Wildlife gardening-teasel

I’ve had quite a few comments from my six on Saturday talking about the teasel. It is a plant that divides opinions. The teasel has featured a number of times over the year in my six on Saturday and now seems a good time to look closer at it.

Wildlife benefits

The original reason I planted teasel was to benefit wildlife through the year. Through the Summer they have attracted in all manner of pollinators.

The bees and hoverflies have swarmed over them.

Some of the butterflies have been visiting too. The holly blues have been visiting in greater numbers this year and seem to like the teasel.

One of the main reasons for planting teasel was to attract birds. Goldfinches love it. They favour lowland woodland and hedges, but are increasingly found on our bird feeders with people putting out nyger seed.

Architectural plant

Teasel is undeniably a striking shape. It has large leaves followed by the tall seed heads. Mine has grown to a very high height this year, much larger than I generally see when it’s growing wild. It stands out in the border and is lovely for bringing inside. I’ve taken a few cuttings and allowed it to dry out.

The disadvantages

 

“Vicious
You want me to hit you with a stick
But all I’ve got is a guitar pick
Huh, baby, you’re so vicious”
Lou Reed

Teasel is incredibly spikey. The leaves are spikey, the stems are spikey, the flowers are spikey. My gold leaf gloves have come in use again and again dealing with them. I wouldn’t be suprised to find spikey roots if I dug it out. It is vicious.

It also takes up a lot of space. The leaves initially are very large maybe 30-50cm long. This means it takes up a lot of space in the border with a big footprint on the ground and it is tall and not very neat in it’s growth unless carefully tied, which I haven’t done. As I’ve mentioned it is vicious so it was tied up where I could reach through without risking body and limb.

It self seeds quite freely. So if you decide you don’t want it anymore it can be a pain. I haven’t this an issue yet, but have a sneaking feeling that my neighbours may have it growing in future as I think the wind will take it that way.

Conclusion

All in all I’ve enjoyed having this in the garden this year, but not sure I’d allow it again due to space restrictions. It has been a pleasure seeing the goldfinches on it though.

 

 

Six on Saturday-13.10.18 bulb planting

After a wet Saturday last week, I managed to get out to plant some of the bulbs for next year. So this week will mainly be pictures of packages of what may potentially grow next year.

1. Bulb planter

I purchased a bulb planter. Like much of the nation I saw Monty Son planting his bulbs with ease using one and thought it would save time. I reckon bulb planters sales must have rocketed a few weeks ago when Gardeners World viewers watch Monty plant his bulbs with apparent ease. While not as good as his and the plugs of earth didn’t come out as smoothly as his, it did save time.

2. Mini daffodils

I’d mentioned to my mum wanting some smaller varieties of daffodils in the garden. She bought me two packs of these. I’ve spread them around the border. I have plenty of longer varieties in the ground from previous years, but having a few different heights spreads the season of interest. I should have some flowering earlier and some later. Last year depending on their position affected flowering times. The shadier corner taking longer.

Mainly placed the daffodils around the bench

3. Alliums-purple sensation

I already have some purple sensations dotted in the border. Some are now in areas of thick growth where they don’t show, so a few more in new spots will make sure these bee favourites are poking out.

Purple sensation this year

4. Tulips-queen of the night

This year I planted tulips for the first time. I never liked the standard red variety that makes up bedding planting across the country, but I’m starting to find other varieties I think are actually attractive. In the main borders I had queen of the night and Little Red Riding Hood tulips giving a nice display of red and deep purple. The Little Red tulips were pleasant, but not as rich and Scarlett as the photos suggested on the packaging. I’ve topped up the queen of the nights.

Queen of the night this year
A single queen of the night

5. Allium-schubertii

I like alliums and have a few varieties in the ground. A couple were stopped by slugs and snails this year, so need to look at that next Spring. I liked the messy explosive nature of the photo on this one.

6. Goldfinches

While I have more bulbs to go, six posts on photos of bulb packaging doesn’t seem that exciting. The teasel I’ve been growing has finally served its purpose. I grew it hoping to bring in the goldfinches. I have enjoyed the shape of the teasel sticking out a bit awkwardly in the border. The bees have loved it. But it was the goldfinches I wanted to bring in. Over the last week I’ve had little swarms of them delighting me. I haven’t managed a picture perfect shot yet as the sun has inconvinently been in the wrong position, but hopefullly see more of them.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends. I have more bulbs to try to find space for inbetween school work as well as picking up all the blown over pots.

