Six on Saturday 17th July

I have organised myself early this week to join in with the Propagator’s Six on Saturday. It’s actually Thursday as I’m writing this and I’ve just been inspired by a stroll around the garden.

My poor tomato plants were in a little bit of a sorry state from lack of water, but I don’t think they’re beyond redemption. Time will tell. (Edit to add: they’re fine!) I’m finding, that even though I’m at home all day (still working from home) I forget to go out into the garden to do my watering. When I was in the office it used to be a regular routine that I’d go straight out there when I got home to check what was going on. Must try harder.

So, on to this week’s Six. First up is my first sweetpea of the year – a lovely white number tinged with purple. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, but they’re very slow to get going. On my Timehop today there is a photo from two years ago of an arrangement I’d made with loads of sweetpeas. I planted them in a different place this year that gets more sun, which I thought they’d bask in. I’m still hopeful of being able to make a pretty posy this year too.

My second point has surprised me. It’s a dahlia that I found on a sale table a few weeks ago, but it’s not the flouncy, show off kind of dahlia that I normally gravitate towards. If I’m completely honest, I only got it because it was reduced, but look how amazingly pretty it is.

The photo definitely doesn’t do it justice. I’ve deadheaded it today so hopefully I’ll get another couple of flowers by the time I actually publish this. It’s in a pot on our patio table and I see it every morning as I stumble into my home office at eight twenty nine and fifty nine seconds! Lesson learnt: understated beauty can be just as pleasing as the obvious flouncy kind.

However, I couldn’t resist the buy me, buy me and jumping up and down of the flouncy one so this one came home with me too. This is so cheerful with its sunshine petals. It practically glows when the sun shines on it.

Next up is my wheelbarrow. I’ve put apricot begonias in it again, but also had to supplement it with marigolds because Thomson and Morgan let me down and several of the begonias I ordered from them didn’t survive the post. I think you’ll agree though, the ones that did survive are making up for the loss. I just love them. I never seem to be able to find this colour in garden centres.

My hydrangea is finally getting going too. I love the flowers when they’re at this in between stage. They’re like floral rhubarb.

Finally, my buddleia has sprung to life this week. I’ll be on butterfly watch from now on. This purple colour is one of my favourites and when it appears in nature it’s just stunning.

Chris Packham was on the One Show this week talking about butterflies. They’re in decline due to climate change and we’re being asked to count butterflies to try to get an idea of the extent of the decline.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. It was 24° in my car this morning before 9am when I dropped hubby at work so I’m feeling that it may be too hot for any gardening (or much else for that matter) to get done, other than some necessary watering.

A most excellent holiday on the Isle of Wight

Well, I’ll start by saying that I can’t believe that it took covid for us to discover the gem that is the Isle of Wight! Pre-covid, we didn’t really holiday in the UK, but the pandemic has changed so many aspects of life and has forced us to make a choice between no holiday and a staycation. We chose staycation, and while I know we’ll go abroad again as soon as we feel it’s safe and sensible to do so, we’ll also most definitely go back to the Isle of Wight. We had such a good time!

It didn’t start well. Firstly the weather forecast went from glorious sun and 20 degrees plus temperatures every day, to rain and grey most days and then our ferry crossings were delayed because one of the ferries is out of action. However, apart from the first night when I thought our caravan (and my car) might actually float away because the rain was so bad, the weather was actually pretty good and we both managed to get sunburnt despite wearing factor 20 (in my case, at least!) and the delayed ferry crossings allowed us to fit a bit extra into our holiday.

On the way there, our crossing was changed from lunchtime to 7pm so, not wanting to waste any precious holiday time, I booked us tickets to go to Portsmouth Docks which turned out to be an excellent trip. We saw the Mary Rose and looked around the museum first.

It’s incredible to stand there looking at the wreck of the ship which we raised in 1982, to think that King Henry VIII stood not too far away watching his favourite war ship sink during the battle of the Solent in 1545. It lay under the water for a remarkable four hundred and thirty seven years. There was apparently some question, when it was found, over whether we could say with certainty that it was the Mary Rose but I was amazed to read in the museum that we can actually put a date range on when the trees used to build the ship were felled! That’s almost too clever! Anyway, the age of the timber and the location of the wreck point towards it being the Mary Rose. The vast majority of the crew, including dogs, were lost when she sank despite her being so close to the shore, and we found many remains trapped in the ship and from analysis of the bones and artefacts found nearby, we’ve been able to assign probable roles to the men found. We can even tell where the men were likely to have been born, with reasonable accuracy. Just amazing.

Next we visited HMS Victory where you can actually board the ship because, in comparison to the Mary Rose, it’s a young ship having been built in the mid eighteenth century. Her most famous role was at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when she was captained by Lord Nelson.

