Six on Saturday – 18/11/2017

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Once more I can avoid having to think too hard about items to include as there are odd little planty things going on that I can report on. We had just a suggestion of ground frost yesterday but I haven’t seen any damage, even Fuchsia boliviana is unscathed. This morning’s sunrise was lovely, it’s cold but only just frosty atop the car. The gulls are cacophonous; you’d think we were by the sea, not eight miles inland.

All the dahlias in the garden are staying where they are. I’ve cut them down and piled half rotted leaves over them. The seedling ones I had on my allotment have been lifted and are in a box covered with old potting compost. There are still lots of things in pots that need moving in.

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One.
Hedychium densiflorum ‘Assam Orange’ is something I featured when it was in flower, back in early September. It has produced fruits which are very slowly splitting open to reveal these vivid red berries within. In the past I have collected seed and grown new plants but I have no need of more. It comes more or less true from seed, which almost certainly means that much of what is sold as ‘Assam Orange’ is really just another seedling Hedychium densiflorum, quite possibly including mine. If anyone reading wants some seed, let me know.
Two.
Viburnum tinus. There are 34 forms of Viburnum tinus listed on the RHS website in what used to be the online version of Plantfinder. 15 have no suppliers listed, four more only one. The big ones are V. tinus, the species, and V. tinus ‘Eve Price’. ‘Gwenllian’, ‘French White’, ‘Purpureum’ and ‘Variegatum’ are widely available too. My plant is very different from all of these well known forms. For starters, the largest leaves are 11 cm long and 7cm wide, much bigger than the usual forms.

It was growing in my parents garden in Surrey when they moved in around 1956. The house had been built around 1900 and it is altogether possible it had been planted soon after. I’ve always assumed it was a form of the wild species that was available at the time. I just looked up Viburnum tinus in Bean* and it may be form hirtum, which the RHS says was last in Plantfinder in 2001.

Have I lost you yet? Suffice it to say that including it here was the spur to trying to find out more about it. It’s a handsome enough evergreen shrub though in truth it’s mostly nostalgia that motivates me to keep it. It’s a direct link back to the garden in which I became a gardener and a horticulturalist.

* Bean’s Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles is available online, updated to include New Trees. These books would cost you a small fortune to buy and they are available here for free.
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Three.
Fuchsia splendens ‘Karl Hartweg’, or is it? It could be splendens cordifolia. Or maybe it’s ‘Lechlade Marchioness’. I don’t know how this came to be planted in the garden. It’s not regarded as a hardy variety. Perhaps it was bedded out for summer then forgotten. Who knows? It gets killed to the ground every year by the slightest frost and has to start from below ground in the spring. This year it is now about five feet tall and flowering freely, though it didn’t really get started until September. It has flopped more than somewhat and should have been supported, but it is mid November and it looks fantastic.
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Four.
My polytunnel. In the top corner of my garden is a small polytunnel. I say small, by commercial standards it’s small; 10 x 20 feet. It has featured in these posts as background to a lot of pictures of Dahlias and Nerines. It’s full of camellias, mostly 9cm and 1litre.SOS126
When I finished employment 3 and a bit years ago I toyed with the idea of producing camellias for sale. I have since seen sense reconsidered but I still have a lot of stock. There’s another batch of cuttings on the mist bench now. There are days I’d give the whole lot away if I could find a taker. There are others when I have optimistic plans of what to do with them all. Some of them were flowering today so I took their pictures. The very least I can do with them is enjoy them and share them.
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(‘Winter’s Charm’, ‘Gay Sue’, ‘Bokuhan’, ‘Snowdrop’, ‘Minato no akebono’, ‘Sasanqua Variegata’, ‘Peter Betteley’, pitardii (supposedly but not), ‘Cotton Candy’)

