Six on Saturday: 24.9.22

Been a busy week at work. We had several people off so I’ve been covering extra sessions. As a result, I’ve not spent much time in my own garden. This week’s six is from my parent’s garden last week.

Rose

A good few blooms coming through looking very nice.

Another rose

Another rose, but this one only had one bloom. It was looking nice against the pyracantha.

Cyclamen

The time for winter and autumn bedding is upon us. Cyclamen are lovely plants with the foliage and the delicate flowers.

Agapanthus

The agapanthus are doing very well. My mum has built a good collection that are flowering over a good period. These are some of my favourites.

Zinnia

This zinnia was just pure floral perfection. My mum has grown lots in pots this year and they have been wonderful providing great bright bursts of orange and pink and red.

Gourds

Harvests have been a bit erratic with the drought this year but my parents have managed a good harvest of decorative gourds ready for autumn displays.

Hope you all enjoy your weekends. I’ve got a few more extra shifts next week but will hopefully have some garden time this weekend. Still haven’t planted last week’s purchases so want to get them in.

Six on Saturday: 10.9.22

It has been a busy week for me as I returned to work after the school holiday. It’s been a good week back but I also had more significant gardening news. I passed my final two RHS exams and to top it off I received commendations for both exams. So, I finished the course with 6 out of 8 as commendations. Very pleased to have made it through so I think a few gardening treats are in order.

Seating area

Work continues on the seating area. I got the weed matting down and started on the stones. It is gradually taking shape. It should be done by next week.

Burton Agnes Purchases

We went to Burton Agnes Hall last week and made a few purchases. Alice picked the Armeria which I reckon we can add to her fairy garden we started last week. Amy picked Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’. She liked the contrast of the stem and leaf. I’ve put this one in a pot to give it the drainage it needs. I went for Penstemon ‘Pensham Plum Jerkum’. I fancied something forming towers of flowers that flower over a decent period. The gardens are still filled with lots of plants looking great but it is feeling a bit run down in areas. It’s gradually looking in need of a designer to come and bring some cohesion back to the individual garden sections.

Clematis Montana Warickshire rose

I picked up a cheap Clematis from Morrisons for one side of the arch. Their cheap climbers have grown well for me in the past and Montana are vigorous anyway. They have pale pink flowers in late spring or early summer. I planted an unnamed Montana for the other side of the arch. They should cover the arch nicely but without being spiky for walking through.

Houseplant treats

After receiving my RHS results I figured I deserved a little treat on the day. I got a little Sansiveria. Nothing particularly special, but it isn’t one I’ve got. Then a Crassula Rhapsody in pink. That’s the strange one that looks like little tails. Both of these are barely rooted cuttings so will need a bit of care to keep going. They were cheap but still probably shouldn’t be sent out from their nurseries like this. But the demand for houseplants is outstripping supply I reckon. Then I got a Chamaelobivia, the peanut cactus. It can be grown as a houseplant or in the garden. This one has bright red flowers. It is marketed as a hardy garden cactus. It is reckoned to hardy to -7 though it may be killed by winter wet, so I may put it in the mini greenhouse to shelter it from rain and then it’ll be a garden plant as the weather warms up. They grow easily from offsets so I may pluck out a few to keep inside as an insurance policy.

Cleistocactus strausii

I saw this cactus for sale on Facebook for £7. I’ve been after a nice big specimen and this is fulfilling that role. The big column is a decent two foot. I’m going to need to work out the best way to deal with the browned off stems. I think I will probably divide it and cut out the browned sections leaving me with the tall column and a shorter one. It’s not necessarily a plant you see for sale very often though it is used within a number of well-known gardens planting schemes. Jimi Blake uses it within his garden, Hunting Brook Garden, in Ireland. Looking online these are selling at £100 to £200 so hopefully I can divide this successfully and have a spectacular specimen for the cactus display. Not bad since it included the pot.

Astrantia ‘claret’

I got this Astrantia from Scampston a few years ago and it has proved a reliable plant. It has flowered well through summer and it’s still going strong.

I have the rest of the stone to get on with moving to finish the seating area. We may have ordered too much so the passage around the back of the house may get a fresh layer of stone too. I’d like to try and make it to the garden centre some point this weekend for a few treats for my exam result. I’ve got a few gaps in the border from moving things around that I’d like filled but have to see what’s available. We’ve had a lot of rain this week so the plants that have been moved are largely settling well and the water butts are looking full again. Hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 27.8.22

We’ll get the all-important update out of the way first. We had rain starting with showers at the start of the week and then pretty much a full day of rain on Thursday. Here in the UK, that is all any gardeners are interested in right now. So it seems off that my area is now entering a hose pipe ban when it’s the first time in the last month I haven’t needed to get out and water obsessively. With the wetter weather, I’ve moved a few bits in the border that weren’t quite working. I had little clumps of crocosmia that were looking a bit thin and whispy spread out across the border. I’ve bulked these into one large clump. Then I’ve done the same with the sea holly. I’ve grouped them together to see if they have more impact as a group. With the dry weather, they have been one of my reliable plants this year. This week I’m looking at a few plants that are coping well and a few plants I’m testing for winter hardiness and to make the garden more drought tolerant.

