Two Looks and Some Sunshine

After yesterday’s temperful weather, it was a joy to be working in The Profs’ garden today, where there was not even a hint of bluster or bad behaviour. Not by the weather anyway. Weeds were weeded, the lackadaisical were removed and general pottering undertaken.

This morning I noticed a fly half-submerged in the bowl of a sleeping fountain. The water-feature is very close to a full-flowered fatsia, buzzing with late autumn nectar lovers, and I reckoned the fly had over-indulged. It died replete and happy, I supposed, if flies have the capacity for happiness, and who am I to say they don’t. It is probably best to err on the side of caution. Then a slight shimmer of the water and I realised that the fly was still alive. I scooped the drowning-not-waving mite out on the tine of my hand fork and carefully placed it in a small square of sunlight. After a quick word of encouragement, I moved on and thought no more, except perhaps of Androcles and the Lion, but for a moment only.

Later I explained this to The Prof. He gave me one of his looks.

Later, I cleared the remnants of the annual morning glory which had been piggy-backing the Trachelospermum jasminoides, you may call it star jasmine, throughout the summer months. It has seeded well and mini-me’s are popping up as evidence to where it thrived. Some remaining pods were at the far reaches of the vine and I picked a few to save. I knew I had collected some already, but they were irresistible in all their black shiny potential. I wouldn’t be surprised, I thought, if some clever horti-scientist discovered that seedpods give off some intoxicating pheromone or entrancing mist that forces gardeners to put them in their pockets. It would make good evolutionary sense.

Later I explained to The Prof that these seed were drying in the greenhouse. He gave me one of his looks. He then found me some kitchen towel to place them on and promised not to throw them away. He understands really.

Six on Saturday – Most Things Come to Those Who Wait

The garden has changed significantly over the last couple of weeks. After the shock of the hot dry summer, which seemed to stall growth, a few weeks of clement weather allowed the plants to come into their own, albeit a little late. Now, several severe batterings by wind and rain later, the garden has had a ballot amongst its members and declared defeat. All is beginning to shut down. Many are showing battle scars. There are exceptions, a few last hurrahs. If you would like to see what else is going on in Six on Saturday-land, where and how the gardeners of the world are doing their thing, pop over to Jim’s and all will be revealed. Well perhaps not all, but a tantalising glimpse. Shall we shake a leg?

First, we have Salvia leucantha ‘Purple Velvet’, another newby from fellow salvia lover Creigiau John. It is in a pot sunk into The Bed of Anarchy all ready to be taken into the relative warmth of the greenhouse. If I get taken unawares by Jack Frost, there are well-rooted cuttings. Sorted. I hope I haven’t tempted fate.

This Pennisetum villosum was grown from seed collected from some cut heads given to me in North Devon. It has been hidden from view by an exuberant dahlia and needs much more room to shine. In my winter reshuffle it will be given just that.

This Tibouchina urvilleana has the look of a wily tom cat after a rough night on the tiles. There are many other buds, which, if the weather is kind, might yet make some pretty pictures.

Onto Salvia confertifolia, yep that darned Creigiau John again. Just coming into flower and I realise that I have no cuttings. It might be a full excavation.

Now, Bulbinella frutescens, having a second flush of flowers. I think this needs lifting for the winter, it might struggle to get through a soggy Welsh winter. It’s on the list.

Yep, it has eventually arrived, the first flower of Brugmansia sanguinea. Better late than never.

That is your lot, my friends. Until the next time.

Self Control

I’m on my way home after a few days away. I’ve had a wonderful time but, as things invariably and quite rightly should, it came to an end.

I have taken the train journey out of and back to Cornwall, many, many times. Sometimes alone, often with OH and occasionally with family. As my dad worked away, he was also a frequent railer, returning home on a Friday night and leaving again on a Sunday. It must have been exhausting. But he was a sociable man and I’m sure he would have enjoyed the company of other travellers, just as I do myself. In this we are similar, but we differ in our love of routine. He did, I don’t. One such custom was set in stone, sandwiches were scheduled for Teignmouth. If I travelled with him, I would argue that our train had left later than usual or simply that I was hungry and surely I deserved a vote in this democracy. He was not to be swayed. And anyway, who had said it was a democracy?

