Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Last Friday I made it to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. I had seen them on Twitter for a while but hadn’t really connected that it was fairly close to me. But, while sourcing a plant I realised they were close enough for a visit at just over an hour away. The garden is an absolute treat with the nursery having a focus on perennials. I arrived for opening at 1 and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to do a loop of the gardens while it was still quiet and see more of the wildlife. It was a bit of a grey day so there wasn’t as much about as there would have been on a sunnier day but still plenty to enjoy.

The cafe courtyard

The cafe courtyard was lovely and peaceful when I entered. Quite a shaded spot with a nice mix of foliage plants around the edges.

The steps were lovely with the pots and plants spilling out the brickwork. I didn’t note what it was at the time but looks like creeping toadflax.

A pair of doves were going in and out of a window at the top of the cafe.

I was happy to see a pot of podophyllum after seeing it in a recent lecture from Phillip Oostenbrink.

Bird feeders

There were two paths out from the courtyard and I chose the one less travelled as the view looked inviting. More people were heading out the other way. This took me to the bird feeders.

There was a nice mix of birds visiting. Several types of tits and robins.

Though the arrival of the slinky cat put them off.

From the feeders, I found some deep pink dahlias.

And anemones.

The rill garden

I think I’ve missed the peak of the rill garden flowers. It looked like Nigella, love-in-a-mist had gone over in many of the planters. But the water tinkling through is always a pleasant sound.

On a sunnier day, I imagine this catches the light beautifully.

The pond

The pond had some nice tall planting surrounding it with a few views in.

A waterlily set to unfurl.

The meadow area

From the pond, I headed around the woodland meadow area. This is made up of many hardy geraniums with other plants mixed in. A nice mix of spreading plants. They had a few hives hidden away. I didn’t notice any honey for sale sadly as I do like a souvenir pot of honey.

There was a good number of small and large white butterflies about and the odd peacock. As I said, it was quite a grey day so not as much moving in the meadow as there would be a sunnier day.

Wonderful peeling bark.

I rather like the tansy flowers in the meadow, Tanacetum vulgare. Lovely little yellow balls. I was tempted by a pot in the nursery but I don’t think it would gel with my other plants.

The long border

From the house, there is a long border with clipped bushes along the middle. I realise looking back at my photos I didn’t take a decent long shot. I possibly didn’t want to annoy visitors photographing them or getting them to move. These borders were spectacular filled with lots of perennials. It’s always good to visit other gardens as this when you see plant combinations that work well. Stillingfleet had lots of effective combinations. Some are plants unsuited to my soil and conditions but still lovely to see.

I seem to have seen Monarda a lot this year. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I’ve noticed it or that more people are using it. There was a stand on the BBC coverage of RHS Tatton Park talking about them. It is a lovely vibrant plant and loved by bees. In the mint family with quite a pleasant smell to my mind.

The wasps were loving the echinops. They are very rich in nectar so I don’t know if that’s the draw. I only have one of the smaller varieties but I could be tempted with some of the taller types.

There was plenty of dahlias dotted around.

And plenty more visual treats.

On the way around the house, I spotted a little trough of pitcher plants, Sarracenia. This is a carnivorous bog plant. It’s usually grown as a house plant or in greenhouses, but it can be grown outside as its native range is across North America. I meant to ask someone what soil they were growing it in and what drainage they’d given it but I forgot by the time I got around to any of the staff.

Wire sculptures

Dotted around the garden there were sculptures by Chris Moss. I saw lots of visitors eyeing them up. The robin on a spade seemed to be very popular. I saw lots of people checking the price while I had a cup of tea in the cafe courtyard.

The stock gardens

I actually really enjoyed looking in the stock gardens. A lot of gardens hide them away or keep them private but it’s nice seeing the plants growing in masses and the many different varieties. The entrance was covered in honeysuckle giving you a nice waft of scent to put you in a spending mood.

The agapanthus was the standout plant. They seem to be having a good year from many peoples accounts. I was very tempted to add a few more when I got to the nursery sales but I resisted. I spoke about mine in yesterday’s six on Saturday.

Twister was one of the finest available in my opinion. The two colours are very attractive.

