Six on Saturday: 29.2.19

Well, we have a rare event, a six on Saturday on the 29th of February. It’ll be around 28 years until we get another. If I’m still doing Six on Saturday hopefully the garden dreams will have become a reality by then.

1. Crocus

I planted 100 croci in the lawn a few months back. They often get lost in the border so it utilises the lawn space by providing flowers for the bees before I start mowing again. The first ones are coming into flower. I think some may have rotted in the wet weather but I think enough have come up that they should establish. I’ve not got the fine spread we saw at the in-laws last week but in time they should spread.

I have a few croci in the borders from previous years. They often get lost in the undergrowth but here is one visible looking pretty with the rain droplets.

2. Moving hydrangeas

I dug the Korean Dwarf Lilac out last month as it was getting too large for space. It was blocking the view down the garden from the extension room. I’ve moved a pink Hydrangea macrophylla from the end of the garden into the gap. The larger hydrangea next to it will be getting a cut soon. The Choisya ternata is also due to have a haircut. Then the two hydrangeas should grow into each other giving a low hedge of pink flowers that we can still see over from the house. Not quite the Hydrangea walk of Exbury but it should work better than the dwarf lilac.

Then I have moved Hydrangea Libelle from its pot into the border where I’d dug the hydrangea above out of. I had hoped to keep it as a small plant in a pot for the patio but its growth in one year makes me think that’s not possible. I’ve also shaved a little bit off the lawn to give the plants here a bit more space. To the left behind this is one of the Hydrangea paniculata ‘limelights’ I planted last year. These two Hydrangeas have slightly different flowers and foliage but I think will combine well. To the right is the Ilex altaclernsis ‘golden king’. This holly will grow up providing a medium evergreen tree. This should give the hydrangeas the shade they like and provide a good backdrop to these. The surrounding area has a few ferns and hostas that are still establishing. The area needs a bit of a tidy but it should look good by summer. Having cut off a little corner of the border there is a little bit of space for new additions to the border. I do have some hardy geraniums or bearded irises that might go here.

3. Raising edging bricks

Along with shaving a little bit of the lawn I’ve raised the height of the bricks I’d used to edge the lawn. The border soil kept covering them so this should help. I also rounded this corner as the grass never grows well here as it’s too shaded. No sense trying to fight it putting grass seed down. The border looks a bit neater for having its edge back. The bricks should get a clean off with all the rain we are now having to wash off the soil left on top while I was raising them.

4. Pruning roses

I finally got around to pruning the roses. I’ve trained in the climbing roses. The aim is to train several stems horizontally to encourage flower production.  the two climbing roses are gradually developing a decent framework. It’s not quite textbook training but’s not a bad effort. Both have clematis growing through that are also getting to reasonable points so I should get a greener fence with bursts of flowers through the year.

5. Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

I’ve had this Acer sat in a corner for a while. I’d bought it a while back as a discount purchase. It should have £70 but was down to £15. A decent price for a tree about a metre and a half in height. Acers don’t really suit my sea winds but I like them enough to persist. This is in a reasonably sheltered spot with climbers working up the fence. That will give it a bit more protection. I’ve given it a mulch with ericaceous soil to help it settle in. This particular Acer should give bright green foliage in spring then fiery orange and red foliage in autumn.

6. Bird stake

I found this pot decoration in the charity shop clutter shelf. I thought it would make a nice garden decoration. I’ve used one of my rusty bird feeder poles I was considering getting rid of to combine them to make a little decoration for the pot display.

It’s been a productive week of getting through jobs despite the weather. I start in my new garden centre job next week. I’m still under strict instructions to not buy tons of plants. We’ll see if I manage it next week. I do need some more compost but this whether I was working at a garden centre or not. Wish me luck!

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Time at the Bay

We have returned from the in-laws at Robin Hood’s Bay. The weather hasn’t been the best but we managed a few walks and had a bit of time to enjoy their garden.

It was quite windy both days so we stayed off the cliff path but managed to walk down between the houses.

