Six on Saturday – Caught in the Act!

13/08/2022

A quick Six today, before I melt away. The vegetables are watered and I’ve gathered more courgettes 🤣. Yesterday I put a help-yourself pile of them out on a table by the hedge. They were all gone next time I checked, so, amazingly, some people don’t have glut problems!

The title of this post was triggered by my noisy visitor last night. (With all the windows open for cool air you realise how much life goes on outside in the dark). Anyhow, there was a lot of rustling of dry leaves, which led me to investigate the pots near the back door. I grabbed a small torch and crept out the kitchen door. By this point it sounded like someone was rummaging through a rubbish tip … or my stack of module trays. So I turned on the torch and edged the beam to the spot of disturbance, enough to see what was there at least. It was the badger. The same one, I am guessing, that keeps digging up the salvias and tithonias that I am keeping watered. I can’t begrudge him taking advantage of my wet soil though. He must be desperate!

I am joining Mr Propagator once more for Six on Saturday. Links to many more Sixes can be found through his blog. Onwards then!

1 Phlox ‘Green Lion’

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Phlox paniculata ‘Green Lion’

This was an experimental purchase to see whether it would work as an edging plant. Obviously, it’s not been the best year to see it growing luxuriously. Maybe those days have gone anyway! The three plants I have growing remain small and confined, but I do like them. They have the same mossy feel that Dianthus ‘Green Trick’ does. I hoped for it to be more substantial though. 😦

2 Phlox ‘Cherry Caramel’

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A tasty annual Phlox: Phlox drummondii grandiflora ‘Cherry Caramel’

Another newbie in the garden for this year, this is an annual phlox grown from seed. I am loving the ever changing flower colours, cherry and caramel with the cherry part then slowly turning to caramel. They are doing really well in the heat and dry.

3 Bidens ‘Beedance’

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Bidens ‘Beedance’

Possibly a bit lairy, but I feel we need some of that now! Grown from plugs as a hassle-free choice for my containers. They are supposed to stay compact, not need dead-heading and be a bee magnet. They are only just really getting going, so the jury remains out on their impact.

4 Oregano ‘Amethyst Falls’

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Oregano ‘ Amethyst Falls’

I love this herb. You may remember seeing Oregano ‘Amethyst Falls’ in a post last year, as a 9cm late season purchase. Well, it’s bigger and better this time round, plus I split it into three plants in spring. Result! The only thing I don’t like about it is the tendency for the old flowers to stay stuck in those lovely bracts as they go brown, which detracts somewhat from those lovely hop-like amethyst falls.

5 Dahlia merckii

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Dahlia merckii

Grown from seed this year, this is an absolutely lovely lilac/pink single dahlia. Who knew dahlias were so easy from seed?

6 Argemone platyceras

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Crested poppy, Argemone platyceras

I’ve got a new batch growing from saved seed, but have been happy to also see plants re-appear in the same place as they grew last year. Those large white blooms are gorgeous. It’s drought tolerant which makes me very happy!

That’s it for this week. Keep as cool as you can and have a lovely weekend!

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Six on Saturday – Gasping

06/08/2022

A lot of us are suffering from the same lack of rain, but the East of England seems to be getting a rather short straw as usual. We’ve had nothing here, other than the briefest of showers, since April. Temperatures have been high, fluctuating between high twenties and just short of forty deg C. Brisk winds aren’t helping either.  😦

I am doing targeted watering daily, mostly veg, but also vulnerable trees. I am also making a point of keeping watering holes topped up with water: Shallow gravel dishes (for the pollinators mostly) and bird baths full (for the birds largely). So that’s the first of my Six …

1) Watering Holes

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A selection of avian garden visitors at the bubble fountain/rock: Goldfinch, blue tits, long-tailed tit and black cap

Water sources are obviously being appreciated by the local wildlife in this weather. They are continuously busy. A variety of birds enjoy the bathing facilities. The number and mix of breeds change from second to second! The combinations are such fun to watch. Mostly they get on with each other, regardless of species, but there are some stand offs and posturing. Nobody goes near the big, fat wood pigeons when they come down.

