Six on Saturday – 3rd June 2023

Hello! I haven’t blogged in ages, mainly due to life getting in the way (including a trip to Portugal for my 50th birthday, so I really can’t complain!) I’ve been wanting to share some shots of the garden though as I’m more proud of it than ever. So, in haste, and with minimal explanation, here are a selection of shots. I look forward to catching up with all the other SoSers later, with a glass of wine, and I urge you to go here to do the same, and see what our host Jim and everyone else is up to this week. Also see Jim’s pages if you’d like to participate yourself. Hope everyone is enjoying the glorious weather but also hoping for some rain soon!

Six on Saturday – 3rd June 2023

Hello! I haven’t blogged in ages, mainly due to life getting in the way (including a trip to Portugal for my 50th birthday, so I really can’t complain!) I’ve been wanting to share some shots of the garden though as I’m more proud of it than ever. So, in haste, and with minimal explanation, here are a selection of shots. I look forward to catching up with all the other SoSers later, with a glass of wine, and I urge you to go here to do the same, and see what our host Jim and everyone else is up to this week. Also see Jim’s pages if you’d like to participate yourself. Hope everyone is enjoying the glorious weather but also hoping for some rain soon!

Six on Saturday – 15th April 2023

A frost caught me out last night and I failed to fleece, but I think I got away with it. I haven’t spotted any casualties so far. After days of endless rain and some really ferocious winds, the sun is out and the garden is peaceful and hopeful. I promised to attend to the garden of a friend of a friend today and am slightly regretting the enforced absence from my own garden. Chief Engineer is out this evening, though, so I will just work later into the evening, making the most of the lengthening days (and no doubt irritating the Under Gardener). So, before I dash off to examine this other garden, here are my Six on Saturday. Jim is away this weekend but you can check out his SOS post and those of all the other SOSers here:

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ in pleasing harmony with Dicentra spectabilis (I know it has a new name, but I just hate it when names get changed). This is a brief moment of equilibrium in this area before the sweet woodruff engulfs everything (oh how I wish I’d never planted that).
This seems relatively early for apple blossom but I have also spotted wild crab apple in full bloom out on our walks. Is my memory deceiving me, is this usual for this time of year? I did move this tree quite late in the winter, so perhaps that has influenced it.
Another early-flowerer – I think…. All of the currants – white, red and black – are in bloom. I expect early flowering from the whitecurrant but the black has surprised me. I don’t recall them normally flowering so early – am I mistaken?
I always feel better about everything when the pea and bean supports go up. First few rows of peas of various sorts are in. Guttering is ready and waiting for the next successional sowing of peas. So far the garlic looks a little happier than last year – I think it might be happier here in this bed, which is moister than last year’s site. Need to start putting a few other crops in here over the coming weeks. Really need to attend to that rather Heath-Robinson drainpipe, too…
This lovely tulip – no idea of the name, might be Ronaldo – is in the wrong bed. I don’t know how it got here. Its brothers are across the path, in a different bed. I will mark it in the vain hope I manage to lift and move it when it’s gone over. I like the effect of this morning’s frost on it. Whether the putative Renaldo enjoys the frost as much or not will remain to be seen.
A small section of the medicinal herb area, showing pleasing fresh spring growth. Lemon balm, valerian, nettle, golden rod and, I believe, some self-seeded caraway which will almost certainly go the way of the parent plant and get ravaged by slugs. There are some snowdrops and tête-à-tête in here too – those aren’t medicinal, in fact they’re probably poisonous if ingested (which I don’t intend to do), I just can’t be bothered to move them.
Bonus Under Gardener shot. The Under Gardener wishes to inform me that, on conducting his morning inspection patrol, he doesn’t fancy the chances of this fuchsia surviving my badly timed and inexpert pruning. I’m more optimistic, I think it may surprise us yet. We both wish everyone a happy gardening weekend with kind weather, wherever you are.

