Six on Saturday: 24 July 21: summer’s here

Summer days are here, the living is pretty easy, especially now that work has slowed right down and the sun has come out to play. After all the rain we had here, I’m relieved, and cat-like, I enjoy basking in the dry heat. The deckchairs are out and the BBQ is in use.

Morning sun, full of promise

For Six on Saturday, I’m going to start with a dazzling dahlia:

1 Dahlia ‘Bora Bora’. I featured this last week, but look how it’s changed to the most unusual sea urchin! I love it. This almost makes up for the slug decimation of Chat Noir and other dahlias that were supposed to be on parade.

2 Blight on tomatoes. OK, let’s get this one over with. As mentioned earlier this week, we’ve got blight for the first time ever. Everyone seems to have it round here this year. I was really hoping I could save these tomatoes by stripping off the bad leaves and letting them ripen in the sun, but it’s not looking too good, is it?

Veg-bed tomatoes

What to do now? I noticed that the ones I’ve got growing in pots against the back wall are looking a bit better, although the leaves aren’t too good. It will be a poorer summer indeed without tomatoes, or courgettes – these have been destroyed by slugs of course.

Wall tomatoes

3 Begonia in a big blue pot. Onto better things. I mentioned that I felt Geranium Rozanne was lacking a little je ne sais pas quoi in this corner near the back door, perhaps a bit too dominant in pale blue. So I’ve added some white to draw the eye with this begonia (which I found in the garden centre, no label: does anyone know it?).

4 Daylily ‘Stafford’. Another one that’s been featured recently, for those who may remember, but it’s adding such great impact now with those warm, spicey tones and I’ve also figured out its name: Stafford. Seems too traditional for it. Daylilies do very well on our Belgian clay, so naturally I am tempted to try a few more.

5 Lantana camara ‘Orange’. I had an unusual, somewhat unsettled childhood, with expat parents who were very adventurous and moved around the place a lot. So when I was seven years old, I found myself in Jordan. My Dad worked at a university outside a small town, and so we lived on campus and my friends and I had free reign to play outside within its perimeter all day long. The almost traffic-free roads were lined with Lantana camara, so this takes me right back. I love the intensely aromatic leaves (the oils of the plant are used in insect repellents) and the tiny florets which always fascinated me (seven-year-old me liked to unpick each little flower from the main floret). For the first time, I managed to get this plant through a European winter – it sulked in the cellar in front of a south-facing window, but has really picked up now.

6 Hypericum kalmianum ‘Gemo’. I prefer this compact but showy little shrub to the larger Hypericums. It stays quite small but flowers enthusiastically from now through to September within minimum fuss, and adds a cheerful note right by the front steps. It looks good pretty much all year round, retaining its dark seed pods and a nice woody structure in winter, so that’s not bad for the front of house.

Well, I was hoping the sun would stay with us a little longer so that I could lounge in my deckchair and read a good book, but today starts overcast. I’ve sown some biennials for flowers next year (foxgloves, wallflowers and sweet williams) and pulled some more bindweed out here and there. The garlic is ready to harvest, and the blackberries are starting to come in, I might sow some radicchio. It’s a nice time of year, without too many urgent tasks.

For more delightful Six on Saturday posts from gardeners far and wide, see The Propagator’s site.

Six on Saturday: 12 Dec 2020

Inertia is setting in, as I enter deeper hibernation mode. This happens to me every year at this time, and it comes as no surprise. Humans, in my view, are no different to other animals, and other animals slow down in winter, or just pack it in and go to sleep until it’s worth waking up again in the spring! I take my cue from the rodents and hedgehogs, and dig deeper into my burrow.

As a result, there hasn’t been much activity in the garden, apart from a swift sortie to plant 75 tulips into pots, my insurance policy against those that went a bit fungal in the shed but were planted out anyway. These newly bought tulips are Abu Hassan and Cassini, both Truimph tulips in invigorating shades of scarlet and orange. When I come out of my hibernation, they will gladden my heart.

This weeks Six on Saturday starts with…

1 Christmas wreath. It has taken me a while to get into the festive spirit this year, knowing that we are going to have a very quiet Christmas in Belgium a trois, but I’ve finally got the box of Christmas decorations out of the cellar, and made the wreath with my son’s creative assistance. Everything was very hastily collected from the garden in the cold and wet, plus a couple of decorations stuck on.

2 Narcissus paperwhite. I don’t think these will be out in time for Christmas. Perhaps they need warmer temperatures for a boost? Mine are in the cellar, radiator turned off, but with plenty of light from a south-facing window.

3 Lantana camara. I have tried for many years to get Lantana through winter, and have failed every time. So this year, instead of going into an unheated mini greenhouse outside, it has been brought into the cellar. It seems to be doing alright for now. I adore this plant because it reminds me of my childhood in Jordan, where it grew into great, big, colourful hedges outside our home, and because it looks fabulous with Dahlias like Bishop’s children. Behind the Lantana is lemongrass, still alive and flavouring the occasional Thai curry.

4 Tradescantia zebrina. After seeing Katharine’s fabulous display of house plants on last week’s SOS, also featuring this plant, I thought I would give mine a moment of limelight. This one has spent summer outside trying its best to hide my water but, and I have to say it seems to have benefited hugely from its holiday outdoors. What it lacks is a decent spot in the house to drape down from – it’s currently on an Amazon box in the hallway, poor thing!

5 Christmas cactus. This one just might make it in time. It’s a cutting given to me by my mother-in-law, whose plant in turn is a cutting from her mother’s plant, so this one’s got history. First blooms just appearing in party-time pink.

6 Seeds in French. I hesitate to mention to dreaded B-word on here, but the reality is that I will need to improve my horticultural French. I’ve traditionally ordered seeds from British companies – I particularly like Premier Seeds – but they sent me an email last week saying that without a trade deal, it will now cost them 125 GDP per order to ship seeds to Europe, due to the red tape, which is a bit hefty for a few sunflower seeds, so I’m looking at a Belgian catalogue here, and thinking, thank heavens for Latin names! I like the pretty drawings.

Well mes amis, that’s all for this week. It’s looking dull and misty outside, so I think we will get the Christmas tree in today and start decorating that.

Do check out The Propagator and friends for more Six on Saturdays.