The garden is gradually sliding towards winter. The hostas are bright yellow before they turn to mush. The Acer is looking spectacular this year. There are still a good few flowers blooming but gradually reducing in number.
The view from above
The lawn is gradually needing less mowing. Probably one or two more to go to leave it tidy for winter if I get a dry enough day to walk about on it. But I haven’t had many of those recently.
From the ground
The garden is just about holding together. The hydrangea are slowly fading, though the limelight at the back still have some bright blooms. The acer is fiery currently.
I know I featured it a few weeks ago but it is looking so good. Normally the leaves are blown off before they change so I’m taking a lot of pleasure in the colour this year.
The front garden
The front garden is full of yellowing hostas. They will remain like this briefly before going to mush. Then I can clear them and the evergreen structure of ferns and heuchera will keep the garden looking good until the spring bulbs come through.
One of the sea hollies planted on late in the year has produced a few blooms. I’m still seeing a few pollinators hovering around on warmer days so good to have a few flowers still helping them.
There are still a good few dahlias providing colour which is much appreciated as it gets darker.
Thank you for reading. Hope you all have super weekends.
We have had Alice stuck at home isolating with Covid. She hasn’t suffered too badly but we didn’t want her infecting anyone else. That combined with the weather has meant I haven’t really been out in the garden. So this week is going to be a quick look at a few houseplants. Alice is quite enjoying being at home. I’ve stayed off with her part the time and mum the other half. We’ve kept up home learning like we did during lockdown to keep routine and avoid boredom. She’s writing and reading a lot more from the focussed time so probably done her good being off with us.
Also known as the roadkill cactus from its flat shape. I bought this as my reward for the last RHS exam. It is replacing several small succulents on the kitchen windowsill. It has got to a bit cluttered so I decided I’d rather have fewer large plants. It’s got a good sunny windowsill where it can be left and only occasionally watered.
String of hearts is a trailing plant that I’ve propagated several times since I got it a few years ago It roots in water then I pot it on. It trails down from the corner shelf in the back room. Every so often it needs a hair cut as it reaches the ground. It needs watering about once a week in summer and less so in winter so it’s pretty minimal effort.
This was a 99p Morrisons purchase. I potted it on after purchasing and it has spread out well since then. I like the variegated leaves and the colours.
This is looking a bit sorry for itself. I think this was partly underwatering and partly too low light.
It’s been repositioned to try and put some life back into it.
The Chinese money plant is a popular one currently and produces lots of offsets for potting on to pass onto other people.
I have a few aspidistras in the house and in the garden. The garden one has been badly attacked by slugs and snails this year. I could do with taking a clump out and growing it on inside. Aspidistras are generally regarded as dull as they don’t really do anything but I quite like having a decent sized houseplant that doesn’t require much care. It handles low light, minimal water. It can handle neglect.
It’s half term now and between Ofsted inspections and balancing home learning with Alice I’m ready for a little time off. It’s been a good half term with my class but I’d like to catch up on some garden jobs now. Hope you all enjoy your weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturday’s blog to see more blogs.
Well I sat my RHS exam on propagation. I was quite anxious beforehand but I think it went alright. I’m fairly confident I passed and we’ll have to see in December whether I managed the higher level of commendation. This week has been busy with the exam and then catching up on work after all my revision so this week’s is looking at the bulb purchases that have been building up.
Tulip grand perfection
Despite what this week’s blog contains I am not massively bothered by tulips. But they fill a gap between the early spring bulbs and the summer garden so I do usually plant a few. These tulips look like they should be a nice striking one paired with the existing queen of the nights. Though they inevitably won’t flower together throwing off the plan.
Queen of the nights
I already have queen of the night tulips in the ground but they gradually fade in our clay soil. Shrinking, rotting and getting dug up by mistake so it’s always good to top them up.
I’ve had a few taller alliums in the border this year with the Allium forelocks towering over the border and it has been quite good having alliums where I can shoot upwards when taking photos of the bees. They look a bit odd sticking out the border but the bees like them.
Tulips little beauty
These were Alice’s choice. She usually ends up picking red riding hood tulips with the striped foilage but she was taken by the colour of these. They are little short 10cm tulips so I’m not quite sure where we’ll put these so they show. They might need to be in a pot.
