Six on Saturday

“The Propagator” has just launched a new meme which struck a chord with me, so this is by way of climbing on board. Six things going on in the garden.SOS-1
1) This is Camellia ‘Nightrider’, very dark, very late flowering and with new leaves a similar colour to the flowers but shiny. It’s a very classy plant IMHO.

2) Maianthemum racemosum is for me a bombproof plant given a bit of shade and some moisture. It’s about the only woodlander I grow that is not mauled by slugs. This form is ‘Emily Moody’, which doesn’t look very different from the species but has a formidably sweet and strong lily of the valley perfume.

3) The host of this meme being a propagator, I give you ‘Plympton Pippin’, a fine old Devonshire apple, grafted in February onto my pretty useless ‘Elstar’ and already flowering. I may remove any fruit that sets but I’m leaving the flowers as an aid to pollinating the other 5 varieties grafted onto the same tree.

4) I scrounged some seed of a good Schefflera taiwaniana form some years back and this baby is now 6 feet plus. I love these emerging shoots, like the hands of synchronised swimmers, that slowly enlarge and open out into elegant umbrellas.

5) There’s no need to propagate Libertia, they need no help from me. I grow chilensis and ixioides, which occasionally hybridise to produce this thing. I actually weed out most of the seedlings, which usually look like chilensis, but this one got left. Someone did a review of the genus recently and proposed the name x butleri for the hybrid. It’s got several seedlings around it, which I don’t have room for but I want to see what they do. A familiar dilemma for gardeners.

6) And for number six, another Camellia. I just pruned four foot off the top. It was just getting too big and flowering too high up, such that the flowers were hidden behind the conifer that is just out of the picture. It’ll be a couple of years before it flowers well again and I will try to keep it compact in the meantime by removing any long extension growths in winter. It’s called ‘Annette Carol’ and is one of my favourites, so it was a reluctant decision taken after a couple of years putting it off.

So I wish The Propagator well with his new meme. His post is at where hopefully a few more links will soon appear.




End of month view – April 2017


These are butternut squash seedlings on my window ledge. It’s raining outside, which is a very good thing; steady, hour after hour. What happened to April showers?

April has seen masses of stuff coming into leaf and flowering like mad. It has also seen weeks of dry weather and the threat of frost on half a dozen or more nights. Much time has been expended on watering and moving tender plants in and out of greenhouses. I have runner beans germinating on the spare bedroom floor. Cucumber ‘Carmen’ are on the window ledge too, not far short of flowering.


I suppose I should have seen the forecast and taken pictures yesterday, but I like the way that rain seems to intensify the colours, not that Camellia ‘Bob Hope’ needs it. The Hakonechloas are growing away well and the Acer has so far escaped the damage from cold wind it often suffers.


Camellia ‘Bob Hope’ and Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’


The other Camellia that is always very late is ‘Nightrider’. It’s just beginning its flowering and will soon produce new growth of a similar colour to the blooms. It’s about six feet tall now and will need curtailing before much longer.


Camellia ‘Nightrider’

Years ago I raised a couple of seedlings of what I believe was Rhododendron atlanticum, a deciduous azalea with superb scent. Neither seedling bears much resemblance to their parent but one is pretty good and has at least as strong a perfume. It’s a shame deciduous azaleas are so tricky to propagate, it’d be a nice thing to give away.


Rhododendron (Azalea) seedling

Holboellia brachyandra doesn’t have quite as strong a perfume but it does carry a little further in my experience. There are times when its vigour gives me concerns, but there’s a fence to cover and trees to climb. It’s a Crûg Farm plant, which will surprise no-one familiar with their catalogue.


Holboellia brachyandra

Maianthemum racemosum and its variety ‘Emily Moody’ are flowering now. Not a big difference between them, ‘Emily Moody’ came up a couple of weeks later but has now caught up; they’re both starting to flower. ‘Emily Moody’ has in previous years won hands down on scent, I haven’t checked this season yet.


Maianthemum racemosum


Maianthemum racemosum ‘Emily Moody’











Bells; blue, pink, white and yellow, abound. I suspect that all our bluebells are hybrids between English and Spanish, some close to one species, some to the other. Yellow comes from Uvularia perfoliata. Disporum, Polygonatum and Convallaria will provide me with green and white bells shortly.


Out from the shady areas Libertia x butleri is putting on the glitz this year. It was poor last year, great the year before that. This is a newly named hybrid between L. chilensis and L. ixioides which sowed itself. I grow both parent species and this spontaneous cross is apparently not uncommon.


