Wordless Wednesday – A lovely old-fashioned Chrysanthemum!

Chrysanthemum 'Emperor of China@

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ is an old hybrid with beautifully quilled petals. These are dark crimson in bud and, on opening, at the centre, but fade to a frosted pink as layers gradually unfurl. Colder autumn temperatures cause the foliage to turn an attractive deep maroon, developing them into the perfect foil for the flowers. At this time of year though, the main question is whether you get to see all this beauty before frost ends the show! Photo taken 21/10/2021

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Six on Saturday – Mouse in the Greenhouse!

I’ve spent the day on my knees, clearing out the greenhouse. Mostly stuff (densely packed pots, fleeces, watering gadgets, feeds, labels and inventive covers accumulated over a number of years) that resides under the long bench. I’ve been finally forced to confront this cluttered, dumping-ground by the mouse of the post’s title. At least I hope it’s only one! It must go. I am tired of the heartbreak of seeing destroyed bulbs, cuttings, seedbeds and seedlings. I thought that the problem had gone away over the summer with the sliding doors being left open all the time and no obvious damage occurring. Maybe the mouse did indeed take a summer break, but with the colder nights it is definitely resident/back now.

The method of eviction is still to be decided. I had hoped it would just run out the door with all the disruption I was causing. No such luck. I know this, because I saw it jump out of the last cardboard box I was sorting, watched it shimmy passed a bunch of nearly unreadable min/max thermometers and disappear back under the bench somewhere. Yes, I know that I brought this on myself. I agree that I should be a tidier, better organised gardener. There’s theory and then there’s practice though!

Anyhow, I thought that I might as well do a mouse-orientated Six this week …

1) We start with the clues …

Pots of cuttings (salvia) and new seedlings (kale, fennel and pansies) have been turning up strangely empty or apparently clipped to soil level. While it’s been horrendously wet recently and there are definitely slugs and snails in the greenhouse, yesterday I found a pot of moss curled parsley half eaten and I began to suspect mice again:

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2) A Sighting

I was working outside, near to the greenhouse when I registered the sound of tapping or scratching on glass. I thought it was coming from behind a stacked pile of module trays next to the water butt, but as I continued to investigate it became clear it was happening inside the greenhouse, at the corner. I spotted movement and when I went to the doorway I could just make out a tiny head and protruding ears behind the tomato collar. Amused, I went to get my camera and after a few attempts at spotting it again, it returned to the corner and I took the shot (camera remember):

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3) Clearance and a nest

So, I started to try to determine where its retreat was and in the process ended up sorting hundreds of pots and covers. It was when I moved some bundled frost protection fleece that I discovered a pile of nibbled damson stones and shredded bedding (capillary matting I believe) inside a stack of biodegradable paper pulp pots (insulated – very clever!):

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4) Snug within layers and leaves

I started to tip the nest into the bin, but then was fascinated by the tightly packed lining of birch leaves in the middle of the nest. All the soft stuff (fleece and matting) was used for the outer layers.

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5) A gruesome remind of mortality and multiple generations

As I continued to tidy and sort through the accumulated gardening paraphernalia (home-made seed tray tampers, paper-pot making tools and a collection of bagged walnuts from a number of different species/cultivars – half of which had been eaten), I uncovered several other places where nests of soft padding and assorted debris had been constructed. Oh dear, that’s a worry! And at the bottom of a watering tray I found a tiny skull. Definitely not the first generation then …

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I finished clearing under the bench and was just working down the pile of gloves and boxes to the side, when the mouse jumped out and escaped beneath the bottom shelf.

So, now I have to go a buy a humane trap or two. Wish me luck!

6) A happier note to finish

There’s a nice startling pink display of nerines in the greenhouse currently, but this is a photo of some outside in the border, against a much nicer background:

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A mousey six today. Back to normal next time.

To see more pretty flowers and interesting gardening stuff head to Jonathon’s blog where he hosts the ever-growing Six on Saturday meme.

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Calico aster ‘Lady in Black’

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There’s really nothing plain about the calico aster, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’!

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Each year Symphyotrichum ‘Lady in Black’ throws up a thicket of dark-leaved, long stems (~1.3m). These branch, branch and branch again into sprays which, come October, are loaded with twinkling little daisy flowers.

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As the flowers develop the dark pink centres grow and begin to dominate the white petals, so that the whole plant takes on a dusky pink appearance.

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Six on Saturday – Autumnal Beauties

Oh good, it’s time for Six on Saturday again! This week, in addition to sharing 6 gardening goodies, our host has apparently gone on a very long run (100 miles). Hopefully, his trainers can take the pounding. Meanwhile, if I manage my 10,000 daily steps round and about the plot, I’ll be happy!

16th October 2021

1) Dahlia ‘Akita’

It may have been a long wait for the flowers, but I now every time I go outside, I detour to look at the beautiful blooms of Dahlia ‘Akita’. Today it’s drizzling and the daylight is leaden, so in this photo Akita’s colours look a bit muted. However, in the flesh and, especially in sunshine, it’s a wonder to behold. What I really love about the flowers are the slightly snowy tips to the petals. Somehow these make them stand out more and look more elegant.

