Six on Saturday: 25 Sep 2021: Wishes and Karma

I’m publishing two posts today – a rather excitable one on the new allotment I’ve got a share in – and this week’s Six on Saturday, as there’s still plenty to revel in as September draws to a close.

1 Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’ was an impulse buy as I was killing some time last Saturday afternoon while my son did his theatre class. There’s a nice little garden centre run by some friendly Flems nearby, so this inevitably means picking up a plant or two. This one stood out. It’s one of the Wish collection salvias from Australia, and part of the sale proceeds go towards granting wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. The flowers are a lovely coral-red with dusky pink bracts and there are purple tones to the leaves and stems. Only downside – it’s not fully hardy, but I will enjoy it through autumn.

2 Begonia ‘Picotee Sunburst’ is described as ‘an indefatigable bloomer from mid summer to the first frosts’ but my three in pots seem very fatigued. They have been growing at a snail’s pace since spring, and only now are deigning to flower. I’m probably not giving them something they need, and so they are sulking. Never grown them before.

3 Calendula ‘Daisies Mixed’ – many thanks to One Man and His Garden Trowel for the seeds for both this calendula and number 4. I was late sowing these, so they are flowering much later than my ordinary orange calendulas, but they are worth the wait. I’ll let them set seed and grow more of these next year.

4 Calendula ‘Snow Princess’ is an interesting colour mix, the petals starting off a soft yellow and then turning white, but retaining a hint of that yellow towards the centre, and the very tips of the petals are brushed with brown.

5 Dahlia ‘Bora bora’ is flowering again, this time in combo with some perennial sunflowers in the background. I really can’t get enough of this cactus dahlia.

6 Pot luck. We’ve got a neighbourhood WhatsApp group for a small collective garden managed by a very sociable Italian (is there any other kind?) up the road. I recently dug up some overgrown Alchemilla mollis, divided them and offered them to the group. They went like hot cakes. Then another neighbour offered some aged terracotta pots he didn’t want, so I was very pleased to get hold of these four, just in time for planting up bulbs. A bit of gardening Karma.

Plenty more Six on Saturdays to see on The Propagator’s site. Wishing everyone a great weekend. Here we have another glorious sunny September morning, so hope the weather is good wherever you are.

Six on Saturday: 18 Sep 2021: soft and gentle

September is proving to be a soft, mellow and gentle month, just as it should be, so at last the weather is doing what it’s supposed to. Though the days are shorter, and the night is encroaching ever further into the evenings, the sun still has a lovely warmth to it – we need to bask in it while we can. I feel like I’m on borrowed time, and even as I write this, am looking at that bench thinking I ought to be sitting on it! It’s a bit of a raggedy time in the garden, frankly, but grasses are throwing out their seed heads, and little pops of colour are brightening the vibrant border – still in its first year, so a bit gappy but pulling through.

A clump of Tithonia and a few bits and pieces

1 Sunflower: Helianthus annus ‘Velvet Queen’ was supposed to be one of the less tall, spreading varieties. Ahem. You can see its tall, very silly, spindly stem in the photo above, so it’s not at the right height at all, but the flowers are a nice russet colour. Silliness aside, I hope the birds will enjoy the seeds in winter.

2 Dahlia ‘Antibes’ has survived the usual ravages of slugs in the border, and is throwing out appropriately autumnal reddish blooms.

3 Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ with Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ make a nice pairing. The seed heads of the Pennisetum are soft and furry, like rabbit’s ears. Nachtvlinder, now becoming rather trendy, is a sultry velvety shade, and is doing pretty well for its first year.

4 Gladiolus byzantinus has finally appeared, planted out this spring. There are more on the way I hope. In the morning light, it looks pinker, but it has a nice magenta tone in the petals.

5 Gladiolus ‘Velvet Eyes’ came as a bit of a surprise. I’d planted a bunch in the spring of last year, and they all flowered last August, with terrible timing as I’d gone to the UK for three weeks during that ‘Covid opening’ phase of last summer, so I missed them. Then I lifted and stored them in the shed last winter, and the bulbs went mouldy. This single survivor was missed and left in the border, surviving one of our harshest winters. There’s a lesson in there!