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Six on Saturday: 6.10.18 wet Autumn day

After another period of dry weather, it looks like today is going to be a wet day. That’s the bulb planter cancelled for the moment. I don’t think Alice will go along with doing it in the rain. At least the ground will be softened.

1. Cyclamen

I’ve bought a few large cyclamens from Tescos. These ones haven’t flowered yet. Most of the trolley had red flowers, so we’ll see what colour these come out. They’ll give a nice burst of colour in the foliage corner. The leaves are nicely veined and fit well with the heuchera.

2. Fatsia-spider web

Carrying on from last week, I bought another fatsia for the patio. This is a variegated version. Accounts differ about whether it is less hardy than the standard variety. We’ll see over the winter in a side by side comparison.  It also isn’t supposed to grow quite as big. I had considered bringing it inside for the winter, but I think I’m going to just try to keep it sheltered.

3. Aeonium arboreum-Zwartkop

My aeonium was left out last winter. It survived, but lost a lot of leaves. Having hung on in there it has gradually recovered over the year. So this year it’s coming in. I’m going to try it in the loft. There is a sky light giving a small amount of light and it shouldn’t need much water during the dormant winter season.

4. Sarracenia-pitcher plant

Having talked about some going in, now one going out. I had this pitcher plant inside, but can’t find a position it is happy in. The windowsills are all too bright and it was getting some leaf burn. Pitcher plants need lots of light, combined with lots of water. Ideally, rainwater. Pitcher plants are carnivorous, so take nutrients from insects. The hard tap water I get would do it harm. It was suggested putting it outside and it seems to be a bit happier. It will shrivel down for winter like a herbaceous perennial. It is currently being tested for UK winter hardiness with the plant being grown outside all year. As I don’t have a good spot inside I may leave it out and see how it does. I may lose it, but it isn’t going to thrive inside.

5. Holly fern-fortunei

Another fern going on the patio. While it’s browned a bit at the moment it was cheap and new fronds in Spring will replace the brown ones. I have one in the border already in fairly deep shade, but it can be pot grown if kept moist. I thought it was a nice contrast of leaf shape to the couple I’ve bought so far. It is native to Asia. I’d quite like to find a painted fern, another Japanese native, to go with it to add contrast of leaves and colour. The bright green of these in Spring is a wonderful sight.

6. Rain

My dad, kindly, mowed the lawn earlier in the week. Luckily, as I am not going to be able to do it now as I’ve had continual rain for the last few hours. All the supermarkets are selling Autumn lawn repair boxes. But I think mine has done pretty well through the Summer drought with no watering. Seeded well, cut to a higher level and no SPring watering has done it good. If you water your lawn in Spring and when it’s establishing it encourages shallow rooting. Supposedly, If it’s left to its own devices it roots deeper helping during dry periods. Either way, it’s looking lush. Not a mass amount of colour in the garden at the moment, but the hydrangeas are still giving a good display as they gradually fade. Some of the roses are set to give second bursts. The verbena has been keeping the pollinators happy. The rain is helping it all look fresh.

I’d talked about the patio last week but didn’t really show it properly. It is just a concrete slope. It is getting paved, which should make it look much better. The slope does, however, help all the plants planted in the border at the end of the patio. The hydrangeas benefit from lots of water in Summer, so getting all the water runoff from the patio helps them a lot.

Hope you all enjoy your weekends. Check the propagators blog to see more six on Saturday posts.

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Six on Saturday: 29.9.18 patio plants

Over the next few months we are supposed to be getting the outside of the house rendering redone and the patio redone. It is currently just concrete with large parts cracking and falling apart. The plan is for the wall to be sorted and pavers down.

On the patio the plants have ended up being a fairly random selection. The alpine and succulent planters have thrived, but the other plants have ended up being plants that didn’t suit the border. As such, there is really any cohesion to them the main garden is largely wildlife friendly, cottage garden flowers and plants. I’m looking to have more foliage and a few more exotic looking plants on the patio. Rather than lots of cluttered small pots a few bigger one. The patio plants seem to suffer with the sea wind, so I’ll need a few tough specimens on the corner to protect other plants.

So here are six plants probably staying on the patio.

1. Tree fern-Dicksonia antarcita

I planted this tree fern in the border, but I don’t think it got enough water, so I’ve taken it out of the fern corner and put it into a pot. I can wrap it for the winter and then give it a bit more attention on the patio to try and try to get it looking less sorry for itself.

2. Fatsia Japonica

The leave of fatsia has superb foliage. It’s an excellent background plant. I’m imagining this moved into one of the bigger pots once I’ve evicted the current inhabitant. Then in front a variety of ferns, maybe the odd lily or something for colour. Only small at the moment, but will grow quickly enough next year.

3. Yuccas/cordyline?

These two plants were on the decking in my last house when I bought it. They were shadowed heavily by a number of plants, including tomatoes, that have now been moved. They had yellowed quite a bit, but have recovered fine now. They seem to be survivors having tolerated quite a bit of abuse from weather and neglect.

4. Asplenium scolopendrium Harts tongue fern

I’ve got one of these growing in the fern corner. I like the long tongue leaves. It stays attractive for much of the year. The fronds brown over winter and are replaced by fresh fronds in spring. Quite small at the moment, but at £2.50 I can wait for growth.

5. Aspidistra “China moon”

A few weeks back on Gardeners World, Monty had his houseplants out and it was talked about, on twitter, how some varieties of aspidistra could be kept outside all year. Aspidistras became the symbol of middle class living for the Victorians. I rather like the idea of a patio aspidistra, so I’m testing this variety of winter. It came in a big clump. I’ve divided some off to keep inside as insurance. Not the ideal time to divide, but I think it’s got enough root on. “China Moon” is a darker spotted variety. Hopefully do well in the shade of the wall.

6. Cordyline-Red star

I thought the thin red leaves would make a nice contrast to the other green foliage plants. Recommended for coastal gardens it should survive hopefully survive the winter weather and winds, so long as I keep it in a more sheltered position.

Looking back through my six I’ve mainly got thin leaved plants, so could do with some broader leaved foliage. Maybe time to get some hostas. It’s all a bit of a mess at the moment, but no point sorting until the paving is done. Happy gardening people!

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The peoples walk for wildlife: what difference does it make?

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

The Smiths

Today is the peoples walk for wildlife. Organised by Chris Packham, people have descended on Hyde Park to show support for wildlife. An admirable way to spend a wet Saturday. The event is promoting the manifesto for wildlife. This outlines a number of steps that could be taken to support our rapidly declining wildlife. Now, sadly, I’ve seen a lit of people on social media asking “what’s the point?” “What difference will it make?” Seeing as the movement has borrowed heavily from the punk movement it seems worth recalling a key punk legend.

On June 4th 1976, a little band, The Sex Pistols played a gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall. The gig has become legendary in music circles. Hundreds of people claim to have attended, though the hall probably only held 150 people at most. In reality, about 30 to 40 people probably attended.

So why the fuss? Well, from that small number attending many influential bands were formed. From this gig, we got the Buzzcocks and later magazine, The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall and in some accounts Mick Hucknall of Simply Red (though maybe that last one wasn’t such a positive development). These bands put Manchester on the music map and have had an impact on modern music that can’t be calculated.

More info on the gig.

So what does this have to do with a wildlife demonstration? Well if a handful of people can attend a gig and go onto become world famous and sell millions of records around the world, what’s to say today’s attendees won’t go off to spread the message further. Many young people are attending with parents. Maybe we are looking at future conservationists, scientists, educators, politicians and who knows what else. One day can send out ripples for years to come.

Badger small
One of the animals in need of protection.

Now, I’m unable to make it, but I hope the people who are there enjoy themselves and send a clear message to our politicians and policymakers that we want wildlife on the agenda. But I’ve still been doing my little bit for wildlife today. Here are a couple of quick ways to help wildlife.

IMAG0047

We got out for a walk to the mere to see our local wildlife today

So to the people who attended, well done for supporting, and to the people who can’t like myself I hope you find some way this weekend to enjoy wildlife.

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Six on Saturday: Holy gardening utility belt Batman!

So inspired by the garden ninja’s blog on best tools to start out with I thought I’d show six of my tools. I recently bought a holster, which I now wonder how I managed without. So for this week my super gardening rig out.

1. Hori-hori

The Japanese digging knife. I’ve discussed it before, but this little tool is massively useful. It digs, cuts, plants bulbs, weeds, etc. It feels satisfying getting the dandelions out with this. When I moved in the lawn was more dandelions than grass. While I don’t mind a few for the wildlife it was a bit much.

2. Snips

My gardening snips are used for lots of the smaller/thinner deadheading and useful for a lot of the houseplants that don’t have as thick stems. I bought a holster for them so they weren’t left open and dangerous. Now, I wonder how I got by without them attached to me for easy use.