2) Purple Kohlrabi

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The vegetable Kohl Rabi (purple form) is a new crop for me

Here’s a crop that I am not very familiar with: Kohlrabi. They look ready to pick, don’t they?

Then what? I am leaning towards using it raw, in a shredded salad, like a coleslaw. Any other suggestions (polite) ?

3) Verbena hastata

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Verbena hastata ‘Rosea’ is thriving in this hot dry year.

This Verbena hastata ‘Rosea’ was grown from seed last year, but never really got going. I planted them out in late spring and they are doing really well now, obviously liking the hot, dry conditions.

4) Dwarf pomegranate

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Dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum var. nana)

Our dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum var. nana) looks like it may even be setting fruit properly this year. Again, it is liking the heat. I do keep it well watered though as it is growing in a pot (which moves in to the glasshouse for winter).

5) Eupatorium ‘Baby Joe’

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Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’

‘Baby Joe’ is a new experiment this year. I bought it partly as I liked the name 🤣, but mostly as I didn’t want a 6-7 footer in the garden. Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ has got to about 75 cm so far and should stay that way. I’ve not noticed a scent yet.

6) Good old Cobaea scandens!

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Cobaea scandens ‘Purple’ (the Cup-and-Saucer vine)

I had to re-buy seed for this climber, as it didn’t set seed for me a few years back and I then gave it a miss for a while. However, I fancied bell covered arches in the vegetable patch this year and I am happy I did. It is growing strongly and has plenty of flowers coming. This is the first to open though.

I couldn’t resist ending my ‘Six’ post with a cute 7th photo of some other visiting littlies … making the most of water in the garden recently!

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Many thanks to Jonathon for hosting Six on Saturday, in spite of the inevitable hot summer malaise that is taking hold of many gardeners currently. Hop across to his blog to check out how people are coping with  their dry gardens or even how the lucky wet ones are doing!

Have a good week! Rain dances all round!!

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Nothing but Daylilies!

Last Thursday a colleague told me about a local specialist nursery that holds a National Collection of daylilies (Hemerocallis). It is called Strictly Daylilies and is based in Histon, just north of Cambridge. How did I not know about them!!? It was brilliant timing, because their annual open days turned out to be Friday through to Sunday. So, of course, on Friday we went to visit.

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River of different daylily cultivars at the Strictly Daylilies nursery.

Behind a perfectly ordinary looking suburban house, we were confronted by a beautiful surprise: A wide river of daylilies meandering across the main lawn, spilling round a lily pool and merging with mixed perennial borders on either side of the garden. Blue flags are temporary markers for the varieties available for sale during the Open Days. The garden is an accredited American Hemercallis Society Display Garden (part-owner Paula Dyason is Californian and is the International Chair of the AHS).

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Area known as The Historic Beds.

Beyond the formal garden, through a birch grove you reach the ‘Historic Beds’. Is this heaven?

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There are just so many lovely, lovely variations. I seem to be drawn to flame-coloured combinations, particularly with narrower petals (e.g. above example), but there are plenty of others:

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A selection of the daylilies on display.

With >35,000 daylily cultivars to choose from, there is something for everyone: Tall, short, small, large, frilly, curved, stripey, narrow, wide, multi-coloured, eye-zoned, double, scented blooms. Flowering times can range from early spring to late summer, but most peak in July. Some cultivars will repeat flower.

Strictly Daylilies apparently has an amazing ~2000 cultivars on display. The ‘heat’ from those beds was palpable!

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Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’.

Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ (above) was probably my favourite. It is tall (~170cm) and fragrant. It would work brilliantly with the white shasta daisies and crocosmia at the back of my borders. Sadly it was unavailable.

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View through the Historic Beds

It was a fantastic, but completely overwhelming visit. However, it is obvious to me now, that we really need more daylilies in our garden.

Is it a good thing that Strictly Daylilies is so close? Time will tell!! 🤣

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Wordless Wednesday – Climbing Eryngium’s Icy Peaks

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Bumblebee on Eryngium ‘Miss Wilmotts Ghost’


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Tawny long-horned beetle meets common red soldier beetle on Eryngium ‘Picos Blue’


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Loads of honey bees at the summit!

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In A Vase on Monday – Out of Ice!

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I left gathering flowers too late today and temperatures have now hit 31ºC, so there’s a little bit of droop going on in this vase 😦 (I know how they feel). Hopefully they’ll perk up now that they are in cold water.

In line with Cathy’s ‘cool’ theme, I’ve kept to slightly frosty colours. I’ve even used a prop in the picture! There are no ice cubes left in these trays, but I am busy freezing more.

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Marchmallow

Holding the only upright position in the vase, we have a bit of marshmallow.

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Penstemon ‘Raven’

Next up is Penstemon ‘Raven’. This plant seems to send up excessively long, bare spurs that flower at the top. So I’ve cut a few off to encourage side shoots. That’s given me a couple of spikes of dark mauve bells to use in the vase.

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Herbs in the vase: Wild mallow, marjoram, golden feverfew and annual fleabane.

Most of the other flowers I’ve used are herbs, such as: wild mallow, marjoram, golden feverfew, fennel and annual fleabane.

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For some further blue tones there’s geranium ‘Rozanne’, plus a few sweet peas (Twilight and Bordeaux – lovely strongly scent).

Thanks to Cathy for encouraging us to pick some flowers and bring them inside to enjoy. Cathy@ramblinginthegarden hosts ‘In a vase on Monday‘, so click through to her cool white collection of blooms (and links to other vases in the comments).

So now I fancy an iced coffee. Let’s hope the water is frozen … and then I guess I’ve got plenty of watering to do!

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Six on Saturday – Cool flower spikes for a hot summer

09/07/2022

Last week I looked around the garden for plants with flower spikes at the hot end of the colour spectrum, so it is only fair to look to the cool end this week. Once again there were many candidates, but here are six of my current favourites (plants with spikes at the icy end of the spectrum).

1) Delphinium requienii

This one (and only) example is a self-seed from last year. I saved and re-sowed seeds in spring, but since the plants are biennial I will have to wait until next year for those to flower.

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Delphinium requienii

2 Berkheya purpurea

Much stronger (and upright) for being three years old now, this prickly south African, pale lilac perennial is enjoying our current run of hot dry weather. It always surprises me that the flowers open from top to bottom, when nearly all the other flowering spikes in the garden open upwards.

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Berkheya purpurea

3) White nettle-leaved mullein

These were grown from seed shared by a colleague a couple of years ago. The other day I noticed that at their feet there is now a dense carpet of seedlings, so it looks like I will soon be sharing back!

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Verbascum chaixii album

4 Agastache ‘Blue Boa’

I’ve planted Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ in the new island bed dug out around a tree stump left behind by the storms a couple of years back. Its deep purple is working nicely along side the new Amazing Grey poppies and Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’.

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Agastache ‘Blue Boa’

5 White foxglove

I love all foxgloves, but in terms of drama it is hard to beat tall plain white spires!

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White (with a sprinkling of freckles) foxglove

6 Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’

In spite of its name, this penstemon is really lovely and is probably my favourite variety. Its colouring is a soft blue tinged with pink. At dusk the plant seems luminous and unearthly. In the meantime, it seems to be a popular nectar stop for common carder bumblebees.

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Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’

That’s my six! Have you got different favourite flowers with spikes I should try?

Check out our propagating leader’s blog for his Six on Saturday meme and check the comment section for links to many enthusiastic SOS postings.

Have a good weekend and take care if you are gardening in the midday sun!

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Wordless Wednesday – A Sky Blue Chicory Trail

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Wild chicory, Cichorium Intybus


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Chicory growing either side of a hillside footpath through the cornfields in Harlton, Cambridgeshire


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Chicory is cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched heads), or roots (var. sativum – baked, ground and used as a coffee substitute or food additive), but as an arable weed, in flower, they are a stunning sight!

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Six on Saturday – Hot flower spikes for midsummer

It’s got to the time of year where I find myself having to continuously empty my shoes of grass seed and brush my T-shirts down to clear off the cleavers’ seedballs. I never get them all at one go, so I find myself picking them from random bits of clothing when they irritate me later. Yes, weeding is a  >100% full-time job right now and they all seem to be stinging, scratching or stabbing kinds. Luckily, there are some nice bits in the garden too. In particular, many of our perennials are busy throwing up pretty, coloured spires. It’s hard to choose which to highlight for Six on Saturday, so I’ve decided to highlight the hot end of the spectrum this week. Visit Jonathon’s blog to see loads of other strictly-made selections of six gardening things this Saturday.

Here are some hot flower spikes from our garden on 02/07/2022:

1) Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navajo Sunset’

This beautiful apricot hyssop is serendipitously growing through some tiger-faced orange and yellow violas, surrounded by Eschscholzia ‘Red Chief’. The hyssop stems look so delicate that I never think it will make it through the winter, but it always manages it.

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Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navajo Sunset’

2) Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’

I managed to split this patch of monarda earlier in the year, so in addition to the established clump, I’ve now got over a dozen smaller plants spaced through the long border.

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Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and approaching bumblebee

3) Betony ‘Hummelo’

My two clumps of betony have stayed compact, so I had to resort to propagation using collected seed. Germination rates were good, but I’ve been having trouble getting any real growth on plants sown using Sylvagrow peat-free compost, in spite of feeding. Anybody else noticed this? I’ve found it necessary to move plants on to a mix of peat-free, top-soil and home-made compost, but the plants are still taking time to get going.

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Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’

4) Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’

Royal Bumble is a real Do-er. It starts flowering early in the summer, flowers prolifically … and then keeps going until frosts cut it back. I love its glowing shade of red. I also took cuttings of Salvia ‘Jezebel’, which, quite frankly, I’m not sure I can tell apart from Royal Bumble, but this plant was taken when I only had Royal Bumble 😉

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Salvia greggii ‘Royal Bumble’

5) Purple Loosestrife

This has a reputation for being a thug, but in my dry East-Anglian garden it is perfectly well-behaved. I’ve planted it by the pond, but in the garden, not in the margins, so it is fine. It’s a very attractive plant for pollinators of all kinds. Plus, it’s purple!

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Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosestrife)

6) Rusty Foxgloves

I’ve managed to establish a small forest of these graceful foxgloves. Their colouring is pleasant rather than eye-catching, but the entire plant (including flowers) is covered in tiny hairs that catch the light. These give their tall silhouettes a lovely glowing outline. This is the first flower spike to open, but I am hoping for some serious bumblebee action in the next week or two. I know that woolly carder bees are especially fond of them. Fingers crossed!

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Rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)

Well, I was wondering about cheekily sliding in a couple of extra spikes, but where would I stop? So, six it is then. That’s the brief after all and there’s always next Saturday.

Happily, there are plenty more flowers to view via The Propagator’s blog. Take a look.

Have a great weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – The Exotic Garden at RHS Wisley

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The Exotic Garden at RHS Wisley, in Surrey, was created in 2017 to showcase the wide range of plants that can be grown outdoors in the UK to create a tropical look. The garden is designed to be intimate and immersive. A central tiered fountain helps establish its exotic atmosphere. Away from the wide central axes, numerous smaller paths curve through the lush foliage to shady bowers and view points.

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Planting includes big-leaved giants (Magnolia grandiflora, Loquat, Chamaerops, Trachycarpus, Japanese banana) and bold, hot-coloured flowers (Cannas, Calla lilies, Gingers, Dahlias etc)

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Five years in the ground has been sufficient time for the planting to feel established. The atmosphere in the garden was distinctly un-English. I certainly felt transported to warmer climes … and fortunately the sun was shining 😉

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Wordless Wednesday – A summer visitor: Hummingbird Hawk Moth

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The hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is a summer visitor to the UK. They arrive from southern Europe in June and there is some evidence for a return migration in September. Although they do breed here, they can’t yet survive UK winters.

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The moth has a wingspan of ~50-60mm. It has a brown, white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings and orange hindwings. It also has a noticeable black and white ‘tail’, which makes it appear even more bird-like.

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Their fast-moving wings emit an audible hum (apparently) and beat around 70-80 times a second!

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Its inch-long proboscis is well adapted to sip nectar from flowers with long corollas, such as: red valerian, lavender, honeysuckle and buddleia.

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Hummingbird hawk moth sightings are thought to be good luck: There is a story that a swarm of the moths was seen flying across the English Channel on D-Day, the day of the Normandy landings in the Second World War.

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