6 Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’. Coming to six already, I realise how much is still going on in the garden, but I have to include some of these delightful berries. Pyracantha is one of those plants that divide opinion. My neighbours have one and call it ‘the devil shrub’ because they hate pruning it, getting caught up in its admittedly rather spikey thorns – but they prune it so much that it doesn’t have a chance to produce berries, so no wonder they don’t like it, they are missing its best feature! I really enjoy these generous clusters of berries and have two in pots near the house.

That’s all from me this week, I need to get to that bench, quickly before the day and all its activities take over. For more Six on Saturdays from around the world, visit The Propagator, and have yourselves a lovely weekend.

Six on Saturday: 11 Sep 21: Keep it in the family

The Balat Greenhouse, 1854

This week’s Six on Saturday comes from my favourite section of Belgium’s botanical garden at Meise, just north of Brussels. It’s called the Cronquist garden (after the American botanist, Arthur Cronquist) and houses an enthralling collection of herbaceous plants, arranged neatly by family in beds – Cronquist was apparently instrumental in developing a new classification system for plant families. The beds are set off by an elegant glass and steel greenhouse built by Alphonse Balat, the court architect of Belgian King Leopold II. I was there on a rainy Friday this week, so apart from the gardener, I had the place pretty much to myself and was happy as Larry, darting around from one eye-catching plant to another.

1 Ipomoea lobata, also known as the fire vine, firecracker vine or Spanish flag. This really was like a firecracker, immediately catching my attention as I entered the garden and making me wonder why I didn’t have one of these beauties in my garden. I love the gradation in colour in those flower buds. It’s native to Mexico and Brazil; I have a theory that plants from that part of the world have done really well this year due to the intense humidity.

Ipomoea lobata

What was quite clever was the way it was planted up a simple steel grid structure, with individual vines planted on either side, seven in total. The height was also perfect, not much taller than me, so around 1.6 metres, or 5 foot 4 inches if you prefer imperial – so no ladders required!

2 Aster novi-belgii. Every garden should have an aster for a September display, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Aster novi-belgii

3 Tagetes patula. These are French marigolds, or are they? The French think of them as Indian, as in their common name Oiellet d’Inde, but the Dutch associate them with Africa, Kleine Africaan. But they’re all wrong, they are native to Mexico and Guatemala! In any case, whatever we call them, these are delightful, with purple hints in the stems and leaves, and good height of around 1 metre.

Here’s an idea of how to combine them in a border. Just look at that yellow Helenium behind, weighed down with all those flowers, and there’s a tall Eupatorium on the other side.

4 Phyla nodiflora. I thought this was a charming little combo from the Verbenaceae family: an endearing little ground cover plant growing around a lemon verbena, Aloysia citrodora. The Spanish and Portuguese brought lemon verbena over from South America in the 17th C and cultivated it for its oil. I am less familiar with the Phyla nodiflora, aka the frogfruit or turkey tangle, presumably it got that name in the southern United States, where it is commonly grown as groundcover and perhaps where turkeys get tangled up in it, poor things!

5 Abelmoschus esculentus. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied these wonderful-looking seed pods, but it’s only when I checked the label that I realised these were Okra, or Lady’s Fingers, making them both delicious and beautiful. Who would have thought we could grow these here and end up with such a fine specimen for the September garden and the main ingredient for a delicious ‘bamya’ stew: okra cooked in tomato sauce with whole garlic cloves and served with basmati rice? I absolutely must try growing them next year!

Abelmoschus esculentus

6 Periscaria orientalis. Now, judging from my own garden, there are a lot of floppy plants at this time of year, weighed down with the weight of their blooms. But not this one, standing proud and poised as a ballerina.

Periscaria orientalis

Well I had to tear myself away from this lovely garden, where I could easily spend hours examining plants, and I also have to tear myself away from writing more as I’ve reached the limit of six, which is just as well, otherwise you’d all get bored dear readers! You’ll find other botanical sixes from all around the globe here too, on the Propagator’s site.

In my own garden, I’ve tasted the first of the sweetcorn, which was delicious but the cobs were only half-developed, probably not enough sun and heat this year. There are still a few sweet peppers and chillis coming along, and I think there are some radishes growing up on the shed roof, I really should get up there to investigate! Hope everyone has a good weekend – it’s looking a bit gloomy outside but I might try to get a bike ride in.

Six on Saturday: 04 Sep 2021: mellowing

Who captured the feel of autumn better than John Keats, with his ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’? Well, we are not quite there yet, it’s a bit early for mist, and fruitfulness is a bit disappointing, as we’ve had very few apples and no grapes this year. But there is most definitely a mellowing of the light, which is to be welcomed, making the plants glow softly in a most appealing way. Add some blue skies and sunny days, and things are on the up after the dog days of late August. I prefer September, when the garden might be slowing down, but the rhythm of the year re-establishes itself: that back to school, back to work feeling, which in gardening terms is back to planning for next year, with my first bulb order arriving and awaiting planting (Camassias, Fritillaries, Alliums). Let’s get started with the first Six on Saturday of meteorological autumn:

1 Cricket of considerable size. As I was belatedly staking some sagging Heleniums, this fellow was watching me through the Miscanthus. One of those moments to stop and stare, after running in for the camera, as he slowly crept away with sticky padded feet. He was at least 7cm long. Very exciting, as have never seen one of these in the garden before.

2 Verbena bonariensis. I’m pleased that this plant is gently seeding itself about the place, bringing in the bees and butterflies. It’s moved into the veg patch, which I don’t mind at all as it hardly gets in the way with its narrow stems, in fact there is little for it to get in the way of, as the space is normally occupied by tomatoes, which went out when blight struck. I replanted with radicchio, which all got eaten, despite precautionary anti-slug measures. So the Verbena has free reign.

3 Rosa ‘Compassion’. Now, speaking of mellow, take a look at how this rose is transformed by the light. When it flowered profusely in June, it was predominantly pink. Now the apricot is coming through much more strongly. I’ll let you decide which is prettiest – the bud on the cusp of opening, or the faded bloom (you’ll need to ignore the hoverfly being devoured by a tiny white spider).

4 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’. Here’s another flower I like best at this time of year, when it’s glory is fading and the pink is gradually suppressed by biscuity buff tones.

5 Hylotelephium. Or Sedum if you prefer the old name. I’m always astonished by the number of bees dining on this mix of a pink sedum given to me by my mother-in-law Marianne, and a white ‘Iceberg’ that I added. These grace the sunny sweet spot of the front path, with lavender behind them and geraniums in front, and further up the indefatigable Nepeta is having a second flush. Lots here for our pollinator friends over an extended period of time.

6 Geranium Rozanne. Speaking of indefatigable, this hardworking geranium is also I think looking better in the softer autumnal light – in brighter summer sun, it looks a bit washed out. Now it’s got a glow to it, and with any luck it will keep this up into October, maybe November: ‘to set budding more, and still more later flowers for the bees, until they think warm days will never cease, for Summer has o’er brimm’d their clammy cells‘ – I’m sure Keats would have made a great Six on Saturday blogger.

So there we have it, a change from the warm reds, oranges, terracotta and turmeric shades that I’m rather partial to – no doubt they’ll be back next week, as those Tithonias are just clamouring to have their photo taken again. Many thanks to our host The Propagator, and to all the participants too, wishing you all a great weekend.

Six on Saturday: 31 July 2021: Save the insects!

A bumblebee enjoys the Oregano

It’s been a week of gusty winds and unsettled weather, but also of good-ish news: double-vaccinated EU residents are finally going to be allowed to travel to England without the need to quarantine, allowing families (like ours) to reunite. Except for anyone coming from or going through France to reach the shores of Albion, which we do. We’re told this is because there are cases of the beta variant of Covid-19 on Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean which happens to be an overseas French territory. Now I know we’ve been fighting wars with the French for much of our history, and there’s a bit of a love-hate thing going on, with recent seismic events testing the love a little bit, but surely this is going trop loin?

I’ll leave you to ponder that and move on to the less testy and altogether more wholesome Six on Saturday, as hosted with aplomb every week by The Propagator. Here are my favourites this week:

1 Oregano. A great nectar-provider at this time of year, the bees have really been enjoying it, as have the cabbage white butterflies. We also enjoy it, especially in an omelette or with tomatoes (it’s a lot less fussy than basil).

