Six on a Saturday – Off to a good start?

What a glorious day! In fact, what a glorious February (so far). The garden is visibly swelling and revving up for spring, whether it’s here officially or not. There’s plenty of growing going on (I’m even considering cutting the grass tomorrow), so I am joining The Propagator for Six on Saturday to share a few things from a garden bursting with new life.

1) Sweet Peas

OK, so maybe a bit of a mundane start to the list, but last week I found out that I shouldn’t be soaking my sweet peas in water to get them started. Who knew? I’ve been doing it for years. But one of the gardeners I work with has just completed an RHS qualification and they have all been told that trials have clearly shown that germination is better without soaking (or chitting). The process is more successful if the skins are soften by laying the seeds on moist vermiculite or kitchen tissue in a sealed container in a warm room. So that is what I’ve done this year with, so far, 100% germination rate. Plus it’s fun to be able to see the plants start to unfurl.


The RHS says not to soak in glasses of water any more, or risk weaker plants

2) Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’

My late autumn sale purchases of Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ and ‘Melanostachys’ are still only ~8 inches tall, but they are already giving me much pleasure because they both have catkins already. The photo is of ‘Mt Aso’ with its delicious pink puffs. Who could resist this?


Only 8 inches tall, but Salix ‘Mt Aso’ seems to be an early developer!

3) Canna indica

A couple of years ago I brought some canna seed back from La Palma after an Easter holiday and although they all grew well, only a couple of plants reached flowering point and then I lost the whole lot over the winter period. So I’ve decided to try again, starting them off earlier in order to be more certain of flowers. Guess what though? I chipped them and soaked them for 48hrs. They all swelled, so they’ve all been potted up and now (3 weeks later) they are ready for potting on … and this is the bit where I start to run out of windowsill space!


Cannas – Ridiculously easy to germinate, once I’d managed to chip the hard shell with nail clippers (a few may still be lost on the floor somewhere)

4) Anemone blanda

The crocuses, Tête-à-têtes and anemones have started to flower over the last week and so broad brushes of colour are returning to the garden. The lovely thing about anemones is how the flowers multiple each day until there is a complete purple carpet. New plantlets are beginning to appear in the chipping pathways, so I will be able to spread their cheerful faces to new territories. Next year I am thinking that I will buy pure white one to grow in patches around the base of a couple of trees along the sunny driveway border. They should catch the sunlight wonderfully and highlight the bark on the trunks.


Nothing bland about these pretty little blooms and very popular with the insects

5) Chickpeas

This is last years crop. Yes, the whole crop! I wasn’t very successful with them as you see and I am not sure I understand why since the plants flowered well enough. They just didn’t set. The seeds were from the Eden Project shop and I was curious to try a new crop. They are quite labour intensive, shelling the chickpeas, for (in my case) little reward. I wonder how they are grown and harvested in places like Italy? I would try again if I knew what I’d done wrong, but currently that idea is on hold.


A rather disappointing and time consuming crop

6) Elms

There are some trees in the hedgerow around here, even in our own back boundary hedge, that I’ve never identified, but that seem to have short lifespans. Well, several of them are coming into flower this year and I believe that I’ve IDed them as elms. I had always assumed that elms had been completely wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease (DED), but it turns out that as a tree they sucker very easily and new trees are still appearing around the old stock. However once the offshoots reach a certain size, as clones, they once again succumb to DED. However, with the production of wind-pollinated seed that should follow these flowers, there is always the possibility of the development of disease resistance in the future.


Elms still appear in the landscape, albeit as immature trees. They are flowering now.

So those are my six. Don’t forget to check out The Propagator’s post for many more.



About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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28 Responses to Six on a Saturday – Off to a good start?

  1. We live to learn. I never realised I was meant to soak sweet pea seeds 😦 No wonder I never had any success! Now if I do venture to buy some more, I’ll put them in a container. 🙂

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Salix ‘Mt Aso’ is so beautiful – I must look for one, even though they attract beetles, they are good for early pollinators.

  3. carolee says:

    How interesting! I loved every item. I especially love how after over 60 years of gardening, I still learn something new from wonderful people like you! But drats! I soaked my sweet peas two day ago and planted them all…..wishing you’d had a two on Tuesday?????

    • Thanks. Funnily enough I had the conversation because I was gloating over starting the sweet peas in a timely fashion … only to have to go home to fish them out!! They are all through the soil now so it was worth it.

  4. I learned a lot from your post. I would love to grow sweet peas, but have not had success with them here. My question, is kitchen paper waxed paper or the paper we use for lining our baking trays? Or does it matter? The Mt Aso is a beauty! I have never heard of it or seen one until now!

  5. I am going to keep my eyes peeled for the Elm in hedgerows. I have never noticed them.

  6. Chloris says:

    A great post, I too am a fan of these lovely Pussy Willows, both the red and black.
    I am envious of your success with cannas. I tried them last year and followed the instructions to rub the hard seeds with sand paper. I ended up with sore fingers, intact seeds and seeds all over the floor. I only got 2 plants.
    Elm trees grow in the hedgerows all round here. They get to 15 feet, the height at which the Dutch Elm beetle can sniff them out and then die.

    • I can totally relate to the sanding experience, which is why I went down the nail clipper route … but still shooting tiny balls all over the floor.
      Yes that is about the size of the elms I see around here. I believe that Madingley Hall, in Cambridge, has a grove of them which seem to be a little resistant and get bit larger.

  7. fredgardener says:

    This catkins is simply gorgeous, the color too… I also grow anemone Blanda for the first year and I think the flowers will open soon ( in a next Six I suppose). Great result for canna seedlings ! Different colors?

    • Thanks. ‘Mt Aso’ is the anime darling of pussy willow I think, whereas melanostachys is the chic catwalk queen of catkins!
      Re. the cannas: The Chiltern catalogue blurb says “exotic blooms in brilliant shades of red, pink and yellow”, so fingers crossed. However, they also sell red and yellow colours separately.

  8. Helen Johnstone says:

    Wow those canna seedlings are great – I might try that next year

  9. Christina says:

    I tried to grow chickpeas a few years ago and the answer to your question is that you need a field to get any kind of yield! Something best left to the farmers I feel.

    • Ah thanks, I was hoping that you would comment. ‘cos I wasn’t sure if it was me or Blighty or intrinsic to the crop! I was curious to try them seeing as how they are such a middle-eastern staple. (I also have a packet of Eden project lentils but I haven’t worked up any enthusiasm for those yet.)

  10. I hope your elm suckers continue to thrive. It would be lovely to see them part of our scenery again!

  11. Pingback: Six on Saturday – Ripe for the picking | Frogend dweller's Blog

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