Six on Saturday – Oops, I Did It Again!

In the scheme of things, buying inappropriate or excessive plants is not a sin, but sometimes even I say “where on earth am I going to put that?!”. Only to myself, of course, it would imprudent to say those words out loud. It does happen though. And I am pretty certain I am not alone. A man with a small problem in the plant aquisition department, tempered by the need to run outrageous distances and not even enroute to a nursery, is our very own Master of Abandon. It might be a good idea to pop over to find himself and the rest of the gang in their various states of restraint. Shall we make a start, there is chocolate to be eaten.

Last week, on the way to a job close to Mum’s, I popped into the supermarket to get some supplies for Peggy and lunch for us both. Somehow, I still can’t fathom quite how it happened, a saxifrage and an apple mint found their way into my basket. I have planted the saxifrage into the tufa planter to replace the veronica that snuffed it over the winter. And they say there is no such thing as instant gratification. Actually, I say it quite often. Hmm.

Purchased last year, when I should have been hortily downsizing, this little Primula sieboldii ‘Winter Dreams’ is doing it’s snowflakey best at the moment. Not regrets there.

Anemone ‘Mistral Fucsia’, bought when I didn’t have a home, let alone a garden, has opened to reveal the most outrageous central boss. Money well spent, don’t you think? And there are lots more blooms to come, including its co-star Anemone ‘Mistral Vinato’.

I keep harping on about how I really want some Thalia, drooling over other Sos-ers’ specimens, and promising that next year I will definitely be getting some. Now the daffs in the pots are flowering, the ones I forgot to label and wondered if they were poeticus and now I am thinking ….. could they be? What do you reckon? The trumpet starts off quite creamy and then gets much paler. I will have to ask OH to have a sniff.

This unnamed auricula is always a joy and has been by my side for several years now. I must find it a friend. No, I have enough plants already.

What happened was ……. we went to the garden centre to look at the greenhouses (yes, I know, how exciting!) and then we looked around the plants and then we found death row (witch hazel, erythronium, viola, mini conifer) and then we looked at the rest, which on reflection we shouldn’t have, and then a trolley came onto the scene, then other things happened, one of which was this Echium ‘Pink Fountain’. Where on earth am I going to put it?! Oops!

All done, have fun my friends. Keep making the world a beautiful place.

Six on Saturday – Everything And

Who invited the snow? Actually it was more of a short sleet flurry here, but I do like to fit in with the crowd. Still, cold and windy is not my spring weather of choice, nor, more importantly, is it the plants’. I’ve been thinking about the garden this week, about themes and colour schemes and genius loci. Then I thought “no, you daft mare, no planning, just find plants you love, put then where they tell you they want to go and enjoy the process.” Which is just as well, because I do have an eclectic taste and although I have a few favourites: salvia, impatiens, hedychiums, I wouldn’t want to exclude anybody. It has been decided, I’m going to chuck everything but the kitchen sink at it. A man of great discretion, never lacking in style, is our meme-tor, The Prop, take a look at what he and his minions have been up to. Now, shall we proceed?

First, joy of joys, the lily purporting to be ‘Forever Susan’ is emerging from the primula. I have been deceived twice by interlopers, but that is all behind me now. I have a feeling in my bones that this time it will be the right plant. Probably.

Last summer, OH bought me an unnamed epimedium from a stall outside someones house that he happened to be walking past. Who said romance was dead? Or does it sound dodgy? It is most likely a vigorous sulphureum and I am very pleased for that as I have planted it in a rather inhospitable position, very shady, very dry. Seems to be doing just fine so far.

A new, yet to be planted out, addition to the family is this Polemonium ‘Blue Ensign’. It came with two companions, ‘Sissinghurst White’ and ‘Pink Dawn’. Neither are as far on as this little beauty, but both are looking spritely enough and will not be rushed.

Soon there will be Italian Anemones! I think this one will be Mistral Fucsia (sic). Happy days.

Now a euphorbia donated by my sponsor, well it was a self seeder and I asked nicely. Mind you, he is a very generous man, although he would have you think otherwise. Not sure which plant spawned this little beauty, it could be Bonfire. The chartreuse flowers are set off wonderfully against the ruddy stems and foliage.

I may have misled you. I’ve even got the kitchen sink! Inside are two tiles bought for us by Hero on one of her adventures and have been waiting patiently for a permanent home. Which is not inside the sink, I hasten to add. Quite what will the sink become, I am not sure yet. Wet or dry. Mini-pond or mini-alpine bed. We shall see. I am quite certain that OH does not want to carry it much further.

