Six on Saturday: 13 March 2021

Our twig supply has increased greatly thanks to the windy weather we’ve been having. Earlier this week, I audaciously went for a very breezy bike ride in the forest (wearing a helmet) – anything for a thrill these days, right? As the wind got up, I was caught in one of those flurries of leaves that race around with the frenzy of school children let out for break when the bell sounds.

Reckless behaviour aside, it’s been sedate on the gardening front, with two exceptions: we finally pruned the big apple tree, which always feels a little dangerous: OH up the big ladder, me climbing into the branches (my Dad was a mountain climber, but it’s easier to get up than to get down). The other excitement was the arrival of a beautifully packaged box of bare-root perennials from Farmer Gracy, which supplies Europe from the Netherlands. So here we go, it’s six on Saturday time:

1 Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blosson’ is just bursting with buds, I’ll have to show you this one again next week. First flowers have just sprung from all that amazing potential, shown in my first photo above.

2 Chaenomeles japonica. The Japanese quince had been earmarked for the chop, but it got a reprieve and seems to begging for mercy. I may be merciful. It flowers bountifully, and the bees enjoy it.

3 Forsythia. This one is on borrowed time. For me, it’s the suburban shrub extraordinaire, we had one in our garden in south London, and we have one here. I didn’t plant either one. When you get up to the flowers nice and close, they are quite pretty. Step back, though, and it’s just a bit messy, and as for the rest of the year, it does little to justify itself.

Pretty up close
Nothing special from a distance. Spot the robin playing peekaboo?

4 Helloborus x hybridus. From the ordinary to the sublime, I couldn’t resist including these again, this time photographed in their place of residence chez moi.

5 Bare-root perennials. I ordered some geraniums, Geranium phaeum ‘Springtime’ and Geranium bohemicum ‘Brookside’, because frankly you can never have too many Geraniums. Also Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’, and some Gladiolus byzantinus corms, which flowers in a fabulous magenta shade. The Geraniums have been potted up for now.

6 Tulips in pots. There were quite a few contenders for slot number six this week, especially as my daffodils are just coming into flower, but I feel most excited about the nine pots of tulips here. The great news is that even the Aladdin tulip bulbs, that had looked a bit dodgy and slightly mouldy at planting time, are in fine fettle. All the pots have been washed and positioned in front of the Cyprus hedge, on the mulch, facing Fort Knox cat protection system.

Depending on the weather, I may or may not finish digging a trench this weekend to make one last attempt at controlling the trumpet vine, which has travelled way beyond its limit on the wall and last year sent up suckers all over the place, I even found it climbing up into my clematis on an arbour several metres away. In the photo here you can see those blasted roots, which I’m going to try to trace and remove, then create a trench and line it with large ceramic tiles that are sitting in the shed.

Trench warfare

Well, wish me luck with that! And do visit The Propagator’s site for more Six on Saturday contributions, and if you like gardening, join in the fun. Have a wonderful weekend, thanks for reading and see you again soon.

Six on Saturday: 06 March 2021: hellebore hard sell

A bright, sunny and frosty morning in Brussels today, cold enough for the bird bath to have frozen solid. It’s been a busy week, work-wise and garden-wise, with quite a lot of clearing out in the borders, pruning a few climbers, tidying up the terrace, strengthening the cat defence system in the veg bed (yes, I’m afraid the cat was so tempted by the deluxe toilet facilities here that it crept under the chicken wire, but last week’s hazel pole system is still holding up well against feline ingenuity), and getting a new path put in. It feels like a good day to be sowing some more seeds, though space on windowsills is rapidly running out. I went on another garden jaunt last Sunday, to visit an Arboretum about 20 km away, where temptation awaited me in the form of a hellebore plant sale. So that leads me on to the first items in today’s Six on Saturday, the regular weekly garden round-up hosted without fail by The Propagator:

1 Hellebore x hybridus. I want you to imagine giant six foot high hellebores, their flowers proudly displayed against a perfect blue sky. You marvel at their beauty as you walk past, each flower exquisitely displayed at eye-level. You want to take them home with you. The reality? They were in pots on a tall shelving unit at the plant sale, so this may be the only time I see the flowers from below, unless I become a woodlouse with a camera. The grower’s hard sell technique was effective of course, even though I’ve been a hellebore sceptic up to now. I only took a limited about of cash with me, thankfully, so could only buy two, this one and number two.

2 Hellebore x hybridus. Now they need to be housed comfortably chez moi, without the shelving unit. I was thinking of the glade area (or glade-in-the-making), a dark green holly as their backdrop, the neighbour’s overhanging lime tree branches above, and planted with crocuses around them. Apparently they need light even during the summer, so planting under a high tree canopy is ideal. In Gardening with Woodland Plants, Karan Junker adds they are greedy, needing lots of organic matter dug in to sustain their deep root system before planting, and benefitting from a generous mulch in late summer, when they are forming next year’s flower buds. Note to self: don’t forget!

3 New path. Hopefully you can see before and after shots in the image compare. We have extended the gravel path to go round the house to the back terrace, where the back door and shed are. Or to be accurate, we got a couple of blokes in to do it for us, otherwise I very much doubt it would have been completed in one and a half days! The path will make for a less muddy experience all round and I think it adds some additional structure to the garden, as well as some path-side planting opportunities.

