Six on Saturday – 14/7/2018

SOS529Growing your own food is very satisfying, eating it even more so. When you can pile a plate with salad, accompanied by a baked spud, nine different crops in total and all harvested that day from your own garden or allotment, then follow it with blueberries and raspberries, well that is hard to beat.

This is new territory for me. I’ve had the allotment for a few years and I’m still experimenting, still learning and hopefully still getting better at it. Still a very long way short of all year round self sufficiency too.

A lot of watering and feeding has been necessary, but I have had a good season with fruit and veg. I thought it was time I picked some out for a Saturday six.

Just before I do, and every bit as satisfying as my veg, is the fact that a pair of swallows found the broken window on my allotment shed and built a nest inside

. When I checked it yesterday, it had eggs in it.

Tomatoes. ‘Sungold’, sown 19/3, now growing in my polytunnel. We’ve been picking for about a week. I got them into 10 litre pots and realised that was too small when this hot spell hit; I was watering 3 times a day. So I potted alternate plants into 20’s and stopped the remaining 10 litre plants. The unstopped ones I shall train across the roof of the tunnel.

Cucumbers (and Chillies). ‘Carmen’, sown 31/3, now in 10 litre pots, should have had 20’s. Watering three times a day. Probably should have kept two and got rid of the others but last year I started with five and managed to kill four so I was reluctant to ditch any. The Chillies are ‘Apache’ and ‘Ring of Fire’. I’m going to OK for chillies for years to come. I shall make sauce, how hard can it be?

I shied away from growing lettuce on my allotment for a couple of years because I thought it would have no chance against the slugs. I do get some damage but have grown loads of good lettuce and we eat a lot in summer salads. ‘Oakleaf Navarra’, a very dark red lettuce, has been the star turn, supplemented by green ‘Salad Bowl’ and ‘Lollo Rosso’. I’ve found them to be remarkably tolerant of dry conditions, eventually running up to flower but only when they’ve been usable for a month or more.

Sweet Corn. I’ve grown two varieties, ‘Earliking’ and ‘Goldcrest’, sown 11/4 and 6/5 respectively, in hope of a long cropping season. Looking very good so far. These have had a lot of watering; thorough soaks every four or five days. First picking is eagerly awaited.

Blueberries. A third of my plot is given over to a fruit cage, in which I have blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries and blueberries. The gooseberries weren’t great this year but everything else is loaded. I have spent many backbreaking hours picking the stuff, more hours picking it over and doing something with it. Freezing, cassis, cordial, jam. Blueberries crop over a longish period and most get eaten fresh. This one is ‘Darrow’, which has huge fruits. I also have ‘Bluecrop’ and at least one other.
Purple sprouting broccoli. Most years my peas come ready over at least a three week period and I am reluctant to pull them out until I have harvested almost all the crop. Last week I did a picking on Monday, another on Wednesday, and that was it. I cut them off, leaving the roots in the ground and planted PSB, which I had growing in 9cm pots, into the pea row. I usually struggle to give that sort of follow on crop a long enough growing season, this year I am optimistic that I will do better.

It’s due to cool down a bit next week, but very little rain is in prospect. A lot of things are starting to look very stressed. I was reading earlier that heat-waves and droughts are happening very widely. I grow fruit and veg for the pleasure of doing it and for the freshness, flavour and nutritional value it offers. I’m profoundly glad that it isn’t a matter of survival, as it must be for many around the world.
Even so, it’s likely that some crops will be in relatively short supply this year and that we will be glad to have a fair bit of our own to fall back on.

Check out other Saturday sixes from the links on The Propagator’s entry. I’m guessing that wailing about the weather will feature large this week.



Drawing a simple garden plan.

I suppose in this day and age I should be doing a You Tube video, but I’m too old for that.

Many of us want a reasonably accurate map of our gardens and end up with something that falls short. Here is a fairly simple method which will produce quite an accurate map.
You will need paper, a scale ruler, a garden line and measuring tapes, the longer the better. Draw a pair of lines about 2cm apart down the centre of the paper.

Lay the garden line down along the centre of the longest axis of your garden, tied to canes at each end. Make sure it is straight and taut. Lay a long measuring tape along the line, fixed to one of the canes. You could just lay the tape down if the site is an open one. The canes will be points A and B on your survey.


The cane at bottom left is point A, point B is at the other end of the long tape measure. Taxus ‘Standishii is 2.1m along the tape and 1.15m to the left of it.

Work your way along the line, measuring how far from the line all your garden features are at an exact right angle to the line. For each item, you have two measurements; how far along the line and how far from it. Starting from the bottom of the sheet, record both figures, the first in the centre column, the second to whichever side applies.


