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.

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.