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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Six on Saturday: 25.9.21

It’s been a busy week at work with lots to prepare so I haen’t managed much in the garden this week but a few jobs we’re achieved last Saturday. Then on Sunday we had a downpour in the afternoon that was flooding the roads. Luckily it didn’t rain Monday so it all had a chance to drain away so no damage done. Just a few floppy plants.

Potting on

One of the main jobs I achieved on the Saturday was potting on the foxgloves and the Primula candelabras. I will have more Primula vialii to do in a few weeks. But this was a good job off the list. They’ll be losses along the way but I’ve got a good few growing well currently.

Tesco rescue

This was a rescue plant from Tesco’s a month ago. It looked sorry for itself but I was confident it would recover fine and it has. Plenty of flowers over it.

Acanthus mollis ‘whitewater’

Alice wanted to go to The Works for craft supplies which happens to be in the garden centre. I spotted this Acanthus and I couldn’t resist the foliage. The flowers don’t look to be as nice as the contrasting flowers on the wild form. I need to think where to place it as once placed it will carry on regrowing from small root sections if I dig it up again.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘pink freckles’

And I also saw this. I’ve seen this plant on a few other six on Saturday blogs in previous years and I’ve always liked it. It’s a small delicate looking thing for deep shade.

Harvest moon

I haven’t made it in the garden much this week but did pop out at night to admire the harvest moon.

Aster

This aster is a tall leggy thing that suffers from powdery mildew. It needs plants infront of it to cover the fairly unnatractive stems. But for a couple of weeks each year it brings in the butterflies and provides colour as other plants fade. This year it hass attracted lots of comma butterflies which is an absolute joy as I hadn’t seen as many since a new housing estate was built destroying lots of nettles and brambles.

I’m going to be preparing for the next RHS exam so be busy this weekend reading up on propagation. Enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 18.9.21

It’s been a busy, but good week at work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening but there is still a lot looking good in my garden as we move into autumn. I’m hoping to get wood ordered for work this week to build some new raised beds. Then that project will keep me busy for a while.

  1. Geranium oxonianum lace time

This geranium is one of my favourites. It has flowered from spring to now and it will keep going. The delicate veining is lovely. They are tiny but worth pausing to admire. They spread but not as rapidly as wargrave pink.

2. Lupin

I grew these lupins from seed the year before last. They flowered earlier in the year but they suffered with aphids. I cut them back and the second flowering is coming through much stronger.

3. Heuchera planter

A local gardener has been selling plants to raise money for Marie Curie. She has made up lots of pots of mixed heuchera. With 4 or 5 heucheras in each pot, these were amazing bargains at £8.50. I hope she has managed to raise lots for charity as this is to make up for no local open gardens this year.

4 Primula germination

I have gone all out on primulas this year. I’ve started off lots of varieties from seed now and then they should be able to be potted on and be up to a decent stage next year. We have Primula candelabra, vialii, Miller’s Crimson, pulverulenta, and florindae. They have all germinated to some level. I got a lot of the seed from Furzey Gardens so it will be a nice souvenir if they make it full size.

5. Dragonfly close up

The dragonflies have been resting on the clematis and I managed to get out with the macro lens to get a few shots.

6. Dahlia tamburo

I’ve grown this dahlia for a few years. I love the flowers but the first few always seem to flower low down in between other stems.

The weather is hopefully going to be nice this weekend so with any luck I’ll get a few garden jobs done. I hope you all enjoy your weekends. I need to up my revision level for my next RHS exams but it’s propagation which isn’t too bad a topic.

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Six on Saturday: 4.9.21 In-laws garden

Well this has been a good week for my gardening and horticultural interests. I recieved my RHS exam results and I passed the two units I took back in June, recieving a commendation for the soil unit. So, that’s all good. Then we’ve been away to the in-laws who have a lovely garden to enjoy. We even managed a garden visit to Burton Agnes on the way back which was nice to see. I’ve been for the snowdrops and for Halloween but never made it in Summer. I’ve finished my current RHS assignment on plant choice. I just need to write the plant profiles that go with each assignment. My next exam is on propagation so I figure I’ll be taking lots of cuttings to secure the knowledge. If you missed it, I wrote about heuchera yesterday including the propagation methods suitable for them. This week’s six is coming from the in-laws garden.