Leave the two canes in place in case you need to make more measurements.

Choose a suitable scale for drawing up your plan. My A-B axis on the diagram is 7.3m, with perhaps a bit beyond each end. That would fit well enough on an A4 sheet at a scale of 1:50. Draw a line down the centre of your blank sheet, or to one side if the measurements are more on one side. Mark points A and B. Measure and mark in your garden features.

If you are picking up path or border edges then you need measurements every couple of metres, less for straight edges, more for very wavy ones. With care measurements of 5m or more from the base line can be made, provided care is taken to do so at right angles.

For bigger areas use triangles and collect a set of measurements for each line. When drawing up the plan, start by drawing the triangle(s) to scale.


I would then scan my rough plan and using Photoshop Elements, produce a good copy on a fresh layer. One advantage of having the plan on the computer is that it is easily edited if plants or other features are changed.

Six on Saturday – 16/12/2017

SOS164We’re running at around 32°C by day and 20°C by night. Can’t believe we’ve been here a week. Our host’s garden is a modest affair, as are most gardens in the very many new housing developments hereabouts. All the houses are single storey, so have a big footprint, not leaving a lot of room for the garden.

This is pretty much the whole of the back garden. It’s wildly exotic, palms, Strelitzia, Frangipani, bromeliads and so on. I hate to say it, but it quickly becomes a new normal. I haven’t managed to get a picture of a rainbow lorikeet yet, though they are visitors most mornings. It’s harder to see them as normal. Our hosts used to feed them, but 30 lorikeets at 5 in the morning are not an alarm you sleep through, so they stopped.

There are four Frangipanis in the garden here. This one seems to be Plumeria alba, but is probably a selected form. It has a very nice scent that doesn’t immediately remind me of anything else.

A bit of shade. Down the side of the house is an area that is shady until mid morning and from mid afternoon on. Herbs and annuals find conditions a bit more tolerable here, though frequent watering is vital. At 7 in the morning, I find conditions ideal for eating breakfast outside. It’s fresh, the light is bright but not harsh, the temperature about 20°C.

It’s a war against beasties of all sorts. Adenium obtusum, the Dessert Rose, is something I’ll put in next time, but this caterpillar was making a meal of one of its flowers. I have no idea what this is the larva of, probably some stunning enormous tropical butterfly.

Not all palms are big. This one is about six feet tall, perfect for a scaled down exotic look. The downside is that it is a mass of three inch needle sharp spines. The dead flower heads tend to stay where they are until he drop naturally.SOS165

Bromeliads, which I’ve always thought of as epiphytes, grow very well in the ground here, provided that they have some shade. There are several sorts here, some with a single large rosette, some spreading with many small rosettes. The down side is that the water that collects in the rosettes provides a habitat for mosquitoes, and they are plenty bad enough without any help. Dining outside in the evening is very pleasant but you need some industrial strength insect repellent.SOS166

I don’t think there’s any way I can squeeze  Aussie wildlife into six garden connected items, but we saw this baby possum and its mum up a tree on Bribie Island when we were out there this morning. They were being screamed at by lorikeets, which was what got our attention.






It’s nearly Sunday here now, I need to get this posted. The perspective of an imposter in the southern hemisphere. I’m not missing winter so much, but I am looking forward to following all the links from The Propagator’s six on Saturday posting.

Six on Saturday – 2/12/2017

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m having to pretend it’s winter down here in rainy Cornwall, but while there has been frost on the car a couple of times, we’ve had nothing to do any damage. There are odds and ends of flowers everywhere, but mostly bedraggled and looking sorry for themselves. So rather than focus on summer’s leftovers, I’ve tried to move onto winter’s main dishes.

Schefflera taiwaniana is a classy plant that I obtained originally as a bunch of fallen fruits while being shown round what had been Edward Needham’s garden near Truro some years ago. I held them up to the present owner and got a wordless nod. I know of one other seedling from the same batch, quite a bit different in appearance, so maybe they’d picked up pollen from one of the several other Scheffleras present.

Mine is now between 8 and 9 feet tall and I had been saving it for inclusion here when flowers were in short supply to be very surprised when I looked at it closely to see it is flowering. That’s flowering!! Woo! Woo! I look forward to finding out if it can produce viable seed without a mate. The other option is to try and take cuttings from the small shoots low down on the stem; haven’t a clue whether that would work.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’. Not a name that exactly trips off the tongue but a wonderful plant for all that. Our garden is just a little too windy for this tall bamboo and we lose a few stems every year. It’s around 16ft tall and has spread over twenty years to cover maybe 10ft x 4ft of ground. A few wayward shoots have been removed. I remove side shoots from the bottom 3ft to show off the stems and harvest some of the oldest canes each year to use them as bean sticks. Excellent stem colour, evergreen and won’t get taller than it now is; what more do you want from a plant?

