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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Last photo

Having seen this on I had an urge to take part.

Brian (aka Bushboy) is running a monthly challenge where he asks you to post the last photo on your SD card.

The rules are simple:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone for the 31st January.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

Six on Saturday: 1.2.20

It’s definitely starting to feel like spring is on the way. I’ve got a number of crocus and daffodils ready to open. Buds are starting to form and seeing a shift in the hours of daylight. The weather across the country has been wet but it hasn’t been too bad around me. I’ve still made it out to do a few jobs.

1. Hardy Geranium-Pratense

The cineraria I sowed a few weeks ago is shooting up in the new peat-free compost I’m trialling so I thought I’d see what else I can start. I checked my seed draw to see what else I can get going on at this time of year. I found this mixed pack of geranium pratenese. In the words of Margery Fish, “when in doubt plant a geranium.” There were about 10 seeds. They make for good space fillers suitable for most conditions with flowers the insects can enjoy.

2. Lamprocapnos Spectabilis Alba-Bleeding heart

I picked this up from Wilcos a few weeks back. At £2 each these will work out better than buying a pot of the plant formally known as dicentra. I bought one last year intending to put it in the front garden but the builders went behind schedule so it went in the back garden. I’ve largely gone with white flowers in the front so these should fit well and I think will work amongst the ferns and hostas. The plant normally dies back down as the summer goes on so it’s worth planting things around it that will follow on from it.

Here is how the one plant I have looked in summer.

3. Korean Dwarf lilac

I’d written last week about digging out the dwarf lilac as it’s fighting for space with the plants either side. I’ve dug it out and cut it down to mulch the area. It won’t rot down any time soon but should help suppress the weeds while the two shrubs either side claim the space. I might put in some temporary annuals so it doesn’t look too bare.

4. Dragonfly

This dragonfly ornament has been sat in an area of foliage where it wasn’t really visible. So, I’ve relocated it to sit on the driftwood where it can enjoy a bit of daylight on the patio.

5. Charity finds

Carrying on from the beach finds over the last few weeks I got this jug to sit out in the garden. I’m unsure whether to just use it for Alice’s mud kitchen or drill drainage to use it to plant in.

6. Snowdrops

While I’ve been out and about in my local area I’ve been admiring the snowdrops growing wild along the hedgerows and in the woodland. Alice was smitten by them a few weeks back so I’ve got a few of the basic single varieties to add in the front garden. I’ve only got a few as I’ve a suspicion that they may rot in the clay soil. I’ve been adding soil on the top to improve the condition of the soil but I think this will be an ongoing process. I’ve got leaf mulch on the go that should be ready by next autumn.

I haven’t taken photos of the new pots of snowdrops so here are some from the drifts at Wassand Hall down the road from me.

So the main job for this weekend is putting the snowdrops in the ground. The roses still haven’t been pruned. But apart from that, the garden isn’t looking too bad for the start of one of the bleakest months. The evergreen plants I choose are keeping colour going and a good few bulbs looking set to add some more colour. Hope you all have good weekends whatever you are doing.

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Six on Saturday: 25.1.19

Today’s six on Saturday is a post of two halves. The first half coming from a family friend’s garden, the second half is from my own garden. Last weekend we went to visit one of Amy’s friends whose garden we had seen on open gardens last year (garden 4). I was interested to see it in winter as it has a lot of foliage I’d assumed was evergreen. But it was all still looking great. The mass carpets of cyclamen foliage covering lots of ground, alongside hellebores coming into flower looked great.

1. Alice and snowdrops

Alice was very taken with the snowdrops, though she is referring to them interchangeably as snowdrops and snowbells. I don’t think I have any coming up in my own garden anymore or they are lost in the foliage. I may have to see about adding a few in the front garden. Then Alice can enjoy snowbell hunting in our garden.

2. Pots

I’d seen this area of their garden in summer when the pots were filled with hostas and ferns. Even in winter without the hostas, the ferns still look great.

The semp pots and rock towers still looking good. All the found objects adding to the look nicely.

3. Pruning

Returning to my own garden I made the decision to give the Korean dwarf lilac a rather severe haircut. I’ve cut it each year but it has gradually been creeping up in size. The surrounding shrubs will be given a trim in spring. Though having cut the dwarf lilac and looking at the gap I think it may be better removing this completely and letting the hydrangea and choisya claim the space rather than having three shrubs fighting for space.

4. More driftwood

I’ve talked previously about my plans to use driftwood in the garden. I’ve managed to claim a few more pieces to start laying out in front of the pots just next to the Korean dwarf lilac. I’m loving the very knotted piece full of holes. A great find.

Then I’ve managed to get another big piece. I need to wash some of the sand and salt then I’ll probably look at putting it into the borders as I’ve done with the other large piece I found.