4 Anemone blanda. This is not a success story. I planted around 50 of the little bulbs last autumn, and so far I’ve seen about five flowers popping up here by the front path. On top of that, they’re shy and I’ve only seen them fully open once. I should have read the warning in the specific epithet ‘blanda’, meaning mild. I won’t bother with them again, and after seeing so many lovely early spring bulb combos created by fellow Six-on-Saturday bloggers – Hortus Baileyana and Paddy Tobin, an Irish Gardener come to mind – but there are many more – in future I’m going to put all the early spring bulbs in one place with the new hellebores.

4 The vibrant border. This is the new bed I created last autumn, planted up with tulips and allium Purple Sensation, plus divisions of existing plants such as orange oriental poppies and Geums. Some purple salvias are there too, having survived winter so far, and a clump of day lilies. Annuals sown this year will be added at the back – sunflower Velvet Queen, bright Tithonias, Cleome Violet Queen (maybe – see below) and probably nasturtiums at the front to replace the tulips. So, I know it doesn’t look like much now, but I have high hopes!

5 Cleome: the miracle seedling. Just one Cleome has germinated! After reading up about them, they apparently need lots of light plus changes in temperature to germinate, and they also hate root disturbance, so I probably should have sown them into deeper biodegradable pots. The chillies and sweet peppers are growing on well to the right.

6 Viburnum carlesii. I love seeing these flower buds emerge and develop. Looking forward to the incredible perfume when they open up into white pompoms.

So, I had better get on with sowing some seeds – I was thinking of carrots, radishes and some salads which can be put out in the plastic greenhouse – and then a few annuals – choices, choices. Wishing everyone a great weekend whatever you’re up to, and thanks for reading.

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: 14 Nov 2020

Feels like it’s been a long week, am probably getting lock-down fatigue. Work has been slow, with a lot of student cancellations this week, my son is still not back at school after the half term break, to be honest even the cat is getting on my nerves, following me around from room to room and being ever present. I have managed to do a few productive, redeeming things, including getting my Christmas cards printed, using a sketch I made of a robin last week, and I’ve been taking out my frustration on the new bed, which now is almost ready for the bulb planting stage. Better get on with that while the weather is still mild!

Here are my 6 highlights this week. Thanks to The Propagator for hosting, check out his site for more contributions!

1 Helleborus Argutifolius. The Corsican hellebore has just opened its first apple-green flowers, although we’re still a long way from January, when it’s supposed to flower. I think this is a trend a lot of gardeners are seeing this year – things are flowering on into autumn for longer, and the winter performers are turning up surprisingly early. I do like this hellebore, with its healthy, interesting foliage all year round, and its ability to thrive in tough conditions without complaint.

The Hellebore in the glade, with Fuchsia magellanica, Geranium, Viburnum and a Japanese Quince against the wall, plus some shouldn’t-be-there Trumpet Vine suckers.

2 Shasta Daisies. Who would have thought it, fresh as a daisy in mid-November? They are flopping about languidly along my front path, and some are a bit ragged, but they seem keen to keep on going. I did remember to deadhead them this year, so that might have helped.

Leucanthemum still quite perky, with Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Edge’
Scruffy yet enthusiastic Shasta daisies

3 Rose Hips. These need a perfectly bright blue sky to look their best, and luckily that’s just what we had one bright mid-week morning. I haven’t collected them to make cough syrup, as a couple of readers suggested, because they are too pretty to take down. I did get some very strange looks from my neighbour as I was trying to photograph them (not very successfully, I kept getting entangled in the bramble under the rose).

4 Copper and silver/white. We have a lot of beech around the place – a beech hedge along one end of the garden, a neighbour has a beech tree, and there’s an entire forest of beech at the bottom of the hill. Hence I have a ready-made copper mulch, and this makes a pleasing contrast with silvery foliage plants at this time of year. Here we have Carex ‘Everest’ and Pulmonaria, along the front path, and Cyclamen hederifolium in the back garden glade. It would be nice to add some Cyclamen coum here along the front path to pop up between the tussocks.

5 More leaves. Leaf clearance in this essentially woodland garden is a regular and at times seemingly thankless task. Nonetheless, it can also be quite zen, and I spent a pleasant hour raking the lawn one grey yet mild afternoon, while I set my still-not-back-at-school-son to clearing the terrace/decking area. This meant that for about ten minutes, things looked remarkably neat! There’s also some satisfaction in thinking of the leaves as a harvest, in the form of lead mold, which I have got serious about this year, with a new and improved leaf mold collection space at the bottom of the garden. There will be plenty more leaves to go in; as you can see from the photo, the Lime trees have yet to shed, yikes.

Tidy, for a moment!

6 Hosta. This is the last I’ll be seeing of my hostas for this year. They are all in pots now, as I see no point in putting them out in the ground as slug food. Here is one with a bronze Carex. The ornate Italian terracotta pot is a present from my hubbie. I hope nothing has to be taken out, as its got a wide belly and narrow top, but practicality aside, it’s nice to have a good pot or two on the terrace.

Oh, and a bonus number, here’s the robin sketch that will feature on my Christmas cards this year…