In A Vase On Monday – 11th April 2023

A return to IAVOM after a long absence, and with an unsophisticated but boldly-coloured arrangement. I own countless vases but frequently end up relying on a jam jar. This, at least, is a relatively pleasing jar that once contained Italian cherries in syrup, and I kept it especially for small posies like this one. Just for once, these three bulbs actually flowered at the same time, although not obligingly all together in the same place, so I have gathered them here to enjoy the combined effect indoors, instead. That arum italicum has gone crazy in my garden this year – normally I find it a nuisance but as my interest in flower arranging grows, the leaves become very useful foliage, so I may make my peace with it yet… which is just as well, because it spreads, and spreads, and spreads…

Pop over to see Cathy at to see what the other IAVOM contributors are up to today!

Six on Saturday – 8th April 2023

Hello! 6 terrible photos from me after a long absence. The sun was very bright when I took these photos yesterday and I dare say I might have had a Good Friday beer or two. Anyway, in a drive to get myself back into blogging, here are six shots from the garden yesterday. Spring has most certainly sprung.

Before we begin, I wish all gardeners and followers around the world a happy holiday weekend with perfect gardening weather. Pop along to Jim’s page here: to see what he and all the other Six on Saturday participants are getting up to this weekend.

The hostas in Soggy Bottom always perform well. I don’t really understand why they’re not mauled by molluscs. One possible explanation is that the soil is in fact just very rough gritty builder’s spoil with pockets of compost for planting in, and a top up mulch when I can be bothered, perhaps the mix is slightly too sharp for our slimy enemies. Or maybe there are some voracious predators down here. If there are, I wish they’d go and hunt round the rest of the garden too.
People can be very sniffy about yellow in the garden in general and Kerria Japonica in particular but I am very fond of it. It scrambled around in an endearingly unruly way and jollies up the ugly laurel that forms the boundary behind Soggy Bottom. Primroses, dog violets and cow parsley are colonising the bank below, which is also pleasing.
Speaking of primroses and violets… the walk-in fruit cage (currently un-netted) is also being colonised and I am all for it. That’s my shadow there, I told you these were terrible photos.
A complete relocation and refresh on the strawberry front, the bed is now in a much sunnier spot with completely new plants. Four different varieties, properly spaced (ish). I’m also trialling these wool collars, which are meant to help with weed and pest control and act as a mulch. We’ll see, I’m not entirely convinced but I’ve read some good reviews… I hope they’ll help retain moisture and give the new plants a fighting chance if we get a blast of hot dry weather.
A pleasing jumble of tulips. Of all the tulips claiming to be perennial, the most enduring and reliable returners have been the cheap and unsophisticated Triumph tulips from Wilko. Irritatingly, those don’t come in the colours I really wanted, but I’ve pretty much given up on that front and no longer bother trying to control which colours appear in which bed! The daffs were splendid this year but now need desdheading…
I attempted to combine Tulips “Abu Hassan” and… erm… a purple one in here, but they refuse to cooperate. The sun clearly doesn’t move across this bed quickly enough to please Abu Hassan, who only comes up in this corner, which gets the longest, strongest Spring sun. In another week or so this bed will be a sea of forget me nots which in turn will become a drift of alliums, so I can’t really grumble about it. And anyway, what would be the point?
With reckless disregard for rules, a seventh shot, as the Under-Gardener busts out his best moves and makes a return to the blog too. Look how happy he is! Sometimes I wish I were a dog.

Tuesday 14th March 2023 – better late than never

I have neglected this blog terribly. How has so much of 2023 sped by already? I have taken countless photos over the past months with every intention of posting them, but somehow never found the energy or enthusiasm. The appearance of the cherry blossom has perked me up a bit and prompted me into action, though not much of it, I must confess. Anyway, better late than never, a very brief post… (well, brief by my standards…)

The cherry tree above is grown from a pip, a self-seeder from next-door’s much larger specimen (prunus subhirtella I think). Two such seedlings appeared in our gravel some five or so years ago: both are now a good four feet tall or so and flowering prettily. Looking at the size of next door’s, I might yet regret the positioning of its offspring, but I suppose they can be pruned, or moved, and its not as though they cost me anything. I love cherry blossom, especially the simple single flowered varieties.

More cherry blossom: brightening a gloomy patio on this grey day, above is a little kojo-no-mai, rescued from the plant graveyard at the garden centre for a knock-down price. Its main stem had been badly damaged, so it looked very poorly, but a judicious pruning and a bit of TLC have persuaded it to flower, and very delicate and pretty it is too. I like its strange angular habit. I hope I can keep it going.