2. Bee beetle (Trichius gallicus) on Leucanthemum. I’ve downloaded a new app to help me identify insects, and have found one that also logs observations on a website for scientific monitoring (for Belgian readers check out Waarnemingen). Given how much trouble insects are in, especially after the cold spring we had this year, and the effects of climate change on weather, this seems like a good idea. This sweet little beetle is apparently relatively common and a native species, though it’s the first time I’ve seen one.

3. Salvias. I’ve developed quite the little collection of these wonderful plants: they’re long-flowering, disease-resistant, aromatic, pretty and excellent nectar providers from summer through to autumn. British gardener Sarah Raven claims that if you plant these next to roses, the roses won’t suffer from blackspot. I’ve put a few near my roses to see what happens and will report back to you on the results, but even if it doesn’t work, these plants are useful to extend the interest of the shorter rose-flowering season and are great for insects. I couldn’t decide which to feature, so here’s a gallery of my favourites flowering now in the garden.

4. Aconitum henryi ‘Sparks Variety’. The intense blue of this aconite is quite compelling, I find. I had another aconite that flowered in the spring, which was less branching than this one and a touch lighter in colour, and had confused them: it seems I have somehow got two different varieties, not sure how that happened!

5 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’. It’s been a great year for the water-loving hydrangeas, after all they’ve had plenty of it! They are brimming with health and vigour, as this one demonstrates.

6 Vegetables. The first cucumber is about ready to pick, don’t you think? Last week I had to remove all the tomatoes because of blight, but the cucumber has really enjoyed this year’s humidity and is climbing up the wall as if it plans to go visit the neighbour. The sweetcorn is also looking promising, as are the Thai Red Dragon chilli peppers.

We’re off on holiday next week, so I might not be posting for a little while. I just hope the designated care-takers keep chickens, cat and seedlings of biennials and veg alive. Have a great weekend, may the weather be kind to you and hope to catch up with you again soon.

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: 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: 10 July 2021: tribulations

Coping with loss, failure, and disappointment is as much the gardener’s lot as the more celebrated joys and triumphs of successfully growing beautiful plants and bringing in bountiful harvests. Perhaps inevitably, we highlight the good stuff and tuck away the bad stuff, well away from the camera lens and our brightly edited versions of our gardens. But this year has been tough in more ways than one, and the garden has not always been a source of undiluted pleasure. So far, summer in northern Europe has been unrelentingly wet, and a boom in slug and snail numbers of which locals have never seen the like has wrought untold destruction. Of course, it can never be all bad in the garden, so this week there’s still some solace among the slimey trails. For example:

1 Dahlias. Yes, this is the beautiful, almost black Dahlia, Chat Noir. The reason I know that is from the label. I was looking forward to these sultry beauties contrasting with the daylilies, but alas it was not meant to be. Despite numerous slug patrols and controls, Chat Noir was too tasty. But apparently not Dahlia Antibes, planted right alongside. This was was unscathed until the hapless gardener took a photo, and then recklessly knocked the bud off while attempting to move a potted Dahlia into the empty space occupied by the Chat Noir skeleton. Can’t blame everything on the slugs.

Rest in peace: Dahlia Chat Noir
Dahlia Antibes

2. Lavender and weeds. More tribulations. This is the first year I’ve seen bind weed take hold here in the lavender hedge along the front path, where it grows in a sweet spot unreachable from both our side and our neighbour’s side of the fence. Someone’s going to have to crawl under and attempt to locate the roots, and I get the feeling it’s going to be me. But perhaps I can take consolation from the more welcome weed that has self-seeded just in front: the wild mallow, which is looking a bit dishevelled but rather pretty.

3. Cosmos ‘Xanthos’. Somehow this made it through the ravages of slugs and weather, and is adding a welcome lemon tone to the front path border.

4. Ligustrum ovalifolium: Privet. Look what happens when you leave Privet to grow into a small tree, saved from the clippers. It produces sweetly scented flowers in abundance, that are a magnet for honeybees and other pollinators, including hoverflies. It also does a good job of screening the neighbour’s bright highlighter-orange brick shed. Another consolation.

Phone photo of privet, with salvia in the foreground

5. Hemerocallis. I have been awaiting these daylilies in the vibrant border with much anticipation, and here they are at last. A deep terracotta brick colour with a golden centre, it really works for me. They contrast quite nicely with the allium seedheads too.

