Six on Saturday – Doldrums and dreams


I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We had a lovely time with family, but there’s been a lot of cooking. For the main meal I had planned to served home grown parsnips and carrots as part of the Christmas meal, but our parsnips struggled to grow in the dry weather over the summer and my carrots are not as sweet and succulent as they should have been. I decided not to use either and in the end some token sprigs of parsley were the only input from the plot. Did you do better?

I hate this bit of the year. It’s too damp, dark and dismal. The garden is looking forlorn and I’ve been avoiding seeing the various messes I need to clean up. It will be different next week though, once we click through to 2019 I’ll be all action. Promise. I am joining in with a final Six on Saturday for the year, grown and tended as usual by The Propagator.

1) Dreams

Seed catalogues have started popping through the letterbox this week.


2019 seed catalogues being to arrive

Tea breaks are suddenly taking longer with such browsing material available. Admittedly I have tins and boxes full of seed already (unsorted of course) and I know that I bought tons of packets in the pre-christmas clearance sales, but even so … there are dreams and adventures in those books. I shall be scouring their pages for my plans to mimic some of Hyde Hall’s Global Vegetable plot.

2) Pansies

Pansies and cyclamen are currently brightening up the pots, troughs and edges of the garden.


Pansy power

I don’t know about you, but when I buy pansies I take a ridiculous amount of time staring into their little faces to choose the ones with the prettiest patterns. I love heirloom look-alikes and almost any with whisker marks (as above). They look great potted up in individual tall terracotta pots, surrounded by moss and displayed in theatre style (as you might for auriculas).

3) New tools

A friend from Wimpole gave me a new trowel for Christmas. She knew that my old one was a little the worse for wear (and that I have a habit of misplacing it). When I compared the two side by side, before replacing it in my bag, I was rather shocked by exactly how worn the old one has become.


New and old trowels

It’s no wonder I was accused of planting tulips too shallowly!

4) Marbled leaves

The front garden has a couple of rather large patches of cyclamen hederifolium under a central maple tree. Their autumn flowers may be long gone, but beautiful marbled leaves are still lighting up the ground. Those leaves are like hand-crafted tie-and-dye hearts. Each one is different yet perfectly formed, crimped and themed. For some reason they also make me think of cooking ring donuts, with the bubbles erupting from the centre and continuously moving outwards.


The beautiful marbled leaves of cyclamen hederifolium

5) Leave pruning to the deer

Who knew that deer were such big fans of laurel? I thought that nothing liked laurel. I found out the hard way when I planted a protective laurel hedge around the vegetable plot. It has been attacked a few times over the years. I should have thought about that when I planted this little aucuba in a dark corner a couple of years ago. I didn’t make the connection, but once I spotted that the shrub was taking some damage I put chicken wire around it and its been fine ever since. This summer it put on a nice lot of growth and out-grew its protection. Last week, when I was prowling around looking for ‘decking the halls’ foliage, I discovered that it really needs a much bigger cage. A deer has trimmed the plant for me. It is now flat-topped and reduced back down to the top of the wire.


Deer-ravaged spotted laurel

6) A fresh spring taste

The front bark path needs a good weed. I noticed this when I was checking for hellebore flowers after seeing photographs of early examples on various blogs. The path has a lot of newly germinated cleavers (Galium aparine) growing it in. I blame the dog. She has always got the sticky burrs in her fur! Anyhow, I discovered this year that you can make a refreshing tonic from the tops of the plants. It is simply made by placing the washed tops from a handful of cleavers in a jar of cold water overnight (in fridge). Next morning simply strain off the liquid and drink. Its flavour is surprisingly similar to fresh peas, light and tasty. The plant is packed full of all sorts of medicinal properties. This infusion primarily acts as a lymphatic tonic. Great news of course, but does means that anyone with existing medical conditions should check its possible effects before using.


Forget growing pea shoots, pick cleavers!

So those are my Six for the last Saturday of 2018. What are yours?


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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13 Responses to Six on Saturday – Doldrums and dreams

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    I have lots of Galium in my garden. I’ll have to try to infuse some of them next summer.
    Aren’t deer annoying in the garden? Last summer, I had quite a bit of damage in places they hadn’t ventured before, even with the dog leaving her scent around the yard.
    I love your Cyclamen… I really need to invest in some corms, they’d look great in my shade garden.

    • Try to pick the galium as young as possible, before any sign of flowers start showing, for maximum freshness.
      Yes, I despair of deer. They are so random in their munching choices, but inevitably fatal!
      Cyclamen repay you for months, so definitely a nice pick for shady spots.

  2. A good six! Dreams… I wish I had seed catalogues. I’ve never seen them here in Portugal and most places sem to sell the same limited varieties. Up until now I’ve just been thankful if I could get anything to grow. Now i want to try different varieties… oh… and I love pansies. IT’s not until you pause to really study a flower can you appreciate its intricate beauty.

    Happy New YEar!

    • Yes paper catalogues are certainly one of winter’s fireside comforts (even if I do always order online). I wish you luck with your experiments. I’ve obtained some interesting seed from European companies via amazon. It might be worth a look.

  3. Jim Stephens says:

    I reached seed saturation point a while back, the catalogues are just a form of torment now. I should put them in the recycling when they arrive but never do. That is a well used trowel; I wish I could wear things out rather than breaking them. I broke my fork digging parsnips for Christmas, which says more about my heavy handedness than the size of the parsnips.

    • Haha, I always break forks and of the ones that survive there is usually at least one tine completely out of line. Jealous of you having your own parsnips though.
      Re. seeds: I’ve still got the RHS seedlist to look at!

  4. fredgardener says:

    I love cyclamen leaves but I don’t see donuts in this…. now I’m hungry… sigh…
    Nice pansy though !

  5. March Picker says:

    Beautiful and bright pansy on another wintry day. Congrats in the new trowel. I knew I wasn’t the only one spending long afternoons with catalogs… It goes well with the season. 😉

  6. Chloris says:

    Yes, now is the time for brooding over seed catalogues and staring into pansies’ faces.

  7. cavershamjj says:

    i hear you on the seed front – a huge temptation to order the lovely things. i counted my flower seed packets earlier today – 80 of them, not including the 70-odd on their way from various seed exchanges. i clearly don’t need more. never say never….

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