Six on Saturday: 30.11.19 wonderful weeds

Having finished reading Foliage Plants I have moved onto a new release Wild about weeds: garden design with rebel plants by Jack Wallington. I preordered the book as having followed Jack’s Twitter and newspaper output I was interested to see what he’d have to say on the subject. Making use of wildflowers is very much on-trend currently. Any examination of flower shows over the last few years will show a wilder approach to our gardens in the fight to help support wildlife. People are more aware of the damages and benefits our gardens can provide. The book is beautifully produced in a lovely hardback edition.  I’m about half-way through the book and had lots of food for thought. If you still have anyone asking you for a Christmas recommendation you might want to suggest this. Through the book, I’ve found a handful of ‘weeds’ I’ve already grown and some I may try in future. So this week I thought I’d look at six weeds I’ve included within my own garden.

1. Teasel

Teasel is a fabulous looking roadside plant. It grows tall spires of flowers. These are normally around two metres tall though in my garden it grew to about three. Every part of it is spikey, the flowers are spikey, the leaves are spikey and the stems are spikey. They are part of the reason why I appreciate my Gold Leaf Gloves. It was loved by many pollinators. The bees swarmed over it all summer and holly blue butterflies seemed to like it. It is a biennial so I currently have lots of little self-seeded plants coming up. I’m not sure I’ll allow it to establish again as the leaves are so big it takes up quite a lot of border space, but I did enjoy it for the year. In autumn the seed heads brought flocks of finches to the garden. If I had more space I would grow it again.


2. Ox-eye daisies

In the first year in the garden, I spread a mix of wildflower seed over two planters near the house. One of the only plants that grew well was the ox-eye daisies. The planters have been taken out but I spread the daisies around the garden. They are a superfood for pollinators with their wide-open flowers providing for a range of insects. Their growth gets a bit untidy in Summer. Then I cut them back and they often go onto flower as late as November and last year there were still ones flowering in December.

3. Campanula

This campanula grows around the cracks in the wall post. It dies back down and comes back each year. The bees swarm around it. It makes use of space that would otherwise be empty. The post has been rebuilt this year but I don’t think the edge has been touched so I think they should still return next year.

4. Borage

Borage is a bit of an untidy plant but it is great for bees so I allow a few patches to grow at the bottom of the garden. Mine comes up with blue and white flowers. This plant gets recommended for wildlife again and again due to its long flowering period. It seems tolerant of sun or partial shade. I pull it out every so often as it gets too big for the space I’ve assigned it but I let the self-seeders reestablish so I usually have a few patches on the go. It’s a member of the Boraginaceae family along with forget-me-nots, though grows a bit taller than forget-me-nots. The flowers are edible and can be used for cake decorations.

5. Asplenium scolopendrium ‘hart’s tongue’

Hart’s tongue is one of my favourite ferns. It is a reliable hardy plant capable of tolerating the cold windy conditions in my garden. The wider fronds make it suitable for growing in a pot or in the border as it the wider leaves reduce water loss from winds. It naturally colonises cracks in rocks. It can grow as a tiny little plant in cracks in walls or grow up to be a decent metre spread. The large evergreen sword-like leaves provide a good structure through winter and contrast well against the summer hostas and geraniums grown in the same area of the border.

I’ve just moved my biggest patch of harts tongue. It was part of a patch of three ferns that have outgrown their original spaces. It has all flopped in one direction but it will gradually spread out better with the new fronds in spring.

