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.


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.


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:


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.


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:


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.


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.

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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15 Responses to Six on Saturday – Close Encounters of the Tussock kind

  1. I was waiting for the tussock and well worth it. A beauty!

  2. fredgardener says:

    I also grow the same dwarf pomegranate and had loads of flowers this summer. None gave fruit, I don’t know what it needs to have fruit (self-fertile?)
    Otherwise, this abutilon is very pretty. I overwinter mine indoors and in the spring I give it a good pruning and they start again. The caterpillar you photographed is superb!

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Cool caterpillar! Glad the encounter wasn’t dangerous. I am intrigued by your Dwarf Pomegranate. It’s really attractive.

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    A very pretty caterpillar! I haven’t seen as many tussock caterpillars here as we usually do. Our most numerous is a black and white one with a shiny black head. I guess most tussocks have irritating spines for defense. Not for handling!

  5. shoreacres says:

    As soon as I read ‘tussock’ I quivered. I know they’re not as bad as our asp caterpillars, but still… Little stingees are no fun. On a brighter side, I think your dwarf pomegranate is a tree I couldn’t identify at our local Buddhist temple. I need to check on my photos again and see if that might be so.

    • Oh, now I am curious about your unidentified temple tree. Did it match in the end?
      Re. the tussock caterpillars: I had no idea they were so infamous, as I’ve never come across them before. However, I think that it has been an unusually good year for them as I’ve recently seen a Butterfly Conservation article asking for their sightings to be reported.
      Btw. asp caterpillars and puss moths, look amazing! What a shame they are so toxic.

  6. Cathy says:

    What a great caterpillar! The prettiest ones often turn into rather plain moths. I am always extremely careful with caterpillars as the dreaded Oak Processionary is profuse here. I love your Oregano. Such pretty flowers and bracts.

    • Moths are something I feel I should know a lot more about, but you are right about the tendency for showy caterpillars to transform into nondescript moths … except the hawkmoths.
      I hope that the oregano is a spreader, as I think I can find many new homes for it!

  7. Cathy says:

    What an astonishing caterpillar! The pomegranate and abutilon are both pretty things but I am very taken with the oregano and will seek it out, along with the other two you mention

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