5. Iris reticulata

The iris are shooting up quickly with the mild weather. I think I may have an early show for many of these. I expanded my selection with a few different varieties Katherine Hodgkins, Katherine Hodgkin’s gold and harmony. Having seen some stunning purple ones in the last few weeks I’d like to add something like Pauline next year. They have stunning deep purple flowers.

6. Hydrangea buds

A number of the hydrangeas have foolishly put on growth beyond the old mopheads with the mild weather. I think they may regret this if the temperature drops as predicted. Rather strange looking things when you look closely.

I’m planning on carrying out my Big Garden Birdwatch so I’m looking to disturb the garden as little as possible this morning until that is done. Then the forecast is dry for today but rain for tomorrow so I’m going to be looking to tidy up the pruning work today. I’m cutting it down as much as I can and putting it down as a mulch under the hydrangeas. It will be slow to break down but it will provide for beetles and woodlice.

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Six on Saturday: 18.1.19

We come to the end of another week and the garden has survived the worst of the storms. Only the one pot that is getting blown over so not too bad in the grand schemes. The predicted cold weather over the next week isn’t meant to be as severe in my area though it may be wet.

Burgon & Ball winnings

A few weeks ago I posted about winning the Burgon & Ball photo competition and now my winnings have arrived. For those of you who don’t know Burgon & Ball are a Sheffield based company established in 1730 working with steel. They have an established history of making quality tools and they received the RHS endorsement in 2012. So, it’s very nice to win a collection of their tools. I opted for an allotment set, despite no allotment, as it had more tools I don’t own in. I got two long-handled weeders. The weed slice is for quick work on surface weeds. The express hoe has an oscillating blade. This apparently makes it easier to pull across the soil as it angles itself to cut.

I think these will work well in the front garden where I get a lot of surface weeds that can just be scraped off.

The razor hoe should be good for some of the cracks in the patio.

Then finally, a mug. While I don’t have an allotment still good to have a garden mug.

2. Beach finds

I’ve tied up a few of my beach finds. Alice helped thread, then directed me to place them for decoration around the trees.

3. Further bargain bulbs

Morrison’s bulbs were down to a pound and less. I opted for some pink hyacinths ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘candy prince’ tulips I thought Alice would like. I don’t massively like hyacinths, but they are supposedly good for bees. The tulips aren’t particularly good for wildlife but have to make some concessions to beauty. The naturalising mix should be of more benefit to wildlife. It contains Tulip Tarda, Chinodoxa and Muscari. I already have patches on Chinodoxa and Muscari, but I’m interested to see how the Tulip Tarda perform. These are closer to the original wild form. I’ve gone with quite a lot of bulbs that can naturalise so I don’t have to spend as much each year. I may regret going for so many that can spread, but be a few years till I have to worry about that. For now, I can enjoy the show.

These have all made it into the ground. As I haven’t marked any of my previous bulb plantings I’m going from memory of what is coming up where so I could have some strange combinations. I’ve tried marking bulbs but Alice likes moving labels and there are too many bulbs now.

4. Blackcap

I posted a few weeks saying I’d spotted a blackcap in my parents garden. I’ve now seen one in my garden. I’ve not wanted to disturb it so I haven’t got a great photo yet, but nice to have a newcomer to the garden. Not a rare bird, but apparently staying overwinter more frequently and moving further north. This was followed by several long-tailed tits, which are becoming another more common winter visitor up north.

5. Big garden birdwatch preparation

During winter and in preparation for the Big Garden Birdwatch I’ve increased the number of feeders dotted around the garden. I’ve also put a few closer to the house so we get to enjoy a few birds at close quarters. I’ve got a few of the jars of fat food from Wilco’s. These provide lots of energy during the winter months. I’ve put the nyjer feeders back up. I haven’t bothered with them in a while as the seed was rotting away, but as I’ve seen a number of finches recently I thought I’d give it another go. The stands are rusty ones I bought cheap when I first moved in. The outer layer has almost all cracked away. I don’t particularly like getting rid of things or creating waste so I’m considering giving them a lick of paint. Looking online though there are lots of choices beyond the original black, so it’s tempting to jazz them up. On the subject of feeders, it is worth moving them around every so often as this stops the build-up of leftover food underneath and helps stop the spread of disease.

6. Cineraria

Having found a new source of peat-free compost last week I wanted to try some seeds to see how it performed as seed compost. This is the main reason I need compost for so if the seeds can’t germinate it won’t be much use. Cineraria is a plant I’ve used around the borders as it contrasts well with darker plants like the dahlias. But after a while, it gets too big and woody and loses some of its charms. I’ve used the compost as is. I’ve not mixed anything additional in so I can see how it performs as it comes. I’ve used a large seed tray, this has been placed on a windowsill and should take about two weeks to germinate. The bag of the packs says germination guaranteed. So Wilcos can expect a letter asking for my pound refund if they don’t.

