Six on Saturday 3rd April

Bank holiday has thrown me! I almost started to write this yesterday thinking it was Saturday, and today feels like Sunday. Oh well, it’s not, so here I am.

I’ll start with greenhouse progress and my seeds are coming along nicely. The only ones which are a bit reluctant to get going are my tomatoes. I didn’t take a picture of them – you don’t need to see what is essentially a pot of soil!

I don’t have labels, I have a note on my phone instead. I’d like to say that’s because I’m far too technologically advanced for labels, but actually it’s just that I’m not organised enough to buy any! So, in the green bamboo pots and the triple container there are Russian giant sunflowers, in the two six compartment containers are Pacino gold sunflowers and the tray and the teeny tray on the top right contain sweetpeas. Underneath that in the 99p tray are cosmos dazzler and the white tray middle bottom is nurturing zinnia orange king. Let’s hope they all survive the cold spell that is forecast over the next few days.

Next is an update on the suspected honesty plant that I posted last week. It has put on a huge growth spurt over the past week and now has tiny buds and I recognise them from when I grew honesty a couple of years ago so it is now a fully confirmed honesty plant. It’s a bit skewiff in the pot but I think a couple of carefully placed bedding plants will balance it out.

Next is my ‘new’ raised bed. I use inverted commas because I actually bought and assembled this last year but it was too late in the season to try and grow anything in it so it’s been sat there all winter patiently waiting. I have a bit of an issue because I can’t get the legs into the ground, but I also can’t get the screws out to remove them. I have attempted to recruit a bit of muscle (hubby) to either battle the screws or saw the bottoms off, but for some reason that I just can’t fathom, he doesn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for it! Don’t worry – I’ll wear him down in the end!

A raised bed needs compost so yesterday we popped to Homebase and picked up lots! I’m going to need more at some point, but this will keep me going for now.

Hopefully there will be enough left for me to pot this lovely lot up.

I ordered these from QVC weeks ago and they arrived a couple of days ago. I have two pots (also from QVC) ready and waiting for them. I actually expected the bulbs to be bigger, but we’ll see what happens.

Speaking of lilies, I noticed that these ones have started sprouting and here starteth my lily beetle watch! I think these are Asiatic lilies. I’ve bought so many that they all merge into one! I’m pretty sure these are the bright yellow ones. Time will tell.

See all the winter detritus covering the ground? This is all from next door’s jungle which means hardly anything grows on this side of the garden. I’ve got a plan hatching for this space though which hopefully I’ll be able to put into action soon and tell you about.

Until then, the Propagator’s blog is ready and waiting for you to peruse along with all the other Sixes for this week. I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend with lots of gardening and hopefully lots of chocolate.

A catio for our cats

We have been talking about getting a catio for our furry girls pretty much since they came into our lives, and they’re five now so it’s been an epic conversation! I’ve never had house cats before, in fact I never considered it, but when we moved into our house, our previous cat, Willow, was hit and killed on the road, so we made the decision (controversial to some) to keep our girls as house cats. They were tiny kittens when we adopted them so they’ve never known the outside world. I wouldn’t keep a cat inside that was used to going out.

Over the last few months we’ve been home with the girls a lot more and have had more time to consider and research the catio. There are a number of companies who sell ready made catios, but boy are they expensive! We started looking at them and then did some research on YouTube and decided that we’d be able to build our own at a vastly reduced financial outlay, so I got planning.

The catio is essentially a wooden frame with cat safe wire mesh attached to make it secure, but it was actually harder than I anticipated to design it. The basic shape was easy enough, but then I had to consider exactly where the screws should go to avoid drilling into another screw where three lengths of wood needed to be joined, and I had to bear in mind the width of the mesh and where we would need additional struts to allow us to attach it. Even with all my meticulous, pencil-chewing planning, we still had to tweak the design as we went along, but we got there.

I think we ended up with three trips to B&Q for supplies.

It’s a good job I’ve got quite a long car because we needed eight 2.4 metre lengths of wood in order to make the catio big enough to clear our back door.

Our first attempt went a bit wrong – I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I think it must’ve been something to do with the conversion from inches which we measured in, to centimetres which we cut in! We won’t dwell on that!

Newly measured, and double, triple and quadruple checked, we got going again – luckily we were able to reuse most of the bits of wood that we’d cut so we didn’t waste much, and this time the frame fit over the door and window. We decided not to include a door because this would’ve made the design more complicated and expensive, and we have another door into the back garden so it’s not necessary.

So far, so good!

The timber we used was only thirty eight millimetres wide so the frame was quite flimsy whilst we were still assembling it so we had to be really careful as we moved it around.

