Six-On-Saturday: Storing up treasures


Today’s morning dogwalk encompassed sunshine, blustery winds, fallen trees, a couple of rain showers and a lovely double rainbow. Straddling the seasons as it were.


It was also very warm, 26.5 deg C by lunchtime if my car is to be believed. A good day to get my hair cut!

So my Six on Saturday for Mr Propagator’s entertaining meme are mostly about carrying over reminders of summer for the dark days ahead … maybe even tomorrow

1) Iris foetidissima

First of all the stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) has split open this week. I adore seeing these brilliant orange seeds when the pods burst open.  They add eye-catching colour to our front garden which lasts through the winter and they do really well in the driest, darkest corners around. Last year I discovered that they make great cut/dried flowers as I put some in a vase with fluffy grass heads and they didn’t need to be chucked out until spring. Result!


Iris foetidissima

2) Strawberries

I love this little strawberry. Not sure if it is a named variety or not, but my Mum gave me a couple of runners a few years ago and they now wander freely through the borders, flowering in any odd gaps they find, in cheerful pink shades, from May till frosts. I can’t say that I get much fruit from the plants, but that really wasn’t the point. However, right now there is an active spur running along the age of the path that is producing nice fruit (when I get to it before the slugs).


3) Borage Ice Cubes

Borage is one of those herbs that I never bother to sow nowadays, but is always around as a self-seeder, in the gravel driveway or around the tomatoes in the raised vegetable beds, during the summer. I pick borage flowers to decorate salads, cakes and jugs of drink, both cordials and alcoholic punches, but I tend to take the ease of access to these little treasures for granted until they are gone … which will be anytime now. So I have deliberately picked the flowers this week (plus a number of herbs like mint, basil and parsley) to add to ice cubes. A couple of bags of these stored in the freezer will mean I can add a touch of summer to winter parties!


4) Late Flowering Salvias

I am a big fan of salvias and since seeing the shrubby South American examples in all their glory flowering along one side of the greenhouse at Cambridge Botanics I’ve grown both Salvia Leucantha (Mexican bush sage) and Salvia Involucrata (Roseleaf sage) for their lush and furry flowers. Unfortunately, they flower very late in the year and our garden is not as ideal climate-wise as the Botanics, so it is a race against the frosts. I can almost see the flowers now. Shall we lay bets on whether I get to see them fully out though?


5) Dogwood Fruit (Cornelian Cherries)

I’ve been picking the last of the Cornelian Cherries this week as well. They make the most delicious jelly and it is my son’s favourite. I haven’t had time to make more than one batch so far, so I am freezing the fruit. I hope that they will jam as well as fresh ones (like damsons etc), but I can’t see why they shouldn’t. Does anyone have any experience of this?


6) Drying Flowers – Helichrysum

My final entry for this week’s SOS are those delightful papery helichrysums. The classic dried flower. I think that they are so cheering in little posies around the house. I have started to collect buds from the plants so that I can hang them upside down to dry in the cupboard. This year their colours have been a bit muted compared to normal, but I am enjoying their pastel tones regardless.


Hope you have a great weekend and don’t forget to take a look at other gardeners’ Sixes.


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Wordless Wednesday – Spring in October?


Autumn Snowdrops – Galanthus reginae-olgae seen at Fullers Mill Garden 7th October 2018 #NGSOpenGardens


The Winter Daffodil – Sternbergia lutea


Cyclamen hederifolium


And why not … some autumn crocuses aka. Naked Ladies (Colchicum autumnale)

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Six on Saturday … don’t amount to a (small) hill of beans


Lovely, it’s raining hard. I’m grateful, I really am, but I can’t help wishing it would do it at night … when I am not walking the dog or wanting to dig up some ground elder. Easier to justify talking to a computer though, so I am linking up with The Propagator for Six things. And I do hope the weather is much nicer wherever his family wedding is!

Shucking Beans

It is a perfect day for processing beans. Luckily the forecast was clear enough a few days ago to indicate that gathering all the dried pods was a good idea. I’ve more or less finished harvesting Borlotti beans and am now starting the heritage ‘Blue and white’:


‘Blue and white’ climbing beans

I won’t chop the plants until forced to by the weather and then I’ll leave the roots, with their nitrogen fixing nodules, in the ground. Which reminds me, several of last year’s root bundles successfully over-wintered and sprouted again around the time I was planting out this season new recruits. I’ve not had that happen before, but I can’t see any advantage to it in any case.

Echium pininana

My beautiful, tall wonder has flowered for months. The spike stopped extending at about 8ft, but each flower cluster has continued to lengthen through the summer, producing new flowers at the end, until the whole plant looks like a yeti. It is still covered in an abundance of bees, particularly Carder bees at present. This week I’ve been collecting its seeds. This is because happened to notice some small seedlings at the base of the plant when I was weeding.


