Six on Saturday: 29.5.21

Well, we’ve had another week of rain so everything has shot up after a month of drought. It’s been a soggy week at the nursery with every waterproof needing a wash, but the few bits I’m growing there are doing well. The front garden featured last week is looking lush but the snails are attacking the hostas so I could do with some nematodes.

Bench corner

This little border corner is spilling over with an abundunce of beauty. The chives at the front are almost in flower. They are absolute bee magnets and will be swarming. The litte geranium is being dominated by the big geranium covered in purple flowers. It’s quite a weedy one but the purple one is looking nice. There are lillies coming amongst it that still seem to be doing well. I’ve squished a few lilly beetles but they’ve grown better since I moved them to the shade.

Hardy geranium

A close up the geranium. It is covered in a mass of tiny purple flowers. They show up well in the view from the house. Once they’ve flowered I’ll cut them back so other flowers can shine but pleasant for now.

Dwarf periwinkle

A house nearby had plant sales outside for charity. I picked up 2 dwarf periwinkles. These are ground cover plants that can spread like crazy so I may regret them. But I’ve got a spot amongst the base of the lilac that is bad for weeding and I think this may suppress some and actually survive in the spot.

Ammi visnaga

I also picked a few Ammi visnaga ‘green mist’. These have a pretty umbel flower and feathery foliage. Sarah Raven uses them within cut flower arrangements. I don’t have many umbels since removing the fennel. They are good for brining in a few different insects. Many are popular with butterflies so we’ll see what these attract. It’s also nice to have that variety of shapes.

Sisyrinchium striatum ‘lemon’

Alice choose these. They grow long grass strappy sword leaves with little buttery yellow flowers. I’m not sure where these will go or if they will even suit my conditions, but it was what she wanted.

Astrantia Major ‘claret’

I picked this Astrantia up at Scampston walled gardens last year and it looks to be settling in well. I just got a few flowers last year but it’s got a good coverage this year and will keep flowering over a few months.

I’m on half term now so got a bit of time to get the garden back in order. We’ve got a few days out planned along with a couple of garden visits. I’ve got a shaded woodland border to plan for forest school at work. They’d like something with established plants that will bring in the bees and butterflies. I can have a good bit of fun with that.

Six on Saturday: 22.5.21 front garden update

So it’s been a busy day today. Unusually I’ve been at work today. We’ve had an open day to allow families in to see the nursery. Just one at a time with Covid restrictions. It’s been nice to have them visit as many parents haven’t been able to come in ever. A chance to see where their kids spend a large part of their time. Then I’ve been busy with a bee activity set with Alice from Catkin and Co. We made a sandwich wrap and candles. Strangely satisfying. So it’s a later six this week. Coming in and out of the house it has been nice to see how much the front garden has progressed. From starting it afresh over a year ago it has established well.

The front garden

The basic concept of the front garden was to create something that would be fairly low maintenance by using lots of ground cover. I wanted more of a focus on foliage than flowers. The garden is North facing, shaded by the house, thick clay and is exposed to strong sea winds. So, on the face of it not the best conditions. But, I think I’ve found a lot of plants that are the right plants in the right place. The brick spires are looking good. The foxgloves have shot up the last few weeks with lots of rain. The ferns and hostas are returning well. Alice refers to it as the jungle as a lot of it is now as big as she is. Eventually it should fill out to that point where you have to push through the foliage to get around the stepping stones.

Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Alba’ Bleeding heart

This was a little bare root purchase from Wilcos the year before last. It is a bit lost behind a foxglove but it is poking through nicely.

Leucojum vernum

This was a spurr of the moment purchase. It doesn’t quite suit the garden conditions. Ideally I think it likes full sun. But it seems happy enough so far. I took the chance as I thought it would be nice to extend the snowdrop season.

Allium ursinum-wild garlic

Allium ursinum has a bad reputation for spreading badly. I’ve taken the risk as it’s quite a short plant and I don’t mind it acting as an understory plant and spreading around the gaps. Much of what I’ve growing is larger and will drown them out so they can fill the odd space left. I like it hough. The flowers are pretty. They are edible if I want to harvest them and they add another food source for pollinators.

