Six on Saturday: 28.11.20

Alice has still been off school part of this week so the garden has largely been neglected but the small time we’ve had on garden jobs has been enjoyable.

1. Breakfast birdwatch

On Wednesday we had Alice’s last day of home-schooling before her year group reopened. It has been closed after another child tested positive. But they’ve had their isolation period and she can return. I posted last week that we have been doing breakfast birdwatches but I wanted to post about it again as she drew such lovely pictures.

We have found a lot of feathers through the week on the lawn. I need to set up the trail camera to see what is responsible. It may just be birds scrapping or it could be the neighbour’s cat or the sparrowhawk.

And a mouse fallen victim. As we have remains left I suspect the cat as the sparrowhawk would have taken it.

2. Sparrowhawk

I did spy the sparrowhawk catch a sparrow last week. It zoomed in and snatched one and was out. I just managed a picture through the window before it was off. But I’m not sure it’s responsible for all the damage.

3. Sprouts

The sprouts were devastated by caterpillars earlier in the year but wasps then devoured them all and they have recovered. I’m not sure if we’ll have a crop for Christmas but it would be nice.

4. Front garden lights

Friday would have been the Christmas light turn on in my town. But they haven’t had the chance to raise the money this year so they are lower key. So, there has been a community push to place lights outside peoples own homes. In the front garden, I have used some solar-powered wire LEDs. They have a backup battery for dull days. I have stuck to the white lights in the front garden.

5. Back garden lights

In the back garden, we have lots of battery-operated coloured lights. I’m using rechargeable batteries as they do need recharging a few times over the month they are up.

6. Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

This is an Algerian Iris that normally flowers January to February time. I’d bought two varieties earlier in the year as I’d been taken by other peoples. It’s nice to have a flower in that winter window where little else is flowering. But this seems to have got started early.  These are flowering at the base of the stems so I don’t know if I’ll get some larger ones in future years.

We will be going out of lockdown next week and into Tier 3 lockdown so there won’t be any changes for us. But seeing as we are both still working, Alice is at school and the garden centre is still open it doesn’t really affect my life much. I hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 21.11.20

We have had another week of balancing work and homeschooling. Alice’s year group was closed due to a positive Covid case. Amy and I are tag-teaming on the homeschooling. I teach Alice for the morning then Amy comes back to take over and I’ve headed into work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening. We planted up a few tulips in pots and emptied a few of the dahlia pots for storage. But largely the garden has been neglected. That said, there is still lots looking good out there.

Geranium oxonianum

I believe this is a form of geranium oxonianum though I don’t know which. It was passed on by one of my aunts. There are little pockets of these flowers dotted along the borders. A reliable no-fuss plant.

2. Dahlias

We have had a few chillier nights and the dahlias are starting to show the strain. I was hoping for dahlias in December but they are looking to be giving up now.

3. Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii

I picked this up just before lockdown reduced as it will soon shrivel up. It’s a nice variegated form of spurge that should give spectacular lime green flowers next year. It’ll need to be in a pot to give it the dry conditions it needs.

4. Ox-eye daisies

A few tatty daisies are in flower here and there. While they aren’t providing any sort of decent display the few pollinators still active will appreciate them.

5. Charity hydrangea

I picked this up from outside a house during our daily exercise walk in the first lockdown. They were outside a house and just asking for a donation. They seem to open quite green before quickly shifting to pink.

6. Breakfast birdwatch

I have largely stuck to teaching Alice traditional school lessons to keep her ticking over while she’s off school. A big focus on her phonics, reading and writing but I have included a little burst of nature contact with taking part in the breakfast birdwatch. We aren’t getting much variety currently but we are getting large numbers of sparrows and various pigeons. The sparrowhawk has come through a few times sending everything scattering but the crows usually turn up to mob it. I find I take more bird photos in winter as with the trees bare it becomes easier to get shots.

