Six on Saturday – 19/8/2017

Another week has flown by and it’s time for another six. I found myself in the luxurious position of having too many things to include. Hope you like the six that made the cut.

Cyrtanthus elatus ‘Pink Diamond’. Scarborough Lily. A very accomodating bulb that grows well in our north facing conservatory, though I suspect it would flower better given more light. We have the red one too, which I think of as the type of the species, but it is a week or two behind this one.

Amaryllis belladonna. Another South African bulb, but growing outdoors in full sun. One of two forms we have, this one is much earlier flowering and taller. It has solid pink flowers rather than the more common white centred varieties. Slugs seem to go for the emerging buds but leave them alone when they’re up a few inches.

Still in the southern hemisphere but a different continent, Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’ is from New Zealand. I suppose we planted this years ago. It’s now a self seeder, popping up all over the place. Some get weeded out, some left. After a couple of seasons it gets scruffy and can be removed in the knowledge that there will be numerous replacements. I wonder if there ever was any difference between C. comans and ‘Frosted Curls’ as a variety; after numerous generations from seed I should probably call this Carex comans.

Astilbe ‘Delft Lace’. A couple of years ago we visited Marwood Hill garden to see the Astilbe collection. we went around taking pictures and noting down names. I think this one was bought because it wasn’t yet in flower but had good dark foliage. It’s now flowering after the rest have finished, which extends the season but leaves it looking a bit like it arrived after the party finished.
Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosum Densum’. The most delicate looking and feathery of ferns, but easy and tough. This year, for the first time, it produced gemmae, baby plantlets on the leaves. I have managed to get a couple going, which is good. Bob Brown says this is his favourite fern. It could be mine too.

Fuchsia ‘Nunthorpe Gem’. I’ve been updating my Fuchsia inventory. Over ninety, plus a few unidentified varieties, of which this was one. I went through all my Fuchsia photos, narrowed it down to nine possibles. Then Sue had a lightbulb moment, came up with a tenth name, which appears to be correct. It’s a very compact hardy variety. Result! Next.

Oh, that’s it.

I’m off to check out the links to other sixes from host ThePropagator’s blog at

Euphorbia mellifera

There are one or two spots in the garden where it’s a struggle to get anything to grow. One such place is behind a brick retaining wall where I suspect the builders back filled with a load of rubble. Somewhere down the line we planted a Euphorbia mellifera there and it has loved it, growing well but not too well, so it remains compact, at least for a few years.

However, it is beside a path and it does grow over it. Not the most pleasant plant to push past, just snap a leaf and it releases milky, sticky and for some, irritant sap. I cut off the worst branches as and when, then about every three years I cut it back hard.

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Which I just did. Everything except a few small shoots it produced this year. I would expect a flush of growth from the bottom and will probably be removing the longer shoots before the winter. Next year it will be a neat green dome again, but shorter. Got my view back too.


There are already new shoots at the base, so there is no risk of it expiring.

Six on Saturday – 5/8/2017

Dahlias and Japanese anemones are definitely flowers of the second half of summer. I’m impatient for them to start flowering, then depressed when they do.

Dahlia ‘Orange Cushion’. There is not the remotest possibility of this dahlia ever being mistaken for nearly red or nearly yellow. It’s a bang down the middle orange. I’ve had it for several years and leave it in the ground over winter. I sowed some of its seed last year, am keen to see what I get.

Someone put a fern in last week. Another of those groups of plants that I love, that do well in my conditions and that I have to resist the temptation to buy every time I see one I haven’t got already. Paesia scaberula, Lace Fern, is a New Zealand fern that a few years ago would have been regarded as borderline hardy even here in Cornwall. I’ve had no such concerns for the last few years, it’s in danger of matching the description in my NZ ferns book of “forming dense masses to the exclusion of other vegetation”. It’s 15-18 inches tall with lacy fronds and thin wiry stems. It spreads on the surface by means of slender rhizomes.

Eucomis montana. Very handsome it may be, but it stinks. We moved it away from the front door lest visitors think it was us when we opened the door. We have several other Eucomis species and varieties, mostly in pots, and none of them smell of anything much. You can grow them from seed, then propagate good forms from leaf cuttings.

Anemone x hybrid ‘Lorelei’, or ‘Loreley’ according to some. The last 48 hours of wind and rain have taken their toll on this bloom, but you get the idea. The best pictures I have of it are backlit shots of the back of the blooms. After 3 years it is still a tight clump but I expect it to start spreading at some point. There’s no happy medium with some plants, they sulk or they rampage.