Soon we got to the stage where we could staple some of the mesh onto the frame so it became more stable.

We chose the mesh carefully because the cats may decide to climb it which could hurt their little paws. This mesh is plastic coated and is sold as animal proof. We made sure that all the edges are secured and/or tucked away so curious paws can’t find them.

I picked up a few hanging pots to go on the outside of the catio, as well as some quirky additions to prettify the whole thing and I moved some of my existing posts to make a feature of it. We picked up some cheap fake grass for the bottom to soften the look. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

I picked the plants up from Webbs last weekend. I needed plants that wouldn’t get too big for the four around the sides, and two that will trail for the top corners. Obviously they all had to be cat safe too, just in case!

I’ve wanted an ornamental kale for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

The cats were a bit hesitant about the whole affair to start off with …

… but they’re getting more and more used to it now. Tink even scratched the door to ask to go out there yesterday.

Next job then, it would seem, is to get a cat flap so they can let themselves out there whenever they fancy. It’s nice to know they can get outside in a safe and secure way to get some air and some sunshine.

Six on Saturday 9th May

Well, I’ve had a lovely day! Probably the best lockdown day so far. We had a day in the garden yesterday clearing away loads of weeds, and it inspired me, so this morning I decided to take the plunge and go to stand in the queue at Homebase. Actually I stood in two! I queued for about half an hour to get in, and I have to say, the queue was very well managed and I was never within six feet of anyone else. Then I had to wait to be let back outside to the garden section! Again, very well managed. Well done Homebase. I decided to make the wait worth it, and I spent rather a lot of money, but, let’s face it, I’m not spending on anything else other than food so I think the bank manager will forgive me. I spent the rest of the day alternating between planting my new stuff, sitting in the sun and playing swingball.

Number One – Garden Hardware

I got the two terracotta pots from Homebase today. I decided a while ago that I’d like lots more pots around the garden. I know they take more work in terms of watering and maintenance, but I love the look of lots of pots. The plastic beige and grey pots I found in Poundland a couple of weeks ago (where social distancing is not adhered to effectively because of the limited width of the aisles, so I won’t be going back there for some time!) I think I’ll plant the pots with pansies and petunias that I bought today. I’ve put them in the greenhouse for now because, after the glorious weather today, apparently it’s going to be 10° tomorrow! The trellises and sunflower stakes came in a delivery today from Blooming Direct. I’ve put the stakes in place ready for the Sunflowers in the greenhouse once they get big enough to plant out.

I have twenty seven Sunflowers seedlings so I’m not sure where they’re all going to go! I guess they won’t all make it, but even so, I think I should’ve ordered more than five stakes!

Number Two – Sale Table Finds (oh sale table how I’ve missed thee!)

On my way back from Homebase I called into Halls, our local garden centre, because, although they’re only operating on a click and collect or delivery basis, I did notice that they had a half price table set up outside. I picked up a couple of great plants.

A white Camellia which I’ve planted in our bistro …

… and this beautiful Rhododendron.

Gorgeous! I couldn’t resist.

Number Three – Lupin

This was the only blue/purple Lupin amongst a field of pink, so I snapped it up. Such a striking plant. I had a Lupin before from a sale table, but it didn’t make it so I hope this one is more successful.

Number Four – Chrysanthemums

I bought these today as well, and I’ve put them in the pot that the Lupin came out of and another that I found in the dim dark recesses of the garage! Wonderful splashes of colour.

Number Five – Dicentra Bleeding Heart

Finally! It’s flowered!

I’m hoping it has a growth spurt this Summer because it’s still quite small. This was from a sale table, so I guess it didn’t have the best start in life but it seems to be reasonably happy now. I’ve seen some fabulous Dicentras on Instagram that dwarf my little plant, but I love it and its little rows of hearts just the same.

Number Six – Self Seeded Oxalis, or is it?

I thought this was Oxalis that had self seeded from a plant I bought from Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens a couple of years ago, but now I’m not so sure!

Whatever it is, I’m very happy that it decided to grow in our garden because it’s very pretty indeed. Surely a weed is only a weed if you don’t want it? I’ve learnt to be a lot less precious about weeding in our garden. It’s somewhat rustic in nature which means it’s never going to be perfectly manicured so I’m embracing the imperfection and I’ve left seedlings that in previous years I’ve whipped out before they’ve had chance to develop and it’s resulting in some delightful flowers, and it means less weeding for me – win/win!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into our little garden haven. I can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated our outdoor space over the past weeks. If you’d like to have a sneak peak into other bloggers’ gardens, nip on over to the Propagator’s page.