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

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.

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.


Six on Saturday – 22/7/2014

It’s the height of summer, there are flowers everywhere. Come winter, it’ll be hard to keep this meme going as there’ll be so much less going on. At least there’ll be the foliage plants to fall back on.

When I worked on a nursery customers would come in wanting to know what a plant they’d seen somewhere was. They would describe the flowers, perhaps show you a picture taken on their phone. You’d ask what the leaves were like and they wouldn’t have a clue.

My six this week are all primarily grown for their foliage. They are all providing stirling service at this time of year as focal points, background or ground cover. They are all as it happens, antipodeans. They deserve better than to be overlooked.

One. Ozothamnus hookeri. A neat, compact bush that has reached around 75cm height and width with us, though this one is a bit less than that. It is native to alpine and sub alpine areas in Australia and Tasmania and is tolerant of quite wet ground. It needs to be grown in full sun to stay compact. The stems are less than 1mm in diameter, with the leaves tightly pressed to them. Tiny dull white flowers are produced at the shoot tips in mid summer, strongly honey scented though not, as far as I have observed, attractive to insects.
There is a variety of Ozothamnus called ‘Sussex Silver’ which is sometimes listed as a variety of O. hookeri, which has much stouter stems and grows much more vigorously. It may have O. hookeri in its parentage but is a very different and IMO inferior plant.


Two. Astelia chathamica. For many years this was sold as Astelia ‘Silver Spear’, though the RHS Plantfinder always gave that as synonymous with Astelia chathamica. It comes from the Chatham Islands, which are east of New Zealand at the same latitude as central South Island. Here in Cornwall I have never had any concerns about its hardiness. Mine has always been in an open position, getting full sun for most of the day, though it is said to prefer light shade and to be one of the few silver leaved plants happy to grow in such situations. In New Zealand Astelia species seem usually to grow in shade, on the forest floor or as epiphytes, but the light levels out there are much higher than here. For me its key merits are that it has grown to about 1m in height and stopped, and is as bright and silvery after twenty years or more as it was when planted. Compared to Phormiums, those are real positives.


Three. Blechnum penna-marina. This small, spreading fern is native to South America, Australia and New Zealand. As far as I know the forms usually grown in the UK are from New Zealand. In my garden it is growing in shade and spreads at a moderate rate of around 20cm a year. It makes a very dense carpet and smothers weeds effectively. The neat evergreen foliage is attractive all year but especially when making new growth in spring, the new leaves being held upright and having a reddish-bronze colour. I have had sporelings spring up away from the main clump very occasionally but the usual method of propagation would be by dividing the clump. I haven’t always found it easy to re-establish.


Four. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’. I remember when this was introduced that the suppliers made much of it being a hardy selection. With ever milder winters that is less relevant than it was in the south, but perhaps means it would be a good choice to try in colder areas of the country. One of the features of the variety was that it acquired strong pink tones in cold winter weather, an effect that has been barely noticeable on my plant for most of the past decade or so. The leaves are quite large, with a bold white margin, the habit is upright and quite narrow, to an eventual height of 5m or so. The dark purple flowers are strongly fragrant, though hardly showy. Most evergreens have dark foliage; it is the lightness of this that is its best attribute.


Pittosporum Elizabeth-2

Five. Muhlenbeckia astonii. A divaricating coastal shrub from New Zealand which emphatically qualifies as interesting rather than showy as a garden plant. Very slender zig-zag stems, tiny leaves and when it produces them, transparent flowers about 5mm across; what’s not to love. It’ll be either male or female, one day I shall examine its bits with a hand lens to try and determine which.


Muehlenbeckia astonii-2

Six. Chionochloa rubra. I was astonished to find pictures of this plant that I took in 2000, when it was not much smaller than it is now. I grew it from seed that I purloined from a well known garden, presumably quite a few years earlier still. The tallest of the very slender leaves on my plant have now reached 1.8m in height, with the flower spikes emerging rather lower and not adding much to the effect. There is very little build up of dead leaves in the clump, so maintenance is essentially zero. I have managed to raise some seedlings from it, but many sowings have come to nothing. It has been used to great effect as an accent plant by Keith Wiley at both The Garden House and Wildside. With hindsight, I’d have planted it further away from the path which it now blocks.