Grafting. In this case, a couple of varieties of Camellia reticulata, ‘Songzilin’ and ‘Mouchang’. ‘Songzilin’, aka ‘Robert Fortune’, was probably introduced in 1824 and then again by Robert Fortune in 1844. ‘Mouchang’ is a more recent American raised hybrid. The pure bred reticulate varieties are very hard to root from cuttings so are usually grafted. Varieties of C. sasanqua are usually used but I had seedlings of C. reticulata and used a cleft graft. I did some last year and got about 50% take.
I’ll do a more detailed blog about them on my Camellia blog at some point. Here is a link to a picture of ‘Songzilin’.

Grafting. Yeah, I know I already did that one, but this is different. The first Six on Saturday I did was back on 6th May and one of the things I included was a graft of ‘Plympton Pippin’ onto my poor specimen of ‘Elstar’ apple. I’d grafted it (simple splice) in February and by May it was flowering. Well now it has a quite respectable sized apple on it. I know I should have removed it, but it doesn’t seem to have held it back at all, the extension growth from that scion is as good as any of the others done at the same time. Apple grafting is easy and it’s a great way of getting better pollination, growing more varieties in a small space and giving you something to blog about.

So that’s another Saturday and another Six. I see ThePropagator, host of this meme, has posted his, no doubt others will follow.

End of month view – July 2017


Every month, for a day or two leading up to making this regular posting, I muse on what I am going to say. Mostly I am thinking about the garden overall, rather than about specific plants, but overall is the sum total of what key plants are doing, so there’s overlap.
This month I had formed a strong impression that the earlier stuff was all but over, a little earlier than usual because of the hot weather, but the later stuff was perhaps a little behind because the ground had become so dry.
So I took this picture from our bedroom window and compared it with the same view from a year ago. Virtually identical. Seems like my June gap comes in July, though It’s not too pronounced. A little more effort to get dahlias and fuchsias going strongly earlier and I will have cracked it.


The viewpoint I have used back towards the house has been all but closed off by the Schefflera and Pittosporum at the bottom of the picture. I put the camera on a monopod and held it aloft as high as possible, taking the picture with a cable release.


I used the same technique for this shot. The polytunnel and the camellias and Magnolia immediately behind it are in the far corner of our patch. Last year I had a pink dahlia amongst the oranges and reds behind Herman the Head. This year I put it elsewhere but planted out the pink hydrangea, so there’s the same clash. I thought it would be over by now, at least that’s my excuse.


This is probably my favourite bit at the moment. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, with a Shasta daisy behind it, which always flops. The taller Helenium to the right is ‘Chipperfield Orange’. I have Mina lobata growing up the metal obelisk, it can sprawl over the Helenium and keep the flowering going into the autumn.


I don’t often mention the front, but we have just for all out vulgarity with bedding in pots, tempered with several Eucomis and Agaves montana and parryi which stay out all year round. So much crap is talked about bad taste in gardening, a few years bag Dahlias were the epitome of vulgarity, now they’re the height of fashion. I can’t be bothered with it. Bright colours are uplifting, the end.

Six on Saturday – 29/7/2017

I am very much enjoying this weekly glimpse into other people’s gardens. This week I have included one item that is not a flower or plant, trying to put myself in the position of visiting a garden open for the NGS and wanting to look at everything. Don’t worry, it’s not my shed; if I opened my garden I’d padlock that! Even so, compared to pictures of flowers, it feels relatively exposing.

Hydrangea ‘Izu-no-hana’. The bloom on the left is growing in the ground which is the acid side of neutral. Most of our hydrangeas flower blue. The bloom on the right is on a plant in a pot. I haven’t checked but I would expect the compost to be much more acidic than the soil. Hydrangeas flower blue in acid soil because at low pH aluminium is available to the plant. In a soil-less potting compost there is no aluminium to be available, no matter how acid. So it flowers pink. Easy from softwood cuttings.


I don’t know what the hell it thinks it’s doing but I have leaves and a flower on Cyclamen hederifolium. Hopefully this will seed about with no help from me.

Gladiolus papillio ‘Ruby’. For me the ordinary Gladiolus papillio spreads everywhere but almost never flowers. This beauty has stayed as a clump and flowers every year at the same time as Agapanthus. I have collected seed and grown them, but not yet to flowering size, so I don’t know if it comes true.

Dahlia. This is a very lovely dahlia. Its flowers are the clearest red, with good stems for picking. I like it very much. BUT it is still not the one I ordered, which was a collarette called Chimborazo, of a different level of flamboyance.

Fuchsia ‘Annie Geurts’. Of all the fuchsias we grow I think this is the weirdest. It doesn’t have a lot of vigour and I have struggled to keep it going and to propagate it. I’d hate to lose it, as far as I know there are no nurseries in this country offering it.

