Six on Saturday – 21/10/2017

I have to admit that the garden is looking tatty and perfect blooms are in short supply. It’s been wind and rain that have done the damage, not cold. Today it’s lurching wildly from bright sunshine and fluffy clouds to torrential downpours and black skies. We barely get frost any more here, so things get cut down when they start to look ugly. Quite a lot has been cut down lately. I’m still mostly on flowers for my six though; I’m staving off falling back on foliage, conifers, berries and snowmen for as long as I can. It’s going to be interesting to see whether people try and keep something happening in their gardens overwinter or go into hibernation until spring.

There will no doubt be several links to other participants from The Propagator’s blog and as a vehicle for picking up or sharing ideas on what to grow, it’s just great.

Fuchsia ‘Lechlade Gorgon’.  A species hybrid between F. arborescens and F. paniculata. In a pot, under glass and still not flowering until October. Not unusual for species and species crosses when they have been cut down in the previous winter, by cold outdoors, secateurs indoors. Left unpruned it would flower earlier but get very large. Outdoors, if this survived, it would probably never flower.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Little Liane’. The Paradise camellia series was produced by Bob Cherry of Paradise Plants in Australia and marketed there mainly for hedging. ‘Little Liane’ was one of a handful in the series that had Breeders Rights, proscribing unlicensed propagation for sale, so presumably it was one of the most popular. I have it in full sun and it is doing well, with masses of buds this year. It’s quite compact, with small leaves and pleasantly scented flowers that have just started to open.

Liriope muscari. I have had this for many years and it never does much flower-wise. Looking closely, snails could be part of the problem. Look what I picked off. I hate it when you see something looking gorgeous at Wisley or some such, then can’t grow it for nuts and don’t know why.

Begonia grandis evansiana alba bulbils. There are a few Begonias that produce bulbils in the leaf axils, including the various forms of B. evansiana. Should make for easy propagation; I have pushed some into compost in a tray and put it in the greenhouse. I scrounged some bulbils of the pink one too, which I used to have but killed. When I was checking what to do with the bulbils I came across lots of other tasty “hardy” begonias.  Like B. pedatifida and B. ‘Torsa’. Please, stop me someone!

Hesperantha is a thing I find myself admiring in other people’s gardens and cursing in my own. Most of what we have is self sown clumps of what I think of as the unselected species. I was given a clump of H. ‘Major’ a couple of years ago which is going well. But they all flop completely.

I was going to put a berberis in at number six, but instead I wandered round and snapped away at anything in flower and put together this montage. For most it’s their 2017 swansong so if they haven’t been honoured with a six on Saturday spot before now, they’ve probably missed their chance.
There are some things doing their thing for the time of year, some that are out of kilter and having a funny turn and lots that flower for months. To be snobby about Dahlias, Fuchsias, Pelargoniums and Begonias is to make having a flowery garden very difficult.

Have a good week.


Six on Saturday – 14/10/2017

Saturday again! Saturdays seem to come round quicker than the other six days. I’m finding things to put into my six but struggling to find anything diverting to say about them. Well, some of them.
Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by ThePropagator, who will have six of his own plus links to several, if not more, other sixes from around the world.
Here are my six garden snapshots for this week.

Honey Fungus. Armillaria mellea or gallica, probably. All too much could be said about this. We had a Eucalyptus felled a couple of years back after a large chunk split off it. Now it has a ring of toadstools all round it. The RHS are doing a honey fungus hunt at the moment, I think I’d better report my outbreak. It’s something we’ve had the odd outbreak of over the years, especially after removing a leylandii hedge and an Acer. It doesn’t seem to be too aggressively pathogenic, thankfully, and there isn’t much we could do about it if it were.

Parthenocissus henryana. I wanted to include this because it is producing some autumn colour and with gales forecast for Monday, it wont be around for long. It’s on the fence between us and our neighbour and has been there so long I can’t remember if it’s planted his side or ours. It’s much more manageable than the other Parthenocissus species people grow and has a very nice leaf even when it’s not doing its autumn thing.

