Six on Saturday: Lights, camera, action!

The most exciting thing that has happened this week is I got a new iPhone 11 so I have been trying out the camera on this week’s six. It has a rather exciting zoom function which is perfect for snapping plants.

Do join in with The Propagator who invites us to feature six things from our garden each week. It is a brilliant way of documenting the changes in your garden throughout the year.

1. Iris ‘Indian Chief’

I bought this bearded iris a couple of years ago and it didn’t do very well in the first two years but it seems to have enjoyed the hot dry April followed by a hefty dose of rain and now has several flowers about to open up. I need to stake the little self sown damson tree behind which is leaning in to the iris.

2. Laurel flowers

I think this is an English laurel but others may know better. It has very pretty spires of white flowers against the dark green foliage.

3. Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Yes it’s here! I know that other sixers have been posting pictures of this excellent ‘doer’ for a while and this week the flowers finally came out on mine. You’ve been tangoed!

4. Heuchera ‘Little Cutie Peppermint’

I bought two Little Cutie heucheras last year: Peppermint and Coco. Both have come back up nicely but so far only Peppermint has flowers.

5. Aquilegia ‘Blue Barlow’

A recent purchase from our local micro nursery Fi’s Yard is this rich blue aquilegia. I have also bought its cousin Nora Barlow which has yet to flower.

6. Fig leaves

The leaves are appearing on our fig tree together with tiny fruit. Summer can’t be far behind!

Six on Saturday: Flower burst

Another week of glorious sunshine 🌞 and everything in the garden is about to burst into flower. Peonies are about to pop, roses are about to ravish.

The highlight of the week was joining a Zoom lecture by Fergus Garrett head gardener at Great Dixter on layered planting. For a couple of hours I felt transported to one of my favourite gardens. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Each week our own head gardener The Propagator invites us to share six things from our garden, share in his comments, then link back to his blog.

1. Phlomis fruticosa

The dazzling yellow flowers of our Jerusalem sage have opened up in the hot April sun. Everything seems earlier than usual this year thanks to the warm weather.

2. Lady Hillingdon rosebud

We have had the first couple of flowers on our Lady Hillingdon climbing rose and this year it is covered in buds so there is the promise of many more to come. Lady Hillingdon was the one who famously wrote that when she heard her husband’s footsteps approaching her bedchamber she would “lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England”!

3. May blossom and cow parsley

My favourite time of year is when the hawthorn blossom is out and is accompanied by the foaming flowers of cow parsley. ‘Ne’er cast a clout til May is out’ is said to refer to the blossom rather than the month and we have certainly had the weather to strip off layers of clothes.

4. Ceanothus ‘Trewithen Blue’

A couple of weeks ago I promised more pictures of our beautiful Ceanothus when it came into full bloom and here it is. We may not be able to visit Cornwall at the moment but we can enjoy this Cornish blue.

5. Across the border

The border is brimming with life with alliums about to burst and the peony putting on lots of lovely foliage. Meanwhile the Negrita tulips in the foreground are still doing their thing.

6. Aquilegia

We have lots of self sown aquilegias and I am happy to let them grow as I love their ‘Granny’s bonnet’ flowers in a range of pinky purple hues.

Six on Saturday: Stormy weather

Some much needed rain last night in the form of a dramatic but short-lived thunderstorm. At last the garden has had a watering. I was weeding in amongst the alliums yesterday and noticed they had gone all floppy. I tend not to water my garden even in dry spells except for new plants and pots, so that only plants which can cope with our free-draining chalk survive.

Each week The Propagator invites us to feature six things from our garden. Here are my six, snapped in between breaking up fights between my offspring and running a 24/7 café from our kitchen.

  1. Dutch Iris ‘Pretty in Blue’

I am growing a few of these irises from Peter Nyssen under our little apple tree. They are absolutely glorious although they should perhaps be called ‘Pretty in Blue – and Yellow’.

2. Apple blossom

We have two apple trees. The biggest, with the darkest pink blossom, was leaning dangerously this winter, but our lovely tree surgeons staked it up and now it is happily flowering away, hopefully a sign of a fruitful year.

The second is a dwarf apple which went bananas last year (if an apple can go bananas) with the most fruit I have ever seen. It has less blossom this year, but it deserves a year off.

3. Purple flowering broccoli seedlings

The other day I potted up lots of summer purple flowering broccoli. I haven’t dared check yet this morning as I left them outside and am hoping they haven’t been too battered by last night’s storm.