Alice goes back to school at the end of next week so going to be playing catchup on jobs after that. I am currently working through my RHS unit on pests and diseases so I am seeing signs of damage everywhere that would normally be neglected. I have enjoyed having the extra time with Alice but it has been tough balancing both our jobs and home life. Hope you are all keeping well and finding some solace in gardens and the outside world.

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Six on Saturday: 14.11.20-Wooden tools

We have had a busy week. Alice’s year group is closed now as a child in her class tested positive for Covid so she has 2 weeks at home. So, Amy and I are splitting our work time to home school while returning to work to school-school. Alice was initially upset to be off and then she realised this means she’s getting lots of time with us doing lessons again.

So onwards with this weeks six. I thought this week I would have a look at a few wooden tools for the garden. A new shop opened in town two days before lockdown. So, sadly it has had to close. It is stocking lots of wooden sculptures and gifts, but it also has many garden tools at cheap prices.

1. Dibber

We have quite a bit of bulb planting to go and Alice has got the hang of using my dibber so we can have 2 so she can have her own. We have a mass of Iris reticulata to pot up so that will speed the job up.

2. Trug basket

I thought this might be useful to carry some of the tools out and keep track of where they are. I might stain it before I use it just to hide the muck a bit.

3. Cane topper

I’ve got this cane topper ready for next year to erect for the sweet peas. I’ll need to get some canes to slot in the holes. Ideally, I’d like to make it a little taller than what I used this year. But this year was making do with what was around with lockdown. I might ask if they can make some smaller single cane toppers as be nice to have some instead of the less attractive rubber ones. Though they may be practical they aren’t the nicest.

4. Yew pot tamper

This tamper is used for pressing the compost down and smoothing it off in pots and seed trays. It was supposedly made from a yew grown by the great plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll. I like to think some of her talents rub off on the plants started using it.

5. Yellow rose

The yellow rose has managed its second flush of flowers. Very late on but much appreciated. Some years it has managed a third flowering but I don’t think I’ve fed and mulched it as much this year.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

I think this was a basal cutting I took from Dahlia tamburo earlier this year. Either that or Black Jack. The dahlias are still going. The dahlia flowers are lasting well currently as we’ve had dull dry days. The wet days bring the petals off and the warm sunny days lead to the fading. I’ve still got quite a lot of dahlias looking good. But I could do with them being frosted now so I can lift the ones coming out and put blubs in. A lot will be getting left in the ground and getting a mulch but the potted ones come out.

We might be on lockdown but we still have Alice’s dance lesson coming virtually through zoom so I will be busy for part of the morning. Then Alice is asking for a home-school lesson. She doesn’t have a concept of the weekend giving me a day off. Hopefully might manage a few jobs in the garden over the week if I can persuade Alice that they are part of her home-schooling. Enjoy your weeks.

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Six on Saturday: 7.11.20-new patio seating area

Going back quite a few months we won vouchers from woodblocx for our efforts during grow your own for wellbeing week. I left off spending the vouchers until the building work had finished. I finished off building it last week and moving the patio furniture around. I went for a double bench and it feels like a nice solid bit of kit. Obviously, we will be lacking visitors currently with lockdown. As both me and Amy work in education this lockdown doesn’t look to change our daily routines much as we are still heading to work. So, we won’t get to enjoy the new seating area much for a little while.

1. The view from above

From above you can see the new seating area is taking up a decent space on the patio so everything has had a move around to accommodate. A few plants have been moved into the borders. We have Alice’s mud kitchen given its own space behind the bench and then the log stores have been placed opposite each other. The patio concrete is quite bad and it is something we’d like to get paved at some point in the future.