6. Asplenium trichomanes

This little fern is another evergreen option that again spreads into cracks in walls. I’ve used it in my window box planters that sit either side of the front door. Combined with the hostas they’ve looked good through summer. The hostas have died down and some crocus has been added for spring colour. The delicate string of little leaves looks good as part of pot displays with larger leaves like the hostas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks foray into weeds. I’m still a bit poorly after last week but I am up and mobile. It is Amy’s birthday celebrations tomorrow so I’m probably not going to get much chance to garden this week. I want to shift a few plants around after planting the holly tree last week and I’ve picked up a few cheap hellebores to add some winter flowers. Don’t forget to check out the other six on Saturday posts through the comments of the Propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday-23.11.19 welcome to the Holly King

Recently, I have been finding myself weighing up the merits of plants in the back garden. I have worked on remaking the front garden from scratch and it looks better for being planned. The back garden is a mixture of plants that came with the garden and random purchases. Many plants were already there when I took ownership. I’ve given them three years but some just aren’t right. The white beam tree is an example in point. It came with the garden and I have spent three years trying to make it work. Initially, it needed a hard prune as it had many crossing branches and was getting larger than I’d like. Then I’ve tried to keep on top of it, thinning and pruning out a bit each year to keep its size in check. But it just isn’t happy. Its leaves dropped early this year. Last Sunday I made the decision to dig it out. I already had a Holly in mind to replace it. I like the look of the holly more and I think an evergreen tree will give a nicer sense of structure to this area. The holly, potentially, offers more for wildlife as well as pleasing me more visually. I’m not very well today and the whole household has been snotty and coughing all week. Another day of throat sweets and tissues will do us all a world of good.

1. The white beam

At its best, the white beam has lovely silver foliage and is popular with birds for its berries. Mine has lost its leaves late on in summer. It hasn’t agreed with the sea winds. It has never looked massively healthy despite good soil conditions as far as I can tell. The ground has been well mulched over the three years we’ve been in the house. There are a number of these trees in local parks a bit further away from the seafront and they look great but they fill far more space than I have available. So while it seems a shame to remove an established tree I’ve tried for 3 years to find a solution and haven’t come up with one. Pruning can keep it in check but it isn’t very happy for the pruning. I miss out on the berries. But ultimately I don’t have the space for plants unsuited to a medium-sized garden.

The berry production has been low as I’ve had to prune it to keep it in check.

2. The tools

This is the first proper run out for my Japeto saw. It did a good job cutting off the outer branches leaving a structure I could lever out. On the smaller end, my Hori Hori knife was useful for working around the roots. My loopers are not amazing. I broke a set earlier in the year and bought these as a quick replacement but the did the job cutting the branches thin enough to not require sawing. The axe and spade came in use for hacking at roots. Then the crowbar proved its worth again. The spike getting under the roots to help lever up. The tree came out easier than the hebes in the front garden. I think part of this was having the right tools to help and partly the tree wasn’t as healthy as it should have been for its size. The roots weren’t that deep or thick for a tree over a decade old. The leaves have fallen very early in the year so I think it probably wasn’t too happy a tree anyway.

3. The gap left

The tree was in the middle of several ferns. A number of the ostrich ferns I think I may have squished beneath the soil I’ve dugout, but still a good few left that should recover next year. The geranium will need watching or else it will claim all that free ground. The new holly is going to go about a metre from where the white beam was so it doesn’t have to force its way through the old roots from the off. Now I’ve got the white beam out I think I’m going to have a shuffle of the surrounding plants. I think the limelight can go along a bit to give it a bit more space. I’m going to take out the fennel as this will give me a run of plants that work together with the holly, ferns, hydrangeas and Acers playing well together. I’m tempted to add some of the box plants to try and add some formal structure to the mix. I think they would grow to look nice against the more wild ferns. It will hopefully make the border a more cohesive area rather than a mess of random plants growing into each other.

4. Background

The euonymus behind was almost the same height so the loss of the tree hasn’t left an obvious gap looking from the house, but sideways on the loss of a large tree shows. The euonymus isn’t the most exciting of shrubs but it blocks the view to my storage area. Pile behind this shrub is compost, bags of leaves turning to leaf mulch and piles of bricks. I’ve got a holly to replace the white beam. The two have very similar variegation. It would look better if I had a contrast to go behind the new holly but I don’t want to lose the screen. The holly will take a good amount of time to reach the height that the white beam was. Then I can maybe look at replacing the euonymus with something contrasting to the holly. But this will be a good few years down the line.