4. Tulips

When it comes to tulips in the bed just outside our French windows, I have gone for bold and brilliant colours. These are Queen of the Night, Curly Sue and Ballerina. They have been in for 3 years now – we are lucky they come back on our free draining chalk – but after the wet winter I thought I might have to replace a few and sure enough there is so far only one of the beautiful ballerinas, so I will have to order more next autumn.

5. Southover Grange Gardens, Lewes

With three children, we have found it easier to take them out by themselves or in pairs with just one of us in terms of social distancing when exercising. The other morning my little one really needed to let off steam so we went on a blissful walk through our local gardens which are still open. We had them almost to ourselves to enjoy the Spring bedding displays in glorious sunshine.

6. Up the garden path

Our front garden comes into its own in Spring, with lots of tulips and narcissi as well as self-sown comfrey and bluebells and the first shoots of bronze fennel.

Stay safe and let your gardens keep you sane. X

Six on Saturday: Singing the Blues

Blue is the predominant colour in our garden right now – with a good measure of white and yellow thrown in.

For this week’s six, joining in with the garden maestro himself, The Propagator, I am ‘singing the blues’ in celebration of my favourite colour.

1. Corydalis flexuosa ‘Pere David’

This week I had a delivery of plant from my friend Fiona Dennis, formerly head gardener at Charleston, who has recently taken over a local micro nursery and renamed it Fi’s Yard. I think it is really important to support independent nurseries at this time plus she has some lovely stock. I have wanted a pretty china blue Corydalis for some time and this one is perfect for an east-facing partially shady spot.

2. Bluebells

I couldn’t very well write about the colour blue and not mention the bluebells which are coming out in force in our garden now. These are probably the thuggish hybrids rather than native woodlanders but I shall enjoy them nonetheless.

3. Green alkanet

Pentaglottis sempervirens to give it its Latin name is another thug which despite the name has pretty forget-me-not blue flowers. It grows like a weed in our garden but the bees enjoy it so I am giving it a reprieve then I will cut it down, dig out the roots and steep the leaves to make a fertiliser similar to comfrey tea

4. Forget-me-nots

When we arrived in our garden nearly four years ago one of the first things I noticed was a crumbling old urn filled with forget-me-nots. It is not quite so full this year, but I happily transported some more from the garden at Charleston by accident and now have a ‘cloud’ of forget-me-nots in the garden.

5. Purple honesty

Not strictly blue but I have wanted some of this Lunaria annua for a while and now it has happily self-seeded from our neighbours’ garden.

5. Ceanothus

In the warm Spring sunshine our Ceanothus ‘Trewithen Blue’ is about to burst into flower. I may have to show this again in the next week or so when it is in its full glory!

Enjoy your gardens this sunny Easter weekend!

Six on Saturday: Counting blessings

How are we all? I don’t know about you but I wake up each morning thinking the world is normal, then I remember that it’s not. Still, we have to focus on the positives. I feel very blessed to have a nice house and garden and to live in the beautiful South Downs where I can walk or run each day.

I think I have had Covid 19, hence the lack of post last week. I had a sore throat and flu symptoms for about a week, before collapsing into bed with complete fatigue, loss of appetite and a crippling headache, followed by a cough which woke me up at night.

I am one of the lucky ones, as I have got through it needing no more than bed rest, and I am well aware that thousands of others are not so fortunate, which is why we must bear the current lockdown as best we can and support our wonderful NHS.

A huge upside is spending so much more time than usual in the garden and this week, the temperatures are about to soar in the UK making being outside even more appealing (in the garden or social distancing exercise only). So without further ado, here are my six, joining in as ever with The Propagator. Do check out his blog and tribe of faithful followers.

  1. Pear blossom

Our pear tree has grown so high that it is usually difficult to see the blossom up close or to pick the fruit, but this year a little spur of blossom has obligingly appeared at knee height. What is more, I have been given one of these Fruit Collectors so this year I will actually be able to gather the fallen pears without them getting bruised or nibbled by slugs and woodlice.

2. Pirate ship den

The play pirate ship which we had made at the back of our garden has come into its own since the schools closed. It has been turned into a cosy area for the kids to sit and do some reading, or play imaginative games – the best type.

3. Erythronium

These pale cream dogtooth violets are looking sweet in our woodland patch. I love their red on yellow markings and the long milky white stamens.