We revisited the Victoria where we had our wedding meal.

The gnomes of the bay are still looking cheerful.

Amy borrowed my camera to get a bit more practise before she starts teaching photography again.

Alice wanted a photo next to hellebores outside one of the pubs. Maybe my influence is rubbing off.

The Victoria has wonderful drifts of snowdrops and daffodils open together at the moment.

A spectacular camellia on the walk down.

The stone walls on the walk down are full of life at the moment. Ferns and snowdrops are filling the walls.

Here are bricks made from the local clay. When I talked in my last blog about the soil being thick clay I meant it.

The in-laws garden is in transition between seasons. A lot going over while other bulbs haven’t come up to replace them. The cyclamen and snowdrops are starting to go over.

A lot of the hellebores are starting to go over but there are still many putting on a good show.

The pond is doing well. Amy’s dad has added a solar panelled fountain. Not at it’s best on a grey day but still entertaining Alice. I saw a few of the newts in the pond. They are probably eating all the tadpoles each year so they aren’t getting the frogs as much currently.

Alice is enjoying pretending to take photos. We’ve dug her out an old camera now so she can start taking some actual photos.

The willow hedge is establishing nicely. I rather fancy making a willow tunnel in my garden as it’s so easy to grow from cuttings but not sure how it would fit with the existing structure.

The daffodils along the hedge going strong.

The bird feeders were seeing as many visitors as I think I’ve ever seen there. Charms of goldfinches, bullfinches, chaffinches, sparrows, magpies, jackdaws, robins and peasants.

The blackbirds were rather inquisitive.

The chimney pots by the back door looking good.

A few cyclamens still providing some deep colour.

The greenhouse is filled with some succulents doing very well at the moment. My aeonium is miserable and just lost a stem after I knocked it but the ones here are looking great.

Alice was keen to get out and race in the garden. She ran lots of laps in the garden.

The crocus in the lawn looking great. Mine are starting to come through but the weather hasn’t done them much good. It’s going to be a good few years before I have a good show from them.

It’s always nice visiting the in-laws garden. I normally come away wishing I had lots of their plants in my garden and wanting to rush out and purchase lots but I’m actually pretty happy with my own garden currently. Though I wouldn’t mind some chimney pots for planters. Alice had a great time. She’s walked up and down the steps to the seafront several times over the weekend and she hasn’t needed carrying at all this visit. She’s growing up rapidly.

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Six on Saturday: 22.2.20-A week of practical jobs

I’ve had a super week with Amy and Alice off for half term. We had a great time at Burton Agnes seeing the snowdrop walk. I’ve been busy trying to get jobs completed around the house and in the garden while I’m off work. More news on my work situation later though. I’ve been endeavouring to become more practical and develop more skills. So this week’s six features a mixture of practical and craft activities I’ve done over the last few weeks.

1. New lights

Alice wanted to buy these lights for Amy earlier in the week as mummy likes twinkles. I got some hanging basket hooks and attached them to the log store. I’m not sure the lights are the best quality solar powered ones but they look nice enough during the day as well with the cracked glass look.

2. Lick of paint

I’ve given a few bits of the garden furniture a new lick of paint. The plant stand hadn’t been painted before but looks much smarter for it. The table and chair set up aren’t massively comfortable so I’m going to use this on the patio for a display stand for some of the seasonal flowers. I’ll shift pots onto show as they come into season.

On the plant stand, there are some tins of sempervivums. One of my pots broke so I have employed tins for now to house them. I employed a nail and hammer to hammer some holes for drainage in the bottom. They need top dressing with some gravel. But as I fill up the plant stand it’ll make a smart enough display. Tins heat up in the sun so lose water quickly but as this like to be fairly dry they should be alright.

3. Back gate

The back gate was one of the few casualties in the storms of the last few weeks. It came off its hinges. I don’t think the hinges were really strong enough in the first place. I have gone with some heavier duty hinges and swapped them to the other side of the gate. It’s a job I’ve wanted to do for ages as the gate opened on the wrong side meaning I came out the gate and then had to close it to get down the path. Now I can go straight out with the wheelbarrow. So the storm has spurred me on to complete a job I wanted to do anyway.

