6 – on – Saturday 8.8.20

Hello! A quick look around the garden today as all my pages are due to be published – the 6, the monthly garden catch up, and the Core Edge Journal. Phew! Do check them all out from the menu across the top of this page.

I had a wander round the garden early this morning because we’re expecting temperatures up to 28C today, so I will mostly be hunkered down inside, trying to keep as cool as possible. First off is this lovely crimson rose. I don’t know its name but it repeat flowers through the mid to late summer. For some reason the people who lived here before us planted it in a raised bed that sits cleverly half way down the driveway, making getting two cars on the drive an interesting squeezing experience. The bed will go when we have the drive relaid, but the rose will stay.

Next is this lonely little petunia in the (gone-to-seed) lettuce bed. Probably planted by a sparrow, it’s a pleasant shade of red, and relieves the unremitting green in the veg bed, along with this flowered radish. French Breakfast, I think.

Third is a ‘proper’ flower. This came up from a seed mix of supposedly meadow plants that I scattered in a big shallow container. It’s very pretty, but I think a flowering annual rather than a meadow flower. There is a deeper red one too. If I knew what they were (anybody?) I’d look for some more seed for next year.

Fourth is, or was, a patch of bare soil that we turned over a while ago. As soon as there is a patch of bare soil it is immediately colonised by these wild strawberries. I would like to say I don’t mind because of the fruit, but they’re tiny and sparse. Although very tasty.

I know I’ve posted this before but it’s so bright and cheerful I thought you might like to see it again. A lovely vibrant cerise cistus, and a little hoverfly! I’ve never noticed that white pistil in the middle of the stamens before, it’s amazing how a photograph encourages closer ‘looking’.

And finally, another view. This time from the side garden over to Trow Hill in the morning haze. I bloody love living here.

That’s my 6. Hope you found them interesting.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

Stay safe. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. We’ve a long way to go.

The garden in July

The weather is now pretty consistently warm and most plants are doing well. We have cut the front hedges – quite a marathon – it took us two days with a day’s rest in between (we are not as young as we were!). We have a battery powered hedge trimmer with a long handle and a positionable head, bought specifically for this job, but it proved to be so heavy and unwieldy that we quickly resorted to a stepladder and the electric trimmer. If you are considering battery-powered tools do think about the weight and ease of use. Even though ours has a shoulder strap to help balance it, it’s still quite a skill to manage it. The leaf blower attachment is brilliant for clearing up though.

In the big side garden we haven’t really made much progress. We have been waiting to see what grew, so that we can keep, move or dig out and discard. In the spring there were oriental poppies; we have cut some down, dug some up and collected seed for spreading elsewhere. There is also a lot of pulmonaria which we will spread around the garden, it’s leafing up beautifully at the moment, the spotted leaves at an almost perfect point for transplantation. There were a few gladiolus byzantinus here and there – I tied pieces of coloured wool round them so I didn’t forget what they were and I shall take up the bulbs and group them together. They’re so lovely I’ve also ordered more to make a decent sized clump. Now, later in the summer season, there is a huge clump of orange day lilies – hemerocallis flava – which we will divide and transplant to a couple of places in the garden, crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is making a wonderful show and can stay where it is, right next to what will be the new vegetable bed. There are huge clumps of solidago that I will cheerfully dig out and put on the compost heap and japanese anemone is also quite thuggish here, not to mention the dreaded hypericum. After a year of thinking about the main bed in this part of the garden we have decided it will be traditional, cottagey and very flowery without a colour theme, more of a colour riot. So we are looking at geum and hardy geranium for long lasting flowering, allium, gladiolus and crocosmia for height, maybe an oriental lily here and there. Mostly hardy perennials and spring and summer bulbs. This morning I’ve found an astrantia that wasn’t there before. The long east-facing bed has shrubs – camellia, pieris, hydrangea, dreaded hypericum and needs lightening up. Here will be variegated hosta under the shrubs, and lots of spring and early summer bulbs. All of the overwintered bulbs from containers will end up in this bed, so various tulips and muscari from this year. I can hardly wait for a little later in the season when ordering, buying and placing and planting can begin in earnest.

The vegetable plot has far exceeded our expectations and those spindly little plants are producing very well indeed. We are are starting work on the new (permanent) vegetable bed at the top of the side garden. Our plan is for these to be no-dig beds, but first we have to clear them of any green growth and get them edged to raise them a little. They are pretty much empty now but for a few clumps of pulmonaria that we can transplant elsewhere and some wood avens and japanese anemone which may be a bit more difficult to completely clear. Once the current beds at the front are finished the plan will revert to them being a hot (colour-wise) bed and a cottage garden bed.

In the small rear garden, where we cleared the old jasmine away, we have planted tree echium, echium pininana. They have put on lots of growth and we are hopeful of ten foot spires of flowers next year. We lost two of the plants, but looking at how they are growing, there wouldn’t have been room for four anyway!

