In a Vase on Monday – 13th June 2022

Delphinium casualties brought about by high winds meant immediate action was needed with the secateurs, which spurred me on to tame the worst excesses of the alchemilla mollis. I don’t especially care for the centaurea montana because I find its prolific, thuggish self-seeding irritating and I find the whole plant quite coarse, but I let it carry on because the bees love it. The stems without opened buds proved to be useful foliage filler for this vase, which has opened up new options for me in keeping it under control in the borders and has left me more kindly predisposed to it! It does wilt rather quickly once cut, but searing it in boiling for a little longer next time will probably help with that, as it does for most things. This year most of the nigella opening is white and I seem to recall an accident with a dropped packet of N. “African Bride’ so that might be why! No matter, it is lovely in drifts everywhere about the garden and encourages me to use more white in my planting, as it seems to ‘lift’ everything, adding a brightening aspect as it does here in this vase… well, jug. I love blue and white enamel ware because I am clumsy and our quarry-tiled floor and granite work surfaces are very unforgiving when I drop things. The enamel ware dents and chips but does not shatter!

Thanks as always to Cathy for hosting IAVOM – have a look at everyone else’s lovely arrangements over on her page: https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2022/06/13/in-a-vase-on-monday-late-for-the-party/

Six on Saturday – 11th June 2022

Saturday again already! I’m late today but it is still Saturday, so here are my six. Pop over to The Propagator’s site https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2022/06/11/six-on-saturday-11-06-2022/ to see what all the other SoSers are up to.

Christo Lloyd would approve of this colour combination, I’m sure. Acid yellow euphorbia oblongata with shocking pink lychnis coronaria (I think that’s the correct name). I love strident clashing colours in the borders.
A nice crop of globe artichokes coming along. I’ll try to leave some of the later ones to flower for the bees, but I do really love eating artichokes… and the bees don’t exactly go hungry in this garden as it is! In fact, one stung me yesterday. I have forgiven it. It was my fault, I didn’t realise it had landed on my dungarees when I reached into my front pocket for string…!
I never used to bother lifting and storing my dahliae, but I did last Winter and it has made such a difference. I forced some indoors with heat early this year and have been richly rewarded. Bishop of Oxford is first off the blocks. I love all the Bishop series.
No recollection of the name of this clematis. It is very reliable and seems very happy scrambling through the apple tree. The geranium phaeum below are performing well too.
My dad’s name was Nigel and my mum and I both love nigella, so we both grow lots of it. I particularly like the deep blue shade. I probably let the nigella self-seed too much, really, but it’s so pretty. I did have drifts of the ‘Persian Jewels’ variety, but the pink toned variants in that mix seem to have been bred out over the years – I should probably thin more mercilessly and sow more bought seed.
Despite there being lots going on around her, Rosa “Gertrude Jekyll”, centre stage on the pergola, steals the show every time. Nobody can resist burying their nose in her blooms as they pass, and she rewards everyone with a delicious strong old rose scent. Normally I save the petals and dry them for tea, but damp weather has made it difficult recently, as the petals tend to go mouldy if they are damp when brought inside. She has a long flowering season so hopefully there will be dry enough weather to save petals later in the Summer.

That’s my six, time to catch up with everyone elses’ over a cold beer in the garden! Cheers!

Late May – early June 2022 -tempus fugit

Just over a fortnight off work flew past in a heartbeat, with half of it spent lazing in foreign sunshine and the later half spent gardening and socialising with friends old and new in the less reliable British weather. It was glorious to spend a whole week gardening relentlessly and I became so focused on getting everything done that I failed to take many photos. Those I did take were snapped during the grey, overcast hours and don’t quite show the colours to their best advantage, but such is life. It was one of those weeks when I was more interested in doing the work and sitting back to admire it and soak it all in than I was in looking at it through a phone screen and recording it, and I’m ok with that. I binned all social media some time ago and I am keen to keep screen time to a minimum in the interests of seeing more of real life. So, here are a few pics from the past fortnight… not very good ones, but they give a flavour of how things have been looking. Everything changes so quickly in the garden at this time of year, highlighting to me how important it is to experience it all directly, with all senses, and if that is at the cost of failing to capture it for posterity, well, that is a cost worth paying. No captions for this post either: let’s just enjoy the view. Questions and comments are very welcome, though!