Hostas

Many of the hostas were bought cheap from a local church sale. These are looking very nice currently. They all seem to be coming back strong currently. The beer traps and frogs seem to be keeping the slugs in check currently but I could probably do with applying some nematodes. One of the reasons for growing the wild garlic was a vague theory that it might put the slugs and snails off chewing the hostas. People spray hostas with garlic spray so surely surrounding them with the scent of garlic plants should have a similar effect.

The view from above

I like taking photos from above on a regular basis as it shows areas that are working well, which areas aren’t, which plants are complementing each other and which are not. Currently the foxgloves are dominating a lot of areas but these are making nice spires as a contrast to the spreading hostas. The ferns are producing the wonderful bright new fronds. The heuchera are providing a few pockets of contrasting foliage. All in all I’m happy with how it is developing. The Ilex creanata hedge along the edge is growing painfully slow but hopefully it is rooting in well and will get going.

I’m glad I made the decision 2 years ago to overhaul the front garden. It is much nicer returning to this than the weedy gravel. We see a lot of people stopping to admire and they often stop to talk and compliment it if I am out working on it. I’ve got to know more of the people on the street through my front garden than I would otherwise know. Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief snapshot.

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Six on Saturday: 15.5.21 bee week

This week with Alice we’ve been looking at bees with a bee themed play tray. So I thought for this week I’d take a look at some of our measures to help the bees. Educating Alice about the world around her feels like the best way to encourage her to grow up to care and respect all that we find in our world.

The play tray consisted of a tinker set from tots of fun. Then the large bee peg dolls I painted. The bee hive was a special purchase having sold off a few magic tricks I made a while back. She’s come up with some lovely stories over the week with it and enjoyed the open ended play taking it in different directions each day.

We got some wildflower seed with the tots of fun set and some bee bombs from Rowse honey. Alice helped plant them in her bee pot now her tulips have gone over. Didn’t really look at exactly what was in the mix but hopefully something will come up.

For my birthday I spent part of my birthday money on a Mason Bee tube. Mason bees are one of our more common solitary bees that are easy to help. These tubes are great. I wanted one that was easy to replace tubes as they are used and a set up easy to clean. Many marketed bee hotels are too short with tubes too wide or too narrow. Sometimes plastic encouraging damp. Basically most sold at garden centres to people with good intentions are rubbish encouraging disease and parasites. So I decided I just want one decent one rather than several that potentially harm the bees. They benefit from some maintenance each year which you can find on the mason bee website.

I also bought the new Dave Goulson book gardening for bumble bees. The garden jungle covered this subject briefly but good to know more. Dave’s books are easy to read but filled with research based facts. I like his focus on positive steps people can do to help wildlife. Looking forward to reading this one.

Within the garden we grew lots for wildlife. As a general rule less cultivated single flowers are better for pollinators. I provide a variety of open flowers and tubular flowers as different insects favour different flowers. This geranium phaeum has been very popular with the smaller garden bumble bees the last few weeks. It flowers well. Then I prune it back to the ground and usually manage 3 sometimes 4 bursts of flowers over a year.

The forget-me-nots are out in abundance currently. I let them spread all over the border. These are favoured by the honey bees. Here photographed by my wife. These self seed all over and then over plants come up through. Many of the alliums are coming through which are also great for bees. The single dahlias are very popular with both bees and butterflies. Planning for different flowers through the year keeps an interesting variety of visitors coming into the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at bees. It’s Alice’s birthday tomorrow. She’ll be 5 years old and very excited. So lots to get on with. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 8.5.21

It’s been a week of extremes. The very dry weather replaced by wet weather and then hailstones yesterday. This hasn’t left much time for gardening though as you’ll see I have been busy constructing in the garden.

  1. Plant sales

A few weeks back there was a cheap tabletop sale outside the Floral Hall. They had some good value plants so picked up a few gap fillers. A few cosmos can be used for any empty spaces. There is a tray of red salvias. I’ve not tried salvias before but these should be good bee magnets. Then a trailing pink and white Fuschia for the hanging pot.

2. Great tit

We made it to my parents last week and I love this picture I got of a tit desperate for some nest material.

