Silent Sunday – The Face of the Black Widow?


The rather startling face of a honey bee emerging from the depths of a Black Widow Iris (Iris tuberosa, syn. Hermodactylus tuberosus)

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Six on Saturday – Seasonal Acceleration


It’s time for Six on Saturday (SOS), a weekly gardening meme that is skillfully curated by Jim at Garden Ruminations. SOS allows us plant players to share garden highlights/projects/acquisitions etc. with like minded folks. Use the link above to jump to this week’s offerings.

It’s been an very wet week here in Cambridge, with many of the local rivers bursting their banks and spilling across fields and roads. However, for the most part, it has been a lot warmer than last week and many plants are responding to that. There are species tulips on the point of opening. Their buds have appeared and swollen just in this last week. It might be spring! Our crab apple tree looks greener every time I look out of the window and the acer, next to the greenhouse, looks redder with each visit. Leaf burst is well under way, another sign of spring! Herbaceous perennials, like rudbeckia, persicaria, echinacea, are all risking showing some new growth above soil level. Oh yes, everything is hurtling towards the new season. I am sowing seeds, pricking out seedlings and splitting perennials as fast as I can. Of course, I’ve now run out of compost. Hello garden centre!

Anyhow, here are my Six:

1) Totally Tangerine

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ is in flower. Hang on a minute, it’s not officially spring until Monday and a geum is in flower! What is going on? I don’t know why, of all the signs of spring, a geum in flower should shock me so much, but this is what has surprised me most this week:


Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ on 16th March

It looks a bit waterlogged (not surprisingly) and a bit lonely (there are only half a dozen flowers), but still I love it.

2) Meadow patch update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of our wild meadow patch and hillock (a grassed-over garden project spoil tip) in the northerly corner of the plot. It’s nice to see it while the grass is still short enough to enjoy the naturalising spring bulbs. Most of the crocuses are over now, but wild daffodils are just beginning to make an impression.


I didn’t add to their numbers this year, which I usually do, but I did plant more camassias and some gladiola byzantina bulbs. These are showing leaves, but not much else yet.

3) Primroses and cowslips

One thing that naturalises and spreads quickly in the garden are primroses. I moved a few plants from the front garden when we started this wild area a few years back and now there are signs of tight little green tongues scattered all over the patch. Those long established clumps of primroses are already domed up with flowers, but the smaller, newly self-seeded plants are grow daily and will hopefully look really pretty in about a month’s time. I am anticipating the grass apparently covered in masses of puffy lemon clouds. Yesterday I spotted my first flowering cowslip:


The first Cowslips are appearing in the meadow patch

4) Violets

Primrose season is also violet season and I associated both these flowers with Mother’s day … which is tomorrow of course. This year I took my Mum a bunch of cheerful, bright chrysanthemums, but if I had had enough, I would have taken her violets. However, I am not good at growing violets as I have a tendency to pull up their post-flowering, raggedy forms when I weed. Happily, in untended areas, such as at the base of our front hedge, they manage to survive and make me glad that they escaped my careless trowel. I must try moving some to the meadow, in the shade of the summer house.


Violets. There’s something wonderful about spotting clumps of this pretty flower.

5) Earthstars

At the start of the Covid pandemic, when everyone was isolating and doing home-based projects, we removed the two large leylandii on our boundary, that had obviously been planted by previous owners to screen the neighbour’s house. In the process of this tree clearance, we uncovered various bits and pieces, including a small patch of old collared earthstars (an unusual type of fungus). You can read about our find here. In spite of removing most of the leaf litter and debris (that they like so much) as part of the redevelopment, I optimistically tried to puff/spread their spores around the cleared area. Well, interestingly, when I was tidying various plants up in the same area last week, I uncovered two more examples of spent earthstars.


Remnant of what I think was a collared earthstar.

Given the complete replacement of soil and plants in the area, these must be ‘new’ and I am counting my dispersal under the new shrubs/trees a success. Yay!

6) Impalas!

One of the annual plants that I am growing/sowing again for the summer is Ricinus communis ‘Impala’. ‘Impala’ has lovely dark, almost black leaves and flowers with a touch of yellow that makes them stand out so much more. Anyhow, I managed to soak the seeds without directly handling them, but to plant them up, as a precautionary measure, I donned gloves. They like some heat for germination. Previously I’ve used the airing cupboard, but this time they are sitting in the greenhouse on a heated bottom plate. The change is partly because I get a bit of grief about taking over windowsills and airing cupboards to farm fungus gnats at this time of year 🤣.

The seeds are exceptionally beautiful though. Here they are, after soaking:


Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ seeds

How do you manage the annual problem of getting heat and space for seedlings?

Well, that’s it for another Six. Thanks for reading! I hope that you are better organised than me and have enough compost for all your seed sowing requirements! I will be visiting a garden centre tomorrow, obviously.

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Wordless Wednesday: Violas – Evil faces or dancing ladies?


My dad has never liked pansies/violas. He says that they have evil faces and he won’t have them in the garden. As much as I’ve tried, I don’t get that at all. Instead, I see dancing Bolivian ladies in traditional costume, with skirts twirled out and scarves thrown wide.

But … as I was posting this and looking again at the central flower in focus here, I could indeed imagine a face … but I would swear it was someone in full makeup from CATS the musical! Can you see it, with those whiskers? Maybe it’s just me! 🤣

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Six on Saturday – Transitioning to colour


You’ve seen those films, I’m sure, where everything starts in monochrome, but, after a significant event, the world is suddenly shown in technicolour. Well, that’s how the February garden always makes me feel. Snowdrops begin the month’s floral awakening in white, wonderful pristine drops of white. Sheets of white if you are lucky! Then, all of a sudden, roughly half way through the month, there are yellow flowers emerging, then blue flowers, then purples and pinks etc. Until, by the end, it is full on spring … and there are tulips to come and new life erupting all over the place! It’s such cheerful realisation that colour is back!!

Anyhow, it’s the last week in February and I finally have some things to share for Six-on-Saturday (hats off to all who managed throughout the winter!). I am joining SOS leader, Jim, and his cohorts for the weekly gardening show-and-tell. Check out the link for today’s pick of the crop.

Here are mine:

1) Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

sos iris_pauline

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

That bit of sunshine, illuminating the petals from behind, transforms the colour of this pretty dwarf iris: Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’. I’ve got several other cultivars coming on in the potting shed, but ‘Pauline’ has beaten them all out of the stalls.

2) Fritillaria raddeana

sos frit_rad

Fritillaria radeana

This one is a re-emerging bulb from a previous year. I am suitable grateful to see it, as I’ve lost loads of potted bulbs in the greenhouse (frozen solid for days in that -12°C period before Christmas). I would say that there is no nasty smell to this one (cf. Crown Imperials), but as I am still recovering my sense of smell since a recent bout of Covid, I could be completely wrong about that. 🤣

3) Crocuses

sos croc

Mixed crocuses, with happy bee, in the meadow patch in the back garden

I would almost claim that crocuses are my favourite early spring flower. They are so easy and delightful. They pop up overnight, open their petals generously wide in any sunshine to be had and tempt early pollinators to get collecting from a substantial stigma/anther combo. Admittedly, the goblets collapse quickly, but the next day there are fresh flowers to enjoy.

4) Lamb’s Lettuce


Self-seeded mâche (or lamb’s lettuce or Corn salad)

I tried to get through winter with a few hardy crops this year. I planted a few rows of various kales, mustards and hardy lettuce. Sadly, I lost them all. Even under netting and cloches! It’s been a tough winter for plants! What has come through once again, with flying colours, is lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta, also known as mâche or corn salad). It’s growing especially well between the protection, so while I may not be able to get tomatoes or cucumber any longer for my lunchtime salad, I do have mâche 🤣.

5 Hellebores

sos hell_hdcs

Hellebore ‘Harvington Double Cream Speckled’

There are so many pretty hellebores out there, but I am very fond of this one: H. ‘Harvington Double Cream Speckled’. It is super generous with it’s flowers and the flowers themselves are a lovely combination of organised ruffles, with well-defined freckles, plus a hint of blush.

6) A huge snowdrop

sos snow_unk

Is this Galanthus woronowii???

I know that many SIXers are keen galanthophiles, so I am hoping that someone can suggest what I am growing here in front of my new potting shed. The label is long gone, but the snowdrop is massive and the leaves are broad, thick and glaucous. I know at one point that I had Galanthus woronowii growing in a pot that was then planted out somewhere. Does this look right for that?

I notice that I managed to end my Six with a white flower 🤦. Actually, I think that this snowdrop has lasted the entire month, so maybe it is completely appropriate.

Hope that you are enjoying your gardens in better weather than the hailstone downpours that we are having today. Have a great weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – Lured by Liquid Gold?


Our pond seems to have once again become a daily watering hole for a couple of mallard ducks. I accidentally scared them off a few days ago, but yesterday, when they visited, I managed to sneak behind the nearest tree to take some photos. It was a rather beautiful scene, with golden reflections from the back hedge rippled across the surface.


Best not to think about the devastation they were wreaking on the aerating pond weed and potted marginal plants!


We’ll stick to focussing on serene swimming and cute tail curls.

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Wordless Wednesday – Hook-nosed Sea Pigs!


Atlantic Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), also known as Horsehead grey seals or hook-nosed grey pigs, have established a sizeable colony on the Norfolk coast at Horsey Gap.



We visited last weekend and were excited to see so many seals basking on the gently sloping beach in winter sunshine.



According to a blackboard sign next to the car park (dated 5th Jan 23) the adult population was counted at 1169 animals, with 3796 pups born this year. The breeding season at Horsey typically runs from October to early February.



Mostly the colony was at rest,



but there was some occasional frivolous play in the waves



and a bit of jocking for space on the sand,



plus some of evidence of past struggles and wounds.



Mostly though, there was just the odd head raise to check out their neighbours (and the photographers lined up behind the nearest groyne and along the cliff top).



They are so very cute … and I am excessively happy that we were able to find them and watch them (in contrast to our seal-free walk to Blakeney Point a year ago 😉 )!

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Wordless Wednesday – Big Garden Birdwatch 2023 will take place between 27th-29th January


Will this elegant visitor return for the 44th RSPB Birdwatch this weekend? Probably not, I am guessing 🤷‍♀️, but I think that he was shouting about it from the top of our garage on Monday!!!#

Read about this year’s event here … and join in if you can!

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In a Vase on Monday – Chaotic energy!

It is still freezing outside. We’ve had a week of temperatures peeking just above zero by early afternoon. Brrrr! On the plus side, there has also been day after day of brilliant blue skies! It was, however, supposed to be warmer by last weekend. Sadly the east and south of England are stuck in the grip of a high pressure system and icy weather. Our potting shed recorded a temperature of  -7°C last night. (I’ve had to chuck loads of pots of dead cuttings away. Salvias and penstemons are going to be a scarce resource for vases this coming summer.) Right now even our snowdrops are bent double, touching the ground.

What could I use in a vase for today then? I went looking for twigs. Then, as I wandered around looking for material, I remembered that I am soon going to have to remove the contorted hazel from the front garden, in a re-arrangement of things for parking space.

So, it will come as no surprise that the twigs in today’s vase are hazel … of the mad, twisty, bendy kind.


Contorted hazel

They are, obviously, very tangled and proved terribly difficult to arrange 🤣. OK, I didn’t try, because even before that, the first hurdle was to get the twigs to stay in the vase! Each branch pushed in, tightened (or unwound) the rest, in ways I couldn’t predict. I resorted to using a heavy-based cut glass vase, with a flared neck to make the material easier to contain.

Then, it seemed appropriate to display the vase out in the frozen garden, in the sunshine. In fact, I decided that the frozen ice on the pond would make an interesting backdrop.


The pond is not completely frozen though, so I placed the vase as close to the edge of the ice as I could manage … Close to all the kinetic energy generated by water falling from a bamboo spout … to emphasize the chaotic nature of the contorted hazel. This proved slightly tricky, because the ice is full of bubbles and of very variable depth/strength at that point. Indeed, I managed to break off several chunks at the edge, until I got things balanced right.

So here is today’s, precariously balanced, contorted hazel vase, representing chaotic energy (as per title):


That was fun!

The vase is now back indoors, where I am hoping the catkins will continue to loosen up and cascade down.

I am joining Cathy@Ramblinginthegarden for her weekly In-a-vase-on-Monday challenge. Click on the link to see the outré material she has used in her vase today … I had no idea that you could do that to dahlias!!

Take care and keep warm!

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Wordless Wednesday – Burning torches held aloft!

Anglesey Abbey Winter Garden in 2023

The Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey is in a state of flux. It is 25 years old and planting in certain areas is being revisited. The ensuing thinning, pruning, culling and replanting is creating some new drama and fresh juxtapositions along the meandering route. Here’s a view I particularly liked today, with pollarded willow and tilia showing some fantastic colour. (The white on the leaves is frost btw. It was cold!)

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Stepping out in 2022

Last year I promised myself that every day I would get up, get out and walk. And mostly I did achieve that, albeit not always the target of 10,000 steps, or more, each time. What follows below is just a brief record of this. The photos are randomly selected (except to avoiding repetition of location) monthly snapshots of places that I saw on my travels. Surprisingly, in spite of the apparent diversity of terrain and tree cover, most of these rambles took place within 15 miles of my doorstep. I’ve always had in my head that the Cambridgeshire countryside is boring. Perhaps I was wrong after all? We might not have mountains or the coast, but it seems we have great skies!


January – Fowlmere


February – Barrington


March – Royston Heath


April – Waresley and Gransden Woods


May – Therfield


June – Arrington


July – Orwell


August – Harlton Woods (notice the unseasonal leaf drop brought on by the drought)


September – Grantchester


October – Haslingfield


November – Strood, Kent (a parental visit)


December – Cambridge

I’ve made the same commitment for 2023, but given that I am trying minimise driving for environmental reasons, I suspect that I am going to be doing a lot of map reading to search out new places.

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