4. Front garden

The front garden has spent periods of winter waterlogged. The soil is thick compressed clay. As you can see from the photos it is thick enough to mould with. Digging in it I can see why clay bricks used to be a local industry. I’ve used the auger drill to drill down holes where several of the stepping stones are and then filled with rubble and sand to give several spots the water can drain through a bit better. While I planted many options that like moisture I don’t think many will like to sit permanently in water.

I also got hold of some SupaGrow soil improver to mulch the front garden. This is 4 for £10. Not a bad price for a peat-free option. It took about 5 and a half 50-litre bags to cover the area but it makes the whole area look better each time I do it. The soil improver looks like it may have been green waste. There were a few random bits of plastic in the mix but for the price can’t complain. I wouldn’t be surprised to find weeds coming out of it but fingers crossed it won’t contain anything nasty. The mulch will gradually get taken into the soil by the worms and other life in the soil. This will add nutrients to the plants and help improve the soil structure which will aid the drainage.

I also got around to finishing the last of the stepping stones. When I originally did them I just planned a path to the water butt. Then I decided it would be nice to have a path that went all the way around so I put some temporary log cuts down. These were a bit slippy so I bought the last few stone steps that I needed. Alice likes working her way around it on the way in and out of the house so it keeps her busy while we’re locking and unlocking the door.

5. Scottie doggy

This little dog ornament had been left at my last garden by its previous owner. It came along to my current house hidden in a pot. It’s a bit naff but it had lost almost all its paint. I decided I’d give it a fresh lick of paint while Alice has been crafting. All those years painting Games Workshop figures has to be some use.

6. Punning

I made a new garden sign to give me a bit of motivation as I try to get started in horticulture. This bad pun came to me a while ago and I thought it’d go nicely on a sign. The slate was a cheese board that had been reduced. So I painted on the design and I’ve given it a varnish. It also came with two cheese knives for good measure. I had mentioned that I was looking to change careers and last week I had an interview for a garden centre. I’m pleased to say I was successful. It’s a temporary job but on the growing side which will be an excellent start. Lots to learn.

So, all in all, a good week. I’ve got a week off until I start my new job. I want to try and complete a number of jobs in the house and garden before I start. Then I’ll probably find I’m tired initially while settling into the new job. I’ve already been given strict instructions that I’m not allowed to bring home new plants every day. I’ll have to see whether I get a staff discount.

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Burton Agnes: snowdrop walk 2020

It’s almost a year to the day that we visited Burton Agnes for the snowdrop walk. It makes for a nice winter stroll. We’ve got one of Amy’s friends visiting so thought it’d be a nice day out on one of the few days that wasn’t meant to rain heavily. Burton Agnes is a lovely Elizabethan hall with a walled garden and woodland. The first we thing we spotted was Amy’s dad in the carpark, which was a nice surprise to see him there.

There was a good queue to get in as everyone gift aids their ticket. Once in we headed on the snowdrop walk first. Alice was excited to see the snowdrops pointing them out everywhere.

The snowdrops carpet all the woodland ground.

The walk gives you a gentle stroll suited to a three-year-old. The wind was bitter even well wrapped up but the snowdrops were stunning.

They have left lots of stumps and branches to rot down. Good to see positive woodland management.

Even busy with people walking there was plenty of bird song as we walked.

When we visited last year I commented that Alice was disappointed that there was noo Gruffalo. There was an owl and snake and fox. They have rectified this mistake.

They’ve done a good job on the park with a massive tower and spiral slide for the older children, then two smaller climbing frames for different ages. A zip wire runs along the back.

We had a stroll around the outside of the house of the gardens.

The garden is bare currently.

The walls still providing for some of my favourite ferns.

But the greenhouse was well worth going in for the mass display of Narcissus.

Amy is taking on more classes at school and she is teaching more photography. So, Alice got a few lessons today.

Then Amy borrowed my camera to get some practice in.

Then back to the courtyard to see what was available. I resisted the snowdrops. No more Galanthus for me. I’ve just added a few more in the front garden and I’ll let them spread gradually now.

The irises were more tempting. I’ve got a small pot of Katherine Hodgkin but they do look good in a mass display.

I’ve got Katherine’s gold still to come but it’s nice to see what they are going to look like.

I went for two pots of Iris reticulata ‘Pixie’. They are not in flower yet. Pixie is a pretty little purple variety to add to the mix. It’s been a lovely day out. Alice managed very well with the walking, had a great time in the play park. I now have 100s of her photos to filter through.

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Six on Saturday: 15.2.20-dahlia love begins

The garden survived last weekends storm relatively unscathed. I’ve reattached the back gate with heavier duty hinges as it got broken in the wind last weekend. But apart from that, the garden has held up pretty well. We’ll see whether it holds up to the rain this weekend. Despite the weather, I’ve still managed a few jobs this week and still a good couple of flowers still coming out to play.
1. Primula Veris-cowslips

I started with one little pot of cowslips. I’ve gradually been dividing them under the dogwood. Most of the year the dogwood would overshadow this area but the cowslips flower early enough to shine before the dogwood takes over. They provide an early source of nectar for early bees and beetles and provide the garden with a bit of colour early on in the year.

2. Charity find

This week’s charity find was this little painted pot for the price of 20p. I’ve put a cheap pot of daffodils in it for now. Another little burst of colour amongst the foliage plants. The pots have survived through the storms. The log store acts as a bit of a buffer for a few of the pots.

3. Bin tidy

I finally got round to sorting the bin area. I dug out the border, put sand down and these plastic grids that the bins can sit on. Then the area was covered with gravel. We thought it would look neater while still giving drainage rather than the paving we’d originally considered. I’d still like to build a covered bin tidy but it all looks neater than the strip of mud that was there before. The fatsia was only put at the end temporarily but it seems to like the spot so it may stay.

4. Iris reticulata- Katherine Hodgkin

The second of the Iris reticulata varieties to flower and it is a stunner. It rather foolishly decided to open during last week’s storms but has survived the winds. The creamy bloom with the blue veins is a delightful combination. I planted these in one of the tall hosta pots with the idea that they’d be up and flowering and then the hosta would come up later in the year. So far so good.

5. Lupins

I got another batch of seeds sown last week as Alice was pestering to sow something. She’d chosen a mixed bag of lupin seeds a while back. She likes the red ones on the pack. Hopefully, we’ll get some red ones or she might be a bit disappointed. Lots have germinated within a few days so it seems hopeful. I noticed last year at open gardens that almost every garden that was selling plants had lupins so I figure they must be fairly straightforward to raise from seed. I’ll grow them up in recycled plastic pots to protect them from the slugs and snails and then use them to gap-fill later in the year.

6. Plug plants

I picked up a few small plugs to grow on. I got a few of these dahlieta options. I got one last year and it flowered for months across summer and into autumn. They grow small and compact and within regular deadheading and feeding, they can keep flowering. I’ll need to grow these on and pot them on. They’ll need keeping inside initially so I may regret getting them this early but it’d be nice to have an early show of dahlia flowers.

I also got a few Nepeta hederacea plugs. This forms a good trail of variegated foliage. It’s useful for trailing out of pots or hanging baskets. Then I also got a white trailing fuschia that I will probably use in the front garden if it survives potting on.

