Six on Saturday – 27/5/2017


One) I know it’s only an optical illusion, but plants are set off better by moist dark soil than pale dry stuff. After last night’s deluge, which combined the most sustained lightning I have seen in my life with rain akin to the tropical downpours I’ve seen in Australia, moist and dark wasn’t a problem. My broad beans are a bit battered, but on the whole it’s looking good.


Two) The point at which the runner beans go in always seems a bit more significant than most other allotment activities. Everyone is always looking over their shoulder at how everyone else is going on; there’s cachet in being first unless it all goes wrong and it turns out you should have waited. You can sneak in some carrots or beetroot without it being noticed; not so the runners. A big row of canes appears and cannot be ignored. I’m very glad it was only rain last night, hail would have been catastrophic.


Three) For what it’s worth, this is Maianthemum flexuosum. The pink petals are all that remains of the camellia, actually two camellias, that were dug out to create the space. One was a sucker that came up from the roots of Camellia ‘Arajishi’ about two years after I dug it out to make space for the second one. That never had a name. It was one of a batch of seedlings, sown around 2005, which showed some real promise. I planted it here and it grew and flowered and was almost but not quite a really good plant. I tried to find a picture of the flower, but couldn’t. It was big, bright pink and semi-double. Not especially distinct from a couple of others I know, but pretty good. Trouble was its buds started opening in January but progressed so slowly that most years the edges of the petals were frosted before the blooms eventually opened in April. A handful of blooms would open later and escape, but most were a bit skanky. Yesterday I dug it up and shredded it.


Four) Fuchsia microphylla is the hardiest of the Fuchsias we grow. Most years it keeps most of its leaves through the winter and quite often it flowers right through too. By March it is looking pretty tatty so it gets cut to a couple of inches from the ground and starts over. This year it was still looking so good we never got to cutting it down. It is awash with flowers and the flowers are swarming with bees.


Five) I don’t know how it works for other people, but there are bits of our garden that are “mine”, there are bits that are “ours” and there are bits that are “hers”. The 12 x 8 ft greenhouse that houses the cacti is “hers”. She’s out today, so I sneaked in and took a couple of pictures.


Six) The polytunnel, on the other hand, is “mine”. It is mostly full of young camellia plants, but that’s another story; in summer shade is provided for the camellias by a row of tomatoes down the middle path. I’m pretty chuffed with these, all are ‘Sungold’, most have a couple of trusses of blooms on them, which I’m fairly certain is a long way ahead of any previous years efforts. Perhaps this will be the year when we get sick of fresh tomatoes, but I doubt it.

My thanks to ThePropagator for starting and hosting this meme. I must nip over and check out his post; see if anyone else has come aboard too.

Six on Saturday – 20/5/2017

One. I was going to start with a picture of dead cabbages, the rootfly having munched their way through two rows. But it was raining and going up the allotment in the rain to take a picture of dead cabbages didn’t do it for me.

Two. Papaver bracteata. Every year this monster astonishes me anew. One day I will try and propagate it so I can give a few away. It sets no seed, so it would be root cuttings when it’s dormant. But when it’s dormant I forget all about it. With the petals out flat this flower is more than 9inches wide.

Papaver bracteata-5

Papaver bracteata

Three. Maianthemum bifolium. I suppose my garden is about evenly split between shade and sun and I try to take full advantage of the range of conditions that gives me. Maianthemum bifolium is a very understated plant that wouldn’t appeal to everyone but which I like just as much as the big brash poppy.


Maianthemum bifolium


Four. Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Betburg’ is another woodlander, a variant of Solomon’s Seal which starts the season with strongly purple flushed leaves and stems, the leaves gradually turning green. I think I have seen it hold its leaf colour better than mine is, perhaps I have an inferior form. Polygonatums get sawflies, like my gooseberries, but whereas the gooseberries have been worse than they’ve ever been, the Polygonatums, which are usually shredded, are clear so far. Mind, I’ve squashed a couple of adults and rubbed off a couple of clutches of eggs.


Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Betberg’



Five. There’s a fair amount of sanctimonious crap talked about what is and what isn’t a weed. Welsh Poppy is a weed. It’s a pretty weed and I don’t mind having a few of them around the garden but it seeds prodigiously (Can someone please tell me why slugs never, ever browse the seedlings) and comes up in the middle of almost everything where it is hardest to winkle out. I try to dead head every single one but I suspect I have fifty years supply of seed in the ground already. I read somewhere recently that they’ve now decided it’s much more closely related to true poppies than to the altogether better mannered Meconopsis.


Meconopsis cambrica 

Six. A fern to finish. I grow lots of them. They’re all my favourites at one time or another. This is my favourite today. Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’.


Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’


Posted as part of The Propagator’s six on Saturday meme. He doesn’t strike me as a man who likes to take his frustrations out on deceased individuals of the species Equus ferus caballus, so please join in, the more the merrier.

Six on Saturday 13/5/2017

Six on Saturday, or SOS; appropriate because my allotment seems to be constantly under assault by pests. Gooseberry sawfly is far worse than I’ve had before, I squash hundreds, the next day they’re all back again. And I thought the slugs had been chewing my cabbages, turns out it’s rootfly. Nematodes will be ordered and applied asap.


Gooseberry sawfly caterpillars, masters of hiding in plain sight.