Though there was some dark beauties set to unfurl.

There was a good section of borage in the stock area. This is such a good plant for bees as it refills its nectaries within two minutes. Anyone keeping honeybees should have it around to avoid honey bees depleting flowers from native wild bees. The flower is also edible. It looks particularly pretty in ice cubes.

The robins were serenading visitors around all areas of the garden but they were posing for photos in this area.

A peacock enjoying the buddleia.

The inevitable plant purchases

Obviously I wasn’t going to come away with no purchases. The range of plants they stock is amazing. Download the catalogue and feel envious. The main focus is perennials with an amazing collection of hardy geraniums and pulmonarias. It was a pleasure to see such choice when I’ve become accustomed to garden centres stocking smaller and smaller ranges. During my last outing to the local garden centre I asked for directions for an astrantia and hardy geraniums and it was clear none of the staff had any knowledge of plants. They openly admitted they didn’t know what these were. It strikes me as strange that you can work in a garden centre without knowing what you are putting on the tables. The equvialant would be a supermarket shelf stacker who didn’t know where to direct you for baked beans. But that’s all the garden centres are now is supermarkets for plants. The plant space is getting cut down in my closest to make room for more scented candles, bath bombs and other gifts. They are places for people to go for a day out and have a slice of cake. The plants are becoming an inconvinient nuisance that need looking after. So, now I’ve put my plant shopping experiences in context you can see why Stillingfleet was such a joy.

I had specifically gone to obtain Iris foetidissima lutescens. They are the only stockist of the plant in the whole country. It is much like any other Iris foetidissima. It has the strap like evergreen leaves but has an all yellow flower, a little bigger maybe than the normal variety. It’s reckoned to be slightly more tender than the normal version but being a pretty bomb proof plant to start with I’m feeling fairly confident it will be alright. I’ve now ended up with six of the nine varieties of Iris foetidissima that the RHS lists. I’ve still got my eye on trying to get hold of the variegated one next year. It might seem like an odd plant to decide to collect varieties of as it is far from the prettiest iris around. The main interest comes from the berries in winter. But it is one of only two native irises to the UK and I feel it’s worth preserving. I’ve recently joined plant heritage who work conserving rare plants in cultivation. With more and more nurseries closing it seems important to try and keep these more unusual plants in circulation. Like I said, the garden centres are offering less and less choice so supporting nurseries that offer more is important. For the long term we need a great variety of plants to survive whatever may happen with our climate.

I also picked up two varieties of sea holly ready for our anniversary. They formed part of our wedding flowers, but they are also wonderful plants for wildlife on top of that. Eryngium bourgatii picos amethyst looks to be a darker more vibrant blue than my existing ones.

And Eryngium giganteum ‘silver ghost’. This is described as growing as a biennial by most sources but should hopefully self seed. It’s a tall white sea holly offering great spikey architectural flowers.

And the final purchase for me, a Persicaria ‘purple fantasy’. I’ve cavorted a persicaria and this had such stunning foliage. I’ve put in a pot for now while I decide where it will go. They have a reputation for spreading rapidly beyond where they are wanted but I believe this is meant to be quite a well behaved one. I could have come away with a lot more, but I wanted an anniversary the next day, not a divorce. Got my eye on the pulmonaria list for future visits.

I really enjoyed my trip to Stillingfleet. The gardens are very much to my taste with lots of informality. Lots of the plants are spreading and sprawling out of gaps in paving and into each other. But it’s absolutely lovely. There are a lot of Capability Brown landscape gardens around me on far grander scales, but these largely leave me cold. I like plants, and ideally plants rammed in thickly. The intimacy of this little garden was fantastic. The plant range immense, a plantsperson’s dream. Well worth a visit.

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Six on Saturday: 21.8.21

I’ve had a good week of gardening. It’s been quite wet but I’ve still got on with a good few jobs. I’ve planted out quite a lot in the Forest School at work. It’s looking alright, but give it a few years and it should fill out well. I’m not sure how well each plant will do as it is pretty heavy shade. But I’ve got most of the plants cheap so it’s no great drama if there is some loss. I had a pleasant trip to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens yesterday which I’m sure I’ll write about another day. Today is my third wedding anniversary. Amy almost forgot but my sister reminded her. We’re not doing anything special but it was a nice excuse to add some more sea hollies to the garden.

Facebook bargains

I’ve done well out of Facebook this week. I picked up a water butt and coldframe cheap for work. The waterbutt has been put in forest school. I just need to pick up a connector kit. I’m not sure whether the coldframe is going to work or at home. I might use if for winter to home the primulas and foxgloves and then move it to work. The wormery was free, including worms. These are great. They produce a small amount of high quality compost. But, more importantly the worm wee makes a great liquid fertiliser. It slowly drips out and then you dilute it in a watering can.

Stargazer lilies

These have grown to nice big blocks. A few have been nibbled by the dreaded beetles but enough have made it to flower. They work well with the hydrangea limelight behind. I took the advice a few years ago to grow them in shade to reduce the number of beetles and it does seem to work.

I know a lot of people don’t like them but I do. They are quite exotic in nature and bring something to the garden late summer before the gladioli and aster gets going.

And the hoverflies particularly like them.

Farfugium japonicum ‘wavy gravy’

After a lecture through Lou Nichols patreon gardening club by Phillip Oostenbrink on tropical gardening I saw this plant and wanted it. In the lecture he mentioned the spotty version. But I saw the wavy foliage at the garden centre. The local garden centre is stocking less and less in the way of variety of plants so I was surprised to see it. Accounts differ on hardiness so we’ll see how it does. It’s gone in the foliage mix of the front garden.

Butterflies

When it’s not been raining it has actually been quite pleasant and I’ve seen a few more butterflies out. There have been lots of whites a few peacocks and a good few small tortoiseshells about.

Plant bargains

I’ve been keeping my eye out for some more grpund cover plants for work, so stopped in at the road outside Wassand Hall. On the road up to the hall is a cottage with a plant stall outside. They usually have a mix of hardy geraniums and a few other bits but they had a good selection out this week. I picked up three candalabra primulas, a lovely coloured heuchera and a vibrant pink flowered salvia wishes and kisses. The salvia will need cuttings taking to get it through winter, but it was cheap enough to be worth taking a chance on. The primulas were one of the standout plants at Harlow Carr and I fancy a few clumps of these. They should then self seed and spread gradually.

Agapanthus

Agapanthus formed a key part of our wedding flowers and these were planted following the wedding. It’s taken three years for them to bulk out to a decent flowering point but they are looking great. I had planted a mix of blue and white but there is still no sign of the white. I don’t know whether they’ve died off or if it is the fault of Thompson & Morgan but too late to complain.

I’ve also added a new variety to mark our anniversary, Silver Moon. It is a varieagated variety. So even if takes several years to flower at least the foliage is bringing something to the garden.

I hope you all have nice weekends. I’ve got a good few plant purchases to find spaces for and a few more seeds I want to get started this weekend.

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Six on Saturday: Furzey Gardens

While down in Dorset we visited Furzey gardens. This is a lovely little garden nestled within the New Forest. It is an RHS partners garden so I probably could have got free entry but didn’t mind paying to support. The garden is a social enterprise providing work experience and training for people with learning disabilities. There is a cafe within the gardens. Currently, it was offering drinks and a few light bites. I don’t know if it is any different when Covid restrictions are fully over.

  1. The Cottage Garden

When you first enter the garden you are met with the cottage. This is surrounded by informal cottage garden style borders. Lots of herbaceous perennials. They do have a cottage you can let for occasions. I’m not sure if this one is available to let or if there is another one on site.

It rained on and off lightly while we were there so the bees were in and out during our visit. But, this border was very active.

These borders were stunning, filled with colour. Amy spent ages taking close up photos of many flowers. If I used her photos we would be getting on for 66 on a Saturday, probably more.

2. Woodland borders

As you’d expect from a garden in the New Forest much of the garden is wooded. There are a lot of camellias and rhododendrons, but these weren’t offering any colour at this time of year. There are little hidden paths and structures with viewing points over the area hidden away.

Hidden within the garden are 40 fairy doors. I think we found maybe 20. Alice enjoyed looking so kept her busy.

The woodland contains lots of ferns and some interesting foliage plants.

And a good few hydrangea happy in the shade.

3. The play area

The play area is made up of a large scale fairy village. Lots of huts and tunnels and walls to climb around.

Alice was a bit unsure of the ladders but once she’d been up a few times she loved it.

She had a good play before falling off the swing which put an end to her fun. But she recovered after a snack.

4. The meadow

Surrounding the play area there is an area of meadow with paths cut through.

This area was very species-rich with many hoverflies, bees, butterflies and beetles visible. Here we have a soldier beetle.

In this photo there is a small copper with the wings open and a gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers have been the most numerous butterfly we saw in Dorset.

5. The pond

On the walk down to the pond, there was bursts of rain. But, by the time we got down there it was stupendously hot. You can see how much the sun is shining off the water. I took a lot of overexposed photos along this section.

Grey wagtails were hopping back and forth on the lilypads.

Around the side, massive gunneras dominated an area. Alice refused to stand next to them for comparison.

And there were a few different butterflies. A brimstone.

And a speckled wood.

6. Birds

There was lots of birds around the garden. Many of the smaller ones were quite tame. The robins came onto the picnic tables while we had our lunch.They were very accommodating for photos.

I thoroughly enjoyed this garden. From the description we thought it would be a little drop off and then head into Lyndhurst but we spent a good few hours there. Alice loved the fairy trail and playpark. Amy was happy taking photos and I was happy enjoying the wildlife and plants. The plant sales were very reasonable priced and by souther standards were probably excellent. From little £2 pots of easy self seeders to some decent shrubs. If we lived closer I’d be using it regularly, but I wasn’t going to to fit anything in the car for the journey back. But I did get some primula seeds so I can hopefully grow a memento of the garden. I am working on my next plant profiles for my current RHS assignment so I’ll probably research these one. Hope you all enjoy your weekends, we have a busy one ahead but then I have two days with Alice booked in for ballet school, so have a bit of time to ourselves.

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Six on Saturday: 7.8.21

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

  1. Digitalis lutea

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

2. Lythrum salicaria ‘Robin’

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

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

3. Calendula ‘snow princess’

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

4. Iris foetidissma ‘Paul’s Gold’

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

5. Hydrangea paniculata ‘little lime’

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

And a close up of a cone.

6. Dahlia, possibly Addison June

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

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

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Six on Saturday: 31.7.21 the wilderness

I have at times made reference to the wild area or the wilderness. This is a much grander title than the reality of this area. It is the path that leads behind the gardens on our street where our neighbours store their bins. It is covered in ivy from the houses behind, nettles, docks and creeping buttercups. Brambles crawl through, although they don’t get to flower much as I have to cut them back to keep a path for the wheelbarrow and neighbours for their bikes. It has a whole host of caterpillar plants with ivy and nettles being good for many moths and butterflies. So, on the whole I don’t tidy it much beyond keeping a functional path. But last year bind weed crept in so I made an effort to clear it as the odd seedling was coming into my garden. I’ve seen a few tufts of it back this year but I think I’m keeping on top of it so it doesn’t flower and set more seed. Having cleared part of it I looked to make the soil less fertile and suitable for certain wildflowers.

  1. The area

The neighbours keep their bins back here whereas I’m too lazy to wheel them round each time so they sit as an eye sore in the front garden. Beyond the bins is a good nettle patch which is harvested periodically for nettle fertiliser and left most of the time for wildlife. The other side was cleared of bindweed and currently is where I throw any pollinator friendly seed packs that come from charities, magazines, etc. Beyond is a wall of ivy across 4 gardens.

2. Poppies

The area has been filled with poppies of various types and colours. This pale pink has been the most numerous. It seems to be favoured by the hoverflies rather than the poppies within my garden which are swarming with bees.

3. Mallow

There are a few dark coloured mallows. I rather like this one. I wouldn’t be upset to have this in the main garden.

4. Cornflowers

Within the garden I’ve got a few different colours but in the wild patch it is just the blue. But it is a brilliant blue.

The bees are enjoying them and the birds will when they go to seed.

5. Teasel

I grew teasel in my garden a few years ago. I’ve not allowed it to return as it is took up a lot space. But it is very good for insects and then the seeds for birds. So I’m glad some of it escaped to the back path where it can grow out of my way.

6. Another poppy

This variety hasn’t been as numerous as the pink but it does stand out.

It’s a messy path but it is doing a lot of good for the biodiversity of the area. I need to cut the ivy back a bit further before the fence collapses. It isn’t really my job to do but if I didn’t we’d lose access to the garden this way. I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks detour out of the garden. The end of this week has been made up of thunderstorms. A few things are flattened but it’ll bounce back. I hope your gardens are all holding up well and the flooding around the country hasn’t affected any of you too badly.

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Six on Saturday: 24.7.21

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

Discount climbers

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

Geranium rozanne

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

Love in a mist

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

Echinops ritro

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

Eryngium planum

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

Small tortoiseshell

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

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

Six on Saturday: 3.7.21

So we move onto a new month and I can see a shift into summer now. More of the summer flowers are coming into flower now I’ve cleared the spring forget-me-nots. The roses are hitting their peaks. The foxgloves are towering high. Lots to enjoy. Having got another round of RHS exams out the way I’ve had lots of enthusiasm for getting out in the garden and I’ve got on with a good bit of maintenance work this week.

Charles DeMills

This is an old rose I planted a few years ago as I wanted the added disease resistance that comes with many old roses. They don’t generally repeat flower but they put on a single decent show and are usually strongly scented. It has however failed to flower all that well previous years as it has suffered from rose balling. The petals have got wet from rain and then they fail to open. This year it is up to a size where it has managed a decent display of flowers. They apparently smell wonderful but I haven’t got my smell back fully since Covid. They open up to form a flat flower head and it opens up to a more ruffled afair. Then it starts to disentegrate and needs dead heading.

While I have managed to achieve more flowers from it, it is still a fairly shapeless shrub with little to recommend it the rest of the year. It may not stay. As I go on in gardening the more I agree with Christopher Lloyd that rose worship should be abandoned to treat them like any other shrub. The odd one is nice but not in every garden.

Cornflowers

I bought a cheap little pollinator planter from Tesco’s. So far it has mainly been a pretty mix of different coloured cornflowers. I haven’t actually seen any pollinators on them. But they’ve got a lot of other choices in the garden to pick from.

They may still prove useful for the birds though. Previous years the goldfinches have enjoyed the seeds. The blue ones are probably the standout colours. The pinks are pretty enough but a bit washed out for my taste.

Allium christophii

These are a reliable favourite allium. They have large rounded heads. Also known as star of Persia. You can see form the structure why. The bees love them and so do I. Never enough alliums.

Allium forelock

I think these were forelock which I planted last autumn. These are a new addition to the garden. They have however grown to about 2m. They are taller than me which places them twice the height on the pack. But I don’t have anything else that quite looks like this so I think they must be forelock. They open to form the round ball leaving the white tufts sticking upwards.

Allium nigrum

These are a favourite allium of mine. I like the white heads. They form a half dome and work best in combination with other plants. The contrast making the other plants shine out.

Petunia-constelation

We went to a table top slae last week. There were plant sales outside. I didn’t purchase any but Alice wanted this one. I don’t really bother with this sort of annual plant but Alice wanted it and it’s pretty enough. It has gone in a hanging pot on the log store.

I grew these last year while I was working as a grower at the garden centre. They are a popular choice. The speckles are interesting and they stand out well.

We’ve got a fairly quiet weekend ahead so hopefully have a good bit of time to get on with catching up on garden jobs. I’m also enjoying a bit of garden reading. I’m dipping in and out of “the flower yard” by Arthur Parkinson. He gardens in pots. It’s had a few useful tips but it’s not really my way of gardening. I like a spread of flowers through the year to have maximum impact for wildlife whereas Arthus gets a wow factor for spring and summer. The sort of gardening of emptying pots, annuals is heavy on environmental impact with a lot fo compost getting used as well as using annuals and bulbs that have to be replaced fairly regularly. But the pot combinations he comes up with are very pleasing. An instagram gardener. Apart from anything I’ve shifted more out of the pots to save the time watering as the pots require that extra time watering more regularly than plants in my clay soil. Anyway, hope you enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 36.6.21 RHS Harlow Carr

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

Wildlife

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

A small tortoiseshell in the scent garden.

