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: 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: 2.7.22

Now the RHS exams are out of the way I’m going to look at getting back into the routine of recording the garden progress through my blog. It proves a good archive of plant purchases for when labels are gone if nothing else. It’s been a busy week at work but got a fairly relaxed weekend ahead before a week of extra shifts at work. I’ve got some fairly mundane garden jobs to catch up on after neglecting it during exam revision. But I’ll probably just end up tinkering with the cacti and succulent purchases from Wassand Hall last weekend.

Cuttings

I had kindly been sent some cuttings from Noni. I’ve set them up in the heated propagator to encourage the rooting and keep the humidity up to prevent water loss while they root. It’s a balancing act of creating the right environment but not rotting them.

She sent me cuttings of Hoya bella. This is a lovely houseplant that has beautiful flowers. I’m trying some rooting in a jar of water and then these ones in a fairly free-draining mix of compost and perlite. The other cuttings are Kalanchoes tubiflora, the mother of millions plants and Kalanchoe daigremontiana. I’ve got two cuttings that I’ve put in compost. I don’t know how reliably they root this way but I’ll give it a try.

The more common way to grow these is to remove the plantlets that form on the edges of large leaves. These are just placed on the soil surface and allowed to root.

Hydrangea libelle

Hydrangea libelle is flowering. The flowers are quite nice but the growth and shape this has formed is just not that great. The leaves have suffered with frost. It seems to form a lot of the flowers low down in the foliage so they are lost. It’s a bit too big and sprawling a plant for the space when I don’t actually like it.

The individual flower heads are very pretty but the form, how it interacts with the rest of the border and their lack of hardiness mean I’m probably going to remove it after the flowers are done.

Rose Charles de Mills

I had pruned this back last year and started to retrain it as a climber. It was a bit too big for something that only flowers once. It’s an old English Rose and flowers with an odd flat surface. It has a pleasant smell though not overwhelming.

Astrantia claret

This was a lovely dark Astrantia I bought from Scampston Hall two years ago. It has proved a good purchase. It’s been flowering for the last two months and will hopefully carry on into autumn.

Potted dahlia

This was bought last year or the year before and it was an unnamed variety when I bought it. It has been left in a pot over winter and it hasn’t suffered in any way for it.

Potted dahlia not black Jack

This was originally bought as Black Jack. It flowered last year and obviously isn’t black Jack which is a dark flowered variety. But it is a good showy red and I don’t object to it. As with the other dahlia it was left in the pot over winter outside and it is still growing strong.

Well, it’s been nice to start the log of garden activity again. Alice is determined to go to the garden centre, though she isn’t looking for plants. She is looking to buy a soft toy triceratops. I don’t particularly need anything but never know what you’ll discover.

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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.

Six on Saturday: 18.9.21

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

  1. Geranium oxonianum lace time

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

2. Lupin

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

3. Heuchera planter

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

4 Primula germination

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

5. Dragonfly close up

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

6. Dahlia tamburo

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

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

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Six on Saturday: 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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