Six on Saturday: 7.9.19

Another week goes by and we are starting the slide down into Autumn. The weather is shifting. That said there is still plenty of colour in the garden. Last year I had several seasonal gaps but I seem to have managed better shifts between different flowers ending and starting this year. So onwards with this weeks Six on Saturday.

1. Butterflies

This year has seen a lot of butterflies in the garden. I don’t actually have a mass number of butterfly favourite flowers in the garden. The verbena is always popular but on the whole, I have more for bees so it has been good to see several species new to the garden this year. The small and large whites have been regular visitors but I think I’ve had them in larger numbers this year. I’ve found them one of the worst to photograph though as they don’t stay still so I was happy with these two shots where they’ve settled long enough to focus.


2. Dinosaur garden

Last week Alice worked on her fairy garden. This week she has built up her patio area with a dinosaur garden. She found this dinosaur at the beach. The shards of rock I’ve had laying around for a while and I’ve been intending to use in a succulent planter but they suit this well. The dwarf conifer I’ve had in a pot for a while not really doing much so it’d found a purpose.


3. Bargain Hostas

I walked past a church sale last week of pure tat but they also had some plants for sale at 50p each. So I filled my bags with as many hostas as I could carry.

These are probably going to be used for pots on the patio. I’ve potted a few up along with some I’ve had sat in their plastic pots for a while. From left to right the twisty foliage is dream weaver, then a blue leaved halcyon at the back, fortuneii at the front with the nibbled leaves, one of the church sales at the back, then blue mouse ears at the end. I’m thinking if use these for the patio it will link some of the front and back garden planting with lots of the same plants repeated throughout. I’m considering some bulbs around the pot edges for the start of the year. Maybe dwarf irises or Muscari that will die down as the hostas come back up.


4. Choisya

The choisya is having a second burst of flowers. The yellow rose that grows up out of this is looking like it might manage a second burst as well.


5. Nights drawing in

The nights are starting to draw in earlier. While I may well be glum about the lost time in the garden I’ve found some advantages. Sitting in our little new extension room I’ve found my garden seems to draw in the bats for the early evening. I can sit on the sofa and they are swooping right up to the windows. Wonderful to watch!


6. Dahlia, not Rebecca’s World

I bought this tuber from Thompson and Morgan. It was meant to be Rebecca’s world which is red and white. While Alice switched some labels and I don’t think she did with this one. But even is she did this doesn’t look like any I ordered as I went with almost all dark options. That said it is a stunner. The buds have a rich purple edging before it opens as a large white flower. The purple has gradually faded to pure white.

It looks like I still have a few more weeks of colour coming through but things are definitely on the wane. I’m pretty tired after my first week back at work. I’ve changed year groups at school and getting to grips with new routines. Luckily the little helper has been to hand to keep on top of the watering. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 24.8.19

This week I’ve been spoilt for choice for my six. Some will make it into next weeks six, while others haven’t made the cut. I’ve somewhat neglected the back garden while I’ve been sorting the front garden but I’ve discovered bindweed so I need to very carefully weed the borders to try and stop it establishing.

1. Zinnias whirligig

I started growing these from seed in trays. I then moved them straight into the ground and forgot about them. Then when I saw flowers emerging I almost removed them as weeds but asked for an ID on Twitter. The pack came with a variety of types in. They’ve been popular with the insects and there very pretty. I’d grow them again but I would probably put them further forward in the border as they are hidden a bit behind dahlias.

2. Clematis

This clematis was already in the garden when I took over the garden. It barely flowered so I gave it a hard prune and it has been giving a few more flowers each year. It is growing out of a thicket of shrubs and then gradually colonising the top of the fence.

3. Agapanthus

I planted these as bulbs last Autumn as they formed part of our wedding flowers. We had our anniversary this week and one is in flower. The others have put on foliage this year but no flowers. I’m growing them in pots as the advice states they like to be crowded. Hopefully next year I’ll have a few more to show.

4. Cosmos candy stripe

I’ve grown double click and candy stripe as a big mass. Double click featured a few weeks ago. Now it’s the turn of the candy stripe.

So far the majority of the patch has come out as double click but I have a few of the candy stripe dotted through. These are white with a pink edge. They are recommended as good for insects and I’ve seen a good group of hoverflies over them each day.

And a few other insects enjoying just resting on them.

5. Lily ‘Casa Blanca’

This almost didn’t make the cut this week but I decided I’d include it. It flowered while we were away and was getting past its best when we returned. It’s a pure white lily from Sarah Raven as part of her scented collection. The lilies have suffered from lily beetle this year. I’ve grown this in a pot this year but I may move it into the ground for next year. I’m not too bothered if it survives as it isn’t really exciting enough as just one. I’d need to but a couple for proper impact. It doesn’t really work in combination with my other plant choices.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

This was another Sarah Raven choice and has been a stunner. It’s been sold as a small variety for pots. I have only used one short stake and I think it would have managed without. The dark flowers are absolutely stunning and it has taken pride of place outside the extension window visible to all.

