Six on a Saturday 30.6.18

It’s a lovely day out. We’ve got a school Fair to go to. Then hoping to do a bit of weeding and then maybe get in a few of my seedlings.

1. Unknown rose

This rose came with the garden. After the first year I cut it back quite severely and have fed it better since and it is now giving an abundance of pink flowers. It repeats flower and last year was still flowering well into Autumn.

2. Charles de Mills

Charles de Mills was bought back in April. In its first year I’m not expecting much, but got a few flowers to get a taste of what will hopefully come in great numbers. The closely packed petals give an interesting slice off appearance. I don’t think there quite as nice when they fully open, but a good addition to the garden.

3. Poppies

I don’t remember planting poppies of this variety. I remember scattering the standard red variety, but not these. So either I’ve remembered wrong or got some self seeders. Either way they are very nice. A rich plum going well with the sweet peas and lynchnis. However in the heat the petals are not lasting long.

4. Obelisk

The obelisk of sweet peas is looking good. The sweet peas were looking a bit pasty, but after adding some slow release feed they are looking lusher. The peas are flowering well now with lots to come.

5. Hebe

The front garden has a line of hebes that have all probably grown past their best. However they ate low maintenance needing no watering most of the year. Ideal for the front garden. Some are flowering less, but one variety is still giving a burst of white flowers that the bees are all over.

6. Salad leaves

I had this plastic window trough spare. I used it last year for salad leaves to pick off. I thought I do the same. I don’t grow much edibles, but do like to have something each year to enjoy. These are a David Domoney mix I planted just a few weeks ago and taking off well. It contains a mix of two tender Italian leaves: lollo rossa and lollo bionda. It grows quickly then can be used as cut and grow again salad leaves. While it won’t provide a mass amount of salad it is nice to have a few home grown pleasures in Summer.

While the garden is still a random mix it is gradually taking shape with plants working in better combinations. The borders are filling out, so next year can start looking at how each plant works with its neighbours.


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Six on a Saturday: 22.6.18

After several weeks of seeing everyone else’s roses flowering, the roses have finally flowered up North. The weekend is set to be a scorcher so going to be doing some watering. For the participants guide to six on a Saturday look here. Check the tag on twitter for a peak into lots of lovely gardens and veg plots.

1. Cottage maid

This was an new addition this year. This is a single flowering rose with a raspberry ripple effect on the petals. After a few days the ripple is fading leaving it looking like a pale pink, almost white flower. The smell was commented on the label as strong, but I can’t say I’ve noticed much, but my nose is blocked a bit currently.

It’s an old rose potentially growing to a good height, but I will probably keep it down. It will only do the one burst of flowers, so something to appreciate while it’s there. Looks like it’s going to give a reasonable display for it’s first year.

2. Yellow rose

The first year I took over the garden this was a poor performer. Last year after some feed it was a bit better. It grows out of another shrub, growing nice straight spires out if the foliage. After two Summers of lack lustre performances I was considering removing it. Almost everything else around us red, pink or shades of blue. It is just about the only yellow. But after giving it a good chop last year it’s come back stronger with lots of lovely large blooms.

The buds start as tight little flames.

Then opening to a bright sunshine yellow.

Before moving onto a rich, buttery creamy yellow.

3. Lychnis coronaria-rose campion

Rose campion is one of my favourites. It gives lots of little vibrant pink flowers. The hoverflies love it. It gives a good period of flowering. The hairy silver leaves makes it disagreeable to slugs and snails. They also provide a contrast to many of the surrounding plants. It has started to self seed with several small seedlings coming up from last years seed offerings.

4. Honeysuckle

Along the fence in the shady corner honeysuckle grows up the fence. It has been thriving there. It grows up and through the lilac. It smells beautiful, although I’m probably the only person who smells it when weeding underneath it. When sat on the bench you can get a good whiff of it. The first flowers are now opening.


5. Plant supports

These plant supports were selling off at £3. I didn’t have anything particularly in mind, beyond maybe the new roses, but they had a massive reduction on them and I like a bargain.

