We have had quite a wet Summer, but still very helpful while I’m getting plants established. Even small downpours have helped fill it back up. It has been a bit smelly a few times so I’ve added an antimicrobial disc to see if that helps.

The frogs have been sheltering under the bricks and tile the butt is resting on. A well-shaded spot for them. They’ll hopefully return the favour by eating the slugs to protect my hostas.

Hydrangea

The limelight has filled out nicely over its first Summer. It is a bit floppy but it will start to thicken out over the next few years. The flowers have been great and far more than I expected in this first year. Not as spectacular as the paniculata hydrangeas we saw at Exbury but a good start.

It is starting to gain the pink tinge before it browns off.

The help

Alice helped briefly before she lost interest. She enjoyed herself until she got her dress wet then she wanted to go in. Amy and Alice returned to supervise later and check I wasn’t doing anything stupid.

There is still more work to go and it will be a few years to fill out but I’m happy with the progress so far. The next big job will be edging the path to stop soil going onto the path. Then I have some ophiopogon to plant along the edge to keep it smart. Then I’m probably going to put bark down to improve the soil conditions, suppress weeds and help moisture retention. For months I’ve had plants sat on the patio at the back but now they’ve largely been planted I can set my mind to arranging the remaining pots.

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Summer Holiday: Part 1 Guildford

As mentioned in my last Six on Saturday blog we have returned from a holiday down South. We have had a fabulous time and are exhausted now. But in true fashion returning home, we have decided to get on with several jobs around the house and garden. There is painting to be done to finish the extension and the front garden can be planted up as the path has been rebuilt. Before Amy starts on the painting I have a little bit of time to start recalling our holiday.

On the way down we stopped off for a night in Guildford so Amy could catch up with one of her friends. We didn’t really have any preconceived ideas of Guildford. It’s been the butt of a number of comedians jokes. But we found it to have a nice town centre with lots of interesting old buildings. We weren’t aware that Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carrol, lived in Guildford for a period. It would seem wrong to visit the town and not see some of the sights of Alice’s namesake and we managed to catch a few of the sights on our way around. The happy scholar statue celebrates the town as a centre of learning.

Alice found a rock from Perky.posts that she wanted to take home. She accepted leaving it for other people to find so I didn’t get stuck carrying it along with whatever else she found she wanted me to carry.

Across the way, we got a glimpse of St Mary’s Church where Lewis Caroll preached and his funeral was held. With scaffolding and restoration work underway we didn’t go in.

We stopped for food in the Star Inn. The pub has a blue plaque declaring that the Stranglers played here. It was one of the first places they got started in. The pub has apparently been a big part of the music scene in Guildford for many years. Staff were friendly and I got a decent burger and Alice enjoyed her chips.

Alice wanted to show us how her teacher told her to sit.

Before taking a more relaxed poise.

We enjoyed the delights of the whisky shop and sampled a number of whiskies. We bought the most expensive bottle of whisky we’ve ever bought but it did make a nice holiday treat. Amy has started to get a taste for whisky and has started stealing my whisky so she wanted her own glass.

We had a nice wander through the Castle Grounds. It was all very nicely managed and we saw a few of the gardeners hard at work keeping the lawns in their pristine condition.

A picturesque little pond. Alice spotted lots of water snails but was disappointed she couldn’t spot frogs.

The beds were currently planted up with nice varieties of cosmos.

The paths cross each other creating tunnels.

The little holloway planted up with fantastic ferns.

Athyrium nipponicum

The bandstand made a good spot for dancing.

We made it round to the castle. The castle has the one room downstairs and stairs up to the walls at the top. Probably not worth the entrance fee, but it helps maintain the castle and grounds.

Alice was scared of the height but there was a good view of Guildford from the top.

Lots of Asplenium Trichomanes fern naturalised in the walls.

Alice found the looking glass.

She enjoyed colouring in the gallery. She has leapt on with her pencil control recently and is trying hard to stay in the lines. But as she colours each section the same colour it doesn’t make much difference to the overall effect.

She liked white as free biscuits were available. I think Amy would like the staircase.

I’ll be posting more of our holiday over the next few days as I manage to write it up between getting the house and garden back in order.

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I’ll leave you with bedtime. Amy has a theory that Alice goes to bed more easily for me. This is her bedtime on the night Amy went out with her friend.