One day, when I was in my early twenties, he drove me to Penzance train station, helped me onto the train with my luggage, made sure I was comfortably seated and no dubious characters were in close environs and we said our (possibly on my part) teary farewells. When he had left, for reasons of emotional comfort, m’lud, although admittedly still in the station, I unwrapped my sandwiches. I was just about to take a bite when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my horrified dad on the adjacent platform. He had rushed round to wave again from a different angle. Although I am no lip-reader, there was little doubt that he was mouthing “Not ’til Teignmouth”

Although my dear dad died many years ago, today I waited until we had pulled out of the station before I started on my sandwiches. It sparked this happy memory, and as I munched was sure that somewhere he was shouting “We’re not even close to Teignmouth!”.

Six on Saturday – Long Live the King

Did anything happened whilst I was away? I believe it did. It seems we have a new ruler. The Prop has handed his crown and sceptre to Jim at Garden Ruminations, who will now be in charge of all things Six on Saturday. Great work Prop, you did a sterling shift. You brought a disparate bunch of ne’er do wells together, from across the globe and beyond, only for us to discover we had a lot more in common than just plants. I’m sure Jim will follow keenly in your footsteps. He’s a good ‘un. Shall we look at some plants?

I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of Salvia patens for a little while, to no avail. It is in a non traditional, rather shady, position for a salvia. Although it seems to be rallying rather well, it is not ideal for photographs. Here is a half decent attempt. Still, it is blue and a salvia, we could forgive a lot less.

I read on Fred’s insta/twitter/something feed that a final flower was emerging on his brugmansia. Mine has been a little ungenerous in the blooming department ie nothing. Ever hopeful, I dashed (waddled) out to see if mine had any late intent and low and behold there were a couple of buds. Hope they make it.

Another “nearly there” is Tibouchina urvilleana, just coming into bud. Every year we have to weather the self same will it/won’t it conundrum. Ever the optimistic, I am sticking with “it will”. This winter it will spend the worst of the weather undercover (did I mention my new greenhouse?) and hopefully will not get its annual knock back. We shall see if it thanks me for this cosseting.

The impatiens floundered during the dry spell, often dramatically so. It made me doubt the sense in growing these beauties. Rain and mild temperatures have revived them and they have shone throughout these autumn months, causing me to doubt my own misgivings. Impatiens flanaganae has flowered intermittently, each and every bloom savoured.

I don’t know exactly when, but a couple of weeks ago, I sowed some oriental salad leaves. Tonight (last night if we are pretending that I am typing this on Saturday morning) we had some for our tea. I would like to be better at edibles, but the ornamentals always win though, each small victory a triumph. They were delicious and very pretty.

Finally, possibly my favourite salvia, Salvia corrugata. More tender than the rugged leaves would imply, it is the perfect blue-jean navy to set my heart a-racing.

That is your lot. Hope the week is kind to you. Let us hope that other leaders can take good example from SoS and sort themselves out. And yes, of course they read it!

Cookie Crumbles

My life seems to oscillate between one of two phases:

a) A Challenge: When it is struggle to understand how it can be so difficult to get something right. A simple word is misinterpreted, you are sidelined, undermined and frustrated. How ever many times you try, the tossed coin never falls on heads. Everything fails as you plod on, desperately holding on to the last vestige of hope. Things break. Exhausting.

b) A Cinch: These are the times when pool balls pot with a mere glance and the dart hits the bullseye. You are loved and extolled, perhaps even understood. The dropped buttered bread lands the right way up. You are capable of anything and you have faith in that fact. There is skipping and even a geriatric cartwheel. Exhilarating.

At the moment I am in the former phase. I am hoping, very soon, to move to the latter. That is the way the cookie crumbles. I will have to take it on the chin.

And, as I have recently, to my great shame, been reminded, there is always someone far worse off.

Six on Saturday – Horizontal

I’m thinking of starting a new gardening trend. It is called The Hortizontal Method. My inspiration is the current view of my garden. No, I am not having a nap, it is the plants bending double in the wind and rain. Poor things. There are only so many times you can spring back before you break. It seems the autumnal storms have arrived with a bluster and my voluptuous borders can’t cope with such rough behaviour. Still, it is late in the season and my eyes are partly on next year’s prize. Before the destroyer arrived I managed to take a few gently-swaying SoS photographs. For once aforethought was my saviour. Anyone new to this Six on Saturday shenanigans, or anyone who didn’t learn their lesson first time around, should pop over to our memetor’s site, The Prop, and all will be revealed. Shall we proceed?

First we have a mega tuberous begonia, spilling over the off-the-back-of-a-lorry whisky barrel. Each and every year I become more enamoured of begonias in all their outrageous and less so forms. The Hanging Gardens of South Wales, a la Professor Gadget, have certainly helped.

The sweet peas are still doing well, they were late starters so had some catching up to do. I’ve stopped picking them and am hoping they will set seed for next year. Not sure they have got the memo.

To illustrate my more subtle side, Begonia grandis ‘Claret Jug’ is doing splendidly in the desert regions beneath the ornamental pear. Dry and shady, bring it on!

I spotted this plectranthus in Cowbridge Physic Garden plant sales. There was no debate, it was coming home with me. Cuttings have been taken. It took me as long to spell “physic” as it did to write this post.

It is October and this is only the second bloom on this particular dahlia. Strange things are afoot this year, I appear to be suffering from an extreme case of dahlia amnesia, either that or someone is playing a not so amusing trick on me. There is no label and I’ve not a clue as to what it might be. Who cares? All are welcome. It is one of two plants that didn’t make it into the garden and subsequently were more stressed by the drought. The other hasn’t flowered at all. We must be glad for small mercies. Next year we will be millionaires.

If you have a new greenhouse, you need some pellies to go in it. It is the law. This little darling is Pelargonium reneforme. I am quite smitten. There may be others I am yet to confess.

That is your lot, my friends. Hope the world is treating you well. Keep the horti faith.

Rainy Day Baking – Beige

It is raining. Which means I am at a loose end. Which means I have done some baking. Which means that the beautiful Bramleys that one of the Newton Babes gave me will not go to waste. All good news. Except the bit about the rain.

Be warned, as with all unplanned baking adventures, some tweaks and turns have been made. If I were to be honest, planned baking rarely happens in this house.

Although I toyed with the idea of a pie, I eventually decided upon attempting an apple crumble. It is many years since I last made one, but I seem to remember it is far simpler than pie, which involves pastry and all the jeopardy that comes with it. And we have vanilla ice cream, which to my mind is the best accompaniment to just about any warm sweet dish. It also covers a multitude of sins. There will be custard fans amongst you, no doubt. I am sorry for your misguidance. I made a half-hearted attempt to follow a recipe from BBC Good Food, an approximation of their instructions are in normal type, my interpretation in italic.

Apple Crumble

Turn the oven on to pre-heat.
Not yet, it’s too early. Never too soon for a little rebellion.

Place flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and rub with fingertips until resembling breadcrumbs.
300g plain flour seems a bit dull, I’m sure I’ve got some rye flour somewhere, here we are, let’s mix it up a bit, just about 60g. 175g brown sugar sounds a bit much, I’ll reduce that, I wonder if we can get away with 100g? And I’ll have to mix light brown and dark sugar because I don’t have enough light. Phew! Just enough butter to make 200g with a little left over for greasing the dish. On a roll now. All rubbed and ready. Seems an awful lot of crumble. Sure it will be fine. Who am I to argue with the fine folk at the BBC? Time to turn on the oven.

Place the 450g of peeled cored apples in a bowl with sugar, 1 tbsp of flour and pinch of cinnamon.
The apples are picture perfect, but as I forgot to take a picture until after I had begun their dissection, you will have to take my word for it. I use my new opinel knife. I am a great fan of knives, which should not unduly worry anyone. I decided, rather cleverly I thought, to cut out the bowl bit and put the apples etc straight into the baking dish. Seemed a little lacking in the apple department so add another half, then another half. That looks better. Shall we talk cinnamon? Last week I bought some cinnamon, especially to enhance an apple something or other. Now, apparently, a mere “pinch” is needed. Hold on Cowboy, I aint having none of that. I added a big lug into the crumble and a generous splush into the apple mix. You can’t have too much cinnamon. Oh, actually you can. I just remembered the time I made ginger biscuits and substituted (unintentionally) cinnamon for ginger. They were so dreadful even the dog wouldn’t eat them. Fingers crossed.

Butter a 24cm ovenproof dish
Oops! I forgot to grease the dish and now the apples etc are in there and I am not going to even consider taking them out again and as I will not be doing the washing up I don’t care which means that I will be doing the washing up because now I feel guilty. Plus, I didn’t measure the dish which would have served no purpose as I don’t have another one.

Spoon the fruit mixture into the buttered dish and then sprinkle the crumble on top.
OK, I get it, no need to worry your point. The crumb is sprinkled and then pressed down because there really is an awful lot of crumble. I am beginning to wonder if I got the measurements correct. Too late now. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon, just to worry my point.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the fruit bubbling.
In you go, my lovely, do your very best. Set grumpy cat to 40 minutes and do my extreme yoga practice. Alarm rings. Ummmm, not sure, set it for another 5 minutes and think about the lost stapler that will not be found and will not be replaced until I find it. Alarm rings. It must be in a box somewhere, there is no way I would throw it away, it never let me down, never jammed or bulked at multi-pages, that stapler was the best stapler I’ve ever ……. OVEN!!!!

All was well, although it does look rather similar to when it went into the oven. The main difference is a photobombing Grumpy Cat. I blame the dark brown sugar and the rye flour. It looks very beige. And beige is not the best food colour. Still, who cares, it tastes delicious. No complaints in this house.

Six on Saturday – Too Tired to Count

I have been on my travels, and I’m not talking about trips down the stairs off my feet. I have been visiting my homeland; I’ve been to Cornwall. Unlike today, when the rain sheets and the wind joins the party, the weather was for the most part good. I am a simple soul and any journey that involves good food, wine, exemplary company and a few gardens is the recipe for a fine meal. It will not surprise you that many plant photos were taken, too many. Which is why, this week, I have decided to share a few with your good selves, six to be precise. When I say precise, I mean “roughly”. I have struggled to whittle my pictures down to the golden number. For that I would need six hundred on Saturday. I am saving more for next time. Before I shimmy on, I must point you in the direction of our mentor and spiritual guide, The Prop, here you can enjoy his and all the gang’s gardens. Shall we make haste?

Our B&B was sublime. We have stayed there several times before, but there is always the worry of The Returners’ Curse. We had nothing to fear. Great hosts, fabulous rooms, amazing food and a floriferous welcome. Perfect.

My hedychiums were either hidden out of view or are reluctant to flower, they are known sulkers when moved. Although many in Penlee Park had gone over, there were a few in bloom to remind me just why I love them. Whilst I was in Cornwall I saw no plant labels. Not one. You are at my mercy.

In a small park opposite Jubilee Pool there are several large stands of Fasicularia bicolor. Perhaps a little indelicately, I peer ed into rosette after rosette until I found just what I was looking for. Fantastic.

Another Penlee Park beauty, the highly poisonous but downright beautiful Cestrum parqui. Night scented, moth pollinated, worth the jeopardy.

Behold, a phytolacca fruit stalk! As I was photographing this wonderful plant, a women pulled up on her bicycle and asked if I knew what it was called. She explained that she cycled past it every day and had always wondered about it. I told her and we had a bit of a chat. I was then taking some photos of the nearby tulbaghia and the couple on the bench asked if I knew what the purple berried plant was. I told them and we had a bit of a chat. I think they need labels. Although I do enjoy a chat.

Also in Penlee Park is Colquhounia coccinea, a great favourite of mine. I left mine in North Devon, it had never flowered, although I am sure it is blooming its blooming head off now. In the small walled memorial garden it had grown to a tree. I was jaw droppingly impressed, as were the bees.

I don’t have the best eye sight, but I can spot a plant table at 100m. Wandering around the back streets of Newlyn, I spotted a suspicious blur in the distance. I did not raise my hopes, having walked past one in St Ives selling aeonium cuttings for a disgraceful £12 for a small pot. No such nonsense here. I was jubilant; a jade plant, a hottentot fig and, joy of joys, a small variegated agave. £8 for the lot and all for a children’s charity. Add to this the cuttings that our lovely landlady took of all her succulents and we had a nice little box to bring home. Happy, happy, happy.

What do you mean seven? Surely not! Let us move on swiftly and say our goodbyes. ‘Til next time.

Sick on Saturday

I am daft. There is no disputing it. You may know that already. But I have further evidence. A couple of weeks ago, I slipped on the stairs and hurt myself. My friend Dorchester Doris said “have you considered living in a bungalow?”. She has a point. Daft. It needed to be said again. Head in the clouds and rushing about, always my downfall. For more than the last fortnight I have been pretty miserable. No gardening, no blogging, no fun. However, the last couple of days have seen an improvement in both body and spirit. Which means I am here, sixing along with the best of you. Pop over The Prop’s and all memories of my my sad tale will be replaced with wonder. Shall we shake a leg?

First we have an amaranthus, an absolutely ridiculous plant, but if you can get past the crazy poodle puff, it is rather lovely.

Next we have Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana ‘Claret Jug’. Please forgive it for such an outrageous name. This has been sat happily in the rain shadow of the Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ and done rather nicely, thank you very much.

Rodgersia ‘Heavenly Gill’ suffered over the summer, not surprisingly for a moisture loving marginal. It held its own for a while and I wasn’t that bothered when the large leaves started crisping up, I was already on “next year”. However, HG was not on the same page, as you can see new leaves are being produced.

Next we have Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’. I split a pack of mixed red hot pokers with The Prof and they have been a little slow. I was really pleased to see this one making an effort, although I am not sure it does actually belong to Nancy. Any thoughts? Does it matter?

A couple of years ago, I visited a garden in North Devon and my guide gave me some flower stalks of Pennisetum villosum, saying they make very good dried flowers. I thanked her, but with mischief on my mind. So I harvested the seed. And then I sowed the seeds. And then I raised a plant. And then it came to South Wales. And then it flowered. The end. Actually, in truth, it is the beginning.

In my Ilfracombe garden I tended/untended the Bed of Anarchy. Uncontrolled, uncontrollable. Looking at my new garden, these last couple of days, after its enforced fortnight of neglect, I felt a certain nostalgia. But I must also acknowledge, both to you and myself, that perhaps it is my natural state.

The only way is up, baby. ‘Til next time.

Six on Saturday – Ostrich

More head in the sand antics this week, nothing to see here, no doom and gloom, no worrying about the future. We must gain pleasure from what and where we can, at no cost to others, well that is my philosophy anyway. And something that gives me a lot of pleasure, is the garden. My garden, your garden, the garden over that wall over there or abutting the footpath. If that is where you get your pleasure too, not exclusively of course, we all have our other joys, then pop over and The Prop and The Gang will give you all you desire, in the plant department anyway. Not sure he can sort out the energy prices, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Shall we shake a leg?

First we have an annual that I haven’t grown before, Scaevola aemula, also known as the fan flower, for obvious reasons. It definitely won’t be last time I grow it as it has thrived and been beautiful, two worthy attributes. Another rescue from a supermarket “what do you mean we have to water plants” trolley.

An aubergine, Black Beauty to be precise, and she has a friend of similar size behind her. It is in my greenhouse. I love my greenhouse. The honeymoon period is far from over.

These sweet peas are very late to the party. They were rescued from death row and have had to have some intensive therapy to get back into the swing of things. As with all the photos this week, I took this picture in the rain and it is very blurry. I considered going out and trying again, until I remembered that I picked it. I will pretend that I used a romantic filter called Cartland.

Salvia uliginosa, Bog Sage, has struggled with the hot dry weather. It has now rallied admirably. Sky blue, one of my favourite colours.

This Salvia curviflora has been in flower for weeks. I have struggled to get a decent photo of it and still haven’t managed achieve anything even half good. You will have to use your imaginations and trust me that it is a wonderful bloom.

Finally, last week I had a complaint that all the photos looked the same, and I admit there were a couple of yellow daisy types in the mix. So especially for this undisclosed person, and you know who you are Peggy Heavens, here is a non-yellow daisy. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sahara’ to be precise.

That is your lot, my lovelies. Have a great week. Don’t let the beepers grind you down.