There is so much to do, it’s quite daunting. It’s so hot at the moment that any serious work in the garden is out of the question for us oldies. But soon, soon.

See you next month, when I fully expect to be showing you a dried up desert of a garden if the current temperatures keep up. 28C today and climbing. Do check out the other blog pages from the menu above. 6 on Saturday and the Core Edge Journal.

Thanks for reading and keep keeping your distance, wear your mask and wash your hands. Stay safe.

Week 2nd August

Sunday 2nd August – A lovely day. Sunny and warm and quiet. A day at home. We harvest a kilo and a half of runner beans, four courgettes, a kilo of carrots and 2 large cabbages from the garden. Growing our own food feels like magic. A few seeds, a bit of care, variable weather – and up they come. It’s suddenly noticeable that the birds have stopped singing, probably for the last month or so. There’s the occasional twittering from groups of goldfinches, and of course the wood-pigeons never stop, but the spring and early summer announcing songs of the garden are silenced.

Monday 3rd August – A quick trip in and out of town. It’s too busy for me now that holidaymakers have arrived. The streets are narrow and crowded and not enough people wear masks or try to keep a distance. It’s hard work to try to keep safe. It’s as if being on holiday somehow makes them feel immune.

Tuesday 4th August – The weather is beautiful. Warm and sunny, cloudless sky. From the cliff top the sea is washed with silver, scarcely a ripple on it. The tide is at its lowest, the rock pools exposed, their covering of seaweeds bright green and dark red, like slicked down feathers. There are small fishing boats working just offshore, a string of them, dark shapes bobbing in the swell. There will be fresh fish to buy from the hut later on.

Wednesday 5th August – So much for yesterday’s sunshine. Today is dark and drizzly, with cloud so low that Trow and Soldier’s Hill are completely hidden. The mist coats everything, dripping and soaked, droplets shining like beads of mercury on every branch and stem. There is no breeze and the heat is oppressive.

Thursday 6th August – More of the same. Warm and wet this morning, and a lowering sky. On our drive across to Seaton we seem to be right in the clouds, visibility down to a few yards, trees and hedges looming out of the whiteness, the windscreen constantly wet with mist as if we are caught in a suspension of land and water. The views across the valley and down to the sea are wiped out by a solid-seeming screen of moisture. By mid-afternoon it’s lifting a little, but not enough to reveal the top of the hill or the sea in the bay, we are still suspended between wet and dry.

Friday 7th August – What a change! Blue sky from waking, 22C by 10am and set to hit 27C later. We take our cliff-top walk to catch what breeze there is. Looking down we can see that the beach is full in both directions. Even the Town beach, which is usually eschewed for those areas further away has its crop of sun tents and umbrellas. The sea is as smooth as glass, the tide high and just on the turn. Paddleboarders, hired kayaks, bodyboarders, wet-suited swimmers, small children in their once-a-year bathing suits all make so much multi-coloured flotsam. There are clouds building in the west and a streak of showers on the horizon. The clouds are wood-pigeon-breast blue and by the time we get home big fat drops of rain are falling. Just a few, then gone.

6 – on – Saturday 1.8.20

Month 8. Two thirds of the way through the year. Sylivia Plath puts it well in her journal: “August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

The garden is still lively though, and the vegetable plot is rewarding us far in excess of our efforts. Runner beans, late peas, carrots, courgettes, cabbages, spring onions. The lettuce has gone over, as have the radishes, and the leeks, parsnips and tomatoes yet to come. It’s now three weeks since I bought vegetables from a shop. So what else is in the garden this week?

First up is a sign of the turning season. This leaf from the cherry tree was on the lawn this morning. A reminder that autumn is very close indeed, whilst the parched grass underneath it tells us that summer is not away yet.

Next is this Lysimachia, yellow loosestrife. I don’t know the variety but it has these lovely red-tipped centres to each small flower. It has seeded in different parts of the garden and I really love it. The flowers are long-lasting and the leaves a really fresh green when it first comes up.

Third up is this. I couldn’t resist putting it in, although this photo does it no justice at all. It is the view from the front garden and from the sitting room window. It is the joy of my life.

Next is something from the vegetable garden. Cabbages. Does anyone know if they freeze well? Here’s a tip – stagger your plantings of cabbages, do not plant them all at once!

Fifth is a clematis. Weak and leggy last August with no flowers when we moved here, I almost got rid of it. I wasn’t sure which pruning group it belonged to, so I just chopped it off to the ground in the spring and hoped for the best. It has a few flowers now, but not as many as I had hoped, but at least it’s identifiable. I think this is Nelly Moser, a group two clematis. I shall nurture it and hope for a better show next year. That leaf got in the way a bit.