Well that’s your lot. I’ve not much planned for the garden this weekend. I’ve got a bit of pruning to do. I want to cut the height of the shrubs nearest the house so I’ve got a view down the garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch. We’re off out to visit one of my Amy’s friends. They have a stunning garden that we saw at open gardens last year (garden number 4). While it won’t have the abundance of summer I’m still looking forward to seeing it and how it holds up in winter. I hope you’ve all not been blown away and enjoy your weekends. Don’t forget to check the links on the Propagator’s blog to see other six on Saturday posts.

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Six on Saturday: 11.1.20

This week saw me return to work. One training day and then back working with the children. It’s always a shock to the system going back and I’ve found myself tired much of the week and adjusting to not having as much time outside or in natural light. But the weekend is here so some time to see outside. But I managed a few last gardening jobs last Sunday before I started again and managed to grab the odd minute of fading light in the evenings to get out in the garden.

1. Hellebores

I had posted about my disappointing hellebores a few months back. My newer ones are putting on a more satisfactory show. Good to see some flowers that haven’t been destroyed by slugs.

2. Christmas tree

Alice had a real Christmas tree for her bedroom. It survived the Christmas period largely intact without dropping all its spines. So it has now been moved outside. I’ll now look at potting it up with Alice maybe as another dinosaur garden. It’ll give us a display for a while until it gets too big.

3. Ivy kokedama

Following on from last week’s fern kokedama I dug out an ivy seedling from the wilderness behind the house and wrapped it. I still didn’t quite get the soil mix right so that it holds together but manage t wrap it all in tight. Still a bit of an ugly dumpy look, much like the last one, but I quite like it.

4. Driftwood

Following on from finding the big driftwood lump last week I went back with Alice to look for some smaller driftwood. I thought I could use it as a line marker for my pot displays on the patio to add another layer of structure. Then if I can add some more driftwood within the borders tie the patio and lower garden together. The larger branches I’ve used to make a path edge to the pots and then I’m piling beach finds of smaller wood behind. If I gradually build it up I think it will look quite nice. I’m keen to try and add more found objects from my locality to place my garden within the bigger picture.

The larger piece found last week has been dug in near the bench of happiness. I was aiming for a zen stone effect. Not sure that I’ve quite got that feel, but it’s a nice piece of wood giving the birds another perch. The surrounding area has geraniums, ferns, and heuchera that will gradually grow around it until it is just poking out.

5. Heuchera-raspberry

St Andrews B&Q in Hull is clearly plant hell from there discount tables. The plants are raised on benches with strong winds off the Humber drying them out. Then they probably don’t receive much water as it is generally cheaper to get rid of the plants or sell them cheap than pay someone to water them. The table had a mass of roses, shrubs, and heuchera. Even hardy ivy had fallen victim. But amongst the casualties, I found this heuchera ‘raspberry ‘ which I think has enough life still in it to save. I’ll clear the dead and dying leaves and I reckon it will come back strong next year.

6. Gro-sure peat-free compost

The main reason I wanted to go to B&Q was to check their peat-free compost. B&Q stock a range of peat-free options. Hull stocks Gro-Sure peat-free which at £4.50 is relatively cheap as peat-free goes. The importance of going peat-free has had lots of media time recently. Gardeners question time had a segment about it last week. Sara Venn wrote a blog earlier in the week briefly covering some of the issues in the horticultural industry.  I’ve heard quite a few positive reviews about the gro-sure mix though I’ve also heard that it has been discontinued in favor of their new horizons mix. New Horizons is Westlands main peat-free compost. I’ve found it fine for growing seedlings and plants in pots but it has poor seed germination. Hopefully, gro-sure will be better, though I’ll be annoyed if I then find it is no longer available. Dalefoot compost has been the most reliable peat-free I’ve tried but I largely have to get it through the post and it is 3 times the cost. I may buy a bag of their seed compost for the planned dahlias to ensure success.

Considering it is mid-winter I’m quite happy that I still have a good amount going on in the garden. I don’t have a mass amount in the way of flowers, but there is still plenty of strong foliage keeping the garden looking reasonable. It’s not the glory of summer but it isn’t too bleak stepping out.

On a side note from my six, I’m sure many of you will have noticed the moon last night or stepped out to see what was going on with the partial lunar eclipse. The moon was a particularly spectacular sight. I manage a decent photo without resorting to the tripod. I suffer from shaky hands making things like the moon awkward to photo. I’ve seen many better shots of last night, but this was satisfying for me. My winnings from last week have arrived so I’m going to be investigating new tools now and then the new Monty show to watch. Enjoy your weekends.

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