Six on Saturday – 4th June 2022

We went away for a week and came back to an explosion of colour in the garden. We’ve had a further week off at home, more or less all of which has been spent working in the garden, and I think it’s paid off – I’m happier with it than I’ve ever been and I almost feel on top of all the jobs! Here are six pics taken at various points through the past week – I intend to do a fuller round up on Sunday, if weather and time permit.

Pop over to The Propagator’s page http://www.thepropagator.wordpress.comto see what he and all the other SoSers have been up to this week, and check out the participation guide https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ if you fancy joining in the fun. Hope everyone’s having a good gardening weekend.

Paeonies have benefited from watering via a diverted drainpipe.
I love this fleabane which has self-seeded in these steps, and just about everywhere else.
I believe this is a June bug or cockchafer. I believe they may be destructive, but he was so big and looked so much like something out of Starship Troopers that I decided I’d leave him alone. He didn’t seem to be doing any damage to this rose.
Not a great photo but I do love the combination of this corydalis. With the geranium.
How about the blue on these delphiniums? I’m so proud of these (grown from seed saved from previous delphiniums, also raised from seed!)
Rose ‘Rambling Rector’ is cascading over the old outside loo (now a shed!) just as I hoped it would. Its flowering season is brief but it’s so pretty I forgive it that (and also forgive its rampant nature and vicious thorns).

In a vase on Monday – 30th May 2022

I’m usually too busy on Mondays to participate in ‘In a Vase on Monday’ but we’re off this week and I was up bright and early for gardening (hence the low morning light in this photo). I’m usually relatively reserved about cutting flowers to bring inside as I don’t like to plunder the borders, but I had to dead-head the lupins and tame the euphorbia oblongata, so from there I added some honesty seedheads and a bit of penstemon foliage (I think this one is Andenken An Friedrich An or something like that – it’s very vigorous and if I’m honest I find its foliage more interesting and useful than its flowers, which are pleasant enough in a deep burgundy-ish red, when they bother to appear).

Pop along to Cathy’s page at http://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com to see the other IAVOM posts and take a peek at her beautiful garden whilst you’re there!

Six on Saturday – 21st May 2022

We’re away on holiday at the moment and the Under-Gardener is having a little break at his holiday home too, hanging out with his best mates and probably getting a bit rowdy. I took a few photos in between rain showers before we left, though, so here are my six. Many thanks to Mr Propagator for hosting, pop on over to his site https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2022/05/21/six-on-saturday-21-05-2022/ to see the other Six on Saturday posts and to join the fun and post your own. Wishing everyone a weekend of good gardening weather (I just need good drinking and lazing about weather this weekend, myself!)

My favourite oriental poppy obligingly opened before we went away. I love this rich red.
Gertrude Jekyll, a David Austin rose, so dependable and lovely (and with vicious thorns). The smell is heavenly. She’s very biddable and easy to train and I should get a nice column of blooms all the way up the pergola (and maybe one day across the top of it, too). This one is a cutting from my original – I can’t stop myself from attempting to strike cuttings with prunings. There’s always room for more roses.
I love the way hosta leaves hold raindrops.
Strawberries look promising for the first year ever – https://gardening-naturally.com’s low fruit cage has stood right through since last year, I just rolled the nets back over winter and held them in place with wire, so that birds could get in and get at pests for me. The plants have bulked up nicely and we have a good show of flowers, so I’m hopeful we might actually get a decent crop this year, since the nets should keep the blackbirds off (though I dare say the voles will not be deterred, little buggers love strawberries!)
This is an extremely unsophisticated rose from Lidl. It didn’t have a name, so I call it Tequila Sunrise (I am a huge Eagles fan). Its rather brash colours clash with just about everything and I love it.
I have interplanted carrots and garlic this year in a bid to outwit the carrot fly, but I heard on the Garden Organic podcast this month that this is a myth and it doesn’t actually work. I am considering trying one of those carrot fly screens, though it seems implausible to me that the flies don’t just go over the top of it…

Friday 13th – Sunday 15th May 2022 – conscious competence

Finally – a decent mass of alliums. Only taken me 6 years of planting more and more of the damn things every autumn. And still I’d like more! I suspect the christophii will open while we’re away, just to spite me.

Frenzied activity in the garden all weekend, with three long days of hard graft put in by all three of us (well, the Under-Gardener perhaps not so much). We had scorching hot weather followed by a warm wet day and I am so grateful for a good downpour that I didn’t mind working in it. To be honest, as long as it’s warm, I never mind gardening in the rain.