4. Ident please

I really should know what this cheery yellow flower is, but I’m afraid I can’t think of its name. Any offers? Ps, the large grey elephant in the background is our fig tree, a wondrous thing.

5. Photinia

I tried to kill this Photinia off a couple of years ago as it had grown into a tree which was making our shady terrace even shadier. It was too robust for me, but now I am rather enjoying its vibrant red leaves, as colourful as any flower.

6. Dinosaurland

Keeping our six-year-old amused has proved trying at times, but he is never happier than out in the garden and yesterday he and I created our own mini Jurassic Park amongst the ferns.

Take care, stay safe and keep on gardening!

Six on Saturday: They can’t cancel the Spring

Wise words from the great David Hockney this week. The Bradford-born artist, who is currently self-isolating at his home in Normandy, unveiled a new picture of daffodils to cheer spirits with the message ‘Do remember they can’t cancel the Spring.’

I am sure many of us SOSers are taking comfort in the new growth in our gardens at the moment. I certainly am as I join in with The Propagator who invites us to feature six things from our garden each week.

1. Clematis armandii

Wild and wonderful this Spring-flowering clematis is just outside our sitting room window. It is at its peak right now with masses of starry white flowers.

2. Escallonia

We have an enormous Escallonia in our front garden. However much I cut it back it returns with a vengeance. It’s little dark pink flowers which arrived this week are quite pretty so I will give it a reprieve.

3. Grape hyacinths

The Muscari armeniacii have arrived like rows of tiny blue soldiers. Spot the Give Way sign in the background.

4. First tulip

We are lucky that because we are on chalk tulips come up again year after year. I think this is a ‘Purple Prince’ or possibly a ‘Purple Flag’ from Peter Nyssen, planted about three years ago.

5. Cherry blossom

This week our little cherry tree has burst into blossom to remind us that life goes on.

6. James Guinea Pig

Last week I reported on the sad news that our guinea pig Nibbles had to be put down. While we can’t replace her we didn’t want her sister Gracie to be lonely, so we have adopted a new guinea pig, James, from the RSPCA to keep her company. It has cheered up the children and given them something other than indefinite school closures to think about!

Take care everyone and stay well. With our gardens and one another we can come through this.

Keep on gardening

One of my resolutions for these strange times is to get my children out in the garden as much as possible.

Today it is cold and grey, although better weather is forecast from tomorrow. But we still managed to celebrate the Spring equinox by sowing some seeds.

Together with my nine-year-old and nearly six-year-old we started off by filling some old pots and seed trays with No1 seed compost, patting it down (I use the other pots and trays to get a nice smooth surface.)

Then we sowed crimson flowered broad beans one to a pot, using a little dibber to make a hole, although your finger would do, then covering it with compost.

Next up Meteor dwarf peas, also in pots. For the smaller seeds of Gobstopper tomatoes and Summer purple flowering broccoli, we used seed trays.

Finally we watered the pots and trays before bringing them inside to – hopefully – germinate on the kitchen windowsill.

My plan is to plant a few different varieties of seeds each day, so that we have a garden full of fresh veg and flowers by the summer (and fewer trips to the supermarket!)

Six on Saturday: Sanctuary

I don’t know about others, but my garden feels like a sanctuary at the moment. A place I can momentarily forget the madness and focus on the minutiae of growing things, pushing their way up through the earth to celebrate Spring.

Sadly this week it also became the final resting place for our much loved guinea pig Nibbles. She would often try to escape from her run into the flower borders and now she has been set free there for good. We still have her sister Gracie, who is grieving, so we are looking for a new companion for her, not because we want to replace Nibbles but because companionship is a fundamental need for guinea pigs which are highly sociable.

I am joining in with The Propagator who invites us to show six things from our garden each week. Do take a look, it will be a welcome distraction from the news headlines.

1. RIP Nibbles

My daughter and son made a special stone to mark Nibbles’ burial spot. I dug a hole hopefully deep enough to deter foxes and we laid her to rest in a compostable bag. I may scatter some annual seeds around her stone so that flowers can grow up around her.

2. Creeping buttercup

The Ranunculus repens is back. In the past I have gone to war with it, but this year I am going to make peace and simply enjoy its cheery yellow flowers.

3. Ajuga reptans

‘Tis the season for creepers. The blue bugleweed has put on some coppery growth before flowering in a few weeks’ time. I never quite know what direction it is heading in!