5. Log pile

Next to the lilac, I have a pile of prunings. While this may look a bit messy and it will be many years for it to rot down it makes for a good habitat pile with many creatures to be found. The white beam will be cut down so even in death it can still serve a purpose in the garden.

6. The newcomer

To replace the white beam I’ve got a holly tree, Ilex altaclernsis ‘golden king’. I didn’t want to be without a tree in this corner as it makes much of the structure of the garden. This won’t grow quite as big as the white beam might have grown. It is potentially beneficial for wildlife with the flowers providing for pollinators. This is meant to be a female. That means it will only produce the berries if a male is in the neighbourhood, which walking around I think there are a few male hollies around. If it doesn’t produce I may need to add a male, but would probably look at keeping the male smaller, allowing to flower, while pruning it as a shrub. The foliage earned it a place in Christopher Lloyd’s foliage plants, discussed last week. It was the only holly he grew, despite liking others, and if that seems like a good enough recommendation to me. It has an RHS Award of merit showing its reliability. I can’t really justify buying a large one so I’m starting small with a two-litre pot and playing the long game. At least I know I’ve probably got another decade before I have to worry about its size. It seems appropriate to be adding a Holly at this time of year as the traditional archetype of winter. Long may the Holly King Reign!

This was my first time purchasing from crocus and I’m pretty impressed. I paid for the named delivery so I could have it arrive on a day I’d be in. It came well packaged in a box. A minimal amount of plastic wrapped around the pot to keep moisture in.

I couldn’t afford or justify spending on the larger size so I’m playing the long game buying a two-litre pot. I wasn’t expecting much height for the price but it’s still a decent metre and looks to be nice and healthy.

I’ve planted it about a metre from where the white beam was so it isn’t growing through the root mass of the previous tree. When I’m feeling a bit better I’m going to have a shuffle of the surrounding shrubs. The limelight hydrangea is going to get moved along a bit to where the fennel currently is. The fennel will come out. Then I’ve got a few hostas, ferns and small box shrubs to go in. Alongside the Acer, this should make this area a bit more cohesive. Behind it is the trunk of the white beam waiting to be cut up.  Then the red stems on the fence are from one of the climbing hydrangea planted this year. This has started putting on growth before the leaves dropped. In a few years, this should be a nice solid area of foliage with bursts of colour from flowers and berries.


Well, I’ve spent the last few days looking after a poorly daughter and then Thursday succumbed to it myself. My head is thumping and very weak, though think I’m coming out of the worst of it, so no gardening today. It is National Tree Week, so it seems appropriate that I’m planting a tree afresh. While I have taken one out it wasn’t one that could remain long term, whereas hopefully, this one will be able to stay. National Tree Week was started to replace the trees lost by Ash dieback but has taken a greater significance in the fight against climate change. Adding trees, particularly fruit-bearing trees provides many benefits for wildlife with flowers for pollinators and then fruit for birds. Many small fruit trees can be added to small gardens, so lack of space is a poor excuse. Failing this the Tree Council and Woodland Trust offer lots of tree planting opportunities for community groups.

Don’t forget to check out the other six on Saturday posts through the hashtag on Twitter or through the founder’s blog.

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Six on Saturday: 16.11.19 Evergreen foliage

My current bedtime reading has been Christopher Lloyd’s ‘Foliage plants’. I’ve read a few of Lloyd’s books, ‘the well-tempered garden’ and ‘exotic gardening for adventurous gardeners’ and I very much like Lloyd’s writing style and his garden style. I’m glad I left out ‘foliage plants’ until I developed a reasonable knowledge of plants from growing many myself and browsing nurseries stock as many of the plants mentioned would have been lost on me whereas I have really enjoyed it for being able to see how these plants could be used in my own garden. The chapter on ferns had me nodding along and the chapter on trees gave me a desire for more space. I have discussed my love of foliage many times over the blog and social media. Foliage gives you so much more interest than many flowers and for much longer periods.