The seating area

The seating area is a decent size. Two of us can comfortably sit on each bench. The corner space is designed to be used as a planter but we thought it would be more useful as a table so I have built the tabletop additionally. The top lifts on and off so we can potentially use it as storage. Though it quite heavy so probably something that doesn’t come in and out much like the umbrella stand that will be away for the winter. The woodblocx work a bit like Lego. Each wooden block has holes in and then you put plastic dowels in so they then fit together like Lego bricks to make the design. It feels pretty robust. We’ll probably look at getting some bench cushions next year when the weather warms up and we want to sit out more.

3. Behind the bench

I have used the backspace to put a few shade lovers. These ferns and hostas are shaded by the bench and wall. These will also provide a bit of a wind buffer. I did have heuchera on here last winter but when I moved them back after the builders finished I found vine weevil. I have disposed of them and treated the garden with nematodes. It is just warm enough they may still work but I will need to keep a close eye on things in spring.

4. Alice’s mud kitchen

The mud kitchen has gained a bit of space. It is largely filled with charity shop finds. Currently, she is mainly making perfume from the deadheaded dahlias. To one side I have an acer and hostas, to the other side the fern pictured in the previous photo.

5. The log store

The log stores have been moved right along the wall close to the French doors. I put hanging basket hooks on previously for solar lights. These were cheap ones and half have stopped working. I’m keeping my eye out for some decent replacements. The mini-greenhouse has a few cuttings on the go and a few Digitalis lutea and a few heucheras I’m trying from seed.

The log stores are also acting as wind and sun buffers for an Acer palmatum ‘seiryu’. With our sea winds, I shouldn’t really bother with Acers but I have persisted anyway. Eventually, I will create enough buffers for them to thrive.

On the opposite fence to the bench is the water butt. It’s 300 litres and has served us well over this summer with a large amount of our watering coming from this. I reckon one more decent one and I could probably manage without using the tap but Amy needs bringing around to this idea. This area has gathered a collection of plants that don’t currently have a place. There are two large dahlias that I am waiting to be frosted. Then they can be lifted and I’ll sort this area properly.

So, that rounds out the patio. I still need to tidy some of it up but I’m sure the bench will get plenty of use. We Christened it on bonfire night with a mini-bonfire, marshmallows and sparklers. I hope you are all having good weekends and keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 31.10.20-Autumn planter

Well today we enter tier 2 in my local area. Though this doesn’t really change anything as we haven’t had anyone else in the house for a while and we have a small child and no child care so going out to bars with other people wasn’t a big part of our life. But we’ve still had plenty of fun this week with our snail and the whale adventure, tree planting with the promise, and a Halloween trail at Burton Agnes. So at least we’ve got out before we have our options slightly restricted.

I saw a few weeks ago that Mr Plant Geek AKA Michael Perry was running a competition to create an autumn planter. I thought it would make a nice little weekend project with Alice. We had a big empty pot ready and I had a vague idea of plants I wanted. We had a good wander of the garden centre to find suitable plants deciding on our choices together. Then a decent slab of carrot cake for me and brownie for Alice before returning to get to work.

1. Callicarpa

Amy had wanted a callicarpa last year but I resisted as it is a pretty boring plant for much of the year. The leaves are nothing to shout about. The flowers are alright but not exactly a show stopper. Where they excel is the autumn berries. As you can see they are like nothing else. Masses of small purple berries cover the plant in autumn. On there own it’s a pretty boring plant so it needs really companions to provide interest the rest of the year or to be used as a temporary display.

2. Heuchera

I wanted something evergreen with a bright leaf to provide interest through autumn and winter. This one fitted the bill. The wider leave provides a contrast in shape and colour to the callicarpa and the grass. I was looking for a brighter red one but they didn’t have any currently.

The veining isn’t as striking as some but will be more prominent at other times of the year.

3. Carex

This is a nice short grass. I have a pot of carex ice dance which has stayed reliably evergreen through the winter. The short thin spikes contrasting with the other elements of the pot.

4. Trailing pansy

Alice wanted a few of these pansies. We put one in her bee pot from a few weeks ago and dotted a few around the edge of this planter. I’m not a massive fan of this sort of bedding plant but it will add some nice bursts of colour to the pot as they spill over the edge. The colour she selected is working well with the other plants and I think it will improve as the autumn goes on and they fill out.