Five.
The tricky little encliandra group of Fuchsias, that’s the ones with the tiny flowers, threw up another conundrum last year when we were given a few cuttings of what appeared to be a white flowered seedling growing just below its pink flowered parent. It turns out that they open white then gradually turn pink, in the way of Hydrangea paniculata. I moved the parent plant last week. Six feet tall with slender arching branches carrying minute leaves and tiny pale pink flowers; beautifully graceful but in the wrong place. I hope it survives and thrives in its new quarters. Pushed for a name, I’d plump for F. obconica but I’m far from certain.
This flower is just 12mm from the top of the tube to the tip of the stigma.
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Six.
Polystichum setiferum ‘Ray Smith’. I bought this at Binny Plants in Scotland years ago. It has long narrow fronds that come up at a steep angle and is almost evergreen. It also produces plantlets (gemmae, I’m informed) along the midrib (sorry, rachis) late in the year. In theory it should be a breeze to propagate but the plantlets are tiny going into the winter and by the end of the winter the fronds are dying off, taking the babies down with them. I have had some success with pegging whole fronds to the surface of compost in a tray but this year I have removed several and pushed them individually into a pot of compost which is now under the mist. My hope is that with a bit of bottom heat they’ll grow slowly over winter so I can pot them in spring.
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So another Saturday bites the dust. Five more till Christmas. Can I make 30 things happen in the garden between now and then? Might have to cheat.
Links to the rest of the six on Saturday participants will pop up through the day below Mr P’s own six at ThePropagator. Be sure to check them all out.

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Allotment update.

During the summer I was up to my plot at least every other day, now it’s more like every other week. Such crops as I have still standing seem to include several that have not covered themselves in glory this year, rusty leeks, piddling little parsnips, moth eaten spinach. Cauli’s were not bad, but you only want so much.

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Skanky spinach, gone to seed leeks, piddling parsnips.

 

A good part of the ground is empty and has been mulched with compost to protect it over the winter. Mulch does prevent damage to soil structure from winter rain but not loss of nutrients from leaching. Green manure would do that but then needs digging in, which conflicts with my no-dig ambitions, or smothering, which takes time I don’t have in spring, or spraying, which I am not going to do.

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Weeds. I can weed from the path where the pot is, I never step on the cultivated bit.

 

My compost is weedy. It is made from material from various sources, some of which are full of weed seeds. The quantities I have mean it doesn’t get hot enough to kill the weeds effectively, so where I mulched a few weeks back I now have weeds. I don’t want them going to seed and I don’t want them to get so big I have to dig them out; other than that they are holding onto nutrients and providing further protection for the soil. On closer inspection, there are a few that, even in November, are threatening to flower and seed as very small plants. Annual meadow grass, bittercress, pearlwort, groundsel, chickweed  and petty spurge are all included. Then there were grasses, dandelions and buttercups that needed out while still small and manageable.

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Clockwise, pearlwort, annual meadow grass, hairy bittercress, petty spurge.

 

I weeded that bed. There is another that needs doing too. I spread more compost too. Everything gets shredded so it breaks down quickly, I will try to get more spread in the next couple of weeks, it will do far more good on the ground than in the heap. Because a significant part of its volume comes from shredded leaves and twigs, its nutrient content is not great, so I will apply fertiliser at a moderate rate in the new year. Some of the shortcomings I’m seeing in what I’ve grown this year are for lack of nutrition.

I find myself deviating from the no-dig template in its classic form but consider myself to be responding to my local conditions in as constructive a way as I can.

Six on Saturday – 11/11/2017

At this time of year you can be sure that all the better gardening magazines will have an article urging you not to cut down your grasses and herbaceous perennials but to leave them to enjoy their structure and shape when white with rime on those cold frosty but sunny winter mornings that we get so many of. In Cornwall you might be lucky enough to get one or two such mornings in a winter, but the grasses and herbaceous perennials will by then be lying in a soggy and bedraggled mess on the ground. I’ve just spent a couple of hours cutting down and shredding before this weekend’s gales really kick in. Right, enough whingeing, here are my six offerings for this week:

One.
One of the compensations for not being able to enjoy frosty mornings, and to be honest, you can keep them, is being able to grow things that would not survive up country. Like Fuchsia excorticata. There are a few Cornish gardens where this gets to something like the tree proportions it attains in its native New Zealand and when it does, its peeling bark is right up there with Stewartia sinensis and such like. Ours was planted on the bank between us and a neighbour and he has hacked it down in years past. This year he seems to have overlooked it and it is producing a few flowers.
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Two.
I make no apology for giving my two sasanqua camellias a second outing in a six. This is their second winter in their current quarters but last year they were still recovering from being hungry pot plants for a few years. They are now fully recovered and performing magnificently. They are very happy in poor stony soil and full sun at the front of the house, both flowering and growing really well. ‘Navajo’ and ‘Paradise Little Liane’ are their names.
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Three.
John’s piece last week reminded me that I did in fact have a garden ornament somewhere. This turtle sat looking out over our pond for years, then we filled in the pond. He stayed put, disappearing under lush vegetation and pretty much forgotten. I have now rescued him, given him a clean up and plonked him down to take his photo.  The location lacks an air of permanence. And he(/she?) needs a name.
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Four.
Coprosma. We haven’t had a name attached to this plant for years but Coprosma repens ‘Pink Splendour’ comes to mind. One of our local garden centres had five or six varieties of Coprosma in stock last week. A few years ago they were firmly border line hardy, even here, but they are very tolerant of low nutrient levels (aka neglect) which hardens them up effectively. This one has been in the garden for three or four years and is about 4 feet tall. Before that it was in a pot, outdoors, for several years. They look a bit like they might be made of plastic; glossy and oddly coloured. Bit of colour in the winter though.
The green leaved species grows on the western facing edges of the Scillies, completely impervious to what the sea throws at it. Like the Hottentot fig it shares the niche with, it’s an invasive alien, from New Zealand in this case.
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Five.
Autumn colour, or Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’. 99% of the leaves on this tree were ripped off by Ophelia and Brian while still dark purple. The remaining 1% have turned red and look very nice with the sun shining through. A little imagination and I can imagine myself at Westonbirt.
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Six.
Miscanthus nepalensis. A couple of years ago I bought the grass Phaenosperma globosa at one of the Plant Heritage sales in Tavistock. It hasn’t been a success, a fact that gave me pause when I saw this on a recent visit. I went ahead and bought it anyway and have not been given cause to regret the decision so far. (My usual cause for regret in these situations is ear-ache)
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There will no doubt be lots more sixes to enjoy, accessible from ThePropagator’s own weekly set. Hope you enjoyed mine, see you next week.

Two pictures.

I came across a picture of the garden from June 2005 and, struck by the number of plants that we no longer have, tried to take exactly the same picture as it looks now.

 

I worry sometimes that the garden has become too static, that I am too slow to make alterations. Not so, it is clear. Nothing remains the same, with growth and plant replacements sharing the honours for being the greatest driver of change.

The big things are the most obvious casualties. Let me list the plants over 3 feet tall that are no longer there.

Eucalyptus pauciflora niphophila
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Siver Queen’
Viburnum tinus ‘Variegata’
Pinus sylvestris ‘Chantrey Blue’
Corylus avellana
Acer grosseri hersii
Berberis ‘Orange King’
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’
Pinus mugo pumilio
Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’
Fargesia murielae ‘Simba’
Diselma archeri
Vallea stipularis
Rhododendron ‘Ginny Gee’
Picea abies ‘Little Gem’

And what about the similar sized plants that are there now but were not in the earlier shot.

Magnolia Ann
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Schefflera taiwaniana
Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Torch’
Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’
Camellia ‘Spring Festival’
Hydrangea macrophylla You & Me Together
Camellia japonica ‘Eximea’
Cistus ‘Sunset’
Leptospermum rupestre
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’
Zingiber mioga ‘Crûg Zing’

Then finally the things that are in both but which are now twice the size.

Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Little Spire’
Astelia chathamica
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Rhododendron ‘Merganser’
Chionochloa rubra
Fuchsia magellanica gracilis

Of the things that have gone perhaps seven were in poor health, diseased or damaged. The rest were judged to be too big or too dull or both.

It is interesting to try and envisage the garden as it would be now if nothing had been removed. All those evergreen trees and shrubs would be roughly twice the size and there would be a great deal less room, not to mention light, for anything else. As it is, the overall effect is not so very different, albeit with a different palette of plants. The balance of light and shade is about the same, which, though not a very conscious aim, seems right.

Only for the Eucalyptus did I enlist outside help. By the time it was felled it had grown much bigger and was beyond my competence. A very large limb broke off from low down, leaving it unbalanced and unsafe. Tree surgeons dealt with it.

As I get older, it will get harder to remove trees and large shrubs myself, a problem that all older people face. Tree surgeons are expensive, especially when taking down large trees in confined spaces, as is all too often required. It’s not hard to see why so many old people’s gardens are beyond them. Just a couple of hours on hands and knees weeding becomes a trial to be endured.

Just a couple of pictures, snaps from an upstairs window. Look a little closer and you see time, the all too easily overlooked forth dimension of gardening. You see changes in fashion, changes in personal taste. You see decisions taken and decisions ducked. You see the fruits of countless hours of pleasure, some pain too. I say “you see” and mean “I see”. You probably see something completely different.

I’m glad I didn’t delete it.

 

Six on Saturday – 4/11/2017

I have to admit it’s not getting any easier to find six things to include here. Time seems to be slowing down; instead of there being lots of new things flowering or shooting or going over, it’s all much the same as a week ago. A sharp frost would at least draw a line in the sand, lots of things would disappear overnight, but I doubt we will get one.

One.
Fuchsia ‘Loekie’. Or ‘Van Eijk Loekie’, possibly. Huge numbers of new Fuchsia varieties are produced each year, many in Holland and Belgium. Most never make it to the UK and when they do, they are stocked by one nursery for a couple of years then replaced with something else. This one, which we have had for several years, seems to have dropped off the radar completely, which is a shame because it is pretty and a bit different. We are down to one poor plant which I now have to get through the winter and try and get growing properly next year.
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Two.
The fence between us and our 94yr old neighbour fell victim to Ophelia. On thursday I started on repairs, yesterday I was at it all day and I’m about half way and I might just be regretting ever starting and today it’s not sure whether to rain or not. Gotta be done, I tell myself through gritted teeth. It’ll have a foot high trellis along the top and needs staining, it looks bloody awful like it is. It’s actually his fence by the way, ours is the much longer one on the other side of the garden.
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Three
Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’. Five weeks ago I included this as a flowering plant. The flowers are over, what looks like seed pods at the base of the flower start to swell and look like they are going to be full of seeds. Then they split open as these pea sized bulbils appear. The ones in the garden do the same, I’ve kept them overwinter and planted them in spring, by which time they have a leaf going up and a root going down. They intrigue me; are they seeds that develop in the pod into bulbils? or bulbils developing directly from the ovaries? Are they vegetative, part of the same clone as the parent plant, or was sex involved in some way?
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Four
Helleborus foetidus. This manages to seed itself enough to give us one or two plants each year. I reckon it’s about at its best at this stage. The flowers are green, not at all showy, and by the time they arrive the plant is often looking quite shabby.  The sun caught it just right too, by sheer luck.
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Five
Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata. We’ve grown this for several years as a conservatory plant but I’ve seen a couple of references to using it in the garden, pretty much as an annual. It should be good, it flowers for months and gets to 2-3 feet. We have some nice young plants raised from this years cuttings; just need to get them to spring in good condition. We lost most of them last winter to rotting off.
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Six.
Polystichum proliferum. I imagine that foliage plants are going to feature more as we move into winter, both in the garden and in ramblings such as this. This somewhat stereotypical fern distinguishes itself by producing a single plantlet just back from the tip of each frond, providing a ready means of propagating it. Just peg the leaf tip down and a new plant quickly becomes established. This one is in the ground but I have others pegged into small pots, like strawberry runners.
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So there you go. I managed to find six items. I have no doubt that others will have done too and links to them will be found on host ThePropagator’s blog.

