Six on Saturday: 10 July 2021: tribulations

Coping with loss, failure, and disappointment is as much the gardener’s lot as the more celebrated joys and triumphs of successfully growing beautiful plants and bringing in bountiful harvests. Perhaps inevitably, we highlight the good stuff and tuck away the bad stuff, well away from the camera lens and our brightly edited versions of our gardens. But this year has been tough in more ways than one, and the garden has not always been a source of undiluted pleasure. So far, summer in northern Europe has been unrelentingly wet, and a boom in slug and snail numbers of which locals have never seen the like has wrought untold destruction. Of course, it can never be all bad in the garden, so this week there’s still some solace among the slimey trails. For example:

1 Dahlias. Yes, this is the beautiful, almost black Dahlia, Chat Noir. The reason I know that is from the label. I was looking forward to these sultry beauties contrasting with the daylilies, but alas it was not meant to be. Despite numerous slug patrols and controls, Chat Noir was too tasty. But apparently not Dahlia Antibes, planted right alongside. This was was unscathed until the hapless gardener took a photo, and then recklessly knocked the bud off while attempting to move a potted Dahlia into the empty space occupied by the Chat Noir skeleton. Can’t blame everything on the slugs.

Rest in peace: Dahlia Chat Noir
Dahlia Antibes

2. Lavender and weeds. More tribulations. This is the first year I’ve seen bind weed take hold here in the lavender hedge along the front path, where it grows in a sweet spot unreachable from both our side and our neighbour’s side of the fence. Someone’s going to have to crawl under and attempt to locate the roots, and I get the feeling it’s going to be me. But perhaps I can take consolation from the more welcome weed that has self-seeded just in front: the wild mallow, which is looking a bit dishevelled but rather pretty.

3. Cosmos ‘Xanthos’. Somehow this made it through the ravages of slugs and weather, and is adding a welcome lemon tone to the front path border.

4. Ligustrum ovalifolium: Privet. Look what happens when you leave Privet to grow into a small tree, saved from the clippers. It produces sweetly scented flowers in abundance, that are a magnet for honeybees and other pollinators, including hoverflies. It also does a good job of screening the neighbour’s bright highlighter-orange brick shed. Another consolation.

Phone photo of privet, with salvia in the foreground

5. Hemerocallis. I have been awaiting these daylilies in the vibrant border with much anticipation, and here they are at last. A deep terracotta brick colour with a golden centre, it really works for me. They contrast quite nicely with the allium seedheads too.

Hemerocallis, unknown variety
Allium seedheads with Hemerocallis behind

6. Blackcurrants. So, I’ve lost a bell pepper and a chilli pepper planted out in the veg patch to slugs, and I can tell you the courgettes are valiantly struggling through but it’s looking iffy for them too. Thankfully these juicy blackcurrants are not to the molluscs’ taste.

That’s all from me this week, although you might see more from me next week as my teaching commitments are easing off now that most of my students are off on their holidays, quite a relief. You’ll find more in the way of gardening trials, tribulations and triumphs on The Propagator’s Six on Saturday page. Wishing you all a great weekend.

47 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 10 July 2021: tribulations

  1. All is not lost – you have some things doing well! By contrast, we are complaining of lack of rain here. Bindweed is a curse. We have it on a boundary hedge but only a small amount and I control it there by regularly pulling it out – digging to the roots would be impossible. Unwinding it from your plants and treating with a systemic herbicide might become necessary if it persists.

    1. Thanks Paddy, how strange that the rain isn’t coming your way, most unnatural. I’ll be doing some unwinding later (of bindweed), I’d rather do that than spray anything as we’re all organic here.

  2. True, it is a battle sometimes. I must confess that I smiled when you knocked the bud off, I do that all the time! I love the colour of your daylily, do you know which one it is? Keep fighting, my friend.

    1. Thanks Gill, the battle isn’t entirely lost! Though I’m not helping myself by destroying my own plants! I have the feeling I might have that daylily label in a scrapbook somewhere, will dig around.

  3. These daylilies are so pretty! ( I featured one this morning but yours is very pretty too).
    I will harvest my blackcurrant before I go on vacation and I don’t know about you but the berries are much bigger but less numerous this year – same for the red currants

    1. You are right Fred, my berry harvests are not that numerous and I thought it’s because my plants are still quite young (2 or 3 years old) but maybe it’s weather related too? Very important to get that harvest done before your holiday, don’t leave it all for the birds! I was very upset one year when we had a holiday booked just when the blackberries were almost ready.