Be warned though, it is a painful task if you don’t wear gloves as the hairs are quite needle-like. The small allergenic hairs all can cause a nasty reaction in sensitive people.

I am going to cosset the babies (hopefully) through the winter in the greenhouse. I’ve also sown some seed now and will save more for spring.


They are slightly early this year, but many English walnuts (Juglans regia) cultivars are ripening now and are bursting from their green husks. Wet walnuts (as they are known at this stage) are a favourite of mine as they are deliciously creamy. The squirrels have practically polished off the crop from the tree in the corner of the garden. Luckily, I have managed to collect a few missed kernels.


Juglans regia ‘Mayette’

I’ve just eaten one and they are yummy!


For ages I couldn’t see the attraction of these strident pink lilies and I think that they are hard to place in the garden with other plants. However, I’ve now got a planting hole by the front door to play with and I am enjoying that massive blast of girl power there.


I also discovered that nerines come in whites, pale pinks, reds and even stripes. So in the greenhouse I am trying Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’ (seen here behind N. bowdenii) and N. ‘Alba’ (the slugs ate through the stem of this, so it is propped up and not in shot). I am also growing Nerine undulata with its wonderful rippled edges, but that isn’t in flower yet.


Hops festoon the hedgerows around here, scrambling amongst the brambles. It is not surprising then that they pop up in various places in the garden. They’ve got root systems designed to reach the centre of the earth too, so it is a bit of effort to dig them out. I’ve let them go beside the oil tank, but this vine (below) is newly established beside our neighbours’ garage and is looking quite acquisitive. I am going to have to remove it. I will save some of the actual hops for decoration, but should I try to make some beer????


The Cup and Saucer plant

I had Cobaea scandens ‘Purple’ in the garden from seed last year and it was very successful, swamping both arches in the vegetable garden. Happily, they set seed and matured enough for me to collect. This year’s plants are grown from those gathered seeds and they are not strictly purple any longer.


I do like the patterning in them though.

So that is my Six on Saturday. Remember to check out the interesting things that others are posting about today through the Propagator’s blog.

And now I can’t put off our afternoon dog-walk any longer, so I am going to be soaked …


Posted in autumn, Food, Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

September Wildlife Sightings – On the cusp

You know that autumn is here when the spaces between everything in the garden are filled with large webs and, more disturbingly, large spiders. There are loads of garden cross spiders stretched across our front garden path waiting pendulously to trap unwary dog-walkers first thing in the morning.


Garden Cross spider

They (the spiders) seem to be doing rather well for themselves, since most of the webs are decorated with all sorts of wrapped insects and the spiders are looking pretty massive. There are plenty insects about, plus a few other things, so I am joining Tina @mygardenersays for her monthly meme celebrating wildlife in our gardens. Apologies for the late post though.

The weather, of course, has been all over the show. We’ve had two frosts (enough to scorch dahlias, zinnias and tithonias), wind, lots of blue skies and a little rain. Not enough rain. I am still occasionally having to water the borders even now in October (the asters have never looked so droopy!) and as a consequence I am also still upsetting any frogs that are hidden in the foliage. I’ve never understood why they don’t relish a fine spray of the wet stuff, but they invariably hop out of the way in an ungrateful manner.


Frog (Rana temporaria) avoiding a shower by cowering under my knapsack.

Much more appreciative of a wash was this little Chiffchaff (below). We rarely see them in the garden, but every now and again they appear alongside the Tit tribe to make use of our waterfall/fountain. In fact, I couldn’t decide whether this was a garden warbler or chiffchaff so I asked for an ID on Twitter and was pleased to have a number of responses. Apparently its darker legs/feet are significant indicators in this ID. If I had heard it sing then that would have been the giveaway!


Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) enjoying the running water

Chiffchaffs are usually summer visitors to the UK, arriving as early in the year as February and typically leaving during September. However, in the South and East of England some have recently begun to overwinter. So will it stay or will it go? I will keep an eye open for it, but I’ve only seen it the once so far.

Another migrant I spotted on the bubble fountain during September were these Blackcaps. This was the first time that I have seen them this year. I took pictures from the kitchen window and when I checked later I could see two females blackcaps and one male in a couple of frames. The shot below was the clearest though, with just the pair of them.


Blackcap pair (Sylvia atricapilla) bathing on the rock fountain

On looking up some details for Blackcaps I discovered that they have also begun to establish residency in much of the country. This is a lovely, if slightly worrying, trend!