Gladiolus

The gladiolus seem to thrive in the heat. They’ve grown up tall and flowered well. They were a cheap purchase a few years ago. I don’t massively like the blousyness of these but they provide late summer colour each year so I didn’t remove all them.

Clematis

I don’t think I saw this clematis flower last year. It grows around the same area as the Clematis Montana so it may well have been pruned back at the wrong time. So it’s nice to see it return. The Montana has suffered a bit in the heat while the other clematis seem to be enjoying it.

Salvia kisses and wishes

I picked up three of these salvias on a 5 for £11 pound deal. They are small pots so it needed 3 really to make up one decent clump. They’ve been planted in a rough triangle front of the border for now. They are half hardy. I had this one last year and it made it through the winter but got eaten to pieces by slugs. So these will stay in the ground but be given some frost protection. Then I’ll take a few cuttings to keep in case it does suffer from frost or slugs again. The tall dark stems and pink flowers will make a nice contrast against the surrounding hardy geraniums and Erigeron.

Mangave blazing saddles

Mangaves are a cross between Agaves and Manfreda. They go back as far as 2005 though are finding more popularity now. I’m seeing them mentioned more regularly as the mad about Mangave collection has found its way to supermarkets and garden centres. They have developed around 30 cultivars with some wonderful variations in colours and patterns as well as some fabulous wavy leaves. In theory they have gained positive characteristics of their parents. They have fast growth from the Manfreda but grow bigger with the Agave genetics. They retain the drought tolerance of both. They can tolerate full sun though they actually like a little shade. They look spikey but don’t have quite as nasty spines as the agaves. They are reckoned to be hardy down to about -5 but my guess is winter wetness is probably going to be a bigger issue so this has been repotted in a sandy-gritty compost mix to allow it to free drain. Then the pot will be raised on legs through autumn and winter to ensure it drains. This was actually a plant Alice choose a while back after we’d seen the cactus and succulents at Wassand Hall. She saw these in Morrisons and fancied one. I’m willing to give them a try. They are interesting architectural plants and should stay looking interesting over winter so I can keep some form of pot display.

This is one of their smaller more ground-hugging cultivars. I reckon it should do well in a pot where it will contrast to my other spiky plants which are largely shades of lighter green. This one has a nice speckled pattern to it. I’ll be interested to see how it holds up through winter. I quite fancy one of the wavy ones so I may need to try and stop at Morrisons to see if they have any more.

Yukka gloriosa ‘citrus twist’

This is another drought-dolerant purchase for the pots. After Alice chose the Mangave I saw this cheap outside the florists. I thought the brighter yellow and green leaves would make a good contrast to the Mangave while still having the pointed leaves.

It’s a tough plant capable of handling full sun and drought. They can survive frosts down to quite low levels but their appearance will suffer. They originate from Texas so they are used to extremes of weather. Looking up close the leaf has shades of cream and yellow with an inner stripe of almost blue-green.

Opuntia humifusa

Then for the final choice for this week’s six I’m going for a cactus. I decided I would try the ultimate in drought tolerance. Opuntia humifusa is reckoned to be one of the hardiest but also able to survive some winter wet. It originates from Northeastern USA and even grows in Canada. Not necessarily reckoned to be the most attractive Opuntia form but it seems a good place to test out hardiness and what can survive in my conditions. It forms yellow flowers around June and these become the prickly pears which are edible as are the pads if times get hard. I’m planning to leave it out over winter but close to one of the walls to avoid a bit of rain. Too much rain is more likely to cause loss than death by frost.

It’s been a productive week in the garden. I’ve got through several big pruning jobs. The lilac and cherry have been cut back a lot for this year. I’ve pruned a lot of honeysuckle hard back as it’s finished flowering and suffered badly in the heat. The roots are hard to get to for watering as it’s right at the back of a thick border. But I’m fairly confident it will return. I’m hoping to get a bit more down before I go back to work. Hope you all enjoy your weekends.