I topped the pot with pebbles to stop splashback on the wall if it needs watering and to keep it all looking neat. It acts as a mulch keeping some moisture in reducing the need to water, not that this matters currently.

6. The overall look

I think we selected plants that look attractive together. It should stay looking good through the darker months and be a nice sight out of the back door. They are complementing each other nicely.

And here are the two of us looking proud next to our work. Alice really wants to win the cushion for the first prize so we’ll see how it goes. Whether we win or not it was nice planting it up together and talking through the plants with Alice and selecting options together at the garden centre. You can also see Alice’s bee pot she filled with tulips a few weeks back. She agreed to put a pansy in so it doesn’t have to sit looking like an empty pot for half the year.

We had a good time making our planter together and Alice stayed out to help me with other garden jobs after. We got a few more things planted and she helped sweep the patio and give the windows a clean after all the dust from the builders. A good productive afternoon. Fingers crossed we win as she is very excited by the cushion to a point where I will have to buy her a cushion if we don’t win. But even if we don’t we can take pleasure in our planter over the darker months of the year.

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Burton Agnes-Spell Stones

Today we went to visit Burton Agnes for the Halloween trail. We have visited twice before for the snowdrop festival so it was a chance to see the site in a slightly different season.

We did a little bit of pre-visit crafting. I had a little idea inspired by the promise, the lost words and the more than weeds project. The ‘more than weeds’ project has involved people chalking the names of wildflowers next to where they are found. Chalking the name on walls or pavements to raise awareness of the beauty of many of these plants. The lost words was a book that came out of the decision to remove many ‘nature’ words from the Oxford children’s dictionary. I had little idea that we could make spell stones to mark the trees we see. I thought we would start with the oak after our earlier exploration of the story ‘the promise‘. I decorated my stone with the Ogham symbol for oak.

Then on the reverse I made a little acrostic poem in the style of the lost words. Not an award winning poem but for a quick job it will do.

Alice was more creative with hers drawing an acorn with the tree growing out of it. Then further acorns on her tree. I thought it was a pretty good piece of symbolism. You can see later where we found to place them.

Burton Agnes is a short drive from us. It’s only about 20 minutes away from us making it one of our closest gardens to visit. It was a day where my RHS membership actually applied so I got free entry along with Alice. Social distancing is being encouraged. They are limiting numbers. Tickets are still available at the gate but they are starting to do more online bookings. We arrived for opening and it was still peaceful but it was getting busy when we left. The hall is currently closed but I’m not that interested in the inside the hall. We wanted to do the Halloween trail.

Around the grounds and the woodland they have set up Halloween scenes. As you first come in they had a witch’s cottage set up.

We weren’t sure what Alice would make of the displays but she loved it.

A few of the scenes around the grounds.

Walking along the woodland trail with Amy and granny.

We found an oak to place our spell songs under. Hopefully they will keep it growing for another 100 years at least. And we read the oak poem from the spell songs book. A little bit of genuine magic amongst the Halloween displays.

Alice with grandparents.

The woodland walk wooden sculptures seem to move each time we visit. I have a suspicion someone is casting spells on these too.

They have a nice collection of fairy doors around the play park area.

As part of the trail there are sacks. You have to guess what’s in each.

We had a little burst of rain while Alice had a play in the park. It’s a decent play area with equipment for the younger kids and older.

The walled gardens are pretty bare currently. Someday we’ll visit in summer and see it in full bloom.

Still a few roses in bloom.

And a few dahlias.

And a last photo opportunity on the way out.