The apples

They have apples grown in a few different ways, including cordons along the path. But the shed apples were the stand out apples. They set the bar for red apples standing out beautifully along the back of the border.

Roses

There were lots of roses looking great, too many for one blog, so I am just posting a few of my favourites.

Anemones

The anemones grow in a few patches around the garden but they really do come into their own this time of year. Masses of flowers over a good period. One of my favourites but they’ve not grown that well for me. My own white one in the front garden is still quite small and the back garden ones haven’t looked too healthy this year so I am keeping an eye on them.

Birds

The garden sees a good variety of birds visiting. I saw green, bull and goldfinches and multiple tit species while watching the feeders. But I did also spy this sparrowhawk eyeing up the buffet table.

Dahlias

I grew a mass of dahlias in 2019 and I gave a lot away. Two ended up in the in-laws and they are still thriving.

Alice

And last but by no means least, Alice had a good run around in the garden. They have a good bit of space to explore and the garden is divided with gates and fences and island beds, steps up to different levels. So there is lots to enjoy for a little child. She requested her usual photo on the hand chair.

And having a good run about on the lawn.

I’m back to work on Monday after the school holiday so hopefully get a few bits tidied up tomorrow. The garden is holding together alright but I’m preapring for moving a few bits around in the border as we go into autumn. Hope you all have good weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturdays blog to see more posts.

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Six on Saturday: 28.8.21

It’s been a nice week with a few decent gardening jobs achieved. I enjoyed my trip to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens last week but still need to find some space in the border for a few of the purchases. I also wrote about the environmental impact of bedding plants. I expected some negative feedback about this post but I’m pleased to say I received lots of positive feedback. The ones of you who disagree are too polite to say, so thank you for the positive responses and the many shares.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Prarie Splendour’ rose

I saw this little Echinacea cheap in the flower shop. I like them as plants but I’m not sure they’ll agree with my clay soil so I’m going to test this one and see how it survives. It looks a bit daft as one stem on its own. They look better in decent clumps but I didn’t want to spend money on several if they can’t survive our winters. They are pretty but also popular with the bees and good landing platforms for butterflies.

Wood Asters

These were a wedding present and I don’t think I have a record of exactly what it was. I think it’s a type of wood aster. They are just short, maybe around 20cm with small white daisy flowers and pointed leaves. In theory, if I’m right it should be good for shade. It’s gradually spread and seeded along a little stretch.

Nasturtiums and caterpillars

The cabbage white caterpillars are working their way through the nasturtiums. Luckily I like seeing the butterflies. The caterpillars don’t do any other major harm for me as I’m not growing any brassicas or veg they might destroy. So I’m happy to leave them to it.

Nibble, nibble, munch, munch.

Border changes

I have cut my Charles DeMills rose right back to a framework I’m going to train as a climber. I decided it was taking up too much space in the border for the one burst of flowers that can easily be ruined by rain. Whereas, if it is on the fence it isn’t really taking up any space and it should still manage a few flowers. This now leaves a big gap in the border to fill. I’ve arranged a few of the plants I’ve got available to see how they work together but haven’t planted them all yet. I planted a clump of Primula candelabras I got last week but working out the rest. I’ve got two Iris sibericas I think could be happy here and the points would look nice. Then I maybe need something with a broader leaf to contrast. I have a few Primula denticulatas, drumstick primulas that could go here. They are spring flowering. Then maybe look at some taller summer flowering plants for behind. I’ve got some echinops that I may use. I wrote about them yesterday to check up the ideal conditions.

Sparrowhawk

I’d noticed the birds had been a bit on edge the other day so I assumed the sparrowhawk was about, but I got treated to a decent view of it sat on the fence. The back door was open already so I managed my clearest photo yet before it swooped off.

Dahlia

I think this may be tamburo but it has come out much redder this year as I don’t have any other dahlias that match this form with the majority of mine being single. It is normally a darker red but for some reason is bright red this year. Unless I have just forgotten about another. We’ll see. Either way, it’s bright and flowering well, if a bit late.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s six. Don’t forget to check out the founder’s blog to see links to other people’s six choices. I have a day out ahead so no gardening for me today but I am hoping to get the border changes I mentioned sorted over the next week.

