In a Vase on Monday. 26th September 2022

I haven’t had time to participate in Cathy’s lovely IAVOM for weeks, so it’s nice to be back with a blast of colour. I couldn’t quite decide which of these was the better photo, so have added both. I suppose the first is slightly better, if only because it doesn’t include a view of the washing on the line like the second one does!

Here we have a collection of the bright jewel colours I was aiming for with this year’s dahlia re-stocking. They have been slow to get going from the tubers that arrived earlier this year but they are finally starting to perform as I had hoped. I’d have liked more orange to add into the mix, but these are very pleasing, and Waltzing Matilda in the centre is my favourite – such a complex blend of colours, she is a real dazzler. the asters are called ‘Helen Picton’ and I love their rich purple, which makes a nice change from the paler asters that are more commonly seen. I was really stuck for foliage so ended up adding some paeony leaves, which seem to have held their form and colour very late into the year this year, though perhaps I am misremembering their previous performances.

This peculiar vase is a vintage piece I picked up in our local tip shop. It has a funny wire frog inside to hold the flowers and it is the very devil to work with.

Here is that peculiar frog. It is less helpful than it looks! Perhaps there is some secret to using it that I haven’t quite cracked yet. To its right, a rather lovely Portmeirion jug, also from the tip shop. I do love to return from the tip with more than I went there to dispose of!

Pop along to Cathy’s blog to see what is in other people’s vases today:

Six on Saturday – 3rd September 2022

I am frazzled and so is the garden. There is much to be done, yet no energy or motivation to do it, and the plants are similarly exhausted after so much heat and so little rain – now is not the time to be upping and moving the gardener or the plants. So, we tinker around the edges, and deadhead when we can be bothered, and wring our hands at the outbreak of red spider mite that threatens the new dahlias. And we wait, for a better state of mind. And the rain comes at last, in the night, and we are grateful. This too shall pass.

Mr Propagator continues to host Six on Saturday for us, even though he’s running a race on Anglesey (thanks MrP!) so head on over to his page and see how all the other SOSers around the world are getting along:

The morning glory on the left self-seeded from a pot stood at the foot of the pergola some years ago: every year I think they aren’t coming back, and every year, eventually, they do. Pleasing red berries on the honeysuckle on the right, too. Rose Gertrude Jekyll battles on above the rudbeckia on the third column in the background.
The morning glory is so exuberant that it’s taking over this chair. I’m letting it. These chairs are damned uncomfortable to sit on anyway. (I’m counting this photo as an extension of the previous one, so not counting it as one of the six. I know, that’s cheating.)
The tomatoes have been excellent this year. Not the biggest yield but by far the best taste. Best varieties have been red romello plum, green zebra, Goldwin’s golden cocktail cherry, and costoluto fiorentino. I read that tomatoes are self-pollinating and should come true from saved seed. I’ll certainly try this out. Please ignore my chipped bowl: we are clumsy and the kitchen is full of unforgiving surfaces.
The borders are jaded but still trying: the gardener can relate. Thank god for rudbeckia and their indefatigable happy glow.
Dahlia whaltzing Matilda glowing in the (welcome) drizzle.
A late sunflower. I think this might be Valentine. The sunflowers were all short this year, I think they were hungry. I shall cosset them more next year.
Agastache Navajo sunset, grown from seed. I’ll grow more – it has proved very drought tolerant and gives a pleasing pop of orange over a long season. I like it here with this variegated thyme. I don’t usually like variegated plants but I love all thymes so this one gets a reprieve.

Six On Saturday – 13th August 2022

Happy Saturday to gardeners and readers around the world and a special thank you to new followers – it’s so nice that people are interested in following what we’re up to in the garden, and I can only apologise for not posting much recently. The hot weather makes me lazy and one must bear the welfare of both gardener and plants in mind… a heatwave is no time to be digging, or moving plants around, or trying to raise seedlings. So mostly we have been sitting in the shade and enjoying the garden as inhabitants not as caretakers: it makes a pleasant change, to be honest. We’ve also been sharing it with others by making time for some outdoor dining and entertaining and that feels like what it’s meant for – sharing the results of our hard work (both in terms of environment and produce) really makes it all feel worthwhile and special. So – further thanks to everyone who visits and shows appreciation and encouragement. All too often – and I think most gardeners will share a knowing smile at this – when someone comes to view the garden, we say “oh it’s not quite at its best at the moment”, or “oh if you’d only been here last week, you’d have seen…”. We can always find fault, there’s always something we are not quite satisfied with. Today I did my little walkaround looking for things that are thriving despite the very challenging conditions and there were a surprisingly large number. Yes, some things are struggling, but the overall picture remains pleasing. There’s a lesson for life in the garden, as usual.