September does seem to be a good month to spot birds: Probably down to abundant food supplies and increasing visibility in shrubs and trees as the trees begin to lose their leaves. One of my favourite regular bird visitors is a goldcrest. I often see him in the early evening, taking a bath. He hops down from the dense cover of a cypress, but I know when he is around from his high pitched call.


Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

He also likes to sneak in among a chaotic flock of tits that stops by and his plaintive tweets punctuate their raucous calls.


Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

It’s all good fun at bath-time here!

Our new, large pond is settling down well and is creating a different environment in the centre of the garden. Did I tell you that we’ve added fish? A few small goldfish and some Rudd (after seeing them flash their red fins winningly as they swam around the lake at RHS Hyde Hall).

I was very anxious for them for a while after adding them, because the dragonfly nymphs are fairly large now and very active. I think that they could take on a small fish. More of these predators are being added all the time, see below:


Ruddy darters are still busy reproducing at the edge of the pond

Also the Great Diving Beetles, that were the first wildlife to find and move into the pool, have grown and grown over the summer and are now a good 3cm long and look like armoured tanks:


Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus marginalis)

They are enough to scare me, let alone a small goldfish. Happily, we only seem to have lost one fish since adding them a month ago and I am not sure what caused its demise.

More generally, plenty of butterflies are still flying when the sun shines: Peacocks, Brimstones, Red Admirals, whites and this cute Small Copper butterfly.


Small Copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas)

I only discovered this species a couple of years ago, so I don’t have a good baseline for comparison, but I have seen them consistently throughout this summer. However, recent monitoring by UKBMS have shown Small Coppers to be in steep decline. There are some suggestions that this is through habitat loss, but also that climate change is causing their host plant (sorrel) problems through excessively dry conditions.

Finally, bees and bumbles are making the most of late season flowers like salvias,


Buff-tailed bumblebee supping at Salvia uliginosa

Asters …


Honeybee filling up on asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

and Caryopteris:


Common Carder bumblebee flits from flower to flower on Caryopteris × clandonensis

So far then there is no let up in the pace of activity from summer, but there is noticeable stockpiling going on from bees to squirrels. Let’s all get the harvests in!

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Wordless Wednesday – Stained glass shards


Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’

Posted in autumn, Trees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Nymphs and shepherds


The nymph


Meanwhile the shepherd has been promoted to Emperor (and is still flying/laying in late September)

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Six on Saturday – All fall down


Today has been a clearing up day after those gusty winds we’ve been having over the last 48hrs managed to wreck a fair few things in the garden. And now it is raining, so I’ve retreated to the house to admire my haul and thought that I would play Six on Saturday which is a popular meme hosted by The Propagator (click through to find an ideas and rules guide).

1) So here is my haul:


It includes my one and only aubergine (grown outside – but still pathetic I agree), a number of apples, tomatillos, achochas (sadly completely felled by the winds), courgettes and lots of tomatoes (because the branches have all snapped). The tomatoes have all done really well this year and the surprise seeds my son gave me for my birthday last year have done him proud (Gigantimo and Jersey Devil). Obviously Gigantimo is massive, but it has lovely flesh (not at all mealy). I’ve been eating thin slices of them on marmite toast for breakfast. Don’t judge, just try it!

2) The sunflowers are down (broken) too. This year’s winner in the height competition was ‘Kong’. His heads were splendid, but quite vulnerable to wind damage. I’ve cut them down, taken a few seeds for next year and laid them out for the finches to ransack.


I find looking at their faces absolutely mesmerising. The geometry is perfect. You are (luckily) missing lots of close-up photos of them …

3) We’ve been slowly working to finish off our new pond this summer and we went  as far as commissioning some hazel hurdles to hide the pump. They were ordered ages ago and in fact we thought that they had been forgotten, but this morning we got an email telling us they were ready for collection. So here they are:

sos4They will go long side down on the ground and we need to bracket them together into a square to complete the task, but I think that they look mighty fine.

4) Grown from seed and tremendously slow to flower, this is Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’.sos2I only hope I can over-winter them successfully, because I don’t want to be waiting that long again.

5) I love it when my white Japanese anemones (Honorine Jobert) start to flower at the back of the patio pond. They light a dark corner up and take over from the variegated dogwood in this task.


6) Daydreaming … I grew cosmos ‘Daydream’ from seed this year and although it has been slow to flower, they are putting on a wonderful display now. I am not showing them specifically in this post however, but rather their refracted images in some raindrops.


I’ve been wanting to use raindrops to image some pretty flowers for ages and this looks pretty cool I think!

Hope that this ticks the boxes for participation. Have a good weekend.


Posted in Flowers, Food, The home garden | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments