Six on Saturday: 10 April 2021

Plans for a leisurely Easter break pottering about the garden were stymied by the fickle weather. Snow only looks pretty when there isn’t gardening to be done, and I was most disappointed to see the garden on Wednesday looking like this:

The delicate spring blossoms were all smothered in snow, although the viburnum did carry it off rather jauntily:

Thankfully, the snowy interlude was a brief one, and by Thursday afternoon all was green and abundant in leaf and bud again. The roses are filling out with their fresh new foliage, geraniums are appearing where I’d forgotten I had any, and forget-me-nots are asserting that spring really is in full swing. Let’s dip into Six on Saturday:

1 Gardening for Bumblebees. Afternoon tea in the garden with a good book, one day after the snowy interruption. This delightful book, ‘a practical guide to creating a paradise for pollinators’, is filled with beautiful photographs, useful identification charts and an interesting classification of the best plants for pollinators. Different flower shapes suit short-tongued or long-tongued bees, while as Charles Darwin discovered, some clever bees simply make a hole in the side of the flower to access nectar. I’ve already started chasing bumblebees around to try to identify if they are Buff-tailed or Early Bumblebees, and I’ve noticed Queens scanning the ground for suitable nest sites.

2 Forget-me-nots (Myosotis, which endearingly translates as mouse’s ear in Ancient Greek). Here they surround a much-prized Honesty, which was sowed as a seed back in August last year, planted out in the autumn and is now almost at the point of flowering. Quite thrilling. It’s a damp and cloudy morning, so the anemone blanda have not deigned to open their flowers.

3 Iris. It’s always surprising when a strappy leaf suddenly becomes a flower bud, and even more exciting when you’re not quite sure what colour it is or how it’s going to turn out. Irises are new to me, and were acquired as part of a local plant-swap last summer. They’re in a hot spot at the front gate, somewhat nibbled but the bud is perfection itself.

4 Narcissi in pots. There comes a point at which defeat has to be conceded. My narcissi in pots were all a total disaster this year. I think that the hard Siberian freeze in February did for them: as you can see, the growing tips were scorched, and the buds shrivelled up and died. Am not sure what to do with them now – plant them out and hope they restore themselves for next year, or tip them onto the compost heap? Has such a calamity befallen anyone else growing narcissi in pots?

5 Rosemary cuttings. Let’s quickly move on to something more positive. The rosemary cuttings have rooted well, despite earlier appearances to the contrary, and have now been potted up into fresh compost, so am hoping they put on some decent leaves now. Just as well I have these, as the predations of the rosemary beetles on my established plants continue, and I caught two of them in flagrante making the next generation earlier. I had to leave them to it, some things are sacred, but will return to place them onto the bird table later.

6 Violas. There are quite a few things coming into flower now: the Pieris, the first geraniums, pulmonarias, wallflowers, and the tulips are almost there. I’m going to give the sixth slot this week to these perky little violas, perched up in a pot on the back wall. They deserve the prize for both effort and achievement, as they’ve been performing superbly for weeks without flagging.

As I’m writing this, am listening to the radio (BBC), which is replete with tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh. What an interesting life, from his stateless beginnings to his role as support to the Queen and champion of many causes. I would like to salute his work promoting environmental causes and conservation long before it became fashionable.

“We depend on being part of the web of life, we depend on every other living thing on this planet, just as much as they depend on us”, he once said.

“If we as humans have got this power of life and death, not just life and death but extinction and survival, we ought to exercise it with some sort of moral sense. Why make something extinct if we don’t have to?”. As I read my book on bumblebees, sadly noting that three species in the UK have become extinct, these words resonate more than ever.

I wonder how many other Six-on-Saturday bloggers from different corners of the globe will mention the late Prince? There’s only one way to find out: have a look at the posts on the Propagator’s page. Have a lovely weekend and thanks for reading!

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).