Pop over to The Propagator’s page to see what he and all the other SoSers are up to this weekend and check out his participants’ guide if you fancy joining in the fun. Thanks for hosting, as always, Mr P!

The rudbeckia never lets me down. I love it with the echinacea and the perovskia. The echinacea has flowered less prolifically year on year, I read that it should be lifted and divided after a few years if this happens. That’s a job for cooler days, for sure!
I’m cheating here and I’m going to count this as an annex to the earlier pic, so not counting it in my six. Bee approval of the rudbeckia.
The helenium seems to relish the hot dry weather. I love the pronounced central bosses, I’ll be looking to propagate more of these, or perhaps introduce some of the other varieties to give different colour and extend the season. No idea whether this is Moorheim Beauty or Sahin‘s Early Flowerer, which is annoying, as one has thrived and one has disappeared, so it would be helpful to know which in order to capitalise on its success! Nigella seed-heads behind – I love these so I just leave them in, it also saves me bothering to need to sow more. It does mean there’s an awful lot of seedlings, though.

More red in the border, which was one of my objectives after last year. This echinacea was an impulse buy in a market in Cornwall and its done far better than I expected. The carex next to it gives pleasing autumnal accompaniment. I was sniffy about mixing grasses into the herbaceous border, but actually it’s worked well in helping to fill gaps, add movement and lend a fluidity that makes the whole border look more cohesive and mature.
Just starting to go over, the alyssum and hyssop have proved a lovely combination and are much loved by the bees. These two make good low-level cover around border edges and tolerate having taller plants nearby very well, so I’m going to try to work them in elsewhere in the borders to keep building that fuller look we all strive for. Golden rod just in view behind – I grew it because it has herbal medicinal properties and birds love it, but actually it’s also proved very attractive, in my opinion, and it gives useful height in flower arrangements (and is prolific enough for me not to feel guilty about cutting it for the vase!)
The way this combination appears and then gradually evolves delights me every year: hydrangea paniculata, miscanthus and self-seeded cow parsley. The cow parsley appears throughout the garden now. I don’t mind at all – it’s pretty, light and airy, fills space without being a thug and is loved by friendly insects, especially the hover flies, who are welcome to the aphids!
The view from my deckchair, under the shade umbrella. Really, it could be worse, couldn’t it?

Saturday 30th July 2022 – Six on Saturday

Back after a little break… the garden is running away with me a bit, as it tends to do at this time of year, but this weekend I’ve rediscovered my garden mojo and am getting back into the swing of things.

Relax: nothing is under control.
Melon. An actual melon. I grew that. If it gets ripe enough to eat, I’ll be astonished. If it has a sibling join it, I’ll be utterly amazed and I’ll buy a lottery ticket.
Of course, when the zinnias open in their psychedelic sweet shop colours, all their fussiness is forgiven.
The garden is abuzz with insect life at the moment. I don’t know this species of butterfly but I can assure you all it was much easier to photograph than the flight of the bumble bees that are currently rampaging around the lavender.
Here’s that lavender. There are at least 15 bumbles in here, honestly. The lavender is blocking the path. I shall have to set up a diversion with a sign saying “Bees feasting: please use alternative route”.
It’s not always the things that shout loudest that have the most impact. I’m enjoying the subtle contrasts of shade and form here between the spent alliums, the glaucous lysimachia, the developing heads of sedum and the spires of rosemary. Perennial sweet pea thuggishly muscling in on the act to the right: what a dependable and welcome thug, though.

Head over to The Propagator’s page to see what everyone else is up to with their Sixes on Saturday: Wishing all the SoSers and indeed all readers and gardeners around the world a fabulous weekend (and, for anyone in the same position as me, fingers crossed it stays dry all weekend then rains heavily during the week!)

July 2022 – oh hello again!

Hey, hello! I haven’t seen you for a while.

Every year, there comes a point at which the garden overwhelms me. It goes so crazy, and it seems so big, and so rampant, and so much a living thing with its own drive and appetites that I just can’t keep up… and I admit I almost lose heart a bit, or surrender to it, or leave it to its own devices, or something. I certainly lose interest in writing about it, or trying to articulate my thoughts about it… if I have a spare second its spent watering, or deadheading, or harvesting, or staking something I didn’t stake soon enough and that is now flopping over, or chopping something back so that it doesn’t completely engulf its neighbour… all this to say, I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been drowning in garden a little bit (plus catching up with life, which has been greatly missed, but does distract one somewhat…)

