Six on Saturday: 11.9.21-New border

I have made it through the first week back at nursery. Looks to be a lovely class this year but it has been tiring being back. I discussed a few weeks back that I was cutting an old rose back. It was taking up too much space to justify the one burst of flowers. I am aiming to train it as a climber at the back. But what this has done is create a new large space to plant. This patch has never quite worked right. The plants have all been in good health but not really combining well. So I have started the process of planting up and filling the gap. I don’t take border shots very often. I tend to focus on individual plants but I am trying to work towards a more cohesive planting and it is useful to look at photos as they show the faults.

An overview

This is the space. To the right is a solid evergreen block of choisya. To the left is a large aster and sambucus. The aster is set to be divided this year. Along the back of the fence arching from the right is a climbing rose. Paul’s Scarlett climber. This has flowered briliantly this year. Also running through there is Clematis montana Marjorie. This a double flower that runs rampant. Moving in from the right on the ground we have the fern Asplenium scolopendrium. This is an evergreen fern with upright sword leaves. It doesn’t do much for most of the year. But it will remain in winter after other plants have shrivelled away. In front of the fern are some chives. These give that swishy foliage you can get from grasses but they are great for pollinators. There is a small Acer that may be removed as it doesn’t quite fit and they don’t really suit my conditions. Some primula denitculata at the front Then moving along there are some echinops. These are not really visible on the photo but these are a tall variety, Echinop ritro and will provide a decent bit of height at the back. They are wonderful pollen and nectar source for the bees. Some tiny wood asters and Erigeron to spill along the front of the border. The rudbeckia I think will contrast well againest the echinops. I have gone with a lot of plants from the Asteraceae family, the daisy family so I’ve added a few Iris sibericas to mix it up a bit.

A closer lock at the left

You can just see the Aster poking in on the left. The foliage is horrible but it is covered in flower buds ready to bring some colour to autumn. Central there is a tall grass. This should add a bit of contrast between the foliage and it has nice feathery seedheads. The rudbeckia is goldsturm. It is bright and cheerful for the end of summer. It supposedly self seeds quite well so hopefully get some free plants. The big basal leaves are Primula candelabras for some spring flowering interest. Just infront of the primula is Iris foetidissima ‘Aurea’ which is grown for the yellow leaves. This is evergreen and is mainly grown for the foliage rather than the flowers which are quite small. Then central at the front is Iris Karbluey. This is a Siberian Iris that can rise out of the Erigeron as it spreads. I’ve moved a few self seeded verbena into the border that can grow through some of the shorter spring flowering plants.

And the left

This side is a bit more subdued currently but will have colour through the year. The Acer is it remains will grow a few metres. The heuchera is Heuchera ginger ale from a local nursery, Long Riston Plants. Lovely foliage. Then front of the border there are Primula denticulata which are one of the early spring flowering species with lollipop flowers. Then I’m trying a patch of Hemerocallis Always Liberty. This is a pink day lily that should add a bit of excitement in summer. Then there is the evergreen fern previously mentioned to keep some winter interest.

Echinacea ‘white swan’

I’m taking a chance on the Echinacea as they don’t really like clay soil. But this patch has been improved a lot since we moved in so I’m going to try some and see if they return.

Echinacea ‘Prarie splendour’ rose

And my other has been bringing the bees in.

Rudbeckia goldsturm

I am enjoying this currently. The garden is shifting to autumn so some garden areas are looking a bit shabby. But this is providing a bright burst of sunshine. I still have the dahlias flowering and aster and gladioli to go but it is getting darker earlier and this stands out well in the morning and evening.

It may not look like much now but it will hopefully fill out nicely. I think I’ve got a reasonable mix of plants to go across the seasons. There is a bit of bare ground I’ve left for bulbs. I hope you are all doing well. I have plants to shift around the opposite border to get more from it next year. Though I don’t think I’ll get time this weekend. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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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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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: 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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Oldroyd’s corner

Today I have been off buying plants for work. I made a start on the woodland border earlier in the week but the local garden centres selection of plants was a bit useless so I went a bit further afield. One of the garden centres I visited was Woodmansey Garden Centre. Hidden at the back of the garden centre is an absolute gem, Oldroyd’s corner. It was founded by Jon and Paul after many years in horticulture. The greenhouse had been used to grow salad crops and cut flowers. Originally there had been many more greenhouses but these were converted to a business park. This last greenhouse covers an acre and homes the garden under glass. They created a place people can meet in and enjoy and connect. It can be booked for occasions, but most of the time it is just open to the public for free. Beverley men in sheds are working out of one corner so there is often a quiet hum of machinery in the corner but still an amazing place.