I like irises in general but my early spring Iris reticulata pots are largely blue or purple. I saw these and thought it would make a bit of a change. Yellow is a welcome sight in spring standing out well in the darker months.
I usually pick a bag of tulips that are different from the more commonly cultivated ones. This has led to some beautiful forms and some fairly rubbish parrot tulips that didn’t hold their form well. These are a fringed tulip that I think will be quite striking.
Hopefully get back to featuring the garden properly next week. I’m working an extra shift at nursery next week so may not find anytime to plant these next week but it’s half term soon so should be able to get them in the ground soon.
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.
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.
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.
I haven’t made it in the garden much this week but did pop out at night to admire the harvest moon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were lots of roses looking great, too many for one blog, so I am just posting a few of my favourites.
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.
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.
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.
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 bannaticusgrows 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.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion on social media about how we, as gardeners, can cut back our environmental damage. How can we garden smarter? Garden to have a positive impact, not a negative impact. I have cut down my use of bedding plants but I haven’t really gone into detail of why. Horticulture is, in general, very damaging to the environment. Plants are transported predominantly from Holland and abroad. They are still mainly grown in peat, the damage from peat is well documented. The boom for houseplants has fuelled plants being removed from the wild. There are many aspects of horticulture that are incredibly damaging to the environment. Many would probably surprise many gardeners who think they are doing their bit by planting things. I’m going to discuss bedding plants as in my mind they are one of the more damaging sections of the industry and one that is pretty easy to come up with alternatives. This may start off quite preachy but I am going to be moving onto positives. I will be touching on climate change which I know a small handful of readers are climate change deniers. However, much of what I am talking about has the advantage of being thriftier as well as positive for the environment.
It has been estimated that home owners spend £30,000 on our gardens over our lifetimes. I can’t find the figures for how much is spent on bedding plants each year but my guess would be it would be high. From working in a garden centre I know it made up a large part of the sales. Bedding plants are a large part of the horticulture industry with seasonal bedding plants keeping people returning to garden centres. To give an idea of the amount York City planned to spend £70,000 pounds on bedding plants over four years. So, what’s the problem with this?
Bedding plants are largely grown in peat. Peat makes up one of our greatest carbon sinks. It is keeping carbon locked up to help prevent climate change. Much of the large scale production of bedding plants makes use of peat compost. This has many hidden environmental impacts. The peat compost is delivered in plastic wrapping that isn’t recyclable. It goes straight in the bin for landfill. The peat itself is often travelling long distances to the growers. The bedding plants themselves often undergo multiple journeys to the consumer. The plants may be started as cuttings or seed in one location, say in Holland. These plugs are then transported to another location, say in the UK. The plugs are grown and sold to the consumer. These may be sold as grown in the UK when in reality they are only ‘grown on’ in the UK. But the consumer thinks they are buying local. Within each stage of transport there is a good amount of wastage. Some plugs arrive dead, some are die during growth and some die transported to garden centres. These will usually end up in the bin. Not to be composted or put to use. Just pure waste. The plants need to be grown in greenhouse with carefully controlled temperatures, again requiring a high energy input. Then once out of the greenhouse and into people’s garden they will often sulk.
On top of the damage done by peat. Many of the plants will be sprayed with lethal cocktails of insecticides, pesticides and fungicides. The plants may still be sold as being of benefit to wildlife while the chemicals on them are causing harm. These can still cause damage when the plant gets to the consumer with the chemicals leaching into the gardens soil. In order to keep many of the plants looking their best they need regular feeding. Many of the commercial fertilisers have a high energy cost to their creation. We can create our own fertilisers through wormeries and homemade alternatives like nettle tea. But by and large people aren’t going to do this. Many bedding plants end up grown in pots. This means more feed, but also more watering which is becoming an issue with dryer summers and areas facing water shortages in the future.
Many bedding plants are bred to be sterile. This means no pollen. No benefit to wildlife. Little purpose in existing beyond looking pretty. But by and large they are not the richest source of food for pollinators. For the environmentally conscious gardener, the space could be better used on a plants that will attract pollinators. There is also the issue of native vs non-native plants. Most bedding plants will be non-native and won’t feed into the larger ecosystem or caterpillar host plants and feeding birds.