6. The view from above

The garden is looking good, almost up to the zenith of Summer flowering. Alice’s bedroom has the view of it. The ox eye daisies are looking good on mass from above. Up close there a mass of stems trying to spill in every direction. My staking efforts straining against the mass. But it has given me plenty of cut flowers for the house. The hydrangeas are starting to bloom and the hollyhocks are almost set to flower. Alice gets the best view of it all from above.

Hope you all enjoy your weekends.

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Six on a Saturday 16.6.18

It has been a windy week. Despite the strong sea winds my garden suffers from the fox gloves are still standing proud. The hollyhocks I’d already staked luckily. But a number of plants have suffered and the leaves are looking the worse the wear for the weather. The garden is currently in a state of anticipation of things to come. The roses, the hydrangeas, the hollyhocks, the teasel is all set to flower. But hasn’t quite happened despite the signs for the last two weeks.

1. Cobra lily

This strange looking plant is a cobra lily. It’s the first year growing one, so have no idea if it’s coming up right. The picture on the packet shows a dark striped flute shape. Then at the base planted black mondo with the idea that it would be a striking combination. Watch this space to see if the lily develops more. While its meant to be hardy I’m not sure the wind this week has done it much good.

2. Campanula

Each year these star shaped flowers have regrown out of this post. I think it’s a type of campanula, but not something I planted. It is lovely though in flower and the bees love it.

3. Aquilegia

After setting up foxglove seeds ready for flowering next year I’ve also set up a tray of aquilegias. I’ve got some that self seed already, but I’d like to introduce a few more to increase their numbers. I’ve gone for a more flamboyant variety with two coloured flowers.

4. Weigela

I’ve picked up a cheap weigela from Morrison’s. My neighbours has been flowering and is looking beautiful. I’m planning to start in a pot on the patio then see how it grows.

Next doors.

5. Pollinators

The garden is awash with insect life now. Bees are out everyday. Damselflies are coming in bigger numbers. Hoverflies are loving the daisies and marigolds. It’s a clear sign that things are warming up. The weekends have still been cloudy, so still not many butterflies. Sat out in the garden there is now the hum of insects to listen to.

6. Mud kitchen

The biggest addition to the garden this week is Alice’s new mud kitchen. Made for her by her grandad and my father in law to be. She has been loving mixing and smashing the soil. I’ve made a mix of play sand and compost for her cooking. Truly something special for her made by family. I have noticed many of the nearby pots now have a top dressing, but never mind getting her outside and involved in the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. Got a few garden jobs to get on with quickly as it looks like rain is coming.

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Six on Saturday 9.6.18

While many of the sixes are now featuring roses my buds are staying firmly shut up North. But still plenty of visual delights on offer.

1. Foxgloves

One of my favourites is now in flower with many self seeded along the border. Planted for the pollinators the bees have been all over. I know many people proffer one colour, but I like an eclectic mix.

2. Lupins

Another cottage garden and Chelsea favourite. These were decimated by slugs last year, but defences have worked better this year.  While I only have one growing this year it has multiple heads coming up.

3. Ox eye daisies

Last year I grow these from seed. I now have far more than I need. I’ve divided some for my school garden and still been left with vast swathes. They are supposed to be one of the best flowers of pollinators with a mass supply of nectar.

4. Fruit

The dwarf apple had a large number of fruit forming. I will need to pick some out soon if they don’t drop naturally to encourage less, but bigger apples.

The dwarf cherry is also fruiting. It’s not going to be a feast, but might have enough to add to a single bowl of cereal. That is, if the birds don’t get them first. The starlings have been checking it over.

5. Marigold

A lone marigold left over from last year has flowered under the camellia.

6. Preparing for next year

Already starting preparation for next year. While I’m sure plenty will self seed I’d hate to be without, so foxglove seeds have gone in the propagator. Then got a few other biennials to sort. I’ll get them started in the trays, then pot on, then transfer to the border later in the year.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. A bit overcast today, but the garden wildlife is starting to come out in more. Enjoy your weekends!