The garden is currently very calm but we have storm Dennis on the way so I want to check the garden is all secured. I have a handful of jobs to work through over the next week. I’ve got the last few stepping stones I needed for the front garden. I’m going to add some drainage holes to the front while I’m at it. As it’s thick compressed clay having had weed matting and gravel on it for a decade the drainage isn’t great and don’t want it to waterlogged. I’ve also managed to pick up some cheap peat-free soil improver to use to top-dress it. This will gradually get taken into the soil improving the structure which will help drainage. It will also add a few extra nutrients for the plants. I’d started work on a new seat in the back garden and I’ve still got the roses to prune so hopefully get a few dry days after the storm. Hope you all survive the storms and enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 8.2.20-Exciting News

It’s been a week of ups and downs. One day mild, the next freezing. But I’ve managed a few jobs in the garden. Gradually getting things tidy ready for growth starting afresh in spring. A little bit of gentle weeding was required in the front garden and I’ve had time to read a few garden books and magazines while I plan ahead for next year.

1. Seaweed feed

My dad bought lots of feed at the end of last year and passed some onto me. So as the plants are showing signs of growth already I’ve been around and given them a sprinkle of the seaweed food. The box covered the plants in the front garden and a good amount of the key plants in the back garden. I’ll hold onto the liquid feed until the weather has warmed a bit further to give the plants another boost.

2. Foxglove seedlings

I planted a number of different foxglove seeds back in Autumn, including a few of the mountain varieties where the flowers point up. They germinated well and then have sat in their seed trays not putting on any growth, so I’ve moved them into individual pots now to see if that will help them as the daylight increases and the weather gets warmer over the next few months.

3. Mini-Daffodils

I planted a few mini-daffs in the front garden. These are quite a bit ahead of the back gardens. I’m not a massive fan of daffodils but Amy likes them, so I always keep a few on the go. They don’t provide pollen for many insects but it’s a bit of cheer to pass as we come back to the house.

4. Iris Reticulata-Harmony

The first of the iris are opening up. The first randomly came up in a fuschia pot. I think Alice may have poked it in.

I’m now starting the plant shuffle to move the spring bulb pots in amongst the winter foliage pots so they are visible from the house to enjoy.

5. Charity shop finds

Having added the metal jug amongst the pots last week, this week I found a stoneware jug to add amongst the clutter. Infront is a crab shell found on the beach and I’ve wrapped some of the old fishing rope around the pots.

6. RHS-The principles of horticulture Level 2

Now for some exciting news this week I have enrolled for one of the RHS long-distance learning courses. I am currently looking at a career change and I think this could be a good route to go. Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more passionate about my garden and growing by various methods. This should improve my knowledge and who knows where else it will take me. I’m excited, while a little scared having looked at past papers, to get started. I’ve also enjoyed the Plant-Based Podcast this week which was on making the career change to horticulture. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

We have the builders returning to fit the outside light. This will just about mark the end of the building work that has dragged on for a year. I’m excited to have it completed as I can then look at setting up the patio properly. Just in time for the spring bulbs coming out.

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Folklore Thursday: stone soup

This week’s Folklore Thursday theme is Traditional Tales to celebrate storytelling week. Alice’s mud kitchen has reminded me of the story stone soup. I was first introduced to the story through the wonderful Jim Henson ‘the storyteller’ series. In this version, John Hurt played the storyteller reduced to a beggar. He tricks the castle cook making stone soup and ends up working for the king as a storyteller until one day he lacks for a story. The story originates from Europe and has been retold in many different ways.

The basic story goes that a group of travelers come to a village in the dead of winter. The villagers are fearful of protecting their own food supplies. They are unwilling to share their food with the travelers. The travellers take out an empty cooking pot. From their cart, they bring out a chest. The leader opens the chest and brings out an object wrapped in cloth. From the cloth, the leader brings out a stone and places it in the cooking pot. They collect some water from a stream and add it to the cooking pot. One of the villagers comes to investigate and asks what they are making. “It’s stone soup, but it could do with some seasoning.” The villager thinks they may have some. Before long the soup has vegetables and meat added by the different villagers. In the end, they all enjoy their wonderful stone soup.

In other versions, the stone is replaced with an axe head, buttons, and even nails. The strangers are sometimes soldiers, sometimes a monk and in some pilgrims. William Yeats used it as the basis of a splay ‘The pot of broth’. Shel Silverstein made a song out of it that was later rerecorded by Dr. Hook.

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