Six on Saturday: 23.5.20 Hardy Geraniums and alliums

Well, it’s been a busy week for garden media, despite lockdown. The virtual Chelsea flower show has dominated the TV during the week. After giving my opinion earlier in the week the TV coverage has still been pretty dull. But it can’t have been easy to fill the number of hours they had assigned to it. Though, I still feel the 15+ hours of coverage could have been put to better use. 15 hours could give a good introduction to gardening but obviously, it isn’t easy making TV on lockdown. The online content has been much better though with some great slots from designers and growers without the fuss of show gardens. The Virtual Chelsea garden competition was inevitably won by people with stunning gardens, but many times the size of the average garden. But my tweet did make the RHS website.

1. Geranium Renardii

Renardii was one of the early purchases I made for the garden. This one has been a slow spreader. The Margery Fish advice of, “if in doubt, plant a geranium” is sound advice and they are all over my garden. I’ve seen it featured on several other peoples six on Saturday posts and they’ve lamented that it doesn’t flower as well as other hardy geraniums. Mine has a reasonable number but it probably isn’t as filled as other hardy geraniums.

Renardii leaves have an odd warty texture to them. A bit leathery but I rather like the look of them near my silver-leaved lychnis for the contrast.

2. Geranium x oxonianum

This little geranium was one of our wedding presents. It’s taken two seasons to establish well but I now have two plants that are filling out well and they are covered in the tiny veined flowers.

3 Allium karataviense

These were bought from a market stall a few years ago for 40p each. They ebbed and flowed in their vigour. They are a short variety with large ivory flower heads. They are quite a nice variety for pots with their low growing nature. These are dotted along the front of the borders.

4. Allium trifoliatum ‘Caméléon’

These are a Sarah Raven purchase. I bought them at the end of the season cheap. I think they might want to review the product details as by nor stretch of the imagination are these 30-45cm. More like 10-15cm. They are completely lost in the borders. You can see even the smallest forget-me-nots are taller. While very pretty they needed to be in a pot on their own as anything else will cover them. I’m going to try to carefully transplant them to the front garden where I might be able to put them in visible spots.

5. Geranium-Ingwersen’s variety

This was bought at the same time as the Renardii. This is spreading to claim more and more ground. It is a short ground hugger. The flowers aren’t as ornate as the other two featured this week but they flower in abundance. I think it’s probably time to divide some. Maybe place it under the Charles DeMills rose.

6. Allium-Tesco special

These alliums are grown in pots. Tescos has sold them for the last few years. I’ve bought them last minute usually when they’ve been reduced. There are two to a pot. They flower and stay looking good as flower heads for a time afterwards.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekends. Don’t forget to check the other six on Saturday blogs in the founder’s comments. We had a good burst of rain yesterday but this was followed by a day of sun and wind. It’s looking to be a bit colder but still winds around me so back to the watering. But now people are coming to our area for the beach we aren’t walking out as much as it’s getting too busy. Glad we’ve got the garden.

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I’m going to sneak an extra plant in featured a few weeks back as it was such a lovely photo.

Virtual Chelsea-Possibly an improvement?

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show launched on the BBC last night with a look back at the best of previous years. The RHS has made the hard choice of cancelling their ever-popular flower show and instead, they are putting on a week of virtual events. Normally I watch the first few episodes of the coverage and then lose interest. Last year the BBC gave a massive amount of time over to coverage of the gardens. There were two slots a day and by the third episode you had seen the same footage of the show gardens and it became monotonous fast. Then the various RHS shows took over Gardeners World for a large chunk of the Summer, with episodes filmed from the various shows.

Now, I’m sure if you attend in person it is spectacular. But I am never likely to make it down to experience the wonder of entering the Grand Pavilion and being hit by the scent of all those fabulous flowers. So all I get to experience is the presenters enthusing over how wonderful the displays look and smell. I have a family and the show has been made so it is not family-friendly. Some of the RHS flowers shows have bans on prams due to the lack of space. This combined with the extremely high price means I’m unlikely to ever make it down. Of the people, I know who have visited many enjoy it and I’m sure it is fabulous seeing the spectacle. But, I hear an equal number of people complaining that they couldn’t actually see the gardens through the crowds. They felt jostled. Which is why we have press day. The elite few get invites to see these wonderful gardens without having to mingle with the crowds making it an event for back-patting and celebs. I’m sure if I actually visited I would love it but not an option this year.