Six on Saturday: 17.8.19 Exbury Gardens Hydrangeas galore

We have returned from our holiday down in Dorset having seen some lovely gardens. It’s interesting travelling down South. The difference in climate makes a massive difference to what is grown. Cordylines tower over roundabouts. Camellias look healthy rather than windswept and it feels like everything grows that little neighbourhood taller with pines common across the county. Visiting gardens gives me a chance to see specimens I wouldn’t necessarily see locally.

This weeks six comes from Exbury Gardens which we visited earlier in the week. Exbury is located on the edges of the New Forest. It is owned by the Rothschild family famous for mass wealth made through banking. It is known for its rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias which I imagine were spectacular earlier in the year when the majority will be in flower. It holds two national collections: Tupelo and Oxydendrum. With a small steam railway and 200 acres, it has a lot to offer visitors. I may have gone overboard on the photos but believe me I could post a lot more.

1. Hydrangea paniculata

We enjoyed this spectacular walk, which I think was from the Jubilee Pond. My love of hydrangeas has been discussed a lot recently. This stretch was largely made up of hydrangea paniculatas of different varieties. They were clearly well positioned and well established as they were thriving. One of the great advantages of hydrangeas is the long season of interest and these I’m sure will be looking great for a good while to come.

I spotted this variety great star that was a bit different from any I’ve seen before. I was quite taken with it, but then I was quite taken by the whole row. Earlier today I saw a quote from Vita Sackville-West that seems relevant here.

“In some gardens the hydrangeas were making a great display, but they look their best in large clumps, I think, not as a single specimen for which a small garden has only room; and in any case they always remind me of coloured wigs” Vita Sackville-West

The hydrangea were massive. Here are photos with family for scale.

2. Hydrangea walk

Further round there was a dedicated hydrangea walk made up of lots of varieties but mainly the dome mopheads of macrophylla. In my neighborhood, the soil largely creates pink hydrangeas. It was interesting to see a mix of colours along one walk.

Alice wasn’t so taken with the Hydrangeas. She only allowed us to continue as we’d told her it was the route to ice cream. Though she did enjoy playing hide and seek.

3 Steam train

The little railway gave us a tour of the gardens Alice couldn’t manage on foot so we got glimpses of the rock garden and the dragonfly pond. At Halloween, it transforms into a ghost train and at Christmas offers Santa Steam Specials which sounds great fun. Alice enjoyed the train ride even though it wasn’t her favourite colour red.

4. Ferns

The sheltered conditions of the dense woodland and sheltered slopes combined with the milder Southern climate gives ideal tree fern conditions. I have given up on my tiny little specimen. It’s either been too cold or too dry and it’s going to be years to form a trunk.

5. Rhododendron

While the majority of the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, the gardens are famous for, are past their best there were odd flashes of colour. Alice liked this vibrant red.

6. Ice cream

Alice eventually got her promised reward. She enjoyed it lots. She did well walking good distances. She almost got ice cream for dogs before I realised what I’d got. There were a lot of options for dogs around the area with many of the pubs and restaurants we visited offering snacks and drinks for dogs. Quite a dog-friendly part of the world. Unusually Alice went for strawberry ice cream rather than her usual chocolate but she enjoyed it lots.

We barely covered a fraction of what Exbury has to offer but was more than satisfied with our day out. I could happily visit again at a different time of year or even the same season as there was so much ground we didn’t cover. If I lived close I’d be buying a pass.
We’ve had a great time away and I’ll be posting more about our trips out over the next few days. Check out other sixes through the propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday: 10.8.19-Summer colour

We have gone off for a breakaway this week, so this weeks six has been pre-written. The garden is reaching a zenith of full flowers with many of the finest flowers reaching their peaks. It’s a nice point of the year where I have to choose six rather than struggling to locate six things of any interest. Much of the time I choose plants for long-lasting foliage more than flowers but this week we have six bright choices.

1. Cosmos-double click cranberries

These were grown from seed purchased from Sarah Raven. I grew several varieties moving them inside and outside when it was still chilly. But unfortunately several of the seed trays were flooded by rain and many of the cosmos seedlings died off. These, however, have flourished into a wonderful thick patch.

2. Fuschia-Alice Hoffman

I’m not a big fan of fuschias but this one has proved hardy enough and I like the contrast in the flowers and the dark leaves. I’ve kept it confined to a pot and cut it back each year and it seems happy with this arrangement. It is flowering well.

