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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Burton Agnes-Snowdrop walk

We have returned from a few days visiting the in-laws. On the way home, we decided to pay a visit to Burton Agnes. Burton Agnes is an Elizabethan home built between 1598 and 1610. It has stayed within the same family for all of this time. It is located in the East Riding between Bridlington and Driffield. It’s about a 20-minute drive from our house in Hornsea so a fairly easy day out for us. RHS members get in cheaper on Mondays and Fridays. At £7 for entry to the gardens and £11 for the hall and gardens it falls within the average garden price for our area. A years membership would be paid back in 3 visits so I may consider paying next time.

For this visit, we just paid for the gardens as we were after seeing the snowdrop walk. We thought hall and gardens might be too much for Alice without the pram. The woodland walk takes you through a thin strip of trees heading away from the house. Currently, the ground is carpeted in snowdrops. While I’m not much of a galanthophile seeing a mass amount of this little flower is magical.

The woodland walk is estimated to be about 20 minutes. It’s all gentle walking and as it was dry we saw a lot of prams and wheelchairs navigating the path. Along the path, you can find animal sculptures.

Alice enjoyed looking for the animals though I think she was disappointed not to find a Gruffalo having done the New Forest Gruffalo trail.

Hanging from one of the trees is a giant clanking windchime. Luckily they don’t have any neighbours too close as this wasn’t a delicate chiming collection of pipes.

Dotted through the woodland are fairy houses. Alice enjoyed knocking on each door. The hall is in the process of building a new children’s play park. This looks like it will be fitting with the fairy theme. A large tower with a twisting slide looks to be the centrepiece. It looks like it will be great fun when finished.

I think we probably visited the snowdrop walk at peak flowering. The walk is advertised as on until the start of March so must still be some going for a few more weeks.

The gardens are currently a bit bare so we may have to look at a return visit later in the year. I had expected the gardens to match the house with many Elizabethan choices but looking at the labels in the ground I can see it is more varied than knot gardens though there are a fair few roses. I imagine it is stunning in Summer but not really worth much time currently.

To the side of the garden is a maze and at the back is a sensory garden and kiddy corner but Alice didn’t want to wander that way. But we did make it into the giant games area. I think Alice expected an actual giant but she did enjoy playing with some of the games and found other children to follow.

There were a few Spring bulbs poking out around the gardens. My favourite amongst these was the irises. I’ve planted a few within pots in my garden but I think this will increase next year. The vibrant colours make such a welcome sight this time of year.

A fountain for Alice to run round in circles.

Clipped topiary make good places for hide and seek.

The nature garden gave us a spot to eat our picnic lunch and has a walkway to keep the kids entertained. There is a cafe that is reasonably priced as these places go. We had a drink on the way out. Two cups of tea, a child’s drink and a cookie for just over a fiver. The hall also sells a number of plants in the entrance courtyard and they weren’t badly priced. If we didn’t have a car full of suitcases I’d have considered buying some.

We enjoyed our stop off at Burton Agnes and plan to return later in the year. I’d like to see the gardens in bloom in Summer. I’m sure Alice will enjoy the play park when that is complete. In a few weeks, there is an orchid festival. While I don’t currently grow any orchids I’m sure they’ll be stunning to see. I’d recommend a visit to Burton Agnes if you’re in the area. Lots to see for different age groups.

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Six on Saturday: 16.2.19 Taste of exotics

Having posted about Ophiopogon planiscapus last week I thought I’d continue looking at some of my plans to widen out my selection of exotic plants or at least exotic looking plants. While I’m holding off on most of my sowing a few of my choices for this year have such long germination periods I thought I’d get them started.

1. Musa lasiocarpa-dwarf banana

One of my Morgan & Thompson seed purchases this year was a pack of musa lasiocarpa. This dwarf banana is fairly hardy supposedly taking temperatures down to -10. I’m aiming to grow it for the patio but with up to six months to germinate, I thought I better get started. While they are available as small plants there is a satisfaction that comes with growing from seed. Though as these come with a warning that germination is “slow and erratic” I’m not getting my hopes of success up to much.

2. Agaves

The second of this year’s Morgan and Thompson seed purchases. This was a mixed packet of agave seeds. While I am in the cold North being by the coast I think might give them reasonable survival chances if I can get them going. There are a few gardens in my area that bring agaves out for Summer so we’ll see how I get on. At less than 99p after deals were applied I’m willing to take a chance on them. After a week in the propagator I’ve already got some germinating, so we’ll see if I can keep them going to become fully fledged plants. I need to read up on the next stage. I’d only read up on germination as I thought it might fail at that stage.

3. Heated propagator

In order to increase my chances of germination success, I’ve bought a heated propagator. It featured last week with the black mondo seeds. It’s only a cheap variety that adds a few degrees heat but that could make all the difference. It doesn’t have a thermostat to control temperature but I didn’t want to break the bank on it. I do wish I’d gone for the premium though for a more solid lid.

4. Discount ferns

A few weeks back I picked up a few discount ferns. While they are a bit miserable at the moment I think they’ll pick back up with fresh fronds. The borders are filled mainly with cottage garden favourites so to tie the patio and lawn area together I’m looking to use ferns and hostas that will feature in both areas.

One corner of the border already contains a good number of ferns. I’m now looking to mirror this on the opposite border. These new ferns are destined for there. Dryopteris is a nice erect shuttlecock form growing to around a metre tall.

Cristata the king is a tall form that remains evergreen in warmer climates and deciduous as it moves to colder climates. It tolerates a lot of garden situations from shade to semi-shade and tolerant of a variety of soils. It tends to clump and can then be divided to spread it around.

Filix-Mas is deciduous giving me hope that it will come back fine. Once established it shouldn’t need much care. Most of the ferns are evergreen as I’d intended them as a constant green backdrop. This will add a bit of contrast within that mix.

5. Plant lovers guide to ferns

Ferns make for fascinating plants with their prehistoric nature. They provide excellent foliage. Many of my choices are evergreen providing the garden with a background of year-round interest. This book from Kew Gardens has a lot more detail than I expected. I thought it would have a few recommended varieties and a bit of planting detail. A coffee table book but it’s actually very informative. There are recommendations for different areas of the garden, some design ideas, a solid section detailing different ferns and propagation.

6. Propagating houseplants for outdoors

It isn’t an original idea Will Giles did it, Christopher Lloyd did it but this year I want to try some of the houseplants I keep inside outside. It was discussed in one of this weeks plant based podcasts. My prime candidates are plants that are easy to propagate so I can keep the backup inside and put the propagated plants outside without worrying if they die.

Candidate number one is my spider plant. If I let it my spider plant population grow they could easily take over the house. I normally cut the flowers before they become pups. I have saved a few though to go outside in the Summer. They have put on good root systems and are getting to reasonable heights.

The second plant I’m looking at is my string of hearts. These are supposedly easy to propagate. Cutting laid on soil should root. I imagine this could be used in mixes pots to trail the edge of pots. I’m not sure of its hardiness but a few cuttings of these will only cost a handful of soil. So if they die straight away I haven’t lost anything but a bit of time.

I’m aware these are not necessarily the most exciting photos to ever feature on my six but hopefully, they will be more exciting later in the year. The discount bedraggled ferns should recover to become glorious foliage. The seeds will flourish into beasts. The houseplants will bring new elements to the outside patio area. Exciting times ahead.

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The Plant Based Podcast review

Today a new gardening podcast came on the air. I was excited for the release of this as the two presenters Michael “Mr Plantgeek” Perry and Ellen Mary have always come across as knowledgeable and likeable people through their various outputs. Both push the boundaries of gardening in exciting directions. I’m also confident between them they will have many interesting connections to get guests on the show. It sounds like they’ll be looking to try and cover different ground to existing media and I reckon they will have a few surprises in store.

My love of gardening podcasts has been discussed on the blog before. It’s a format which surprisingly works well for something people would associate as being very visual.

The first three podcasts have all been launched together. In the first podcast, the duo interviewed Beverley Glover of Cambridge Botanic Garden. There was a good discussion on how we can help bees. I was reminded of the need to stick to single forms of most flowers to help bees. I generally don’t select double forms and do try to choose pollinator friendly forms. It was this desire to help wildlife that led to me having mass ox-eye daisies in the garden this year. They ended up spilling all over the border but I was rewarded with many visitors.

The second podcast was with vegan bodybuilder Paul Kerton. While I’m not about to go vegan with my low blood pressure and dietary problems a lot of interesting points were made. Most of all the need for people to see other peoples points of view.

The third podcast with Liz Browne from Urban Jungle Nursery. This covered a lot of topics that have been done to death in the gardening media recently. The return of the houseplant is all over the place. But the three of them together made for good listening. There was a nice shout out for Will Giles known for his exotic garden and books on the subject.

They went on a tangent to discuss how much of the gardening media is out of touch with younger gardeners. While I enjoy watching much of the traditional gardening shows. We aren’t all Monty with space for multiple garden areas. In the words of the Smiths, “Because the music that they constantly play. It says nothing to me about my life“.