A departure from pictures of flowers, my mist system. I set this up three years ago because I found myself out of a job and in possession of several hundred unrooted camellia cuttings; like you do. For a while I entertained the idea of producing camellias for sale and while I haven’t entirely given up on the idea, I have reined in my ambitions greatly.
It has three mist nozzles running off the mains: fortunately our water is pretty soft. It is controlled by an Access mist and wean unit with wet leaf which cost £175. The pipework, nozzles, solenoid valve, sand bed and undersoil heating cable were on top of that. It’s a lot, but I spend much more on camera gear and use it less. I have temporarily blocked one nozzle and screened the mist, so I have a dry area with heating for seeds. Under the mist at present are Fuchsias, Salvias, Impatiens, Osteospermum, Dahlia, Enkianthus, Rhododendron ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam’ and 30 sorts of Camellias.

Obviously for much of that, a mist unit is overkill, but I have it so I use it. Soft subjects like Fuchsias and Salvias root in a couple of weeks, the camellias can take six months. I strike almost everything in half-tray sized twenty cell modular thingies. It makes it easier to remove a well rooted plant without disturbing the rest.


The whole 10′ x 6′ prop house, and why growing camellias lost its appeal, 3 inches tall in 2 years.

You can think of that last item as an homage to ThePropagator, whose meme this is. I’m off to check out his six for this Saturday and links to a number of other contributions.


Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’


Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ was discovered as a seedling growing in the Sahin trial grounds in Zeeland, Holland. It was selected in 1996 for its long flowering season.

For me it starts flowering around mid July and has a main flowering period of four to six weeks, then produces a trickle of blooms into the autumn. It is about 90cm tall, entirely self supporting and compared to several other Helenium varieties I have grown, is slug resistant. It tolerates but doesn’t like, drought.

The colour is yellow overlaid with reddish orange, the base and tips of the petals remaining yellow. The prominenet central cone is dark brown, made paler as the florets open from the edge in towards the middle.

All that said, I still haven’t got to the main reason why I have such high regard for it as a garden plant, which is that it is by far and away the most popular plant in my garden with bees, butterflies, hoverflies and oddly, crickets. On a sunny day, there will be more many insects on my quite large clump as in the rest of the garden put together.

Both the individual flowers and the whole clump demand a photographers attention and having just purchased a new telephoto lens, I have been snapping away.

Six on Saturday – 15-7-2017

One. So much in flower, picking six becomes difficult. OK, a bit of lumping together: Dahlias, I grow a few, but then again…


Such flamboyance, such joie de vivre. Dahlias, especially en masse, have an unrivalled capacity for putting smiles on peoples faces, even mine. Some I leave in, some I lift, then put back into any available space.

Two. By way of contrast, I collected seed from my plant of Polygonatum mengzense f. tonkinensis HWJ573 many weeks ago and sowed it in a pot. They’re coming up. I feel quite unreasonably pleased with myself. I should dig out a picture and show you what a wonderful plant it is, but I’m not going to. You’ll have to make do with 2mm high seedlings.


Three. I have many favourite flowers, pretty much as they open each year they take on that mantle for a few days. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ retains the title for a few weeks every year, such is its quality. It flowers for ages, it’s a good warm colour, the bees and butterflies like it more than anything else I grow, the slugs go for it less than my other Heleniums. It’s also very photogenic.


Four. It’s time I included a Fuchsia. Don’t think I have in earlier posts. This is ‘Delta’s Sarah’, which is hardy enough for the top growth to survive most winters here such that it can get quite big. I’m giving it a little support by tying it to an archway. It opens lilac-blue and turns pink.


Five. Our next door neighbour is very elderly and we manage his front garden as an extension of our own. A few years back we came by a very poor specimen of Hydrangea paniculata with just one spindly stem about 3 feet tall. We planted it in his garden and took a few inches off the top of it, then pruned the subsequent shoots back to a couple of buds each winter. Now It’s a nice little standard that is just the right height to show over the hedge. I don’t know which of the many varieties of H. paniculata it is.


Six. Another hydrangea, but very different. This is H. serrata ‘Fuji-no-taki’. It is very small, still only 18 inches high and wide at most, with masses of greenish white very double flowers that pretty much cover the bush. It always looks worse in close up photos than in the flesh, the nibblings are easily overlooked in the garden. It gets very little direct sun where it is, which seems to suit it.


So there you have it, another six for ThePropagator’s fine Six on Saturday meme. Check out his and get links to more on his blog.

I’m going to relent and give you a picture of the Polygonatum after all. It still has berries on it; they’ve been there since last autumn, and I picked off quite a few for seed. The newly emerging shoots are superb and it doesn’t seem to get attacked by either slugs or sawflies. I can definitely find room for more.