Kiftsgate Court Garden

We have returned from our holiday in the Cotswolds, which is pretty much a paradise for garden visits. I asked Twitter where they recommended and Kiftsgate Court Gardens was suggested. I looked it up and found we got two for one with our Gardeners World card so even better. The garden is the result of three successive female gardeners starting with Heather Muir in the 1920’s. She was aided by Lawrence Johnson of Hidcote Manor. We didn’t make it to Hidcote. Hidcote is arguably one of the most famous of the arts and crafts movement gardens. It is currently under National Trust stewardship and I don’t totally trust the National Trust for several of their environmental stances and the excessive price they charge for visiting their properties. As it was, it has been so hot the last week we have chosen gardens with shade. We may manage Hidcote in future. After Heather, Diany Binny took over and developed the white sunk garden and began to open the garden to the public. Anne Chambers took over and carried on the evolution of the garden with the tennis court becoming a water garden. The staff were very welcoming on entry explaining the layout and they were friendly to Alice. Not every garden we visit is happy to see children.

The banks and pool

We began our visit heading down the winding bank paths. These looked to have been replanted recently with a few areas of hardy geraniums and ferns that haven’t been established yet. It will look nice as it spreads if it can survive the current heatwave. As we got down the planting was more established. The paths wind down to the summer house which has a lovely view across the pool and Cotswolds. Then coming down from the summer house the steps lead to a little pond.

The pool at the bottom has a sunken ha-ha giving you another view out to the rolling hills.

In the heat, all seating was appreciated. If it was cooler we might have stayed down here longer to admire the view but we needed shade.

The lilies were the standout flower all over the garden. While many plants have suffered with the heat these were loving it.

Amy was very determined to get a photo of Alice by the pool with her reflection but Alice quickly lost interest and got fed up of squinting.

The walk back up was hot work with multiple stops on the way. The route took us under the towering Scots pines. Their shade was much appreciated. By the end of this holiday, I have become convinced that these should be planted everywhere as they have saved us from heat exhaustion, again and again, the last week.

I rather liked this statue that you find located part of the way back up. Statues are often placed badly in gardens or they are out of proportion with their surroundings but this fitted beautifully. There was also a stone bench to sit on which was needed for us to stop and drink more water.

Yellow border

The yellow border was more of an orange border currently with crocosmia and lilies dominating the colour.

Though no less beautiful for being orange rather than yellow.

At the end of this border, there were a number of topiary animals creating a mini farm.

And a stone which in my mind has a face.

The water garden

As already mentioned the water garden was previously a tennis court. It has kept the strong straight lines of the court. The dragonflies were skimming the surface enjoying hunting the other insects on the water.

The water pleasantly trickles over the leaves. On a cooler day this would be a nice serene place to stop and wander. But in the heat of our visit we mainly stayed in the shelter.

Luckily to the side there was a much appreciated shelter.

The rose garden

The rose garden was a bit lacking in roses in flower. I assume they are either over or the next flush hasn’t come through yet. Most of the photos I took here were badly over exposed so I don’t have any of the few roses that were looking good.

One end of the rose garden leads back towards the house while the other takes you through to the wild garden and orchard. I really liked how the smaller leaves of the formal yew hedge had been combined with the larger leaves to make the arch.

And a statue seat drawing the eye up the path.

Wild garden and orchard

The wild garden was not full of much activity. Much of the plants had finished flowering and gone to seed ready for next year. There will have been lots of life hidden away amongst the stems but not much moving in the heat.

The orchard had some fine-looking fruit forming. The grass has gone very parched but will still be providing habitats for lots of insects and other life. Many of their old apple trees had died and have been replaced but all looks to be settling in well. Underneath is planted with Camassias and the tulip Jan Reus which are well over now but would make a spring visit worthwhile with the fruit trees blossom.

The avenue

The avenue is made up of a formal seating arrangement with gravel arranged to make the diamond shape.

Then the avenue stretches out, lined by tulip trees, to a sculpture at the end by Pete Moorhouse. Looking at it as a photo the sculpture doesn’t look quite proportioned right to the length of the avenue and the size of the trees.

I can’t say I was that bothered for walking down to see it in the heat but Alice insisted. I’m not interested in formal layouts like this. They leave me feeling a bit cold, combined with the heat I can’t say I liked this area. The water garden was formal but that was all done with a bit more panache. This still feels like a work in progress. It extends the garden but I didn’t feel it fitted with the more intimate feel of the other garden rooms.

Alice on the other hand enjoyed running up and down the banks.

White sunk garden and four squares

By this point, legs were getting tired so we started heading back to the house. We stopped to have a look in the white sunk garden on the way.

There was a lot flowering around this area doing well in the heat. Roses and agapanthus were thriving.

Then the wide border and four squares were filled with lots of colourful beauties.

Then a well-earned ice cream for Alice. We’d given her legs a good workout and nice cake for us in the cafe.

We appreciated the shade and breeze that filtered through the plants around the window after our hot exploration of the garden.