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

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

Squirells were hovering up food all other the place.

Irises

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

Iris robusta gerald darby

Iris chysographes. A stunning dark beauty.

The alpine house

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

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

And an orchid.

Meadows

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

One of our native orchids.

The stream

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

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

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

The inevitable purchases

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

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

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Six on Saturday: 14.11.20-Wooden tools

We have had a busy week. Alice’s year group is closed now as a child in her class tested positive for Covid so she has 2 weeks at home. So, Amy and I are splitting our work time to home school while returning to work to school-school. Alice was initially upset to be off and then she realised this means she’s getting lots of time with us doing lessons again.

So onwards with this weeks six. I thought this week I would have a look at a few wooden tools for the garden. A new shop opened in town two days before lockdown. So, sadly it has had to close. It is stocking lots of wooden sculptures and gifts, but it also has many garden tools at cheap prices.

1. Dibber

We have quite a bit of bulb planting to go and Alice has got the hang of using my dibber so we can have 2 so she can have her own. We have a mass of Iris reticulata to pot up so that will speed the job up.

2. Trug basket

I thought this might be useful to carry some of the tools out and keep track of where they are. I might stain it before I use it just to hide the muck a bit.

3. Cane topper

I’ve got this cane topper ready for next year to erect for the sweet peas. I’ll need to get some canes to slot in the holes. Ideally, I’d like to make it a little taller than what I used this year. But this year was making do with what was around with lockdown. I might ask if they can make some smaller single cane toppers as be nice to have some instead of the less attractive rubber ones. Though they may be practical they aren’t the nicest.

4. Yew pot tamper

This tamper is used for pressing the compost down and smoothing it off in pots and seed trays. It was supposedly made from a yew grown by the great plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll. I like to think some of her talents rub off on the plants started using it.

5. Yellow rose

The yellow rose has managed its second flush of flowers. Very late on but much appreciated. Some years it has managed a third flowering but I don’t think I’ve fed and mulched it as much this year.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

I think this was a basal cutting I took from Dahlia tamburo earlier this year. Either that or Black Jack. The dahlias are still going. The dahlia flowers are lasting well currently as we’ve had dull dry days. The wet days bring the petals off and the warm sunny days lead to the fading. I’ve still got quite a lot of dahlias looking good. But I could do with them being frosted now so I can lift the ones coming out and put blubs in. A lot will be getting left in the ground and getting a mulch but the potted ones come out.

We might be on lockdown but we still have Alice’s dance lesson coming virtually through zoom so I will be busy for part of the morning. Then Alice is asking for a home-school lesson. She doesn’t have a concept of the weekend giving me a day off. Hopefully might manage a few jobs in the garden over the week if I can persuade Alice that they are part of her home-schooling. Enjoy your weeks.

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The beauty of life on one tree

Today I came across the news story of spikes being placed on a tree in Oxford. I figured straight away that this was probably done to stop bird poo on cars and after watching it saw I was right. This follows on from the story of Norfolk cliffs and hedges being covered in nets. While the bird poo is a pain, my car gets covered in seagull poo, it seems bizarre to cover the trees natural beauty and prevent wildlife using its natural resource.

Walking through the park today I stopped to admire the life on one tree. The weather was warm today but this tree was literally humming with activity. Blackbirds and sparrow were flying in and out the up story and a few butterflies were hovering around but too high up for photos.

The bees and hoverflies were swarming all over. I couldn’t track the numbers out today.

The ladybirds were out in force.

The understory providing space for more plants to grow.

The shade providing flowers with the conditions they need.

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy this beauty? The amount of life supported on one tree is amazing. Why would we think we can improve on nature? I’ll leave you with a quote from someone smarter than me.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

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