Six on Saturday 03 Apr 2021 – Happy Easter

Spring in a good mood: neighbours’ cherry blossom and Magnolia

Oh what a capricious time of year, as spring toys with us, flitting cruelly between a glorious taste of summer and the slap of a ten degree drop in temperature and the threat of snow next week. Today, we’re being slapped, but for the past week, we basked in the magnificent sunshine. Mind you, I did not sit on my laurels, I was busy as a bee, merrily ticking a few things off the gardening to-do list, and occasionally just stopping to marvel at the lovely things growing all around.

1 Bramble support. One big job ticked off the list. Our savage bramble, which redeems itself with the tastiest blackberries for what is probably my favourite jam, has been tamed for now, with a trellis frame. Order has been temporarily restored.

2 Tomatoes. I can not believe the rate at which these are growing. They seem to like their sunny windowsill very much. I have far too many: currently 7 cherry toms Miel de Mexique, 7 Davis all-rounders, and 5 beefsteak Portuguese. The Nostalgic Gardener has become The Generous Gardener, dolling out tomatoes to Irish neighbours and Swedish friends, and soon others from a panoply of international and Belgian residents will find themselves the recipients of green gifts.

3 Dahlia potting up. The upside of early school closures in Belgium is that I had my son on hand to help pot up the Dahlia tubers. It’s great to have a garden helper and it made the job fun and efficient: we set up a little assembly line, with my son putting the tubers in and filling with compost, and with me labelling and watering, it was all done in a flash. There are now fifteen pots – some were squeezed into the greenhouse, and these others are sitting it out against the back wall and will need to be moved into the shed when we get slapped with that threat of snow.

4 Viburnum carlesii. Onto the pretty stuff. A few days apart, photo one shows those pink buds about to burst, and then ta-daa! the tiny flowers appear daintily, and the garden is completely flooded with sweet scent on a sunny afternoon. Another name for this lovely, elegant shrub is Koreanspice Viburnum, and there is an exotic spiciness along with the intense sweetness to the perfume. When this comes into flower, it’s one of those wow moments in the garden.

5 Clematis armandii with Japanese quince. This is the clematis’ fourth week in flower, and as well as looking good, it’s combining with the quince to give the bees both a first course and mains. They are buzzing around this area non-stop. I tried to photograph them without much luck, so you’ll just have to enjoy the flowers.

Spot the bee tucking in?

6 Ferns unfurling. What, we’re at six already? Alright then, the final slot goes to the little aliens in found in conversation.

Tomorrow these little creatures may clasp a chocolate Easter egg between them, as I think a garden Easter egg hunt is in order. There may be more Easter surprises to discover on the Six on Saturday page hosted by The Propagator and enjoyed by many a gardening bunny. So it remains for me to wish you all a Happy Easter, Joyeuses Pâques, Prettig Paasfeest, may the Easter bunny be generous to you, whether in the form of tomato plants from an overly-enthusiastic gardener, or just lots of chocolate, preferably of the Belgian variety – it’s the best in the world, you know.

In a vase on Monday: A tale of two seasons

Each Monday Cathy at Rambling In The Garden invites us to share a vase of materials gathered from our gardens.

I have to confess that on a grey day like today (I know, another one!), I didn’t think I’d even venture out into the garden, but then I did anyway, without high hopes. I picked a sprig of Helleborus argutifolius, mainly going to seed now, as I find the lime green quite cheering. Then I started pruning some of the roses along the front path, and there were still some soft pink blooms bravely hanging on. So we have a combo of June flowering roses and winter flowering Hellebore. Well, it takes all sorts.

I added a few sprigs of variagated ivy, a couple of fern leaves that have still remained green despite usually being brown at this time of year, and then finally one of my favourites, silver helichrysum. My hand now smells slightly of curry, but that’s ok, because the vase itself smells of roses!

Six on Saturday: 28 Nov 2020

I haven’t done much gardening this week, despite having had some lovely sunny days. There are still a few jobs to do, but there’s no sense of urgency now that the bulbs have all been planted, and I haven’t felt the urge to prune anything! I have been out taking photos though, and teaching myself a bit more about that. I may be getting a tripod for Christmas, and a book about digital photography, that might help.

Here are my Six on Saturday featuring wildlife, exotic and native, and a few plants of course. Join the tribe over at The Propagator’s blog to take part or just have a look.

1 Ring-necked Parakeets. Our exotic visitors are back. I have mixed feelings. They definitely add a splash of colour. However, they tend to hog the feeders, so that the little birds that come – tits, sparrows, finches, the robin – have to wait until they’ve gone. They are also very noisy and hang around in groups. Most importantly, they are a threat to indigenous birds, because they take over nesting and resting places. Back in 2014, there were 12,000 in Brussels. I imagine there are a lot more today. I will have to shoo them off.