That is your lot, my lovelies. Have a good week, keep on keeping on.

Six on Saturday – Up, Up and Away

I’m sure I won’t be alone in celebrating the acceleration in our gardens in this week’s Six on Saturday. Hold on tight folks, we are off! We may have a pit stop or two along the way, but the general trajectory is heavenwards. Unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere and you will be winding down nicely, fed up with all that hot weather. Did I manage to get myself out of that hole? If you pop over to Captain Prop’s blog you will be able to read all about the ups and the downs of the other SoSers. Let’s get on, there is gardening to be done.

First we have the peach flower, solitary and splendid. This peach tree was grown from the kernal of a delicious fruit and is the product of a “why not give it a go” moment. Last year there was also just one flower. Unfortunately, it didn’t progess any further. I have medium to low expectations for this one. But as they say, where there is flower there is hope.

Always a sucker for a quick germination, early season I sow radish and then get googly eyed when they emerge. This is, supposedly, a mix of yellow, red and purple. We shall see.

The Woolies acers are beginning to reveal their leaves and a very beautiful performance it is too. Like a high class burlesque dancer in reverse. We haven’t yet decided whether or not to plant any of the acers out into the ground. I would say that at least one will get its roots in the soil, the problem is which one?

Hip hip horray, its a trillium flowering day! Must get more, a white one would look splendid.

As usual, I bought OH a small packet of seed potatoes for his birthday. I know, generous to a fault. As usual, he planted them contrary to how I would and I say nothing, they are after all his spuds to do with what he wishes. It is my annual lesson in self-control. As usual, they are growing very nicely.

Finally, Lunaria annua ‘Corfu Blue’, a most wonderful honesty. I bought this plant at an open garden last summer as I recognised the cultivar name. I’m very pleased I did.

All done, hope I didn’t leave you with an earworm. Take care and keep spreading the horti-love.

Slapping and Slashing and a Little Probing

Although the subject of this blog should be patently obvious from the title, for those of you in need of a little extra help, I will explain. I’ve been on a bread making/sibling bonding course. This was a family gift to my brother in honour of a special birthday last year and a singular gift to myself for being gorgeous. Because I’m worth it. No sniggering in the cheap seats, please!

After a very pleasant drive to Abergavenny, with minimal screaming and surprisingly straightforward parking and venue finding, we arrived in good time. As we walked into the oak-beamed, beautifully refurbished battleground, complete with the most amazing bamboo table, we met baker extraordinaire, our tutor for the day and ex-GP, Rachael. Curiously, she was stirring a pan of white sauce, cursing at its lack of thickening. Intriguing. Who knew that roux’s were part of bread making? The opposition other participants began to arrive, introductions were made, name tags in place and we were ready to bake. I mean how tricky could it be? This was a course for beginners.

You must forgive me if I don’t quite get the order of events correct, it was a whirr of flour fuelled activity. What I can’t remember, I will make up. Everyone OK with that? I do know it begun with the suggestion that I sit at the top of the table, the place reserved for special people, a position known as The Naughty Spot. On reflection, as I was told off for both talking too much and some over-enthusiastic dough beating which was rattling the tea cups in the cafe below, it was probably a quite perceptive move.

We begun with making an enriched dough, full of sugar and butter and milk, all weighed in the same bowl, all very simple. Bro and I looked at each other, we’ve got this sussed. Then the fun began. The slap and fold technique. The dough was to be slapped onto the table then stretched back and folded over. A quarter turn and repeat. In no time the dough would miraculously become a smooth and elastic wonder. Um. I am guessing that The Heavens are missing a slap and fold gene somewhere. And we tried. Very hard. After an eternity attempting to wrestle an alien amoeba into submission, only breaking stride to glance over to Big Bros to laugh, I seemed to be no further on the road to smooth and elastic town. I then noticed that the rest of the gang, ie the ringers, were beaming with pride at their neat little bundles. Madame Boulangère, trying very hard not to laugh, returned us to the straight and narrow, leaving us both totally baffled at how she had achieved it. Slight of hand or witchcraft, one or the other. Exhausted we placed our numbered shower caps over our bowls and left them to rise. A nap now? Apparently not.