The garden begins with a little woodland border. Nice, but doesn’t give you the hint of what is contained inside.

This opens up onto a stunning border. There are a few weeds dotted about, some noticeable thistles at the front but considering this is kept going by volunteers, many elderly, it is remarkable. There isn’t a garden around this year that doesn’t contain weeds with Covid restrictions. Even Harlow Carr with an army of paid staff and volunteers had weeds.

With the garden being under glass there are some stunning exotics.

But the standout plants are the bananas. Growing under glass all year these have reached great heights and look in great health.

Another border. You can just make out the giant spade hidden in the plants. Patches of salvias are spilling out at the edge.

The view from further around. Salvia Amistad filling up the front and then the larger foliage making the centre point.

Absolutely stunning leaves.

The centre has a very well maintained lawn for events. I’m not a fan of lawns. Wasted planting space but they could give lessons on lawns to many much more visited gardens.

A statue reminiscent of the lost gardens.

Along one end is a more Mediterranean in border with roses and lavender.

The roses still flowering well.

The lavender was bringing in a few insects into the glasshouse.

There are sections that aren’t as well looked after and there are weeds dotted around. Some of the plants are in the wrong place with some very crispy hostas. But considering this is free and run by volunteers it is astounding. Many professional gardens charging entry fees haven’t held up as well the last year under Covid.

While it may not be worth travelling across country for as it is only small it is definitely worth a visit if you live in East Yorkshire around Hull and Beverley. I don’t think my photos have done justice to some of the plants. It’s a credit to the volunteers. The garden centre you go through to get in does have a cafe if you fancy stopping for food. Hope you’ve enjoyed my whistlestop tour.

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Six on Saturday: 7.8.21

This is a prerecorded episode of six on Saturday. We will be on our way back from a week in Dorset today. So, this week’s six was written just before we left last week. Hopefully the garden will still be looking good with the flowers that are on the verge of opening still on show. Rain was forecast so hopefully it won’t be too dry.

  1. Digitalis lutea

I grew this perennial variety of foxglove last year from seed. They are now flowering. They are much shorter than the more common purpurea. Measuring between 30cm and 50cm with small white flowers. They don’t seem to be popular with any of the wildlife in the way the Digitalis purpurea is but they have the advantage of being short lived perennials rather than biennial so I don’t have to keep regrowing them every single year.

2. Lythrum salicaria ‘Robin’

This perennial has been shifted around the border multiple times. I’ve not quite found a space it fits with the plants around it. It forms woody spires with little pink tubular flowers. It is meant to be a bog plant or marginal plant for a pond but it seems to have been happy enough in our clay soil. It would probably look better if I had a few more patches of it along the border. It is getting towards division point this year so I think I’ll try splitting it and spreading it along the border for repetition.

The smaller bees love it, so while it isn’t the most amazing looking plant it is serving a purpose within our wildlife gardening efforts.

3. Calendula ‘snow princess’

This is a self seeded calendula that I think is probably the offspring of snow princess. It is very pale, almost white. It has found its way into the shade of the hydrangeas and Acer. The paleness means it stands out quite well in the shade.

4. Iris foetidissma ‘Paul’s Gold’

Iris foetidissma is one of our two native irises. It is usually used as a shade plant. once established it is usually a survivor. The flowers are small and lillac. Pretty but not that eye grabbing in the way most irises are. It is more commonly grown for the leaves and seeds. These are evergreen and provide spikes through winter. The seeds stay attached to the plant through winter providing colour. They are usually red or orange though a white variety ‘fructo alba’ has been cultivated. Paul’s gold has been bred for the yellow strap leaves. It is essentially the same as aurea which has the smae yellow leaves. The leaves stand out in a semi-shaded spot. I don’t actually like it as much as the wild form but I’m becoming interested in the possibilities of hybridization so it’s good to have a few cultivars.

5. Hydrangea paniculata ‘little lime’

This is a smaller version of the popular limelight. I have grown it in a pot where it is thriving. As you can see, it’s covered in flowers. The majority of the cone is sterile but the ends contain nectar for the insects. It is usually popular with the butterflies but it has been too wet for them the last few day.

And a close up of a cone.

6. Dahlia, possibly Addison June

I think this is probably Addison June but as normal lables have been removed by either Alice or the birds. Amy and Alice chose this one back in April sales. It is a striking one, though I usually avoid the ruffles as they are less use for pollinators. But it was their choice so there you go. It’s the first of this years dahlias to flower. I haven’t grown many this year as so many returned last year. But, it’s looking like the slugs have eaten most in the border. But the three I’ve got should bring plenty of colour. I got fed up dead heading last year so at least I won’t have as much to do.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s six. Hopefully we have managed some garden visits on our trip down south that I can feature next week.

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Six on Saturday: 24.7.21

It is now the school holiday. It’s been a lovely year at the nursery and I’ve been lucky to work with lots of groups of amazing kids. We’ve got lots of gardening plans for next year at work so will be nice to get cracking on that.

Discount climbers

Tesco’s has obviously been worried about the heatwave as they reduced all plants by 25%. I picked up a pile of climbers for my work project and some for me. Honeysuckle and passionflowers for the shaded woodland border. Then a clematis for my garden.

Geranium rozanne

I know this is a very popular geranium as it is reliable but I’m not really that bothered by it. The colours are not that exciting. Most of the hardy geraniums have been given a hard prune to the ground. They’ll grow and flower several times a year treated this way. Rozanne is still flowering well though. The bees like it at least.

Love in a mist

A house around the corner was selling pots for 50p. 50p well spent. I love the strange flowers and the seed pods that follow.

Echinops ritro

Butterflies have made the news the last few weeks. The wet spring and start to summer has meant numbers are down. So I’m trying to make sure they have some decent flowers available when they are in flight. This is a short globe thistle that should be good for bees and butterflies. They like a sunny position with free-draining soil. Mine is improved clay but this should mean it is fairly drought tolerant and shouldn’t need much watering. Possibly none once established.

Eryngium planum

Sea holly was part of our wedding flowers and I’ve got a few patches around. I’ve added this one as it’s a nice tall one to add some height mid borders. As with the globe thistles, they are good for wildlife and drought tolerant. Mine have returned each year but not seed seeded. I think with my clay soil they don’t self seed as readily as other soils. But we’ll see if this year is any different.

Small tortoiseshell

I have started to see a few more butterflies but we have rain forecast for the next week which badly affects butterflies’ ability to fly. So it’s going to be more important than ever to provide for the butterflies during the periods they can fly. Here is one on the hydrangea.

Today we have Alice’s ballet lesson before a break for summer, followed by a kids party. I’m going to be carrying on with clearing a bit more of the forest school this week for the woodland border. Then begin planning the allotment and sensory garden areas. Hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Six on Saturday: 10.7.21

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.

Rose-Peter Pan

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.

Astrantia Alba

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.

Agapanthus

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.

Wall poppy

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.

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Six on Saturday: 36.6.21 RHS Harlow Carr

Last Monday I had my next round of RHS exams. I think the soil module went well. I may have managed a commendation, not so sure about plant health. I think I passed but not sure of what level. But I had less interest in learning about chemical controls I have no intention of using. On the way to my exam, I stopped off for a quick visit to RHS Harlow Carr. It’s the first time I’ve visited. I want to try and make use of my student RHS membership while I get it cheap. Sadly most of the gardens are open for RHS members on workdays so I rarely get to take advantage. The weather was good, cloudy but warm. Nice for walking around a garden. Not ideal for photos but I got some wildlife shots I’m quite proud of. My six are going to go beyond six photos into six categories because there were far more than six things to enjoy.

Wildlife

The gardens are providing for a rich and diverse variety of wildlife. I saw a good number of birds species, bees and butterflies. The combinations of stream, woodland, meadows and wildlife friendly plants provides a good range of habitats for wildlife. My wife is teaching more photography next year and I’ve been taking some pointers and it’s paying off.

A small tortoiseshell in the scent garden.

A blue tit near the bird hide. There were a lot of bird feeders around though most were empty. I think they are still probably getting by on lower staff numbers with Covid. The bird hide feeders were stocked and swamped by squirrels with a few birds venturing on.

A crow and ferns. I like corvids. They are beautiful birds in their satorical eleagance. Combined with ferns for a nice background.

Squirells were hovering up food all other the place.

Irises

I love an iris and right now there many at their best. Harlow Carr had a great numbe of beauties.

Iris robusta gerald darby

Iris chysographes. A stunning dark beauty.

The alpine house

I’ve never been that interested in alpines and rockeries. I grow a few but as I have put much my effort into my shaded front garden with thick clay they don’t have much place there. But it was interesting to see and alpine house. None of the local gardens we visit regularly have one so it made a change.

It was interesting seeing how some are planted in a roughly natural setup spreading through the rocks while others are contained in their pot.

And an orchid.

Meadows

A lot of the outer areas had been left to go to meadow which was being visited by a few different insects even on a fairly grey day.

One of our native orchids.

The stream

The stream runs down the middle of the garden and had some of the most concentrated planting. This was very much to my taste. Lots of lush foliage with punctuations of flowers. The visitor boards explained how they are climate proofing the gardens by planting suitable plants and making use of the water and drainage.

The primula candelabra are what I will probably remember the garden for. These had been used in big blocks along a lot of the border. At the end of my visit I intended to buy some but I didn’t see any for sale. But it’s probably for the best as they worked so well here as they had been planted in large blocks, not just one or two.

The meconopsis were also looking grand, but I know their reputation for being awkward to grow to even consider spending the time on.

The inevitable purchases

Obviously, it was unavoidable that some plants would come home with me. The plants were largely at the silly price you would expect from an RHS garden. In some cases 3 times what I think I’d pay locally but there was some perennials at a reasonable price. I went with two salvias. Hot lips which I know many people dislike as there are now better lips on the market. But it is popular with bees and nice spilling out at the edge of a border. If they had amethyst lips I would probably have gone for that, but not available. I also went with one I know nothing about Salvia greggi mirage cherry red that looks to be a good vibrant red. This looks be a nice in your face colour. Then as the irises had been one of the stand out plants I went with iris Benton deirdre. This was a Cedric Morris bred iris with white petals with maroon feathery edging. It looks to be quite dramatic. The last purchase was a cheaper one on the way home from a toilet stop-off. I got a primula vialli. This was instead of the candelabras I had seen at Harlow Carr. This will fit better amongst my existing plants though I could probably do with another pot or two. But it will gradually spread.

I hope you have enjoyed my Harlow Carr visit and I make no apologies for featuring more than six photos. There are still lots more I could show off.

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Six on Saturday: 3.10.20 astrantia fest

The rain is coming down now. We have a week ahead of rain so probably won’t get on with much gardening this week. I was going to get a few things moved and planted yesterday but I got a call from work asking if I could come in early to cover. So the garden job list is building up. This week I’ve gone a bit astrantia heavy and almost all shade-loving options.

1. Building work

The builders have almost finished. The render is on. An extra line of tiles has been added to make up for the extra insulation on the outside. Hopefully, it will be tied up soon so we can get things back in order and start to move pot plants back.

It has created a lot of dust on some of the plants where they had their builder’s rubble bag. But the rain has come down and washed it off now.

2. Astrantia major ‘Alba’

This went in the front garden a month or so ago and while it is a bit floppy with the wind and rain of the last few weeks it is establishing well. While the main focus of the shaded front garden is foliage it’s nice to have a few flowers. The whites of these really stand out for the contrast against the other plants. Perfect shade plant.

3. Astrantia major ‘Claret’

This was Alice’s purchase from our recent trip to Scampston. It’s a wonderfully rich red. The photos don’t really do it justice. Ones do light, ones too dark.

4. Astrantia major ‘Margery Fish’

Also known as ‘Shaggy’. Named ‘shaggy’ by the great plantswoman herself but known better by her own name. I bought some of these seed as an add on to another order. I’ve not had much luck with trying to save seed from astrantia so I thought I try and buy some and see if they do any better. This is a spikey white variety. It’s a little different from Alba which has green edging to the petals. These are pure white. It also goes by the name ‘Hattie’s pincushion’ which entertained me as it’s my mum’s name. Hattie, not pincushion. They seem to take a little time germinating and can need periods of cold, so ideally they need to go in the fridge if not germinating. Our fridge is too small for that though so they’ll just move inside and outside if they aren’t germinating.

5. Coniogramme emeiensis

This is a Chinese native originating from the slopes of Mount Emei.  Plant profiles suggest it is tender at H3 or H4. My suspicion is that it won’t remain evergreen but should return in spring as it would experience -10 and sometimes lower in its natural environment. I’m split between placing it in a pot close to the heat of the house or in a sheltered bordered spot. The foliage is so striking for a fern that I hope I can keep it going. I reckon it probably just hasn’t been trialled enough to rate it hardier but we will see.

6. Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’

This is another native to China along with Siberian regions of Russia, Manchuria, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. Reliably hardy and another shade lover. Brunette is a more compact form. This was another purchase from Spampston. They had it growing in the borders. The contrast between the leaves and white flowers is very attractive. I am going to clear some rather thuggish hardy geraniums so I can place with a backdrop of euonymus on one side and ferns behind so the dark leaves should stand out. The ferns are reliably evergreen so they provide constant year-round interest. It spreads by rhizomes so I’m hoping it should be able to claim a little area here.

We are heading out to Alice’s dance lessons and then to the garden centre to collect some craft materials Alice wants to make Halloween decorations and the Works bookshop is based in the garden centre. So we should be able to pick up some coloured card and other bits. Not specifically after any plants today but we’ll see what specials we get directed through and whether I can resist.

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