Lots of insects have been settling on the large flowers as a convenient resting point to survey the garden. It has been a good week for wildlife in the garden. I’ve had swarms of long-tailed tits of up to 40 coming in, tons of insects and a lot of frogs around. These dahlias seem to be hot spots for posing insects wanting their photo taken.

The dragonflies have been regular visitors. I love seeing the dragonflies and this year I think I’ve had more than ever. The size and their primaeval nature make them fantastic to watch.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week six as much as I’ve enjoyed admiring them. As well as the much-needed weed of the back garden I’ve got a large fern donated from my mums garden to plant and a couple of gorgeous heucheras to plant. Happy gardening!

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Six on Saturday: 3.8.19 from the in-laws in Summer

I wrote earlier in the week about our trip to the in-laws at Robin-Hood’s Bay but I left out how their garden was looking. So here it is six things from their wonderful garden. It featured earlier in the year in Spring. They’ve got the scaffolding up around the house and garden but still plenty on offer. Not least the entertainment of following the cat.

1. Roses

There is a smorgasbord of roses on offer in the garden currently with many hitting their peak. I am classing this mass of roses as one choice on my six, though if I knew more about them I could have written this six purely on the roses.

2. Sea holly

There are a few patches of sea holly around. I’m trying to grow my own as this featured as part of my wedding flowers. Mine are in their first year and not showing any signs of flowers this year but plenty of foliage.  I did start them quite late on so I may not get anywhere with them this year.

3. Japanese anemone

These again are a lot further on than in my own garden with plenty of flowers on many.

4. Pond

The pond was revamped last year and is now surrounded by many wildflowers. There were tons of butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers. The pond is attracting plenty of life with tadpoles and newts in resident.

5. Painted ladies

This year has seen a higher number of painted ladies. Every ten years or so we get a record year. These wonderful butterflies undergo the longest butterfly migration on Earth. There is a great documentary on the BBC but only for a limited time.

6. Hydrangeas

I’ve written about hydrangeas a lot recently and there are lots to view at the in-laws.

The limelight is fabulous. It was seeing the ones in the in-laws garden that led me to buy mine. You can see the flowers at various stages from the lime green to white.

If you fancy taking part in Six on Saturday read the guide. There are lots of wonderful plants and gardens to view. I have my own garden to tend today. I want to have a good weed over the next few days before we go away. I’ve still got a few more Bishop’s Children dahlia’s to find spaces for as well. They are flowering away well now and looking stunning. Now I’m starting the regular feed of tomato feed.

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Bay and Bempton

We’ve returned from visiting the in-laws at Robin Hood’s Bay. We’ve had a lovely time despite the grey weather. It’s been back and forth between glorious sunshine, mizzle and thunderstorms. But we did manage to get out and about a bit.

We made it to the local Horticultural societies competition. Some very good veg entries. Alice liked the children’s gardens.

She was also quite taken by this sardine tin display.

The all-important amusing vegetable category.

We’ve had plenty of time playing in the garden but I will probably save that for this weeks six on Saturday.

This was the weather for much of the weekend. Grey with a mist of light rain blowing in.

Though we didn’t let that put us off. We just got kitted up.

Alice did really well going up and down the cliff. It’s a steep walk and we see lots of tourists panting back up every visit but Alice has managed walking up and down several times this trip. Previously she’s travelled in the baby howdah but she’s too big now and the pram is useless at the Bay.

Alice had a good time rock pooling though we didn’t find much beyond snails. She did enjoy throwing seaweed back in the pools. Though she couldn’t handle getting her shorts wet. We’ll need a swimming costume next time. Previous visits she hasn’t even wanted to go in the water at all though. Whereas now she’s happily exploring.

Lots of dead crab shells around.

Her best catch.

At the bottom of the hill, there are these big belly bins. They have solar panels on the top and we’ve been wondering what for.  I looked it up and they are rather fascinating. The solar panel powers a compressor so the bin can hold more for busy locations. It can also signal when the bins need collecting to reduce the number of pickups lowering its carbon footprint and saving trips to difficult to reach locations. The bottom of Robin Hood’s Bay is as bad a location as you could ask for. It has a steep narrow road with little turning room. So these seem a very clever solution to keeping the place neat.

On the road down the walls are covered in ferns. the ravine is one of my favourite parts of the bay with a mass of ferns and mosses growing from every crack. I could happily replicate this in my garden with my fern obsession.

