Six on Saturday: 17 July 21: Après le déluge

Well that was an awful lot of rain. You will have no doubt heard about the floods in eastern Belgium and seen the devastation on the news. Towns that we drove through in spring when we went to that region for a lovely holiday have been reduced to mud, upturned vehicles and rubble, it’s quite astonishing. Here in the centre of the country, perched on a hill on the outskirts of Brussels, we were spared flooding but it rained, and rained, and rained. Climate change is coming home. Thankfully, the weather is improving now, and the sun has come out as I’m writing this on Saturday morning, yes it’s Six on Saturday time:

1 Respite after the rain. The poor chickens have not been enjoying the weather, their feathery feet have been getting soggy, and it’s only now that they are able to come out to roost and wander about. You can see they still look a little put-out.

2 Platycodon grandiflorus. Otherwise known as the balloon flower for its strange buds that swell up as if someone’s blowing into them, before opening out into these bright violet-blue flowers. A white-flowered variety hasn’t yet come into flower. They have been relocated to the cool shades/pond border, where all the plants are thriving in the damp conditions.

3 Dahlia ‘Bora Bora’. A saturated, attention-grabbing pink, this cactus Dahlia is growing well in a large pot next to the veg patch. I stuck a strip of copper tape around the rim of the pot, and I don’t see any slug damage at all. The same for a pot of Dahlia ‘Antibes’. My conclusion: the copper tape really does seem to work, especially if you make sure the slugs can’t get in from the drainage holes underneath.

4 Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’. A bright splash of chartreuse makes for great edging for the cool shades border. This grass completely disappeared over winter, leading me to wonder if it had died, but it reappeared timidly in spring, and it’s been gradually getting shaggier and shaggier as the season progresses. A Japanese forest grass, it loves the wet.

5 Geranium ‘Rozanne’. This one needs no introduction, as it’s become one of the most popular geraniums around, with good reason – it’s got real flower-power. However, I am not entirely happy with this upper end of the cool shades border, essentially a steep, rubbly slope with shallow soil. I feel Rozanne needs a contrast, though she hasn’t left much space for one. I’m also annoyed that the pink Japanese anemones that I dug up last year have returned, uninvited (top right corner). Finally a pot of Collarette Dahlias have totally been decimated by slugs (no copper tape on this one), so I’m going to replant, maybe with a few ferns I have to spare. Anyone got any other slug-proof ideas for pots in part-shade?

6 Potato harvest. The first potato crop, growing in repurposed compost bags as part of a space-saving experiment. The verdict? Well, these are still rather small – perhaps because they are congested, or perhaps it’s just a little early – these are King Edwards, so have a long growing season. The taste test? Absolutely magnificent, I haven’t tasted a potato this good, with such earthy creaminess, since the last home-grown one. I’m curious to see how Fred, a French gardener’s bin-grown potatoes turned out – he has been conducting a similar experiment.

I’m looking forward to some sunshine and gardening time, as it’s been impossible to do much this last week. You’ll find more sixes from around the world on The Propagator’s blog. Have a great weekend everyone, whatever the weather throws at you.

Six on Saturday: 22 May 2021

I’m late posting today as I had an early morning appointment to get my first Covid vaccine. Hopefully my antibodies are swinging into action as I write. So without further ado, let me dive straight into this week’s Six on Saturday:

1 Alliums. We’re back to the purple and orange contrasts in the new vibrant border, with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ joining the manic-flowering Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’, which I’ve cut back quite a bit as it was getting a little domineering in orange. Lovely to see the honey bees and bumblebees enjoying the alliums. The only slight disappointment is that the pollinators show no interest at all in the geums, and I wonder why – are they low in nectar and/or pollen? It’s a pity because they flower so profusely and are good garden plants, and while not every garden plant has to be planted for a pollinator, it is something I’m aiming towards.

2 Rosa x Cantabrigiensis. I featured it in my Soggy Garden post earlier this week, but I like these new photos of it even more. Newly planted last autumn as a bare root, am delighted with this delicate, primrose yellow rose, developed in Cambridge in the 1930’s. The single flowers have the advantage of being more accessible to pollinators, though I’ve got plenty of the big, blousy ones on their way.

3 Hesperis matronalis with grape vine. The pale violet flowers of the sweet rocket are adding to the front path action, and the vine on the fence behind them looks promising, except for the fact that it’s got lots of bumpy spots from a tiny insect that borrows into the leaves. It is harmless, and doesn’t affect the grape harvest, but looks a bit unsightly. When the leaves get a bit bigger, I will remove the worst affected to control the problem a bit.

4 Potatoes. They have been growing like mad in all this rain we’ve been having! I wonder if I should earth them up some more – the compost bags containers can be further unfolded if need be.