Even in the heat, this was a lovely garden to visit. There were a lot of plants suffering in the heat but the dahlias and lilies were looking fabulous. I particularly like the yellow and wide borders. Lots of perennials looking good. The fern garden I didn’t photograph much but that had a lovely mix of ferns. The banks were a nice stroll down and back up through the pines. Hard work in the heat but well worth it. Sadly I couldn’t make plant purchases as we wouldn’t be able to fit them for the journey home but the selection on offer looked very good. I’d like to return again at another time of year to see it in a different season or at least a few degrees cooler. I would recommend it for a visit though you may struggle if you have mobility issues as the bank is steep and many of the garden rooms are on different levels. It made a good start to our stay in Moreton In Marsh.

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Six on Saturday: 6.8.22 Wassand Hall

Wassand Hall is one of our closest gardens to visit. We went a few months back and Alice enjoyed it so much she has been pestering to go back each time we drive past the turn off. I think this may be because she gets a bag of sweets for completing the woodland trail more than an interest in plants. But it is one of my favourite local gardens. The Wassand estate manages a lot for wildlife and the walled gardens are as nice as any gardens we visit. It’s a bit rough around the edges as it’s primarily run by volunteers but it is small enough it can be maintained with exciting plants.

Tropical corner

The tropical corner is one of my favourite areas of the walled garden. The mix of large-leaved plants with bright flowers is fabulous. The bananas and tetrapanax are a bit crisped this year but it’s still great seeing the big leaves.

Alice is still at an age where she’s excited by the idea of banana trees in the UK.

Colocasia envy

Each time we visit I end up with envy of the greenhouse. It’s a lovely structure and heated with a humifier. It is a perfect environment for a whole host of tropical plants including this bench of colocasia. I’ve tried one before but didn’t get it to anywhere near these levels and mine suffered with disease and pests by the end of the season. I have got my own aroid in the form of a little caladium on the go from my plant rescue box I wrote about earlier in the week. The variegated leaves on this are bringing me some pleasure but have to see if I can bring it back to health to keep through winter.

Carnivorous plants

Also in the greenhouse is the collection of carnivorous plants. The different adaptations to trap insects is endlessly fascinating. I have just ended up with a Drosera for free from the local gardeners Facebook group so I was interested to check theirs out.

The Sarracenia are my favourite with their veined leaves. These form pitchers filled with liquid. The insects are attracted to the liquid which they drown in and then they are absorbed by the plant gradually.

Hydrangea Annabelle

Each time we visit at this time of year the hydrangeas have been covered with butterflies. They normally get listed as low benefit for wildlife but I find they are quite popular with butterflies.

Dahlias

There were a good few dahlias but I think this shocking pink was one of the best. I’m not a fan of the muted washed out dahlias like cafe au lait. Dahlias should be bright and in your face not something that looks like weak tea.

Plant purchases

There are normally some interesting plants for sale on their sales bench. I normally find something not readily available at the garden centres. For some reason, I was attracted to the drought-tolerant plants. I went with a dark-leaved purple emperor and a little alpine succulent, Chiastophyllum oppositifolium. Then the day lilly was a cheap purchase they were clearing out.

Well, that’s your six for the week. Back to the watering. We have had a few short bursts of rain but it isn’t having much impact on the garden but it has helped refill the water butts. I’m trying to keep the garden well-watered ready for being away. Enjoy your weekends.

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Helmsley Walled Gardens

We have returned from a break away in North Yorkshire. We’ve had a fabulous time glamping out in the moors. We’ve crammed a lot into a short break away but today’s blog will focus on our trip to Helmsley Walled Gardens. I had heard of the gardens previously but haven’t visited. We opted for it as we had for one through the gardener’s world magazine card. This comes free with the magazine once a year and is well worth the issue price. Just this one trip has paid back for the magazine. Alice was free as under 16’s don’t have to pay. She also got a good activity booklet to take away.

The walled gardens go back to 1758 when it was built by the Feversham family to supply them with fruit and veg at the nearby Dumcombe Park. It fell into disrepair after WWI but was re-envisioned as a therapeutic garden by a local practise nurse, Alison Ticehurst. While she didn’t get to see her idea come to her fruition it has continued as a place for people to heal through horticulture. The garden continues to aid people with a variety of physical disabilities as well as depression and anxiety. It is maintained by a core of staff and friendly volunteers, many of whom we chatted with as went around.

The Orchid House

You enter the gardens through the cafe area and we then turned around to see the Orchid House. This is in the process of being renovated. The panes have been replaced which has been a painstaking process as the spaces are of many different sizes. A new heating and water system is going in. It is looking good and when it’s all complete and stocked it will be able to house some fascinating plants I’m sure.

Currently, it is housing the pelargoniums in the centre.

