Six on A Saturday 28/4/18

Well a week of sun and then heavy rain has really brought on the garden. The grass is looking lusher and the shrubs leaf buds have opened bringing the rich green back. Lots of flowers that have been on the point of opening for several weeks are now open.

1. Tulips

After several weeks of seeing other people’s spectacular tulips my own have finally opened.

The eagerly anticipated black parrot tulips have opened revealing their magnificent shades of purple into black. The frilled petals are nice contrast to the more popular rounded edges of my other tulips. I think next year I may try further variations of petal types.

I have a number of pots of Red Riding Hood tulips on the patio. These are giving a bright splash of colour at the moment. The pot grown are looking nicer than the border ones. I think have them grouped in greater numbers is working to greater effect. The striped leaves are an attractive feature providing interest before they flower.

The alectric tulips are a nice contrasting variety. I think I moved a number of these while digging up the brick border, so they’ve ended up dotted around a bit randomly, but some nice individual specimens.

2. Rhododendron

The rhododendron suffered with the cold, but the leaves now seem to be recovering. After re-potting it last year and keeping it fed with liquid ericaceous feed it has flowered better this year. This plant came with my last house where it had been put at the front. It had been deprived of water and had outgrown its pot and used up all nutrients. However it now seems to be doing alright with the best show of flowers yet.

3. Fronds

Most of my ferns are evergreen, but they still brown off over winter as the old leaves die off ready for the new fronds. It’s nice seeing the curled up fronds ready to unfurl.

4. Saxifraga

My saxifrage had formed a nice mossy mound. For the last week it has been displaying its bright red or pink flowers, the colour depending on the light. It just provides small daisy sized flowers, but a nice dash of Spring colour.

5. Geraniums

“When in doubt – plant a geranium!”

Margery Fish

Last year my mum donated some geraniums she had divided. They’d now taken and formed solid domes of foliage. The first burst of flowers are just coming through. Geraniums are a good workhorse in the garden with one suiting most situations. At the end of this year I should be able to divide these further creating more patches. While not as flashy as the tulips they play a valuable role in suppressing unwanted wild flowers establishing as weeds.

6. Monty Don-Down to Earth

This week I finished reading Monty Don’s down to Earth. Like much of Monty’s work he passes on his passion for gardening to bring pleasure. The garden is a way to relieve stress and worries. For him gardens are made by people and their use of their gardens. The book offers a good guide to get started in gardening and has a good practical month by month guide to jobs in the garden. While a lot of lot of it will be information known to most gardeners of a couple of year Monty’s writing style is enjoyable. It is all information worth repeating. Currently available for kindle and in hardback, but I believe it is seeing a paperback release later in the year ready for the Christmas market.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. I’m heading out to look at pavers. We are having the house rendered again and we are considering getting the patio paved probably while he’s on the job. It is currently a cracked concrete surface, so would be vastly improved if we can have it done.

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Six on a Saturday-21.4.18

This week my school got the phone call all teachers dread, the Ofsted phone call. So Monday was a mass amount of activity at work checking and rechecking our provision, which is absolutely fine, but this is what happens when you get the call. So come Wednesday I was ready for a bit of a rest. I managed to plant two new plants shared in today’s #SixonSaturday.

1. Bleeding heart

Asda provided me with the plant formerly known as Dicentra spectabilis, but now known as Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Or stick with the easier name bleeding heart. While it’s looking a bit dehydrated with the warm weather this week it did have an excellent root network. Many of the supermarket purchases have been a bit poor on this front, but this looks good.

2. Honeysuckle

Continuing on from previous weeks I’ve added one more climber, again as with the Jasmine I’m pushing for scent with a honeysuckle Belgica, more commonly known as early Dutch Honeysuckle. I already have a wonderful patch of honeysuckle, but it’s behind a tree and I only get to enjoy the scent when pruning or weeding near it. Generally while getting spiked by other things. They can go a bit rampant, but the other patch I just give one prune a year and it’s at a time when I don’t have much else to do in the garden. I also quite enjoy pruning the honeysuckle as it isn’t a job I do with a great degree of care. Again this has come from Asda and seems to have a decent root network and been reasonable looked after.

3. Primrose

Next is Victorian Lace primrose. These were a present last year for my birthday. While I probably wouldn’t have bought them for myself there pretty enough if a bit isolated at the moment.

4. Muscari

The muscari have finally decided to do something after seeing lots of other six on a Saturday posts flowering. It’s my first year growing them. My mum bought me a pack of bulbs last year. There pretty enough, but feel I probably need something else in the pot with them for some impact. I had in my head that they grew a bit bigger, so these tiny little blue burst seem a bit feeble at the moment. I think they need mixing up with something else next year.


5. Watering

After many months of only needing to water newly planted additions we have had a week of sunshine making watering necessary. At the moment just looking at a good soaking once a week for the border and pot plants I’ve done twice. Alice wanted “more water” though. So we made sure the bird baths and hedgehog bowl was filled.

6 Bean sticks

Rather than using my standard bamboo canes for support I’ve bought willow canes this year. The idea being they are sustainable and native grown lowering my carbon footprint in the garden. So rather than importing Eastern bamboo of various quality I’m going to give these a go. I think they look more attractive than the bamboo. I’m going to try the sweet peas up a wigwam frame of these.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six for this week and enjoy getting out while the weather is nice. I’ll leave you with a rather nice blue tit photo from my journey home from work.

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Camelia propagation

After watching Carol Klein, on this weeks Gardeners World, I thought I’d try and take some cuttings of one of my camellias. I’m planting more in my outdoor area at school, but as I have little budget to spare in this I’m relying on cuttings from my own garden, donations and plants grown cheap from seed. Having had success with lavender last year and my hebes from this year are doing well I’m going to continue trying expand my propagation techniques.

The camellia has been looking stunning the last few weeks, but the flowers are wilting now. Having fed it better during the last year has had a big impact.

So having watched Gardeners World, checked the literature and internet for advice I set out to attempt the cuttings.

I started with the drainage for the pot with a crock and stones.

Then a thin layer of gravel.

The soil needs good drainage and space for roots to form through. I mixed compost and a gritty sand as a good medium for the cuttings.

To choose a branch for cutting I was looking for growth from the last year. The older growth is lighter and the newer growth redder and fresher. Looking on this particular plant. Then with secateurs I cut a small section of the newer growth.

With a sharp knife I then cut diagonally just after a leaf. These were dipped in rooting powder then placed in the prepared soil mix.

After a water the cuttings were covered with grit for two reasons. First to retain moisture. Second to stop weeds.

The cutting has been placed on the patio in a warm spot, but not one that gets sun the whole of the day to prevent drying out. Some sources of advice mention sealing the pot with a plastic sandwich bag over. I hate taking these on and off to water, so going to try without. Time will tell if it was a bad decision.

The advice reckons the cuttings will be ready for potting on in around three months. I’m looking for roots out of the bottom of the pot, but as I’ve used quite a big pot I’m unsure if I’ll get this.

While I’ve been bust propagating Alice has been busy planting stones from the alpine plants pots into the left over plastic pots from recent purchases. She is happy as anything using these plastic pots. So for Gardeners Worlds aim of reducing or reusing plastic if you have lots of spare plastic containers give them to a toddler to see a face of pure excitement.

I will report on progress later in the year. To follow my garden exploits and wild exploits with Alice subscribe to the blog or follow on twitter.

Six on a Saturday-14.4.18

The weather has remained horrible for much of this week. However there are signs of gradual improvement. The temperature is slightly warmer. I managed in the garden without a coat yesterday.

Currently my garden has a bit of a void. It’s transitioning between seasons. The crocus and glory of the snow are going over or gone. The camelia is still flowering, but wilt is setting in. The daffodils are still going adding bursts of sunshine and the forget me nots are starting to bloom. I’m eager with anticipation for tulips and then Summer flowers.

1 self seeders

Across the borders many plants have self seeded. I selected many cottage garden favourites for just reason when planting my first flowers. From a small patch of forget me nots under two years ago any bare earth has been claimed by forget me nots. The first are flowering now adding small patches of sky blue to the border just visible from the house.

The foxgloves have seeded in a nice drift behind the bench in the shade. I love the appearance of foxglove’s flowers. There structure being visually appealing to me.

I’ve even got a few hollyhock seedlings establishing themselves around.

2 Skimmia Japonica

The skimmia has given me a good dash of colour through Winter. It has now opened its flower’s revealing the dainty white flowers.

3 Roses

Last month I won garden vouchers from linking to The Old House in the Shires Linky on garden blogs. This includes many good reads on gardening. With my vouchers I thought I’d go with a few plants that will hopefully last a good while. Both options I’ve gone for are strongly scented. In my mind roses are supposed to be scented and many modern varieties have lost this. I’m not a big fan of roses however having bought some tougher gold leaf gloves and enjoyed the long flowering season of several of the existing roses I’m coming round to them. Much of my planting is cottage garden style and roses suit the garden.