Starlings. I was going to put in common oak; we have one growing at one corner of the garden, another overhanging the opposite corner. I went out to take the picture and realised that I actually like the constant chatter of the starlings that are usually in them rather more than the trees themselves. Starlings it is then. I was even going to put an audio file on here but WordPress wouldn’t play without pay.
We get them in dozens. Place I used to work, south of London, had a roost at back of the head gardeners house of around 2 million. Commuted into London in the morning, back home in the evening. Just like the people. Loud. Very loud.

The light. Very low in the sky as the sun is now, its light reaches places it never normally does. A leaf here, a flower there, picked out fleetingly by a warm toned spotlight. I’m almost unable to pass a window without looking out on something else that requires me to grab the camera and go capture it.


Pinus koraiensis ‘Silver Ray’. When I got this, it was on the strength of a picture in a conifer book of an unusually narrow columnar pine with lovely bluish foliage. I now realise that the plant in the picture had been pruned to get the shape. You don’t immediately think that a pine would be trimmed to shape so you assume that’s how it grows. The realisation came too late for me to try for the same effect, you can keep them narrow if you start early but you can’t make a wide one narrow. I also hadn’t foreseen how much next door’s Crataegus would spread, so it has become one sided and leaning as well as too wide. One day it’ll have to go but that day hasn’t arrived yet.

Camellia x hiemalis ‘Bonanza’. I’m testing my limits again, flanking the featured Camellia with a couple of others, because I can and because they’re all flowering in my tunnel. ‘Bonanza’ first flowered in 1959 and was a chance seedling of C. sasanqua ‘Crimson Tide’ in America. I think it’s a fairly recent arrival on our shores. Compared to many autumn flowering Camellias it has a short but spectacular flowering season, this year for the month of November, tailing off into December. The blooms are relatively large, about 6-7cm across, scented and as vivid a colour as you could wish for. It seems to want to be spreading rather than upright, but could be trained.

And so begins the weekend. Get my post sorted, then make the first of several visits to the links on The Propagator’s blog over the next couple of days to catch up with all the other contributors to the meme. I don’t know about anybody else, but the deeper into winter we go, the more interested I am to see what other posters have come up with. It’s making me look harder and think more about my own patch too. All good.

Six on Saturday – 7/10/2017



I worked out that after this week I only need to find another 72 things to get me to the end of the year. Creativity will be needed. Perhaps the cat will have to count in a future post.


Malus domestica ‘Holstein’. I nearly included this last week, chose not to. Decided to photograph it today (friday), then pick it. Needless to say it fell off overnight. It had a soft landing but the slugs found it. I cut it in half and gave the intact half to the OH.

Back when I was working, I had a German colleague who brought a tree of this back from Germany. She gave me some scions which I grafted onto pot grown MM106 stocks. Must have been five years ago and it’s produced its first apple this year. It looked good and tasted even better. It seems to be highly resistant to scab, which in Cornwall few are.

Nerine bowdenii. Not the best performance we’ve ever had but these always put on a show at this time of year. They came from my sister’s garden in the north of Scotland, so hardiness isn’t an issue. There’s no angle to picture them from that doesn’t have something unwanted in the background, the polytunnel from here.

Stylophorum lasiocarpum. This was given me a couple of years back and has seeded about a little. I saw this opening pod and thought I’d collect seed and grow a few more to put where I want them to be. It almost always has a few flowers on it. Easy in shade or part shade.

Fuchsia boliviana. This species Fuchsia is not generally regarded as hardy but has been in the ground here for many years. It gets killed to the ground every winter and then takes so long to grow back up and flower it often doesn’t make it at all. It’s tangled itself up round one of my seedling Camellia reticulata’s. (Which will look stunning in spring)There were a couple of flowers open round the back.

Symphyotrichum Aster ‘Purple Dome’. I’d convinced myself this was a purchased Erigeron when it is in fact a purloined Aster. Fabulous colour that the camera never seems to quite get right.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’. Cheerful, dead easy compact shrub which we keep chopped back into a bit of a shapeless lump on an awkward corner. I don’t think I’ve seen fruit on it before this year. Doesn’t add much.

As ever, I’m eager to see what other contributors have going on in their gardens, Links from meme host The Propagator’s set of six.