Nelson won the battle, but was fatally wounded by a musket shot which lodged in his spine, having already lost the sight in one eye and most of one arm in previous battles, and died below decks on Victory. It’s here that the famous quote ‘kiss me Hardy’ was supposed to have been uttered. The men on Victory slept in hammocks, apart from Nelson who, having lost his arm but being unwilling to ask for assistance to clamber into a hammock, slept on a specially made bed which could be quickly moved if the space was required for battle.

I love this photo of HMS Victory which I took from the quayside, including the giant statue of a Royal Navy soldier taking his girl in his arms.

On to the main holiday then. We found our caravan easily and settled in and then sat the rain out on the first night and luckily the rest of our holiday was dry and mainly sunny.

On day one we visited a model village in Godshill ….

…. and then went to Shanklin to have a wander around. Shanklin Chine was closed (more about that later) due to the previous night’s weather so we walked down the to the seafront and found an arcade to waste a bit of time (and money) in. I did my best to win an Eeyore but didn’t manage it unfortunately. In the evening I went for a walk down to our local beach and found myself a couple of shells.

The next day we’d pre-booked tickets to Osborne House, which was, allegedly, Queen Victoria’s favourite residence and where she passed away in 1901. Due to covid, we were only able to visit the ground floor rooms but they were pretty impressive.

The house is 1.2km from what was Queen Victoria’s private beach, so we walked down there and had a really relaxing sit on her beach for an hour or so, where I managed to find a few more shells and a stone which reminds me of a panda.

On our way back to the caravan we stopped by the Garlic Farm where you can go on a couple of pleasant walks and learn about different kinds of garlic. This is an elephant garlic flower.

There is also the inevitable shop selling their wares so we bought ourselves quite a few garlic products.

On our penultimate full day the weather was good enough for us to sit on our beach so we slipped and slid our way down the very steep access path and set up camp for a while. Hubby even went in the sea (far too cold for me!) It really didn’t feel that hot, but it was obviously deceptive because we both got a little burnt. The sun is definitely stronger in the UK than it used to be.

Luckily for our burnt bits, we packed up mid-afternoon and decided to go and check out Shanklin Chine after it had been closed before. It’s so magical. There’s a lovely waterfall and then the stream is surrounded by beautiful woodland foliage throughout. At the end you’re rewarded with a gorgeous sea view and then on the way back up there are some rescue birds overlooking the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen, which reminded me of something you’d find on Skull Island. According to my mum, it’s gunnera.

On our final day we went for a walk around the coastal path which was really good for the soul. There’s something about being up high and overlooking the sea that does you good.

We ended up in Yaverland where there’s a lovely beach and Wildheart’s animal sanctuary. We went into the animal sanctuary and had a look around. It’s only a small place, but we enjoyed it a lot. Afterwards we walked back around the path, enjoying the great outdoors.

On our final morning we had time to visit the Roman villa ruins at Brading due to our rearranged ferry crossing. This was also really interesting. Some of the mosaic floors, which are estimated to have been laid in 46AD, are pretty well preserved, really giving you a feel of what the villa would’ve looked like when it was newly built.

We had, completely unintentionally, chosen the weekend of the round the island race to return, so we were treated to amazing views of hundreds of boats sailing all round the island. We had a great view of this from the ferry on the way back. The photos don’t do it justice – it really was quite a spectacle.

I could wax lyrical about the Isle of Wight for much longer, but I think I’ll finish here and go and get myself some delicious garlic mayo for my lunch (probably with something else as well!) If anyone’s looking for a staycation location, I’d highly recommend the Isle of Wight – we had an amazing time and will definitely be back there again, and hopefully for a bit longer next time.

Six on Saturday 19th June

My offering is late this Saturday because I’ve spent all day in the garden, mainly focused on one particular project and finishing off with a little bit of general gardenkeeping (is that a word? Housekeeping is, so why not gardenkeeping?)

Anyway, this week I’m mainly talking about my new planter which I have bought in an attempt to fill the problem space alongside our lawn and underneath part of next door’s jungle which gets no sun (literally none) and is zapped of all goodness and moisture due to the aforementioned jungle. I figure a planter will be easier to maintain since I can control the soil and the watering much easier. That’s the idea anyway. Who knows if it’ll work. Here’s hoping because the planter was flipping expensive and backbreaking to put together (although I am suffering with my back at the moment, so it may not be so bad for a healthy backed person!) and I had to put A LOT of compost in it!!

Here is it with hubby valiantly brandishing the screwdriver as if he did the whole lot!!!! To be fair, he was at work when I put the majority of it together and I’m too impatient to wait for help unless absolutely necessary. Each of those half moons of timber was separate and had to be joined, and they didn’t have pre-drilled holes! I just needed help to put the panels together once I’d constructed them because it was pretty unwieldy because of the size.