My main issue with bedding plants is just the disposable nature of them. They are grown for one season. So all the mass amount of environmental damage discussed so far goes towards one season of having a plant that may look pretty. It probably won’t though as they are sulky plants that need care: watering, feeding, deadheading, etc. So they may not even last a season. If you are lucky they may survive a mild winter to then look too leggy the next year. If you are dedicated (I’m not) you may protect them over winter digging them out, putting them in greenhouses or taking cuttings. So all this effort and they are then binned. If they are lucky composted. It’s disposable culture at its worst. Lots of attention has been drawn to single use plastic bottles. The bedding plant industry is undoubtedly worse. Right down to the plastic pot the plant came in that probably won’t be recycled.
So, preaching over, I want to look at how we can garden with lower impact on the environment. Bedding plants are usually used to provide a burst of seasonal colour or fill gaps in the border. Many of the areas they would be placed can be filled with annuals sown direct in the soil. Plants like Nigella, Calendula, and Nasturtiums all grow easily when the seeds are scattered directly on the soil. This cuts out all the transportation issues, chemical use and peat issues around bedding plants. Plus, most of these have some benefit to wildlife. Some of these will self-seed or the seed can be saved for the next year.
Many self seeders can fill gaps in the border. I make use of a lot of self seeders. Ox-eye daisies, forget-me-nots, cornflowers, poppies all fill gaps in the border. Self-seeders take over any bare ground making sure my borders are always full. Over time I’ve learned to recognise the seedlings coming through and then I thin them out or move them to suitable locations. In spring the forget-me-nots fill many of the border gaps providing for a whole range of insects with a carpet of blue.
In order to avoid the disposable nature of bedding plants my borders are predominantly shrubs and perennials that will last a good few years. Many will spread and with division should outlive me. Perennials may cost slightly more than bedding plants initially but long term you save money with them returning each year. You may even be able to divide your plants to spread further around your borders or pass to other people. I make use of a lot of hardy geraniums that have spread and been divided many times.
Many common garden perennials can be grown from seed. While this obviously takes longer than buying a fully grown plant is a cheap way of producing a large number of a plant with low environmental impact. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of space either. I have a mini greenhouse. It fits neatly against a wall. Within it I’ve grown a good number of Digitalis lutea, heuchera, poppies and more. Currently I am growing several types of primulas and a few foxgloves. Many bedding plants can be grown from seed as well. Short dahlias, violas and pansies are all fairly easy to grow. This cuts out many of the damaging aspects of bedding plants and generally will give you more for a lower cost.
I know many of you won’t want to part with your treasured bedding plants but I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. Reducing the number of temporary plants you can make a difference. It can reduce your carbon footprint and with reduced sales it shifts the horticultural industry to change its practises and what it focuses growing on. I’m sure not everyone will agree but change is coming to the industry whether it wants it or not. Peat is being phased out and people are becoming increasingly aware of the damage done by chemicals. I’d rather work towards a positive change.
I have at times made reference to the wild area or the wilderness. This is a much grander title than the reality of this area. It is the path that leads behind the gardens on our street where our neighbours store their bins. It is covered in ivy from the houses behind, nettles, docks and creeping buttercups. Brambles crawl through, although they don’t get to flower much as I have to cut them back to keep a path for the wheelbarrow and neighbours for their bikes. It has a whole host of caterpillar plants with ivy and nettles being good for many moths and butterflies. So, on the whole I don’t tidy it much beyond keeping a functional path. But last year bind weed crept in so I made an effort to clear it as the odd seedling was coming into my garden. I’ve seen a few tufts of it back this year but I think I’m keeping on top of it so it doesn’t flower and set more seed. Having cleared part of it I looked to make the soil less fertile and suitable for certain wildflowers.
The neighbours keep their bins back here whereas I’m too lazy to wheel them round each time so they sit as an eye sore in the front garden. Beyond the bins is a good nettle patch which is harvested periodically for nettle fertiliser and left most of the time for wildlife. The other side was cleared of bindweed and currently is where I throw any pollinator friendly seed packs that come from charities, magazines, etc. Beyond is a wall of ivy across 4 gardens.