Then a little discussion about taking houseplants outside in Summer to use as an alternative to traditional bedding plants. This is just what I’ve been planning to do with several spider pups and string of hearts cuttings destined for outside. I want to try a few more adventurous options on the patio. The aspidistra can have its Summer vacation as well.

All in all a very good start for a new podcast. Three episodes with very interesting podcasts. They kept my attention while I listened back to back cooking dinner. Three different but engaging guests. My only criticism is the volume went up and down during interviews but this is a common podcast problem.

The podcast is available through iPlayer and podcast player. There were quite a few named plant-based podcast but a search for plant-based podcast and Perry brought it up. Though I’m sure it will go up the rankings fast with popularity. Well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing who else they interview.

Link to site.

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Six on Saturday: 9.2.19 Growing Ophiopogon planiscapus

I kept noticing the ophiopogon planiscapus ‘nigrescens’ still had its shiny black seed pods on and wondered how easy it would be to grow from seed. So after a little bit of research, I found several guides to get me started. Also known by the easier to say and write name of black mondo this is a versatile plant. It’s good for underplanting in the border and containers, it makes good edging, it works well with bulbs, it supplies year-round interest. However, it can be expensive. Last year a pot of it was going for £7 in the garden centre. I picked mine up at a local plant fair for 50p a plant. Once established it spreads by runners and can then be divided. But if I can grow it from seed as well this will multiply by supply quicker. I plan to use quite a bit within my new patio, so don’t want to be spending a fortune. So for this week, I’m covering the procedure in six steps rather than my usual focus of six items from the garden.

1. Collect seeds

To start with I’ve collected a handful of seeds from the plant. The seeds need to be completely black. If they are showing green still they need leaving. This late on they’d all turned black.

2. Peel

Once I’d harvested I peeled them by gently pushing on them with the back of a spoon then scraping off the rest with my fingernails.

3. Wash

After peeling some of the cases were still left so I gave them a scrub leaving me with pale seeds.

4. Sow

I’ve sowed them in a seed tray about 2cm apart. I realised after advise recommends soaking them for a few days but as they’ve been out in wet Winter weather I think they’ll be alright. Some will grow green rather than black. As I just want the black for the contrast in the garden the green will be removed.

5. Cover

I gave the seeds a light spray of water but as the compost was quite moist already I think they’ll have enough moisture for a while. The seeds were then covered with a thin layer of compost.

6. Propagate

The advise states to keep them moist. They apparently take a long time to propagate so I’ve put them in my new heated propagator. It only adds an extra degree or two heat, but this could make all the difference. Then there are also several grow lights aimed at the propagator. This will hopefully increase the chance of germination happening within a reasonable time scale. I’ll talk about the other seeds in the propagator next week.

I hope you enjoyed having a more information-heavy “how to” post rather than my usual whistle stop tour around the garden. If any of you have tried this before feel free to chip in with advise.

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Six on Saturday 2.2.19 Frost

The garden has been totally transformed the last few days. With heavy layers of frost over everything, some plants are visibly miserable. The fatsia is drooping over, but it will all recover in a few months hopefully. I’ve not been well so been off work, but under orders not to exert myself too much so no gardening. But looking out there it’s too cold to do many jobs. The ground is frozen. I’ve done the main pruning that currently needs doing so this week I’ve just been enjoying the beauty of the frost.

1. Hydrangeas

The hydrangeas have looked stunning with a sprinkling of frost over the surface of the browning flowers. I normally just trim back to past the flowerheads in Spring. However, they are starting to get a bit large. I’m unsure whether these are varieties that will survive a hard cut or not so I’m trying to read up on advice.

2. Cordyline

The sharp spines of the cordyline have a nice layer of fuzz around the edges. It’s days like this where you can see why they always get listed on great architectural plant lists.

3. Bird Bath

The bird bath has been freezing regularly. I have talked about this before but it is important to crack the ice or keep a ball or something to float in the ice to stop freezing.  The carpet of fur has a beauty to it but the birds still need water through Winter. Within minutes of smashing the seagulls were in.

4. Teasel

The already thorny teasel is looking good with one side covered in frost. The jury is still out on whether I’ll let it grow back again next Summer. It has looked nice and brought in both insects and birds but it has a big footprint of how much ground it takes up.

5. Sempervivum

The various sempervivums may not like the frost much but they do like good with an edging of frost.

6. Building work

The building work has been on hold for much of the week with the cold. They have been back a few days and we now have a roof. Though, with the cold, it would be nice to have the render back on to insulate the house a bit more.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. I’m going to carry on resting and recuperating chilling with Alice and reading up on ferns as I plan for the year ahead.

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