Fuchsia ‘Olga Storey’. The Fuchsias seem to be having a final fling for the season. This one stands out because it has really bright yellow leaves with red veins and it seems to be immune to rust, gets very little leaf spotting and is untouched by capsid. For a hardy, the flowers are large and showy too, though it’s not the most generous flowerer.

Sue’s glasshouse. This glasshouse is off limits to me except for the annual ritual of moving the big pots of succulents, mostly Echeverias, out to the front of the house in spring, then putting them back in here for the winter sometime in October. There is never any room because all the space made in the spring gets filled up with more plants during the summer.
I see pictures on blogs of empty glasshouses, washed down and waiting for plants to be moved in for the winter. I can dream.

Camellia x williamsii ‘Debbie’. ‘Debbie’ is a popular camellia which grows rather vigorously. Ours had poked it’s head above the neighbour’s fence and got blown over as it was top heavy. I tried to support it for a couple of years, not very successfully, so I cut it back hard in the hope that the roots would catch up with the top growth. This year the regrowth was 2-3 feet in length. Camellias typically produce an early flush of shoots that are 3-6 inches long and on which the flower buds form. If they are young and vigorous they will then make a second flush, from about July onwards, which can be 2 feet or more long and on which there are no flowers. By October the flower buds are easy to see and if it is not required, the extension growth can be shortened or removed altogether, keeping the bush much more compact and allowing the flowers to be seen better.


Growth buds on left, flower bud on right.



Before and after pruning.

Blechnum tabulare. A friend of mine tipped me off that one of our local garden centres had plants of this magnificent fern a few years back. I got the last one, in a 3 litre pot. It’s now in a 10 litre pot and needs potting on again or planting out. Online opinion seems divided about how well it does outside, it being borderline hardy, but I think I’ll move it in for this winter and plant it in the ground in spring.

See you next week.

Seeds, lovely seeds.

There’s a magic in the way that great big plants grow from tiny little seemingly dead seeds. It fascinates small children and for many of us is no less fascinating when we are past retirement age.

I have been collecting seeds from camellia bushes at the National Collection in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, with their permission. I work there one day a week, helping to maintain the camellia collection and write about it on my other blog, .

Yesterday I collected seed of eight varieties, adding to the eight from a week ago. I have little idea how many seeds that was in total but it took a couple of hours to extract them from the fruits. Perhaps a couple of thousand seeds in total. They have all been sent off to go in the seed list of the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the RHS.


I don’t know what their viability is though when I have grown them myself it has been very high and I don’t know how successful people will be in growing them. What is clear though is that there is the potential there for a thousand new varieties of camellias to come into being, all different, all new, all un-named. Amongst them may be one or two truly outstanding forms; I wish I’d known which seeds they were, I’d have kept them for myself.


Who knows what will happen to them. Camellias are long lived, they could outlive their raiser by centuries. Will someone come along and “identify” one as (choose a name) because it’s a single red camellia and that’s what it looks like in their book? Will one get passed on to a nurseryman to name and launch and make his fortune with (dream on).

I hope that in ten years time, when the true potential of a particular seedling may become apparent, that the owner still has the information about its origins, but it seems unlikely. I have had camellias flower when less than two years old, but only by keeping them under-potted. The flowers they produce are an indication of what they might be capable of, but you’d expect them to do better when growing well in the ground.


Camellia ‘Yojimbo’ (unregistered seedling) A good seedling of ‘Mary Williams’, still in a pot. As good as a lot of existing named varieties but perhaps not distinctive enough to register.


There are many tens of thousands of camellias in cultivation already. You could argue that we don’t need any more or you could argue that we need to keep raising new ones for a heap of reasons. Nature doesn’t do clones very much, genetic diversity generally confers an advantage.


A few more, plus Sarcococca, and Fuchsias and Hydrangeas


I’ve collected seed from one of my Dahlias too. I raised seedlings of ‘Orange Cushion’ a couple of years back and they’ve turned out well. I’m not sure it will give me viable seed this year but ‘Veritable’ is looking promising. I wonder what I will get, I want to grow them all, in fear of the one I throw away being the one that was going to be truly fabulous.