They have quite a lot plants for sale in the grounds but today it was a lot things which seed freely for us. There was lots of Lychnis and Heuchera purple palace which we have plenty of and more seedlings coming through. If they were cheap I might have considered a purchase but they were a bit steep for what they were. We did however discover a little nursery down the road which was selling many plants at bargain prices. I got 2 pots of Iris Joyce which is a nice dark blue iris and 2 pots of Galanthus elwesii which is a nice long stemmed snowdrop.

It’s been a lovely day out. It’s good to get out amongst woodland and dust off the cobwebs. Alice said it was spooktacular fantastic or should that be fangtastic. It felt like a nice follow up to our activities around the promise. I’d like to do a few more spell stones around the local park so Alice can continue learning the names of the trees and being able to recognise them. It feels important this knowledge that once would have been commonplace isn’t lost. We have an excellent Autumn planter six on Saturday coming up tomorrow so check back tomorrow.

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The Promise-Tree Planting

The wonderful picture book, “The promise” by Nicola Davies has had a lovely animation made in in collaboration with the BBC. The story is a beautifully illustrated story with illustrations courtesy of Laura Carlin. It tells the story of a young girl thief who finds redemption through planting acorns. It has a dark side to it but ultimately a wonderfully positive message. Even if you don’t have children I would recommend reading it and watching the new animation as it’s beautiful.

Link to the BBC video.

The Promise provides a wonderful platform for climate action with young children. It has been launched in several versions with an English and Gaelic version currently. The main purpose is to get people planting trees. For educators there have been some wonderful resources made to go alongside the launch with presentations on why trees matter, biodiversity, and worksheets to learn more. There is lots for teachers to get their teeth stuck into. Increasingly schools are having to send their children home during the Covid crisis and much of what has been included here is ideal for home learning. Even if the school is not facing Covid closures there is much here that can be shared with families and a time when educators are having to be a bit more distant than normal. We can’t currently invite parents into the nursery I work, but we can encourage growing projects at home. This is well suited to bridging that gap between home and school at the moment.

I wanted to do a few activities with Alice this half term around the story but we are lacking acorns. I have a few saved from earlier in the year but I don’t think many are viable for planting so I have been looking at different seeds we can try growing in order to encourage a few more trees.


While we are lacking acorns we have no shortage of conkers, horse chestnut seeds. Conkers need to experience a period of cold for several months before germination. Known as cold stratification. You can plant them outside and many will likely germinate, though some will rot, some may be eaten before they get a chance to get going. So we are placing them in the fridge for a few months. After that we can check to see which are viable by dunking in water. Floaters are viable, sinkers need discarding. In spring we can plant them out in pots outside. They just need protection from being eaten by squirrels or the young stalk being devoured.

Self seeders

Usually when I weed the garden I will find a handful of trees that have established in the borders by themselves. The nearby maple is the worst culprit for this. It often seeds its helicopter seeds into the mass of hydrangeas making it hard to get out and also the reason it goes unnoticed until it has gained some height. Having a look through the borders this week I found a tiny little seedling that looks to be a holly. I’ve carefully dug it out and potted it up. Holly and most evergreen plants are not necessarily great for battling climate change but they are great for wildlife so it seems worth preserving. They also tolerate our sea winds well.


When I mentioned to Alice that I wanted to grow more trees she was keen to grow apple trees. Thinking with her stomach. Most apple trees are sold as grafts as this ensures that they retain the flavour of the parent tree. However, you can take a chance and grow from the pips, from the seeds. The pips will have a mixture of genetics meaning they may taste nothing like the parents so it is something of a lottery. However it is only through this experimentation that we end up with new wonderful varieties of apples. As with the conkers pips need a period of cold. We have placed them on a damp paper towel, then within a slightly opened bag in the fridge. Some may germinate while in the fridge. In a few months’ time we will take them out of the fridge and plant a few to a pot. Then I’ll pull out the weaker ones. Apples apparently have quite low germination success so we may not have much to show for this experiment, but it is ultimately free as we eat tons of apples.