  4. The slugs and snails have been a real pain this year. They ate through the stem of one of the only two South African Foxgloves that had survived thus far. Didn’t touch the leaves though – it was just plain old vandalism! That dahlia is a stunner. The Privet looks lovely in flower. I wonder if it would make a good replacement for my buddleia?

    1. That’s so infuriating! The Privet could indeed make a good buddleia replacement, butterflies like it too. Easy to keep to the shape you want it to be.

  5. In every garden there is now and then a small problem, but it’s a challange to find solutions. All by all I see that most of your plants, flowers and fruits are doing well. Slugs and snails seem to be a problem everywhere, one of my readers alse had big probems with them.

  6. Don’t attempt to dig for the roots of bindweed – each piece broken off will make more. As Paddy says, just keep pulling it up each time you see it. Your neighbour will need to do the same – and it will eventually weaken though probably never go away completely. The back of my garage used to be full of it, now (after 4 years) there are only a few straggly pieces. And don’t move plants from that part of the garden to another (not without completely removing soil from their roots and checking there is no bindweed roots within – I got that t-shirt years ago) 😀

  7. Yes talking of slugs and snails I go midnight with a head torch and a bag and my God they climb up the broad beans so high they ate my dahlia too and half of french beans . Here is another rainy weekend and so cool by the coast not even bike ride just contented with house plants and tennis on TV. Love your arch and very pretty lilies.

  8. The slugs and snails have been pretty prolific in their appetites this year. Aphids too, although I think we’re past the worst on that front. It separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak!

    Bindweed is also a huge nuisance, but not impossible to eradicate. You just have to be more persistent than the plant itself!

    I really like the Hemerocallis – it’s got a beautiful combination of colours.

    1. It’s true that in other parts of the garden I’ve got bindweed under control eventually, it is all about persistence and also getting out there in this rather dismal weather! The Hemerocallis is ‘Stafford’ I think.

  9. Hi Sel. I sympathise with the slugs problem. Our garden has seen them for the first time this year and they are eating things I would not expect… brussels sprouts, sage etc….?! Fortunately my courgettes are seemingly immune and strangely enough the babyleaf lettuce too. Love the day lily. Gorgeous colour!

    1. It’s very odd what they eat when the mood takes them! So strange, even lavender – not culinary sage yet, but yes they are tucking into an ornamental salvia so give them time! I do wish I had slug immune courgettes and lettuce like you do 😉

  10. The slugs are eating not just the courgette leaves but also the courgettes too, but your blackcurrants are looking wonderful. Dahlia Antibes has a lovely colour combination. It’s not one I’ve seen before.

  11. Slugs love dahlias, it is a constant battle to keep them intact. But knocking buds off is a human problem. I did the same to the long awaited bud of one of my iris seedlings. Treading on precious plants is another hazard, speciaĺly after telling yourelf to bbe careful not to. That’s a nice combination; the day lily, salvia and allium seed heads. I love the smell of privet flowers, they remind me of my childhood. I have one with huge, very fragrant flowers called Ligustrum quihoui.

    1. Thank you, I am now trying very hard not to knock more buds off! The slugs are carrying on with it though. I never even knew privet smelt so lovely until now, I suspect few people do here as it’s always clipped very neatly, but I am really enjoying its looser form right now, as well as the scent.

  12. I am on the verge of giving up with dahlias – I’m not that fond of them anyway! Interesting that one was left unscathed – perhaps they had stuffed themselves full before they got to that one 🙁 The day lilies are a joy at this time of year but mine are struggling and I’m hoping it’s not gall mite. It’s so easy to lose a bud here and there, I have been deadheading roses like mad and so often snip of a new bud – so many tribulations but always some positives, the blackberries look wonderful wonderful, as do the cosmos and mallow.

    1. Who knows how a slug decides what it will dine on – although I noticed that they do seem to devour the darker leaved Dahlias, including Chat Noir and the Bishops varieties. My Dahlias in pots with copper tape around the rim are so far OK – if I remember I’ll write about it this coming Saturday. I DO think Dahlias are worth it, I remember being so cheered by them last year into the autumn months when they still looked glorious. Hope your day lilies don’t have gall mites, I’ve not seen those, hopefully I never will!