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Living with slugs (and snails)

As most regular readers of my blog will know I’ve tried to build my garden up to attract various wildlife. I’ve tried to avoid potentially harmful chemicals for weed killing and pest controls. But even trying to encourage wildlife I still need some methods to control some of the more destructive forces in the garden. I’m talking about the slugs and snails. My aim hasn’t been to wipe them out completely as I don’t feel comfortable with committing large scale molluscacide I just want to reduce plant damage.

While many people use nematodes I’m not convinced of the long term sense in this solution. Nematodes for slugs and snails involve microscopic eelworms that create bacteria leading to slug destruction. Snail shells combined with time above ground defend them from nematodes. While a biological control seems like a better option than slug pellets which have been shown to be harmful to animals up the food chain. But something about the idea of nematodes is distasteful to me. I just want to control the numbers, not eradicate completely. I’m not looking for little daleks programmed to exterminate slugs and snails I just want a few less holes in plants trying to get established.

So I still favour biological controls, but not ones leading to total destruction of the slugs and snails. Encouraging predators into the garden helps create an equilibrium with the slugs and snails not destroying all green life. I have encouraged birds in through keeping bird feeders stocked. While they come for the food put out they still usually do a sweep of the borders to check for prey.

I’ve also tried to encourage hedgehogs to take up residence. While none have stayed they do visit through the hedgehog hole. Within. The garden I have hedgehog homes and feeding stations to bring them in. The trail camera shows they do visit. I don’t know how many slugs they account for, but I still like knowing they are there.


Frogs and toads can eat through large quantities of slugs and snails. While I don’t have a pond next door does. To encourage some across into my garden I have a number of frog homes. Spots that are shaded and moist for frogs and toads to shelter in. A broken pot can be buried into the ground to provide shelter.

On top of biological controls slugs and snails can be controlled through barriers. Copper tape is recommended as they don’t like crossing the copper. However many still will cross when wet. Grit and egg shells are again recommended, but any gaps and they will find a way through.

Sheep wool pellets can be used to protect plants. They also act as a mulch helping water retention in the soil. It is however quite pricey for any reasonably sized area.

With almost any barrier method the slugs and snails can find a way in. Any leaves drooping over the barrier provides a path to a feast. Most varieties become less effective when wet. So I’ve mainly employed barriers to allow seedlings to get established. Then I trust that the larger plants can handle a bit of leaf loss.

When I have seen damage is bad I’ve employed beer traps to reduce numbers. Slugs and snails seem unable to resist beer. The beer dehydrates them leading to their death. Darker beer is supposed to be more effective, but I haven’t four d much difference between cheap lager and other varieties. Plus I don’t really like to pour away nicer beers to the slugs.

I have some commercially made traps, but jam jars and plastic bottles can be up-cycled into traps.

Through this multi-fronted approach I seem to be keeping plant damage to a level I can live with. While many people go out with the torch at night to remove this isn’t really an option for me as I have Alice to put to sleep, so not about to send time in the night picking them off. If you do though it is worth getting to know your slugs. Leopard slugs for example eat other slugs so are worth leaving.

My seedlings seem to be surviving better this year and making it to flower. I may even risk adding some hostas to the shaded corner!

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Six on a Saturday-2.6.18

Time for this weeks six. A guide to participants by its creator here. This week has been back and forth for weather. We’ve had days of brilliant sunshine and overcast dark days that seem like Winter hasn’t left. The garden is full of a sense of anticipation. Many flowers are on the verge of opening to display their treasures.

1. sedum, spathulifolium blanco

This sedum started as a small tight ball in March. Now it has flowered and spread covering the pot with small bright yellow flowers. The sempervivums are just poking through nicely.

2. Asiatic lilies

These two Asiatic lilies were bought a few weeks back at a community plant sale. They are giving a fantastic glow on the patio. The orange is more neon than I expected. Possibly a bit tasteless, but the patio pots are saved for more exotic choices. Whereas the border seems to be developing largely into cottage garden favourites.

The photos don’t really get across the vibrancy of the orange.

3. Sweet peas

I planted my sweet pea seedlings into the garden. A bunch into a pot to grow up the Aldi obelisk. Then another group up a wig wam in the border. Already a few flowers have opened. So far a pleasing combination of red and purple.

4. Morning glory

Having finally become fed up of the morning glory seedlings on the windowsill I’ve also planted them out. Some into pots to climb the fence near the house. Some into the border to climb the fence.

The weather going chiller again has been a concern, but if they don’t grow they don’t grow. While the flowers are pretty I don’t think I’ll bother again. Space is limited on the windowsill for seedlings and the border can only fit so much, so don’t want to be worrying about tender plants. Hopefully by next year a number of the climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle will have established over more of the fence.

5. Geraniums

I know the geraniums have featured a number of times over the last few weeks, but more have come into flower. The renardii flowers are lovely with their veins of colour, although the leaves have picked up an unsightly orange appearance.

These thugs were donated by my mum last year and have now taken over a section of the bottom of the garden. Eventually they’ll need dividing or they’ll dominate the whole area. But right now they are filling a good area and suppressing weed growth. When you examine the flowers close up they are rather delightful.

Another unknown variety from my mum that has been flowering for several weeks and just keeps giving. Another tall beast, but looking good under the dwarf apple tree.

Some smaller self seeders filling gaps in the border.

6. Donations

My mums contributions this year are snap dragon seedlings and decorative gourds.

In return she may have verbena and hollyhocks as I have quite a few going strong.

Things are really getting going in the garden now, should have some more colourful sixes ahead.

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30 days of wild 2018 day 1

Today is the start of June and the Wildlife Trusts 30 days wild. The 30 days is the reason this blog was set up. The basic idea is for 30 days in June you try to do one wild act. The Trust provides a range of ideas: follow a bee, photograph something blue, feel the grass under your feet, etc.

Since I originally took part in the 30 days two years ago enjoying nature has become well integrated into my life and I am raising Alice to hopefully have the opportunities to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. The benefits of this lifestyle has grown in profile over the last decade. The research is starting to put figures to the anecdotal evidence. Spending time in nature can improve health, reduce stress and improve your general mood. My time outdoors and involvement in nature is well documented in this blog. I do believe it has played a positive role in my life and has helped me cope with the challenges of sleepless nights as a parent and in high stress job.

This year I don’t intend to do as long write ups as previous years. I want to enjoy other people going through the process of discovering love of nature and enjoy my own activities rather than feeling pressure to publish. So I’m only going to post a few highlights.

Today I went for a walk with Alice round to the park. On the way I spotted a cinnabar moth. Cinnabar moths are a day flying moth that is part of the tiger family. Last year I found the caterpillars a number of times, but don’t remember ever seeing the moth. The caterpillars feed on common ragwort, which grows quite freely in a number of local spots. Two years ago I probably wouldn’t have noticed this little remarkable moth. Whereas two years on of involving myself in nature I’m more alert and mindful to what is around me.

We got back from the small park and Alice wasn’t ready to go in the house, so we grabbed water and sunscreen as the clouds had gone to be replaced with brilliant sunshine and headed out again. This time to the larger park.

Down at the park we looked into one of the wetter patches. This section is usually boggy, last year it dried up a lot more at this time, but this year it has remained a pool. I’ve spotted newts, although I didn’t see any today. I could however see many tadpoles.

Growing out of the water are these beautiful wild yellow iris. Again, two years ago I wouldn’t have known what this was. But two years on and a collection of field guides later I spotted it for what it is, rather than thinking it was a limp daffodil. I haven’t grown irises in my garden, but I have admired a number of wild and domesticated ones in other peoples gardens and I’m tempted. There are varieties to suit most soil and I think they might do well in my garden.

Returning home Alice still didn’t want to be in, so we went in the garden. We topped up the water bath and Alice helped fill up the bird feeders. The birds quickly descended to feast.

I’m proud of how far Alice has come in two years. We take her outside most days for a walk. I’m sure this time spent walking in the park and along the sea front is why she is so confident on her feet, beyond the expectations of her age. When we go out in the garden she’s taken to filling a bowl at the bottom of the garden with water. When asked who is it for? She can answer hedgehog. She fills the bird baths. She puts out bird seed. I hope she continues to be interested in helping nature as she grows up.

So my 30 days posts may be each day or may be sporadic, but either way I hope many of you get involved and enjoy.