We started a tray of Paulonia tomentosa last month and many have germinated. Known as the foxglove tree, it is one of the fastest growing trees around. An acre can absorb 103 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. It can be highly invasive in some countries but I plan to pollard it cutting it back each year as it grows large leaves, up to 40cm long, this way. This means it doesn’t get a chance to flower and spread. On the positive side though it can absorb mass carbon, prevents soil erosion and produces hard wood quickly leading to it getting recommended for many tree planting schemes and reforestation projects. But one I would recommend researching before trying to grow.

A little more information on easy trees to grow from seed here.

Pine cone

I have low expectations of this method but it looks ornamental enough even if it fails. Pine cones contain the seed of the tree. The seed is usually small and falls out when the pine cone opens. If you keep a pine cone moist the seeds can grow up from the pine cone or around the base if placed on a layer of compost. The cones needs to be found while closed before they open and drop their seeds. I have set mine up pushed gently into a pot of compost. I will then spray this to try to keep it moist but not so wet it rots. Around the base I’ve placed a bit of moss scraped from the fence. I may set up a few more around the garden in different locations if we find some more cones. This beast of a cone was found on a walk through the park in the rain yesterday. We’d gone out for some puddle jumping and leaf kicking to make the most of autumn. I may see about going back to see if we can find some more.

The Promise project is looking to connect with local planting and growing groups. So if you are involved with community projects that are planning to plant more trees it is worth checking their site out. You can make a handshake agreement to promise to plant more trees.

The resources on the screening page look useful with templates for looking at parts of an acorn, the lifecycle of the oak, Japanese leaf pressing, and ideas for acrostic poems based on The Lost Words poems.

I hope you all check it out. It’s a great project and it will hopefully inspire some tree planting projects. Below is one last link to the video.

We will see next year which of our tree planting efforts succeed. I don’t need all of these for my garden so I will look at using some for work or donating to community projects locally. There have already been many tree planting schemes locally but some of the trees have died over summer as they didn’t plan for aftercare and watering while they establish. So, if we manage to get any of these to a decent point we can maybe help replace some of those. Fingers crossed.

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Half term adventure from home-The snail and the whale

It is half term for us. Sadly Hornsea is facing rising cases of Covid. We are not on full lockdown but many of our friends and family are having to isolate so many of our half term plans have been thrown off. We are trying to be careful so we are avoiding contact with people where we can and trying to plan safer activities. Yesterday, we watched Tall stories livestream of Julia Donaldson’s snail and the whale. We saw the Gruffalo last year when theatres were still an option and it was fabulous. A livestream doesn’t quite give the same experience as the theatre so I wanted to create a bit of excitement around it so Alice didn’t just think we were watching a normal TV show. It is shown from London but each showing is done in collaboration with a different theatre It seems like a good way to support theatre during these difficult times for the arts.

A good story can take you all around the world without even leaving your room-Tall Stories

For those of you who don’t know, the snail and the whale is a lovely story written by Julia Donaldosn and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It tells the story of a tiny snail who wants to see the world. It hitches a lift on the tale of the whale and travels around the world. The story ends with the snail saving the whale. Despite its size it can still help the bigger whale. It has a slower pace than her more famous books like the Gruffalo but I think it has a rather nice mindfullness about it. The TV version particular exemplifies this with beautiful scenes like something from a David Attenborough documentary. The ‘Save the whale’ part of the story is a bit of a Greenpeace blast from the past but it is a story filled with positive messages for children.

After she’d gone to sleep on Sunday I set up a trail of small world trays with scenes from the story around the house for Alice to discover when she woke up. I started with the snails black rock with the message from the story, “Lift wanted around the world”.

Then a little further down the hallway we had the Antartic scene. A planting tray, a sheet of card with circles of white paper made up our Antartic scene. I thought we had lots more penguins but sadly not. Though oddly Alice keeps going back to this one.

A few logs, the bears and an eagle made up the next scene.

The volcano and beach was made with coloured rice and rocks. The rice is coloured by putting rice in a tuppaware box and adding a few drops of food colouring and a spoon of vinegar. Shake the box and then let the rice dry. The animals came from the charity shop a while back, though she’s never played with them that much. Now she has a story that goes with them she has enjoyed them more.

Then a water tray made from a storage box filled with water and Alice’s bath toys.

The trail then led her to an invite to the theatre show and a new toy. Since we didn’t have to travel this theatre trip was saving us lots of money in parking costs, drinks, ice-cream, etc so I thought we could justify a speacial treat to mark the occasion.

She loved doing the trail and carried on acting out the story through the morning and making some of her own.

We got dressed up for the occasion as it seemed like the right thing to do despite not leaving the house.

And then settled into watch the show. Alice loved the show giggling along at the jokes. Sadly our internet cut us off about 5/10 minutes before the end, but luckily she knows the story well enough that she acted out the rest with her toy and the trays I’d prepared. There are a few activities Tall Stories have created online which we may try over the week. The theatre show tells the story from the perspective of a daughter and dad telling the story of the snail and the whale as a bedtime story. It’s sweet and funny and acomponied pleasantly by music on the viola.

Tall Stories have more broadcasts of the show over the rest of the month. It’s only £10 so cheaper than actually going out to the theatre and if you have little ones at home and are stuck for ideas for things to do in this strange Covid environment this is a great option. Alice has asked to act out the story again today so I think that’s a sign that she probably enjoyed it. We ended up watching the BBC snail and the whale adaptation too. It provided a good days entertainment and I have a few follow up ideas for over the week. Well worth checking out!

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Six on Saturday: 24.10.20

We’ve made it to half-term. A week ahead with the family. We’ve got a few days out planned. Possibly a garden visit or two. I should get a chance to get back up to date on garden jobs and put the patio back in order after the building work.

1. Autumn wreath

Amy attended an autumn wreath workshop last weekend. The end result is now hung on the door. I think she did a pretty good job. It’s a nice sight to be welcomed home to.

2. Rose scarlet Paul

This climbing rose isn’t generally a repeat flowerer but it has managed to produce a couple of new buds. A pleasant surprise hidden at the back of the border.

3. The lawn

After a grumble about the lawn last week I got on and gave it a cut and edge. It has been left to grow for the last month or two while the building work was going on. It was quite overgrown and is still looking tufty but better than it was. I will look at giving it a good scarify and seeding again with an autumn grass mix.

4. Late dahlias-orange

Another of my seed grown dahlias has kicked into gear and flowered. I think this might be its first burst of the year. Better late than never. I think this was one of the cactus mix dahlias.

5. Bishop’s children dahlia

Another seed grown dahlia that has been slow to flower but it is another beauty. I may leave it in the ground to see if the tuber can have a chance to bulk out.

6. Potentilla ‘William Rollison’

I bought a few plants on an offer at the garden centre. As there was a discount on buying several perennials I let Alice choose one. She went with this Potentilla. Not really something I’ve ever considered before. Part of the rose family it’ll make change from my daisy family rich borders. The flowers are similar to strawberry flowers but semi-double and bright orange. They are apparently liked by bees.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks six. I’m looking forward to getting the time to do a few garden jobs this week. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 17.10.20 Derek Jarman

I have recently read a number of books that have mentioned Derek Jarman and his garden at Dungeness. I had a vague knowledge of the seaside garden he created. The garden plants faced tough conditions needing to survive salt conditions. I picked up his garden book wanting to know why so many people held this book in such high regards. I devoured it very quickly. It features images of the garden and Derek, poems and descriptions of the garden and plants that thrived. He may be better known for his films and sexuality but this is a wonderful garden book. While my garden doesn’t face as harsh seaside conditions as his, my garden is also by the sea and I took early to collecting items from the beach. The ideas in his garden have influenced others who I think have probably influenced my garden before I was even aware of his. I probably have lusher conditions but we have some commonalities that I thought I’d explore.