Alice has enjoyed very too many ice creams in the last few days. She has been going through lots of tantrums recently and we’ve been making it clear whiney whingey girls don’t get ice cream.

Alice is becoming very adventurous at the park climbing and jumping off greater heights.

We had some moments of sunshine.

The Victoria pub has finished its extension since we got married last year. It’s looking good and has probably the best view out of the bay of any of the pubs and restaurants.

On the way home, we stopped off at Bempton Cliffs. Traditionally it rains whenever we visit but we actually had glorious sunshine for a change. Alice wasn’t up to walking very far as she was in a tired, hungry mood. We did make it down to the first observation spot to see the cliffs. The seabirds flying from the cliff swooping down to the water is always a spectacular sight.

We managed to see one of the star attractions up close. Normally we’ve seen the puffins at a distance through telescopes but there was one close enough for a recognisable photo rather than a blur in the distance. I’m not winning wildlife photographer of the year with this one. But nice for Alice to actually be able to make one out.

Though it’s not all about the birds. The insect life was pretty amazing too in the sun.

The wildlife at Bempton face so many threats with habitat destruction and changing climate that I continue to support the RSPB even though we probably only manage a trip a year. Each time we visit I hope for Alice’s sake these wonderful birds are still there as she grows up.

Amy was taken with this lovely little chappy so he was brought home which is now stopping the door rattling in the wind helping Amy’s dislike of noises.

We’ve had a lovely time and have more holiday left to enjoy.

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In defence of hydrangeas

Recently I’ve seen a slew of comments dismissing hydrangeas. They are often seen as the reserve of old fashioned shrubberies, seen as old fashioned, blousy and a bit tasteless.  Madonna famously showed her dislike for them when a fan presented her with a bouquet. My current garden came with three mopheads (hydrangea macrophylla) and a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris). Initially, I disliked the vibrant neon pink of the mopheads and barely noticed the climber buried at the back of the border. However, I’ve come to appreciate them for many reasons over the last few years and carried on adding more.

Vibrancy

These mopheads frame the path. They open up as green bracts and develop into a bright pink before fading and drying as brown flower heads. They frame the steps down to the garden perfectly. Hydrangeas require a lot of water and these are situated perfectly. The run off from the patio ensures they get plenty of water. I feed them with banana peels and veg peelings. This gives them both a mulch to keep water in and gives them nutrition.

Alice framed on the lawn by the hydrangeas 2018

The bright colour shows well from above and fills a large space for minimal effort.

The view from above 5.18

Low maintenance

Apart from the already mentioned watering requirements, I don’t have to do very much to my hydrangeas and I get rewarded with a reliable burst of colour each year. I leave the flower heads on over winter, then prune back just behind the flower heads in Spring. Then I thin out a few of the older stems. This seems to work well for me as I’ve had great displays several years running. If you want to change the hydrangea colour you can mess with the pH of the soil to change them from pink to blue or blue to pink, but this seems a futile venture as they will gradually revert. But otherwise, these are a minimal effort plant. They grow well in shade or in sun so long as they are well watered.

Seasonal interest

The various hydrangeas in my garden almost all have long flowering periods. I keep many shrubs in the garden for maybe a week or two return in terms of flowers. The hydrangeas give months of pleasure.

In the initial stage of most the bracts open giving a pleasant green before shifting to the flowers colour.

In Autumn the flower heads brown off and if left remains a solid structural element in the garden.

They then look gorgeous in winter with the frost on.

Wildlife benefit

Hydrangeas are continually rated as low benefit for wildlife. I’ve always found this strange as the mopheads are always covered in different insects. Last year they were covered in the influx of silver Y moths.

Peacock butterfly
Dragonfly
I’ve found ladybird larvae regularly on hydrangeas, although I’m unsure why as aphids don’t generally bother with hydrangeas.

But according to the literature, the mopheads are largely infertile so the flowers aren’t offering many benefits to the pollinators. The fertility of the flowers varies with each type. Maybe mine as higher value as it certainly has a lot of life on it. But my suspicion is that I should probably be feeling a little guilty that insects are wasting journey to these for little or no return.

This has been at odds with my desire to encourage wildlife into my garden. I love the hydrangeas but they aren’t adding much benefit to the wildlife while taking up quite a bit of space. However, a bit of research has shown some types do still offer wildlife benefits. The RHS Plants for pollinators lists Hydrangea paniculata as beneficial with Kyushu, Big Ben, Floribunda and Brussels Lace having more fertile flowers. Unfortunately, I have limelight where only the flowers at the tip are fertile. That said, I’ve seen many butterflies stopping for good periods. I doubt they would stop so long if they weren’t getting some benefit. The RHS trials list more details of fertility.

I also discovered that many of the lacecaps have fertile flowers. The outer ring of larger flowers offers no benefits to pollinators, but the smaller inner flowers do.