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2) Monkshood

I am a sucker for blue flowers at any time of year, but autumn abounds with some of my favourites: salvia uliginosa, clary sage, salvia patens and most dramatically, aconite. Aconitum napellus has a number of common names, including Monkshood and Wolfsbane. It is known to be extremely toxic and should be handled with gloves, as gardening contact can prove deadly. Monkshood has a long history of use in hunting … and murders! Nevertheless, it has a place in our garden (well away from the border edge), as it is so very statuesque and lovely.

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3) A Beguiling Begonia

I am not usually a begonia fan, (with a few exceptions like: ‘Glowing Embers’, ‘Bonfire‘ and the Million Kisses series), but I’ve recently begun appreciate the wonderful foliage they can provide in the garden, particularly for the late summer/autumn season. This year I am growing Begonia luxurians for the first time, which I bought as plug plants from Dobies. They had a bit of a sad start when they were attacked by aphids almost as soon as they arrived, but they have come back well and looking very lovely amongst the ferns and sedum, in a shady patch of the garden. They will need to be brought inside soon as they are tender. Hopefully, they will be bigger and have more presence next year and may even get round to flowering!

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4) Bird’s Nest Fungus

I was weeding in a wood chipping path last week when I noticed this curious structure:

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I seemed to remember seeing something similar on Fred’s blog at some point (sorry no link – I couldn’t find it in a search), but it gave me the clue that this might be a fungus. A search paid off and I was able to identify it as a Bird’s Nest fungus, from the Nidulariaceae family (nidulus means small nest). My example looks like an old growth, so the picture isn’t the best, but you can still just about see that the small ‘nests’ contain tiny peridioles that resemble eggs.

5) Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’

Self-seeded Frosted Explosion grass flower heads have made a serendipitous pretty combination in the garden with some dark sedum (possibly Purple Emperor) and Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’. The chrysanthemum is a new addition and was a small plant, but I am very pleased with its prolific, cheerful flowering.

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6) Nematodes versus Vine Weevils

I’ve been noticing irregular notching on some of the leaves of plants in the greenhouse recently and recognise this to be a sign of vine weevil. So I decided to order nematodes to treat the problem.

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The ‘live’ package arrived last week and I dutifully made up the solution and watered the suspect pots and plants as per instructions.

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The nematodes are now hopefully doing their stuff.

How will I know whether the treatment was successful though, short of digging/knocking plants out? Time will tell, but I guess it won’t be a one off treatment, as the adults weevils are presumably still around. With any luck, that is one generation disrupted anyway!

Hope you enjoyed my six. Have a good weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – A glowing mantle

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Now is the moment for Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, to shine! Its leaves are turning a wonderful, blazing red on various walls and buildings around the village.

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This one adorns a garden workshop and extends along their fence. The mass of it glows, even in the shade ….

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Especially against a nice black timber background!

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In our garden we planted one at the base of our eastern boundary and encouraged it to scramble through the mixed hedgerow. In the early morning sunlight it turns translucent and shines like stained glass.

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Danger: Flying Fur Balls!

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Walking down the long borders at Wimpole Hall can be a dangerous activity. There are a lot of flying hazards, particularly during Aster season!

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There’s an abundance of flowers, copious supplies of nectar and large numbers of bees.

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The bumblebees are massive (queen buff-tailed bumblebee here I think) and clumsy in flight.

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I’ve had several fly into my face in the last few weeks as they navigate down the narrow corridor of flowers.

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I think the espaliers to either side of the borders act like a wave-guide, corralling their flight.

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Those fur balls can pack a hefty punch (and occasional sting)!

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It’s a minor occupational hazard, but it’s wonderful to see so many of them and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Sometimes they fall asleep in the flowers and can be a bit drowsy.

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Carder bees are particularly common visitors.

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And for a brief period each year, when the ivy starts to flower (typically during September), there are also thousands of Ivy bees about. It’s worth looking out for these as they are fast fliers and delightful.

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In a vase on Monday – Bring me sunshine

I don’t feel too bad about cutting flowers from the garden at this time of year, since there is a rapidly approaching natural end in sight for many of them. For instance, the winds last week already culled a few of the tallest flowers, including some sunflowers, cosmos and tithonia, so that is where today’s vase begins.

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The sunflowers include side shoots from ‘Earth Walker’ and ‘Magic Roundabout’. The cosmos is ‘Purity’ (what a useful flower that is!). The tithonia is ‘Torch’.

Writhing cosmos managed to damage some miscanthus flower heads on the way down, so they are in the vase too.

Leaving aside the damaged blooms, I picked a rather lovely tagetes, called ‘Fireball’, for the front of the display, along side calendula ‘Neon’. Both were growing as companion plants in the vegetable patch. There’s also a glowing orange from some cosmos ‘Bright Lights’ (definitely now winding down in the patio pots). And finally, I’ve added a couple of chrysanthemums in the form of neat ‘Little Dorrit’

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Chrysathemum ‘Little Dorrit’ is in the centre of the shot

and charming ‘Littleton Red’:

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Chrysanthemum ‘Littleton Red’

Quite the collection of heat and sunshine-related names aren’t they? unsurprisingly, this vase is eye-catchingly bright … even on a dull day! Although as things transpired, the sun came out, when I took the vase outside to take photos.