Onto the seeded wholemeal loaf. What already?! I was in need of an aromatherapy massage with ambient whale song before I returned to revisit my crime against the baking arts. Then a dribble inciting loaf (one MB had prepared earlier) was taken from the oven (see above), an imminent second breakfast was mentioned and I perked up considerably. More weighing and slapping and folding, which was much easier this time. Not easy, I hasten to add, but definitely easier. And a lot less messy.

Next, our reward. You are always going to win me over with a second breakfast, as I am part hobbit. Freshly brewed coffee, still warm crusty granary bread, with hand-churned salty butter and an assortment of preserves. And a good chat. Just perfect.

Fortified and raring for more, we then used half of the enriched dough to make cheese and ham slices for our lunch. Which is where the white sauce came to the party, now I understand!

Then onto the plaited wreath made with the remaining fortified dough. It went something like this: divide into three, roll into doggie bones, roll more until they are equal in length and width, realise they aren’t equal and I should have weighed them like the sensible people in the group, shrug, then left over middle, right over middle, repeat, then right under middle and left under middle at the top and tuck under. Don’t quote me on this, I may have mixed a right or an over along with way. After rising we decorated with almond or sugar nibs and felt rather pleased with ourselves.

We donated 100g or so of each of our doughs to Rachael who then combined our contributions to make another loaf, which we later shared. This was a splendid idea, we could all take credit for the loaves we tasted later, a group effort.

Then more eating. We were served a lunch of scrumptious homemade butternut squash soup, made by the washing up/soup fairy Laura, with our cheese and ham slices as a wonderful accompaniment and a glass of wine for the wayward. And more chat, naturally.

After lunch the risen seeded wholemeals were shaped and slashed with a razor blade, which sounds simple, but let us just say, it is as well my brother did not pursue a career in surgery. As they baked we tested the amalgamated plait with more of the salty butter. Then because we weren’t quite sure whether we liked it or not we had another another slice.

Then onto another dough, yes, it was quite unrelenting. Still, we had this slapping down to an art now. More abstract than fine art, but we had stopped weeping and were actually quite enjoying ourselves. Our final act would be to make a batch Swansea loaf.

After rising there was more slashing and later a little thermometer probing. I did wonder if Rachael was reverting back to her former calling. Then, after internal temperatures were deemed just right, or near enough, loaves were torn from their siblings and distributed. Group photos were taken and the day was done.

From start to finish it was a wonderful day; some science, some silliness. A disparate group of souls came to bake bread and did just that, but also laughed together and gave each other encouragement. Although there were different levels of baking experience, everyone came away with a bag of delicious goodies and a smile on their face. Thanks Rachael, it was brilliant. And if any of you out there in the great abyss fancy a food and fun filled day, I would highly recommend The Abergavenny Baker, who has a whole range of artisan courses available. I’m tempted by the Continental or perhaps the Italian or maybe even the Middle Eastern …..

And finally, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed having this adventure with my elder brother. On Friday he retired after at least 100* years as a General Practioner and I am, and have always been, incredibly proud of him as both a doctor and human being. Just don’t tell him I said so.

*facts to be verified.

Awakening

It is hard not to get over-excited at this time of year. Sensible people are demanding restraint. The daft ones are saying “go for it, life is short”, although they know really that a later sowing will catch up. I will let you guess which category I fall into. It is not big and it is not clever, but I always sow seed too early and too liberally. I really should not be allowed to influence people.

Last week I gave a talk to a women’s group. The subject was Seed, Glorious Seed and was followed by a practical sowing and pricking out session. I prepared a powerpoint presentation (say that quickly after a couple of babychams), had previously sown cosmos and calendula for demonstration purposes, sorted seeds of differing shapes and sizes for comparison, sorted seed for sowing on the night, arranged yoghurt pots to be saved with irrigation holes drilled, made plant labels from milk cartons, bought peat free compost, packed a couple of new Sharpies and saddled my horse. My aim was to demonstrate the great joy to be had from growing plants from seed and hopefully meet some nice people in the process.

It could have started better. Nobody could get the projector to work, and there were some clever maids there, so everyone had to squint at my computer to see the slide show. A kind and considerate bunch, they pretended they could see what was on the screen, nodding politely but with a general look of bewilderment on their faces. Perhaps that was just the effect of my explanations. Then the practical session began. I have just one word. Carnage. Perhaps another too. Anarchy. In a peaceful kind of way. Nice anarchy. My carefully sorted packets were thrown to the wind, popular seed was wrestled over, pots of compost dropped on the floor, questions bombarded me from all angles, “put a label in it” was on repeat. Everyone joined in. It was fun. I am pretty certain it was fun.

