Six on Saturday – The early badger catches the worm!

19th September

This morning I was startled awake by the sound of breaking crockery, followed by a noise of scuffing through dried leaves. Were we under attack by thieves or stumbling drunkards??? I peered out of the window, but could see nothing, even though the leaf-rustling continued. I pretty quickly realised however, that we were being dug up by badgers AGAIN and this time they had knocked over a stack of empty terracotta pots at the edge of summer containers. This is the first time that I have heard them rooting round and causing damage. Throughout the summer we have repeatedly found our bedding and new plantings uprooted and holes in the lawn of a morning. As destructive as they’ve been, you really can’t blame the poor things, because it has been ridiculously dry. They are only looking for food, juicy morsels to eat in what little damp ground they find. Unfortunately that damp ground is concentrated in our newly created shade bed and re-worked fountain surrounds. It has been frustrating to have re-plant all the ferns, dogwoods, hellebores, foxgloves etc. every week or so. They are not exactly making progress, but mostly they are hanging on in there.


Sadly, the bedding has been gradually trashed and I am at the point of giving up there.

So, on to the ever-expanding Six on Saturday meme (definitely an R >1!), heroically hosted by The Propagator.

1 A Squash Haul

My first ‘six’ has been forced on me by the aforementioned destructive digging by visiting badgers. I’ve been watering the squash plants regularly to get the fruit to swell as much as I can, but excavations around their root area means that I have been forced to harvest them this week. Admittedly they are not going to keep us going all winter, but they have been fun to grow and there are a few more squash to come in the protected raised vegetable plot. The big orange ones and acorn squash are from saved seed from supermarket purchases last year, so I know they will be tasty.


2 Begonia ‘Bonfire’

These two plants were bought in a frantic search for summer container material a week after Lockdown No. 1 ended. Now I am not a big fan of bedding begonias, but I love these. Their shapes are fabulous and the leave pattern is so attractive, plus they’ve been flowering prolifically since they were purchased. Definitely on the list for next year!


3 Nicotiana mutabilis

Once these tobacco plants get going, there is no stopping them. They hold their ever changing pink flowers aloft on a delicate branches. They are about 5ft now, but should kept going for a while. fingers-crossed!


4 Salvia greggii ‘Royal Bumble’

I am always on the look out for pretty salvias and I’d not seen ‘Royal Bumble’ until this year. I love the way the flowers seem to glow, so I immediately took a few cuttings (early July) and these are those cuttings now in mid-September, already in flower and looking brilliantly red.


5 Sunflower ‘Magic Roundabout’

This year’s new sunflower experiment was ‘Magic Roundabout’: An averagely tall (1.8m/6ft), multi-headed, multi-coloured variety. I’ve enjoyed watching the flowers start off with a strong inner rusty ring that gradually fades with age to more pastel shades. Compared to the other sunflower types I am growing, it was slightly slow to flower, but it is busy multiplying flower heads now.


6 Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’

Such an elegant flower don’t you think? This year I grew on six plants from cuttings taken in September a year ago. They’ve been in our summer pots and now I need to decide how many to keep for permanent planting in the garden. They are so trouble-free, I can probably squeeze three in? Must remember to ring fence them though!


So, those are my Six. Do pop over to Jonathon’s blog to see what everyone else is highlighting this week.

Have a Good Weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – Waving Wands with Shooting Stars

On Saturday I fell in love with PERSICARIA amplexicaulis ‘Alba’. I found it planted in large drifts between red roses and it was catching the late sunlight in a rather dark, shady garden at The Manor, Haslingfield. It’s now top of my most-wanted list!

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A weekend of proverbs … or the early bird catches the worm


Over the past few weeks my son and I have spent our spare moments sellotaping, glueing and papier-mache-ing bits of cardboard together to prepare our entry for the Haslingfield Scarecrow Festival. This year’s suggested theme was ‘Proverbs (biblical or otherwise)’

The festival has been a regular (biennial) occurrence since the start of the millennium. At the beginning of the summer holidays, the village decided to go ahead with the event in spite of the current Covid situation. In truth, it requires zero physical interaction between people. Plus, I think that the notion of having an ongoing project throughout lockdown and beyond was something of a sanity boost for many of us. One or two of the side events were retained from the programme, but they were kept low key and were carefully orchestrated to keep everything safe.

Anyhow, we couldn’t have been more fortunate with the return of warm, sunny weather this weekend, could we?! With the except of this patch on the High Street obviously!

Dancing in the rain, with real water pouring from the (NHS support) rainbow. Amazing!

So, for the last three days the sunshine has allowed the entire village, and surrounds, to be in a steady state of lazy perambulation around the roads, lanes and alleys, discovering gems of creativity and humour from friends and neighbours. It has been great fun and I stand in awe of everyone’s efforts.

Well done Haslingfield!

Now some proverbs are more familiar than others and some are somewhat easier to create for street viewing. Whatever the reason, the most popular proverb was probably ‘The early bird catches the worm’ (hence the post title), but each rendition was unique and interesting. Just take a look at these three for example:

Then some scarecrows there were the products of some seriously talented people. How about this one?


And this one was my favourite from the festival I think. What style and conveyed movement!


I’ll show you our finished ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ offering. The bottom left dog is modelled on our own Sadie (for those who’ve seen her in other posts).


And I’ll finish the post with a small slideshow of some entries that particularly caught my eye as we wandered round the village … but I’ll let you figure out the proverbs:

Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour!

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Wordless Wednesday – Heaven (or tomato salad)

Delicious sweet tomatoes, including: Gigantimo, Indigo Rose, Sungold, Ildi, Red Pear and costoluto fiorentino

Delicious sweet tomatoes, including: Gigantimo, Indigo Rose, Sungold, Ildi, Red Pear and Costoluto Fiorentino

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Wordless Wednesday – Snippets from a timed entry to Hyde Hall


On-going Rudbeckia Trial (84 cultivars on display) – The People’s Choice Award 2020 is open for votes until the end of September


I rather liked Rudbeckia ‘SmileyZ Party’, a strong basic yellow, with deliberate chocolate painted markings at the base of each petal.


Giant sunflowers in the global vegetable garden almost dwarf the octagonal glasshouse in the middle! Substantial staking was in evidence, which was a good thing since Storm Ellen was upon us at the time!


Sadly, Box Caterpillar has reached Hyde Hall. Their current approach is to catch the male moths in pheromone traps and monitor numbers.


Spent echium spikes made the dry garden feel rather prehistoric and moody, especially with the weather.


Zingy dahlias have been used in this year’s edible tuber display. I loved this pairing.


Tree ferns are beginning to make quite an impact in the boggy (natural spring), sunken Robinson Garden.


A study in burgundy – probably my favourite of the four colour-themed bays in the herbaceous borders that run down the west side of the rose garden


The hilltop Dry Garden showcases over 400 drought-tolerant plants including many grasses, bulbs and silver leaved perennials. How long till all our gardens look like this?


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In a vase on Monday – Dolly mixture

This week’s bunch of flowers reminds me of a childhood sweet called ‘Dolly mixture’.


Dolly mixture is a British confection, consisting of a variety of multi-coloured fondant shapes, such as cubes and cylinders, with subtle flavourings.‘ – Wikipedia

Here’s a picture of some of the sweets:

Dolly Mixtures Sweets

Comparison image taken from the Amazon website

Maybe you don’t see it, but I think it is the round Erigeron annuus flowers


and the burnt sienna colouring of Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’


that trigger those memories.

Oh, and those pink salvias of course, especially the little fluted Salvia greggii ‘Pink’


I didn’t like Dolly mixtures much as I recall, but in the interests of fairness would count out bags of individual candies, sharing them between myself, my brother and my sister. I can’t imagine eating them now, but when I was looking for a birthday cake the other day, what should I see but a Victoria sandwich  … covered in buttercream and Dolly mixture sweets. I chose a much more grown-up rainbow cake instead!!!

So my vase for Cathy’s (@ramblinginthegarden) IAVOM meme today is a simple Dolly mixture of Pennisetum macrourum, Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’, Salvia greggii ‘Pink’, Salvia ‘Amistad’ and S. ‘Love and Wishes’ and S. ‘Wishes and Kisses’ and Erigeron annuus displayed in a dark brown glazed ceramic jug.


Nothing childish about that.

Don’t forget to take a look at Cathy’s post and the selection of beautiful vases to be found through the links in the comment section

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Wordless Wednesday – A lavender leg massage on a wet day!


Hitchin lavender farm is a stunning sight, even on a damp and dismal day in August


Brushing passed the aromatic stalks is a wonderful, sensual experience


The air is heavy with calming, restful scents


Covid-19 has meant that there is no stopping and picking the flowers this year, but that leaves you to concentrate on the whole, purple haze experience. A glorious exercise in mindfulness.


There are still people around, but limited and at vast distance


The main section of the field is full of later flowering (July/August) intermedia or lavendin types, which had only just started flowering last year when we visited. We timed our visit well as the farm has now started to crop the lavender.


Just to show, it’s not all purple either!

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Flashes of brilliance – The Jersey Tiger Moth

jersey tiger_nikon

A few weeks ago my son spotted and snapped a photo of a Jersey Tiger moth on the side of our house. It was the first time we’d ever heard or seen one.

Butterfly Conservation list the Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria) as nationally rare, but established along in the southern counties of England. It is not that common north of London, but it is increasing its foothold. Well, it has definitely reached Cambridgeshire! We’ve been seeing it (them?) intermittently over the last four weeks.


Jersey Tiger moth on a Myrtle bush

It’s a beautiful day (and night) flying moth from the Arctiid family, with a large wing span (52-65mm). Crucially for me, when it spreads its wings, it flashes such a bright orange. I keep thinking that it is a Painted Lady butterfly when I spot it, but it is even brighter. It is mesmerising and hard to miss …


until you turn your back on it to get a camera or phone. Then it’s gone in seconds.