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Ah yes, I just remembered that there is a spike of leonotis nepetifolia in the centre of the bunch to add a spot of drama and give the vase a bit of height.

Thanks to Cathy@ramblinginthegarden who encourages folk to start the week by putting flowers ‘In a vase on Monday’. It’s a lovely way to bring seasonal highlights indoors to enjoy them at close quarters. It’s well worth a visit to her blog to browse the array of vases linked to her post!

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Wordless Wednesday – Farewell Cosmos ‘Dazzler’: You have bewitched us, body and soul

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Sadly, our cosmos have been wrecked by winds and heavy rain over the last couple of days

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They grew excessively tall this year (between 1.5 and 2m).

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They flowered late, again (end of August)

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But they were glorious!

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Luminous, intense and beautiful

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And they were most certainly dazzlng!

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Six on Saturday – Close Encounters of the Tussock kind

What a dull as dishwater day, weather-wise at any rate. In other ways it has been interesting day watching local gridlock develop and tempers flare as a result of cars forming ‘orderly’ queues for petrol. It was certainly a bad day to have arranged for an MOT test at the garage!

Back in the garden I decided it was time to harvest and clear some of the mildew stricken squash plants, so the patty pans and tromboncinos and half the courgettes are now gone. It’s beginning to look bare! 😞

Let’s cheer up with some Six on Saturday hosted by Jonathon, aka ‘The Propagator’. For an even bigger mood booster, head to the comment section of his post for links to other Sixes.

25/09/2021

1) The Borlotti Bean Reveal

Another sign of autumn is when the climbing beans on the wigwams suddenly lose their leaves. We’ve had really good crops from most varieties this year and I am now drying the rest for seed. However, apart from watering the borlotti beans I’ve not really bothered to checked on their progress. That all changed this week when their leaves began to drop and suddenly there are pretty pink pods everywhere. Happily, they have been quietly getting on with things behind that screen of leaves.

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Borlotti bean crop revealed to be ripening on the wigwam as the leaves fall away.

2) Abutilon ‘Aphrodite’

I bought this Abutilon with birthday money about a month ago, so the plant is quite small … and still in it’s pot. However, it is already flowering nicely:

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Abutilon ‘Aphrodite’

The question is whether I protect it in the greenhouse over the winter or plant it out this autumn? I am leaning towards the former.

3) Dwarf Pomegranate

Now this was protected overwinter last year and even so it took a while for it to come back into growth. Happily, it is now loaded with flowers, but I don’t have high hopes of fruit forming this late.

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Dwarf pomegranate in flower (late September)

This small bush is about 5 years old (from seed), so it is another exercise in patience.

4) Beautiful Oregano

I’ve been experimenting with using more decorative forms of herbs recently and I am now growing some really pretty versions of oregano. This one is Origanum ‘Amethyst Falls’, which I particularly like for it’s pink-tinged, hop-like bracts behind the flowers:

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Origanum ‘Amethyst Falls’

The ‘hop’ part is not as large as on O. ‘Bellissimo’ or O. ‘Kent Beauty’, but the flowers seem to be in better proportion and the plant should certainly grow taller than O. ‘Kent Beauty’. I’ll report back next year when they’ve settled in and got a season growth on them.

5)  Pink Strawberries

Our pink-flowered strawberries have gone bananas over the last couple of months. There are runners everywhere! And now the plants are having a second glut of flowers and, surprisingly, fruit. I’ve never noticed actual strawberries on the plants before. I just use it as an ornamental edging.

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Pink strawberries are having a second prolific flush of flowers and fruit

Don’t ask the variety though as I nicked it from my Mum’s garden and have no idea.

6) The Tussock Encounter

So, by now you may be wondering what the Tussock Encounter of the title refers to. Well, it is simply that at coffee break at Wimpole, as we sat underneath the orchard apple trees,  there was suddenly some shrieking from a member of staff as something wriggly drop on them. This turned out to be a very fluffy, bright yellow caterpillar. It had four thick yellow tufts along its back, black concertina-ed segments that only show when it bends and a stiff reddish tail tuft. Nobody knew what it was, but there was concern that the hairs may be an irritant.

Pale Tussock Moth

Pale Tussock moth caterpillar, fully grown and probably looking for somewhere to pupate

It turned out to be a caterpillar of a Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda), which will turn into a super cute moth, with incredibly feathery antennae. The hairs can be an irritant, in fact some people can have very nasty reactions. Luckily that was not the case here.

Interestingly, they were once commonly found on hops growing in the south east of England where the pickers referred to them as ‘Hop Dogs’! 😊

So, that is my six done!

Hope you are enjoying your weekend, not sitting in petrol queues, but getting plenty of gardening done … before the weather turns next week.

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Wordless Wednesday – Carder Bee vs. the Black Hole

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Peering into the depths

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Breaching the event horizon

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Swallowed, but leaving a tell-tale trail

Posted in Bees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments