Six on Saturday

We have reached the last SoS in January and, at the risk of wishing my life away, I’m not sorry to see February on the horizon. We’ve still a long way to go before balmy days but I am feeling horticulturally positive this week, as if we have turned a corner. There is no rhyme or reason for this lifting of spirits, except perhaps the arrival of a flurry of long tailed tits into the garden. If you would like to delve deeper into the Cult of the Sixonsaturdayers then our curator, Jim will show you the light. Be careful though, don’t step too close to the flame or you will be trapped for ever, like the rest of us moths. Shall we shake a leg?

First we have a sarcococca, species unknown to me, which is a seedling from Mr and Mrs Bun’s old house in North Devon. After last week’s SoS, when Hortus B mentioned these fragrant winter flowerers enjoy dry shade, I realised I had just the place for it, under the pear tree. Which is exactly where is now is. Still in its pot, but we have progress.

On Thursday I emptied the compost bin, sorted through the contents and spread all that passed the strict criteria onto the borders. The bin was packed with brandling worms, always a joyful sign, and I dashed about rescuing all those that escaped and returning them to the dark comfort of their home. The blackbirds have been having fun, throwing the composting into the air like confetti, searching for those I missed.

I bought my garlic late and I planted it even later, it is Thermidrone. I have heard that it needs cold temperatures to enable it to split into separate cloves. It has certainly had that. Generally I am disappointed by my garlic growing, but each year I remain optimistic with a hint of the inevitable.

I sowed this lamb’s lettuce, also known as corn salad, in the autumn. It was slow to germinate but has admirably shrugged off the cold. I haven’t harvested any yet, except the odd passing nibble, which was delicious.

OH loves his aspidestra. In our former (much bigger) house they were everywhere. As we don’t have room inside, after giving lots away, the rest have had to take their chances in the wild. Not a quiver.

A few weeks ago we were delighted to be visited by none other than Torrington Tina. She ate a whole layer of our tin of Christmas biscuits. We didn’t mind because she is such good company and also brought this wonderful Echeveria lilicina as a gift. Lovely.

All done, next time it will be February!

Six on Saturday – Cool

Deluge, freeze, deluge, freeze, deluge, freeze: what an interesting winter we are having. For the last couple of weeks it has been a mainly monochrome affair, dank and dreary, but the recent frosts have been accompanied by blue skies. Unfortunately, the sun barely touches down in our garden at the moment, just a tantalising glance which will lengthen slowly. Looking up is the best solution to the gloom. Pop over to our Memester Jim’s website to see what the rest of the SoS gang are up to, you won’t be disappointed.

First we have rimy cyclamen leaves; same old, same old. To be honest, I’m over the pretty frost now. Unfortunately, I have no say on the weather, so I am going to have to be a brave little soldier.

Has anyone seen the film Rumblefish? It is all in black and white except for the titular fish which are in full colour. This bow-headed viola reminded me of the Siamese Fighting Fish that add a little zing in an otherwise dull world.

Our dragon, blessed by the feeding birds, is guarding the pots of snowdrop, just about to spread their glorious petals. Maybe by next week.

In March I am attending a photography day course. The title is Abstract Photography. I do not know what to expect, but this picture of fleece and greenhouse might well fit the bill.

It is nearing the time when I must seriously think about cutting back and tidying the mush that makes up most of the garden. This Verbena bonariensis flower head, or is it now a seed head?, has neither succumbed to wet or cold. It can stay a while longer.

Finally, a little bit of hope on the horizon. Our kernal-grown peach tree, the one that tempted us with a twin fruitlet last year only to cruelly break out hearts, is forming some lovely plump buds. Cinnamon stems, cerulean sky, ivory buds, I’d call that technicolour.

That is your lot. Stay warm, wet, dry, whichever is appropriate. But always stay cool.

Six on Saturday – Trying

It would be easy for me to dismiss 2022 with a dismissive brush of the hand and no turn of the head. For many this has been a challenging year and when this new one comes along we are all hopeful for change. However, I have a niggling fear, somewhere just left of my spleen, that it could get worse. 2023 could make us wish for the relatively happy days of 2022. We must be very careful. Love the one you’re with, better the devil you know, the grass is not always greener on the other side, that sort of thing. Perhaps my resolution should be to live more in the moment and worry less. I’m definitely going to try. If you wish to peruse other SoSer’s end of year gardens, then pop over to Garden Ruminations and peruse away. Let’s go!

Who is this shining their bright light amongst the dead and dying? It is the white scabious, the one that knows no fear, the one that appeared as if by magic, the one that cocks a snook at winter and its weapons. Be more scabious.

Onto the poor dear Tibouchina urvilleana, caught out in the cold and frozen on the brink of glory. This time I doubt it will recover. I am a murderer.

Whilst on some non-gardening outdoor mission, perhaps feeding the piranhas (as I have come to know the local sparrow population), I noticed that the Iris reticulata were coming up. As I picked up the pot it fell into two parts. Determined not to have to deal with emergent bulbs in need of a new home, and aware that the hungry hoards were ominously gathering, I quickly tied some string around it. “Return to implement a more permanent solution” was added to the itinerary. This item is yet to be crossed off. Invisible mending a speciality.

The Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward’ has steadfastly refused to let go of his few remaining leaves, even though we have had, as our insurance company quoted “storm force winds”. I will not go there. My fingers are in my ears and I am chanting “the roof is not leaking, the roof is not leaking” until 2023 sorts it all out.

The frosts bowed these broad beans to the ground and I wondered at my sense in early sowing. They have popped back up like weebles. Whether or not the flowers are still viable, or indeed if anyone is in town to pollinate them, is another matter.

Finally, the Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ has eventually dropped its full load onto the garden, and perhaps a little onto the plastic grass next door. I raked up the majority from the lawn and bagged them. The rest are waiting for worm and weather to do their magic. Delegation. The beautiful Helleborus x hybridus ‘Anna’s Red’ rises from the golden leaves, it is nearly her time.

That is your lot. Another year complete. Our SoS community has had some changes but remains as supportive and informative as always. Happy New Year my friends, I wish us all good things and for us all to do good things. I’m going to try my best.

Just One Little Donkey

I’ve always wanted a donkey, or perhaps two. They are gentle and funny, with a smidgeon of stubbornness and exemplary ears. Fine attributes, indeed. However, it is highly unlikely I will ever get one to called my own, or Derek, or even Desdemona. I haven’t been a terribly good girl this year and, to avoid disappointment, I didn’t bother to include one (or even two) on my list to FC. I am resigned to the fact that this little felt tree decoration is the closest I’m going to get to a real Donkey friend. Which is probably for the best and is definitely enough.

Happy Christmas to you all, I hope you have your best time and enough but not too much. Sending love across the miles.

Six on Saturday – Cabbage

It is going to be tricky to feature anything in this Six on Saturday that does not resemble over-cooked cabbage. The ground has not thawed since last week, I am sure I am not alone, and I am resigned to having lost a fair few of my vulnerable plants. This is what happens if you push your luck, sometimes it runs out. As us gardeners know, a lost plant is a shopping opportunity. A man who advocates this very ideology is our shepherd Camellia Jim. It is as well to listen to those who know.

The bed of anarchy has had any thoughts of revolution knocked out of it. I am confident that it will rise again, with a few new members to boost the brigade.

Onto a lone bud of Rosa ‘John Ystumllyn’, frozen in time. I do not fear for the roses, they are both beautiful and resilient. Now that is something to aim for. Perhaps in my next life.

Rudbeckia ‘Irish Eyes’ is an annual which was destined for the compost bin. The petals have held their colour unlike any other in the garden. These, along with their diamante central bosses, make them eerily attractive.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Bicolor’ has been trapped at this very same point for the past week and a half. I wonder if it will ever open. The weather is due to warm slightly from today onwards, so maybe it will wait til Christmas morning. Romantic, me? Never!

This Polypodium cambricum flops hysterically at every frost and rises, Lazarus like, with the warmth of the sun. I’ve got your number, mate!

Finally Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Sunset’, rimy with frost and still standing. So far anyway.

That is your lot. Hope all is well in the rest of SoS-land. Til next time.

Is Someone Trying to Tell Me Something?

This year has been a bit of a soap opera. I know I am not alone in thinking this. There have been cliffhangers, glimpses of good times, twists in the plot and an epiphany. And that was just last week. All we are lacking is some suitably evocative theme music. The storyline goes something like this:

On the way home from shopping our leading man breaks down at the roundabout exiting Sainsburys supermarket. This is a busy road and the other car drivers are lacking any christmas cheer or compassion. He calls the leading woman. She walks across the frozen desolate moor to offer support and a mobile phone app. Mike from Green Flag turns up and loads the car onto his trailer and off to the garage. The self-same garage where the car was towed just a few weeks ago and had a new clutch fitted at great expense. Now it seems the gearbox is broken. The prognosis is gloomy. The car is emptied of shopping and tools and, forlorn, they trudge home. Work will have to be cancelled.

Cut to leading woman cooking tea. Several hours have passed. She notices a missed call from the garage. Tentatively she calls back. Apparently all is not lost. The gearbox cable was loose and they have fixed it free of charge. It can be picked up in the morning. Jubilation. Work is reinstated. Night falls.

The next morning all is frosty. Leading woman goes to pick up car. It is ready to be picked up and they have even pumped up the flat tyre. She drives very slowly over the uneven and frozen forecourt and onto the clear road. Entering the estate where she lives, as yet adopted by the local council, she realises that the road is becoming increasingly Narnia-esque. The steep hill to home is an ice rink, two curse worthy sideways skids later and she pulls up safely outside the house. She vows not to do that again. But what about work next week? Night falls.

Day dawns. The leading woman draws the curtain and is aghast to see snow! She thinks “someone is trying to tell me something”.

Six on Saturday – Earth Stood Hard as Iron

One of the things I have wistfully dreamt of, along with having slim ankles and a puppy named Marvin, is a picture-book frosty winter garden. In this dream, in which I have adequately protected my tender plants, the low sun is shining poetically upon rimy seed heads whilst goldfinches feast gratefully on teasel and thistle. On the whole, this is not a common scenario in the west of our country. Sog and slowly disintegrating mush is more the look we go for. Today, however, my wish has come true. Well one of them anyway. It is a proper, fully paid up member of Club Frosty, there even is a light dusting of snow. If you wish to see more gardens, which may or may not be chilly like mine, then pop over to our Meme-Master Jim and share their worlds. Too cold for hanging about, let’s get on. I warn you, there will be little variation on the theme.

Throughout the heatwave we made sure there were plenty of water sources for the birds. One, an old baking tin, we called The Lido as it was where the sparrows like to bathe. This morning, after an initial foray into the garden to scatter some apples for the blackbirds, I told OH that all water was frozen apart from the avian swimming pool. As I was making a cuppa in the kitchen he shouted “a sparrow has just walked upon the water”. Nil point for observation. Some anger management ice-breaking ensued. Here are some ice-bound water hyacinth which are undoubtedly doomed. Enjoy then while you can.

The multi-headed sunflowers did well this year and my idealistic, unrealistic, aims were for plump heads of seed for the winter foragers. Truth: small, tiny seeds. Disappointing. Next year I will undoubtedly be thinking the same.

This Salvia leucantha should not be here. It should be wrapped and cosy. Would someone please call the Salvia Protection League. The plan was to bring it into the greenhouse but I got diverted and then it was too late. Please forgive me. I have cuttings. Harsh but true.

I’m not in the slightest bit worried about the pansies. They might be bowed at the moment but I have confidence they will pop right back up.

How did these sempervivum miss the scan? Feeling a little bit guilty but guessing that excess rain will be more of a demise than cold. Fingers crossed.

Lastly we have Correa backhousiana, new to the garden, but aren’t we all. I have grown this before, at Cliffe, and am happy to have it around again. It has spent the summer stifled by a Salvia curviflora and now has emerged to find winter. Hope it isn’t too unhappy.

There you have it: six. on. saturday. Stay warm/cool whatever applies. ‘Til next time.

Dislike

I dislike Cotoneaster horizontalis, I have mentioned this often, to a flurry of horror: “but it is so wildlife friendly!” and “How I love to watch the bees dance upon its myriad virginal blooms in spring!”. Although I acknowledge these facts are true, I do not falter from the path. I still dislike Cotoneaster horizontalis. It is my kill command. Use it at your peril. There is one heinous characteristic that cancels out all of the, admittedly excellent, traits. All I have to say is “supermarket car parks” and the vociferous defenders give a nod of understanding. I also dislike baked beans. This is also often met with similar disbelief. I will save that argument for another day. Too much dislike is not a good thing.

This is a cotoneaster, I am not sure which make and model. It is not dusty or depressing, pruned to jagged oblivion. It is joyful and uplifting. It is also not Cotoneaster horizontalis. I concede that not all cotoneasters are the same. Nothing else.

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.