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…

My monthly Fab Five: October

So, mid-October, there is a nip in the air, and the garden is dominated by the slow but steady leaf fall from our neighbours’ lime and hornbeam trees, which cover almost everything in about half of our back garden. Yes, they make a terrible mess and it’s a lot of work clearing them, so nowadays I have kind of given up on having a tidy garden, and I leave the leaves as a mulch on the borders. Human laziness, I tell myself, is good for the insects, grubs and worms, who will enjoy the cover and will work the rotting leaves into the soil, improving its texture.

I’m trying out a new format for my blog this month, here goes…

My monthly Fab Five: five fabulous things in the garden, month by month.

  1. Dahlias

I almost gave up on growing Dahlias last year – in other words, the slugs almost won. They really had a go at my plants, and those that remained didn’t flower so well. I realise now that the slug damage can be minimised by growing them in pots (and perhaps the chickens helped clear them earlier in the year), so I have got three large pots filled with Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff (bright scarlet), Dahlia Bishop’s Children (shades of red and orange, they are a seed strain from Bishop of Llandaff) and Dahlia Catherine Deneuve (a real sultry sunset orange-yellow beauty). I have also been kinder to them this year, keeping them well watered and feeding them with liquid tomato feed when I remember. They’ve paid me back by bringing a mood-lifting zing to a corner of my garden, near the front door of the house, and I am now an avid fan. Grow them, they will transform October for you.

Dahlia Bishop’s Children
Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff, with Lantana Camara in the foreground

2. Salvia ‘Hot Lips’

Slightly outrageous name, even more outrageous performance from this Salvia, which is sprawling all over the place by my front-of-house bed. Here she is caressing one of my little statues. We got these fellas from a local artist who exhibited in our garden as part of a local art event. Her sculptures looked so at home here that we decided to buy a couple and make them permanent features. Anyway, back to Hot Lips, she really is getting a bit out of bounds, but I’ll forgive her because she is putting on quite a show well into October, and all summer long too. She’ll get trimmed back in spring. I’m really getting into Salvias now, and am trying out some of the purple varieties (Salvia nemerosa Caradonna is a lovely one) in other bits of the garden, but these have pretty much finished flowering. For those who want to help the bees, Salvias have excellent nectar-rich flowers.

Salvia Hot Lips

3. Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

This Japanese Hybrid Anemone had a slow couple of years, but this year she’s really coming into her stride. She’s also flowering her socks off long after her pink Anemone x hybrida sisters have given up. With the light levels really dropping off, she seems to shine out even more, and she’s in a part-shade east-facing border, which seems to suit her well. If you’ve got a shadier spot, I would really recommend this plant. I’ve paired her up with Geranium ‘Rozanne’, growing in front, which is also still flowering. You can also spot Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’ in a massive blue pot behind her, am hoping this will grow fast to cover the modern brick wall.

Anemone Honorine Jobert, with Geranium Rozanne

4. Beetroot and Spinach

No it’s not all over in the veg patch! The spinach and beetroot have survived their cross-country journey as seedlings (I sowed them in August at my Mum’s house in Kent, UK and brought them back to Belgium, miraculously they didn’t get squashed in our heavily over-packed car). They were transferred to the veg patch in early September and will be ready for harvesting young leaves from now on. I’ve also got chard growing alongside them, which is my go-to winter veg, it’s virtually indestructible and keeps on giving for months on end. And no, I don’t think it tastes horrible, why do people say that?! It’s perfect for a winter stew with butternut squash, lentils, carrots, you name it.

Young beetroot and spinach in the veg patch, plus a few self-seeded plants

5. Rose hips

No idea what variety this tall shrub rose is, but I do love its autumn hips. I’m not doing it justice with this photo, taken on a dull day, but wanted to include it in my Fab Five this month. It is a perfect fit for the shades of autumn. I haven’t tried using the hips for anything, but have heard that it can be made into rose hip tea, has anyone tried making that?

Well, there are my Fab Five for this month. If anyone fancies joining in with their monthly Fab Five – it can be anything you find fabulous in your garden at this time of year – then do join in or put your favourites in the comments section. Thanks for reading and have a fab gardening month!

Rose hips