So that’s this Saturday’s contribution. Check out meme host ThePropagator for more of the same, or more of the different. See you next week.

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.


Six on Saturday – 8-7-2017

I had the bright idea of doing six plants that were self-sowing volunteers in the garden but quickly realised that I have four or five times that number, some more welcome than others. I’ll mention a couple.

One. Papaver atlanticum pops up where it pleases, producing a flat rosette of grey leaves then putting up slender stems topped by orange flowers that seem somehow devoid of the hard to place stridency of many nearly the same colour blooms.

Two. Not that I have a problem with hard to place stridency. One option is to stick it in a pot and put it out the front of the house. South facing and backed by a white wall, it is ideal territory for serious sun seekers. We just had a new porch installed, which seems to have created a divide between the flowery stuff to the left, pictured, and the succulents to the right.

Three. Talking of things that were getting in the way, I collected seed from a couple of my Dahlias last year and had several plants that needed to go somewhere until they flowered and I could see if any are worth keeping. Yesterday I cleared two lots of peas and the broad beans from my allotment and was wondering what I could plant this late in the season. The Dahlias are now on my allotment.

Four. Hypericum calycinum use to be a very popular ground cover plant, then it started getting a rust disease that made it all but ungrowable in many places. I don’t know whether the patch we have was something we planted many years ago or whether it came under the fence from next door, but it has done rather well in the last few years and the flowers would be extraordinary if they weren’t so familiar.SOS10

Five. Geranium ‘Nimbus’ was a new acquisition last year and is now really getting into its stride. Hardy Geraniums can be very good garden plants but all too often cross the line into weediness or downright thuggery. For now this one is behaving itself impeccably.

Six. This one, which I think is Geranium x oxonianum, though to be honest I don’t care very much, is an ill mannered thug. It’s not even the worst one we have. I suppose it’s quite pretty, but so is Japanese knotweed.

That’s my six offerings for this week. Grateful to ThePropagator for creating and hosting the meme, I’m off to check out other peoples Saturday sixes.

Six on Saturday- 1/7/17

We drove up to Marwood Hill Garden in North Devon today, then on to RHS Rosemoor. So many plants, so little space! Marwood have a National Collection of Astilbes and there are pots of most of them in their plant centre. To come away empty handed would be plain rude.

One. Is the box of plants we came back with; just three plants that we don’t have room for, commendable restraint by our standards. We actually got out of Rosemoor empty handed, a 25 year first. At Marwood we were seduced by the deep purple pink of Astilbe ‘Visions’ (“It’s tall, so it can go at the back, we’ll get rid of a bit of that Impatiens”) and the shorter, dark coloured foliage of Astilbe ‘Delft Lace’ (“short, so we’ll move that hosta at the front, the one the slugs keep chomping…”). And a Pelargonium.


Two. I don’t know if this one strictly belongs here, in that it is not in my garden but at Rosemoor. Better to illustrate the entry with a picture of a flower than a scribbled line in my wanted list though. Clematis ‘Rebecca’: what a colour! One day it will be in my garden. Clematis-Rebecca

Three. Having been out all day I didn’t take any pictures until early evening, by which time it was drizzling. My Dahlias seem to have slow getting going this year but this red one, which I can’t find the label for, is in fiery form.


Four. A lot of our Fuchsias had got into very poor shape, so last year I tried to start again from cuttings of nearly all of them. There are lots of Fuchsia pictures coming down the line. This one is ‘Sophia’, which we bought last year and potted on.


Five. We used to have a fish pond but we filled it in. It’s now our bog garden and is where the aforementioned Astilbes are due to be shoe-horned in. As you can see, I have an eye for a subtle colour scheme.


Six. Hydrangea serrate ‘Tiara’, which can speak for itself.


So that’s this week’s six, my contribution to ThePropagator’s six on Saturday meme. Check it out.