Six on Saturday: 31.8.19

It’s almost the end of my Summer holiday and I’ve made good progress with the front garden. The front border is gradually filling up and the plants will fill out over the next year. The back garden has been neglected a bit but the dahlias and zinnias have filled this late Summer period well. I’m gradually building up to having a good level of seasonal interest throughout the year.

1. Gladioli

I’m not that keen on these gladioli and pulled a lot out last year but obviously didn’t get them all. They were bought as a cheap mix. They have reliably flowered each year and come out in the blousiest colours. They do add some late Summer colour which I appreciate, but I’d like more definite stronger colours.

2. Perennial sweet peas

These are next doors but they flop over Alice’s mud kitchen nicely. They come back each year and so long as I keep cutting they’ll keep flowering for a while. I didn’t manage to grow my own this year as we were limited for space for seed trays with the building work going on. These partially make up for it.

3. Fairy Gardens

I got criticised last week for not including my little star, so she’s back. She has been working on her fairy pot displays currently. She is rapidly becoming very girly. Everything has become all about the unicorns or the mermaids. She bought a fairy kit for her birthday a while back now. It came with grass seed which rapidly grew out of control and I have enough grass to cut without mowing the fairies lawn too. So the dying grass has come out to be replaced with sempervivums. I drilled a few holes but I’m not sure it has good enough drainage so we’ll see how it lasts but won’t look worse than the grass.

She then got a new fairy kit this week. She decided she wanted it the brightest pink in the pack. This one came from the Irish Fairy Door company. It’s a nice little kit with the door, paint, felt-tips and colouring book and special key. We only paid £4 for it though whereas it’s £16 online.

Then we glue gunned it to a pot and added stones around the door and she has set it up within a bucket planter. All her found objects have been put in. Acorns, conkers and pine cones. So it may have some odd seedlings in a few months. Then we put a few more sempervivums for flowers dotted around.

We also made it to garden village in Hull this week to see the fairy doors. Alice found her name along the avenue of trees.

And she got a ceramic toadstool to add to her garden.

4.Fern-Dryopteris

Part of my parents garden is being dug out for an extension. They kindly offered it to me. It is quite a beast. At about a metre heigh and similar spread, it took some digging. If I’m doing any more plant removing I need to remember my own tools. Spades are meant to be cutting tools not bludgeoning tools. For future reference here is a video on how to sharpen tools parents. I have been spoiled for nice tools over the last few birthdays and Christmas so have got used to top-notch tools. Though I do appreciate the fern it is looking grand in a shaded spot next to the lilac where little has thrived. I think it is probably some form of Dryopteris and will need well watering in for a while as this isn’t really the ideal time to be moving a plant of this size.

5. Nasturtium

I planted dairy maid last year. These have come up in the same spot but have flowered much brighter orange. So I’m not sure if these are the self-seeded offspring or something different. I did let Alice loose with some of the free magazine seeds that could be sown direct. So these could be the result of her random scattering as I think there were some nasturtiums amongst what I gave her. Next year there will also be poppies in places I haven’t planned. Keeps things interesting and ensures all spaces are filled. These are adding a nice bright burst where I’ve cut the lychnis back so I can see the sedum as it is coming into flower now.

6. Dahlia soulman

This dark beauty came as part of the Sarah Raven short dahlias for pots. I featured the other half last week. The growth has sprawled sideways out of its pot. These were meant to be short and not need staking, but perhaps a short stake might have helped tidy the growth. The flowers are stunning. It’s been one of the last to flower. It doesn’t currently have as many buds as others. but the few flowers I’ve got justify the effort.

It’s been a boiling week in the garden. The first proper week of Summer weather and now back to work. I’ve got a bit of work to do in the back garden. We’ve got two railway sleepers to make a step outside of the sliding doors. I’m not sure how well this will work but it didn’t cost much to get them and they can be used for something else if they don’t work there. Then the edge of the house has a gap of rubble. I was going to see if we can plant sempervivums into these spaces to tidy it up and suppress the weed growth.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekends and get some time to enjoy your gardens.

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Summer Holiday: Part 5-Peppa Pig world

Before we headed down we had checked out what was in the area and Paultons Park was high on our list of things we wanted to take Alice to. We wanted a few days we thought she’d really enjoy though I didn’t have high hopes of it being a great day but we knew she’d love it.

We had good fun on the rides. The park was busy but as there were quite a lot of rides we didn’t have massively long waits for anything. Even while waiting there was quite a lot for Alice to still look at. Alice was at just the right point where the rides were exciting but not too scary.

Alice enjoyed spinning Amy round on the Windy Castle balloons. Amy wasn’t as keen.

