Six on Saturday: 10.9.22

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

Seating area

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

Burton Agnes Purchases

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

Clematis Montana Warickshire rose

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

Houseplant treats

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

Cleistocactus strausii

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

Astrantia ‘claret’

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

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

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Six on Saturday: dramatic changes

This week has been a busy week in the garden. We’ve talked about making a new seating area for a good while but haven’t we got around to it. With this being the last week of the school holiday I’ve got started before I run out of time. Half the lawn has been lifted to make the seating area. The turf has been bagged and hopefully will rot down over autumn and winter to form some good compost to use as a mulch. The back half of the garden will have the seating and the front half still has Alice’s slide. This is going to compartmentalize the areas and hopefully make them more usable for all the family and give us a spot to sit out for a cuppa.

The arch

To mark the divide, I thought an arch would help really mark the areas. It also helps change the view from the house. Looking from the kitchen the eye is drawn across the garden and down to the gate. The aim here is that the arch breaks up the sightline and draws the eyeliner through the arch. Currently from the kitchen, that gives you a view through to the Hydrangea limelight making for something more likely to draw you out into the garden. I have one spare Clematis Montana for one side of the arch but could do with another to climb the other side.

The seating area

The seating area will have weed matting put down and then we are travelling. It would be nice to have it paved or something more robust but for now, we are going with the cheaper option. Both the table and the arch were reduced at the garden centre as they are clearing ready to transform the garden furniture ready for Christmas. The table is eucalyptus wood and resin. The resin is made with recycled fisherman rope, which feels quite fitting with us being by the coast. Quite a bright choice but it’s Amy’s favourite colour and they are more comfortable than the wooden fold-out ones we had before.

Shaded area

Around the seating area is a mix of foliage plants with the Hydrangea limelight bringing the main colour. This area has more shade than the rest of the garden with the black cherry and lilac on one side. Then the other side has a holly, Ilex golden king. This is still small but after a couple of years of settling, it’s put on a good bit of growth this year. The fences are gradually getting claimed by climbing hydrangeas. So hopefully you will be surrounded by green when sat here. This area has most of Iris foetidissima plants. I am currently in the process of building up towards a National Collection so this will house them in a more attractive and unified border than it was before.

The slide

The slide has been turned around so Alice doesn’t have to slide into the border. I’ve moved some of the turf lifted to repair a few patches. I’ll probably end up seeding the lawn to as it’s had a hard year.

Underneath I have set up Alice’s fairy garden. I thought she’d use the underneath as a den area when we built it but she rarely did. It just ended up being a scruffy patch of grass underneath. We had the fairy garden in a pot previously but this is a bit more accessible. She helped set it all up and has made stories around each landmark already. The frame above provides some rain cover. A bit still gets through but not as much. It gets quite a bit of morning sun and then the frame will shade it for midday before the sun goes around and it will get some more. We’ve planted in a number from pots where they had spread well and needed dividing. It keeps all her fairy bits together and allows me to have a mini rock garden to play with.

Cool border

We are a good few years into starting the garden and some plants have outgrown their spaces and others haven’t performed as expected. I have a better knowledge of where gets more sun and more shade and where wind directs. Some of the planting combinations were working and some weren’t. So, I made the decision to do a big shift around. It’s not the ideal time to do it as it’s a bit too hot still so I am having to water it all in well. We do have a week ahead of rain though which should help. The border to the side of the slide has largely worked but there were a few colour combinations that weren’t working and a few plants receiving too much sun. The Acer has been potted up for now and the candelabra primulas have been moved to more shaded areas around the seating area. The remaining plants were largely shades of blue and purple with a number of white Aster family members. I figured I might as well make this the unifying colour scheme and make this a cool border. There is a tall Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (formally aster) that flowers in late summer. The frothy Erigeron karvinskianus provides little daisy flowers at the front of the border. Next to that is wood asters which are a slightly taller white daisy. The Echinops (globe thistles) have done well this year. They suffered with aphids early on in the year but it hasn’t stopped them flowering well. Behind and out of sight is the Eryngium (Sea holly). I have moved all the Eryngium that was dotted along the border together to see if it can make more of an impact as a group. Hopefully these will all work better together. Many of the flowers made up our wedding flowers so it should work nicely together. A lot of the planting flowers mid to late summer so I’ll maybe need to get a few bulbs into add some spring interest. But as this border is completely obscured from the house by evergreen planting I’m not too concerned if this only has summer interest as there won’t be many people looking at it any other time beyond me.

The hot border

Opposite the cool border I’ve decided we’ll have a hot border. It’s a bit tired at the moment with a lot of the plants finished flowering. The salvias are still going strong and the gladioli are coming into flower one by one. The crocosmia are bringing a little colour but it won’t really be until next year where it comes into its own. The front of the border is largely made up of different short hardy geraniums that flower late spring. Interspaced along the front are several short Iris sibericas that offer a different leaf shape to the geraniums. I’ve placed Salvia hot lips at both ends of the border as this has done well for a long period bringing in lots of bees. I could probably do with a few taller plants mid border. There are a few salvias and monarda. Lupins will come up for early spring but this border still isn’t quite right. More thought needed.

And that’s your six. The patio is getting a tidy too. I’m trying to reduce the pots to a couple of neat displays as it has got too full this year. I’ve got a number of drought-resistant plants for the full sun positions but I need to repot a few things. I think what I’ve worked on this week should make a nicer garden long-term. It’ll be a little while settling in but it should be a more unified garden and a lot of what I’ve moved should be happier in their new positions. I think it will help with the drought tolerance if summers carry on like this year. We are forecast showers for the next week so have to see how much I can get done this week. Come back to see progress next week. Check out the propagator’s blog for how to take part in six on Saturday if you fancy getting involved.

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Six on Saturday: 27.8.22

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

Gladiolus

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

Clematis

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

Salvia kisses and wishes

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

Mangave blazing saddles

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

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

Yukka gloriosa ‘citrus twist’

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

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

Opuntia humifusa

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

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

Six on Saturday: 20.8.22 freebies and more

For the first time in a while I’m going to write about my own garden. Our trip to the Cotswolds has inspired me, but there is nothing like the joy of your own garden. If you want to see the first part of our holiday to Kiftsgate Court Gardens check the blog out. I have been fortunate recently to end up with a number of free plants locally that I’m going to be writing about. Then a few successes and a failure.

Drosera

The first of the freebies was a Drosera, commonly known as sundew. This was an odd plant to see offered for free on the local Facebook group.

These are carnivorous plants and are supposedly one of the easier to look after. I wanted it for the summer room where I figure it might stop the odd pest on the cactus and succulent collection. Currently, it seems to have managed a few pollen beetles that aren’t really any major harm.

My local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique, is now selling plant rescue bags. I bought one previously (previous blog) and did pretty well out of it. The bags contain less than perfect plants that the shop can’t justify selling at full price. By selling them this way the shop avoids a loss and cuts their environmental waste and the buyer potentially gets a good plant if they can nurse it back. Botany Boutique had a bag that had been reserved and then left unclaimed. As I had bought the other she offered it to me for free while I was in buying something else. This included 2 Boston Ferns, a peace lily, Oxalis triangularis, Tradescantia and a parlour palm. I already own each of these except the Boston ferns so had a pretty good idea of what each needed. The parlour palm and peace lily just needed a few browned stems and yellowed leaves cut out and they now look presentable. I cut back the dead growth on the Tradescantia and stuck a few cuttings of one I already owned into the soil to bulk it out. The Oxalis has had a trim and a water. These can grow inside or outside so I’ve left it outside, for now, to get more sun to help it recover. Oxalis triangularis spreads by rhizomes so even if appears that all the top growth has died it’s worth waiting a while to see if new growth comes. By coincidence, I had ordered several self-watering pots to help my maidenhair fern. The maidenhair fern is bad for dropping leaves and browning. The self-watering pots have a reservoir of water at the bottom. A wick runs from the reservoir into the soil to keep the soil moist without waterlogging the plant and causing rot. I potted both of the rescue Boston ferns up in these. We’ll see if it makes any difference. They’d lost quite a lot of fronds and it may be too much of a time investment to get them looking good again. But I’m grateful for a bunch of freebies.

Acer

Now for a casualty of the heatwave. Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ has been gradually crisping but with our week away and the heat it is looking worse by the day. Our neighbours did a good job watering the garden but this has been going downhill for a few weeks. I’m going to pot it up and move it to a more shaded place. I should wait until dormancy to move it but it may be too late by then. I have a suspicion this may be past the point of saving. I have planted a tetrapanax nearby that can take over. The tetrapanax is happier with sun and should hopefully thrive there and add to the exotic feel of the garden. As it is, the Acer is one of the few plants that looks to have expired in the heatwave which in comparison with those of you down south I am getting off lightly so far. A hosepipe ban is coming into effect but not until the end of the month. I’m getting by on the water butts currently but we have had a few bursts of rain this week.

Hydrangea limelight

Now for something that is still thriving. Throughout or holiday we have seen hydrangeas looking very miserable but ours are all doing well. The best of the bunch is Hyrangea paniculata ‘limelight. Panculata seem to have a bit more drought tolerance than some of the other hydrangeas. This is in the shaded front garden where we have clay soil. It has still needed watering a good deal but it is worth the time as it makes a great centerpiece to the front garden.

Eucomis

I bought this back in 2020 from the plant bench at Wassand Hall. It has sat not really doing anything since then. I had considered composting it. This year it has rewarded me with three of the pineapple-like flower spikes. The purple edging and inner triangles is quite pretty so it can stay another year.

Japanese anemone honouring jobert

This clump has been in a few years now and is producing a better number of flowers. With any luck these will keep producing through to autumn.

While it has cooled down a lot in my area watering is still the main job to get on with. We have rain forecast for Monday but we’ll see how much actually materialises. Hope you are all coping with your gardens. We have our linen wedding anniversary to celebrate though we have nothing planned to mark the occasion.

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Kiftsgate Court Garden

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

The banks and pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellow border

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

Though no less beautiful for being orange rather than yellow.

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

And a stone which in my mind has a face.

The water garden

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

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

Luckily to the side there was a much appreciated shelter.

The rose garden

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

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

And a statue seat drawing the eye up the path.

Wild garden and orchard

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

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

The avenue

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

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

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

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

White sunk garden and four squares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Helmsley Walled Gardens

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

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

The Orchid House

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

Currently, it is housing the pelargoniums in the centre.

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

Then a few random succulents along the bench.

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

The Long Border

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

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

The bees could get enough of them.

Hidden Gardens

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

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

The annual border

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

Then some daises and poppies stood out amongst the blue.

The Orchard

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

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

The labyrinth

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

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

Chickens

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

Not the friendliest-looking birds though.

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

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

Statues

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

Insects

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

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

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

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

The Vinehouse Cafe

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

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

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

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

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Six on Saturday: 23.7.22

This week the only garden job has been watering. The heatwave hasn’t been as intense in my area of the country as others but with our sea winds and heat it has been pretty unforgiving for plants. We saw a little burst of rain yesterday but not enough to have much impact on the garden.

Monarda

I admired the monarda at Stillingfleet Lodge last year. I planted a few cheap ones a little while ago. It will take a few years before it clumps up well. It’s an odd-looking flower but the vibrancy of the red is nice and they are bee agents.

Trumpet lilies

The lilies initially suffered this year with lily beetle but I have managed to squash enough that they have made it to flower.

Lily

And another lily that has been returning for a good few years. It was part of a Sarah Raven pack and is very pretty even with the nibbled leaves.

Dwarf Cactus Dahlia

This is the first of this years seed grown Dahlia to flower. These were from Sutton seeds. It’s probably not a colour I would have picked but it’s nice and bright to match the weather.

Dahlia tamburo

This was left in its pot over winter outside and is showing no signs of having suffered for being left.

Sedums

I changed over the hanging pots on the log store. In this heat, not much is going to thrive apart from drought tolerant plants so I got two sedums as they are generally reliable. The front one is Sedum spurium tricolour and the back one is oreganum.

I am now on Summer holiday so hopefully, I’ll have more time for gardening. At least once the heat has died down. Enjoy your weekends!

Six on Saturday: 16.7.22

With the heatwave, last weekend watering has been the main job. I’ve not been looking at planting anything in the heat we experienced. I did a little deadheading but got quite a few shrubs in need of a prune now they’ve flowered. A job for the summer holiday probably.

Asiatic lily

This was part of mixed box of bulbs from Tesco’s labelled as something like hot colours. I quite like the muted red. There are a few more to come. I’ve got them growing in a pot on the patio currently.

Potentilla ‘William Rollison’

This was a purchase Alice made back in 2020. I wasn’t that keen on it at the time but it seems to be a reliable plant. Fairly drought tolerant which is useful currently and producing a reasonable spread of flowers.

Outside play

It was too hot for many gardening jobs but it was good weather for getting out for a play. We filled the paddling pool up. I reckon it probably took about as long to play as she actually spent in it but it did give a good section of lawn and border a water after. She enjoyed doing a bit of birdwatching.

Eyngium planum

With the heat, we are experiencing these drought-tolerant plants are coming into their own. Sea holly does grow naturally on coasts but it is primarily a grassland species. In the border, it grows tall towers and then lots of the flower spikes off the main stem. It formed part of our wedding flowers along with daisies and I’ve been steadily adding more since we got married. It’s beloved by insects and the flowers are seeing lots of visitors.

Dahlia

Another dahlia in flower. It’s possibly Addison June, though possibly not. It was left in the pot over winter. No lifting and nice and bushy. Plenty more flowers to come.

Hildewintera Colademononis-Monkey tail cactus

I saw a decent-sized one at Wassand Hall and I was very taken with it. They form long tails over the edge of a pot. Well suited to macrame hangers. But more importantly, they are very tactile. This is a cactus you can stroke making it a much safer option for me than some of the recent cactus purchases.

We had some light showers last night. It will help the parched lawn a bit as I refuse to water it. It will recover fine. It looks like watering is still going to be the main garden job with the predicted heatwave. Hope you all enjoy your weekends.

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Wassand Hall

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

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

Meadows

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

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

Walled garden

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

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

With the heat, an ice cream break was needed.

Hot house

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

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

Fabulous gloriosa.

Mandevilla growing from a large pot.

The carnivorous pitcher, sarracenia guards the door against insects.

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

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

Woodland Walk

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

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

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

Cactus house

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

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

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

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

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

Plant sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stumpery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a quick video tour of the progress so far.

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

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