End of month view – October 2017

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This time last year the Acer on the left was still covered with leaves. Two years ago it was bare. It also had a backdrop of a magnolia which is now gone. Not much else is different. The real bareness of winter hasn’t hit yet and there are still bits and pieces of flower to be found. As the deciduous stuff slowly recedes, so the evergreens become more prominent.
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This view was taken with the camera held aloft on a monopod. I do like a different perspective. It’s as near as I can get to seeing it anew, as a first time visitor might. I find
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myself pleased and displeased for the same reason. I want a garden full of different things so there is always something going on but I do worry that it’s all a bit too disorganised and busy. I’m going to stick with the first part and be pleased as I know I will never change the way I do things. This seems like the right time of year to be thinking about making changes. So I’ve thought about it and decided against.

I have three autumn flowering camellias in full sun in the front garden. ‘Paradise Little Liane’ has flowered freely this year for the first time. If it seems crazy to have a white flowered camellia against the white front of the house, bear in mind that we mostly see it from inside, looking out. ‘Navajo’, seen from indoors and backlit, is a treat.

Dahlia ‘Cheyenne’ chose not to flower until mid October, too much shade I imagine. Miscanthus ‘Ferne Osten’ is a flopper with us and will soon get cut down. ‘Septemberot’ stands up much better and sometimes colours well in autumn, not this year though. The nerines are all but over for this year. Even so, they still pack a small pink punch. Other than that, it’s all Fuchsias and Salvias.

For more end of month shenanigans head over to Glebe House Garden and follow the various links.

Six on Saturday – 28-10-2017

Six more horticultural Saturday happenings. It’s been a benign week weather-wise, the garden looks much as it did a week ago; not good but could be worse. Here’s what I found for this week.

One.
Hydrangea macrophylla You & Me Together =’Youmefive’. Confusingly there is a You & Me series and a Forever & Ever series, both of which  have a variety called Together. The You & Me series was raised by the Japanese breeder who won Chelsea Plant of the year 2014 with ‘Miss Saori’, Ryoji Irie. Dozens of new hydrangeas have come onto the market in the last decade or so, with breeders aiming to extend the flowering season, get flower on current season’s growth and in some cases to get interesting foliage colour. This double flowered mophead has been flowering since June and to my eye, the tiny petals make it a bit more refined than your standard hydrangea.
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Two.
Camellia sasanqua ‘Navajo’. This could well be my favourite sasanqua. It originated in Japan but was renamed ‘Navajo’ by Nuccio’s Nurseries as the original name had been lost. This was in 1956, I doubt they would name it that now. The sasanquas need a sufficiently long season to make growth then initiate and develop flower buds before their autumn flowering season. This plant is growing in full sun at the front of the house.
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Three.
Quercus macrocarpa. One of my fellow volunteers at Mount Edgcumbe was just back from a holiday in America and had brought back an acorn of bur (or burr) oak. It is apparently very rare in this country, though there are a couple in London over 25m and one in Devon (nearest to here) of 9m. I said that if I could grow it, they could have it for the park. The acorn is enormous, if it landed on your head from 25m it would seriously hurt.
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Four.
Nerine bowdenii ‘Stephanie’. I admired this in a tweet from @Littleashgarden and was promptly offered some bulbs when it was lifted and divided, an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’m going to have to be more vigilant about slugs, which have shredded the petals, but it is lovely and a little later than my standard pink. Thanks Helen!
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Five.
Fuchsia microphylla. The Encliandra section of Fuchsias is the one where they have very small flowers, some half the size of this one. F. microphylla must be one of the hardiest fuchsia species, in a garden I visited yesterday the owner said theirs had been in flower continuously for three years. We usually cut ours back hard in spring, which delays but improves the flower display. Last winter they came through without dropping a leaf or stopping flowering so we didn’t cut them. Probably a mistake. They are also very popular with bees which can get their nectar without wrecking the flowers like they do on most fuchsia varieties.


Six.
Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’. Salvias have a well earned reputation for flower power and for taking it deep into autumn. We have ‘Hot Lips’ doing its thing; this is currently on a par with it in our garden. It’s also more compact and has the best red flowers of any salvia I have grown.
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I’m always keen to see what other people have going on in their gardens so I’ll be heading over to meme host ThePropagator to pick up on links to lots of other contributors.