Today, the lovely ring leader of this glorious affray messaged me with a photo of a germinating dahlia seed. By golly, I think my cunning plan worked! There is no going back now. Oh yes, and they were very nice people.

Six on Saturday – Acclimatised

For me, Friday is SoS photography day. Yesterday the weather was grim. Valiantly I ventured forth and took my shots, which turned out to be just as grim as the weather. Today it is sunny with yellow threat of wind starting, according to the Met Office, in approximately forty three minutes. I refuse to go back outside to try again. I don’t care what you think. Actually I do. I will have to be especially poetic to gain your respect. I have given up trying to impress Svengali Prop he is a hard taskmaster. Let’s shake a leg, I have hatches to be battened.

First, we have the errant Anna, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Anna’s Red’, who has eventually turned up to the party. Fashionably late, perhaps? Just getting acclimatised to her surroundings. Next year I am certain she will be up and at it with the rest.

Next Camellia ‘Lady Campbell’ (allegedly). I bought this as a gift for OH who said he would like a red camellia. Yes, take another look, not red is she? Perhaps she is just getting acclimatised …..

We still have a few pots and bits and bobs at Peggy’s. Last week I reclaimed this keystone, not a cop but the top of an ornamental archway. I bought it many years ago in Bristol and since then it has accompanied us on our travels. Soon it will find it’s resting place, although I’m not quite sure yet where that will be, but I am sure it will become apparent in the fullness of time.

Daffs are a milestone in the year, a pointer to all good things. These Tete a Tete are the first bulbs I planted in the garden. They make me very happy.

Next a forgotten beauty. A labelless pot (I know call in The Special Forces) has revealed itself to be Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Papageno’, bought last year in a pre-moving flurry of foolishness. I love everything about the pasque flower, its emerging leaves, its wonderful blooms and its cuddlable seed heads.

Finally, the Chanticleer pear is flowering, and very pretty it is too. I still have plans to take the top out, I’m sure it can work without creating an ugly mutant. And there will be plenty of nectar laden blooms left for the early pollinators to feast upon.

That is your lot. Stay well and happy, my friends.

Six on Saturday – Group Hug

After, admittedly rather cockily, boasting of four weeks Six on Saturdaying in a row, I’ve missed two on the trot. Pride comes before a fall and all that. I’m like snakes and ladders on the The Propmeister’s leader board. Still, I’m here now and ready to join in the global embrace that is SoS and share the love, horticultural and otherwise. Things we need more than ever at the moment. Let us not tarry, the sun is shining and there is pottering to be done.

First, the bargain bin hyacinths are flowering and I am very happy that for once “random” worked for me. What a blue! I’m going to attempt to keep them so they can shine again next year, which undoubtedly summons the death toll.

I have an adage “never ask anyone to do something you would not do yourself”. For this reason, after a soggy-day shopping expedition with The Vegan Cop, I nipped back into Garden Centre and followed suit. A poppy, an erodium, a lamium and a hebe. You will no doubt be formally introduced at a later date.

I jumping up and down thrilled to see my Impatiens omeiana storming away in the very shady bed. I may be weeping next week, as I believe cold weather is on its way. Shall we live in the moment?

Next door’s fence is falling into our garden, which is a little irritating as it would probably only take a couple of nails to fix it. This is OH’s ingenious propping up method. Invisible mending!

One of a scant handful of resident plants was a patch of violets. They are just beginning to flower. Although very pretty, I think I will just retain a small patch. That is a job for another day, for the moment they can bloom away.

Finally, the glorious emerging leaves of Trillium sessile. This plant is very precious to me, as I grew it from seed and waited at least one hundred years for it to flower. After I took this picture I planted it out into the garden. I hope I wasn’t being rash.

That is your lot, my friends. Shall we have one last hug?

St Crallo and The Cross

There is so much to say and so little energy to say it. It has been very very windy and it hasn’t stopped being windy yet. It was also very wet. That has now stopped, possibly temporarily. In other news, the pear tree is still standing. Next door’s fence is not. The world seems intent on disarray. It is all slightly wearying.

