Six on Saturday – 16th March

My second Six on Saturday post in as many weeks – can’t you just tell it’s coming into gardening season for fair weather gardeners such as myself?!

I didn’t think I’d be able to get out in the garden today because the forecast was for rain all day, so when I woke up quite early I lay there wondering what to do with myself because hubby’s at work this weekend, and then I thought, hang on, the cars going past don’t sound like they’re spraying water everywhere, and would you know it, bone dry! Whoop!

1. First job was to forge on with the job that Dad and I started last week laying the slabs around my raised beds and greenhouse. A career in bricklaying is certainly not for me! Not that I can’t do it (although I am a beginner) but more that it’s back breaking, especially on your own. I forget how much stronger men are than me generally, including those that by virtue of being your parent, are a generation older than you. A bag of wet sand, I can tell you, is flipping heavy and I’m by no means a weakling. Thank goodness for my birthday wheelbarrow which came into its own trundling the cement and sand up the garden. Thanks again, Dad, for your help because you must’ve done the majority of the heavy lifting last week. Even mixing up the sand and cement is jolly tough work and I’ll ache tomorrow (and fully intend to complain about it to hubby even though I know full well if he helps me with the rest he’ll be absolutely fine – humpff!)

Anyway, I managed to lay another five and a bit slabs before my muscles started complaining a bit too much, and I put the rest out to see how they’re going to fit around the greenhouse.

The ones around the two raised beds are properly laid and last weekend’s have set in pretty well. The one with the little Sempervivum pot on and then along and around the rest of the greenhouse are just placed down (eight of them) and, they fit pretty well. There’s a couple of inches gap either side which I’ll just fill with gravel. I saw a gorgeous little table on an email from Notcutts yesterday that would look perfect with that Sempervivum pot on in that spot, but I’m concerned about stability – it’s pretty open at the top of our garden so if there’s a storm it can get quite blustery up there.

2. Last Sunday when the weather wasn’t behaving quite as well as it has so far today, I took refuge in my greenhouse and planted up some seeds. This, I think, is the first time I’ve attempted to grow anything from seed apart from growing cress (unsuccessfully) on wet kitchen towel at junior school. Being in there when it’s blowing a gale outside reminded me of the calmness of being underwater (snorkelling, not drowning!) Very relaxing.

So here’s what I’ve sown.

In the green bamboo pots and the grey container next to it are Sunflowers. Next to that are Calendulas. On the bottom shelf in the propagator are Cosmos and Aquilegia. I’ve never heard of Aquilegia before, but they looked pretty on the packet so I sowed them. The final tray is full of Sweetpeas.

Have I told you how impatient I am? This is testing me to the limit. I’ve been out twice this week to see if anything was happening yet. Nope! Come on! I want to see little seedlings (which I know is entirely unreasonable in a week!) I hope it’s not too cold for them. According to my posh and functional thermometer it was 11.8° in there and according to my pretty but not so functional thermometer it was somewhere between 10 and 15°. Hmmm … what it lacks in accuracy it makes up for in aesthetics! I shall cross my (green?) fingers for another week and hopefully I’ll see some progress.

3. After I finished slabbing, I decided to inspect the rest of the garden. I happened upon this rather pretty little specimen nestling amongst the nettles and weedy miscellany in our wasteland.

I’m sure it’s a weed but I’m quite taken with it. Monty Don says a weed is anything that is in a place that you wouldn’t want it. Well I’m quite happy with this little Miss where she is, so maybe by default that makes her not a weed. I say ‘her’ because her colour makes me think of Little Buttercup from HMS Pinafore who was definitely a ‘her’. Sweet little Buttercup I.

4. I have a couple of different varieties of daffodils in bloom now in front of my planter apart from the early yellow ones. I’ve no idea what any of them are because I just walked round the bulb section with my fill-a-bag-for-a-fiver (or however much it was) paper bag picking random bulbs at will. I don’t always like to be super planned.

Don’t they look happily Spring-like? They’ve been somewhat wind and rain battered for the past week or so and some of them have flopped! The crocuses in front are, sadly, coming to the end of their life already. They can console themselves with the fact that they were delightful for the last few weeks.

5. I did some pruning. Some of it quite extreme. First my Clematis Montana which always has loads of leaves but has never once flowered.

I was lamenting this fact only a couple of days before the return of Gardeners’ World last week and Monty must’ve been with me in spirit because he did a section on pruning and specifically mentioned Montana and said that it will only flower on new growth, so I’ve chopped it right back and now I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

My Hydrangea has new growth so I decided it was ok to deadhead last Summer’s massive yield of two flowers and hope we get more this year. This is the first year it’s been free to grow as it pleases because I planted it out from its pot that it had lived in for three years after the best/worst (depending on your temperament) of the scorchio Summer had ended last year.