3. Hydrangea paniculata-Limelight

I’ve featured lots of other peoples hydrangeas but haven’t shown my own off. I planted two of these in the back garden and one in the front garden. These came from Thompson & Morgan. I didn’t expect much from them in their first year but they are looking fabulous. They should only get better as they grow taller. I was worried about how the one in the front garden would do with the sea winds but so long as I keep it watered it should be fine. The combination of a shaded North facing garden and lots of heavy rain this SUmmer has helped it settle in well.

4. Solenostemon/coleus

Coleus changed name this year to Solenostemon but I’m sure it will still be known as coleus for many years to come. I grew a few varieties from seed. These have been used in the ground as filler in the front garden, as house plants, and a few in pots on the patio which had bulbs in before. The foliage comes in a wide variety of bright colours adding to the mix between the hostas and ferns.

5. Peacock butterflies

After the excitement of the influx of painted ladies, the garden has seen lots of peacock butterflies. Just as colourful as this week’s flowers.

6. Dahlia’s Bishops Children

These dahlia flowers have been the results of months of work and I am very happy with them. For people who have followed their progress through this blog and Twitter, you will have seen them grow through lots of stages. It is my first year growing dahlias and I am enjoying the bright bursts of flamboyant colour they offer. These were bought from Sarah Raven as seeds. Almost every seed germinated and I’ve kept most going to end up with just shy of 30 plants. I didn’t expect as high germination rate or to keep them all alive. I’ve passed lots on to friends and family with plenty to go in my own garden. Amy even passed one onto the window cleaner to clear the patio. Some have gone in the border, some in pots.

They flower in a range of colours. So far I’ve had deep pink, red, yellow and orange flowers. The foliage is lovely in itself. Dark, crimson foliage with pointed leaves contrasting well with the hosta fortuneii on the patio. I was concerned about these growing quickly enough up North to flower well. With colder temperatures, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get them outside with time for these to grow enough to flower from seed. But I didn’t need to worry. These have grown spectacularly. I will probably try saving some seed for next year.

The forecast for our week away is lots of light rain so while we might be having a wet time away at least the garden will be looked after. Hopefully, I will return from my break having visited one or two gardens to report on. We are potentially going to Peppa Pig World. Not somewhere you’d think I’d voluntarily go but Paulton’s park also has gardens including Japanese gardens so I might manage ten minutes seeing those. Enjoy your Sundays!

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Six on Saturday: 3.8.19 from the in-laws in Summer

I wrote earlier in the week about our trip to the in-laws at Robin-Hood’s Bay but I left out how their garden was looking. So here it is six things from their wonderful garden. It featured earlier in the year in Spring. They’ve got the scaffolding up around the house and garden but still plenty on offer. Not least the entertainment of following the cat.

1. Roses

There is a smorgasbord of roses on offer in the garden currently with many hitting their peak. I am classing this mass of roses as one choice on my six, though if I knew more about them I could have written this six purely on the roses.

2. Sea holly

There are a few patches of sea holly around. I’m trying to grow my own as this featured as part of my wedding flowers. Mine are in their first year and not showing any signs of flowers this year but plenty of foliage.  I did start them quite late on so I may not get anywhere with them this year.

3. Japanese anemone

These again are a lot further on than in my own garden with plenty of flowers on many.

4. Pond

The pond was revamped last year and is now surrounded by many wildflowers. There were tons of butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers. The pond is attracting plenty of life with tadpoles and newts in resident.

5. Painted ladies

This year has seen a higher number of painted ladies. Every ten years or so we get a record year. These wonderful butterflies undergo the longest butterfly migration on Earth. There is a great documentary on the BBC but only for a limited time.

6. Hydrangeas

I’ve written about hydrangeas a lot recently and there are lots to view at the in-laws.

The limelight is fabulous. It was seeing the ones in the in-laws garden that led me to buy mine. You can see the flowers at various stages from the lime green to white.

If you fancy taking part in Six on Saturday read the guide. There are lots of wonderful plants and gardens to view. I have my own garden to tend today. I want to have a good weed over the next few days before we go away. I’ve still got a few more Bishop’s Children dahlia’s to find spaces for as well. They are flowering away well now and looking stunning. Now I’m starting the regular feed of tomato feed.

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