Six on Saturday: 20 March 2021

Strange to think that this time last year, we were in our first lockdown in Belgium. Strange too that I have pleasant memories of it: glorious spring weather, afternoon tea in the garden, our first chickens to fuss over and tut-tut indulgently as they sampled my plants in an all-you-can-eat buffet, commuting time freed up to do more gardening…all enjoyable, but the wider context less so. Now, it’s different: though not in lockdown, I am getting itchy feet, and will really miss our usual Easter visit to Blighty. Luckily, the garden distracts and beguiles, with unfurling of leaf and fullness of bud, and Six on Saturday gives the perfect excuse to indulge in some gardening mindfulness.

1 Daffodils. There’s no doubt now that spring is here.

2 Anemone blanda. I rather cruelly dismissed these a couple of weeks ago as under-performers, but since then more have popped up and are still appearing, looking happy with the daffodils alongside the front path. We finally had some glorious sunshine yesterday, so they were posing for the camera. Forget-me-nots all around them will be next in line.

3 Peas ‘Douce de Provence’ have germinated well and I think I’ll put them in the raised veg bed soon. I could have put them directly in the ground, but I like to keep an eye on them in the early stages, as this minimises losses from slugs, which have a particularly voracious appetite at this time of year. I’ll do a second sowing in a few weeks, we love peas.

4 Rosemary. Now a less edifying sight. Despite temperatures of -11 degrees C this winter, the rosemary beetles are clearly alive and well, and have been feasting on my rosemary. Why these southern European visitors are thriving after such cold temperatures is a bit of a mystery: all the southern Europeans I know struggle to get through a cold Belgian winter. I pick them off whenever I see their shiny metallic coats, which you can see on a post from December, but the grey grubs are harder to spot. I did take rosemary cuttings, but they don’t look so alive either. Has anyone else had trouble with these bugs?

5 Trees. I love the moment at which they are about to burst into new life. Soon, when it’s warm enough to do some morning exercises on the terrace, I’ll be looking up into their leafy canopy. Now, let me be honest, they do create an awful lot of mess for me – lime trees and hornbeam deposit much in the way of stuff and stickiness on the decking – but I wouldn’t be without them, and neither would the birds, squirrels and other creatures that enjoy them.

6 Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’. I promised to feature this climber again, and here it is being fully appreciated by the bees. This baby is my star performer right now, don’t be surprised if she makes an appearance again next week!

These sunny pictures belie the reality of what was quite a soggy week, which meant that I didn’t get out into that garden as much I should have. Instead, I potted on my tomatoes and wrote about why I enjoy growing them so much, and I avoided the dreaded trench digging task of Operation Control Trumpet Vine, mentioned last week. I will have to get to that, but first I’ve got a date in a muddy Flemish field this afternoon, to dig out horse-manure from what sounds like a very large pile of the stuff. I’m doing it for the roses! I had better get my wellies out. You’ll find other marvellous contributions to The Propagator’s Six on Saturday weekly gardening fest on his site, so do visit to see what everyone is up to. Have a lovely weekend one and all!

Six on Saturday: 7 November 2020

Hello everyone, I’m back for another SOS, slightly late in the day but I have a good excuse: I was out gardening! Also having a glass of Champagne to celebrate a certain world event that could mean that one good thing did happen in 2020. Anyway, it’s been perfect gardening weather in Brussels: mild, clear skies, and the earth is damp enough to crumble nicely between my fingers without being sodden or frozen. This means it’s been good timing for preparing the new bed mentioned last week – I’ve broken up the clods and I’ve also divided a Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ and an orange Oriental Poppy and popped these divisions in. Maybe I won’t need to buy any new plants after all. Sticking to my colour theme so far. Next up will be the bulb planting.

Here are my six highlights for this week:

1 Trees. These dominate both our garden and the view from our house on the hill, with a long band of mature trees stretching down to meet the forest. They give this place its personality and its sense of serenity (despite being in a capital city). They also mean that I could potentially go into business producing leaf mould.

Lime, Hornbeam and European Oak overhang the walled corner of the garden
A more easterly view, with the contorted outline of a Rowan, a very elegant tree
Directly facing east, the band of trees sweeps down the hill and eventually meets the forest. This marks the south-easterly edge of Brussels.

2 Viburnum and Miscanthus. A nice pair at this time of year.

These two look great together in the morning sunshine

3 Trumpet vine seed pods. This climber is so lovely when it in flower in the summer, but it also produces interesting seed pods as the leaves turn buttery yellow and fall. If only it wasn’t such a monster. It sends out suckers up to six metres away from its base, and I have a hard time controlling them. I’m not surprised it’s considered an invasive species in some parts of the world. These seed pods will certainly not be allowed to do their job.

Trumpet vine

4 Viburnum carlesii. This one turns fiery before dropping its leaves, and has strongly scented pompoms of white flowers in the spring. In this photo you can see the flower buds, which transform into tightly packed dark pink balls before opening up. Photos next spring!

5 Silver. The foliage on this Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’, in its first year here, is turning a fabulous shade of silver. It is putting on a lot of new growth, and I wonder whether I should cut it back down to the ground in early spring, as the official advice goes, or leave it until its second year?

6 Grape Vine. I felt it should have some official recognition here, as it has the best year ever, with a bumper harvest of red grapes, from which I made jugs and jugs of grape juice, and many pots of red grape jelly. Thank you grape vine. Just in front, you can probably spot Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’, still throwing out buds, when will it ever stop?

That’s it for this Saturday. I hope everyone is managing OK with the various lockdowns around the world, and that your gardens are giving you pleasure and hope. Don’t forget to check out other Six on Saturday contributions over at The Propagator’s blog. Till next time.