Six on Saturday: 23.3.19

Last weekend saw a good amount of rain so my gardening efforts were limited to moving a few self-seeders around the border and adding some extra foxgloves. I planted some Japanese Anemone but bare earth doesn’t make for an interesting six. I’m not feeling to well so don’t intend to do much beyond contemplating the front garden plans.

1. Daffodils

The daffodils flower in a ribbon across the garden over a few weeks with the sunnier borders flowering first and the shadier bench area flowering last. I’m not a massive fan of the daffodils but Amy likes them and they come up reliably with little to no effort on my part.

The first patch was planted in the first year and are pretty well established now.

I added a few patches of smaller varieties to the border too. Quite pretty but none of the fried egg variety I like have flowered yet.

2. Foxgloves

I have a few established patches of foxgloves, some grown from seed last year and some self-seeded in the border. However, I still don’t feel there are enough so I’ve added a few more. If I end up down near the florist/pet shop later I will probably get a few more. These two have been placed around the hollyhock with the lupins in front. Should be a good classic cottage garden combination. But again, it probably needs a third as these things work better in threes or more.

3. Forget me nots

As mentioned already, I have spent time moving some of the self-seeders around the border. Forget me nots form a carpet on one border so I moved a few to the opposite border. They were one of the first plants I added to the border when I moved in. Three small patches became a mass carpet but that’s how I like it. Every so often I rip large handfuls out and they return again to fill any spare gaps I leave.

4. Lilac

The lilac is a sold part of the background of the garden near the bench. It has leapt rapidly to life over the last few weeks with buds coming on quickly. Between the lilac and honeysuckle, this corner is one of the best for scent.

5. Muscari

Last year I planted muscari in pots and then moved into the border after flowering. I’d forgotten about these so it was a nice surprise to see one poking up. It is, however, the only one I’ve seen so we’ll see whether anymore appear.

6. Blossom

I’ve been unsure of what the red-leaved tree at the bottom of the garden is so I opened up the question on Twitter. The consensus was a prunus of some variety possibly black cherry. Either way, it has a handful of little blossom flowers that are rather stunning. Though not enough that I’m going to stop pruning it back each year as it could reach twenty feet. Though admiring the blossom all around it would be nice if we made as much fuss as the Japanese. Well worth celebrating.

Tomorrow is my birthday. So, next weeks six will hopefully be featuring new gardening gifts. Failing that if I haven’t received six gardening gifts I will have to gift myself the difference.

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The Front Garden

Recently I’ve mentioned the front garden, quite a lot, in my six on Saturday posts. However, I rarely feature it or show it off as there isn’t very much happening. It is set up to be low maintenance and requires very little attention. Drought tolerant plants and evergreens have been the order of the day. While it easy it lacks any razzle-dazzle. The current building work is going to change the front. The top half is being rerendered. Then the bottom half is having the windowsills redone and we will be painting the brick again.

The garden itself is North facing and shaded as a result for much of the day. A few doors down to the West there is a house with an overgrown Aucuba Japonica hedge that provides a bit of shelter from that direction and a bit more shade. The small border I believe is fairly shallow. I seem to remember there is a pipe going through both.

I’ve emptied part of the thin border ready for the scaffolding going up. There was a patch of lavender close to the house but this has got a bit scraggly so I removed it. Arum Italicum pops up along this border. I will probably dig it out. While I like the foliage it spreads quickly. The lavender at the other end I will probably relocate. It’s doing alright but it doesn’t really get enough sun to thrive. I quite fancy a few evergreen plants with shade-loving perennials or bulbs to add some excitement. Possibly some evergreen ferns and maybe a few hostas. Alternatively, the bin may end up where the lavender is. I’d like them tidied away behind a screen but can’t decide on the right spot to place them. I’d like the garden to look better but it still needs to be practical.

The opposite border is dominated by two hebes and next doors conifer. I imagine the conifer will go at some point as it is blocking their window now and the house side is starting to brown off. The hebes are evergreen and require little maintenance. I like how they give nice rolling domes of greenery all year. Lamprocapnus Spectabilis, bleeding heart, pokes out through the middle for a few weeks each year. However, the darker of the two hebes is dying off with more browned off patches. They don’t flower much anymore. So, I’m unsure whether to remove the one or both and whether to replace with like for like but smaller and healthier. Or whether to go with something different. The hebes suit the shaded conditions and sea winds but it will have the same issues that it will need replacing every 5-10 years potentially. The hebes don’t prune well so when they outgrow their space it causes an issue. I have the two Ilex Crenata Holly stokes that will also form neat domes but could be pruned back and shaped to form tight evergreen interest for the whole year. While they are getting established I could plant some filler plants in between.

In front of the windows, I’ve got two window boxes. As the wall will have just been redone I don’t want to attach these to the walls so I plan to look for some stone bricks to sit them on. The windows open out at the bottom so I can’t put anything too tall that can’t tolerate being brushed by the window opening in Summer. The window boxes are 50cm long while the window is just over a metre. So they’ll sit under the windowsill centrally. I’m thinking some ophiopogon and small ferns, mini hostas for these. I reckon they’ll only fit 3 or 4 small plants with maybe some bulbs coming through in Spring. Maybe something spilling over the edge but unsure of what yet.

As I’m in doubt of what to plant in the boxes I’m seeking the advice of an expert, the good Dr Hessayon. As ever it’s full of lots of solid food for thought. Then how to window box gives lots of design ideas for different styles.

The stones are full of weeds so this will need to come up. Then I’ll either be replacing the weed matting and stones or turning it into a large planting area. One of the hydrangea limelights is probably going to be in the middle. As it’s a small area I want plants with long seasons of interest and there are few flowering shrubs as good as the hydrangea for this. Even after the flowers go over they can still look attractive. It should also suit the shaded conditions well. The ground ends up covered in weeds and moss. I don’t know whether to try and turn this over to a moss garden Japanese style. Moss is of massive benefit to the environment acting as a big carbon sponge making this an attractive option. Any advice anyone?

I’ve probably got a month or two to make decisions so I can carry on with my daydreaming and rearranging in my head.

So the big decisions are:

  • Where the bins will go?
  • What to do with the hebes?
  • What is going in the windowboxes?
  • What am I going to do with the stones?

Anyone care to offer their thoughts?

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Six on Saturday: 16.3.19 Anniversary

So it has been a year since I started contributing to six on a Saturday. It’s been great being part of such a lovely gardening community. I’ve learned a lot from reading everyone else’s posts and I’m developing a better seasonal spread from seeing what everyone else is growing. The last few months the garden has seen quite a lot of disruption with building work going on. The building work is coming on though and I am making plans for improving the front garden and making some serious changes to the back garden. This has already started, over the last few weeks, with a number of the shrubs and trees that gave the garden a lot of its framework removed. I’m taking it as a chance to remove plants I don’t like. With limited space I don’t want to waste it on plants I don’t like.

1. Hydrangea paniculata limelight

One plant I have come to love through writing my six on Saturday posts is the hydrangea. I have three pink mopheads in the garden that I didn’t care for much when we moved in. But I’ve come to enjoy them through their long lived seasonal interest. I’ve also admired this particular hydrangae in the in-laws garden and fancied one for the front garden and one of the little limes, a dwarf variety, for the patio. The little limes aren’t available until August and there wasn’t much difference between buying two or three so I now have three. The front garden is North facing and shaded for much of the time and I think it will thrive there. Then the other two I’ll try growing on the patio in large pots. I’m aiming for a few large statement plants on the patio with a few ferns, hostas and pots of bulbs that can be moved on and off the patio as they flower. Previously the patio was cluttered with lots of small pots. I’d like to make it more cohesive. We’ll see how long this lasts.

2. Ilex Crenata Stokes

I’ve bought these two to grow together on the patio to act as a low screen to stop Alice throwing herself off the patio into the roses. Ilex crenata is recommended as an alternative to box for giving domes that can be pruned into evergreen mounds. I’m on the look out for some square planters to put these in.

3. Slug gone

Slug gone are wool pellets to put round plants as a barrier to protect from slugs and snails. I tried it last year in small amounts to protect my lupins. The one surrounded by this survived. As I added more lupins again last week and have lots of hostas to go in I felt they should have some protection. It also adds some nutrients and acts as a mulch to keep water in the soil. So even if it is ineffective as a slug and snail deterrent it at least serves other purposes.

4. Beer traps

In addition to the slug gone, I’ve added a couple more ceramic beer traps. These snails are easy to fill. I use cheap supermarket brand beer and find these work well in keeping the mollusc numbers down. The plastic bottle is protecting and marking one of the hostas positions.

5. Window planters

I’d bought these with a vague idea of doing something for Jack Wallington’s window box competition. I don’t plan to attach them to the house I’ll raise them on a stone outside the front windows. I had an idea of doing a mini zen garden with a bonsai but I don’t think this is practical so I’m back to the drawing board. I would like something low maintenance with some year-round interest. So I’m probably looking at a number of structural evergreen plants with maybe bulbs for seasonal interest. It’s a shaded spot so that will limit choices too. There a bit shorter than I’d like at 50cm but it seems the price rapidly increases for any larger and I don’t want a plastic window box. This is clay fibre and still has a bit of weight to it.

6. Irises

I planted these minature iris back in December in pots hoping the building work would be done by the time they flowered and could go back on the patio. The building work isn’t done so they are currently sat on the edge of the lawn looking a bit untidy but the flowers themselves are lovely. I’ve seen some lovely varities this year and think it’s something I could happily plant more of next year. Though I think next year I’ll look at less pots but putting a bit more care into planning seasonal succession planting.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my six and watching the gardens progress over the last year. As mentioned there are a lot of changes ahead as I try to create a more cohesive garden rather than a series of individual plants. Enjoy your weekends and good gardening!

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Thompson and Morgan stunning succulents grow kit

I won this kit through a Twitter competition and have since been holding out on sowing the seeds. I want to try to time it so they can go outside later in the year. I have several pots of sempervivums already and these look like they’ll fit in well to fill a few gaps. Here is a round-up of the kit and the first steps to growing.

The kit comes with 5 pots and pellets, labels, snips and seeds for two all together are succulents. Sempervivum hybrdum mixed and Sempervivum tectorum.

The pellets need to be soaked in water for them to grow to size. These are magical to watch as they soak up the water and slowly rise wobbling upwards.

The peat discs can then be crumbled into the pots provided. Then the pots need a good soak to ensure it’s all nice and moist before seed sowing.

The seeds are tiny so a brush came in handy to get them out the pack and into the pots. I then labelled up the pots to keep track of progress.

The pack came with a plastic bag to wrap them in to keep them moist while they germinate, but I’ve put them in a propagator so I can do them altogether. The advice then states that they need leaving somewhere warm with low light such as an airing cupboard until they germinate.

The instructions suggest it will be a few weeks before they germinate so I will report back in a month or so with an update. All in all, this is a nice little kit ideal for a present. There are a number of other kits in the range covering fruit and veg and even a bonsai kit. At £10 they are reasonably priced as a present though many of the plants can be bought cheap as seeds so probably not something you’d buy for yourself. It’ll be a few weeks until these need pricking out so for now they just need keeping moist and warm. Wish me luck!

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Six on Saturday: 9.3.19 Further destruction

Following on from last weeks destruction of the conifers I still have some more plants in need or pruning and removing.

1. Pruning dogwood

This dogwood has been in need of a trim for a while. It had grown to the height of the fence and across the border and through next doors fence. I’ve been leaving off pruning it until Winter was over. The bright red stems add some Winter colour even without the leaves on. With dogwoods, there are several pruning options. You can thin it out each year and take a bit off the top or you can go for a more drastic cut down to just above ground level. I’ve been thinning this out the last few years but it has still got a bit too large. Also, the stems lose their vibrant red so a cut to ground level will let the plant replace the tired stems.

I’ve then spent the time cutting it small to get it in the brown bin. As I’m not currently driving I’m trying to do my pruning over a few weeks so it can go away in the brown bin or compost bin where appropriate to avoid tip runs. I’ve put a few of the thicker stems to the side for the woodpile to attract in the wildlife.

Then put a few stems in pots to see if they’ll root for a few extra dogwoods.

2. Euonymus

The euonymus hedge at the bottom of the garden isn’t the most exciting plant but it provides a solid wall of green all year round to block the view of the compost bins. Again, like the dogwood, it was in need of a trim as it was looking a bit unstable on top. I’ve trimmed and thinned it out a bit.

3. Lupins

I really like lupins but they seem to be the favourite food of the slugs and snails in my garden. But the combination of lupins backed by foxgloves and hollyhocks is too good not to try again. I planted a few in my first year in the garden but only one survived. The existing one is coming back up. This had deep blue flowers. The local florist was selling lupins cheap so I’ve bought a red and a white lupin to join this area. I’ll need to top the beer traps up in preparation.

4. New growth

There is lots of new growth pushing up in the borders. The sedums and aquilegias leaves are showing in their little clusters of rosettes. Then forget me nots fill any spare ground.

5. Sambucus nigra “black lace”

The next plant for the chop is the dwarf apple tree. It has been given a couple of years to prove its worth in the garden and it still hasn’t. It grows untidy and is too dwarf. I have got enough apples to make chutney in the first year but it isn’t enough to justify the space it is taking up. In a small garden I don’t want to live with plants I don’t like. To replace it I have a Sambucus nigra. This may not look great at the moment but it will hopefully grow up with rich dark leaves. Creamy pink buds change to red berries in Autumn that the birds can eat. I’ve seen them thriving in gardens locally so I’m confident it can tolerate the salty sea winds here on the East Coast.

6. Crocus

My crocus have been later than many of the surrounding gardens. We’d seen spectacular varieties at the in-laws. Mine have mainly come up purple. A few whites came up but seem to have been trampled over. I’m tempted to add some drifts into the lawn next year when the building work is complete. Entice in more of the early bees.

So a lot of change going on and more to go as a few more shrubs need removing with the building work. But hopefully, I will have the lawn cleared of debris and can get the patio set again soon. If you’d like to take part in six on Saturday read the guide.

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Six on Saturday: 2.3.19 destruction time

As we enter a new month I’ve been spending the last week and a half starting to clear and destroy ready for the new season. We’ve been in the current house for about two and a half years and I’ve given existing plants a chance. There are many lovely established plants in the garden but there are some that are wrong for various reasons. Some went through too long without proper care others are just in the wrong place and some are too close together. I’m attempting to remove the bigger trees and shrubs over a few weeks. I can’t currently drive to the tip so I’m trying to get it all in the brown bin.
1. New kit

To aid me in removing a number of the plants I’d ordered a few new bits of kit to ease the job. I saw that gold leaf gloves were on offer through Amazon a few weeks back and ordered myself a pair of soft-touch gloves. I already own a pair of tough touch gloves and love them. I don’t particularly like wearing gardening gloves but as I planted quite a few spikey options they are necessary for some jobs.

Then two Niwaki purchases to help with clearing the perennials and spikier plants. Watching Monty in Japan is giving me a desire for more Japanese tools. A set of arm guards that just slip on over your clothes. Then a rice sickle recommended for cutting down perennials. While not essential kit unless you have a lot of ornamental grass or meadow flowers to scythe down it was satisfying to use though won’t get as much use as my hori-hori.


2. Conifers

This is the first of several larger established plants I am removing. This patch of conifers I think was actually three conifers planted too closely together. I don’t particularly dislike conifers but these don’t go with anything else in the border and they are growing outwards due to their proximity to each other. I’ve given them three Summers to decide what to do with them. I can’t untangle them as the inner growth is all dead now so they’ve been dug out. The dogwood poking in at the side will be getting a trim to the ground in a few weeks. The dogwood will regrow with nice new red stems but clearing these and the dogwood will create a more open space here and a view to the camellia when it flowers.

Nice space for something new.


3. Sunflower feeders

Having returned from the in-law’s house and seen all their finches on their bird feeders I ordered a new sunflower feeder. I buy most of my seed from Haiths. They produce good quality seed that the birds love. I was just going to order the sunflower hearts but they had an Autumn Attraction pack offer for two feeders and two different seed mixes.

The sunflower feeder is currently hanging from the clematis but I will find it a better spot.

Then a small bird feeder. Keep the seagulls and greedy pigeons out.

Within minutes of going back inside the tits came to check out the sunflower feeder.


4. Hellebores

The two hellebores I planted at the end of last year are really getting going now. Christmas Carol has pure white flowers. They develop rather ugly blotches as they fade but are very pretty while they are white and the few pollinators around seem to like them.

Angels glow is currently the prettier of the two with a mass amount of dirty pink flowers. These fade away better retaining similar colours as they fade.

As I’ve enjoyed the two I had and seeing many more at the in-laws and Burton Agnes I bought another variety. Lividus seems to open quite creamy before fading into green. I rather like the leaves on this one as much as the flowers.


5. Windmill

Alice was taken with this windmill in home bargains. It’s been stuck in the garden border though I’m sure she’ll continually relocate it decapitating other plants along the way. It may be time to allocate her a plot of her own.


6. Signs of Spring

While scything down the perennials I found this good sized frog. I’ve started seeing them more and more. It’s good to know they are returning to the garden ready for defending my hostas from slug attacks.

Looking back I realise this was quite a long six but I hope you enjoyed. Enjoy your weekends. I have euonymus to trim next and a dwarf apple tree that is too dwarf. Happy gardening!

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Six on Saturday: 23.2.19 Spring flowers from the in-laws

Last weekend we went to stay at the in-laws. Their garden always looks good and I always admire their seasonal interest. My own bulbs seem to be running behind everyone else’s schedules. I’m seeing irises flowering everywhere while mine is still coming up. It was nice to enjoy the variety in their garden.

1. Snowdrops

Dotted around the border are little pockets of snowdrops. I’ve placed patio pots in my border while the building work is going on and I have a suspicious feeling I’ve placed them in all the spots my snowdrops would have come back up. Nevermind between in-laws and Burton Agnes I’ve had lots of chances to still enjoy the purity of these little white delights. I’ll get mine back on track next year.

2. Irises

I’ve come to really love the vibrant colours of irises and the vein patterns of irises in the last few years. This is the first year I’ve added them to my own garden. The in-laws had two varieties in flower but I only seem to have photographed one variety.

3. Daffodils

I’m not a big fan of daffodils but they are an unavoidable herald of Spring. Amy likes them so I keep a few patches growing in my own garden. They fill a gap in seasonal interest and don’t really require any major care. I’ve seen more a shift towards the shorter early flowering varieties in other peoples gardens which I suppose means the stalks aren’t in the way as other flowers come up.

4. Hellebores

Spread around the borders there are a number of hellebores. A few are starting to look a bit past there best but some lovely colours on show. They were drawing in some of the bees emerging for the start of the year. I’m hoping my own self seed and spread some more though I think I’d like to add a darker variety into the genetic mix. They hybridise quite freely leading to some beautiful and not so beautiful combinations.

5. Crocus

The crocus were probably the stars of the show with some growing in the border and some growing in drifts through the lawn. They might only be little but their vibrancy attracts attention.

This little-isolated one particularly drew my attention.

6. Garden birds

When Amy moved to work in Indonesia she left behind two cats with her dad. Sadly one has recently died. This combined with extra feeders has brought lots of birds into the in-laws garden. Charms of goldfinches were flying in and out constantly. I don’t see as many finches in my own garden. Disease has hit chaffinches and greenfinches but I got to enjoy seeing lots last weekend. Here are a selection of the best photos though I took many more. I did consider doing six birds but having done quite a few bird posts around the Big Garden Birdwatch I thought I’d stick to more flowers.

Hopefully, my own garden may have woken up to Spring by next week for me to return to six from my own garden. Enjoy your weekends and good gardening.

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