So here are a few pics, taken over the past few weeks with the intention of blogging each time but having never quite gotten around to it. No narrative, just dive into the overgrown blowsy craziness. I have a full weekend of gardening ahead this coming weekend (plus a glamorous assistant joining me!) and I hope to document the work that gets done and share a few pics at some point in the weekend. I have big long term plans… and a very exciting greenhouse melon to show you all. It almost makes up for the carrot fly, and the pea moth, and the cabbage whites, and the mole damage…

As I type, dusk is settling and the evening is heady with the perfume of brugmansia, night scented stock and trachleospermum. The air is very still. I can just hear the stream at the bottom of the garden above the ceaseless rumble of traffic driving too fast on the main road at the front of the house. And above all of that I can hear the garden saying “Oh you’re back! Nice of you to join us. Look what we’ve been up to while you’ve been distracted… isn’t it fabulous?” And I have to agree, yes, yes, it is. Like life, it is messy and it is imperfect and I can find a million things wrong with it but yes, it is still fabulous. And I love it.

In a Vase on Monday – 11th July 2022

Just creeping into the final few hours on Monday so still just about qualifying… continuing with my insistence on only creating arrangements from things that had to be cut anyway, and persisting with my over-reliance on alchemilla (there’s so much of it! And it goes with everything and looks so good in a vase!) The evening primrose needed to be trimmed a bit to stop it from shading a dahlia; the penstemon (yes him again) keeps flopping over the path; the seedheads on the oriental poppy needed to be cleared, and the wild marjoram is… well… everywhere. I think they look rather good together. Shame my kitchen is still such a mess, but I always say that anyone with a tidy kitchen isn’t spending enough time in the garden!

Head over to Cathy’s page to have a look at her very classy cool arrangement this week and to see what all the other IAVOM participants are up to.

Six on Saturday – 9th July 2022

Saturday again already and it’s a scorcher. The Under-Gardener and I have had to retreat to the shade, we’ll make use of the light evenings and garden later into the evening instead, so I’m sitting with a cold drink and compiling my SoS. Pop over to The Propagator’s page to have a look at what he and all the other SoSers are doing this weekend. Have a great weekend everyone!

Spoilt for choice as to what to share this week, the hot weather is bringing the high summer plants along at last. New things are opening up daily and there are some nice flashes of colour. As usual, there are plenty of things I’d like to improve, but on the whole I’m pretty happy with how things are looking. It will always be a work in progress.

One of my new dahlias, and isn’t she pretty? I think this one is Waltzing Matilda but I couldn’t swear to it as I failed to keep the plants labelled when I planted them out.
Helenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’. I had two heleniums, one has disappeared completely and I feared the molluscs had seen this one off too, but here it is and very nice it is too. I’d love it to bulk up. I must investigate how to propagate. I bought this one as a 9cm plant, repeated attempts to grow from seed having been unmitigated failures.
Must remember to actually harvest the food that is grown. Every day there are several things from the garden included in dinner at the moment, often less than an hour from soil to plate. Here we have peas, lettuce, calabrese and those boysenberries from last week, harvested under-ripe to beat the blackbirds. I’ll ripen them up in a brown paper bag with a banana. I couldn’t be bothered to go and get a box for them so I collected them in my hat. When I put it back on, I will probably look like Stephen King’s Carrie.
I strive for a cacophony of colour, if there can be such a thing. Still some way to go, but getting there. Today’s high bright sunshine helps.
No idea what this one is called but it’s doing better than ever, currently confined in a pot, whereas before it was struggling out in the border. I haven’t really liked its dirty yellow blooms very much but now it’s not jostling for light and food, it has a chance to show its form to best advantage, and I’m somewhat more kindly disposed to it now.
More unsubtle colour combos from me: I love the orange lilies with the pinky/purple verbena, but I wish the lilies would grow taller – the verbena (not sure which cultivar) is always a little bit too tall. These lilies were taller when first grown but now get shorter every year, presumably this pot does not offer them what they really require, or else they don’t enjoy the combination of my rather eclectic lasagne planting in here. I might lift them out and try them elsewhere once they’ve finished flowering.

Six on Saturday – 2nd July 2022

I know I shouldn’t complain about the rain when some places are desperately in need of it, but it’s very frustrating to have things to do and to have rain stop play. I am listless today and nothing satisfies. A run of largely dull wet days has held the high summer flowers back a little, everything is too wet to work and I am grumpy. Tomorrow is meant to be better, I think, so perhaps that will cheer me up, but the forecasts seem so unreliable these days that I might just as well consult the entrails. Enough whining from me: I hope everyone else is in a better mood and I wish everyone enough rain, mixed in with enough good weather for gardening, plus the time and energy to do it!

