Six on Saturday: 15.5.21 bee week

This week with Alice we’ve been looking at bees with a bee themed play tray. So I thought for this week I’d take a look at some of our measures to help the bees. Educating Alice about the world around her feels like the best way to encourage her to grow up to care and respect all that we find in our world.

The play tray consisted of a tinker set from tots of fun. Then the large bee peg dolls I painted. The bee hive was a special purchase having sold off a few magic tricks I made a while back. She’s come up with some lovely stories over the week with it and enjoyed the open ended play taking it in different directions each day.

We got some wildflower seed with the tots of fun set and some bee bombs from Rowse honey. Alice helped plant them in her bee pot now her tulips have gone over. Didn’t really look at exactly what was in the mix but hopefully something will come up.

For my birthday I spent part of my birthday money on a Mason Bee tube. Mason bees are one of our more common solitary bees that are easy to help. These tubes are great. I wanted one that was easy to replace tubes as they are used and a set up easy to clean. Many marketed bee hotels are too short with tubes too wide or too narrow. Sometimes plastic encouraging damp. Basically most sold at garden centres to people with good intentions are rubbish encouraging disease and parasites. So I decided I just want one decent one rather than several that potentially harm the bees. They benefit from some maintenance each year which you can find on the mason bee website.

I also bought the new Dave Goulson book gardening for bumble bees. The garden jungle covered this subject briefly but good to know more. Dave’s books are easy to read but filled with research based facts. I like his focus on positive steps people can do to help wildlife. Looking forward to reading this one.

Within the garden we grew lots for wildlife. As a general rule less cultivated single flowers are better for pollinators. I provide a variety of open flowers and tubular flowers as different insects favour different flowers. This geranium phaeum has been very popular with the smaller garden bumble bees the last few weeks. It flowers well. Then I prune it back to the ground and usually manage 3 sometimes 4 bursts of flowers over a year.

The forget-me-nots are out in abundance currently. I let them spread all over the border. These are favoured by the honey bees. Here photographed by my wife. These self seed all over and then over plants come up through. Many of the alliums are coming through which are also great for bees. The single dahlias are very popular with both bees and butterflies. Planning for different flowers through the year keeps an interesting variety of visitors coming into the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at bees. It’s Alice’s birthday tomorrow. She’ll be 5 years old and very excited. So lots to get on with. Enjoy your weekends.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 8.5.21

It’s been a week of extremes. The very dry weather replaced by wet weather and then hailstones yesterday. This hasn’t left much time for gardening though as you’ll see I have been busy constructing in the garden.

  1. Plant sales

A few weeks back there was a cheap tabletop sale outside the Floral Hall. They had some good value plants so picked up a few gap fillers. A few cosmos can be used for any empty spaces. There is a tray of red salvias. I’ve not tried salvias before but these should be good bee magnets. Then a trailing pink and white Fuschia for the hanging pot.

2. Great tit

We made it to my parents last week and I love this picture I got of a tit desperate for some nest material.

3. Slide

Next week on Sunday is Alice’s birthday and it is time for her to have an upgrade on a slide. She’s outgrown the little dinosaur one. So, in preparation, a new climbing frame has been built. She got a brief burst of time on it last Sunday and since then it has been wet on an evening. She’s been so desperate to go on it again we had to put waterproofs on and go out in the cold and wet. And so this begins a decade of this dominating the garden.

4. Features

She had great fun on it though and should be good for burning off some energy and her imagination. It has space underneath for a den and the steering wheel on the top. It immediately became a pirate ship.

5. Juniperus squamata ‘blue star’ sense

I talked last week about wanting to change part of the border to vary the shape, color and texture of the plants. Currently, it is lots of similar dark-leaved plants. This may replace the hebe as a ground cover plant. The silver foliage should look nice against the darker Sambucus nigra. The label states it’s a good winter shelter for birds. Junipers do form berries many finches like but as this is a dwarf form I don’t think it will form the berries.

6. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Sungold’

Another conifer for the same stretch of border. This one forms a dome of yellow foliage offering some year-round color. Some yellow conifers burn in sun but this one is supposed to be fine. It is, like the juniper, listed as good cover for birds in winter so hopefully attract in a bit of winter wildlife.