Cottage maid has white flowers with speckled pink lines much like a raspberry ripple ice cream. Then Charles de Mills has been a popular choice amongst rose growers for many years. It only flowers once I believe, but it has reasonable foliage for the rest of the year to make up for it. With some under planting I can still have colour coming through.

I’ve planted them in a big hole with new compost and root powder to give them a good start. I wrote on planting roses before with my climbing roses and they seem to be taking off now.

4 Dicksonia Antarctica

Also with the vouchers I bought a Dicksonia Antarctica. This fern can grow to large sizes eventually, though growth will be gradual year on year. I’ve wanted one for a while. It would be nice have one further on its growth. However the price rapidly goes up for a larger one. This will be planted in my shady shed area. I haven’t planted yet as I wanting to check advice on the best means of planting.

The patch it will be going into.

5 Jasmine

On my continuing quest to establish climbers over the fence I have planted two jasmine. Jasmine Stephanese have fragrant flowers that are generally white, but can be pink or sometimes yellow. They fruit a black berry. This was another purchase from tesco’s along with the passionflowers purchased previously. As mentioned with the roses I’m hoping to make more of scent in the garden. I have a wonderful section of fence covered in honeysuckle, however it is behind trees and only smelled when I prune it. My lilac bush is beautiful scented, but short lived. So it would be nice to have more pleasing fragrances.

6 Gertrude Jekyll

Over the last week I’ve read Gertrude Jekyll’s the beauties of a Cottage Garden. While there was little actually discussing cottage gardens, it was still informative despite the 100 years since publication. I did like this paragraph:

But the lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others is to know the enduring happiness that the love of garden gives. I rejoice when I see one, and especially children, enquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working in them. For the love of gardening never dies, but always grows and grows to enduring and ever increasing source of happiness.

Following from the child comment, my little gardener has been in the garden with me moving one weed at a time. She is getting a reward with the last of my vouchers. I’ve bought her Percy from Thomas the Tank engine to go with her Thomas from the New Forest. I haven’t given it to her yet, but I’m sure she’ll be happy with it Percy is one of her favourite characters.

Having reported on wildlife provisions in the garden last week I set up the trail camera for the first time this year. I’m pleased to report hedgehogs came in last night twice. Not sure if it was the same one twice or different, but either way happy they are still visiting.

Hope you all have lovely weekends with the improved weather.

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Dorset holiday part 5

On the last day we headed back to Hengistbury Head with another of Amy’s friends from her time in Indonesia visiting. When we arrived at the car park there was torrential rain and waves breaking over the sea wall and wind doing its best to blow us over. We weren’t sure the ferry would be running and as it turned out we just missed it. So we grabbed some lunch Mudeford side.

By the time we’d finished the weather had cheered up and the rain had just about stopped. So Alice got another trip on the ferry.

We visited our host again to thank her for the use of her house and wish her a happy birthday. However Alice was tired and grumbling, so no cake for us.

We headed back along the headland for the return ferry.

Back at the house she had a nice restful final afternoon.

The next morning we loaded up the car and headed out to come home. I wanted to try one last time to spot the deer a bit closer. The New Forest has a great number of deer and varieties. I’d seen a few from the car, but none up very close. Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary has a viewing platform that supposedly the deer visit regularly.

We had no luck spotting the deer, but we did find several more of the New Forest Ponies.

The robins and chaffinches were out in force.

Alice wasn’t bothered that we didn’t find deer, blissfully unaware, but was happy to see the horses one last time.

We had a quick wander through the trees. Alice apparently spotted lions.

We had one last look at the horses before heading on our long journey home.

Alice did very well until the last half an hour where hunger got the better of her. We stopped off at my parents. My parents next door neighbours have generously given Alice a bee push along. She had a good push and forth back and forth between the kitchen and the sitting room. This break gave her enough of a rest to get through the last part of the journey.

We’ve had a super time in Dorset. The weather hasn’t been the best, but we’ve made the best of it and had an amazing time. We’re both very grateful to our host and Alice has had a superb week away.

Dorset holiday part 4

Our next trip out on our Dorset adventure took us to the New Forest Wildlife Park. While I do favour seeing animals in their natural environments some I would never get the chance to see. The New Forest Wildlife Park has many animals that are rescue animals that have required a home to survive. While the ethics of keeping animals in this way is hotly debated as more and more animals become endangered captive animals may offer opportunities for reintroducing species back to the wild.

We were greeted by a bear.

The park holds a number of species of owl and these were some of the first animals we saw. Alice was still riding high on the coattails of seeing the Gruffalo characters the day before and was excited to see the owls again. As mentioned before I have a fondness for owls.