Another rather oriental-looking delight above, stachyaurus praecox. Relatively seldom seen, I spotted one in a park some years ago and fell in love immediately. Flowering long before many things, it brings a real touch of elegance to the garden, not to mention some early forage for the bumble bees who have already been seen (and heard!) buzzing about. All this and glorious scent too. Moved this autumn into a more sheltered spot, it has repaid me with the best show of its life so far. Currently about 5 years with me and bought as a 2 year old specimen, this was a gift from two friends and so is special to me in multiple ways. Next year, if it repeats this performance, I might even feel bold enough to cut some stems for the house.

Getting deeper into my growing twin interests of flower arranging and medical herbalism is changing my gardening style and plans (not to mention consuming a lot of my time…) Many thanks indeed to recently joined followers, I shall try to post more frequently and to repay your kind interest!

Sunday 15th January 2023 – start where you are

A week away has kept me out of the garden but it sounds like the weather in Wales has been so atrocious that I wouldn’t have made it outside anyway. A break in the rain today found me itching to get muddy so I donned dungarees and got out there. It’s a mess. A soggy, floppy, slimy, tangled mess, punctuated with molehills. Refusing to be disheartened, and grateful for a glimpse of weak sun, I decided to start by tidying up the small flower bed closest to the house. When feeling daunted, I have found that focusing on a single, contained task, preferably in an area that is seen most often, makes things feel more like they can be got under control and makes progress more visible, spurring me on to do more in similar bite-size chunks. That’s my theory, anyway… I have to say that the garden’s resilience never fails to amaze me. There is much to be done, but there is also a lot going on without need of my intervention. I approach the new gardening year full of hope and plans. These are not very exciting photos but hopefully posting them today will get me back into a routine of blogging (and indeed gardening!)

The daphne is fixing up to flower very soon. It looks a bit yellow, doesn’t it? I suspect it’s struggling a bit with all the wet, though to be honest daphnes are miffy at the best of times anyway. I should have fed it really but I forgot… I’ll try to do it during the week. And this year I will cut several sprigs to bring indoors, so I can enjoy the scent, and I won’t feel guilty about it!
As usual I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture. It wouldn’t have been very exciting, just messier, not that this is a particularly thrilling shot. The snow-in-summer is a real thug – I found several clumps of snowdrops languishing under it and elsewhere it was engulfing two trailing rosemary bushes. I’ve taken it in hand – I like it to spill over onto the patio, but I do like to start the year being able to see the line of the bed. The paeonies in here appreciate a bit of light and air too. I don’t know whether the delphiniums in here will make it – we can hope. I have not been able to repeat my success in raising them from seed, so if these are lost I’ll have to start all over again – will it take me six years again before I get anywhere?!
Here is one of those struggling little snowdrops. Maybe I’ll rip the snow-in-summer out altogether… (I won’t. I threaten every year and I never do.)
The clematis armandii is putting on new growth all over. The generous feeding and mulching is paying off. Some little critter is nibbling out the new buds further down the stem, leaving a single hole and hollowing it out. Slugs? Woodlice? Who knows.
Time to start cutting down the dead stems, clearing things away and prepping the soil. Not exactly pretty at the moment but there are bulbs poking through everywhere and hopefully, if I tackle a bed at a time, I can get it looking a bit more presentable in a few weeks.
Another of those seedheads that has started to germinate in the extreme damp, this time a teasel. In fact this particular plant has this happening on every single seedhead. I’m quite glad about this as it means all those seeds are not germinating in the border, waiting to cause me problems when weeding!

January 2023 – reasons to be cheerful… and, better late than never

Happy New Year! I’ve neglected both blog and garden terribly in the past month or so. The weather has been terrible, life has been very busy… I have a catalogue of excuses. I had every intention of posting here for New Year’s Day, but that didn’t happen… no matter. I must remind myself that gardening and blogging are hobbies pursued for pleasure, not chores to be ticked off a list! New Year’s Day brought a welcome break from the rain and quite a few garden tasks were started, if not finished. I savagely pruned the gooseberries and moved them to a sunnier spot, in the hope of improved yields; I was similarly brutal in pruning the currants, with the intention of moving the red and white currants to make space for more blackcurrants (the latter being more useful in the kitchen but less bountiful in the harvest). None of that makes for terribly interesting photos, though, so I haven’t included any.