Flowers on a Friday: Echinops

After my attack on bedding plants, I thought I’d look at something a bit more positive and focus on an easy to grow plant that is both ornamental and good for wildlife. I am working through the module on plant choice in my RHS course. The big focus of this unit is plant knowledge, so I’m planning to write in a bit of detail about a few plants to secure my knowledge. Today I am going to focus on Echinops, gloe thistles. They fit well within many styles of garden. Popular in the perennial border both for cottage-style gardening and prairie gardens. Piet Oudolf makes use of the architectural flowers within his designs. Alternatively, they are nice within cut flower arrangements. With a changing climate, they are a tough plant capable of coping with a bit of drought.

They are members of the Asteraceae family with around 120 species. This is the daisy family, though the flowers don’t share the traditional daisy or sunflower shape. They usually form blue or white spherical heads. They have a wide geographical spread with some native to Europe and then ranging across Asia and Africa. The most commonly grown species in the UK tend to originate from southern and southeastern Europe. Countries like Spain and Turkey. So, they have come from hotter dryer climates. Though they can still grow in our wetter conditions. They can be annuals, biennials or perennials, but the main ones for sale are usually perennial. That is they will return year after year for a period. However many self seed so will continue to give you free plants after the initial outlay.

They can grow quite large so they benefit from being given a bit of space and being grown in a clump with a few plants. Of the more popular varieties Echinops bannaticus grows about a metre to a metre and a half. Then Echinops ritro grows at about a metre. Echinops Veitch’s blue is a popular shorter option if space is limited. It is also less prone to self seeding.

The leaves have the standard look of thistles. They are serated building to the point. While they look spikey they aren’t massively harmful. They grow best in free draining soil in full sun. When planting you can improve draiange with the addition of some organic matter. But they will tolerate clay building long tap roots. Just, ensure water doesn’t sit around the surface of the plant. After watering in initially they will need watering while settling. But, once they are established they are fairly drought tolerant and don’t need any additional feed to keep them going. They generally disease free but can suffer with aphids. After the first flowering of the year they can be cut to the ground to encourage a second burst of flowers.

The flowers are rich in pollen and nectar making them an excellent choice for wildlife gardening. The seeds, if left, are a food source for birds. However, some people don’t like them self seeding so dead head before.

They look good as a clump on their own in gravel gardens. When combined in the garden they work well with echiverea. Pink ones complimenting quite well. Alternatively large grasses are often used. Cardoons work quite nicely giving you different heights of ball flowers. Piet Oudoulf made use of agastache with it’s upright blue spires of flowers to compliment the balls of the echinops.

Propagation is pretty straight forward. They can be sown by seed in spring or self seeders collected and moved to the desire locations. They can be divided in early spring or autumn. Or root cuttings can be taken when dormant in winter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little examination of echinops. Hopefully I’ll write a few more detailed profiles of plants to help build my knowledge before the RHS exam for this unit.

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Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Last Friday I made it to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. I had seen them on Twitter for a while but hadn’t really connected that it was fairly close to me. But, while sourcing a plant I realised they were close enough for a visit at just over an hour away. The garden is an absolute treat with the nursery having a focus on perennials. I arrived for opening at 1 and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to do a loop of the gardens while it was still quiet and see more of the wildlife. It was a bit of a grey day so there wasn’t as much about as there would have been on a sunnier day but still plenty to enjoy.

The cafe courtyard

The cafe courtyard was lovely and peaceful when I entered. Quite a shaded spot with a nice mix of foliage plants around the edges.

The steps were lovely with the pots and plants spilling out the brickwork. I didn’t note what it was at the time but looks like creeping toadflax.

A pair of doves were going in and out of a window at the top of the cafe.

I was happy to see a pot of podophyllum after seeing it in a recent lecture from Phillip Oostenbrink.

Bird feeders

There were two paths out from the courtyard and I chose the one less travelled as the view looked inviting. More people were heading out the other way. This took me to the bird feeders.

There was a nice mix of birds visiting. Several types of tits and robins.

Though the arrival of the slinky cat put them off.

From the feeders, I found some deep pink dahlias.

And anemones.

The rill garden

I think I’ve missed the peak of the rill garden flowers. It looked like Nigella, love-in-a-mist had gone over in many of the planters. But the water tinkling through is always a pleasant sound.

On a sunnier day, I imagine this catches the light beautifully.

The pond

The pond had some nice tall planting surrounding it with a few views in.