The coverage for me has little to do with gardening. The main focus of TV coverage is always the show gardens. These have very little to do with actual gardening for the normal person. You have over-elaborate gardens beyond the cost of most people. Many of the flowers have been artificially brought on or held back to flower together in combinations you couldn’t create in your own garden. It creates unrealistic expectations for what you can create in your own garden. The fashion magazine equivalent of seeing a photoshopped model and thining you can look like them. These gardens are a snapshot in time. They don’t need to plan for succession through the year or for the plants filling out, self-seeding or any other issues. To keep them looking like they do for the show garden week would require an army of gardeners. There always some stunning gardens. I always enjoy the gardens of Chris Beardshaw, Ishihara Kazayuki and Jo Thompson and several others. But these often have elements you can take away that you can do in your own garden. But against this, there are always several ridiculous gardens making statements. Climate Change is the favourite subject currently, probably only challenged for the top spot by mental health, completely ignoring the irony of making a show garden requiring a massive carbon footprint and stress they are to make. The best segments from the TV are almost always from the growers such as the wonderful David Austen roses where you actually receive useful tips on how to grow.

The flower show normally emphasises a divide in gardening between rich and poor. This was exemplified by Martin Parr’s photos in 2018. The show represents a particular picture of gardening for middle England. As mentioned the tickets push visits out of many peoples reach. Then the fact that it is over the week so time off needed for many. While people from all classes garden the show pushes that idea that money is needed to make an amazing garden. I’d rather like to see show gardens on a budget so people could get ideas of what they can achieve themselves. To go with the football analogy we’re looking at the pleasure of seeing your own local team play on the playing field instead of watching overpaid players in an artificial environment. This isn’t an event that I feel encourages people to enter gardening. If anything it discourages people from gardening as they know they can’t create what they see in these show gardens.

The best segments of the TV coverage are almost always from the growers and the people within the horticulture industry. On these segments you see how they nurture the plants, you gain tips from experts. It saddens me that people in the business I’ve come to know online like https://www.plantagogo.com/ and http://www.goldleaf-gloves.com/ won’t get a chance to sell their products. The Indie Plant Guide can link you to many wonder growers who will appreciate the support of sales during these strange times. A few other nursery lists were linked to in a previous article.

Which brings me to this years Virtual Chelsea. The BBC are carrying on there coverage with a mixture of old segments and shots from presenters houses as well as interviews with various industry people. Nicki Chapman will be on BBC One at 3.45pm and Monty Don and Joe Swift on BBC Two at 8pm each day. I’m sure Gardeners World will also discuss the event. The RHS are putting on an exciting schedule of online events other the week through their website. And I actually think it looks better than what I’d normally get to see as a non-attendee. We’ve got advice on growing perennials from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants. Ishihara Kazayuki will be sharing Japanese gardens with us. The Botanic Nursery are sharing tips on growing foxgloves. Sarah Raven will be taking us on a tour of cut flowers. It’s offering far more practical advice than a normal year and segments people can make use of whatever the size of their garden. There has even been consideration for people with no gardens with a focus on houseplants. As it’s all from the comfort of your own home I think this year Chelsea actually has the potential to engage with more people than ever before. With so many people coming to gardening for the first time during lockdown a practical focus is what is needed. So well done to the RHS for continuing under hard conditions and creating something to suit the times. For more info about the Virtual Chelsea set up listen to the Plant-Based Podcast this week on the event. I hope in future years we see more events done in this way that anyone can access rather than an elite club.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my opinion piece. Share your memories in the comments if you are one of the lucky to attend or your own opinions on what is on offer this year. What are you looking forward to from the virtual line-up?