More positively, as far as allotmenteering goes, I shall consider starting peas in pots again. Peas are one of the very few things I seem to be able to sow in the ground and actually get to grow. It saves planting them out and it saves on space. The ones I did in pots though, have really hit the ground running, so for an early start, and perhaps then an early finish, allowing something else to follow on, doing them in pots could be the way.


Pea Onward, sown in 9cm pots.

Back in the garden but still on produce, my late flowering Suntan apple is in full bloom. It’d be worth having for its ornamental qualities but I want a crop as well. I have now got a couple of other late flowering trees planted nearby and with a few blooms on them, so I’m hoping for an improved fruit set this year. I spur prune this tree in August, cutting everything back to an inch or two. It’s doing well on it as far as flower goes, I just want a decent crop too. The Echium put itself there. Shame that won’t pollinate the apple. Does a fair job of attracting pollinators though.


Apple Suntan and Echium pinniniana.

My Victoria Plum is self fertile, and has set a huge crop this year. Learning from past mistakes, I shall thin them so I get a reasonable crop of good sized plums rather than thousands of tiddlers. Plum jam; can there be anything better?


Victoria Plum. Too many plums, what’s that about?

I’ve neglected the ornamentals. We used to have a pond, but every year the frogs indulged in a frantic orgy and filled it with spawn, which then all died leaving the whole mess stagnant and stinking. I got fed up of cleaning it out and filled it in with soil, leaving the liner in place but putting a crow bar down through to provide some drainage. It’s now full of moisture lovers like Astilbes and Primulas. The Lysichiton camtschatcensis that used to be a marginal is still there, does less well but OK. Not a bad year for Hostas so far; a bad year for slugs is a good one for Hostas, and much else besides.


Astilbes, Primulas and Hostas.


Six on Saturday is a newly hatched meme hosted by The Propagator. Hopefully others will be chipping in and links will be appearing on his blog.

Allotment update – 9/5/2017


Onion Brunswick


I decided to give onions from seed another go this year. I have grown the red onion ‘Brunswick’ and a Spanish variety called Liria, from real Seeds. Brunswick I pricked off singly into modules, the twenty to a half-tray size. Liria I did singly, in pairs and in threes. Yesterday I planted them all on my plot.


Onion Liria by threes, twos and ones.

I’d also made an early sowing of leeks which I’d pricked out into a 2 litre deep pot. They were about a foot tall so I planted them too. I was surprised to get 35 from the pot.


Musselburgh leeks

Elsewhere on the plot I’ve recently planted out lettuce, trying to grow pretty by edging a path with alternate green and red.


Lettuce sitting pretty, broad beans behind, pot grown peas Onward in front.

My early sowing of Meteor peas need support; I’m hoping that the later Twinkle, which was described as short and self supporting, will need little or none.
I had some Onward peas from last year and not confident that they would still grow, sowed them in pots. They’re all planted out now. Sugar Peas I have direct sown.

My direct sown parsnips seem to have started coming up and disappearing again. That has been my experience with almost all direct sown stuff. Whether ’tis slugs or leatherjackets or wireworms or some’at else I don’t know.
Some of the mulch material I spread in the autumn had a lot of shredded leaves in it. Possibly partly because it was a dry winter, they are largely still there. I think slugs are hiding beneath them and attacking cabbages I planted through them. I’m now working any compost I apply just before planting into the soil surface a bit to avoid that happening.


Spuds, outer rows Kestrel, inner rows Charlotte.

Spuds aren’t looking bad, just hope the blight stays away long enough to get a decent crop.

Gooseberry sawfly is rampant this year. They are the undisputed champions of hiding in plain sight. You squash every one; the following day there are hundreds more.

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 14/4/2017

I’ve put in several hours on my plot yesterday and today, strimming, weeding, sowing and planting. It still feels early in the season but I’m well on the way to a full house.

I’ve said before that I have trouble getting seedlings going on my plot and start most things off in pots or cells. Today I planted out some carrots done in deep pots – I think they had seedling trees in them in an earlier life – and sowed another batch as soon as I got home. I sowed parsnips next to the carrots and covered the lot with fine mesh to keep out carrot fly. I hope that works, they did a lot of damage to last years crops.


Carrot Early Nantes


Carrot fly protection for carrots and parsnips.

I grew Flower Sprouts for the first time last year. They did very well so I have them again. I am trying two different cabbages this year, Huzarro and Delight Ball. The Flower Sprouts replaced overwintered and fairly useless Chard. I’ll give the spinach alongside a few more weeks. All thes brassicas had been sown in seed compost and pricked off into Sylvagrow peat free. They’ve done well but the cabbages are a bit soft.


Brassicas in 5cm cells.

My first sowing of perpetual spinach was in cells in Jack’s Magic compost, a peat based product that I have now used up and won’t be using again. That’s less because it’s peat than because it hasn’t given me good results. The spinach was sown under cover on 1st March and is looking hungry. It has been planted where the leeks were and since I am


Hungry spinach, planted out with last years leeks.

still digging and eating them, I haven’t mulched the ground. The no-dig model of mulching bare ground in autumn works well but it’s not so easy to fit in an annual mulch when there is an overwinter crop being followed by direct sown seeds or small transplants. Perhaps I shall top dress with compost when the plants get bigger.

Today I sowed in pots beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, butternut squash, purple sprouting broccoli, purple curly kale, sweetcorn, parsley, peas, spinach, sorrel and giant goosefoot. I have no idea how I am going to fit it all in.