A waterlily set to unfurl.

The meadow area

From the pond, I headed around the woodland meadow area. This is made up of many hardy geraniums with other plants mixed in. A nice mix of spreading plants. They had a few hives hidden away. I didn’t notice any honey for sale sadly as I do like a souvenir pot of honey.

There was a good number of small and large white butterflies about and the odd peacock. As I said, it was quite a grey day so not as much moving in the meadow as there would be a sunnier day.

Wonderful peeling bark.

I rather like the tansy flowers in the meadow, Tanacetum vulgare. Lovely little yellow balls. I was tempted by a pot in the nursery but I don’t think it would gel with my other plants.

The long border

From the house, there is a long border with clipped bushes along the middle. I realise looking back at my photos I didn’t take a decent long shot. I possibly didn’t want to annoy visitors photographing them or getting them to move. These borders were spectacular filled with lots of perennials. It’s always good to visit other gardens as this when you see plant combinations that work well. Stillingfleet had lots of effective combinations. Some are plants unsuited to my soil and conditions but still lovely to see.

I seem to have seen Monarda a lot this year. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I’ve noticed it or that more people are using it. There was a stand on the BBC coverage of RHS Tatton Park talking about them. It is a lovely vibrant plant and loved by bees. In the mint family with quite a pleasant smell to my mind.

The wasps were loving the echinops. They are very rich in nectar so I don’t know if that’s the draw. I only have one of the smaller varieties but I could be tempted with some of the taller types.

There was plenty of dahlias dotted around.

And plenty more visual treats.

On the way around the house, I spotted a little trough of pitcher plants, Sarracenia. This is a carnivorous bog plant. It’s usually grown as a house plant or in greenhouses, but it can be grown outside as its native range is across North America. I meant to ask someone what soil they were growing it in and what drainage they’d given it but I forgot by the time I got around to any of the staff.

Wire sculptures

Dotted around the garden there were sculptures by Chris Moss. I saw lots of visitors eyeing them up. The robin on a spade seemed to be very popular. I saw lots of people checking the price while I had a cup of tea in the cafe courtyard.

The stock gardens

I actually really enjoyed looking in the stock gardens. A lot of gardens hide them away or keep them private but it’s nice seeing the plants growing in masses and the many different varieties. The entrance was covered in honeysuckle giving you a nice waft of scent to put you in a spending mood.

The agapanthus was the standout plant. They seem to be having a good year from many peoples accounts. I was very tempted to add a few more when I got to the nursery sales but I resisted. I spoke about mine in yesterday’s six on Saturday.

Twister was one of the finest available in my opinion. The two colours are very attractive.

Though there was some dark beauties set to unfurl.

There was a good section of borage in the stock area. This is such a good plant for bees as it refills its nectaries within two minutes. Anyone keeping honeybees should have it around to avoid honey bees depleting flowers from native wild bees. The flower is also edible. It looks particularly pretty in ice cubes.

The robins were serenading visitors around all areas of the garden but they were posing for photos in this area.

A peacock enjoying the buddleia.

The inevitable plant purchases

Obviously I wasn’t going to come away with no purchases. The range of plants they stock is amazing. Download the catalogue and feel envious. The main focus is perennials with an amazing collection of hardy geraniums and pulmonarias. It was a pleasure to see such choice when I’ve become accustomed to garden centres stocking smaller and smaller ranges. During my last outing to the local garden centre I asked for directions for an astrantia and hardy geraniums and it was clear none of the staff had any knowledge of plants. They openly admitted they didn’t know what these were. It strikes me as strange that you can work in a garden centre without knowing what you are putting on the tables. The equvialant would be a supermarket shelf stacker who didn’t know where to direct you for baked beans. But that’s all the garden centres are now is supermarkets for plants. The plant space is getting cut down in my closest to make room for more scented candles, bath bombs and other gifts. They are places for people to go for a day out and have a slice of cake. The plants are becoming an inconvinient nuisance that need looking after. So, now I’ve put my plant shopping experiences in context you can see why Stillingfleet was such a joy.