Then one side has a good collection of aeoniums. I enjoyed a talk from the British Cactus & Succulent Society last month on aeoniums so it was good to see many together. It showed their native spread across the Canary Islands. It was interesting to see the variety in the lecture as we normally see just a handful that have emerged from the same couple of cultivars. My own two are a bit sorry looking and I want to try and give them better care through this winter.

Then a few random succulents along the bench.

There were several moth traps set along the orchid house and outside and several of the catches were on display before being released. There was a good variety and a volunteer showed us some of the catches.

The Long Border

From the Orchid House we went along the long border. This runs from one end of the garden to the Orchid House. This is largely herbaceous perennials and it was looking very nice currently. The central hot border was used for the 2018 film of the Secret Garden.

The Echinops were stars currently. They grow in poor soil and are drought tolerant. But when grown on richer soil they grow taller. These had formed large globes.

The bees could get enough of them.

Hidden Gardens

Alice was excited to explore all the paths from the side of the long border which she considered to be secret paths.

Little border run off the long border with spots to sit and explore.

The annual border

To what I think was the east side of the gardens several large beds had been given to annuals. The cornflower were dominating the mix currently. I hope they get left to go to seed as the birds will love all the seed heads.

Then some daises and poppies stood out amongst the blue.

The Orchard

Alongside the annual beds there is a good orchard stocking a good variety of fruit trees, then a few more growing as cordons along the wall.

They are looking to have a good harvest in a few months. The shop sells a number of preserves and chutneys so I imagine these are harvested for those.

The labyrinth

Neighbouring the orchard is a labyrinth cut into the grass. Garden labyrinths fit well into the therapeutic garden as they are meant to be walked as a time and place for contemplation.

Alice on the other hand has no respect for tradition and sees them as a race to the centre.

Chickens

At the other end of the garden is a wildlife pond and chicken area adding to the productivity of the garden.

Not the friendliest-looking birds though.

And in the corner a shaded area with a good grouping of Acers.

The west wall is given over to Irises which are over now but I’m sure make a spring visit worthwhile. There were a few Kniphofia still in flower.

Statues

There are a number of metal statues dotted around the garden. These are nicely displayed and fit nicely within the loose planting style.

Insects

Even though it was a bit of an overcast day there was still plenty of pollinator activity.

There were many busy bees taking advantage of the garden. In many ways, I think gardens encourage more biodiversity than reserves with the gardener’s desire to ram in many different plants rather than small monoculture areas of limited planting.

Wasps have a bad reputation but they are actually quite useful as pollinators and they attack many pests of garden plants maintaining a natural balance.

A wall of passionflowers in the plant sales area was buzzing with many visitors.

The Vinehouse Cafe

No garden visit is really complete without refreshments. The cafe is housed within an orangery setup along one of the garden’s walls. It was worth a visit having been voted Visit England’s Visitor Experience Award winners in Yorkshire within the food and drink category. Grapevines grow up from one edge and hang over the tables.

We both enjoyed a savoury scone, while Alice had a caramel shortbread slice. I particularly enjoyed mine as I went for a blue cheese and walnut scone. Blue cheese is frowned upon by the rest of the family when at home but I can get away with it when out.

The grapes are reaching a good size. I don’t know how well they ripen but it looks very nice.

Normally a garden visit would have ended with a plant purchase but as the car space was going to be needed for the return journey after glamping I had to forgo that pleasure. The plants for sale were largely from the Yorkshire Plants company which are stocked local to me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t get closer to home. If space wasn’t an issue there was a decent selection of plants available at a reasonable price. I would recommend a visit to the gardens. It was a good family day out The gardens were looking good. The food was delicious and we all came away happy. Plus by visiting and spending you support the therapeutic side of the garden. Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

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Six on Saturday: 9.7.22

It’s been a busy week at work but I got out in the garden with Alice last weekend and achieved a good bit.

Alpine planters

We picked up some alpine bowls to make mini displays for gifts. Alice helped mix up the compost. We needed a more free draining mix, so we mixed sand and grit with peat free compost.

Then she helped pot up a number of sempervirens.

Dianthus

Then she made one for herself. I like having her involved in jobs like this where she learns that different plants need different soils. We use the grit to keep the weeds off and so the leaves don’t sit on damp soil and rot. It brings up lots of knowledge.

She went with just the one Dianthus in the middle. She didn’t want anything else around it.

And in flower

It’s a delicate pale pink. Nt my favourite flowers but she likes it.

Cactus and succulent display

We also potted up our purchases from a few weeks back into terracotta pots and set up on the summer room window sill. The dinosaurs were reduced in Morrison’s. I picked them up after my last RHS exam as a present for Alice after my night away.

I’ve sunk some of the individual pots into sand in the white planter to create a mini display like we saw on the long benches at Wassand Hall. Check out the previous blog if you want to see what it all is.

