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.


Two pictures.

I came across a picture of the garden from June 2005 and, struck by the number of plants that we no longer have, tried to take exactly the same picture as it looks now.


I worry sometimes that the garden has become too static, that I am too slow to make alterations. Not so, it is clear. Nothing remains the same, with growth and plant replacements sharing the honours for being the greatest driver of change.

The big things are the most obvious casualties. Let me list the plants over 3 feet tall that are no longer there.

Eucalyptus pauciflora niphophila
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Siver Queen’
Viburnum tinus ‘Variegata’
Pinus sylvestris ‘Chantrey Blue’
Corylus avellana
Acer grosseri hersii
Berberis ‘Orange King’
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’
Pinus mugo pumilio
Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’
Fargesia murielae ‘Simba’
Diselma archeri
Vallea stipularis
Rhododendron ‘Ginny Gee’
Picea abies ‘Little Gem’

And what about the similar sized plants that are there now but were not in the earlier shot.

Magnolia Ann
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Schefflera taiwaniana
Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Torch’
Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’
Camellia ‘Spring Festival’
Hydrangea macrophylla You & Me Together
Camellia japonica ‘Eximea’
Cistus ‘Sunset’
Leptospermum rupestre
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’
Zingiber mioga ‘Crûg Zing’

Then finally the things that are in both but which are now twice the size.

Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Little Spire’
Astelia chathamica
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Rhododendron ‘Merganser’
Chionochloa rubra
Fuchsia magellanica gracilis

Of the things that have gone perhaps seven were in poor health, diseased or damaged. The rest were judged to be too big or too dull or both.

It is interesting to try and envisage the garden as it would be now if nothing had been removed. All those evergreen trees and shrubs would be roughly twice the size and there would be a great deal less room, not to mention light, for anything else. As it is, the overall effect is not so very different, albeit with a different palette of plants. The balance of light and shade is about the same, which, though not a very conscious aim, seems right.

Only for the Eucalyptus did I enlist outside help. By the time it was felled it had grown much bigger and was beyond my competence. A very large limb broke off from low down, leaving it unbalanced and unsafe. Tree surgeons dealt with it.

As I get older, it will get harder to remove trees and large shrubs myself, a problem that all older people face. Tree surgeons are expensive, especially when taking down large trees in confined spaces, as is all too often required. It’s not hard to see why so many old people’s gardens are beyond them. Just a couple of hours on hands and knees weeding becomes a trial to be endured.

Just a couple of pictures, snaps from an upstairs window. Look a little closer and you see time, the all too easily overlooked forth dimension of gardening. You see changes in fashion, changes in personal taste. You see decisions taken and decisions ducked. You see the fruits of countless hours of pleasure, some pain too. I say “you see” and mean “I see”. You probably see something completely different.

I’m glad I didn’t delete it.


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.

End of month view – October 2017


This time last year the Acer on the left was still covered with leaves. Two years ago it was bare. It also had a backdrop of a magnolia which is now gone. Not much else is different. The real bareness of winter hasn’t hit yet and there are still bits and pieces of flower to be found. As the deciduous stuff slowly recedes, so the evergreens become more prominent.
This view was taken with the camera held aloft on a monopod. I do like a different perspective. It’s as near as I can get to seeing it anew, as a first time visitor might. I find
myself pleased and displeased for the same reason. I want a garden full of different things so there is always something going on but I do worry that it’s all a bit too disorganised and busy. I’m going to stick with the first part and be pleased as I know I will never change the way I do things. This seems like the right time of year to be thinking about making changes. So I’ve thought about it and decided against.

I have three autumn flowering camellias in full sun in the front garden. ‘Paradise Little Liane’ has flowered freely this year for the first time. If it seems crazy to have a white flowered camellia against the white front of the house, bear in mind that we mostly see it from inside, looking out. ‘Navajo’, seen from indoors and backlit, is a treat.

Dahlia ‘Cheyenne’ chose not to flower until mid October, too much shade I imagine. Miscanthus ‘Ferne Osten’ is a flopper with us and will soon get cut down. ‘Septemberot’ stands up much better and sometimes colours well in autumn, not this year though. The nerines are all but over for this year. Even so, they still pack a small pink punch. Other than that, it’s all Fuchsias and Salvias.

For more end of month shenanigans head over to Glebe House Garden and follow the various links.

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.

Six on Saturday – 14/10/2017

Saturday again! Saturdays seem to come round quicker than the other six days. I’m finding things to put into my six but struggling to find anything diverting to say about them. Well, some of them.
Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by ThePropagator, who will have six of his own plus links to several, if not more, other sixes from around the world.
Here are my six garden snapshots for this week.

Honey Fungus. Armillaria mellea or gallica, probably. All too much could be said about this. We had a Eucalyptus felled a couple of years back after a large chunk split off it. Now it has a ring of toadstools all round it. The RHS are doing a honey fungus hunt at the moment, I think I’d better report my outbreak. It’s something we’ve had the odd outbreak of over the years, especially after removing a leylandii hedge and an Acer. It doesn’t seem to be too aggressively pathogenic, thankfully, and there isn’t much we could do about it if it were.

Parthenocissus henryana. I wanted to include this because it is producing some autumn colour and with gales forecast for Monday, it wont be around for long. It’s on the fence between us and our neighbour and has been there so long I can’t remember if it’s planted his side or ours. It’s much more manageable than the other Parthenocissus species people grow and has a very nice leaf even when it’s not doing its autumn thing.

Fuchsia ‘Olga Storey’. The Fuchsias seem to be having a final fling for the season. This one stands out because it has really bright yellow leaves with red veins and it seems to be immune to rust, gets very little leaf spotting and is untouched by capsid. For a hardy, the flowers are large and showy too, though it’s not the most generous flowerer.

Sue’s glasshouse. This glasshouse is off limits to me except for the annual ritual of moving the big pots of succulents, mostly Echeverias, out to the front of the house in spring, then putting them back in here for the winter sometime in October. There is never any room because all the space made in the spring gets filled up with more plants during the summer.
I see pictures on blogs of empty glasshouses, washed down and waiting for plants to be moved in for the winter. I can dream.

Camellia x williamsii ‘Debbie’. ‘Debbie’ is a popular camellia which grows rather vigorously. Ours had poked it’s head above the neighbour’s fence and got blown over as it was top heavy. I tried to support it for a couple of years, not very successfully, so I cut it back hard in the hope that the roots would catch up with the top growth. This year the regrowth was 2-3 feet in length. Camellias typically produce an early flush of shoots that are 3-6 inches long and on which the flower buds form. If they are young and vigorous they will then make a second flush, from about July onwards, which can be 2 feet or more long and on which there are no flowers. By October the flower buds are easy to see and if it is not required, the extension growth can be shortened or removed altogether, keeping the bush much more compact and allowing the flowers to be seen better.


Growth buds on left, flower bud on right.



Before and after pruning.

Blechnum tabulare. A friend of mine tipped me off that one of our local garden centres had plants of this magnificent fern a few years back. I got the last one, in a 3 litre pot. It’s now in a 10 litre pot and needs potting on again or planting out. Online opinion seems divided about how well it does outside, it being borderline hardy, but I think I’ll move it in for this winter and plant it in the ground in spring.

See you next week.