Libertia x butleri

A couple of other things warrant a mention. I grow a few Muscari but I think ‘Blue Spike’ might be the showiest and longest lasting. Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’ has finished flowering but is keeping things going with lovely new leaves.


Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ and Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’


I have a few fruit trees in the garden, mostly apples. One tree of ‘Elstar’ produced small scabby fruit in its first couple of years and I am gradually turning it into a family tree by grafting other varieties onto it. This winter saw the addition of ‘Plympton Pippin’ and ‘Tregonna King’ two old west-country varieties, and ‘Meridian’, which is a modern one. They join ‘Holstein’ and ‘Red Windsor’ that were done a couple of years ago and are fruiting already. I also grafted ‘Holstein’ more conventionally onto MM106 to make a normal single variety tree.
Apropos nothing, my grandfather was a nurseryman in Plympton many years ago. There’s a housing estate there now; that’s progress.


Apple ‘Holstein’ and new family members Plympton Pippin (flowering) and ‘Tregonna King’

And so to garden views. We have scaffolding up and it’s raining. The scaffolding rather spoils one of my usual views but on the other hand it provides a new viewpoint.


The sooner this goes the better.


View from the scaffold, seagull on the chimney perspective.


Even higher, monopod held aloft, cable release. Drone view, without a drone.

Now it’s off to The Patient Gardener, host of the EOMV meme, to see her post and the links to everyone elses.

Allotment update – 3/4/2017


My purple curly kale has had it. Time to go. I chopped round the stems with the spade, leaving most of the roots in the ground and took them away to be shredded and added to the compost heap.
I’d wanted to plant spuds in the space nearly a month ago but thought there were still a few more pickings, so those potatoes went into 1L pots in the tunnel. Today they got planted out and unsurprisingly are well ahead of the others. This is Kestrel, which I saved from last year. I planted a row on 5 March and some are up, others not. None of the Charlotte’s planted at the same time are up. Perhaps I should have started them in pots too.


I had a bit of old carpet which I cut into strips and laid on some of my “paths” to save weeding. I fear they will provide slugs with hiding places, equally it may work to roll it back every few days and kill them.
The purple sprouting broccoli at the left was sown 25 May and planted out 12 August. Too late, it didn’t really make the growth before winter.


The mesh I laid over early peas has worked and they’re now coming up. I took off the mesh before the peas became entangled in it. Broad beans which I planted 17 March are looking pretty good.


Pea ‘Meteor’, sown 13 March.


I had struggled with onion sets until another plot holder suggested starting them in cells. Last year I had my best onions ever. I planted them in cells on 12 March and planted them out today. I gave them a couple of weeks longer in cells last year but the roots seemed quite well developed and the forecast isn’t bad, so I went ahead. I’ve kept one tray back for later, see what the difference is.


Onion ‘Rumba’ sets in 20 cell half trays.


Elsewhere on the plot I still have lots of leaks and parsnips which are not going to get eaten. I shall put them through the shredder and compost them. I don’t see it as waste, more as production of raw material for compost, of which there can never be too much.


And finally, in the fruit cage blueberries and gooseberries are flowering like mad. I have several different blueberries, the best of which is ‘Darrow’, with huge tasty fruits. I took a few cuttings of it last summer and it looks like some of them have rooted. Be a year or two before they start to crop though.


Blueberry ‘Bluecrop’


The star turn fruit wise last year was the blackcurrants that I left steeping in vodka until after Christmas. Strained it off, added some sugar and I have something very drinkable indeed. More this year I think.

End of month view, March 2017


There’s quite a bit flowering now, bulbs and bushes. I’m not sure how but we still have three magnolias, used to have five. The one behind the polytunnel is Vulcan and it’s slowly falling over. It might be possible to push it back up and prop it, I hope so. The plum tree on its right is flowering well this year. Need to prune that a bit in the next few weeks.


Magnolia ‘Vulcan’


The weather has taken a turn for the worse again, it was quite good earlier, now the wind and rain are back. It’s that time of year. If I’d been more organised I’d have put an entry into the Cornwall Spring Show, it being just up the road from here. I just popped out and took pictures of my various camellias, I think I would have managed to enter a few classes. Too late now.


Top row: Mystique, Tinker Bell, Minato-no-akebono, Bob Hope                                  Second row: Bob’s Tinsie, Annette Carol, Kokinran, Charles Colbert

Lots of things are pushing through the ground and confirming that they survived the winter. Some are not and the worrying begins. Ginger family things are always late, Roscoeas, Hedychium and Zingiber in my case. I’ve seen a rapid increase in slugs just in the past week or so, bane of my life. The torch and secateurs evening routine needs to get started.

Slugs are very selective, some very delicate looking plants are untouched. You’d think someone could work out what deters the little buggers and bottle it. Adiantum venustum is a very delicate looking but remarkably tough fern that is never eaten. The white flowers are of Pachyphragma macrophyllum, good in shade and seeds about somewhat.


Crûg Farm Nursery will be at Boconnoc for the Cornwall Spring Show, last year’s purchases included Chrysoplenium davidianum, which has grown remarkably well considering it looked like it was dying of drought most of last summer. I have a few blue wood anemones, labels long since vanished.


I follow a few allotment blogs and I cannot understand how at this time of year people have loads of empty space for all their seedlings. Every bit of covered space I have is stuffed with overwintering fuchsias, sprouting dahlias, tender camellias and much else. There is never enough room for growing and spacing seedlings. So they get put outside wherever possible. This lot will have to go back in though, before the weather trashes them.


As ever, I am spurred into monthly action in order to be part of Patient Gardener Helens end of month meme. Check out hers and everyone else’s contributions at

End of month view -September 2016

Shamelessly pinching the idea from Patient Gardener Helen, I am going to do this months eomv as a walk around our small patch of Cornwall. I’ve put a map at the bottom of the page showing where you are for each photo.


(1) If you came through our side gate this would be your first view of the garden proper. We have a lot of plants in pots, mostly Fuchsias on the left here, Salvias to the right. We’re going to turn sharp left and go behind the greenhouse.


(2) The border on the left is quite shady; that’s Camellia ‘Mystique’ on the left, a very pretty reticulata variety. Just before the arch is Camellia ‘Nightrider’. The arch supports Holboellia brachytricha. Miscanthus on the right, flopping as usual.


(3) Just through the archway is the shadiest part of the garden, with a large oak on the boundary to the left of picture. There was a massive Eucalyptus too, but it was felled a year or so ago. Part of my Camellia collection is in pots to the left, with several more in the ground. Planting is of shade lovers, ferns, Disporum, Convallaria and so on.


(4) I put this arch up to provide somewhere for climbers. Sweet peas and a clematis this year. The bamboo is Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’, which fared badly last winter with many canes leaning erratically. The gold spiraea was a seedling we named after my neice Abigail.


(5) The opposite view to the previous picture. The apple tree by the arch is a late flowering variety called Suntan, the young tree in the foreground is a belated attempt to give it a pollinator. There’s a self sown Echium in there and Fuchsias providing late colour.


(6) Anemanthele going mad at bottom right, surrounding Apple Red Windsor. Pink Nerines are flanked by scarlet and orange Dahlias. Dull it isn’t.


(7) Obviously you want to know what’s in the tunnel and the answer is mostly young camellias. Tomatoes were a bit of a disaster this year.


(8) One of our favourite tricks is to create seating areas, then fill them full of plants. There’s a paved half circle the length of the glasshouse under there. Miscanthus Septemberot to the right of the hose reel. Pittosporum Silver Magic in a pot.


(9) I think it best to let this picture speak for itself.


(10) I like to use strongly architectural plants at the corners of beds and as focal points. Chionochloa rubra has been here a long time, it is right across the path which is a pain when it’s wet, but I wouldn’t be without it. The emerald green just left of centre is Zingiber mioga. It’s producing its ground level flowers at present but they’re well hidden.


(11) Zingiber again. Lobelia laxiflora has sprawled across the path and almost never flowers. Probably going to go. Schefflera taiwanensis top left, Paesia scaberula, a very fine leaved New Zealand fern, in the centre.


(12) Shady corner where I have most of my ferns. Not as shady as it used to be due to a tree dying. I’ve raised the skirts of the conifer to let light in beneath it, but it’s desperately dry. The cyclamen were probably a mistake.


(13) View to the centre of the circle, Stipa gigantea doing corner duties, Hakonechloa All Gold behind the circle. The tree left of the bamboo is Magnolia Heaven Scent.


(14) Pittosporum Elizabeth is the foliage at the left, under it Muhlenbeckia astonii. Amaryllis belladonna is the splash of bright pink. Astelia chathamica, aka Silver Spear, is the massive mound in the middle. Below it is another Hakonechloa, Mediovariegata. The shrub is Camellia Minato-no-akebono, a scented lutchuensis hybrid which even at this time of year still has red young leaves at the shoot tips. Behind it is Dahlia Orange Cushion.