The area has been filled with poppies of various types and colours. This pale pink has been the most numerous. It seems to be favoured by the hoverflies rather than the poppies within my garden which are swarming with bees.
There are a few dark coloured mallows. I rather like this one. I wouldn’t be upset to have this in the main garden.
Within the garden I’ve got a few different colours but in the wild patch it is just the blue. But it is a brilliant blue.
The bees are enjoying them and the birds will when they go to seed.
I grew teasel in my garden a few years ago. I’ve not allowed it to return as it is took up a lot space. But it is very good for insects and then the seeds for birds. So I’m glad some of it escaped to the back path where it can grow out of my way.
6. Another poppy
This variety hasn’t been as numerous as the pink but it does stand out.
It’s a messy path but it is doing a lot of good for the biodiversity of the area. I need to cut the ivy back a bit further before the fence collapses. It isn’t really my job to do but if I didn’t we’d lose access to the garden this way. I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks detour out of the garden. The end of this week has been made up of thunderstorms. A few things are flattened but it’ll bounce back. I hope your gardens are all holding up well and the flooding around the country hasn’t affected any of you too badly.
This week I have a poorly daughter. Her voice is just about gone and she is very sniffly. She’s in need of lots of cuddles. The garden, however, is in pretty good health. I have spotted vine weevils again. I have done a dose of nematodes recently to try and tackle them with more natural methods and squished the two I’ve found. But the plants they affect seem to still be growing strong. So hopefully keeping them in check currently.
I bought this bare root last year as a reward for my first RHS exam results. It is a patio rose described as somewhere between a minature and a floribunda. If you look back at the starting point you can see it’s put on a good amount of growth in one year.
It is covered in small dark red flowers. I still haven’t got my sense of small back fully after covid but this is described as only having light scent. It is more of a visual feast.
And the obligatory raindrops on roses.
I’ve discussed my love of astrantia before. They have pretty flowers, loved by bees, particularly honey bees and they flower over a long period. There is lots to like about them. This patch in the front garden has settled in well and has put on a lot of growth. The front garden is shaded with quite heavy clay soil which is a fairly goo situation for astrantia. They like moisture-retentive, humus-rich soil. They can be grown in sun if kept watered but I think are best for shade. This one is particulalry nice as the white flowers show better in shade. You can also see some of the foxgloves. They’ve been pretty crazy this year reaching great heights and flopping all over the place. We’ve had people knocking on the door to compliment them. I’m just getting started on sowing some more for next year as I haven’t had them self seed reliably.
And a bee enjoying the astrantia. There has rarely been a moment they have not had something visiting this week. Even with the heavy rain this week the foxgloves and astrantia have still seen plenty of bees. A testamant to how even a small front garden can be used to help wildlife.
Flesh fly/Allium forelock
I featured the allium last week but I took this photo on my phone and I was impressed with this little fy with its stylish black and white chequered patterning.
I have been growing agapanthus for a few years now. They were bought as bare root stock and I knew it would take a little while for them to bulk out enough for a decent display. The last few years I’ve just had a single blue flower. There are two varieties in the pots polar ice and queen of the ocean. This year is looking more hopeful for seeing both varieties finally.
Scabiosa butterfly blue
We went to the garden centre last week to get some potting compost and I was taken in by this plant. Scabiosa are great for insects and the display was covered in butterflies. I couldn’t resist. We have lots of flowers that are great for bees but not as much for butterflies. So far, in my garden, it has only been visited by the bees that I’ve seen but the butterflies will come. With dead heading it should carry on producing flowers for a while. I’ve put it in a pot near the house as it likes free draining soil and I thought it would show better there than in the border.
This is a self seeded poppy finding a home in the crack in the wall. But even a little flower like this is still helping the bees.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s six. I’m taking a lot of pleasure from the garden currently. There is a lot to enjoy and even the jobs of seed sowing and weeding have been pleasant. So far this week the “weeds” have included a dog rose I’ve potted up and a holly. Hope you are enjoying your gardens currently and have wonderful weekends.