The modern world.

On 14 June I was down at Glendurgan Garden and saw a plant which I didn’t recognise and which didn’t have a label. I photographed it and posted a tweet asking Glendurgan what it was. They came back with Aristea major as a name. I Googled that, found a seed supplier who had it and placed an order. A day or two later the seeds arrived and I sowed them on 18 June.


Yesterday I was cleaning up my propagation unit and was disturbed to find critters burrowing in the sand bed. I sifted them out, cleaned them up a bit and took a close up photo which I tweeted to the RHS entomologist for an ID and advice.
He replied and copied it to a Dipterist (Fly expert) at the Natural History Museum.


Now, I’m clutching at the last few hours I have left of being 64 and I find this stuff absolutely bloody amazing. When I was young I’d have gone to whatever books I had and leafed through them hoping to find a picture of the Aristea, and almost certainly there wouldn’t have been one. Then I’d have given up. I might have taken a picture, and when I’d finished the film and got it developed, may have shown it to someone else who might know. In the extremely unlikely event that I’d put a name to it, what then? Perhaps I’d have sent off stamped addressed envelopes to get catalogues from Thompson and Morgan or Chilterns. Maybe they’d have listed it, probably not.

I’m not sure I’d have been able to get anywhere at all with the fly larvae. The idea that within hours I could get information from the chief entomologist of the RHS and an expert from the Natural History Museum would have been plain ridiculous.

A few years ago I wanted information on pruning apples as spindle trees. I found what I wanted eventually, on a YouTube video from an American University. Top man, demonstrating a technique he’d helped develop.

This is the modern world. I am old enough to remember when none of this was possible and I am all too aware that there are a great many younger people around who have never known anything else and for whom it is all normal, even mundane. To me it is quite extraordinary and sometimes scary, in that it is alien and a struggle to get my head around. There are many parts of it which I just don’t do.

In September I’m going to start helping out at the school in the village, youngsters between four and eleven. A neighbour with kids there asked if I’d help with their garden club. Some of the four year olds will know their way around parts of this new world better than I do. Heaven knows what the older ones will make of the old fossil. I can’t wait, I’m going to learn so much.

Six on Saturday – 24/6/2017

One. Euphorbia lathyrus. This is an annual that seems to pop up in our garden somewhere most years. It has numerous common names, caper spurge being one of the best known but it is also known as mole plant because it supposedly deters moles. Well, I am going to try and collect seed from this plant and grow some more to go on my allotment where I am much troubled by the little buggers.


Two. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. What a performer this has turned out to be. It had a rest over winter but this is it now, even after having several stems snapped off in wind a couple of weeks ago. I just cut off (NOT pull) the stems that have finished flowering and it puts up more.

Alstroemeria Indian Summer

Three. I do like a bit of in yer face colour, so it’s always good when the dahlias start to flower. The National Collection of Dahlias is down the other end of the county near Penzance and to go and stand in their field, surrounded by thousands of dahlias in almost every imaginable colour is a total joy. Everyone is happy, strangers talk to each other, people who should be snooty about such vulgarity are making lists. This one is ‘Tally Ho’, which for younger readers is a cry associated with the long forgotten practice of fox hunting and alludes to the rider’s red jackets. Quaint.

Tally Ho

Four. Another big red bloom; this is an Epiphyllum cactus. Desert cacti, or cactuses if you prefer, thrive on neglect. I know, I’ve neglected many. Epiphyllums are epiphytic forest cacti and they take a bit more looking after, which sadly this one has not had. As soon as its flowers are finished, which will be a fleeting couple of days, I will take cuttings and dump the parent plant. The flower is enormous, seven and a half inches across for leavers, 19cm dia. for remainers.


Five. A gardener friend gave us a plant of clematis recta, which self sows in their garden. I planted it, the slugs demolished it, the friend gave us another, I planted it in the same place, they both came up this spring. One is purple leaved, the other green, at least early in the season. I don’t know about recta, horizontalis would have been a more fitting specific epithet. Pretty though.Clematis-recta

Six. We once had a pond, at the edge of which grew this clump of Iris ensata. Then we filled the pond in and they’re at one end of our bog garden, behind the Aruncus. Like the Epiphyllum above, theirs is a fleeting magnificence. They always leave you wanting more. A complete contrast to the Alstroemeria, which runs the risk of you getting fed up with it, of outstaying its welcome. Plants are a bit like people.


It was too hot for Bobby earlier in the week. Now that it’s cooler she’s keen for you to pop over to ThePropagator to check out any other Saturday half dozens that might have surfaced this week.