3. Weeding knife

As well as the hori-hori I carry a small folding weeding knife. The hori-hori is good for the larger weeds and devastates dandelions. The folding knife is better for the gaps in the patio where weeds emerge weekly.

4. Secateurs

My secateurs are nothing special. Just a set of Spear and Jackson secateurs, but they’ve reliably done the job for a few years. It’d be nice to treat myself to something sturdier, but not essential.

5. Gold leaf gloves

The gold leaf gloves I got for tackling the roses are excellent. Thick yet supple. They have made working on the roses a lot easier and I know will come in use when I tackle the teasel.


6. Jacket

My trusty gardeners jacket hangs by the back door. It’s fleecy lined and quite thick. It protects from the spikier garden plants and has deep pockets to hold string and rubber ties. Alice knows big jobs are ahead when the full kit has gone on.

Hope you’ve enjoyed an insight into my gear. I’ve got climbing roses to tie in and an outdoor aspidistra to pot up. Enjoy your weekends!

Houseplant hour: The man who hated aspidistras

This week I bring you a houseplant horror story W.F. Harvey. William Fryer Harvey (1885-1937) was a writer best known for writing horror and macabre stories. Born into a wealthy Quaker Yorkshire family he trained in medicine. He served during WWI in various medical roles. He suffered lung damage during the war that caused issues for the rest of his life.

After the war, he worked in adult education until ill health forced his retirement. During his lifetime three short story collections were published. Then after his death, in 1937, a posthumous collection was published following the 1946 film release of his best-known work, the beast with five fingers.

Harvey’s horror stories are interesting as they don’t follow one theme or formula. Many horror writers write one story in different variations, but Harvey’s follow different directions.

The story today is in the open domain now for copyright purposes. It offers a warning to abusing your houseplants, particularly that stuffy symbol of the Victorian middle class, the aspidistra.

The man who hated Aspidistras

The earliest memories of Ferdinand Ashley Wilton were green memories—of aspidistras. The aunt with whom he lived at Cheltenham was fond of the plants. As you entered the hall of Claremont Villa there was on the right an upturned drain-pipe painted a sage green and decorated with arum lilies. This contained Miss Wilton’s umbrellas and her father’s walking-stick. Projecting into the hall on the left a fretful erection of mahogany supported a mirror, hooks for cloaks, and two shelves. On the upper shelf was a porcelain bowl that contained the cards of callers; on the lower, in a sea-green earthenware pot, precariously rested the first of the aspidistras. The second stood in the dining-room—in summer in the fireplace, in winter on the ledge of the window that faced south. In the drawing-room was the third, raised high above the ground on a fluted wooden pedestal. The fourth and last aspidistra stood on the round table by the couch in Miss Wilton’s bedroom. At night it was carried out on to the landing, for Miss Wilton, remembering something that her doctor had once said about sick-rooms and flowers, thought it on the whole wisest that she should sleep alone.

The aspidistras dominated Ferdinand’s life. They were always liable to be upset, so that he was not allowed to run about in the hall or dining-room. When he was very small he had a fancy that they repeated to Miss Wilton the many things that he had done amiss, and especially did he distrust that fourth plant, which stood at night, a sleepless sentinel, on the landing close to his bedroom door. As he grew older he learnt, reluctantly, how to sponge their leaves with soapy water. When a gentle rain was falling he would carry them into the garden in order that they might enjoy what Miss Wilton called a thorough soaking. But if Ben, the poodle, were in the garden he had to be brought in straight away and dried. The laws governing the vegetable and animal worlds seemed to Ferdinand strangely different. In very dry weather the bath would be half filled and the four aspidistras would stand in a row for hours partially submerged. Ferdinand was not allowed to sail his boat among the gloomy islands of this archipelago, but if his conduct had been satisfactory he was permitted to pull the plug before going to bed. Ferdinand was still a very little boy when he was sent away to school. He was constantly ailing and even when he was well he received more than his due share of kicks and bruises. In the matron’s room he felt as if he were back again in Cheltenham, the pot of aspidistras reminded him so much of his aunt. On it he vented the hatred of his schoolboy world. When the matron was called out of the room he would share with the aspidistras vegetable laxatives and iron tonics, or impart to their leaves an unnatural glow of health by polishing them with Scott’s emulsion or liquid paraffin. A vertical section of the pot illustrating Ferdinand’s activities would have shown a thimble, three hairpins, a number of needles, the case of a clinical thermometer and, an inch below the surface, an almost complete tessellated pavement of sugar-coated pills. When, however, in a rash moment, Ferdinand, in applying the contents of a bottle of tincture of iodine to the leaves, found to his alarm that the black stains were irremovable, the fat was in the fire. The matron made a formal complaint, but nobody owned up. The ten more or less ailing boys who had visited the room on that fatal morning were indiscriminately punished. To them it was known that Ferdinand was the delinquent. He did not escape. Like the aspidistra he was poked and prodded and shaken to the roots. Boyhood passed. At the university Ferdinand achieved a certain success. He published a volume of verse and was founder and secretary of the Mid-Victorians. He only met two aspidistras during the whole of the time he was up, one in the porter’s lodge whose leaves he would absent-mindedly trim with pocket scissors, and the other in a dentist’s waiting-room. Miss Wilton died. She left to her nephew the villa at Cheltenham and four hundred pounds a year. Ferdinand was able to devote himself to literature, and from Bloomsbury lodging-houses wrote his first series of Antimacassar Papers. It was at this period of his life that he found himself once again under the influence of aspidistras. He began by nagging them, treating them as ash-trays, pen-wipers, and cemeteries for safety razor blades. He ended by torturing them. One, he slowly did to death with weedkiller; into another, following the example of the Good Samaritan, he would pour in oil and wine. A third he garrotted with rubber bands; a fourth, slowly succumbing to a solution of bath salts, filled his room for weeks with the faint perfume of lavender. A horticultural detective would, of course, have quickly got on the track of the Bloomsbury murders, but no suspicion ever fell upon Ferdinand. He was so inoffensive, so subtle, so respectable, and in his own way so quietly ornamental. His requirements were so few and he needed little looking after. His landladies were always sorry when he went. The aspidistras never got over his departure.

