Six on Saturday: 27 March 2021

It’s Six on Saturday time, the virtual garden tour hosted by The Propagator and his growing (hee, hee) band of followers. Isn’t his Prunus incisa ‘kojo no mai’, featured today, absolutely gorgeous? There’s lots going on at this time of year, and I’ve also got a spring newsletter to send out to my Gardening in Belgium group this morning, so let’s dive straight in:

1 Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’. I find this dusky shade of purple – the colour of my favourite childhood juice Ribena, made from blackcurrants – quite fetching, and it’s surprisingly un-hyacinth-like in form, as the blooms are usually much denser. The tips got frost damaged as you can see. I’ve never grown hyacinth before, I think it would look good with primroses and maybe some muscari in the hopefully trumpet-vine-free glade (more on that later).

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

2 Malus ‘Evereste’. A new tree! It was a tough decision, choosing between all the possibilities, but I finally opted for a lovely crab apple. They say it’s one of the best trees for wildlife in the garden, and it has a long season of interest, also important in a small garden. This variety was created by a French governmental institution dedicated to agricultural and horticultural research in the 1970’s, hence it’s Everste with an ‘e’ at the end. It was dug out of a beautiful tree nursery for me, bare root, and I planted it that very afternoon near the glade, to connect up with the neighbour’s larger trees just the other side of the wall. I’ve underplanted with my two hellebores and some transplanted primroses, more of which will be added when I have a moment.

Malus ‘Evereste’

3 Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ and ‘Amagi shigure’. After selecting my crab apple, I had a little wander round the tree nursery, which was huge and had all sorts of wonderful shrubs too. I couldn’t resist either of these for the glade. Katsura has interesting spring foliage, and Amagi shigure is a new Japanese cultivar that is bright pinky-red. I think that Japanese acers have such elegance. I can see them working well with some heucheras, ferns and carex, all of which I have, so it’s just a question now of rescuing the glade from its muddy upheavals, moving a buddleia and getting creative.

4 Potatoes. It was a comment by French blogger Fred on a post by Irish blogger Padraig that gave me the idea to try growing potatoes in a bin. Such is the ease of learning from other Six on Saturday participants: thank you. This bin has no bottom, so I added a layer of horse manure and a layer of compost, then four King Edward potatoes, then more compost. Earthing up will be easy, just add more compost. The remaining potatoes have been planted in re-purposed old compost bags, with holes added for drainage, aesthetically challenging, but I want to keep space in the main veg bed for other things.

5 Seeds. It’s around this time of year that I get a bit anxious about sowing seeds, after the initial euphorbia of those first peppers and tomatoes has worth off, and the realisation dawns of just how many seed packets I ordered during winter’s day-dreams of summer glory. It’s like the feeling you get after over-indulging in an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Now it’s an all-you-can-sow-race-against-time and something of a logistical challenge to get these seeds going. So far, I’ve managed some lettuces, carrots, broccoli, broad beans, calendulas, nasturtiums, cosmos, coreopsis, larkspur and now, miraculously, more cleome have germinated too.

Lettuces germinating in the mini green house outside

6 Osmanthus x burkwoodii. “An evergreen saved from ignominy by by pure heads of sweetly fragrant white flowers in mid spring – good at lighting up a semi-shady corner behind ferns or glimmering white narcissi” says Val Bourne, a garden writer. It’s true that this in not my most exciting shrub, but it smells divine right now, and it’s no trouble at all. Can’t complain!

I’m adding a PS. My ongoing battle with the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) has been the most tiring and tiresome of garden jobs this week (actually there are two of them, one monster isn’t enough). The beast has insinuated itself into most of my glade, and after much tracing and digging up of roots, this was the result:

Make of that what you will: murder or manslaughter, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, you decide. In my defence, these are testing times, and getting testier as Belgium tightens Covid-19 measures today (schools are shut, shops are shut, you can see fewer people). One trumpet vine remains, for now.

The remaining trumpet vine is next to the spade against the wall, but for how much longer?

That’s all this week, I suppose I’ll be sowing more seeds. If you’re in Europe, enjoy the extra hour of evening daylight as the clocks go forward this weekend – the icing on the cake is that in Belgium we’re promised warm weather next week too. The good times are coming!

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.