  13. We don’t have slugs but we do have a surfeit of rabbits, causing me to surround what feels like half my plants with chicken wire cages. Fortunately you have plenty of successes to make up for the slugs – the Dahlia and Daylily look great, and the currants look luscious. I would love to have those Mallows seeding around my garden.

    1. It’s funny I never see any chicken wire in your posts, you must hide it well! We all have our own kinds of trials and tribulations then. I live on Rabbit Warren Road, but luckily the rabbits are long gone!

  14. Oh, those darn S&S the bane of my life (and others it appears). Watching the RHS Hampton Court program the other day it was suggested that we learn to live with them, they do after all have some purpose in the garden. I nearly choked on my sandwich! The only way I can live with them is by growing plants which they hate to eat! Whilst cutting back my lupins (Monty Don advice) I found dozens of huge snails snacking which were duly thrown over the fence, now the lupins are gone I wonder which plant in next in line. At least your lovely Hemerocallis looks healthy. I think I have found that it IS earwigs that are damaging mine. And be careful with that mallow – they can get very big and take over! Just a warning…

    1. Learn to live with them! Yes, choke, splutter…I can’t really throw them anywhere – am sure that if I chucked it over to the neighbours they’d be back in a flash (and if the neighbours happened to be looking out of their window at that moment I might see my social credit nosedive in the neighbourhood!). Good luck with tackling your creepy crawlies, I recently read about earwigs, they are ‘much maligned’ apparently 😉

      1. Luckily(?) I have a farmyard at one side of my boundary (which is where the brambles and bindweed come from) and a field at the rear, so the snails have to clamber through that lot to get back, and no doubt some of them do! Slugs, I am afraid, get cut in half. Does this make me a bad person?

      2. No comment 😆 I can’t bring myself to do that. A friend of mine says it’s more humane to put them in the freezer, but who wants slugs with their vanilla ice cream?! I sometimes take them to a local patch of wilderness but these mercy trips are infrequent.

      3. Oh, no! Could not have them in my freezer! I don’t know what is worse – cut in half, or drop in salty water. I just try not to think about it. Actually nematodes do seem to have kept the slugs tiny, but I didn’t use any this year and I have seen some BIG ones. 😨

      4. I have used them in the last couple of years – year one I had one dose in April, in year two I had one dose in April and another in late May. I didn’t bother this year! Idiot! I think the one dose is sufficient, I didn’t notice any difference using two.

  15. S&S have eaten all my marigolds and for some reason also eaten the tops off the sunflowers 🙁 Sorry for you chewed dahlia, but D. Antibes is lovely and making up for it. One mans sweet smell is another’s pet hate. I can’t stand the smell of privet. It was used as the hedging for all the terraced houses in Headingley, Leeds when I was a student there and to me it just stinks of cat’s pee … and rubbish (which admittedly is an association, not fact 😉 )

    1. Oh no how unfortunate! I thought it smelt more of honey, a sweet smell, but I understand that memories and smells together make powerful combinations. For me, it’s elderflower that smells of cat pee, when I make elderflower cordial the kitchen reeks but I still love the cordial 😆

  16. There be times when one is forced to accept the inevitable. In any event, despite death and loss, you’ve managed to give us a brightly edited version of events.
    Ive had a twelve-month bindweed war. It still appears, very weak, but I’m winning. Eileen is right, do not disturb the roots.
    Belgium is being battered. Very sad when flooding brings death in its wake. Philosophically, bindweed isn’t the worst thing. 🤔

    1. I’ve been battling the bindweed in the rain this week, but the flooding has certainly put that and many other things into perspective. I’m afraid that climate change is coming home. Luckily we live on a hill and are not near the great rivers of the Ardennes further to the east. Troubling nonetheless.

  17. I especially resonate with this post–it’s been one of the toughest years ever for our garden too, though with the opposite problem of extreme drought and so much loss in the garden. I’m sorry to hear about the unprecedented wet and slug problem in your garden! Hope it’s recovering now. I’m looking forward to catching up with any of your posts I missed in the last few weeks. -lisa

    1. Thanks Lisa, it has been tough and I can only imagine how much tougher it is with the drought you’ve been having. Too much water causes problems, but without it…even worse.

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