Ferdinand, of course, should have realised that it is dangerous to indulge in hatred. The man who hates open spaces as likely as not will be killed when crossing a square. It isn’t the motor car but the square that kills him. Ferdinand had his warnings. Once on a wet morning a pot of aspidistras fell from a third-storey window ledge on to the pavement at his feet. On another occasion when travelling by train a sudden stop brought down from the rack a heavy and bulky package that indubitably involved risk of injury to passengers. If Ferdinand had not been sitting with his back to the engine he would have been struck on the head by the most monstrous aspidistra he had ever seen.

He was smoking one day in a despondent mood when his friend Basset Tankerville chanced to call. The Blue Review had noticed his latest volume of essays with less than its usual appreciation. ‘Listen to this,’ said Ferdinand to Basset. ‘“We begin to be conscious of the limitations of his point of view—the interstices of a Venetian blind. He is the embodiment of the aspidistra.” And then,’ said Ferdinand, ‘they have the impertinence to give half a column to a review of Gertrude Stein.’ ‘Glorious jingles,’ said Basset. ‘You should really try your hand at them yourself. “Ferdinand Ashley Wilton with his dashed aspidistras that wilt unless fertilised. With black tobacco ash. Ad astra Aspidistra.” But seriously, you do remind me of the plants. You are becoming more and more green with envy, more and more pot-bound. And, by the way, have you ever thought of how applicable to aspidistras is St Paul’s description of charity? That specimen which I see before me suffereth long and is kind. It vaunteth not itself, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. And the same, Ferdinand, in a large measure is true of you. You and the aspidistra are one.’ Those light words of Basset Tankerville, spoken as they were in jest, marked an epoch in Wilton’s life. They stirred the vegetable fibres of his being. His conversation became more and more torpid. The wit that had enlivened the Antimacassar Papers vanished and though from time to time he still wrote, his style—polished and stately as it was—became dull. He left London to live once again in Cheltenham, but it was as an invalid that he lived. Though he took the waters regularly his skin acquired an unmistakeable greenish tinge which the dark green cloak he always wore made all the more noticeable. A little odd, his housekeeper thought him, and very old-fashioned, but Mr Wilton gave next to no trouble. On sunny days she would pull up the Venetian blinds and place his chair in the window, where he would sit quietly for hours occasionally sponging his long leaf-like hands with soap and water. He was happiest, however, when the faintest of drizzles was falling. Then the man who hated aspidistras would be wheeled out into the rain to enjoy a thorough soaking.

My classroom aspidistra, solid enough to survive a gloomy classroom and four year olds.

After thought

A warning to plant keepers. Have you become the plants you look after? Hope you’ve enjoyed the story. Are there any plants you need to ask forgiveness from? For more houseplant conversation check the twitter hashtag #houseplanthour A fortnightly conversation on Tuesday all about houseplants.

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