I don’t think life gets much better than riding a dinosaur.

We hired one of the buggies as we didn’t have our pram down on holiday with us. It came in use for piling the bags on and for Alice when she wanted a break from walking.

We did well with the weather. It rained for a short burst soaking everyone through. We’d brought our waterproof trousers which came in use and meant we had a period where the waiting time on rides dropped dramatically. Alice was miserable in the rain.

But quickly recovered.

The park also has animals dotted around. I enjoyed seeing them. Amy and Alice were too excited for Peppa.

Alice enjoyed meeting the characters.

She was most excited for George oddly.

The planting and gardens were excellent around the park. Almost worth the price of admission alone.

The hydrangeas were good though not up to Exbury Gardens level. But they have become the standard by which I am now judging all hydrangeas.

Dahlia love was strong.

And where else am I going to find Peppa topiary?

The main cafe and soft-play building had a spectacular green roof including vents on the roof that channelled the wind to cool inside.

I think Amy enjoyed the rides as much as Alice.

Alice sat with her souvenir of the day, Mr Dinosaur.

I didn’t have high hopes for Peppa Pig World, but we actually had a great day. The park was well organised. We didn’t have to pay for lots of hidden extras once we got in. The plants were fabulous. A lovely family day out.

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Summer Holiday: Part 4 Exbury Gardens

I have already discussed the wonders of the gardens in a previous six on Saturday blog but there was plenty I didn’t include so here is a bit more about the day.

When we first arrived we had a short period of time before we got on the steam train so Alice had a quick play in the playground. She is getting more and more adventurous.

She initially wanted help on the rope then told us to stand back.

The train gave us views of the dragonfly ponds and the rock garden which we didn’t manage to walk to.

Alice enjoyed spotting the sculptures.

Walking backwards is great fun.

Constant snacking is vital for taking a three-year-old anywhere.

I talked about the amazing hydrangeas and many of the other plants in the previous blog on Exbury but didn’t give much space to the acers/maples that I was also taken by. It’s a popular garden option that I struggle to grow because of the wind scorch. Over the last few months, I’ve bought a number to try in my own garden. Acer Butterfly is still doing well, but several of the others have suffered a bit. Getting the balance between giving them shelter and being able to see them is tough with my conditions. Here are a few from Exbury.

I heard plenty of birds during the day but didn’t see many through the thick woodland canopy but did see a good number of fluffy robins.

It was a superb garden and I still have plenty more photos I haven’t shown but these hydrangeas are worth revisiting. Hope you’ve enjoyed the extra shots.

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Summer Holiday: Part 3-Christchurch

Last time we visited Dorset we never visited Christchurch centre despite staying in Christchurch. So this time we decided to rectify this. The town developed around the river and priory established in 1094. The castle was started in the 12th century, then destroyed during the civil war. It became a smuggling hot spot during the 18th and 19th century and seems to have brought in quite a bit of wealth as there are lots of fine buildings from this period.

We spent the morning at soft play as there were weather warnings for the wind so it seemed prudent to stay inside. We arrived early when it wasn’t too busy but by the time we left, it was becoming a bit Lord of the Flies.

We took the bus so we could both have a little holiday drink with lunch. Alice doesn’t go on buses very often as we walk everywhere in Hornsea so she was entertained by the novelty. Google maps have proved very useful this holiday as it shows how many more stops to go.

We had a wander around the Priory. The Priory has many interesting stories around it but I think the miraculous beam was my favourite. The story dates to the 12th century that a beam was hoisted in place and it was found to be short. This would have caused some embarrassment. There had been a lone carpenter who had eaten and worked alone. The following day the carpenters returned and the beam fitted. The mysterious lone carpenter was never seen again. The miracle of the beam was put down to a miracle of Jesus Christ as the son of a carpenter.

Alice pretended to be her granddad.

It was a bit windy back outside.

We had brought some food to feed the ducks and swans.

The war memorial has a fine rose garden around it.

From the river and Priory, it was a short walk around to the ruins of the castle.

Alice wasn’t keen on being locked in the stocks, but she was happy to put Amy in.

We had a good platter in the Thomas Tripp pub.

While Alice was kept entertained in the traditional way of her generation.

It didn’t keep her attention for long though before she wanted cuddles.

Then Alice got a little treat from the chocolatier on the way to the bus.

We had a good day out in Christchurch and made the most of a weather warning day where we didn’t want to travel far.

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Six on Saturday: 24.8.19

This week I’ve been spoilt for choice for my six. Some will make it into next weeks six, while others haven’t made the cut. I’ve somewhat neglected the back garden while I’ve been sorting the front garden but I’ve discovered bindweed so I need to very carefully weed the borders to try and stop it establishing.

1. Zinnias whirligig

I started growing these from seed in trays. I then moved them straight into the ground and forgot about them. Then when I saw flowers emerging I almost removed them as weeds but asked for an ID on Twitter. The pack came with a variety of types in. They’ve been popular with the insects and there very pretty. I’d grow them again but I would probably put them further forward in the border as they are hidden a bit behind dahlias.

2. Clematis

This clematis was already in the garden when I took over the garden. It barely flowered so I gave it a hard prune and it has been giving a few more flowers each year. It is growing out of a thicket of shrubs and then gradually colonising the top of the fence.

3. Agapanthus

I planted these as bulbs last Autumn as they formed part of our wedding flowers. We had our anniversary this week and one is in flower. The others have put on foliage this year but no flowers. I’m growing them in pots as the advice states they like to be crowded. Hopefully next year I’ll have a few more to show.

4. Cosmos candy stripe

I’ve grown double click and candy stripe as a big mass. Double click featured a few weeks ago. Now it’s the turn of the candy stripe.

So far the majority of the patch has come out as double click but I have a few of the candy stripe dotted through. These are white with a pink edge. They are recommended as good for insects and I’ve seen a good group of hoverflies over them each day.

And a few other insects enjoying just resting on them.

5. Lily ‘Casa Blanca’

This almost didn’t make the cut this week but I decided I’d include it. It flowered while we were away and was getting past its best when we returned. It’s a pure white lily from Sarah Raven as part of her scented collection. The lilies have suffered from lily beetle this year. I’ve grown this in a pot this year but I may move it into the ground for next year. I’m not too bothered if it survives as it isn’t really exciting enough as just one. I’d need to but a couple for proper impact. It doesn’t really work in combination with my other plant choices.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

This was another Sarah Raven choice and has been a stunner. It’s been sold as a small variety for pots. I have only used one short stake and I think it would have managed without. The dark flowers are absolutely stunning and it has taken pride of place outside the extension window visible to all.

Lots of insects have been settling on the large flowers as a convenient resting point to survey the garden. It has been a good week for wildlife in the garden. I’ve had swarms of long-tailed tits of up to 40 coming in, tons of insects and a lot of frogs around. These dahlias seem to be hot spots for posing insects wanting their photo taken.

The dragonflies have been regular visitors. I love seeing the dragonflies and this year I think I’ve had more than ever. The size and their primaeval nature make them fantastic to watch.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week six as much as I’ve enjoyed admiring them. As well as the much-needed weed of the back garden I’ve got a large fern donated from my mums garden to plant and a couple of gorgeous heucheras to plant. Happy gardening!

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Summer Holiday: Part 2-Highcliffe Castle

After our starting point of Guildford, we moved onto house sit in Christchurch for our Summer holiday. Our first day out was to Highcliffe Castle. Highcliffe Castle was built in the 1830s by Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown though only part of this survives. The house changed hands ending up the property of the Catholic Church in the 1950s. It was bought by local businessmen in the 1960s before much was damaged by fire. The castle deteriorated into ruin before it was bought on by compulsory purchase from the local council.  The grounds and beach were opened to the public but it was too expensive to restore the house. Heritage Lottery funding allowed restoration to take place in the 90s.

When we arrived wedding photos were taking place but Alice was too eager to run through the passages in the hedges.

Inside the castle was good for kids with lots for Alice to do. Many of the displays were interactive with sound for her to listen to. She enjoyed playing in the kitchen serving everyone food.

She looked quite good as a maid but didn’t keep it on long enough for a decent photo.

She meticulously stacked up the rectangles to fill a stained glass light box. She didn’t want anyone else having the rectangles!

She did some very careful tracing.

Then very careful colouring upstairs.

There was a gallery of street art on. Most wasn’t to my taste but some caught my eye.

More dressing up upstairs.

The inevitable icecream.

She had a good climb outside between rain.

Then a bit of a stroll of the grounds before she had a meltdown as her clothes were wet.

The grounds are mainly made up of woodland.

Highcliffe was a good spot to visit for a family. Quite a number of activities for the kids to do as they go round. Alice enjoyed herself. There is a stroll down to Avon Beach but she isn’t quite ready to walk that far. In my next blog, we visited Christchurch, then still more of Exbury, Peppa Pig World and the Gruffalo to come.

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Front Garden update 3

Having returned from holiday I have got back out to continue with my front garden revamp. While we have been away the front path has been taken up. The crumbling concrete path has been replaced with smart pavers. Last time I wrote about the front garden I was leaving off planting part of the garden as there was still the path to complete. Now I’ve been able to get out and planted up a bit more of the space.