It is an indisputable fact that appreciation of foliage comes at a later stage in our education, if it comes at all. Christopher Lloyd ‘Foliage plants’

As we slide down towards winter the remaining evergreen foliage becomes more significant as it makes up the remaining structure of the garden. After a week like we’ve just had of rain and flooding the foliage looks lush while the few remaining flowers look bedraggled. So this week I am focussing on foliage and most of it is evergreen to boot.

1. Carex-ice dance

I don’t make much use of grasses in the garden but I was seduced by the darker striped leaves of this variety. It’s gone into a pot currently. It is evergreen so will give the patio some winter interest and will offer a contrast to the heuchera in colour and form over winter. Then as the year goes on and the hostas return the thin leaves will make a nice contrast to the hostas wider leaves.

2. Heuchera-coral forest

Another new addition, this little green heuchera isn’t much to look at currently. It doesn’t have the zing of lime marmalade but I think as it establishes it will make the other darker colours stand out more. It is supposed to have very vibrant pink flowers in late spring so we’ll see what delights it brings.

Heuchera’s are generally known for their wonderful foliage and this one isn’t all that exciting but it is evergreen with slight veins showing. It should form just a little mound of green adding contrast to a few surrounding plants.

3. Heuchera-potted mix

This mix of heucheras have been sat together and show how wonderful foliage can look together. Here we have, from left to right, marmalade, huckleberry, wild rose and purple palace. Surprisingly Christopher Lloyd doesn’t really mention heucheras in foliage plants. I’m not sure whether this was due to a dislike or lack of availability at the time of publication. Though according to the hardy plant society they were introduced to the UK in 1882. Either way, I wouldn’t be without them. This selection will offer colour through winter.

Heuchera purple palace was put forward for an RHS competition to select the most popular plant introduced at the Chelsea flower show over the 100 years. It was first shown in 1983 and since then we have had so many varieties introduced. At the time it launched a fashion for foliage plants, though now purple palace is so every day that it is unremarkable within my collection. But these are very versatile plants. As evergreen they offer a long period of colour, just looking a bit the worse for wear in the darkest winter when they can hug the ground, but then who is going out to look then anyway? They work in pots, front of the border and like shade. Bulbs can be grown up around them giving spring interest, then the heuchera remains for the rest of the year.

4. Fern-buckler

This is a new addition to my ferns. In milder climates, it can remain evergreen, but for me, I think it will probably stay green for much of winter before fading away before the fresh green fronds come in spring. I was taken by the serrated edging of the leaves. I think this might make a nice contrast to some of the wider leaved foliage plants or one of the wispier ferns. I haven’t settled on a position for this yet. It may go in a pot or in the border around one of the acers.

5. Fatsia

I bought two fatsias last year. One plain green and one variegated spider web. The spider web has a reputation as being less hardy, though I found mine came through winter looking slightly better than the plain. Both are solidly robust foliage plants. The giant leaves look lush when wet, which is all the time currently. I ma growing mine in pots for the patio. If I had a decent space in the border I could happily let this romp away to form a big shrub, but I can’t really fit it.

The spider web is set to flower. The flowers clearly show the link to ivy, and the two have been hybridised to form the climber Fatshedera lizei. Though by most accounts this isn’t a great cross as the plant needs training and supporting to get up anything. My spider web foliage is probably doing slightly better than the plan as it hasn’t been chomped as much.

6. Senecio cineraria

One of my few silver foliage plants. Though under the heavy rain we currently are experiencing they go greener. These have made for great contrast with the dark-leaved Bishop’s children dahlias. Every so often they shoot out little yellow flowers. These somewhat spoil the look of the plant but the hoverflies enjoy them so I tend to leave them on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the foliage on offer. I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, a rose or a dahlia will always get more attention but at this time of year, these are the true workhorses that are going to keep the garden going. My lawn was looking to have a good cm of water resting on it on Thursday night so I’m going to be treading carefully out there today. I hope the rest of you haven’t suffered too much.