4. Early Spring border

I rather like this combination of purple and white hellebores in front of shiny green laurel and red-tipped Photinus with the umbrella of Ceanothus behind.

5. Cherry blossom buds

They are not quite open yet but there is the promise of things to come on our cherry tree. What can beat pink buds against a blue sky?

6. Chelsea tulips

Another sanctuary for me in recent weeks has been the Chelsea Physic Garden where I am coming to the end of my garden design diploma with the English Gardening School. The rest of this weekend will be spent grappling with my planting plans which have to be drawn up and handed in next week.

Wherever you are in the world I wish you health and happiness in your garden this weekend and in the weeks to come.

Six on Saturday: Spring Cleaning

We have been surprised by a day of sunshine and the first chance to get out in the garden for a while so this is a very brief six while I pop in for a bowl of soup. This morning I have cut back ferns and done a bit of weeding and this afternoon it’s time to prune the roses. I’ve even got the washing out on the line!

I’m joining in with The Propagator who invites us to feature six things from our garden each Saturday.

1. Pulmonaria

How pretty are these pink, purple and blue flowers all on the same plant? I was given a few of these from the garden at Charleston farmhouse where I used to volunteer.

2. Tête-à-tête narcissi

I know Gill from Off the Edge thinks they are thugs but in my garden they are perfectly sweet. Maybe because we have much worse thugs to outdo them like the ivy in this picture.

3. Comfrey

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the comfrey in flower in our garden quite so early. This is one of the aforementioned thugs but it’s bell like flowers are quite attractive and it’s leaves make a great fertiliser when made into comfrey tea, so I tolerate it.

4. Accidental pot

This pot was left on the steps with an old hyacinth in it and at some point used as a storage receptacle for some lumps of flint. Throw in a self seeded forget me not and I think the result is quite effective.

5. More hellebores

Yes I know everyone is hellebored but I quite like this combination of purple Helleborus orientalis and white Helleborus argutifolius.

6. Moss

I love these delicate little green heads on the moss which is taking over at the moment – one of the upsides of all the rain we’ve had.

Speaking of which it’s clouding over now so I’m off to get the washing in and prune the roses while I can.

Six on Saturday: Stormy times

First there was my namesake Storm Ciara and now we are expecting Storm Dennis. Our five-year-old is quite excited and keeps on asking when he’s going to arrive as if he’s an old friend coming to visit. But all these storms are taking their toll on trees. To add to their arboreal woes this week we got a letter from our local council about the sad impact of Ash Dieback which means that many ash trees have become unsafe and will have to be taken out in a managed programme.

We had the tree surgeons round this week. The annual hair cut for our fig, holly, bay, pear and apple trees, as well as a good trim for the buddleia, vine, Philadelphus and laurel lets light into our garden and makes me hopeful for the coming growing season.

So I will begin this week’s six with one of those recently lopped trees. As ever I am joining in with The Propagator and his marvellous Six on Saturday meme.

1. Fig and Mahonia

We inherited this wonderfully gnarled and twisted fig tree which is perfect for small people to climb in the winter months before it gains its lush green canopy. Sadly, the prolific fruit always fall before ripening, but it still earns its place in the garden for its magical appearance. At the moment it is woven through with dazzling yellow Mahonia which smells rather lovely up close.

2. Smart laurel

The tree surgeons have given a nice shape to the large laurel bush in our front garden. Some people don’t like them but I think I would miss it’s shiny evergreen foliage if it wasn’t there.

3. Clematis armandii

Regular SOS-ers will remember that a few weeks ago I was complaining about how overgrown this Spring flowering clematis is. I had to wait until it had flowered to cut it back. It has now started flowering and will continue for a few weeks. The blooms are lovely, but I am hoping it will survive Storm Dennis as it is on an exposed south facing wall (we are near the top of a hill).

4. Tête-à-tête narcissi

It’s daffodil time and I do love these sweet dwarf narcissi coming up for their second year.

5. Unnamed narcissi

I planted these in a pot last year and now they are coming round for a second season. I can’t remember the name but they look elegant with their slender green flower heads waiting to unfurl.

6. Euphorbia

We have lots of these self-seeded Euphorbias. I’m not sure whether I like them but they provide ground cover for now.

That’s it for this week. SOS-ers in the UK stay safe when Storm Dennis arrives. Hopefully he won’t be too much of a menace!