I decided to fill some of the bottom with various paraphernalia to use up some space because I’d calculated that it would hold 1000 litres of compost. It was quite good actually to get rid of some of the rubbish lying around the garden and put it to good use (and save me some money!) As it turns out, either my calculations were wrong, or the dimensions given were wrong, but it actually took 1350 litres of compost, even with the detritus in the bottom, which involved two trips to Homebase. Luckily hubby wasn’t working this morning so I didn’t have to carry it all from the car to the garden because that really wouldn’t have done my back any good! It’s already complaining about the amount of lifting and digging that I did actually do.

Eventually, after that second trip to Homebase, I managed to get it filled and, what do you know, it stayed together and I think it looks pretty good, even before the plants were added.

In the lefthand side of the planter we have, back left, my very first sale table plant that I’ll be really upset at if it doesn’t tolerate being moved, my hebe Purple Pixie. It’s one of the few plants that actually has managed to compete successfully with the jungle. In front of that, the pinky thing, is a weed I think, but it’s a pretty weed so I kept it and in front of that is a hosta which is a shade-lover anyway so has managed to stay alive there for a couple of years. Next to the hosta is a sedum which self-seeded itself elsewhere in the garden. Also a shady lady so should be fine there. Behind that is my fuchsia Delta Sarah which also prefers some shade. It’s a couple of years old now and has come back to life this year. I pruned it quite significantly back to the regrowth so hopefully it won’t object to the upheaval. Behind Sarah is a new plant that I picked up a couple of weeks ago at Dobbies. It’s a nepeta and it should be ok with shade as long as I keep it topped up with water until it establishes. Nestled next to the nepeta is an Asiatic lily. I really don’t know how that will take to the movement, but I thought I’d try it – you never know. In front of that I added some white begonias because they’re pretty tolerant of anything that you do to them and they brighten up a darker spot.

Moving to the back right of the other end of the planter we have acer Butterfly. This is also new so I’ll make sure it gets everything it needs to thrive. In front of the acer is my coprosma. This is the third time the poor thing’s been moved because it wasn’t doing well in it’s first two spots. I talked nicely to it and promised never to move it again if it can do its best to settle in well here. Next door to the coprosma is a plant that my in-laws bought for me and I can’t remember what it is! Having just consulted google, I think it may be a Japanese laurel. Back and left from there is another new plant. I ordered this one from Thomson and Morgan in February and it only turned up a couple of weeks ago! It’s a sarcococca which I got because my aunt told me that they smell amazing and should be ok with shade. Immediately in front of that is fuchsia Snowcap. This is one of the six that I ordered from QVC which got turned upside down by Hermes and arrived in a bit of a sorry state! I’ve been tending to them carefully ever since and I think I’ve managed to save them all (although one is still a bit touch and go – it’s in one of Granny’s pots for good luck). Goodness knows where the other four are going to go, but I really should decide before they get pot bound! At the very front is another sale table find and I can’t (even with the help of google) remember what it is. It has a really odd flower that looks like some kind of alien, however it didn’t look very happy before I moved it so I’m not expecting it to survive, but, again, you never know! I’ve left a bit of space at the front because I’d like a couple of heucheras there but I don’t own said heucheras yet and I think I’d better wait till pay day to make any more purchases!!

I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out and it looks so much better than the mostly empty space before did. I’ll have to keep on top of the maintenance because most of the jungle is made up of fir trees which like to drop their needles in abundance. This is good sometimes because I think it does help to keep moisture in, but it’s not good when it covers the poor plants just trying to survive underneath. I hope I haven’t planted things too close together – I’ll just have to see how they get on as they (hopefully) get bigger.

I’m going to finish up with another raised bed that I’ve been tending today and over the last couple of weeks.

I’d already planted out the marigolds, sweetpeas and runner beans and they seem to be doing ok despite being trampled on by any number of neighbourhood cats, foxes, squirrels and magpies! The runner beans and sweetpeas are all starting to wind their way up the wigwams and all the marigolds have buds waiting to spring forth with orangy gorgeousness. Today I added four sunflowers (short ones) that have been growing in the greenhouse. They got attacked by slugs so were somewhat put back in their growth but I’m hopeful that they’ll survive. I also planted out my second batch of cosmos after the first lot also fell foul of the slimy critters. You can’t really see them, but they’re in the middle. I don’t normally stake cosmos, but they were all looking a little droopy so I decided to give them a little helping hand, especially as we’re expecting rain again tomorrow which might batter tiny plantlets (I’ve made that up, but they’re more than seedlings, but not quite plants yet).

All in all it’s been a most satisfying (if expensive) day of gardening and I’m feeling happily accomplished. I’m off to check out some of the other Sixes now that I’ll be able to find on the Propagator’s blog – why not join me? Enjoy the rest of the weekend – happy gardening!