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Six on Saturday: 9.11.19

We have well and truly entered the dark side of the year. I’m seeing less of the garden during daylight but I have still managed to grab the odd moment in the garden. During half-term, I managed to clear a good bit of ground and rediscovered many of the evergreen plants hidden away behind. The bottom end of the garden is made up of many evergreen heuchera and ferns. Since planting they’ve spread over each other so I think some movement might be needed.

1. Crocus and crowbar

I managed to get my 100 croci planted in the lawn last weekend. I’ve gone for a mixed bag from Gee-Tee bulbs. While not as many bulbs as many of you plant this was a lot for a fairly small area. I am currently squirrel free so hopefully, these will stay in the ground. I employed a long crowbar to get them planted after seeing Monty using one of these on gardeners world. I do have a bulb planter but this seemed a good option for the small size of the crocus. I still have 100 white to go in the front but the crowbar should make quick work of that.

2. Possibly cotoneaster

This little shrub self-seeded into a fuschia pot. I dug it out and have been growing it on. The Twitter consensus seemed to think it was cotoneaster but not the horizontalis I already have. I don’t know for sure what it is but the autumn leaves are looking good. Larger leaves get blown off before they change colour with my sea winds so nice to have a taste of autumn.

3. Fern-Blechnum

My local florist always stocks a few plants outside and is usually overpriced but I spotted these little Blechnum ferns for £1.50. They should stay evergreen over winter and will eventually spread about half a metre. I’m unsure whether these are going in pots for the patio or into the border. Fern corner has gradually spread out and is heading towards the back garden mirroring the front.  I’m fine with this though as evergreen foliage works well for small gardens looking good for long periods of the year.

4. Log store

We needed a log store quickly for winter so we bought this one from Aldi. It isn’t the most amazing quality but should last a few years. I’ve given it a coat of Cuprinol paint and it looks smart enough. We may need another though as it didn’t quite fit all the wood. Once the building work is done I can look at planting up around it. It should help act as another windbreak for the patio plants. We may need another store to fit all the wood but can’t build another until the builders have finished. I think it looks smart enough though.

5. Pots

The garden centre end of season sales have begun but not a massive amount on offer I was interested in. However, pots are on sale which are always useful. I have a pot shortage currently as many of the dahlias are still going but I need ones to pot up bulbs. I’m not sure why pots are sold off each autumn, but they are, so I’m taking advantage. It’s not like they are going to need looking after over winter. I bought two small square pots for the box bushes I bought last month. I think they’ll look smart in these while they put on a bit of height then move them into bigger pots.

Then I got a large glazed pot. Alice liked the colour as she said it was mummy’s favourite. I bought a value white hydrangea macrophylla. This is only meant to grow to about a metre so ideal for a pot. It’s stuck on the lawn until the builders finish their work, then it will go on the patio.

6. Gunnera manicata

The only other value plant I bought was a cheap gunnera. While these are traditionally grown in the ground near ponds where they grow to monstrous sizes they can be grown in pots where they can still manage reasonably sized leaves. I’m going to nurse it through the winter then try it in the largest pot I can find for some more foliage on the patio. It may not work but it was cheap enough to take a chance on.

I’ve still got some more crocus to get planted in the front garden and a mix of tulips for borders and pots. Hopefully, I’ll make a good dent in these this weekend. We’ll see what the weather brings. Don’t forget to read the Propagator’s blog to see more Six on Saturday posts. I hope you’ve all survived the wet weather and no one been flooded too badly.

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Six on Saturday: 2.1.19 Autumn at the in-laws

We returned from a trip to the in-laws up at Robin Hood’s Bay.  They have plenty of space up on the cliff edge with several distinct garden areas. A solid structure of evergreen plants keeps it looking good through the year. Their garden is still showing plenty of colour. They have plenty planted for long-lasting interest and late-flowering flowers keeping the colour going as we go into November. As ever I’ve gone snap happy shooting their garden but I’m sure you’ll appreciate why.