Finally, and I’m really hoping I’ve done the right thing here, I pruned my Eupatorium right back. It grew like crazy after I bought it last year and had the most beautiful leaves through Summer followed by clusters of tiny white flowers in the Autumn, but then looked deceased all winter. I’m pretty sure there’s life in it yet so I’m keeping my fingers, toes, legs and anything else crossable, crossed that it revives.

6. Just before the rain came, I decided to do a little bit of much needed house (garden?) keeping. Our neighbour on one side has several huge conifers, and I mean huge. They’re as tall as the house. It’s safe to say that he doesn’t love his garden as much as we love ours so I think we’re stuck with the jungle next door. It means that the whole of that side of the garden gets covered with bits of conifer of various sizes and I have to try and rake it out without damaging any plants underneath.

This is the pile I was left with. It’s going to have to stay there in the middle of the lawn for a while because our green wheelie bin has been full for weeks awaiting the start of the collections. I unearthed (or unconiferred) quite a few poor plants that were suffocating underneath the foliage. It’s all looking a lot tidier now, although this is just the beginning – we have a LOT of weeds that need sorting out! I’ve learnt not to stress too much about it, it took a long period of neglect for our garden to end up in the state it was in when we moved in, so it’s going to take a long time to get it looking ship shape. We’ve made massive inroads already, but there’s no rush. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Do pop over to the Propagator’s blog to check out other Six on Saturday posts – I’m sure there’ll be lots of Spring joy over there.

Six on Saturday 9th March

I popped out in the garden one night this week to inspect Spring progress and said to myself, yup, definitely got to do a Six on Saturday this week. I was away last weekend so it was a couple of weeks since I’d properly seen the garden in daylight and so much had changed.

So, here we go with numero uno – Spring bulbs. Here’s my barrel planter two weeks ago.

Reasonably well defined – Heather in the middle surrounded by Cyclamen with the Giant Alliums coming though at the back, Tulips (I think) on the left and an at-that-point unidentified smaller bulb nearer the middle.

Here’s two week’s progress for you.

I think I made a school boy error with the Giant Alliums! They’re taking over the world! It’s like Little Shop of Horrors! I’ll see how they fare this year, and then I may have to relocate them to somewhere with more space for next year. I didn’t appreciate quite how giant Giant Alliums would be! The size of the bulb should’ve been my first clue really – mahoosive! I now know that the previously unidentified leaves are a Snowdrop, but I’m sure I planted more than one bulb. Maybe they were either dug up by squirrels or have no room to bloom due to the giantness behind! I think the suspected Tulips are struggling for space too! Oh well, you live and learn.

Sticking to the theme of bulbs for number two, the Bluebells are continuing to pop up all over the garden. I’m sure there are significantly more than there were last year.

You can see them pushing through all around the edge of the bistro, and even through the weed control fabric around my Festuca pot and in the middle of the gravelled area. We have them in pretty much every bed, and I noticed today that there are hundreds of them in what I lovingly refer to as ‘the wasteland’ at the top of the garden. That’ll be really pretty when they flower.

Number three is my Bergenia, or Elephant’s ears.

This was given to me by the cleaner at work from her garden. It was just in a plastic bag with no soil, and I planted it a couple of days afterwards, not really expecting much, but it’s thrived and has lovely pink flowers waving at me. Spot the Bluebells vying for its spot!

On to number four.

Beautiful pink Camellia in the front garden. We inherited the Camellia when we moved in and I don’t do anything with it, it just keeps going and stuns us with its gorgeousness every Spring. Doesn’t it look luscious with the raindrops nestling in its petals?

Number five is something special, not that bulbs, Bergenia and Camellias aren’t, but this is a project that’s been a long time in the imagination. Regular readers will know about my raised beds that I built last summer and my greenhouse that I got for Christmas. Here’s how they’ve looked since the new year.

On Wednesday we took delivery of thirty slabs, three bags of sharp sand and one bag of cement.

Very conveniently (for me) I was in Frankfurt on business when they arrived so hubby humped them all the way down the garden to the greenhouse. Must remember to be away whenever heavy goods are being delivered!

Today my Dad came over to help me lay the slabs. We were a bit will we won’t we to start off with because he lives fifty miles away and we couldn’t decide whether the weather was going to play ball and cause him a wasted trip (other than seeing yours truly obvious!) Eventually the blue skies won through and we were able to lay half the slabs and I’m so pleased with how they’ve turned out so far – much better than the picture in my head.

We ran out of sand and cement at this point, hence we stopped. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finish it off because the forecast is for wet weather for the foreseeable future. Soon there will be strawberries, raspberries, carrots, potatoes, leeks and courgettes growing in those beds. How exciting!

I foresee more slab laying in my future because we have a LOT of space and don’t they look good? People are always trying to get rid of slabs on freecycle too so it can be a cheap, rewarding and fruitful project.

I also now have this hanging around the garden so I’ll be off to peruse Pinterest later to see what I can make with it.

I will finish and leave you with something for number six that made me very VERY happy this week when I spotted it. Sometime back towards the end of summer I wrote about my beautiful Berberis that lost all its leaves as soon as I planted it out. It really was beautiful when I bought it from Hop Pocket out near Worcester.

See its beautiful leaves that look like they’ve been gilded with gold? It is deciduous, so it may have been just coincidence that I happened to plant it out when it was time to lose its leaves, but they went so quickly that it just didn’t seem right, so I dug it up and put it back in its pot and whispered sweet nothings to it whenever I popped out over the Winter and look what’s happened.

It’s alive, it’s alive! I have some garden centre vouchers so I’m going to treat it to a nice pot and nurture it and love it on its own just in case it doesn’t like our soil.

So there’s my six for this week. Do pop over to the Propagator’s blog to check out his and others’ sixes.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The planter is planted!

I feel like I have to take advantage of every second I can to get out in the garden at the moment before it gets so cold that I can’t bear to step away from the warmth of the house. I hate being cold, but I also know that I need to keep on top of the garden through the winter as well as the warmer months so I’m going to have to take a deep breath and get on with it. I may have to summon my inner snowman.

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Yet again I forgot to do my online shopping yesterday so I had to pop up to Tesco first thing today (bought crisps, cheese and other delectables and not one piece of fruit or veg! This is why I normally do it online, so we don’t get scurvy – that and I can’t deal with the general public when they’re in charge of a trolley) but I whizzed round so I could get back to my beloved garden.

I’m so in love with my new planter that my Dad made and I really wanted to keep my gardening momentum going so I roped in hubby to assist and we headed out to the planter. First I wanted to turn the planter around so we could see all the tiers from our kitchen and back bedroom windows. It’s surprisingly heavy but we managed between us.

Our garden unfortunately slopes upwards pretty much all the way from the end of the patio to the back fence, so we decided to dig down slightly so that the planter sits flat. This had the added advantage of giving us some soil to fill the planter with. Our soil is pretty good, so I like to use it when I can.

Whilst hubby was doing the digging, I set to making holes in the rubber which lines the planter to make sure it has adequate drainage.

So here’s the empty planter, levelled and with drainage holes installed.

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We then added some polystyrene to the deeper sections of the planter. This allows for more drainage, but also helps to fill up some space so we needed less soil to fill it.

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We then started to fill the planter with the displaced soil from underneath. There was actually a fair bit because there really is quite a slope, but it wasn’t enough to fill it so we headed up to Homebase (which, incidentally is opposite Tesco – I do sometimes spend my day going in circles!)

My new birthday wheelbarrow came in handy when we got home with three 100 litre bags of all-purpose compost (and a bath plug because ours has gone missing. I know! No idea!)

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We judged it perfectly, 300 litres was exactly what was needed.

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Time for the fun stuff to start! What’s going in it? said hubby. I gestured towards the front of the garden where all my new birthday grasses were swaying in the breeze next to the plant hospital where all my sale table plants spend some recuperation time before going to their forever homes. How to decide! The only one I knew was definitely going in there was my Cordyline. After a bit of trial and error, I decided on these.

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There’s a mixture of sale table and birthday plants in there. The Cordyline is back left and moving clockwise we have Pink Damask, Carex Testacea, Ivy, Juncus Spiralis, Helleborus Christmas Carol, Carex Milk Chocolate, two Cyclamen and Calluna Vulgaris. Calluna Vulgaris always seems to me to be an awful name for such a pretty pretty plant, but despite the horrible nomenclature, it translates literally as common heather.

Here is the completed article (for now, I may always decide that it needs to be fuller!) Drumroll …….

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The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the soil in front of the planter looks like it has been tilled, and you would be right. In that soil are approximately seventy bulbs. Immediately next to the front of the planter is a row of daffodils interspaced with alliums and in front of that are five clusters of crocuses. The daffodils and crocuses were a birthday present, and the alliums were free with any purchase at Notcutts. I had a few left over so I put them behind the ivy in the planter. Keep your fingers crossed that none of our resident squirrels decide they’d make a good supper!

I need to find some patience now because the shrubs planted around the planter all have a long way to go until they reach their full size. There’s a Hydrangea, an Acer, a Leptospurmum, a Coprosma and of course, my beautiful Eupatorium. I think the area will look slightly unfinished until they all grow somewhat more. It’s a work in progress, but for now I’m very happy with it.

One final note on my Eupatorium which you can see in the background. Any excuse to show photos of this plant because I really love it and it’s growing so well. It was probably about a foot and a half tall when I brought it home, and only a few inches wide, but now it’s really big and willowy, and today I noticed that it’s growing some flowers. This makes me happy happy happy.

Hope everyone’s had a lovely weekend. Feel free to comment and let me know what you’ve been up to – I’d love to know.

Until next time.