Then there are the Roscoeas, and Disporums and …………


End of month view – September 2017



Even though there is plenty still happening in the garden, it is the end of the growing season and seems like the right time to take stock of the successes and failures of the past year. Autumn is the ideal time for making changes; getting rid of the under-performers, planting something better, moving things around.

Today I removed a large Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’. It’s a handsome enough fern, but basically just a variant of the wild male fern with the tips of the fronds divided. It’s a curiosity but the overall effect is no different from the normal version. It is at its best in early summer, pretty dull the rest of the time.

I also swapped over two hydrangeas. One is a small double flowered serrata variety which was not enjoying the dry ground beneath the maple where it was. The other is a much bigger double flowered lacecap macrophylla that in moist soil was growing lush and flopping over the path. The serrata now has more moisture, the macrophylla, in poorer conditions, will hopefully put on less growth and flower more. We shall see.

The biggest problem now is to somehow get back under cover all the pot grown Fuchsias,succulents and camellias that are at risk outdoors in the winter. There is never enough space. Last years plants have grown, in size and number, others have been acquired. We’ve managed to kill a few, which helps a little, but never enough.

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I’m pleased with how much colour I still have, though it’s best not to look too closely at many of the plants. Slug and snail munchings and spotty leaves are what you get in wet years. The dahlias have mainly had a poorish year, some starting flowering very late and the blooms spoiling quickly. Some Fuchsias have had problems with rust and other foliar diseases but many are still flowering well. My new this year Fireworks golden rod is in full flower now, following on from Heleniums, all of which have now finished. Japanese anemone ‘Bressingham Glow’ looks to have a long flowering season and is still in good shape. Nerine bowdenii flowers well into October, as do various Hesperantha. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is an extraordinary performer, still going strong, as are several Salvias.

I have two Miscanthus sinensis varieties, ‘Septemberot’ and ‘Ferne Osten’, both now at peak flowering. I don’t have high hopes this year for autumn foliage colour from them. The Hakonechloas will provide straw colour way into the winter but are still fully green at present.

Most of my shade plants are spring flowerers, Impatiens omeiana being a notable exception. It is flowering freely above somewhat ragged foliage.

We planted pots of Begonias at the front of the house and they have been and still are outstanding. The concrete drive runs right up to the white painted front of the house, it’s not a setting for anything subtle. We potted up a few slightly less gaudy bedding type begonias individually and kept them in the conservatory where they have flowered for months too.

I picked over my tomatoes and cut them down yesterday. They’d done quite well but botrytis has been a problem. Next Year’s vegetable seeds have been ordered. Seeds of things in the garden have been collected and more will follow. The dahlias I grew from seeds of ‘Orange Cushion’ are flowering well on my allotment and are good enough to encourage me to grow more.

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Six on Saturday – 30/9/2017

We managed a few decent days this week and the autumnal slide has been put on hold. The late show is now on, Asters, Cyclamen, Nerines et al, joining the long season Dahlias and Fuchsias. When I worked on a nursery I often got the impression that customers rushed out to buy plants as soon as winter showed signs of giving in and probably ended up with gardens where it was all over by June. I may have gone too far the other way.

Here are my six for this week’s Six on Saturday, hosted by ThePropagator. A growing band we are, and diverse too. Links to the rest from our hosts blog.

Zingiber mioga ‘Crûg Zing’. This is a 1m high, easy, robust plant with great architectural/exotic qualities, until it flowers. The blooms are, frankly, a disappointment. Eating the buds, which is what people do, is not going to cost you much in display terms.


That’s the flowers, down there at the bottom.

Impatiens omeiana ‘Ice Storm’. I count myself very lucky to have the sort of gardening friends that give me stuff like this without me even asking. Just two weeks ago I included the original, unnamed clone of I. omeiana in a six, noting that having more than one sort opened up the possibility of seed being produced. I now have three. (The other side of the Anaphallis label says Impatiens. Label upcycling)

About certain things it is best to say nothing.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’. I was advised to get these going in pots before planting them out. I think I shall plant them when they start to leaf in spring. The usual pink ones do well for me so I thought I’d try some different varieties. ‘Stephanie’ is still to come.

June’s Aster. I don’t know which variety of Aster this is. It was given to me by an elderly lady called June, after I admired it in her garden. There has been plenty of moisture this year, so it has grown tall and flopped. Gardener’s are such generous folk, they’re a nightmare for nurserymen trying to make a living.

Begonia ‘Garden Angel Blush’. There has been a steady trickle of hardy Begonias turning up in recent years. Encouraged by my success with B. evansiana alba, I succumbed to the charms of this beauty at the Plant Heritage market in Tavistock on 17 Sept. It has passed the first test, ten days in the ground without being devoured by slugs. The nursery was Barracott Plants if I can get away with a plug for an excellent local nursery.



Six on Saturday – 23/9/2017

The “could be anything” list on our host’s participants guide to Six on Saturday is six items long. Perfect, thinks me, I’ll do one of each. But I don’t make plans, I rarely complete projects and I have no features. My favourite tool is up the allotment. I’ll start with a success and end with a failure, sandwich some plants between.

Success. Dahlia seedlings. I grow a few Dahlias, including ‘Orange Cushion’. A couple of years back, having failed to deadhead as I should, I found that it had set quite a bit of seed. I collected some, cleaned them up and sowed them in spring 2016. Earlier this year I planted them out on my allotment where they have been growing and eventually flowering. Some are yet to flower. The majority are red, one is yellow, one orange and there’s one just showing maroonish. It’s easy to assume that open pollinated seedlings will be inferior and not worth growing, but these are surprisingly good. I will be doing more of this, it’s rewarding.


‘Orange Cushion’, seed parent, plus four seedlings

x Amarine ‘Zwanenburg’. A cross between Amaryllis and Nerine, both of which I grow outdoors, making me wonder why I have this in a pot indoors. The flower stem snaked its way up through the fuchsia (‘Koralle’) and burst into clashy bloom. To me it looks exactly like Nerine, but a bit bigger. Pictures online of it are rather mixed, some very similar, some with broader petals.

Amaryllis belladonna. I included a different clone of this in my six on 19 August. I’d forgotten I had these in the front garden, the bigger clump of the same sort in the back garden are only an inch or so high, getting much less sun and delayed as a result.

Camellia sinensis ‘Benibana-cha’. This is the first of my Camellias to flower for the 2017/18 season. It’s a sorry little plant in a glasshouse, being borderline hardy. Strongly aromatic. If you like Camellias, I have another blog all about them.

Roscoea. A few weeks back I bought a Roscoea seedling from Tale Valley’s stand at a Rosemoor do. It was a fine dark colour and I expected it to be much more expensive than it was. When I remarked that it seemed good value he brushed it off saying they were just seedlings. Yesterday I noticed that the same plant was spilling seeds all over the place. Today I collected as many as I could and sowed them. All I have to do now is get them to germinate, then keep the slugs off them.

Failure. Should I put this in? Who wants to see it? The O.H. will kill you. You have other failures, why this one?
I never get on top of this midden down the side of the house. You have to have somewhere for the wheelbarrow and the bags of compost, the shredder and the dustbin. Please don’t tell me it should be in the shed, you can’t get in the shed. Perhaps putting it on here will shame me into sorting it out. Then I can post it again as a success.

That’s another six for The Propagator’s Six on Saturday thingy, which is really taking off now. There’ll be a bunch of links to other interesting half dozens, so check it out.

Familiarity breeds contempt.


Blechnum chilensis is a large and handsome fern. For all the many years that I didn’t possess it, I wanted it very much. Eventually a friend dug a piece from her garden and gave it to me. It took a year or two to settle down and start producing its large, handsome leaves, then it really took off. It has spread a foot or more in all directions over the last few years and though I have pulled a lot out, it had swamped a large clump of Solomon’s Seal. Like a lot of evergreens it’s always the same, not even relieved by flowers. I decided this morning that it is a plant for larger gardens than mine. It is gone, with a newly purchased Begonia and a re-located Polygonatum ‘Betberg’ already in its place. The original Polygonatum should have a chance now and perhaps I’ll plant some cyclamen for winter interest.