2 Smaller native birds. This is more like it. Lots of blue tits and coal tits around, eating from the feeders and also nibbling some berries in the Viburnum bush. The bird bath is at their disposal in the glade, which is actually looking relatively pretty at this time of year.

3 Fern and Heuchera. Onto some plants. Most of the colour is fading out of the garden, but I quite like this toned-down combination of dying Ostrich fern leaf and resting Heuchera ‘Indian Summer Cranberry’. Both cope admirably with the dry conditions caused by the roots of the big trees nearby. I have another Heuchera, ‘Caramel’, in a pot, which would be nice planted out here.

4 Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’. I can never remember the name of this little tussocky grass, I had to look it up again. How on earth to pronounce it? It’s looking scruffy right now but I like the warm yellow colour and can’t get enough of it in my east-facing border, it brightens it up after the sun has gone. I want it to grow fast so I can divide it and add more in.

5 Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’. Still my favourite grass, with the seed heads now looking very fluffy. I only have one in a pot, I think I’ll have to divide this one too.

6 Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’. We haven’t had any proper frosts yet, but this Fatsia is nonetheless sporting a dapper ‘frosted look’. It’s in one of the Italian pots on the decking/terrace.

That’s it for this week, I hope we will all continue to find inspiration in our gardens and around us in nature to carry on blogging (or just carry on!). I intend to head out to the lakes at the edge of the forest with my camera to see what I can do.

Shady Characters

Shuttlecock Fern and Nasturtium leaf contrasts

I decided to write about the shadier woodland section of my garden for my second post, mainly because the weather has been damp and a tad grey lately, and in these conditions I think the sun-lovers always look like they are missing something. By contrast, the shadier sections don’t seem to care, and even revel in damp drizzle (unlike me!). I just love the way, for instance, that the Nasturtium leaves catch and hold onto droplets of rain.

Shuttlecock fern with Heuchera and Geranium macrorrhizum

I have the good fortune to have a lot of shuttlecock ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris, also known as the ostrich fern) growing here, more by accident than design, but they really suit the situation, and don’t mind the overhanging trees (lime and hornbeam) in the least. They are statuesque, spreading slowly but surely via their rhizomes, and adding a really vibrant splash of fresh green: perfect in drizzle! I like the contrast they make with the Heucheras, and with Geranium macrorrhizum, which flowers earlier in spring to coincide with the newly unfurled and incredibly fresh-looking ferns.

My cat, of a nervous disposition, feels safe looking out from her ferny vantage point

When we moved here almost exactly three years ago, this area was essentially a huge patch of geraniums, interspersed with a few of the ferns, and overhung by our neighbour’s mature lime and hornbeam trees. Although they are next door, the trees really do feel part of the garden, and we added a raised wooden deck here, which is our main garden seating and eating area. It actually gets a fair bit of sun, facing south, but with the overhanging trees, so it’s an unusual combination (and quite challenging for some plants, I have discovered, as the tree roots suck out a lot of moisture, and in autumn their fallen leaves smother everything).

A woodland feel but with some herbs, which like this sunny edge. Rosa ‘Compassion’ is making its way slowly up the pergola

I added a pergola to one edge of the decking, to add some interest, give more of a sense of enclosure and frankly what gardener can resist a chance to experiment with a few extra climbers? I’ve gone with a climbing rose on one side, Rosa ‘Compassion’, which is doing quite well for its second year, and two clematis on the other side: Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ and Clematis ‘Betty Corning’, both from the small-flowered, summer-flowering Viticella group, and both flowering now. They are quite old varieties, ‘Etoile Violette’ dating from 1885, with ‘Betty Corning’ around fifty years on its heels, launched in the US in 1932. There’s something special about growing plants that were enjoyed by gardeners living in centuries past, and the thought that they were getting the same pleasure from them as we do today, despite the world having changed beyond recognition in so many other ways.

The gorgeous plush purple flowers of Etoile Violette, offset perfectly by its yellow stamens
The romantic nodding heads of Clematis ‘Betty Corning’

It’s such a pleasure to see plants growing well, and these two clematis seem so content in their woodland setting. All that lush growth has certainly attracted the aphids, and if you look carefully you will probably spot them on my photos, but the clematis really don’t seem bothered, and are flowering away quite happily. I’ve noticed ladybirds in other sections of the garden, and I’m hoping that the presence of large amounts of prey for them will attract them over here.

Speaking of predators, here is another one who was hopping around as I took these photos, a very welcome visitor. I would love to know what kind of frog he is if anyone reading this has an idea….