Six on Saturday: Seeds: 02 Jan 2021

Happy New Year to you all! As my featured image, I share a sunset in the forest on New Year’s day. Still no snow, not even a proper frost here, but weak winter sunshine through the trees.

Lots has been said already about hoping for a better year for us humans this year, and being a member of the human race I of course share that hope! But I also harbour another hope, and a recognition that 2020, while awful for many, was a year of recovery for the natural world, a respite from our dangerous incursions into it, and our thoughtless spoiling of our environment. So my hope is that the success of the vaccination programme isn’t accompanied by a return to pumping tons of carbon into our atmosphere. Given the likely origins of Covid-19, it would also be something if we could ban the trade in wildlife and while we’re at it, improve conditions for animals in our factory farms. Here’s hoping…

In the New Year my thoughts turn to all the things that will grow in my garden in the year ahead. If January starts to drag a bit, which inevitably it will, I check my seed packets: a nice pick-me-up, especially in this dry (alcohol-free) month. So the theme this week is seeds.

1 Garden seed harvest. Isn’t wonderful that free seeds abound in our gardens? I have got better at harvesting them. I have never tried growing Asters from seed though, it seems easier to take the little plantlets that form around the parent. I will collect and sow some of the Hollyhock seeds, which itself arrived as a surprise gift seedling in my veg patch in 2019.

2 Panicum Frosted Explosion. Another gift, this one first arrived two summers ago in a crack in the pavement by our front gate. What chance, as this is a superb annual grass, that creates a misty frothiness around whatever it grows around, and is too insubstantial to block out the light. It has now popped up all over the place, and I’m saving some seed to use more deliberately. It could be fun in containers with other annuals, like the frilly pink Cosmos.

3 Aquilegia and other seeds in the ground. I was given a load of Aquilegia seeds in a plant swap last summer, and I just scattered them on the earth and hoped for the best. I think these are them, coming up here along the front path. There’s something else too, the frillier leaves, could be Chamomile. Part of the fun is waiting to see what pops up.

4 New flowering plant seeds. Probably the most exciting of the lot? New plants I haven’t tried before, including two types of Tithonia or Mexican Sunflower, which I probably don’t have the space for but hope to squeeze into the new border (purple/orange themed). Will they be happy? Who knows, it’s a gamble. A surer bet are the Nasturtiums, which I love and grow among veg and in pots, but have never tried the variegated version, Alaska. There’s also a sunflower with an enticing name, Velvet Queen, which I will have to save from the slugs but which will be nice to grow as food for the birds as well as a feast for the eyes.

5 New veg seeds. Ooooh, also exciting! I’ve never grown Cucamelons, or Mouse Melon, which is possibly the cutest name for a vegetable that I’ve ever heard. Another gamble, am going to try these in a large container growing up the south-facing brick wall of our terrace. Handy if we’re out sipping gin and tonics, and fancy a zingy addition to our drinks. Last year I grew a squash up this wall quite successfully, so fingers crossed.

6 Seeds sown in the autumn. Here in the mini-greenhouse, we have nicely labelled pots which in theory have seeds in the them, but no sign of life. The Bomarea edulis is an exotic addition thanks to the generosity of another Six-on-Saturday blogger, know for his unusual plants. Regulars may be able to guess who. The Nigella is from an old seed pack, so I just hope the expiry date can be ignored!

I will have to wait just a little bit longer before I can start sowing in earnest. Meanwhile, there are other important things that need doing, including a bit of hard landscaping and putting in paths where the mud has become intolerable, pruning etc. I wonder what other gardeners have planned – to find out, check out The Propagator’s blog, the host for the excellent Six on Saturday theme. Have a great gardening year everyone!

Six on Saturday: 31 October 2020

I’m back for another six! Thoroughly enjoyed my first foray last week into the gardening blogging sensation that is Six on Saturday, hosted by the Propagator. Thinking about what to feature here and running out to take photos when the light is good between English classes is either i) a sign of an obsession gone too far or ii) a very welcome distraction from Covid gloom, impending lockdown and the cancellation of most of my extracurricular activities. Gardening, what would we do without you?

1 Cotinus coggygria. This week the star turn has to go to my Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, which is bringing zing to the garden with her terracotta tones. If I was a genious garden designer, I would have deliberately chosen this super plant to reflect the old brick with its blotches of purple and warm earthy colours on my house wall, but really this is a happy coincidence.

2 Strawberry. The runner up for autumn colour is this astonishing strawberry, which seems to think it is a Japanese Acer or something. It’s the only one of my strawberries that is having an autumnal fling, the others are all a pedestrian but sensible dark green.

A strawberry with personality

3 Hollyhock. Onto something with more subtlety. This paper-thin, almost translucent flower had flopped onto my gravel front path after a wet night. A gift from the skies, this plant first turned up last year in my veg patch, and I moved it to the front path, which has a cottage garden vibe. Of course the expensive dark flowered hollyhocks that I bought from a garden fair a year and a half ago were a dismal failure, and just produced lots of growth but no flowers (I assume because my clay soil is too fertile for them), so I am grateful for the effortless flowers on this one.

Hollyhock

4 Shield bugs. I was removing some black-spot ridden leaves from a climbing rose and disturbed a group of shield bugs huddling together for warmth and shelter. When I first saw these heraldic beasties after moving to this house and garden about three and a half years ago, I didn’t know if they were friend or foe. Turns out they are totally harmless, and feed off the debris we get from the overhanging lime trees. I find their war-markings absolutely amazing, surely somebody painted them on?

5 Champagne feeder. Upcycling time! I got my hubby to create a roof made from the lid of a champagne box for this planter-turned-bird feeder. I hope that this works for the little birds that can fit through the metal squares. The aim is to keep the parakeets off (we have a colony that visits from time to time, they totally hog the feeders).

The new bird feeder

6 Planning a new border. When we moved in here, the garden was all laid to lawn with some occasional shrubs and just one east-facing border adjoining the side of the house. I haven’t stopped lifting turf since then, albeit in small bite-size sections. The latest move is to dig up this west-facing section, that gets a good amount of afternoon sun. I want to get Tulip ‘Barcelona’ (fuschia/purple blooms) and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ planted in here soon, and build it up from there. I aim to focus on purple, magenta, silver and pops of warm orange – purple Salvias, warm-toned Day Lilies, silvery Helichrysum, magenta Nicotiana…some ideas. Let’s see if I have the self-discipline to stick to a colour theme!

Border in the making

So there are my six, I hope we get some good weather for getting out into the garden, this morning already looks promising with a clear pale blue sky here in Brussels. A walk in the woods is next. Check out The Propagator’s SOS page for more inspiration. Enjoy your day everyone and see you for another Six on Saturday next week.