Hemerocallis, unknown variety
Allium seedheads with Hemerocallis behind

6. Blackcurrants. So, I’ve lost a bell pepper and a chilli pepper planted out in the veg patch to slugs, and I can tell you the courgettes are valiantly struggling through but it’s looking iffy for them too. Thankfully these juicy blackcurrants are not to the molluscs’ taste.

That’s all from me this week, although you might see more from me next week as my teaching commitments are easing off now that most of my students are off on their holidays, quite a relief. You’ll find more in the way of gardening trials, tribulations and triumphs on The Propagator’s Six on Saturday page. Wishing you all a great weekend.

Six on Saturday: 03 July 2021: Tweeting

Not the time-wasting, relentless drivel kind of tweeting (there you have my views on Twitter, although plant tweets are perhaps the only reason I might be tempted back to it one day), I’m talking about the insistent tweeting of the little family of great tits, who have set up home in the bird box in the glade. They have been here for several weeks, and I’ve still failed to take a decent photo, but watching the parents dash to and fro relentlessly all day long, popping in and out with tasty morsels for their hungry brood, I wonder they don’t get burnt-out. It’s the first time the bird box has been occupied by birds, although previous years saw bees of some kind take up residence. The posher-looking house next door remains empty, these birdies are not interested in keeping up appearances.

Spot the birdie

As we enter July, there’s a definite change in the garden atmosphere here, as half of the back garden is under the now-heavier shade of the mature trees, while the veg patch and front path have a more summery vibe. The shedding phase is well underway, so from now until November the lime and hornbeam trees will deposit first faded flowers, then seeds, and finally leaves. It’s a real pain, everything on the back terrace and decking gets covered in muck every time it rains, which is a lot these days. A certain scruffiness is the price we pay for the woodland feel, and all the wildlife that supports – insects and grubs for our resident great tit family, and scrambling space for the lovely red squirrels (one day I’ll get a photo for you, promise).

1 Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ with Clematis ‘Betty Corning’. This covers one side of the arch that is close to the bird box/glade. Both seem very happy here, I think they like the woodland vibe, but as this section essentially faces south, they get a combo of coolness and sunshine.

I love the deep purple of Etoile Violette, which this year is smoothered in blooms, and the fairy-like delicacy of Betty Corning.

2 Lonicera periclymenum ‘Belgica’. I don’t hang the Belgian flag out front to show my support for my host-country’s football team (there are a lot of unhappy Belgians this morning, but the huge Italian-origin community here will be ecstatic). But I do have ‘Belgica’, which is a lovely honeysuckle, am getting wonderful whiffs of it when out gardening. A Belgian lady that came over earlier this week for a quick plant swap told me that it’s called Chevre-feuille in French, meaning Goat-leaf, although the link with goats was very unclear to both of us. This is a great nectar source for moths though, every garden should have one.

3 Digitalis grandiflora. Staying with the woodland-feel of the glade, there is inevitably less colour in this area at this time of year, but these foxgloves bring a welcome soft yellow. This is a perennial foxglove, which is wonderful, as unfortunately my biennial foxgloves, although they self-seed, get eaten by slugs, especially at the delicate seedling stage.

4 Lavender. Change of pace! We’re in summer-mode along the front path, where my neighbour’s lavender hedge kindly flowers more gloriously on my side than on theirs, as the best of the sun is here. I think this is English lavender, possibly Hidcote. The photo was taken on the only properly sunny day all week, which was yesterday, prompting me to think of Provence, if only for a short while.

Looking up the path towards the house
Looking towards the road and the glorious purple beech trees on the hill

4 Leucanthemum. More summery tones are provided by the ox-eye daisies. We are told by clever garden designers that it’s a good idea to repeat plants up a border to create a sense of rhythm and coherence. So I dutifully split clumps from the original patch and now have three vigorous clumps. They are perhaps a bit too vigorous, threatening to engulf the neighbouring plants, so I’ll have to police these.

6 Veg patch colour. Sorry, I couldn’t chose between Eucomis autumnalis, and the Calendula, which are jazzing up the veg patch. I find the aptly named Pineapple Lily really sweet, I don’t have a lot of exotica, but this brings just a touch of something different. I think I first came across it on a Six on Saturday post, could it have been Thistles and Kiwis all the way over in New Zealand? The Calendula can’t be beaten for vibrancy, though I’ve also got some other shades on the way, including ‘Touch of Red Buff’ which is just coming up behind the Pineapple Lily, I’ll show you that next week perhaps.

I’m off now to the Botanical Gardens at Meise, just north of Brussels, for some plant zen. Although it’s a grey day, threatening rain, they do have a wonderful palm-house that I can retreat to if need be. It’s one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, and is set in acres of glorious parkland, so I might take some photos to share with you mid-week. I’ll look in later in the day at other Six on Saturdays available on The Propagator’s page, where you will find lots to marvel at. Have a great weekend, till next time.

Six on Saturday: 26 June 2021: Harvests

Well the sunglasses, suncream and flip-flops are all getting decidedly dusty through under-use, as the weather hasn’t been cooperating with the idea of summer and all it brings to mind. It’s been a dank, wet week, that has emboldened the slugs but dampened my spirits. Along with some 3 million Brits who live abroad, we’re heading into summer with the added uncertainty of not knowing when we’ll be allowed to travel freely, sans quarantine, to our own country again, and see our families – too bad I’m not a rich and powerful football magnate, the rules don’t apply to them. But in their wisdom, they’ve put St Helena on the Green List, that remote South Atlantic island, size 162 square miles, population 6,100, final island prison and burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte after his defeat at Waterloo. Perhaps the Emperor’s ghost fancies a trip to Blighty for old times’ sake: he can pop over with no need to quarantine, it’s on the Green List!

Oh I know, I digress, but this sorry state of affairs might explain why I’ve got so much gardening done this week, it’s cathartic. A pond has been dug and planted up, peas have been harvested and dug out, sweetcorn has been planted in its place, the last of the dahlias have been squeezed into gaps, catmint and salvias have been cut back, roses deadheaded, somewhat ruthlessly, and the chickens have even begun laying cute bantam-sized eggs (that last bit is independent of my will). Six on Saturday will restore equilibrium:

1 Harvests. A little collage of harvests this week to soothe the soul. The peas were fantastic, each picture is a separate harvest: we had loads to eat and even some leftover to freeze. The eggs are barely bigger than a 2 euro coin. The wild strawberries are such a treat, and even roses were harvested, saved from the drizzle or imminent collapse.

2 Redcurrants. Another harvest. These drip like little rubies from the branches, so enticing that most of them get eaten by me on the spot. The blackcurrants are not far behind, though I have less of them as my two bushes are still only a couple of years old.

3 Blackberries. This bush is abuzz with bumblebees, honeybees and hoverflies, and the fruit is already beginning to set. My mouth is watering at the thought of blackberry jam. Time to raid the larder, get the empty jars out and start scrubbing the labels off. I’m not sure we’ll get an olive harvest from the little standard olive tree just in front there..

4 Shady border. Or should I now call this the pond border, as the little pond is just along from here. A deviation from my harvest theme, but I like this combo. Miraculously two flowerheads of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Anabelle’ survived a ruthless slug onslaught, along with Astrantia, Astible, and ferns. There’s a rugosa rose trying to push through too. Everything is covered with a confetti of rose petals from the yellow climbing rose above.

5 Tanacetum parthenium, or Feverfew. Now a potential medicinal harvest that could cure headaches brought on by listening to the news. I’m sure one can make tea with these, but I’ve never tried. They are looking so healthy that I might well try. The aphids like to colonise the stems, no harm done. These flowers cheer me up, and hoverflies like them too. If they choose to lay their eggs here, their larvae can enjoy the aphids, another harvest there.

6 Clover. The garden harvests are made possible thanks in no small part to the bees, who pollinate the flowers that then turn to fruit. It seems only right that I should give something back in thanks. So here is a lawn full of clover for them to enjoy. When the sun comes out to shine, this place will be buzzing.

I feel a little bit better now. The expression ‘You reap what you sow’ is often deployed in an admonishing way, but for the gardener, who quite literally reaps what they sow, this has a positive and uplifting resonance. Now matter how small, each harvest, whether of fruits or flowers, brings great pleasure. Head over to the Propagator to marvel at more harvests and other gardening miracles. And have a lovely weekend.