I have removed all of the forget-me-nots and made a good start on planting out the annual seedlings I had raised to plug the gaps. For the first time ever I was pleased to be taking out the FMNs, noticing how the air and light was let into the borders by me doing so, and starting to see how to create drifts and blocks of colour for impact. I finally feel like I’m really gaining skills in translating how I want things to look in my head into reality in the beds. Not that I don’t still make plenty of mistakes, though… I found several perennials getting swamped by other things, and had to move a few things around. There is still a stubborn patch in the long border where it’s difficult to get things to grow, I’m fairly sure there’s an old tree root there. Still, I am happier with the garden than I have ever been, and I am revelling in a sense of competence.

The Under-Gardener is a sworn enemy of the wheelbarrow and thus must monitor it closely for the slightest hint of insurrection. He will follow it up and down the path, eyeing it with suspicion.
I’m going to get really boring about these alliums. Sorry. And that washing line ruins the view. It used to be possible to reel it in, but I discovered today that Chief Engineer has now lashed the end to the post in a complicated knot (probably to stop me from leaving it down at inopportune moments).
Saturday’s bright sun popped the first bud on the oriental poppy. We have a deeper red one that I much prefer, but that hasn’t opened yet. This one I grew from seed 7 years ago, however, so I do feel rather connected to it. I love the strange blue-black pollen – the bees seem to roll around and get drunk in it.
These roses on the top arch seem to me to be a brighter yellow than ever before, but I am probably mis-remembering. In any event, they lit up the grey day on Sunday.
This tickled me. That giant teasel has big pools of water trapped in the nodes at each set of leaves (here you see a cerinthe petal floating in the pool). I suppose this must be its way of ensuring a supply of water to get it through dry weather or something. Nature’s ingenuity is so pleasing.
A slug’s determination and appetite, however, are not. I planted out some dahliae in the gaps created by the FMN removal. I appear to have opened an all you can eat buffet for molluscs. I should have put a slug pub next to it. The Bishop of Llandaff has been denuded. Balls. Luckily I held one back as insurance.
Wheelbarrows simply cannot be trusted.
Peas, on the other hand, should be given a chance (sorry).
I’m having a very leguminous year this year, I seem to have ordered, sown and raised all sorts of weird and wonderful peas and beans, having been disappointed not to have grown more last year. The middle block of peas here are already forming pods… which makes me think I might get something in the space immediately after they’ve finished, and make this bed do double-service this year… a late row of brassicas, perhaps?
Chief Engineer has worked like ten men this weekend. He laid more pebble path along the far side of the central veg bed and also built the rather smashing wooden trough you see to the right in this shot. it is exactly the right size to hold four of those polystyrene boxes you see nestled in it. These come from the grocer, who gets wholesale broccoli in them, and I’ve found they are perfect for a whole host of jobs in the garden. They are currently housing dahliae which have overwintered in them and are now waiting to be planted out in pots or the borders, and once the dahliae move on, they will probably either house beans or courgettes, or possibly a bit of both. The wooden trough means I don’t have to see the white poly boxes from the house. I’m also sneaking a narrow row of beans in next to the brassica cage on the right, so that the cage is obscured from the house. I think this is probably going to backfire on me spectacularly – either the slugs will take the lot, or I’ll have proved to have jammed too much into too little space and it’ll all fail. We’ll see. Time enough to sow more as back-up, I think…
Here’s that smart new path. And a nearly full veg bed. And – oh look! More beans and peas! These are an old Spanish variety for drying. They were delicious in soups and stews last year and I wished I’d grown more. Rapidly running out of room now, though…
Chief Engineer also found time to earth up the potatoes with garden compost, having turned the heaps first. You can just see the potato beds with the fresh compost on them beyond the fence. That fruit cage has a right lean on it, doesn’t it? The fence and gate, meanwhile, lean in the opposite direction. This is entirely in-keeping with the whole house, which is very old and doesn’t have a straight wall in it anywhere.
A representative sample of the potting on I did today in the greenhouse, when it got too wet even for me outside. I reckon I potted up about 25 tomatoes, 11 padron peppers (nobody needs so many of either); 5 courgettes (the slugs will eat these, unlike every other gardener in history, I have yet to have a glut of courgettes); 2 chilli peppers; 4 aubergines; 11 assorted squash (see courgettes: slug banquet) and various flowering plants, both annual and perennial. One area I have yet to improve in is appreciating timing – had I thought more about when we were going away, I could have timed my seed sowing better, so that potting on of plants that had put on a growth spurt didn’t need to be done in a hurry today (and I might not have been left with the worry of whether they’ll expire from drought while we’re gone, either). There is always room for improvement.
This year I am determined to do better with my chrysanthemums. I’m trying them in the greenhouse border and to do so I am having to fight my belief that precious greenhouse space should be preserved for edibles only. Because I am a pathological over-planter, however, I have tucked in some aubergines and a chilli pepper, as well as sticking in several African marigolds which I use as slug sacrifices (and any marigolds that – against all odds – survive the marauding molluscs can serve as deterrent for other pests, though how effective that is I am never really sure). I am religiously pinching out and disbudding my chrysanthemums. If I don’t get at least one decent bunch for the house in autumn then the whole lot is going on the compost heap as a bad job, and I shall be in high dudgeon.
I’m going to get really boring about my lupins too. I can only apologise.

Six on Saturday – 14th May 2022

A week of first appearances of the year this week with more colour coming through every day as temperatures rise and days continue to lengthen. A decent fall of rain gave everything a welcome drink mid-week too, thank goodness. My sworn enemies the gooseberry sawfly and the errant football have done their best to dishearten me. I try to be good-natured about the latter, but I’d like to dispense with it with the same brutality I show the sawflies!

Wishing gardeners everywhere a good weekend, may your days be free of pests of all kinds! Head on over to Mr Propagator’s site https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ to see what he and everyone else has been up to this week and check out the notes here: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ if you’d like to participate in Six on Saturday yourself.

The first of the lupins are out and it’s clear the autumn manure mulch has really given them a boost. These at the bottom of the border are the first to benefit from longer days and the gradual rise in the sun’s position. Those further up the border come along a week or two later. The books will tell you lupins are short-lived perennials and that they should not be cut down after flowering: in my experience, neither is true.
Scarlet Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ always turns up much later than ‘Totally Tangerine’ and is never as vigorous. She’s very pleasing though and combines arrestingly with the euphorbia oblongata, which is turning into a bit of a thug, but it’s such a good filler that I’m prepared to forgive it.
The chard is still going strong, though some plants are just starting to go to seed and it seems affected by some sort of rust or blight which has also seen off the first of the year’s chard seedlings, frustratingly. I will raise another tray and keep them indoors until bigger. I find it much easier to grow than the true spinach, standing and cropping far longer and actually more useful in the kitchen too (not to mention prettier in the garden).
This beautiful iris came from Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset (by which I mean they sell their divisions to visitors, even I wouldn’t go to a garden armed with fork and trowel to help myself!)
Every year I raise ammi from seed (both majus and visnaga) but it’s a right faff and the seeds are miffy about germinating (I do find umbellifers moody). I saw what I believe to be daucus carotta, the wild carrot, growing on a roadside verge and it occurred to me it might make a tougher alternative which I think is perennial and won’t need cosseting and staking. So far, so good. Just as well – barely any ammi have made it to planting out size this year and the visnaga refuses to germinate at all!
On the whole I am inclined to let self-seeders get on with it, but this sometimes this leads to enforced inconvenience. Stachys byzantium and some sort of wild marjoram set up home together in the tiny space between patio paving slabs and erigeron karvinskianus decided to move in alongside. The downpipe I diverted into the bed on the right of this shot, plus the run-off of plant food from watered pots on the patio, has boosted these incomers rather dramatically. I like the effect but it does pose a slight obstacle to what is meant to be the route to this bench. The pink in the bed on the right there is gladiolus Byzantium, a species gladiolus that is altogether less blowsy than its larger cousin and to my mind more pleasing. I planted 100 last year in the hope they will perennialise and add a splash of colour in that lull between spring and summer. They’re just starting to pop up everywhere now and I’m very pleased with their understated elegance (not something that is often seen in this garden!)

Here are some other SoSers I’ve been enjoying recently:

After Eden http://aftereden.blog/2022/05/11/wordless-wednesday-11-may-2022/

Rambling in the Garden https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2022/05/11/wordless-wednesday-candle-in-the-wind/

Gardening in the Prairie https://wisconsingarden.wordpress.com/2022/05/13/whorled-milkweed-has-arrived/

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th May 2022 – learning when and when not to be ruthless

Every year, I leave the forget-me-nots in too long, and they run to seed and go blowsy, flopping over perennials and generally making things soggy and scruffy. Then I have to rip them all out at once, and spend at least a fortnight bemoaning the huge gaps left in the border. Not this year! I have been raising ridiculously large numbers of annuals in trays and modules, and have commenced gradual, phased removals of FMNs, replacing with annuals to plug gaps quickly. My Dear Friend & Gardener (a professional gardener from whom I have learned much of what I know) endorses this as “proper gardening” and I glow with pride. This s a long-winded way of explaining that this posy exists because I needed to actually get around to deadheading the Bowles Mauve erysimum before it went over, rather than leaving it until it had become leggy and straggly, and once I’d done that I needed other flowers to go with it, and just for once the blooms were sufficiently numerous at this time of year for me to feel justified in cutting a few for the table. Dear F&G, like the great Christopher Lloyd, believes that good gardeners know how and when to be ruthless: I am trying to be more so, but sometimes I need not to be, as we shall see. I have posted too many photos this week – the light in the garden is beautiful and I have had one or two small sherries…

Homer’s still hanging around. He follows me around the garden puffing up his chest and coo-ing. I think he may have mistaken me for a hen pigeon.
This self-seeded teasel is turning into a bit of a beast and is not really the right scale for the spot it’s in, but since they are loved by birds and bees and are also biennial, I don’t feel I can be ruthless enough to ignore all its efforts. Of one year plus and remove it. It reminds me of the ghastly pods in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers films.
Soggy Bottom is resplendent.
The currants (white, red, black) are setting fruit and are safely netted.
The strawberries are flowering and need to be netted asap. That dead water butt and the pile of bricks make it looks very messy, don’t they? I really need to tidy up the productive end of the garden so it doesn’t look like Steptoe’s yard. This is not an allotment.
Raspberries also flying. Summer pudding is assured.
Finally learned to sow peas early enough and in large enough quantities for some to actually make it to the dinner plate instead of all getting eaten by me and the Under-Gardener somewhere between soil and kitchen door.
A hidden bench in a shady corner. The pole for the washing line irks me, but we do a lot of laundry.
The euphorbia oblongata sings in the evening sunshine.
Aquilegia is having a moment right now. I love these but I really wish I could grow the technicolour Mckanna hybrids, however for some reason they always fail for me and I can only succeed with purple ones. I long for the Tequila Sunrise in red and yellow tones, and the strident red and white ones.
When not to be ruthless: this phlomis (not sure which one, I – erm – borrowed a cutting from a park) has never flowered before and look! It flowers on last year’s wood, so, like the lilac, I need to learn when to leave a thing alone as well as well as when to rip it out, and I need to be less snip-happy with those secateurs.
Might I have raised too many seedlings? (This isn’t all of them). Does anyone really have time for 40 fussy zinnias raised in modules? I suppose the slugs will be happy if nothing else.

Six on Saturday – 7th May 2022

New growth appearing all over the place as temperatures crawl up; the nighttime low now hovers around 10 Celsius at night in the greenhouses – the all important point I wait for before moving really tender things around. The great greenhouse shuffle commences – overwintered stuff out, Summer crops in. A very grey day on Friday made for some rather flat photos. More to come in a Sunday post, where I hope to show things to better advantage. In the meantime, here are my six, and I wish everyone dry days, rainy nights and good gardening (oh for some rain though, please!!!!)

Head over to The Propagator’s latest post to see what the other Six on Saturday posters have been up to. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2022/05/07/six-on-saturday-07-05-2022/

Finally, a childhood dream realised: I own a flowering wisteria.
I don’t like to boast but honestly, look at these bad boys. Centre stage, delphiniums raised from seed, now two years old, and aren’t they majestic beasts? I diverted a drainpipe to feed rain water directly into this previously rather dry bed and it’s sent everything shooting skyward. Paeonies on the left there giving the delphs a run for their money.
At last, a decent show of lily of the valley. I discovered these grow best when the pips are jammed in somewhere tight to a hard surface – they love to run along brick path edging, for example. I lifted them and replanted to the brick edge here and they’ve repaid me handsomely with enough blooms for a small pot on my desk – smells like heaven.
An indecently healthy hosta. Sure to be ravaged by molluscs any day now.
Candelabra primula. I love these crazy things, I just wish I knew what had happened to the orange and yellow ones that went in alongside these pinky-red ones last year. Do slugs recognise colour? Nothing would surprise me. The squirrels favour the purple crocuses…
Path through damp shade garden (Soggy Bottom) rapidly getting obscured. This is becoming my favourite part of the garden in Spring.