Rose Peter Pan

This is a miniature rose from David Austen. It has tiny flowers, maybe 2cm in a deep red. It’s growing in a pot as I decided I didn’t like having the roses in the border except climbers. They just weren’t complimenting the other surrounding plants. But I like this little one on the patio.

Scabious butterfly blue

My pots of scabious are flowering. They haven’t attracted many butterflies this year but they are popular with the hoverflies.

I’m off into work today so I won’t get a chance to read other six on Saturday posts but hope you all enjoy your days.

Six on Saturday: 2.7.22

Now the RHS exams are out of the way I’m going to look at getting back into the routine of recording the garden progress through my blog. It proves a good archive of plant purchases for when labels are gone if nothing else. It’s been a busy week at work but got a fairly relaxed weekend ahead before a week of extra shifts at work. I’ve got some fairly mundane garden jobs to catch up on after neglecting it during exam revision. But I’ll probably just end up tinkering with the cacti and succulent purchases from Wassand Hall last weekend.

Cuttings

I had kindly been sent some cuttings from Noni. I’ve set them up in the heated propagator to encourage the rooting and keep the humidity up to prevent water loss while they root. It’s a balancing act of creating the right environment but not rotting them.

She sent me cuttings of Hoya bella. This is a lovely houseplant that has beautiful flowers. I’m trying some rooting in a jar of water and then these ones in a fairly free-draining mix of compost and perlite. The other cuttings are Kalanchoes tubiflora, the mother of millions plants and Kalanchoe daigremontiana. I’ve got two cuttings that I’ve put in compost. I don’t know how reliably they root this way but I’ll give it a try.

The more common way to grow these is to remove the plantlets that form on the edges of large leaves. These are just placed on the soil surface and allowed to root.

Hydrangea libelle

Hydrangea libelle is flowering. The flowers are quite nice but the growth and shape this has formed is just not that great. The leaves have suffered with frost. It seems to form a lot of the flowers low down in the foliage so they are lost. It’s a bit too big and sprawling a plant for the space when I don’t actually like it.

The individual flower heads are very pretty but the form, how it interacts with the rest of the border and their lack of hardiness mean I’m probably going to remove it after the flowers are done.

Rose Charles de Mills

I had pruned this back last year and started to retrain it as a climber. It was a bit too big for something that only flowers once. It’s an old English Rose and flowers with an odd flat surface. It has a pleasant smell though not overwhelming.

Astrantia claret

This was a lovely dark Astrantia I bought from Scampston Hall two years ago. It has proved a good purchase. It’s been flowering for the last two months and will hopefully carry on into autumn.

Potted dahlia

This was bought last year or the year before and it was an unnamed variety when I bought it. It has been left in a pot over winter and it hasn’t suffered in any way for it.

Potted dahlia not black Jack

This was originally bought as Black Jack. It flowered last year and obviously isn’t black Jack which is a dark flowered variety. But it is a good showy red and I don’t object to it. As with the other dahlia it was left in the pot over winter outside and it is still growing strong.

Well, it’s been nice to start the log of garden activity again. Alice is determined to go to the garden centre, though she isn’t looking for plants. She is looking to buy a soft toy triceratops. I don’t particularly need anything but never know what you’ll discover.

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Wassand Hall

It’s been a good while since I wrote a blog but this week I finished my last RHS exams. Hopefully, I passed and won’t need to resit. The first exam covered fruit and veg which isn’t my strongest knowledge area but it didn’t feel too bad. The second is on protected environments. They had changed the exam from any of the previous past papers. You usually have a good few questions where you write profiles of particular houseplants. There weren’t any of these questions but a lot more of growing veg in protected structures. A bit disappointed as I know houseplants better but so it goes. Now I’ve got the exams out the way I can get back to actually focussing on my own garden so expect a few updates.

Yesterday I made it out with Alice to Wassand Hall. It’s our closest country house and garden open to the public and we’ve visited it plenty of times before so I’m not going to go into lots of detail about the gardens in this blog. Check the previous blogs for more information. After a few weekends of revision, it was good to get out and to get Alice outside into nature.

Meadows

We began with a walk around the meadow land that surrounds the house. The grassland was filled with butterflies and damselflies. Countless speckled browns and meadow browns and a few more colourful butterflies on the wing. I’ve spotted the deer quite a few times while I’ve been out on my own but no sign today. We did see a good few orchids though.

Alice walked much further than I thought she would, enjoying everything we saw. This area is such a valuable habitat for so much wildlife I’m glad we have it on our doorstep. I’m glad it’s managed as it is creating a variety of niches for different wildlife.

Walled garden

After a snack refuel we headed into the walled gardens. The walled garden is roughly split into four beds with a tropical corner, a more cottage garden feel, a shaded corner and a more mixed one. Alice loves a water feature. Whenever we visit the garden centre she loves spending her time on the water fountain aisle. She spent a good while watching the fish in the central pond.

The tropical corner is probably my favourite area. The large foliage plants mixed with spectacular lilies and dahlias are just so lush to be irresistible.

With the heat, an ice cream break was needed.

Hot house

After cooling off with ice cream we headed into the hot house. Every time we visit I am very envious of the hothouse. They have a fabulous collection of plants growing in there at sizes I could never achieve without the heat and humidity they can create in here. As the last exam was on protected environments it was good to see it all in action.

Alice loved walking through the mist of the humidifier which with the heat outside was quite refreshing. I don’t think Amy will allow me to do this with the summer room though sadly.

Fabulous gloriosa.

Mandevilla growing from a large pot.

The carnivorous pitcher, sarracenia guards the door against insects.

And a few more carnivorous nepenthes protecting the greenhouse from pests.

Back to the outside world Alice was attracted to the rill. As I said she is fascinated by the water features.

Woodland Walk

I thought Alice would have had enough of walking by this point but she was determined to do the woodland walk. It takes you in a circle around the woodland surrounding the walled garden. Along the way you look for animals doors and record the colour on a sheet.

It takes you to the stumpery, which any long term readers will know I like a lot. The mix of ferns and gunnery and wonderful foliage plants makes for a wonderfully calm environment.

I’m glad Alice still enjoys doing activities as basic as these trails. It’s valuable time together and she still found such pleasure in finding each door. At the end, we returned the clipboard to the cafe for a reward of a bag of sweets.

Cactus house

To the side of the cafe is a long thin glass-ceilinged room with the cactus and succulents collection. A stark contrast to the hot house. From warm and humid to super dry. Cactus and succulents are fascinating if strange-looking things. My A-level biology teacher had a love of them and had them dotted around the lab. At least I assume she loved them from the quantity. I also have a suspicion that they were out so the more annoying students would end up touching when they decided to give the furry-looking ones a stroke. She did have a bit of a sadistic sense of humour, though a very good teacher. For adaptations, there are few plants as interesting botanically.

While I’m sure most readers understand the cactus and succulent distinction a few might not. Succulents are defined as plants with water-storing adaptations such as fleshy leaves or fleshy trunks. While cacti are succulents with leaves that have adapted to become spines or scales to suit desert conditions.

While it is only the one stretch of plants there is an amazing variety of plants that have adapted differently for dry conditions. The spines forming micro climates to conserve water and protect the plant from anything that might eat it.

While the succulents have fleshy leaves for water storage in all manners of configurations.

I think this little one was one of my favourites, Mammillaria gracillis. I like how the spines are adapted to flatten over the cactus stems to make a web.

Plant sales

OK, I’ll be honest this was one of the main reasons we came out. I was looking to take Alice out for a nice day but no reason that couldn’t cross over with me seeing some interesting plant stalls. There were a few local nurseries there with a mix of perennials and bedding plants. Long Riston plants are very reasonably priced. The Hardy Plant Society were there with a good selection of perennials. But as we visited the local open gardens a few weeks back I already have a good pile of plants needing planting so I resisted these. I couldn’t resist the Hull branch of the British Cactus and Succulents society stand.

I think they have involvement with the display at Wassand and they had brought out a great selection for the display table.

Alice likes the ones which look like they are covered in wool as mum likes to needle felt and she felt it looked like the wool she uses.

Best of all, all of the pots were £1 each regardless of size and rarity value meaning we could pick many just based on what we liked. We both picked a good few. Then a picked up a not-so-mini tetrapanax. This is capable of becoming a large-leaved tropical-looking tree. In milder areas, they can remain evergreen. I expect mine to be deciduous dying to the ground in winter. Accounts online differ in how it copes with the wind. But I have seen a good few accounts saying it can manage with sea salt winds so I’m going to risk it. If it works out it will make for an impressive specimen within the front garden jungle.

Glad I managed to find my favourite cactus from the cactus house. I can see how people become obsessed with collecting and growing these wonderful plants. Their small nature means anyone can fit a good few. The great variety makes them very interesting. I’m tempted to join the society as they look to have a good number of online lectures each month making it easy for me to fit it around Alice. Then they meet once a month close enough for me to get to. If they ever have a press office job going I’d leap at that for the amount of bad puns that can be made. “They’re a bit of a prickly bunch with dry sense of humours.”

It was a great day out and wonderful seeing Alice taking such enjoyment from the wildlife in the meadow, to the plants in the garden, to the woodland trail, to simple pleasures such as watching the water. Despite dragging her around for over 16,000 steps, during the whole day out the only whine was when I said it was time to go.

Stumpery

It’s been a good while since I wrote my last blog but I now have the RHS coursework finished so I have a bit more time to write and record my gardening. I’ve still got two more exams to go before it’s all completed but I have a little less to do. I’ve got a project with a lot of plants so a blog seems like a good plan for making a record. At work, I decided to claim a corner of the outdoor area for a project. It was previously inhabited by chickens, but foxes put an end to them. It’s sat empty for two years with random prunings filling it up. I have spent part of the last week clearing it back to the bare ground. It’s fenced and I’m intending to leave the fence around it so it’s just an area accessed with an adult taking the children in. I’m aiming to make a stumpery with a few fairy elements to use with the kids. The log piles will provide lots of habitats for wildlife and the plants provide a few benefits alongside.

I have found a contact at the local town council for supplies of wood. We’ve had a good lorry load of various sizes dropped off. From the gate, I have used the thinner logs to mark a path going around a central clump of branches and logs. To the left of the gate, I have made a wider border and then the border is a bit thinner around the back edge. The corner holly is providing a good amount of shade. So between the evergreen canopy and the tree roots that corner will be hard to plant much. I may use this corner for a bug hotel or another log pile. Only the toughest plants adapted for dry shade will survive. Combined with the school holidays anything selected must be able to survive with minimal attention. At the moment I have just piled some of the well-rotted logs that were already in the area.

As well as the logs, I received a kind donation of plants from Stagview Nurseries. They have donated a mixture of ferns and hostas. These were really nice healthy plants that should suit the conditions well. In the main border to the left, I have planted a mixture of these with a few of my homegrown plants as well. The logpile at the back is covering a hole in the fence where the chickens used to enter that I’ll be filling. From left to right there are 2 ferns, Dryopteris affinis, that are reliable ferns. They grow to a good half a metre and require little care. In front of them is a Heuchara ‘greenfinch’ I grew a number of these from seed last year and I have them self seeded within every patio pot now. I’m trying a small patch of winter aconites. I don’t know if these will survive so for now I’m just trying a small patch and we’ll see if they spread. Carrying on along, we have 3 Hosta ‘Halycon’. These are medium-sized hostas with blue leaves. They have some resistance to slugs and will make a nice contrast in colour and foliage shape to the ferns either side. To the right of the Halycons is another small patch of Heuchera ‘goldfinch’. Another fern to the back and then another patch of Hostas. This time ‘wide brim’. This is a larger hosta than the halcyon with wider green leaves with a cream edge. Again, it’s adding a bit more variation to the foliage and shades of green.

Up close, the halcyon are coming up well. These are a popular cultivar with their supposed slug resistance. While it all looks a bit bare currently it will fill out to cover the space.

Heuchera ‘greenfinch’ is not necessarily the most exciting heuchera out there. But it has a key advantage that it self seeds lots. As I have suffered with vine weevil again and again this is a useful quality as it means I have a supply to continue to feed the vine weevil. It has small bright white flowers on long stems in summer which will stand out well in the shade. These and the hosta flowers are loved by bees bringing some wildlife benefit to the area.

Wide brim is not showing its cream margin yet, but we’ll see as it develops. It’s currently in good health with minimal slug damage. As each year goes on hostas seem to develop better resistance. I’ll have a look at what I can use as a mulch to deter them. Wool pellets have worked well, but I think we may have some grit kicking around I work I can make use of.

To the left of the birch tree, I have planted another fern, Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata the King’. These is another reliable fern that should survive once it’s established.

To the right of the gate, I’ve laid out logs to mark a small corner bed. I’ve got a Fatsia japonica and Hosta ‘albomarginata’ in so far. The Fatsia will bring some nice large foliage to the area. The hostas will provide a nice contrast in leaf shape and variegation. There is still a gap to the left of the Fatsia. I’m not sure what to use here. I could do with something with a thinner leaf. Maybe Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola gold’ if I can get hold of it. This will add a different colour and leaf shape and should complement each other well.

I have a few ferns left to place and some topsoil to mulch the ground. A good mulch will prove useful in keeping the moisture in the soil for the dryer shaded areas. I will probably divide off some of my Iris foetidissima to add some evergreen sword shapes to the mix and keep a bit more structure when the hostas die down. I have some Ajuga reptans elsewhere on site I can claim to use for a bit more groundcover.

And a quick video tour of the progress so far.

It may not look like much yet but I’m confident it will fill out nicely. The central logs still need to be arranged properly. I may try and make some planting pockets within this. I need to work out what to use along the back fence border which has some of the dryest areas. The robin was keen to get investigating while I had my cup of tea. There is still a good more work to go on this but I feel like I’ve made a good start and it’s an improvement on the dumping area that it had become.

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