Today, after the rain stopped, we took a trip to Coychurch Village. We found a nice little shop and bought an enormous romanesco and a sourdough loaf, which almost certainly makes us hipsters. OH has a beard and several checked shirts so is a shoe-in, as hipster women are generally invisible it is hard to say if I fitted the spec. I am giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

We ate crisps in the local pub, who weren’t serving hot food due to a week of wakes, and sat crunching as OH moaned about how expensive it all was. I don’t think that is very hipster. Mind you, they were sweet chilli flavoured.

Then we took a look at the 13th century church, St Crallo’s, unfortunately locked, as is often the case these days. Outside the south door stands the remains of a stepped medieval cross, damaged when the church tower collapsed in 1877. I cannot confirm the age of the moss and lichen, I would think it is also quite ancient. I do know it was looking rather beautiful in the snatched sunshine.

Six on Saturday – Prize

Four SoS in a row. Surely that warrants a prize? Or a medal? Or at a push I would accept a round of applause, as long as it is rousing. I’ll have to ask the holder of the Book of Rules The Propmeister , he seems a generous soul, a man inclined to prize giving. If you want to find out what the rest of the known universe are up to in their gardens (all clean, I assure you, well there might be a little mud), pop over to his site and all will be revealled. Let’s get on, I’m needed on the luge track.

First we have the hellebore that never blooms. It has looked like this for the past two months. Hanging in suspended animation whilst all other respectable hellebores are flowering their socks off. It is ‘Anna’s Red’ and to my mind acting a little prima donna-ish. Come on, open them there flowers!

My New Year’s Resolution of less turf more border is doing quite well. I have joined up two corners into one long bed. It looks a bit miserly at the moment but will expand. A couple more plants have been liberated from their pots and into the ground including Fuchsia microphylla and Salix graciliistyla ‘Melanostachys’. I’m loving it.

OH and myself disagree on a lot of things but agree on the most important. Which I think makes it alright. One of the things we disagree about is spider plants (but they purify the air) and an excess of aspidistra in the house. This variegated aspidistra has been living outside since we moved here and shows no sign of compliant. I might plant it out in the spring, unless he sneaks it back in in the meantime.

Never wanting to be left out of a party, snowdrop or otherwise, here is my contribution, Galanthus ‘Magnet’. It lives in a pot at the moment and I am undecided whether to plant it out or keep it confined. Control or not control, that is the question. That is always the question.

This week the Prof (yes we know who he is) donated these pieces of London Pride to the cause. We love London Pride in our house. An important thing we do agree on. Saxifraga x urbium for those who like a bit of Latin. Which I do.

This little chap is guarding the patio area until we find a permanent/semi-permanent place for him. Now who does he reminds me of …..

And so we end. Another six, another saturday. Take note Mr P.

Have fun, my friends.

Introducing …..

Yesterday was my inaugural day on a new job. The one with dogs and a blank canvas. It is always a bit daunting, starting over. Does one ever get over that “first day of school” feeling? Still, there was no reason to be worried. It was a good day. Shall we examine the clues?

A clear sky was a harbinger of delight, with no threat of rain on the horizon. This was contrary to the previous day which was gloom and heavy mizzle. A frisson of optimism permeated.

He had lined out his tools in a very orderly manner. Obviously a man on a mission.

I was greeted with coffee, always a way to my heart. Yes, this could be good.

Then he showed me the two new compost bins he had constructed in the week since my last visit. Rock on!

Unfortunately the pixies had not sorted the lawn out in my absence. To call it threadbare would be a compliment. This is going to be our biggest challenge. On the estate, where plastic-not-so-fantastic rules the roost, it is widely considered impossible to keep a lawn, citing the dreaded clay as the culprit. True, the soil is clay, but look around you folk, all the common areas have grass that is doing quite nicely thank you very much. My guess is that the ground has been compacted by mega machines during the construction process, top soil stripped and turf laid on top. Not ideal. In this garden, my new client sensibly laid a layer of top soil before seeding the area. It thrived for a year before its downfall. I think compaction is the problem. So we are going to aerate, add lawn sand and resow with a grass mix specifically for clay and waterlogged conditions. Then I am hoping-upon-hoping that the naysayers will be proved wrong and that the abomination of all things pure and true, artificial grass, can be bannished from the planet for ever. OK, perhaps I am getting a little carried away, but you get my point. Any top tips or helpful hints will be gratfully accepted.

We made a great start, creating the first new bed of the garden. We are going to work with what we have, using plants suited to these conditions. I have high hopes.

Oh yes, and we need a name for this new addition to my blogging world. For once I let him chose his own. The Vegan Cop. I like it.