Having recently read Simon Cooper’s excellent book, “the otters’ tale” I was excited to see the otters at the park. The park has several species: the Asian short-clawed otter, giant otters and the North American Otters. Our native otter Lutra lutra was absent. But I enjoyed seeing the otters on offer bounding around. Truly amazing animals. Slick through the water and bounding playfully on land.

Alice was quick to spot them.

Inside we found the rather cute harvest mice and hedgehogs. I’m glad to say Alice correctly identified both.

The park feeds the birds in the forest. Blue tits and great tits were enjoying the feeders.

Underneath the feeders a taste of the wild, Rattus Norvegicus, the brown rat. While generally not a welcome visitor it was good to see this animal moving around the forest floor.

The lynx was very accomadating for photos.

Alice stopped for a brief break with Amy.

Wallabies roam the enclosure with you.

Alice was keen to spot the wolves with her binoculars, but no luck.

Another wild invader of the park.

Alice enjoyed digging in the play area.

The bees are starting to come out in greater numbers a sure sign Spring is here.

We didn’t make it round all the animals. There were more deer and bison across the other side of the park, but we didn’t think Alice’s legs would take any more.

Before heading back to the house we stopped off at IKEA for a few things for Alice’s room. It was just a short journey on from the park. While it was hell on Earth for me Alice seemed to think it was just a giant soft play area.

Once back at the house a tired Alice tucked herself into the blanket.

One last day to discuss of the holiday and then that’s the lot.

Dorset Holiday part 3

After a break for six on Saturday I’m returning to the write up of our Dorset holiday. Our third, and possibly my favourite day, took us to the Moors Valley Country Park and forest. The park is a joint venture between Dorset Council and the forestry commission. Any time I see the words forestry commission I equate it with expensive car park. We visit Dalby Forest up North fairly regularly and this is the same. They advertise as no entrance fee, which there isn’t. However they make up for this with a good parking charge. That said, it is money well spent as the areas they manage are beautiful with a rich diversity of species.

When we arrived it was very wet. Our waterproof trousers came in use again. One of the main reasons for wanting to come to the park, apart from the wildlife, was the Julia Donaldson walks. The parks have sculptures of all the key Gruffalo characters and a Highway Rat trail. Alice is currently loving the Julia Donaldson animated TV versions and will sit through the books. Her favourites are probably stickman and room on the broom currently. Room on the broom isn’t currently part of the forest, but still plenty for her to get excited by.

First she found the owl.

Then many excited cries of, “mouse”.

We paid for the Highway Rat activity pack in the visitor centre. The pack gives you some stickers, a mask and a few activities to do as you go round. It probably wasn’t worth the £3 for Alice as she’s too young for most of it, but never mind. The walk is marked without needing to get the pack should any of you want to do it. It was raining continually for the first part of the walk making the ground hard going for Alice. She lost her wellies a few times in the thick oozy mud. This wasn’t much fun for her, so she went in the howdah. The walk took us on a pleasant circular walk of about a mile. Just right for a little one.

On the way there are the Highway Rat characters and a few things to look out for. By the end the rain had stopped and it started to cheer up.

After finding the rat we returned to the visitors centre for a hot drink and to refuel Alice. With the weather improving and Alice looking a bit more cheerful we headed out again to the steam railway. Along the edge of the lake runs a miniature steam railway. Currently the lakes banks are overflowing into the surrounding fields with the ducks and swans roaming over a larger pool.

As well as being Julia Donaldson mad, Alice is also mad for Thomas the Tank engine at the moment. She was very excited to see the train dragging us to get on.

The train trip takes about twenty minutes with a stop off at the station at the other end. On the platform is a small cafe and a train shop. We treat Alice to a new Thomas toy, a rainbow Thomas. Alice has been over the moon with her Thomas refusing to part with him at bedtime, sleeping clutched on to it.

The park has a great play area split into different age appropriate areas. She adored the playhouse and slide.

The digging area was great fun. If we let her she’d have stayed there indefinitely.

However we wanted to find the Gruffalo, so on we went. She was excited to find the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child pointing out the prickles and shouts of “nose” pointing to the wart.

Throughout the day I could hear plenty of bird song. Crows and other corvids weren’t put off by the weather. I spotted lots of tits: great, blue and long tailed. Then lots of robins.

Before we left we bought Alice two last treats with some money Granddad had given her for Easter; a stickman and a mouse. Almost all of Alice’s toys are second hand,from charity shops and facebook, so being on holiday we thought we’d treat her. Back at the house she played with her new toys.

A good amount of walking left her tired again.

A wonderful day! Every photo of Alice shows how much fun and enjoyment she got from the day. A great time was had.

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