It is raining.  Which means I have been cooking or thinking.  Unfortunately on this occasion, it is the latter.

I am a professional gardener.  When I am not being oh-so-professional in other peoples’ gardens, I write about plants for fun and for money.  It would appear that horticulture is my life, the be all and end all, that I am blinkered to anything lacking chlorophyll.  But you would be wrong.  Apocryphally my own garden is sorely neglected, staggering on with belligerent intent.  In my spare time I rarely read magazines or watch TV programmes about gardening.   Call me a lightweight, a half-cocked enthusiast, a traitor to the cause, but there are so many other things that interest me.  This isn’t helped by the fact that I find much gardening media repetitious or pompous or patronising or just not talking to me.

But there are exceptions, one of which is the BBC Scotland programme, Beechgrove.  For those of you not acquainted with this programme I will try to explain its attraction.  First of all it must be something special to extract me from my bed so we can breakfast early(ish) and settle down to watch the Sunday morning repeat for us softy southern Sassenachs.  Each half hour episode is over in a blink, packed full of delicious morsels.  However, if you are looking for breakdancing lycra clad dudes or indeed any kind of fashion statement you will be sorely disappointed.  There is a distinct lack of stage managed pets and no-one says “on-trend”.   In my opinion, and those of OH for those of you still not convinced, it the most enjoyable gardening programme in the known universe, although I am a little out of touch with the Venusian TV schedule.  It is not obviously concerned with demographics, everyone is included from young guns to elder statesmen, stately homes to allotments.  They experiment, have a few failures but many more successes.  What is more, they don’t pretend that the presenters do all the work!  They name check or feature the actual gardeners on a regular basis.  And very importantly they don’t take themselves too seriously.  It is funny and most of all throughly human.

I don’t know the whole story, the whys and the wherefores, but for some reason this diamond of a show is now off the air until the end of July.  Its 26 programme run has been streamlined to a measly 14, and in the meantime they “will be investing in more content on social media”.  I’m talking to you now, The Powers That Be.  This does not placate me, in fact it makes me want to laugh.  Or cry.  The point has been missed.  What I enjoy is sitting down with my partner, cup of tea in hand, to watch the interactions, the characters visited, the plants growing, listen to the advice tendered.  I use social media, perhaps a little too much, it has its place.  I am not however interested in, and will not be, having any interaction with the crew on line.  Beechgrove is going to be missed, and not only by myself.  It is about so much more than how to train your peach or when to sow your carrots.  It is what what we all need.  A little honesty in our lives.

The photo above is of a pretty pink dianthus, being held aloft by the soft foliage of a white heather.  Neither of these plants are à la mode, they are even better than that, they are timeless.

Six on Saturday – After the Rain

Flaming June was flaming wet yesterday.   It made Tuesday, when Rain Stopped Play if you recall, seem like a jaunt in the Gobi.  Today it has cleared, pushed onwards for the moment by bullying winds.   This has meant that although taking photos for my Six on Saturday has been a dry affair, it has not been without jeopardy.   In order to impress my Svengali, The Propmeister, I have battled through the gale to bring this Six to you.  And I only fell over once.  Which to be honest is good going on a non-windy day.  Shall we get this show on the road?

It could be the year of the geum, they seem to be very popular at the moment.  And for very good reason, to my mind they are invaluable in the garden.  This one is Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’ which is more delicate in form and fiery in hue than ‘Totally Tangerine’.  I bought ‘TT’ as a gift for Mrs Bun. She had expressed an interest in it so I treated her.  A couple of weeks ago she declared that she no longer wanted it.  “You mean the plant that I so kindly bought you as a present last year?” “Oh, did you?”  *sigh* “but it has grown too big for that position and I haven’t anywhere for it to go” *a lone tear trickled down my cheek* “are you sure that is the one you bought me?” *falls on the floor in a swoon*.  It is now planted in my garden.  Once we have recovered from the disappointment/rejection I will share a photo with you.

Next we have a crazy tomato plant.  This variety is called Big Orange from Martin at Sampford Shrubs, a pithy name if ever there was one.   It has lost its leader, which I vehemently deny removing by accident, but will be replaced by a shoot coming from the base.  It has also produced, alongside some very sensible if not rather buxom flowers, a giant possibly fasciated monster bloom.  I am blaming an incident involving radiation and Br…., oops almost said it!

Now a candelabra primula in a pot.   It seems to be coping quite well with this arrangement and I am sure enjoyed the dousing it had yesterday.  This is a “one day when I have a large garden I will find the perfect place for it” plant.  I am ever hopeful.

This is the first flower on the double osteo, which is possibly called ‘Double Berry Purple’.    Probably featured in a SoS before, but definitely worthy of a repeat.  The idea did spring into my devious head that I could just repost from the same time last year and see if anyone noticed.    But where would be the fun in that?!  Mind you, in an emergency SoSituation …….

You can’t beat a bit of fine foliage, which is just as well as this is the principle reason for growing Persicaria filiformis.   The pale green leaves have blood-red heart monitor lines chevroning across the width.   The delicate red flowers which are held on wiry stems, need to be observed close up and definitely with your specs on to be fully appreciated.

Lastly we have Phlomis fruticosa, which has been (and continues to be) beaten severely by the worst of the weather.  Apart from the odd frazzled leaf, it takes it on the chin, often bending into full blown Matrix positions and bouncing back just as well as Keanu Reeves ever did.   A trooper, and an important member of our horticultural family.

All done for another week, now that wasn’t too painful was it?  Don’t forget to take a look at what the rest of the SoSers are up to over on The Prop’s site.  Until we meet again!

Rain Stops Play

Rain may have stopped play, but I am pleased for the persistent downpours, the garden will welcome it and on this particular occasion I am not miffed by an enforced day off.  It was a successful day in other, non-horticultural ways.   Chores have been almost caught up with, big pans of butternut soup and ratatouille were made and a few dark corners sorted and streamlined.

And I had the chance to look through a few of last month’s photos.   Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’ has been mentioned several times recently and quite rightly so.  Here is the one in Max’s garden, on a sunny day, with a magenta rhododendron as backdrop. Splendid.

Six on Saturday – I’m a Survivor

Back to my usual Six on Saturday timing, which I like to think of as fashionable late but some might call tardy.   This is not due to lack of enthusiasm for the task at hand, quite the contrary.  As the year ripens there are more and more lovelies which beg to be featured.   On a downward trajectory however is the time I have to share them with you, because, well, I am out there with them!  But if our very own Compulsive Propagator has time to look after his ever expanding menagerie of SoSer as well as his dealing with his even more expandinger family of plants, I can take the time to chuck half a dozen pictures of my garden residents your way.  Phew, that was a rather long sentence!   Today I have decided to feature members of my garden crew that for some reason or other have survived despite the odds.

First we have a pelargonium looking splendid in its shady hideaway.  It has spent the winter snuggled beneath a Phlomis fruticosa which will have protected it from the worst of the northerly gales, but not all.  A tender sun lover that has survived a winter exposed to the cold winds and thriving in heavy shade.   No one ever said it would make sense.

Next a diddy unnamed hosta which was a gift from a friend.  We keep our hostas in pots in the vain hope that they will be protected from the munching molluscs.  This safe haven usually lasts a couple of weeks before the cunning plan is discovered and the nibbling begins.  Not this little one though, it has avoided any unwelcome attention.  As you can see by the “mulch” of licheny mossy stuff, it hasn’t been particularly well cared for.  I do water it though.  Sometimes.

On to Eschscholztia californica ‘Red Chief’ that has come through the winter similarly unscathed.  It is the wet that is more likely to toll the death knell for the california poppies, rather than the cold.  This one is planted on the edge of a wall and has fared well in its well-drained position.  This is the first flower of the year and although it looks a little dishevelled is the same rich colour that I remember from last year.

A couple of years ago I rescued a pre-planted tufa container of alpines from the Death Row area of a garden centre.  Although I was full of good intentions, I am sorry to say it was out of the frying pan into the fire as it has been ignored ever since.  Today there are both a Lilliputian erodium and this bluest of blue lithodora flowering.  Seriously, I don’t deserve this forgiveness.  After I took this photo I half-heartedly pulled out some weeds and then forgot it again.

Now we have a wonderful fern that I bought last year called Pteris umbrosa.   I was well aware at the time that it was tender, like many of my plants, and would need some extra winter protection, also like many of my plants.   Unfortunately my ability to protect all these Softy Walters is lacking.  A huddle together of pots, a drape of horticultural fleece, and for those small enough and special enough, room in the plastic greenhouse.   When I eventually remembered to remove the fern from the frozen front of the house, this was placed in the “huddle and drape” category.  It subsequently became a little singed (read “crispy”).  A few weeks ago I repotted it and cut off all the fronds, whispered a few platitudes and for this pampering it has kindly rewarded me with some fabulous new fronds.  Next winter I will do better.  Possibly.

Lastly we have Geum ‘Blazing Sunset’ which I was surprised to find poking its head up above the surrounding vegetation.  I was sure this had copped it last year, flowered itself to death, which I am sure is a fine way to go if you happen to be a geum.  But I was wrong, and it has reappeared in all its glory, much to my joy, as I do love a geum.

There we have it, another six, another week.   You have got to love a survivor!


Godzilla v King Kong

Yesterday morning I had a very enjoyable few hours working in Mr and Mrs Bun’s garden.   The weather was fair and we achieve a lot.  There was cake and coffee from Mrs B, a chat with Mr B about Munroe climbing and cuddles from Bobbie.  All was well in the world and off I went with a cheery wave and a trug full of left overs from Mrs B’s always generous seed sowing.

Five minutes later I was ringing their door bell.

The road through the village is narrow, as indeed is much of my route home.   The recycle lorry had met the Travis Perkins truck in a particularly challenging part not far from The Bun’s residence.  Inbetween and behind were a queue of bemused/panicked/impatient holiday makers.  As I put my tools back in the car a hopeful lady wondered if I was going her way as the bus hadn’t turned up, stuck somewhere down the line no doubt.  Sorry, I said, I’m not.  I considered my options:  a)  join the hubbub and find out who wins the battle between Godzilla and King Kong, or b)  fall at the mercy of the The Buns for a cup of tea and a chat whilst the gridlock sorted itself out.  As discretion is definitely the better part of valour I naturally chose b).

After half an hour and a nice cuppa all was clear.  Well apart from a family of wobbly cyclists, the Travis Perkins truck returning the other way, the sat nav unfortunates and a tractor.  Simple.

Monster Munch

This is Max’s Echium candicans.  To my knowledge it has eaten one persicaria, one cistus and a salvia and is well on its way to consuming an evergreen azalea.   Come to think of it, I haven’t seen next door’s chihuahua for a while ……..

This Pride of Madeira has grown into a monster in just four years, from a small cutting acquired (legitimately, before you ask) from a friend’s garden just up the road.  It is spectacular and scary in equal measure, and is of course extremely attractive to both human and pollinator.  A humming monument.