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Six on Saturday: 16.5.20 six propagation methods

It’s been a chillier week. The fleece came out to protect a few of the less hardy veg options but I think I’ve got off pretty lightly. The potatoes are still looking healthy. The dahlias are surviving. With lockdown, I’ve been busy growing far more than I really need. So, for this week’s six I’m looking at six different methods of propagation I’m using to multiply my plants.

1. Seed

With all the extra lockdown time I’ve sown a lot more seeds than normal this year. Between filling the borders and grow your own the mini greenhouse has been constantly filled. The dahlias from seed are coming on well. We’ve been eating the first of the radishes grown from seed. It’s probably the easiest method of propagating mass numbers of plants. How else could I end up with enough dahlias to fill a garden several times over?

Here are some free magazine marigolds destined for my charity plant sales. I grew them as a quick and easy money maker.

I bought one packet of silver dust and I’ve ended up with a mass number. Some I’ll sell on. Some I’m keeping for autumn interest. I grow these for the silver leaves. They make a good contrast against the dark-leaved dahlias.

I started off a few perennials back in February/March time. The lupins were Alice’s choice. They are getting to a nice point though I don’t know that I’ll get flowers this year.

2. Softwood cuttings

It’s a good time of year to be taking softwood cuttings. You can take them now and they’ve got plenty of time to grow on and in some cases flower this year and toughen up for winter. Last week’s Beechgrove garden reminded me it was a good time to take dahlia cuttings. Tea break gardener has a good guide on how to do this. In the case of dahlias, this is supposed to help make the plant bushier as well as increasing your stock of plants. These tuber grown dahlias each had multiple stems growing up so I’ve taken a cutting off each. Then they had a soak in the washing tub before being placed in a propagator. I probably won’t keep them in long as they are a bit big and these root fairly quickly. I’ve also taken cuttings of the heuchera as I’d like a bigger number of the lime marmalade so I can make more of a tapestry in the front garden.

3. Hardwood cuttings

I took a few hardwood cuttings back in autumn. These are Cornus cuttings, dogwood. These are fairly straight forward. Cut sections, put in rooting hormone, and put in compost. Some don’t take. I reckon about half to a third root. But it usually needs a gentle prune at this time of year before its hard prune in spring so I’m only taking prunings that would otherwise be shredded. I took a few hydrangea cuttings as well. Again only one seems to be thriving but I don’t really need more of either of these plants it’s just pretty straightforward to do. It’s a useful method for if you are making willow structures as willow cuttings root easily or else for hedging material.

4. Division

We are getting a bit late on in spring for dividing but this geranium is set to take over the garden if I don’t dig some out. Most excess has been potted on for plant sales. One big patch has been moved to fill a gap that was getting quite weedy. This will suppress a good bit of ground.

The divided section will grow up quickly enough.

5. Water propagation

I tend to use water propagation for more of the house plants but a few of my garden plants have taken to water propagation well. The hebes seem to root well this way. The Fuschia also seem to like this method of propagation. I take short cuttings and make a little cut along the stem. If it has too many leaves or too big leaves I take a few off to stop water loss. These root in the water and then eventually they’ll be potted into the soil. Initially, they need watering more while they adjust to being in soil but they don’t dry out as much with this method as opposed to softwood cuttings. You can use liquid rooting hormones but these take easily enough.

6. Layering

Layering can be done in a number of ways. It is a good method for propagating some shrubs but I only really use it for climbers. Honeysuckle and ivy work well but currently, I am trying to take cuttings of my hydrangea petiolaris, the climbing hydrangea. This climber forms aerial roots so it is pretty easy to layer. Pull a lower branch down to the ground and partially bury. I’ve put a stone over to keep the branch waited down. This can be left to grow and then I’ll probably cut if from the parent. It’s a lovely climber with lush green leaves and nice white florets in summer. Best suited to shade. It takes a few years to establish but once it does it’s a great plant for filling spots many other climbers don’t like. It’s popular with wildlife, the flowers are nice and open for pollinators and the leaves provide plenty of cover for birds. A variegated form ‘silver lining’ has come on the market if you want something with the look of ivy but a bit better behaved. There are a few other types on the market but sadly you rarely see them in garden centers.