It is far too wet though today for me to get on with any of the garden jobs. I’ve just about got the bare lawn patches going again so I want to avoid stepping on it while it is sodden. I might get a few plant profiles done for my RHS course. Hope you enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 1.5.21

So covered a few extra sessions at work again this week so not really done much in the garden the last week. But did manage a bit of weeding. Last weekend I gave the garden a good watering as it was in need of it. Rain was forecast but it din’t come till the end of the week in any great quantity.

  1. Rain

After a month or so of drought we fnally got a heavy downpour overnight. It’ll do the garden a lot of good as the ground had been dry as a bone. It should help refill the water butts again as they’d been drained.

2. Pop up tent

During the week though it had been nice enough to have the pop up tent and tunnel out to play in the garden. Now Alice wants to play out again it gives me a bit more time to enjoy the garden.

3. Long border

I don’t post pictures of the full borders very often but they are looking pretty good right now. The long border is mainly a sea of forget-me-nots with bulbs coming through. The climbing rose on the fence is getting to a decent point and should provide a good display this year.

Looking back the other way the hydrangea suffered as I mentioned last week. Drought and frost has left it damaged but I think it should still flower well enough. This Acer is growing strong with the bleeding heart underneath it. The climbing rose is visible again. Right in the corner before the patio the cotoneaster is coming up. The idea being to have a berry source close to the house to attract the birds close to the windows. Then a honeysuckle is growing along the patio seating area to provide scent.

4. Shade corner

The shaded corner is coming back to life. The shed is need of a few boards replaced at some point but the roof is still keeping the rain out so that’s the main thing. The large ferns that dominate the back area had their trim and are just returning to life but by and large it’s looking pretty lush. The lilac is coming back to life. The black cherry has kept a reasonable form. The hydrangea limelight behind the bird feeder is gradually growing in size. The climbing hydrangea along the fence isn’t visible but provides a good bit of cover for the birds.

5. Unsatisfactory border

This border is the part I like the least. I’ve already discussed the camellia previously. It’s for the chop. Not hardy enough and I’m not keen on the blooms anyway. The hebe at the edge isn’t hardy enough, spends much of the year recovering. It does flower well and the bees do like it but I think the space could be better employed. The rose in the middle is Charles DeMills. It did reasonably well last year. Part of the issue is none of these three compliment each other so it needs some reworking.

6. A little further along

Whereas just a little further along the plants work better together. The Sambucus nigra provides a dark centerpiece with vibrant contrasting pink flowers later in the year. The Acer spring green has a long dead stem but the section that is alive is doing well. The geranium phaeum underneath the sambucus provides a reliable ground cover plant which the bees love. Behind te Acer is a larger Dryopteris fern which is just poking fronds up again There is another climbing hydrangea going up the fence here but it is still tiny. It’s a varieagated one that should contrast well. This section of border just works better than further along as it has a variety of colours, shape, form and texture. Though it is a bit straggly now it will look good later in spring.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a bit more of the borders than I normally post. We’ve had exciting news at work with some funding for a number of gardening projects. Potentially a sensory garden I can lead on. So need to get reading up on suitable plant options. Hope you all get to enjoy your long weekend.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 24.4.21

Hello all. The last week has been a harsh one for the garden with cold nights and dry days so the plants are taking a double whammie of drought and frost. So, the job of watering begins again.

1. Drought

The plants have largely held up alright but the hydrangeas have suffered from the dry weather and cold lights. I have watered them more this week but the Hydrangea libelle has suffered most. This one seems to be a little less hardy than the others suffering more than the others each year.

2. Tulip Tres Chic

We were bought these as a wedding gift and so far they have been coming back, though I haven’t seen many yet this year but I think there is another patch of them somewhere so they may turn up still.

3. Mixed tulips

Alice selected some mixed tulips for pots last autumn. As individual tulips they are nice colours but they haven’t worked well in pots as suggested as the height and timing of each has varied too much. They can be shifted into the border once they’ve finished this year where I think they will work better. The yellow and red has been the nicest of the mix.

4. Sambucus racemosa sutherland gold

The Sambucus leaves unfurling are stunning. The leaves initially display the dark centre before turning to a vibrant golden green. It’s drought-tolerant, wind tolerant and can handle being hard pruned. The flowers are popular with pollinators. It’s a winner for me by the coast.

5. Iris unguicularis Walter Butt

This has decided to put out another flower. While you only get a few at a time it is nice having something that flowers from December through to April. That little flower burst in winter was much appreciated but even now when the spring flowers are in full swing it is still worth pausing for.

6. Lamprocapnos spectabilis

I have lots of the standard pink bleeding heart spread along the border now. It seems to grow well in my ground and flowers for good periods. It was enjoyed by the bees a lot last year when we were on full lockdown and I could sit and watch. This particular patch is getting to a good size again. I’ll probably leave it another year and then divide it again.

They are beautful flowers. With the weird shape it’s always a bit of surprise to see bees enjoying them, but they are popular.

Lots to enjoy this week. The lawn is mown. But looking very dry. We have rain forecast later next week so hopefully get the water butts refilled but for now I’m going to need to give things a bit of help. Hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the slight relaxation of freedoms.

Six on Saturday: 17.4.21

So last weekend we went out to the garden centre for the first time in months. I wanted some manure to mulch the roses with. It was pretty quiet now people have a few more options opening up to them.

Manure

So in at number 1, what we actually went for. One bag of manure has been spread around the base of my couple of roses. The main Charles DeMills has had a good thick mulch. Help with water retention as well as the bit of feed it gives.

Bulb purchases

I let Alice make choices with the bulbs each year and she went for this Dahlia Addison June. I’m not a fan of ball dahlias as they offer less to wildlife but I like to keep Alice involved in the garden so it was her choice. I picked an Astrantia. Primadonna is a pale pink one. So far my astrantias seem to have done well and I like a plant that flowers for a good period.

Outdoor rug

We got an outdoor rug to go with the seating area. The patio is concrete and it’s not the most attractive looking set up so this at least covers it up.

Camellia

The camellia is looking pretty poor. It’s had a few years to settle and I still don’t like it, so it is going to be going. It was a gift but it’s not to my taste. The space can be used better.

Here you can see one flower looks lovely while one looks horrible. Frost damaged and curling. The majority look the worse for wear. It’s not worth keeping and I can place something in with a longer season of interest that can benefit me and the sildlife for a longer period.

Acer ‘going green’

This is another failing plant. One long branch of this is looking dead. I’m not going to abandon this quite yet. However, it is going to be significantly reduced in height cutting this branch off. I know I shouldn’t bother with Acers as they don’t suit my conditions but they are one I like to persist a bit longer with.

Tesco’s tulips

These were cheap Tesco tulips 3 or 4 years ago. They were some of the first I planted and have come back nicely each year. They had an odd name like aelectric and I’ve not seen them since.

Been a busy week at work. I’ve taken on more hours and I’ve covered a few extra hours on top of that so glad of a rest. Though it has been a nice week back. Hope you’re all keeping well and have got to enjoy some of the sun this week.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 10.4.21

It’s been a funny old week. We had a glorious weekend last week followed by a week of cold weather. I have got a few jobs done during my school holiday though not as much as I’d like. But, I have completed my next RHS assignment on design. Not feeling great about this one as I think I may have misinterpreted the questions. We’ll see when I get feedback.

Fun in the sun

So last weekend was Easter Sunday so we had our Easter egg hunt. Normally we would see see family but it’s not a possibility this year. Alice still had a good hunt. The Easter Bunny may have gone overboard on the eggs, so I didn’t put them all out and she still had a very full basket by the end.

Taking stock of her hunt.

Sun lounger

Amy bought herself a new sun lounger which was immediately claimed by Alice. You can see the difference in the weather to now. Dress, no sleeves, no hat, no multiple layers.

Dancing

Alice relocated a ribbon stick she made last year and had a good dance around the garden.

Random seeds

I gave Alice some of the seeds from the draw that can be direct sown to scatter. This fills gaps in the border and gave me some interesting surprises last year. The blackball cornflowers were quite pretty last year so hopefully they’ll do well again.

Ballerina tulips

The tulips are going strong now. I think these are ballerina tulips though the photo makes them look redder than they really are. There are patches of these coming along the border. It seems to have come back strongly.

Snow

And from glorious sun to snow. It came down pretty quickly for a period on Tuesday, though it didn’t settle. The wind was pretty strong and the garden is all looking very dry now. We haven’t had any of the forecast rain this week and the garden could probably do with a good shower. There is some forecast but I think I’m going to need to start watering the front again. I’ve been watering some of the more tender plants as it helps protect them from the frost a bit. When the leaves have a fine layer of water it provides a bit of insulation and slows the thawing a bit. Don’t know how much truth there is in this but can’t see it’ll do much harm.

Hope your week has been good. I return to work next week and I’m taking on a few more hours. So, a little less garden time but a bit more time to make use of the nursery polytunnel.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 3.4.21

The weather has been nice for the first week of the holiday though meant to be chiller next week. I have had to use the new blog editor so I have no idea what will show. You may just have to imagine six beautiful photos as I have no idea if it will work.

  1. Ladybird Loveliness I have been happy to see several ladybird in the garden. We had a lot of aphids last year with the veg patch so an army of ladybirds would be useful.

2. Sealing wax daffodil

This is one of the few daffodils I know the name of as it was Amy’s choice of the bulbs from the discount bin two years back. Almost all the other daffodils are cheap mixed bags.

3.Prunus incisa Kojo-no-mai

I moved the small prunus into the ground in autumn and it is looking grand. It is only about half a metre but every cm is covered in blossom. Should look spectacular as it grows. It grows to about 3m and should fill the space beautifully.

The bees are loving it anyway.

4. Narcissus Elka

I put these little daffs in the hanging pot back in autumn. They came as a cheap add onto another order but they are rather pretty in the pot.

5. Beefly

We have had quite a few of these visiting the garden. It’s a beefly. Not an actual bee, but a fly that disguises itself as a bee. They have the very distinctive long proboscis sticking out in front. A great wonder in the garden.

6. Robin

We’ve seen a good few different birds in the last week but I was happy to manage this photo of the robin mid song. It’s been back and forth from the feeder to the ivy so nice to get a shot.

Hope the photos have showed as I feel I got some good photos this week. Hope you’re all keeping well and enjoyed the slight relaxation of the Covid restrictions.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 27.3.21

Well, it is holiday time Two weeks off to start catching up on garden jobs. The lawn has been reseeded but I still have some pruning jobs to do. I talked about the hydrangea last week but there are still the hydrangea paniculata to go. I’m going to be spending a day in work reseeding a few grass patches as hundreds of tiny feet takes its toll on the grass. But should have time for my RHS course and gardening. It was my birthday this week, but it was another lockdown birthday so no going out. But I got some nice gifts. Nothing on the gardening side but there isn’t really anything I needed.

1. Moon

One present I did get is a card reader to transfer photos from my big camera to my phone making it quicker to get access to my photos. Here is a quick moon shot taken Thursday night. Popped out in the garden as I could see a clear gap in the clouds. It was a nice mild night. You can hear the frogs out there currently. I need to set the trail camera again and see if the hedgehogs are around.

2. Forget-me-nots

The forget me nots are out in force which will bring in many bees over the next month. I know some people don’t like them but I like the fact that they spread to fill any spaces in the border and bring in so many insects.

3. Muscari

A stray muscari coming up well ahead of the others.

4. Discount planter

I picked up one of these cheap wildflower planters from Tesco now they have reduced stickers. It has a mix of poppies, cornflower, cosmos and sunflowers. So wildflower used in the loose term. I like these for using for bulbs for spring displays as they store easily when not needed. I have a few round pots but thought this might bring in a few insects on the patio this year before it is repurposed for bulbs.

5. Alice’s tulips

Alice’s tulips are growing strong. I think these were Chopin or Giuseppe Verdi tulips. I can’t remember which way around we planted them. Either way, a very bright burst of sunshine out the back door.

6. My real garden

We crowdfunded a gardening book a few months back and it has now arrived. The book was put together by Ann-Marie Powell and Tasmin Westhorpe documenting peoples gardening experience in lockdown. They asked for contributions and it features a great mix of professional and amateur gardeners.

And here is our contribution. Alice taking her place amongst garden media and Chelsea Gold winners.

Hope you all have good weekends. The weather is meant to be good this weekend before it becomes wetter. So time to get jobs done.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 19.03.21 pruning hydrangeas

It’s been a busy week at work. Just one more week to go until the holiday and then I’m doing a few more hours after the holiday. But I’ll at least have some time to catch up on garden jobs. Last weekend I tackled two of the hydrangeas. These are Hydrangea Macrophylla, generally referred to as mopheads.

1. Sophie Conran topiary shears

I bought these a while back as a reward for my RHS exam. They are beautiful to use. They are a bit bigger than secateurs. But they can still be used in one hand like scissors making them perfect for jobs like the hydrangea where I want to move branches with one hand and cut with the other.

2. Flowerheads

The aim of the pruning is to cut back the flowerhead. I’m aiming to go back from the flowerhead to a new set of leaves. The flowerheads stay on over winter to offer some frost protection but cutting them off frees up space and encourages more flowering stems.

3. Cut out dead growth

When you look into the crown there are usually some dead branches with no new buds forming. I also prune out some of the overlaps where it is too heavily congested. This encourages a bit of airflow to reduce some of the diseases, mainly fungal that can affect the hydrangeas. Doing this each year with the older stems encourages continual fresh growth from the base of the plant.

 

4. Closer look

Not the best pic, but here you can see the blurry mophead. If you look along the stem you can see the new leaves are quite far back so the pruning goes back to this point. This is lower down on the plant where I also try to keep a bit of space around the ground. There are two hydrangeas opposite each other on either side of the path so I try to keep them roughly symmetrical.

5. Wayward branches

Then there are some branches growing out on their own that ruin the shape of the plant, cover the path or the patio have to go. I often do the job and come back a few days later to check where I’ve missed. If you do have one that has grown too big for its space you can cut back hard and they will come back but you may lose a year of flowering.

The Iris reticulata ‘George’ from last week sneaking in again in the background of the last photo. They are now in full bloom and making a good impact.


6. Lawn crocus

Most of the crocus in the lawn are single colours but this one has some stripes making it stand out.

Hope you found today’s blog useful. I still have the Hydrangea paniculata to do which are slightly different in that they can be harder pruned. Enjoy your weekends.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 13.3.21

Well, I made it out into the garden a few times last week. Got a few jobs done. The front garden is largely weeded so now need to do a bit more work on the back garden. Lots coming up now.

1. Science week

This week in the nursery the topic has been flowers. I’ve done a few activities with the kids, sowing some seeds, sketches and we tried food colouring in the carnations water. Red and yellow didn’t take, but the blue has given them some edging.

2. Bleeding heart

Or Lamprocapnos spectabilis for those of you who remember the new name. I like the fresh growth of these. They come up as strange bony fingers and spread. The leaf colour stands out amongst the darker heuchera and ophiopogon.

3. Crocus Joan of Arc

I had doubted their existence a few weeks back. It didn’t look like many of these were coming back in the front garden. But I’m glad to say many of them are poking up now. The first bees have been coming in to enjoy.

4. Snowdrop planting

The lack of signs of crocus at the start of the month had led to me ordering more snowdrops from Gee-Tee bulbs as they snowdrops were coming up stronger. We got 100 nivalis into the ground last weekend. It sounds like a lot but it isn’t really when you put a few to a hole. Alice helped plant them and then we gave them a good water as it had been dry for a few weeks. This has, of course, meant it has rained all week since.

5. Mud kitchen

And we got to play in the mud kitchen for the first time in a few months. Despite her face in the photo she was actually enjoying herself.

6. Iris reticulata ‘George’

I think this has been one of my favourite of the early irises. The dark colouring and patterning is gorgeous. I planted these in pots and in the planters at work, so these are on display as the hundreds of parents and kids come around the site. Pretty little morning treat for those who notice.

Forecast is pretty grim for today with rain and wind. The rain I can stand but the wind is a hazard for sorting roses. So may give that a miss today. We are looking at frogs next week at work so I’m preparing the activities while Alice trials playing with it all. I went in the garden at night earlier in the week and could hear them all croaking away. I hope you all have good weekends whatever you are up to.

Find me on Twitter.