I had specifically gone to obtain Iris foetidissima lutescens. They are the only stockist of the plant in the whole country. It is much like any other Iris foetidissima. It has the strap like evergreen leaves but has an all yellow flower, a little bigger maybe than the normal variety. It’s reckoned to be slightly more tender than the normal version but being a pretty bomb proof plant to start with I’m feeling fairly confident it will be alright. I’ve now ended up with six of the nine varieties of Iris foetidissima that the RHS lists. I’ve still got my eye on trying to get hold of the variegated one next year. It might seem like an odd plant to decide to collect varieties of as it is far from the prettiest iris around. The main interest comes from the berries in winter. But it is one of only two native irises to the UK and I feel it’s worth preserving. I’ve recently joined plant heritage who work conserving rare plants in cultivation. With more and more nurseries closing it seems important to try and keep these more unusual plants in circulation. Like I said, the garden centres are offering less and less choice so supporting nurseries that offer more is important. For the long term we need a great variety of plants to survive whatever may happen with our climate.

I also picked up two varieties of sea holly ready for our anniversary. They formed part of our wedding flowers, but they are also wonderful plants for wildlife on top of that. Eryngium bourgatii picos amethyst looks to be a darker more vibrant blue than my existing ones.

And Eryngium giganteum ‘silver ghost’. This is described as growing as a biennial by most sources but should hopefully self seed. It’s a tall white sea holly offering great spikey architectural flowers.

And the final purchase for me, a Persicaria ‘purple fantasy’. I’ve cavorted a persicaria and this had such stunning foliage. I’ve put in a pot for now while I decide where it will go. They have a reputation for spreading rapidly beyond where they are wanted but I believe this is meant to be quite a well behaved one. I could have come away with a lot more, but I wanted an anniversary the next day, not a divorce. Got my eye on the pulmonaria list for future visits.

I really enjoyed my trip to Stillingfleet. The gardens are very much to my taste with lots of informality. Lots of the plants are spreading and sprawling out of gaps in paving and into each other. But it’s absolutely lovely. There are a lot of Capability Brown landscape gardens around me on far grander scales, but these largely leave me cold. I like plants, and ideally plants rammed in thickly. The intimacy of this little garden was fantastic. The plant range immense, a plantsperson’s dream. Well worth a visit.

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Six on Saturday: 21.8.21

I’ve had a good week of gardening. It’s been quite wet but I’ve still got on with a good few jobs. I’ve planted out quite a lot in the Forest School at work. It’s looking alright, but give it a few years and it should fill out well. I’m not sure how well each plant will do as it is pretty heavy shade. But I’ve got most of the plants cheap so it’s no great drama if there is some loss. I had a pleasant trip to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens yesterday which I’m sure I’ll write about another day. Today is my third wedding anniversary. Amy almost forgot but my sister reminded her. We’re not doing anything special but it was a nice excuse to add some more sea hollies to the garden.

Facebook bargains

I’ve done well out of Facebook this week. I picked up a water butt and coldframe cheap for work. The waterbutt has been put in forest school. I just need to pick up a connector kit. I’m not sure whether the coldframe is going to work or at home. I might use if for winter to home the primulas and foxgloves and then move it to work. The wormery was free, including worms. These are great. They produce a small amount of high quality compost. But, more importantly the worm wee makes a great liquid fertiliser. It slowly drips out and then you dilute it in a watering can.

Stargazer lilies

These have grown to nice big blocks. A few have been nibbled by the dreaded beetles but enough have made it to flower. They work well with the hydrangea limelight behind. I took the advice a few years ago to grow them in shade to reduce the number of beetles and it does seem to work.

I know a lot of people don’t like them but I do. They are quite exotic in nature and bring something to the garden late summer before the gladioli and aster gets going.

And the hoverflies particularly like them.

Farfugium japonicum ‘wavy gravy’

After a lecture through Lou Nichols patreon gardening club by Phillip Oostenbrink on tropical gardening I saw this plant and wanted it. In the lecture he mentioned the spotty version. But I saw the wavy foliage at the garden centre. The local garden centre is stocking less and less in the way of variety of plants so I was surprised to see it. Accounts differ on hardiness so we’ll see how it does. It’s gone in the foliage mix of the front garden.

Butterflies

When it’s not been raining it has actually been quite pleasant and I’ve seen a few more butterflies out. There have been lots of whites a few peacocks and a good few small tortoiseshells about.