5 Lettuces. They have also been growing like mad in this rain, and I can triumphantly confirm that the ones growing up on the roof of the shed have been totally untouched by slugs, with no protective measures taken. I’ve cracked it people! Grow your lettuces up high, find the highest point you can reach and put them up there. Harvesting and checking up on them only involves a quick climb out of a landing window and a hop over a small pitched roof – the athletics are worth the effort! The champagne box planter has Asiatic leaves which add a good peppery flavour to lift the salads.

6 Chickens. Well I was going to take a photo of the flowering rhododendrons in the corner of the garden, but my camera lens was drawn inevitably to the Pekin bantams. They love it under the shrubby growth here, and I feel that the rhododendrons are finally serving a purpose (I find them rather gloomy for most of the year). Tabitha, Jennifer and Grimy are settling in well and are a bit less jittery when we approach them. I trust that they are fully engaged in slug control.

So there we are, another wet week goes by without much gardening but with plenty of plant growth nonetheless. Seedlings of Tithonia, Salvia and sunflowers as well as courgettes and sweetcorn are giving my accusatory glances each time I open up the greenhouse, but I suppose no harm will come from waiting a bit longer before planting out. Thanks to the Propagator for hosting, and hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

Six on Saturday: 01 May 2021: Festival of Flowers

Wishing everyone a happy May Day: a significant festival for gardeners, as the first celebrations marked the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, during the Roman republican era.

Ah such a lovely morning to bring in the month of May, full of promise. I love this time of year. I decided to take a few pics of how the back garden is looking this morning, and pretty much all you see has been transformed from lawn and few lone shrubs when we moved here almost four years ago. You know what, I’m going to give myself just a little pat on the back, before I start thinking about how to improve it further.

After last week’s tribulations with tomatoes, things have calmed down a bit, especially as new homes have been found for at least half of them, considerably easing my work load. Also, we have focused on welcoming our cute feathered friends to their new abode – they are of course featured on this week’s Six on Saturday round-up:

1 The Vibrant Border. It’s living up to its name, with three main party-goers having a good time together: orangey-red Tulipa Dillenburg and Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ have been joined this week by fuchsia pink tulip ‘Barcelona’. This border reminds me of a Spanish fiesta at the moment. Hard to believe it was a patch of bare clay just last autumn, and before that just lawn. Things will calm down once the tulips are over, but am hoping that alliums, oriental poppies and day lilies will take up the baton. Meanwhile, seedlings of Tithonia, sunflowers and Cleome, and Dahlias, are being nurtured in the greenhouse for late summer colour.

2 Tulipa Cassini. Yes, more tulips, I’ve gone a bit tulip mad this year (or last autumn, to be more accurate, it must have been the weather, or an attempt to distract myself from grim reality). Here two pots of Cassini are brightening up a corner of the veg patch, they are a bit short and dumpy but I like to soft orange shade. I like the lime green growth on the box hedge too, which has finally become a hedge rather than individual little plants, it took about three years. Argh the box blight, argh the box tree caterpillar, I hear you cry, but I am deaf to these portents of doom, all is well and green for now.

3 Bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica. Onto something cooler and calmer, let’s head to the glade, where ferns are unfurling gracefully, Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Spessart’ is flowering daintily and the bluebells are nodding their pretty heads. There’s a perfect unblemished Hosta in a pot, I love the blue-green colour but don’t know the variety. Keeping Hostas in pots is the only way to stop them looking a total slug-ravaged mess in my garden!

4 The potato trials. I’m participating in an experiment to grow potatoes in containers this year, along with Fred a French Gardener, Piglet in Portugal and N20 Gardener. I’ve got one large bin filled with four King Edwards, and three compost bags with two or three potatoes per bag. Here you can see pics taken earlier in the week, pre and post earthing up with fresh compost, and finally a photo taken this morning to show how quickly new growth emerges after earthing up. So far, so good.

5 Lettuces on the rooftop. Another intrepid experiment, to grow lettuces on the roof of our shed, in the vain hope that slugs will not scamper up here to dine on Lollo Rosso, Oakleaf Red and Paris Island Cos. What a menu, they might be tempted to make the trek! As an afterthought since taking this photo, I covered the crates with chicken wire cloches just in case the roosting pigeons in the trees overhead felt like a free lunch.

6 Our new garden inhabitants. Welcome to our Pekin bantams! They are still very shy and getting used to their new surroundings. Much smaller than the normal breed of layer, they are round, have feathered feet, and – I quote – “are generally less destructive of ornamental gardens”. It’s great to have chickens back in the garden again.

That’s all from me this week, be sure to browse The Propagator’s Six on Saturday post for links to fabulous gardens with dedicated custodians from around the world.