So it has taken me a while to actually get a photo, particularly one showing those flashes of amber. Today I looked out of the kitchen window and saw it flitting about …


And then I watched it settle on our potted Abelia,


Jersey Tiger moth on Abelia grandiflora

where it lingered for some time, enjoying a drink …


and skipping from flower to flower.


Never quite opening those wings, but showing tantalising hints


Then it flew up and away and I managed this frustrating shot:


If only I’d been faster!

Now I’ve been reading up about its hairy offspring. It sounds like a good thing our garden has ‘wild’ patches, full of ground ivy, white dead-nettle, brambles and nettles as these are named food plants for the caterpillars.

So we are ready with food and drink. Jersey Tiger moths can establish a colony in our patch any time they want!


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Six on Saturday – Gutted and glutted


The mercury in our greenhouse thermometer is practically bursting out of its tube! It’s hot, it’s clammy and it’s Six on Saturday time again, so I am joining The Propagator with six gardening vignettes to share for his weekly meme.

1) Plums, greengages and damsons

What a bumper crop of stone fruit this year! Our back garden is studded with the relic trees of an old Chivers orchard, so we always have plenty of fruit at this time of year. The lawn is becoming sea of ripe and wasp-damaged damsons, greengages and plums. Sadly, that’s not all that has come down. We’ve lost a large branch from one of the damsons (and not the one we expected to go next). The trees were old when we moved in 20 years ago and we have maintained them as best we can, but it’s curtains for this tree, which also has a large split down its forked trunk. So long and thanks for all the fruit!


Of course I am making jam now!

2) Rudbeckia

This is an example of a Rudbeckia ‘Chim Chiminee’ that I grew from seed. I can’t decide if I like it or not. The plants themselves can’t quite make up their minds whether their petals are quilled, spooned or open, which kind of annoys me. Apart from that I love them!


Here’s another one. Looks a bit too tatty?


What do you think?

3) Eucomis

I like watching the progress of pineapple lilies erupting into flower each year, especially the purple ones. This is Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, growing in the greenhouse. The ones I have in pots outside are a touch behind, but are going to be much bigger by the looks of things. I think that they’ve taken advantage of the space in the container that I didn’t re-plant with bedding this year.


4) Cedric Morris Irises

If your email inbox is anything like mine, you probably get swamped by daily offers for plants, seed, kit etc. Mostly I ignore them, but I found a recent email from Plant Heritage with an offer of Cedric Morris Irises too hard to resist I am afraid. The choice was a bit limited by the time I got there. However, I am now the proud owner of:

Iris ‘Storrington’, ‘Benton Menace’, ‘Benton Dierdre’, ‘Strathmore’, ‘Benton Ankaret’ and ‘Benton Cordelia’


They will be going in the south-facing border down the driveway … once I have made space for them.

5) Salvia cuttings

About a month ago I took my first wave of salvia cuttings, mostly S. greggii cultivars. Last week, when I checked the pots, there were already roots coming through the bottom, so I’ve potted them on and they are looking good. Then a friend offered rooted cuttings of Salvia sagittata, which she had produced by placing the cuttings in a jar of water. I’ve never tried starting salvias in water before, but I am going to now! Here are the S. Sagittata, growing on in my greenhouse:


They seem to have survived the transfer to soil with no problem and have produced a fresh set of leaves. I can’t wait to see the lovely blue flowers.

6) Peacock Butterflies and buddleia

I finally got to count a peacock butterfly (Aglais io) in the ongoing (until tomorrow) annual Big Butterfly Count that I posted about a couple of weeks back. Of course I spotted it on a buddleia! How beautiful is that?


A peacock butterfly at last … and #ButterflyCount -ed

That’s my six for this week.

Have a good weekend and keep as cool as you can!

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Wildlife Wednesday – A slice of life at the Marjoram Cafe

I have Sweet Marjoram growing in several places in the garden and I am particularly fond of its golden form: Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’, which looks good for months on end. It glows cheerfully from the time it pushes out the years new shoots until mid-summer, when it bursts into puffs of pale pink flowers. It then becomes a veritable bee magnet. In fact our marjoram mounds have been smothered in both honey bees and Gatekeeper butterflies for the last few weeks.

Today, while I was picking beans, I noticed how many other kinds of pollinators it attracts. I missed getting photos of a wasp and a mint moth (marjoram is part of the mint family), but here are some (admittedly anthropomorphised) characters I spotted in the time it took to pick the beans:


The regulars … Honey bees


The dandies and flashy types …


The hirsute giants …


Their small, but perfectly formed cousins …


The tired and worn-down characters, supping their drinks so slowly …


The hidden predators …


The thugs …


And back to the darlings of the neighbourhood

Joining Tina@mygardenersays for Wildlife Wednesday

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