1. Hydrangeas

The hydrangeas featured when I last visited. They are fading but still providing colour. They have a mixture of stretches of hydrangeas and individual specimens providing colour through the garden. How many other plants can give such a long period of interest?

Alice poising by them.

2. Salvia hot lips

The ever-reliable hot lips still providing bright bursts of red and white. I keep saying I’ll take cuttings from either the in-laws or parents and still haven’t got round to this. Maybe next year, though I’m running out of space in the borders.

3. Cotoneaster

There are a number of cotoneasters dotted around. For much of the year, they don’t really do much but come autumn when they produce their abundance of berries they pay their way. The birds love them too. My own is still establishing but should start providing a few berries next year I reckon.

4. Nerines

I seem to have noticed nerines out and about more this year. I’m not sure whether this is because there are more around or just that I’ve been looking more at what people have going on for late-season interest.

5. Bishop’s Children dahlias

I imagine you’re all sick of seeing these dahlias but here are two I grew and gifted to the in-laws last time we visited. Still going strong. I’m saving a few of my tubers for next year and got some more seed ready to try these again. They were easy to grow and have given me several months of colour when other plants have faded. A definite winner.

6. Roses

My own roses have been a bit pitiful on their second blooms. The wet weather has destroyed many of the blooms. But the in-laws have plenty still doing well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed another trip to the in-laws garden. There is always so much to see. I’ve been busy on my own garden getting things ready for winter over my half-term holiday, but we’ll return to my own garden next week.

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Feed the birds-Haith’s bird seed

Haith’s bird food contacted me a few weeks back to tell me they have released two new seed bags they would like me to review. I have reviewed Haith’s products in the past, that said I still buy from Haith’s for much of my bird food. They are relatively local to me in Lincolnshire, a well-established family business, that makes good quality feed. So while in the interest of disclosure I didn’t pay for these I do buy from the company. The seed is cleaned making it healthier for the birds. Many birdseed mixes contain dust and waste husk that may be harmful to birds.

Before I put in the new mixes I’ve given my bird feeders a good clean with boiling water. I’ve said this before but regularly cleaning your feeders is important to limit the spread of disease between birds. I’ve replace many of my feeders with metal feeders that are easy to dismantle and clean but I still use these two Peckish feeders for my main seed feeders. They dismantle easily to clean. With the wet weather, some of the previous supermarket seed mix was starting to sprout. The seed tray catchers I bought separately but these have helped minimise waste and allow more birds to get a grip on the feeders.

I’ve been sent two mixes to review one for all and winterberry. Haith’s package their own mixes within these paper bags sealed with string. I normally buy in the bigger packs to cut down on plastic waste. They are delivered within a postage bag that contains some plastic but by buying large amounts at once it cuts down the number and frequency used.

The one for all mix contains sunflower hearts and peanut granules. Sunflower hearts are very popular in my garden with tits and finches. Haith’s have found, in their testing, the combination attracted more than the sunflower hearts on their own. It’s also listed as no mess so I shouldn’t have lots of random plants sprouting underneath. This is a mix aimed at benefitting the birds through all seasons.

The winterberry mix contains a mix of seed and fat pellets to help birds over the winter where the birds need a high energy source to reward them for visiting the feeders.

I’ve left them on the long feeders as next doors cat has been in a lot and it can’t get up these ones. I have a lot of the feeders hidden in the trees where the birds can visit safely but I want to see what is visiting these and these can be viewed from the house.

Within minutes the pigeons and doves were in trying to work out how to hang off the feeders to get at the seed. These were followed shortly by the sparrows. We’ll see what follows over the next few days.

Haith’s stock a good range of bird food and wildlife supplies and are well worth checking out. While some are more expensive than your value feed the birds really do seem to love it. Buying in bulk can make savings too. I’ll report back probably in next weeks six on Saturday of what has come visiting. Feeding the birds provides a great simple bit of pleasure and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

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