Six on Saturday – 9/12/2017

Maisie decided I needed some help. Not with the gardening, help to make the blog more appealing in difficult times. What is it with cats and grasses.

Rhododendron ‘Merganser’. This is the only Rhododendron we have left now, other than a couple of deciduous Azaleas and, come to think of it, a couple of evergreen Azaleas. I still don’t think of Azaleas as being real Rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are fabulous, I love them, but they don’t give good value in a small garden; they just don’t last long enough. This one is very small, with yellow bells in spring. I’ve put it in because apart from my bamboo, it’s the only thing I have with ornamental bark. You just have to imagine that the stems are more than half an inch thick.

A quick mash-up of a few of the odds and ends that are still flowering.

Bismarckia nobilis. This absolutely fabulous palm comes originally from Madagascar. The intensely glaucous leaves are 5-6ft across with quite sharp points. Now that this one has a bit of a trunk and has had its lower leaves removed it is a bit easier to live with than it used to be with leaves to the ground. It will eventually reach up to 12m in height, with a single trunk.

The observant among you will have twigged to a slight continuity issue between items two and three. That is because between taking the two pictures, I flew half way round the world and am now about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. It’s 32°here, in Celsius not Fahrenheit, sunny though with a strong possibility of showers, perhaps even a thunderstorm. I’m here for a while, so Saturday postings will have a tropical flavour for some time.
I’m a bit out of my depth with the plants. This one is another palm, much planted for shade as it’s multi-stemmed but not so tall. I don’t know it’s name. I shall try and find out.

Agave attenuata. Massively popular in warmer parts of the world, this is just about hardy enough to survive in very mild west country gardens. It lacks the fearsome spines at the leaf tips that most of the other Agaves have. It readily spreads to form clumps of rosettes and eventually flowers, producing a spike rather like Eremurus, the fox tail lilies.

Frangipani. Plumeria is as quintessentially tropical as you can get. Making a tree to about 5m high and at least as much wide, they have very flamboyant flowers with a sweet scent. You’ll be seeing this again.

So the cats and the garden have been left in someone else’s care. Hopefully all will be well.
Between taking the pictures earlier today and waiting for the UK to catch up, the weather has turned spectacularly. It is now flashing and crashing and the rain coming down in torrents. It’s early evening, 10 hrs ahead of UK, and I desperately need sleep. Visiting everyone else linked from ThePropagator’s blog will have to wait until tomorrow.



Six on Saturday – 25/11/2017


This morning has a flavour of winter about it. Sleet showers and the sunrise getting weird through them. Car didn’t want to start.
Flowers are in short supply now, except for a few that I’ve already used recently. We still haven’t had any frost to speak of so the big move in has proceeded in dribs and drabs so far. Yesterday however, was given over to getting all the potted fuchsias in, getting pots of bedding emptied and generally moving everything around to get it to fit. I have odds and ends flowering in my Camellia tunnel so I thought I’d start with one of those.

Camellia japonica ‘Desire’. As lovely as this bloom may be, I can tell you that for the variety it is not a good specimen. If I were judging it in a show it would win nothing. The downside of these pale formal doubles is that it takes so little damage to really spoil the effect. It should be spring flowering but it’s an early season generally and this plant is in a tunnel so it’s got ahead of itself.

Astelia ‘Red Devil’. I’m slightly surprised that the RHS don’t have this as A. nervosa ‘Red Devil’; I would have thought it was fairly typical of the species except for the reddish colouring. This specimen is growing in full sun; in hotter areas it would probably be happier with some shade. These sorts of evergreens come into their own at this time of year but looking at the picture, the Fuchsia microphylla behind it isn’t for giving up yet.

Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’. I don’t have a record of when this fastigiate yew was planted, it must be about 25 years ago. It isn’t clipped but it does have a couple of loops of wire going around it to stop it splaying apart. ‘Standishii’ is a female clone and it does produce a few berries each year. Seedlings appear round the base of it, some green, most yellow. I don’t keep them. There are several golden fastigiate yew clones and this is one of the brightest yellows and comparatively slow growing.SOS130

Hakonechloa macra. The picture of the yew serves very well to show why the Japanese Hakone grass is my favourite grass. I’m up to nine varieties now. The green leaved species, albeit sporting its autumn colours, is the clump just at the base of the Taxus. The last traces of green are now disappearing from its leaves, which often roll in on themselves at this time of year, then open out flat again. From now until the end of February they will be the brightest thing in the garden. By then they will be falling apart and I will cut them to the ground, taking care not to damage the new shoots that will be pushing through, and within weeks they are back up in fresh green, or striped, or bright yellow. They’ve grown tall this year, with no really dry spells.SOS131

Euphorbia mellifera. I cut this shrubby Euphorbia down every two or three years as it gets too big for where it is and starts to lose its shape. As a consequence it doesn’t flower every year, which I don’t mind, the flowers being pretty dull. The foliage on the other hand, is a fresh apple green all year and always looks a picture of health. When I pruned it a couple of months ago, I cut all the flowering shots near to the ground, leaving 12-18 shots that hadn’t flowered. Now that there has been a big flush of new growth from the base, the shoots I left look out of place, so today I removed them.

Earlier this year we had a porch fitted at the front of the house. For a while it sat empty but with us that was never going to last. It faces south and is mostly glass, so it gets pretty warm, the ideal place to overwinter our pots of succulents that sit outside the front of the house in summer. In practice, we put most of those in the glasshouse and brought out some different ones to adorn the porch. The black drip trays aren’t pretty, perhaps what we need is some tinsel. The pink outside the window is my Camellia ‘Navajo’ still going strong.

And that, fellow gardeners, is it, for another week. Hope you found something there to tickle your fancy. Meme host The Propagator, is an accomplished fancy tickler. He is also the link man for the growing community of six on Saturday contributors, making two very good reasons for going over for a look.

Six on Saturday – 18/11/2017


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.











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.
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.

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.

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.
(‘Winter’s Charm’, ‘Gay Sue’, ‘Bokuhan’, ‘Snowdrop’, ‘Minato no akebono’, ‘Sasanqua Variegata’, ‘Peter Betteley’, pitardii (supposedly but not), ‘Cotton Candy’)

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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!
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.

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.

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.

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.