1. Lawns

Lawns, it seems to me, are against nature, barren and often threadbare – the enemy of a good garden. For the same trouble as mowing, you could have a year’s vegetables: runner beans, cauliflowers and cabbages, mixed with pinks and peonies, shirley poppies and delphiniums; wouldn’t that beautify the land and save us from the garden terrorism that prevails.

This is a passage early on in the book that brought me right on side. I would happily cut down the lawn. While there is sometimes a need for negative space there are other ways of achieving this. However, I have been told we need a lawn while Alice is little to play on. I’m sure she’d have more fun in a jungle of plants. Hide and seek is boring with a standard lawn in the middle. Derek’s conditions would have made a lawn pretty much impossible to make it look good. Our lawn is overgrown as I’ve left it while the builders are working. I did claim a bit of the lawn when I built a raised bed to grow a few bits during the first lockdown. We have a few sprouts forming and then I will probably dismantle. The lawn is going to need a bit of care after that to get it back in order. Far too much effort for something I don’t really like.

2. Driftwood

Derek’s garden made use of many pieces of driftwood found along his stretch. They stand around the Dungeness garden like standing stones and as pieces of sculpture. We have a number of large pieces we have brought back from the beach and many smaller pieces. A few are dug into the border with the plants surrounding.

3. Found objects

The garden at Dungeness was filled with lots of found objects from walks. Our garden has been filled with many odds and ends from the beach. Amongst my favourite are the brick spires that I created to stop the seagulls landing and digging up plants. The metal bars threaded through are reinforcing bars for concrete. They are gradually gaining a layer of rust which I think adds to the look.

4. Seeds

I have got a number of seeds that are about to be started that would have graced the Dungeness garden. I am trying a number of types of sea holly. These formed part of our wedding flowers. I have a few in the border but they are not very exciting forms. I’m hopeful Miss Wilmott’s Ghost will take. It’s a white form that is very pretty. The story goes that Miss Wilmott used to carry around the seed and scatter it in peoples gardens if she thought the borders needed a bit of livening up. The other Dunganess staple I’m going to attempt is Crambe Maritima-sea kale. I want this for the dry raised beds I’m planting up at work. These are supposedly erratic in germinating and can take a long time so I don’t know if I’ll have success but I like to try new plants.

5. Metal

Derek Jarman’s garden had many twisty pieces of metal found on his walks. I have a few but have to be careful with a small child around. We do have some rusty metal around.. This decoration was made with a charity shop purchase and a rusty pole we had around.

6.Crowded borders

Other paradises: Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter up the road, Gardens that deny paradise: Hidcote Manor, known to us as Hideouscote, which is so manicured that not one plant seems to touch its neighbour. The National Trust must have a central nursery as all their gardens look like that.

You won’t find this in Great Dixter; It’s shaggy. If a garden isn’t shaggy, forget it.

I certainly couldn’t be accused of over tidiness and like many people with small gardens, I have filled every inch with plants. I’ve moved a few plants around in the front garden. I had two patches of Hakonechloa macra that had been buried by other growth. I’ve moved them to edge of the path to contrast with the Ophiopogon. Then I’ve bulked them out with some I bought from Wassand Hall’s plant bench.

The scaffolding came down this week so I have started the process of tidying the patio up and getting the garden back in order. It is looking nice. I’m rearranging the log stores, Alice’s mud kitchen and the mini-greenhouse. We have a seating area bench being delivered in a few weeks. So I’m aiming to have an area of practical stores and a seating area on the edge of the patio to look out onto the garden. I’d mentioned last week that I was looking to make a living wall off the wood store. So a few projects to get on with. I am looking to plant up a large pot with an autumn display this weekend with Alice. We could do with a good bright heuchera to finish it off. I’ll probably feature the results next week. Unless it looks terrible. Enjoy your weekends.

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