3. Slide

Next week on Sunday is Alice’s birthday and it is time for her to have an upgrade on a slide. She’s outgrown the little dinosaur one. So, in preparation, a new climbing frame has been built. She got a brief burst of time on it last Sunday and since then it has been wet on an evening. She’s been so desperate to go on it again we had to put waterproofs on and go out in the cold and wet. And so this begins a decade of this dominating the garden.

4. Features

She had great fun on it though and should be good for burning off some energy and her imagination. It has space underneath for a den and the steering wheel on the top. It immediately became a pirate ship.

5. Juniperus squamata ‘blue star’ sense

I talked last week about wanting to change part of the border to vary the shape, color and texture of the plants. Currently, it is lots of similar dark-leaved plants. This may replace the hebe as a ground cover plant. The silver foliage should look nice against the darker Sambucus nigra. The label states it’s a good winter shelter for birds. Junipers do form berries many finches like but as this is a dwarf form I don’t think it will form the berries.

6. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Sungold’

Another conifer for the same stretch of border. This one forms a dome of yellow foliage offering some year-round color. Some yellow conifers burn in sun but this one is supposed to be fine. It is, like the juniper, listed as good cover for birds in winter so hopefully attract in a bit of winter wildlife.

It is far too wet though today for me to get on with any of the garden jobs. I’ve just about got the bare lawn patches going again so I want to avoid stepping on it while it is sodden. I might get a few plant profiles done for my RHS course. Hope you enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 1.5.21

So covered a few extra sessions at work again this week so not really done much in the garden the last week. But did manage a bit of weeding. Last weekend I gave the garden a good watering as it was in need of it. Rain was forecast but it din’t come till the end of the week in any great quantity.

  1. Rain

After a month or so of drought we fnally got a heavy downpour overnight. It’ll do the garden a lot of good as the ground had been dry as a bone. It should help refill the water butts again as they’d been drained.

2. Pop up tent

During the week though it had been nice enough to have the pop up tent and tunnel out to play in the garden. Now Alice wants to play out again it gives me a bit more time to enjoy the garden.

3. Long border

I don’t post pictures of the full borders very often but they are looking pretty good right now. The long border is mainly a sea of forget-me-nots with bulbs coming through. The climbing rose on the fence is getting to a decent point and should provide a good display this year.

Looking back the other way the hydrangea suffered as I mentioned last week. Drought and frost has left it damaged but I think it should still flower well enough. This Acer is growing strong with the bleeding heart underneath it. The climbing rose is visible again. Right in the corner before the patio the cotoneaster is coming up. The idea being to have a berry source close to the house to attract the birds close to the windows. Then a honeysuckle is growing along the patio seating area to provide scent.

4. Shade corner

The shaded corner is coming back to life. The shed is need of a few boards replaced at some point but the roof is still keeping the rain out so that’s the main thing. The large ferns that dominate the back area had their trim and are just returning to life but by and large it’s looking pretty lush. The lilac is coming back to life. The black cherry has kept a reasonable form. The hydrangea limelight behind the bird feeder is gradually growing in size. The climbing hydrangea along the fence isn’t visible but provides a good bit of cover for the birds.

5. Unsatisfactory border

This border is the part I like the least. I’ve already discussed the camellia previously. It’s for the chop. Not hardy enough and I’m not keen on the blooms anyway. The hebe at the edge isn’t hardy enough, spends much of the year recovering. It does flower well and the bees do like it but I think the space could be better employed. The rose in the middle is Charles DeMills. It did reasonably well last year. Part of the issue is none of these three compliment each other so it needs some reworking.

6. A little further along

Whereas just a little further along the plants work better together. The Sambucus nigra provides a dark centerpiece with vibrant contrasting pink flowers later in the year. The Acer spring green has a long dead stem but the section that is alive is doing well. The geranium phaeum underneath the sambucus provides a reliable ground cover plant which the bees love. Behind te Acer is a larger Dryopteris fern which is just poking fronds up again There is another climbing hydrangea going up the fence here but it is still tiny. It’s a varieagated one that should contrast well. This section of border just works better than further along as it has a variety of colours, shape, form and texture. Though it is a bit straggly now it will look good later in spring.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a bit more of the borders than I normally post. We’ve had exciting news at work with some funding for a number of gardening projects. Potentially a sensory garden I can lead on. So need to get reading up on suitable plant options. Hope you all get to enjoy your long weekend.

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