(15) This little bed is flanked by Astelia and Euphorbia mellifera. It has always been a struggle to get things to grow well in it for reasons we don’t entirely understand. The Cistus, planted this year, seems happy enough, as do the Osteo’s. I’ve blocked it out with Sweet Williams to provide some early summer colour. The shrub behind the Astelia is Leptospermum rupestre, which is why it’s terrible shape is tolerated.


(16) Another view in to the centre of the circle. Taxus Standishii to the left.


(17) The fairly shady bed with most of my Hakonechloa’s in it. I have seven varieties, six in here.


(18) This 10 x 6 has my mist unit at the back. Quite a few camellias on it at the moment. All our non-hardy fuchsias get stuffed in here for the winter, like under the bench on the left.


(19) This is the lean-to on the north facing back of the house. Not ideal for pelargoniums but they do OK. It’s basically half a Clearspan pro greenhouse and it’s great.


(20) Lastly, a picture taken at the other end of the day. Decking cleared and power-washed. A second bench in the glasshouse and most of the fuchsias cut down and brought in. A rare feeling of being on top of part of it for a short while.


I’m off now to virtually visit the gardens of other contributors to The Patient Gardeners end of month meme.

Allotment – taking stock

It being September, almost the end of the growing season, it seems natural to take stock of how that growing season has gone. This has been my first year of not digging and my results have been sufficiently good to attract the attention of my neighbouring plotholders. My crops have on average been at least as good as those of the people who dug their plots in the normal way.

Today I cleared away the mange tout peas and spread compost over that and a couple of other bare areas of the plot. All the winter veg I need has either been in the ground since spring or was planted to follow maincrop peas. That has left me with about a third of the ground now bare. I see nothing to gain by delaying applying a compost mulch, the main function of which is to protect the bare soil from winter rain. I say main function because I am working on a silty and stony soil which does not form strong structure in a high rainfall area ie. Cornwall.


Onions gone, nothing to follow, now mulched with compost.


I have worked hard to produce a good volume of compost this year, shredding everything I could get hold of and adding it to the heap. Last year I used quite a lot of freshly shredded material as mulch but I think it may have encouraged the slugs so I wanted to avoid repeating that if I could. On the other hand, I think the fresh material strongly encouraged the soil fauna and I wonder if composted material will be as effective. I also went into last winter with much more empty ground. How effective growing crops will be at protecting the soil remains to be seen and of course the organic matter cannot be applied until just before new crops go in next spring. I am wondering about mulching around crops like kale and sprouts this autumn in order that the ground is in the best possible condition in spring.


Kale in good shape but will the soil be better in spring if mulched now?

I also received my first seed catalogue today. So much tempting stuff. My aim next year will be to avoid gluts better and spread harvests out as much as possible. So easy to say, so much harder to achieve.

Pruning the apple tree

Well it’s done now, for better or worse. There’s no going back.

I have to admit to a degree of trepidation each year when the third week of August comes around and it is time to prune my Suntan apple. It has to be done; in a garden the size of mine there is no question of allowing it to grow unchecked. So I have a quick look at the RHS website to remind myself what I should be doing and then get stuck in.

Three leaves above the basal cluster for laterals, one leaf above the basal cluster for sub-laterals. Clear enough.

No it isn’t! There is no line marked on a shoot to say “the basal cluster ends here”. There is no clear difference between laterals and sub-laterals. In truth it doesn’t matter that much. I know that now because I have been through this for four years now and the tree flowers beautifully. I don’t get a lot of fruit, but that is not because of my pruning.




The first pass is from the ground, cutting everything I can reach. It’s not a great deal, perhaps a third. Then out comes the stepladder, from which I can just about reach the rest. I end up with a fair sized pile of prunings on the floor.

Those prunings represent reduced leaf area, which translates to reduced vigour in the tree, favouring production of flowers rather than growth. I live in Cornwall and our climate certainly encourages lots of growth, so there is an element of compensating for that in what I do. The timing is important, doing it now should mean little or no new growth before the tree drops its leaves and goes dormant. Doing it later reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.


Lower half completed.



The lack of fruit is down to poor pollination. Suntan is a late flowerer and Until last winter I had nothing flowering at the same time. I have now planted Newton Wonder and Lanes Prince Albert, which should in time rectify the situation, as well as providing me with cooking apples. Those I shall try and grow as spindle trees, curtailing vigour by tying down their laterals. I shall also graft a few bits onto my “family” tree, which is behind Suntan in the picture, and possibly onto Suntan itself. Then if they grow too big I can get rid of them.


The prunings, which will be shredded and composted.