Six on Saturday: 21 Nov 2020

This post is dedicated to the productive side of things, with a veg patch and mini greenhouse overview, plus a bulb planting fiasco. I have thrown in some violas and pansies for the prettiness factor. The unavoidable reality at this time of year is that a lot of the pretty stuff is found outside my garden, in the forest, where the beech is putting on quite a show, and along the lakes and ponds nearby. Favourite pic of the week is this Great Blue Heron, who lives in the grounds of a castle in ruins, and was leisurely grooming himself by a pond. Quite romantic!

So onto my Six on Saturday, joining other gardeners posting the goings-on in their gardens thanks to a theme hosted by The Propagator. Visit his page for some November inspiration.

1 Egyptian Beetroot. Sown in August, leaves somewhat nibbled now but I should pick some for salads while they are still young. They are extremely good for one’s health.

2 Rainbow Chard. One of my favourite winter veg, both for taste and for those colourful stems. I agree with veg gardener and plantswoman Joy Larkom: the veg patch can, should and sometimes does look good, with a bit of imagination. I love her book, Creative Vegetable Gardening.

Chard, and a few Borage seedlings

3 Spinach. The final trio of my outdoor winter leaves, along with the chard and beetroot, and looking healthier than my summer crop, though nibbled (there is more than one patch of spinach, but I admit this is small-scale veg growing!). To the left is my green manure, Phacelia, and at the back the garlic lurks underground. Mousty the cat photo-bombed this shot, but serves to prove that my cat-proofing installation works!

4 Greenhouse salads. We’ve got rocket, parsley and winter purslane, and the oriental salad leaves sown last month are coming along, slowly. There’s also some mustard that had self-sown outdoors, so I scooped that up and brought it in here, hoping for the best. It’s a tad reluctant to grow. The rocket here is has already been harvested several times.

5 Bulbs. Bit of a disaster here. I’d been storing my tulip bulbs from a Dutch supplier in the shed for about a month, and on opening the packs, realised many had gone a bit fungal and had to be binned. A pity. I took my chances with those that still looked OK, and planted in the ground or in pots (varieties: Aladdin, Dillenburg, Barcelona, Uncle Tom, and a botanical tulip, Tulipa clusiana ‘Peppermint Stick’). Luckily the Alliums, purchased elsewhere, were fine, along with some Dutch Iris and the botanical tulip.

6 Pansies and violas. I promised something pretty, here we are. I have loved pansies and violas ever since my mother grew them along the driveway of my childhood home in Kent, and so this seems like an appropriate one to end on for The Nostalgic Gardener.

PS Perhaps even prettier are the beech leaves in the forest which I admit is not in my garden but feels very much part of it (cheating I know, but I’ll call it a borrowed landscape).

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