A brave self-seeded little primrose. These appear everywhere around the garden and I am always delighted to see them. I assume the early foraging bumble bees are too, when they emerge.
Mr Blackbird had a lengthy and joyful New Year’s Day dip in this birdbath (‘birdbath’ is a bit grand – it’s an old plate on top of an old washbasin pedestal). The droplets on the mirror behind are all from his enthusiastic splashing.
Viburnum bodnantense, underperforming as usual, but it smells so heavenly when it does bother to flower that I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. I don’t know what it needs to thrive, but I’m clearly not providing it.
Bulbs poking through all over the place. I think these are snowdrops, but I’m not honestly sure. This is the first year I haven’t ordered snowdrops in the green… there’s still time, though, I think! I cannot resist adding more snowdrops…
This clematis invariably gets off to an early start. I will end up cutting off new growth when I prune it now. I usually prune it far earlier than recommended, for this very reason, but just as an experiment I’m going to sit on my hands and prune in February as recommended, then note any difference in performance. It’s good to try different approaches to see what works best.
The Under-Gardener sulked in the shed on New Year’s Day, next to the over-wintering dahlias. He was most unimpressed at the return to outdoor activity, being at pains to point out that all the left-over Christmas food was indoors.

I enrolled in an Autumn/Winter 10 week beginners’ course in floristry at a local college and enjoyed it so much that I have signed up for the advanced course starting in March. I never expected to find the course so relaxing and fulfilling – it has been rewarding in ways I never imagined, something about it really speaks to me and harnesses skills and parts of my brain that seem to have been crying out for stimulation. I’ve included here a few (really poor!) photos of the arrangements and wreaths I made for Christmas – better late than never! I thoroughly enjoyed making these and was really pleased with the results, so I’ll be practising with dried materials throughout the year and shall make more with fresh materials next Christmas. I discovered the joys of spraying foraged items in gold, silver, cream and snow-effect, and got a bit carried away… I think I missed my calling as a Blue Peter presenter, frankly… the Under-Gardener and Chief Engineer both narrowly missed getting bronzed and snow-dusted!

This was intended as a table centrepiece or mantelpiece arrangement. Bringing it home from class on the train was a challenge! Nothing I tried could convince those candles to stand straight. I have tried to blank out the household mess that dominated the background in this shot – I think it’s safe to say I should leave the photo editing to Chief Engineer.
Another wonky candle and a shot that does not really show the detail of this arrangement to its best advantage. For some reason it seems to be especially hard to capture floral arrangements satisfactorily on camera. The shot below is marginally better (with apologies for kitchen clutter!)

I hope everyone had a restful holiday season. Many thanks to new followers new and old – I’m continually amazed and delighted that people are interested in seeing what I’m up to in the garden. Please do share your comments and thoughts if you are so minded, I love hearing from you all! I shall try to blog at least weekly through the year now… of course, I say that every January!

A week in flowers – 4th December 2022

I didn’t get around to blogging this weekend and missed a day in Cathy’s floral week, but I think I’ve just about got time to post a floral reminiscence today as part of Cathy’s event. Pop over to see her at Words and Herbs and see some other photo selections from other people’s gardening year: Thanks Cathy for cheering us all up on these cold gloomy days (well it’s certainly cold and gloomy in Wales, anyway).

Today I’m going with a sea of corncockles. I’m not at all sure what the bright green on the right is – possibly helianthemum. Here too are penstemon, salvia ‘Amistad’, some red hot pokers on their way out and possibly some dyer’s chamomile also getting in on the act in the background. The border probably looks its best about the time of year this was taken (June) and then heads downhill, descending into chaos from about the longest day onwards. Hope this pic has warmed everyone up!

A week of flowers – 2nd December 2022

Multiple summery things going on here: orange hemerocallis; yellow roses; a doughty floribunda rose in a pinky-red; white and pink cosmos; mixed hollyhocks; and a half-hidden bench under the rose arch to enjoy it all from. Won’t be long until I’m sitting out there again with a cuppa… or something stronger!

Thanks to Cathy at Words and Herbs for hosting and brightening our week – have a look at her post for today and everyone else’s over at her page: