Six on Saturday – Of Petticoats and Dragons


Well, one week on and it is still howling a gale. I’ve decided that I primarily don’t like wind because the continuous noise makes me very restless. The dog and I have had some close encounters with flying small branches and the alleyways are littered with broken wreckage from shedding trees, but on balance most trees and fences have survived this round of storms and winds around here.

Anyhow, it’s Saturday and I am joining gardeners round the globe in sharing six garden-based things with The Propagator. It’s worth taking a look and a punt!

1) Hoop Petticoat Daffodils – Narcissus bulbocodium

Looking at a lady’s underwear is obviously not to be done in the normal course of things, but with hoop petticoat daffodils it is hard to stop yourself! This is the first time I’ve tried growing these pretty bulbs and I’ve planted them in a trough with Iris ‘Clairette’, cyclamen and purple violas. Sadly the cyclamen have rotted off, the violas were eaten flat by the rabbits/deer and the irises are fading fast, but the small clumps of the narcissus are looking more alluring every day. I picked a pale yellow variety called ‘Arctic Bells’, which I think makes them look very delicate.


Narcissus bulbocodium

2) Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’

Originally purchased at Beth Chatto’s nurseries, I’ve spread this Persicaria to a number of locations (and people), because I love it and it turns out to root exceptionally easily from cuttings kept in a simple vase of water for 2-3 weeks. It has just starting to emerge from its winter retreat to ground and this new growth is when its leaf markings are most pronounced. (I can even take a stab at guessing its name arose from the pattern of exhaled fire-like jets along the main vein). Plus, I’ve just spotted another beautifully patterned persicaria example in the catalogues called ‘Purple Fantasy‘. I can feel it calling to me even now …


Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

3) Primula Season

At this time of year when the garden is rapidly filling with more and more domes of primrose and primula blooms, it is lovely to spot some new crosses. Especially so when they turn out like this:


Primula – Self-designed self-seed!

with eye-catching panicles of rimmed ketchup red flowers

4) A Sloe Snow Fall

Our back hedge is of a farm stock-proof style and includes a mixture of hawthorn, damson, elder and sloe. With all those thorns and spikes I could do without having to prune it each year, but it blends with the rest of the countryside. It certainly looks wonderful as it light up with flurries of snowy white flowers, one genus at a time. The sloes are the first to open and have started to do this in the last couple of days. Set against the shrub’s dark bark they are a blizzard of sparkling snow white flakes.


Blackthorn (sloe) blossom 15/03/2019

5) Meadow development

Every autumn I plant some new bulbs in the rough meadow area, to see what works and will naturalise. Over time I’ve added wads of Snakes Head fritillaries, Gladiolus byzantinus, Camassias, Crocuses and Star of Bethlehem etc. Not all of them have done so well. Over the last two years I’ve been trying wild daffodils. Happily they appear to be fairly deer resistant and seem to like the area. And although I will have to wait for them to bulk up to make a truly glorious show, they are making a pretty nice picture at the moment.


Wild daffs coming up in the wild patch

6) Daisy, daisy

Isn’t it interesting that even daisies struggle to grow if they are not in the best place? I grew these Bellis perennis ‘Flore Pleno’ from seed about four years ago and while the plants have looked healthy there have been very few flowers. Fast forward to March this year and they are finally putting on a cute show … Curiously, they are growing about 2m away from where they started.


Bellis perennis ‘Flore Pleno’ in all its button-like glory

Well that’s my six. Have a great weekend!


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Wordless Wednesday – The Bee’s Knees*

* The Bee’s Knees is a phrase used to convey that something is of excellent quality. It is likely to have originated from the way that bees carry pollen in sacks on their ‘knees’ and alludes to this concentrated goodness.

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Six on Saturday – 09/03/2019

Oh my, how blustery! Yesterday I was up a ladder pruning the wisteria (only a bit late), but I would not have considered that today. And then there’s been the episodic torrents of hail coming down all day. Can we roll back to February weather? Well, nature is advancing in a rush now regardless. Primroses are doming up, violets are shyly showing under hedges and leaf break is happening everywhere and there are golden daffodils cheering up the lanes. So there is plenty to show-and-tell this week, six things from the garden today, for Six on Saturday – a weekly event hosted by The Propagator.