Here are my Six on Saturday: pop over to The Propagator’s site to see what he and all the other SOSers have got going on this week:

Happily, the Dyer’s Camomile is like sunshine on a rainy day. I like the feverfew too, even though it self seeds everywhere and smells a bit odd. A herbal remedy for migraine and headaches, I do occasionally pop some feverfew flowers in a fresh herbal tea.
Carnations grown from seed some five years ago and still going strong, though the rain has battered them somewhat. The red ones in particular smell delicious and the flowers taste amazing – a little like cloves, with added sweetness. I nibble on them as I walk past.
The calabrese looks lovely with raindrops on it. This one is destined to be tomorrow’s tea, probably in a green veg pasta dish of some sort.
I think rattus rattus might have found the mange tout. I shall replenish the bait boxes and fervently hope he finds them, too. Swines. I try to be sanguine about most wildlife but I really do hate rats.
I enjoy the bright candy colours of these zinnia but they are smaller than I had hoped and they are such princesses – fussy little things that give up overnight and hate root disturbance. Every year I say I won’t bother growing them again, only to relent when sowing season rolls around.
Another mixed bag here: the boysenberry is delicious but so far this year we wouldn’t know, as the blackbirds have beaten us to every single ripe fruit (note the stems where fruit has been!) Last year I was able to net, but this year the branches go too far up the shed wall and I won’t be able to do it in such a way as to be sure birds can’t get in and get trapped. I guess we’ll just have to share this year and hope that next year I can grow so many that it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately the blackbirds’ idea of sharing doesn’t involve the humans getting much of a look-in…

In a vase on Monday – 27th June 2022

In haste from me once again – my contribution to IAVOM, just squeezing in at the tail end of the day. Once again the necessity of deadheading made my choice for me, and two weather-damaged blooms from a nameless cheap floribunda rose got paired with some heavenly-smelling trachleospermum for a chintzy mini arrangement in a wholly impractical milk jug. I have a weakness for vintage china, the chintzier and kitschier the better, and if it’s got a crinoline lady in an implausible English Country Garden on it, so much the better as far as I’m concerned. My Welsh dresser fairly groans with this particular motif of Dolly Varden in her yellow crinoline (husband groans too, every time another piece of china makes it into the house). The rose – well, barely scented, makes a mess of fallen petals, gets terrible black spot… but flowers its heart out all season, in big blowsy sprays of a rich pinky-red, so I can’t help but love it. It has an almost velvety quality. It was cheap as chips in B&Q and I don’t think I’d be without it now. The trachleospermum sprawls over an East-facing fence and threatens to engulf our patio and the neighbours’. I am inclined to let it.

Pop over to Cathy’s site to see what she’s been up to this week (she’s been very busy!) and to take a look at everyone else’s IAVOMs. I hope Monday has been kind to everyone (preferably kinder than it has to me!)

Six on Saturday – 25th June 2022

Good morning fellow gardeners around the world! Thanks as always to Mr P for hosting. Here are my six, in haste, as I try to organise myself to go to a wedding whilst gritting my teeth through chronic pain. I would rather be in the garden but then that is my default setting! I’m sure I’ll have a fabulous time once I get there. And Sunday is earmarked for gardening, pain notwithstanding!

Head over to The Propagator’s page to see what everyone else is sharing this week:

This little viola self-seeded in this pot of acidanthera murieli. The acidanthera are decidedly miffy so I’m delighted they’ve got such a bright and amiable companion.
I think this paeony is Sarah Bernhardt. Whichever one she is, she’s always late to the party, which is handy as it extends the paeony season in this border considerably.
I find the protuberant flower heads on these houseleeks strangely amusing, but I’m odd like that.
I’m very attached to this lotus berthelotii, which is now at least 5 years old and has flowered prodigiously this year. Every year it emerges from overwintering in a cold greenhouse looking like it’s going to give up completely, and every year it bounces back after a bit of a prune and a feed.
These diorama are meant to be ‘Blackbird’ but I don’t think the flowers are dark enough. A long term investment, these were the very devil to grow from seed and finally bloomed some four years later. Extremely difficult to photograph as they bob about so much in the breeze, which I appreciate is the whole point of having them in the garden. They’re really pretty and I am very pleased with them, whichever variety they are, they add great structure and movement.
The recent spell of heat and high sun has brought the dahlias along and here Bishop of Llandaff is strident alongside salvia Amistad and a penstemon which I think is Andenken an Freidrich An, or something like that. The red hot pokers are going over now but the achillea Cloth of Gold in the centre is just thinking about opening, which will give this ensemble exactly the sort of strident announcement of colour I aim for in the border in high summer (subtlety is not my watchword, in the garden or elsewhere).