The view from above

The views from above shows the right side where I started planting has started to fill out well. The plants closest the path went in yesterday. I’ve given them a good soak in to help establish them. I’ve been sticking to ferns, hostas and heuchera so far. I’m aiming for a mixture of foliage with different shapes and colours. The garden is North facing thus all the shade lovers but luckily I like foliage plants. I’m keeping the flowers minimal and getting the colour through the leaves.

The view from above shows there are still some gaps to fill. I’ve used some coleus and alchemilla to fill gaps while the other plants fill out. I’ve bought stepping stones for half the circuit. They lead to the water butt, then back round to the path. The idea being I can water all the areas from the stone to limit how much I step on the ground. Alice does a circuit round each time she comes out the door which is quite useful for stopping her running out onto the road. The stepping stones in the bottom part of the photo are just temporary until next month when I’ll buy stepping stones to complete the circuit. These were log cookies we had spare from the wedding.

The wall where the bins are was on the point of collapsing so we’ve had it replaced with a fence similar to the other side. It’s odd but the bins feel tidying for having a fence taller than them. We are planning long term to build a bin tidy out from the fence to hide them. Next door has started tidying their garden. They said I’d shamed them into tidying, though they did say it jokingly rather than edged with venom. They are looking to plant something in the middle of their circle, then put fresh weed matting and gravel down. I’m trying to encourage them to continue the hydrangea love. But I think that would suit the spot: shaded, minimal effort, long period of interest.

Front door

The supports over the front door had partially rotted and we were considering removing. The gaps were filled with expanding foam, then the edge with wood filler. It’s had the first layer of primer. We are deciding whether to paint white or to go dark grey to contrast with grey of the bricks. The path looks much improved for the new pavers.

On either side of the door, I have placed these planters. They were intended to be used as window boxes but I can’t support them well under the window and they aren’t really big enough. I think they are looking smart here though. The coleus in front of the planter was grown from seed and is adding some temporary interest. I’m planning to add some snowdrops or crocus to the planter for some Spring interest. The hostas will die down for winter. The ferns are evergreen but will brown off to be replaced by fresh fronds in Spring.

The hanging basket was looking a bit dry from us being away so I’ve cut back some of the trailing plants. I think it’ll grow back with a bit of care.

Stepping stones

I have selected concrete steppings stones in the shape of log cuts. They aren’t the fanciest but they will gradually be surrounded by the plants. Each is slightly different so it doesn’t look too uniform.

Now I have an idea of where the stones are going and the path is done I’ve added some more plants. The hostas are mostly hosta fortuneii. These were bought for £1 or £2 in Winter on sale when they look like a pot of dead growth. I’m also taking a chance on placing the aspidistra outside. This has come from my classroom but I don’t have space for it in my next year’s classroom. I’m hoping close to the house it will have enough warmth to survive. My China Moon aspidistra in the back garden survived last winter so hopefully, this will too.

Ferns

A few more ferns have been added. These are mainly wispier varieties like Dryopteris and Polystichum. I’m not sure how these will cope with the sea winds so I’m going to need to keep them well watered initially and we’ll see how they go. So far I’ve mainly planted varieties like Asplenium with wider fronds that can cope with the winds.

Waterbutt

The water butt has proved invaluable since installing it. I have been able to manage the majority of the watering over the Summer from just this saving me carrying water through the house. We have had quite a wet Summer, but still very helpful while I’m getting plants established. Even small downpours have helped fill it back up. It has been a bit smelly a few times so I’ve added an antimicrobial disc to see if that helps.

The frogs have been sheltering under the bricks and tile the butt is resting on. A well-shaded spot for them. They’ll hopefully return the favour by eating the slugs to protect my hostas.

Hydrangea

The limelight has filled out nicely over its first Summer. It is a bit floppy but it will start to thicken out over the next few years. The flowers have been great and far more than I expected in this first year. Not as spectacular as the paniculata hydrangeas we saw at Exbury but a good start.

It is starting to gain the pink tinge before it browns off.

The help

Alice helped briefly before she lost interest. She enjoyed herself until she got her dress wet then she wanted to go in. Amy and Alice returned to supervise later and check I wasn’t doing anything stupid.

There is still more work to go and it will be a few years to fill out but I’m happy with the progress so far. The next big job will be edging the path to stop soil going onto the path. Then I have some ophiopogon to plant along the edge to keep it smart. Then I’m probably going to put bark down to improve the soil conditions, suppress weeds and help moisture retention. For months I’ve had plants sat on the patio at the back but now they’ve largely been planted I can set my mind to arranging the remaining pots.

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