1) Iris tuberosa

Honestly, looking at the flowers now with their startling, velvety black falls and the buttery-yellow, slightly iridescent style arms I can’t believe that I can quite easily walk passed this is a plant without noticing it, but I do. Happily the stand has increased in size and flowering potential considerably since last year, so it is getting harder to miss.


Look at those irresistible black petals of Iris tuberosa

2) Cutting back grasses and wild life

I tend to leave Stipa tenuissima till last in the annual grass tidy up, but this week their hair appointment was due. During this task I quite often find small nests at their bases (winter cubby holes for voles or mice I think), but this week I had a shock when I grabbed a bunch of the leaves and twisted them back to reveal a beautiful nest full of large pale blue eggs. I am guessing pheasant eggs. So the grass has obviously had a stay of execution and I’ve put everything back where I found it (I hope). Here’s hoping for baby birds soon!


Eggs … possibly pheasant

3) First tulips

These are one of my favourites: Tulipa turkestanica. They seem to flower for ages. They are multi-headed. The flowers are a lovely neat shape, with beautiful green olive markings on the backs of the tepals and the red tips to the anthers really lifts the colour.


The very lovely Tulipa turkestanica

4) Ugh – Vine weevils!

On Thursday I was lifting a couple of sedums to make divisions, but when I put the fork in, the clump fell apart. Then I saw the reason for this: horrid white grubs munching their way through the roots. Vine weevil larvae (photo inset). I tried to clean up the roots but in the end I decided to get rid of the lot. I’ve taken lots of cuttings and the drowned the offenders. Now I must order some nematodes to try to erase them from the border.


A vine weevil problem

5) Erodium

This little charmer was an end of season sale item from Fullers Mill Garden. It was a tiny plant in a small pot labelled simply erodium. I had no idea what it was when I purchased it, but I liked the leaves. Since then it has been sitting in my unheated greenhouse and this week has burst into flower. I’ve tried to match its appearance with online photos and I am fairly convinced it’s erodium pelargoniflorum.



6) Leaf break

I love the fresh, translucent colours you get with newly unfurled leaves at this time of year. Acers are a particularly radiant example of course. It was only when I looked more closely at this example on the computer screen that I noticed that the contrasting serrated edges look like tiny teeth … almost like a dragon/lizard head.


Acer ‘teeth’

What are your six?

P.S. In case you enjoy a spot of origami alongside your gardening, here are instructions for making your very own origami iris


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Wordless Wildlife Wednesday – All the fun of the fair


7-spot ladybirds are on the move and enjoying the Helter-skelter of old Veronicastrum ‘Fascination’ seed heads


They are all over the Wall of Death Tête-à-têtes


And when it gets a bit chilly … they can still snuggle up together in the Carousel

Link to Tina’s monthly wildlife post for other wildlife spots

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Wordless Wednesday – Good things come in small packages


Dwarf irises (Iris reticulata) fluttering in the sunshine


Attractive to one and all


Looking wonderful as they naturalize in the meadow grass



A sparkling display of irises back-lit by sun in the orchards at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire

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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.


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Wordless Wednesday – Running rings round Wandlebury


Wandlebury is at its enchanting best at this time of year, dressed by frosts, mists and low sun.


The yew guardians still cling to the embankment of the ring, ready to uproot and defend


The site dates back ~2,300 years to Iceni tribes, but the ring fortification was dramatically extended in the Iron Age.


The main ditch is reminiscent of those romantic holloways Robert Macfarlane writes about … “a glimpse into the shade world”


But in early spring, Wandlebury is awash with snowdrops: round the ring; through the orchard;


Across the central plateau


Tall, shimmering and swaying in the breeze,


Milky drops


The woodland floor surrounding the ring is a patchwork of sunlight and swaths of glowing aconites


And if you keep going … along this tantalising beech avenue … you reach a Roman road. Time travel all in a dog walk!

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