The thin stems, lack of height mean hydrangeas don’t offer many benefits for birds. Sparrows perch on mine to survey the garden, but they aren’t suitable for nesting. However, the understory of my hydrangeas show lots of life. I keep a few logs under to provide homes for woodlice and beetles. Few plants can grow underneath as the the leaves stop the light to the ground. But the mass watering they receive means the ground is moist for frogs. I’ve needed to remove builder crud a few times recently and each time I’ve disturbed a horde of frogs. While I can’t argue that hydrangeas are high value to wildlife they aren’t devoid of benefits.

The climbing hydrangea is one of the few exceptions. It provides a good level of cover for many creatures and the small florets are great for small bees and hoverflies.

Variety

For many people when they think of hydrangeas I think they just imagine the rounded balls of the mopheads but there are many more types on offer. The paniculata offers cones in lime green, white pink and purple. The climbing hydrangea offers a reliable climber that can cover fences or house with a stunning layer of foliage without much hassle supporting as it largely finds its own way. The lacecaps offer more delicate flowers. The oakleaf offers stunning large-leaved foliage and gorgeous white flowers. The more recent developments with the award-winning runaway bride offers a variety with a mass of flowers suited to a pot for a display with a long season of interest. There are choices for everyone and many different situations.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my exploration of hydrangeas and if nothing else found some pleasure in the photos.

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Six on Saturday: 13.7.19

Last weekend we were over at my parents for lunch and a lot looking good. This week I’m looking at six aspects of their garden that I’m claiming credit for. I’ve had divisions of their plants for many years and now they are starting to claim from my garden in return. My mum has been dropping not so subtle hints that she wants one of my dahlia seedlings.

1. Lychnis

This was a self-seeder from my garden I passed onto my mum. It’s looking good with the darker fuschia behind it.

2. Heuchera

My mum is adding more foliage plants following my lead. The green, dark-veined I think she bought with me at a local plant sale.  Nice combination of colours and should add some interest throughout the year.

3. Hostas

While my parents have grown hostas before they’ve gone for more this year which I’m sure is down to my mass front garden planting. The forest grass in the middle is also doing well. My clumps are a bit weedy currently but will come on in time hopefully.

4. Succulents

My parents have been away recently so they’d planned to give their usual bedding plants in pots a miss as they would have needed watering. So this means they’ve not bothered with the usual collection of pelargoniums. A plant I’m not bothered for in any way. Instead, they’ve gone for some pots of sempervivum’s copying my pots. They’ll survive better over the holidays through the heat.

5. Wildlife gardening

Over the last few years, my parents have added lots of bird feeders and bug houses across their garden. The middle of one border is dominated by a well-established cherry tree. It fruits well. They’d tried netting it to save the cherries from getting taken by the birds but have given up on this now. In the past, I think my mum would happily have gone along with Mr Twits plan to paint the branches with hug tight glue to get birds for a pie.

But this year there are enough for them and the birds to share.

6. Hide and seek

We had a nice time out in parents garden and a good meal. Alice wasn’t so bothered for the food but she did enjoy playing hide and seek. Though her hiding skills leave a lot to be desired.

It’s looking pretty grey out there. It feels pretty humid. We need some rain to break the heat. I’m heading out with Alice to her nursery today as it’s the Summer Fair. They’ve got birds of prey and the forest school open so should be fun. See what tat we win on the tombola. Hope you enjoy your weekends. Check the participant guide if you fancy joining in with six on Saturday.

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30 Days Wild: Idea 21-Wildflower hunt

Through taking part in 30 days wild in previous days I was switched onto the Wildflower Hour. This has helped develop my knowledge of wildflowers and their names. While for many people this might not seem that significant. What’s in a name? But it does matter. If we can’t name plants, insects, birds we can’t monitor their decline. Without figures we can’t gain support for protecting species. That said I mainly just enjoy taking pleasure in the seasonal shifts from one flower to the next. Paying attention to the flowers and insects around us helps to cultivate mindfullness and improve piece of mind.

Getting out on even a short walk can find a good number of species. On just a short 100m stretch along the seafront I found a good variety of wildflowers along the grass bank.

The umbels of cow parsley out in large drifts.

Pretty little geranium/cranesbill seeding on the upper levels of the slope.

A battered dog rose attracting the pollen beetles.

A few patches of mallow.

Lots of snails out.

Further back from the seafront in a ditch there were a few yellow flag irises.

Reading the wildflower hour posts has helped improve my knowledge but a field guide is useful. I have a couple but it’s the wildflower key I go back to the most. A jewelers loupe was recomended when I started looking at IDing. it isn’t really necessary for most but it is interesting taking a closer look at the structure of plants.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little wander. What can you find?

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