I hope you are all keeping well. We have Alice’s birthday to celebrate so I won’t be reading the other six on Saturday posts until later on. Four years on she has brought so much joy to our lives. In these strange times, she gives us structure and enjoyment to each day. Enjoy your Saturday.

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Monday Minstrelsy

A little poem to go with a photo of ruined glory in my garden. The early spring flowers are fading readily for summer plants to take over.

The lily’s withered chalice falls
Around its rod of dusty gold,
And from the beech-trees on the wold
The last wood-pigeon coos and calls.

The gaudy leonine sunflower
Hangs black and barren on its stalk,
And down the windy garden walk
The dead leaves scatter, – hour by hour.

Pale privet-petals white as milk
Are blown into a snowy mass:
The roses lie upon the grass
Like little shreds of crimson silk.

Oscar Wilde Le Jardin

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Plot on a plate: Zen mountain monastery

Last month we made our first plot on a plate for the Chelsea Physics Garden competition. I’d said at the time that I wanted to try and make a mini moss garden. My tulip pots had gone over on the display table so I thought it was time to get this finished. I had started it a few weeks back but the seagulls have been causing too much trouble knocking things over and pulling things apart. They seem to have calmed down now. So hopefully this won’t just be a zen statement on the impermanence of things when the gulls pull it apart within an hour.

The little building is a tea light lantern.

Along the edges of the buildings, I’ve added lines of moss scraped from my fence. These have been carefully glued in place. I’ve read that so long as they are kept moist they can still grow onto things when applied in this way.

The same was applied for the ‘mountain’.

For the path, I tried to find several nice round pebbles so we could make a nice curved path up to the building. The moss is for hanging baskets. So long as I keep it moist it should green up a bit further.

The fern I’ve placed in using the methods I used for making the kokedama. The soil was washed off the roots. They were then re-incased in a mixture of clay and bonsai soil that could be moulded down on the plate. The moss around it should help keep the moisture in so it can still grow.

Today is Gardens Day here in the UK. A variety of online events are happening and people are being encouraged to share their gardens across social media for the event. There are several live feeds on over the day with a mixture of talks, things to make crafts, and quizzes. It’s a perfect day to have a go at making a plot on a plate. It is blowing a gale out in my garden but I’m going to have to risk getting blown to Oz as I need to prevent wind damage for a few plants. Not idea weather for a garden party but hopefully it will cheer up. If not I’ll be looking at tending the houseplants. I’d like to take cuttings of a few. Enjoy your days!

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Six on Saturday: 9.5.20

Well, we started the week with lots of glorious rain refreshing the garden no end. Then back to glorious sunshine mid-week before dropping in temperature again. We’ve had a good bit of time in the garden though. I’ve dug out lots of self-seeders for plant sales and divided a few perennials. The garden is getting to a nice point of filling up and I’m selecting what remains.

1. Radish-cherry belle

We harvested our first crop form the raised bed. Still, a few more of these that have some more growing to go and a second variety coming through. I’ve planted a few of the little gem lettuces and the broad beans have gone in. Alice has been enjoying eating these over the week knowing she helped grow them.

2. Red Riding Hood tulips

These were Alice’s choice. They are dotted around the border. They are normally a pretty reliable choice but have been a bit weak this year. But never mind I’ve had plenty of other spectacular tulips over the last month.

3. Azalea japonica-Agadir

The Azalea is going through its first proper year of flowering. There are a mass number of flowers and they are lovely but the foliage is a bit sparse. Not quite the tightly clipped Japanese ‘Kokarikomi’ I had in mind. So after these have flowered I’m going to be looking to try to prune it. The advice from Jake Hobson in his book Niwaki was to treat like box and start by pruning little and often. So I’ll start with pruning some of the dead growth back hard and pruning the rest back behind the flowers.

4. Clematis Montana

Last week my neighbours Montana featured. My own Montana is on the opposite fence. It isn’t as showy a flower. These are smaller, more delicate flowers. I forget the variety but it is doing well, interlinking with the climbing rose nicely.

And I’m going to sneak last weeks Montana back in. This time as a silhouette by the light of the moon.

5. Brick spires

Last week I’d shown my seagull defense spires. I’ve managed to find enough bricks to fill each of the spires most of the way up. I could do with one or two more for each to fill them completely. I’ve then added some rope between to block the seagulls and act as if it’s a handrail. Looking at the positioning of the plants the hydrangea limelight could probably do with moving slightly so that it is in the middle of the space between the two-stepping stone paths but that can be left till it’s dormant. So far it seems to be working as no more plants have been dug out.

6. Lilac

The lilac has got a great spread of flowers this year. Every so often I contemplate removing it as it takes up a lot of space but when it’s in flower it is tremendous. While it might not have the most exciting foliage or nices growth for the rest of the year it does seem to be tolerant of our sea breezes at least.

The garden is starting to look really nice now, if I do say so myself, with lots of foliage looking lush and many plants coming into flower. I’m attending a Zoom lecture online with Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter on layered planting through the season. Thoroughly looking forward to this as I’d never normally be able to make it to one of his lectures. I hope you are all getting plenty of pleasure from your gardens this year. Stay safe and don’t forget to check the propagator’s blog to see more six on Saturday posts in the comments.

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Floral Friday plant sales

A few weeks back I had written about Floral Friday. Each Friday people are putting on their flowery clothes to raise awareness and money for Greenfingers charity. Greenfingers work supporting children in hospices by building garden spaces. Many of you are suffering on lockdown. Now imagine being stuck purely on a hospital ward. So these spaces Greenfingers make provide a great place for the children to relax in as well as offering the health benefits of being in a green space.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have sown a lot more than normal this year. This has led to a glut of excess plants I don’t need. With the garden centres closed or doing limited openings, people are desperate for plants. They are missing out that sense of normality of buying their sweet peas for the year, buying their bedding plants and getting their tomato plants. So to raise a bit of extra money for Greenfingers I have been putting out some of my excess plants. I did a quick write up of why I’m selling them and they’ve gone out on our front garden wall. People can walk past, still social distancing and see what I’ve got for sale.

So far I’ve put out the excess sweet peas. I’ve got two teepees worth already planted and that feels like enough for my own garden so the extras went out on the stall. I’ve planted out my broad beans so the excess went out. They were all taken within one morning. Unfortunately, I don’t have much grow your own spare as I pretty much planted up what I needed. I think if I had more it would sell just as quick as the broad beans. Through one of the local Facebook groups, I’d had seen requests for hollyhocks. I’ve already moved several self-seeded hollyhocks to the back of the borders. But I’m still finding a few more so these have been dug up and potted on for sales. I have a mass of ox-eye daisies that self-seed all over the garden. I’ve dug out some of the overcrowded areas and potted them up for sale. Jack Wallington would be proud of how quickly the ‘weeds’ are selling. The hardy geraniums always need dividing and these are great for people getting started in gardening. With so many people looking to tidy their gardens on lockdown these have sold well. So as well as raising money for charity I’m also managing to help place pollinator-friendly plants across the neighbourhood.

I’ve been surprised by how generous people have been with donations. Many are paying well over the price the plants deserve. I’ve got a few more plants to go over the next few weeks and then I’ll make an online donation to Greenfingers when I’ve seen how much I’ve raised. If you’ve got excess plants though I would suggest this is a great way to make sure they don’t go to waste and support a charity of your choice. There are other people raising money for Floral Friday today. Skinny Jeans Gardener is doing a 24 hours podcast to raise money on the 15th May. I’m sure he won’t struggle to talk that long. Greenfingers are asking to see your red, white and blue flowers to celebrate VE day on social media through the hashtag #FloralFriday Have fun with whatever you are doing. We have a social distancing VE street party so I’m looking forward to my afternoon tea later.

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