Plant bargains

I’ve been keeping my eye out for some more grpund cover plants for work, so stopped in at the road outside Wassand Hall. On the road up to the hall is a cottage with a plant stall outside. They usually have a mix of hardy geraniums and a few other bits but they had a good selection out this week. I picked up three candalabra primulas, a lovely coloured heuchera and a vibrant pink flowered salvia wishes and kisses. The salvia will need cuttings taking to get it through winter, but it was cheap enough to be worth taking a chance on. The primulas were one of the standout plants at Harlow Carr and I fancy a few clumps of these. They should then self seed and spread gradually.

Agapanthus

Agapanthus formed a key part of our wedding flowers and these were planted following the wedding. It’s taken three years for them to bulk out to a decent flowering point but they are looking great. I had planted a mix of blue and white but there is still no sign of the white. I don’t know whether they’ve died off or if it is the fault of Thompson & Morgan but too late to complain.

I’ve also added a new variety to mark our anniversary, Silver Moon. It is a varieagated variety. So even if takes several years to flower at least the foliage is bringing something to the garden.

I hope you all have nice weekends. I’ve got a good few plant purchases to find spaces for and a few more seeds I want to get started this weekend.

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Six on Saturday: Furzey Gardens

While down in Dorset we visited Furzey gardens. This is a lovely little garden nestled within the New Forest. It is an RHS partners garden so I probably could have got free entry but didn’t mind paying to support. The garden is a social enterprise providing work experience and training for people with learning disabilities. There is a cafe within the gardens. Currently, it was offering drinks and a few light bites. I don’t know if it is any different when Covid restrictions are fully over.

  1. The Cottage Garden

When you first enter the garden you are met with the cottage. This is surrounded by informal cottage garden style borders. Lots of herbaceous perennials. They do have a cottage you can let for occasions. I’m not sure if this one is available to let or if there is another one on site.

It rained on and off lightly while we were there so the bees were in and out during our visit. But, this border was very active.

These borders were stunning, filled with colour. Amy spent ages taking close up photos of many flowers. If I used her photos we would be getting on for 66 on a Saturday, probably more.

2. Woodland borders

As you’d expect from a garden in the New Forest much of the garden is wooded. There are a lot of camellias and rhododendrons, but these weren’t offering any colour at this time of year. There are little hidden paths and structures with viewing points over the area hidden away.

Hidden within the garden are 40 fairy doors. I think we found maybe 20. Alice enjoyed looking so kept her busy.

The woodland contains lots of ferns and some interesting foliage plants.

And a good few hydrangea happy in the shade.

3. The play area

The play area is made up of a large scale fairy village. Lots of huts and tunnels and walls to climb around.

Alice was a bit unsure of the ladders but once she’d been up a few times she loved it.

She had a good play before falling off the swing which put an end to her fun. But she recovered after a snack.

4. The meadow

Surrounding the play area there is an area of meadow with paths cut through.

This area was very species-rich with many hoverflies, bees, butterflies and beetles visible. Here we have a soldier beetle.

In this photo there is a small copper with the wings open and a gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers have been the most numerous butterfly we saw in Dorset.

5. The pond

On the walk down to the pond, there was bursts of rain. But, by the time we got down there it was stupendously hot. You can see how much the sun is shining off the water. I took a lot of overexposed photos along this section.

Grey wagtails were hopping back and forth on the lilypads.

Around the side, massive gunneras dominated an area. Alice refused to stand next to them for comparison.

And there were a few different butterflies. A brimstone.

And a speckled wood.

6. Birds

There was lots of birds around the garden. Many of the smaller ones were quite tame. The robins came onto the picnic tables while we had our lunch.They were very accommodating for photos.

I thoroughly enjoyed this garden. From the description we thought it would be a little drop off and then head into Lyndhurst but we spent a good few hours there. Alice loved the fairy trail and playpark. Amy was happy taking photos and I was happy enjoying the wildlife and plants. The plant sales were very reasonable priced and by souther standards were probably excellent. From little £2 pots of easy self seeders to some decent shrubs. If we lived closer I’d be using it regularly, but I wasn’t going to to fit anything in the car for the journey back. But I did get some primula seeds so I can hopefully grow a memento of the garden. I am working on my next plant profiles for my current RHS assignment so I’ll probably research these one. Hope you all enjoy your weekends, we have a busy one ahead but then I have two days with Alice booked in for ballet school, so have a bit of time to ourselves.

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