And finally, fast becoming one of my favourite plants, is this white agapanthus. More fragile than our blue ones, it dies back in winter. We bought it with us from our old house where it grew feebly in a pot and scarcely flowered. It seems to like it here because we have lots of flowers and it’s looking very perky. The foliage behind the little wall is nerine for later in the year.

That’s it for this week. I’m not managing a 6 every week because I’m concentrating on my other blog, the Core Edge Journal, which you can visit here if you like.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

Stay safe. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. We’ve a long way to go.

Week 26th July

Sunday 26th July – The weather is certainly unpredictable – is that an oxymoron? Anyway, we have early bright sunshine, fading to light showers, then brooding clouds and rolls of thunder accompanied by heavy rain. The lowering sky and lack of light is November-ish, but the warmth belies the appearance. There is a sense of ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’. Shakespeare’s words from Sonnet No 18 were a metaphor for love, but they are true, nonetheless.

Monday 27th July – We cannot let the weather keep us indoors. Under overcast skies and a breeze we head off for a walk and coffee from the cliff top café. As we reach the cliff top car park the sea mist is as wet as rain but we are undeterred. Rounding the path overlooking the beach strong blustery wind takes our breath and hoods away and makes us laugh out loud. The beach is empty, the pebbles slick and shiny. Great grey rolls of water swell into the beach, breaking into cream-topped falls of foam and spray. The gusts, the soaking mist and the sound of the sea is invigorating. Gulls hang above the cliffs then slide away to land on the beach in sodden groups, a crow finds shelter in a clump of foliage half-way down the cliff-face. We manage a short walk and then take refuge on a bench in the corner of a wall, overlooking the curve of the cliffs and the tide pushing in. The coffee is welcome and warming. The cobwebs definitely blown away.

Tuesday 28th July – The young robins have tail feathers, redder breasts and are looking much more robin-like. They also forage less as a family group. Soon they will find their own territories, I hope they don’t go go too far from us.

Wednesday 29th July – Warm and sunny. The garden is full of butterflies, on next door’s buddleia, on our hydrangea, and fluttering through on their way to who knows where. Peacock. Red Admiral. Gatekeeper. Small white. Wall. Holly blue. Cinnabar moth. There are hoverflies at every turn, just hanging in the air then darting away to hover a few feet to the left or right. The wasps are beginning to make a nuisance of themselves whenever food appears and a couple of queen wasps are busy stripping the wood from our old garden chairs.

Thursday 30th July – A mouse is making its presence felt in the vegetable garden, mostly in the peas. We see it darting out from a drainage hole in the bottom of the wall, across the path, straight through the leeks and runners, across the second path, heading straight for the pea plants. A minute later it makes the return journey, presumably carrying a portion of pea to eat or stash. I’ve bought traps but I can’t quite bring myself…

Friday 31st July – Hottest day of the year apparently. In cities probably. It’s been about 26 degrees C. here and really very humid. Pretty uncomfortable. This evening the sky over the sea is layered in grey, with dropping darker edges indicating showers on the horizon. As I write this the tops drift white, and are touched momentarily in streaks of glowing salmon pink as the sun sets.

Week 19th July

Sunday 19th – Wednesday 22nd – Visitors. Very welcome visitors. Seeing my sister for the first time since Christmas. Chat, shrieks, walking and lazing in the sun mean no journalling!

Thursday 23rd July – A quiet day today. Warm and cloudy. There is drizzle from time to time, but it barely dampens the flagstones. Sitting in the cliff top gardens, in a shelter facing the full expanse of Lyme Bay, we can see the grey, misty showers moving across the horizon from west to east. A pied wagtail feeds its youngster on the wall in front of us and a sleek and very pretty rock pipit runs up to us and around our feet, practically asking for food.

Friday 24th July – Warm and drizzly. The garden birds are quiet and hunkered down. Occasionally a bedraggled blue tit or greenfinch appears on the fir tree and a very damp blackbird is looking for insects amongst the runner beans. As the sky clears for a few minutes a chaffinch starts to sing and the goldfinches appear, twittering around the top of the cherry tree. The low cloud and drizzle mean that I can’t see the bay from the sitting room window. I miss the sea and its changing colours and moods, even if its only gone for a few hours. How quickly we have become accustomed to seeing it every day. And how lucky we are.

Week 12th July

Sunday 12th July – Beautiful day. We occasionally see (and hear) a dragonfly whirr through the garden, but today one lands on a potted geranium and stays around for a while. I wouldn’t have noticed it but I saw the long body hanging from the bloom, looked more closely and then the four wings were clearly visible. A photograph and a quick internet search identified it as a Southern Hawker – Aeshna cyanea. On the wing from June to October, they are common in the UK around ponds, canals, or hunting down woodland rides – hence ‘hawker’. A mix of black, pale blue and lime green, it’s not a shy, retiring type of dragonfly. In fact they can be fairly inquisitive, flying up quite close to get a good look at whoever is watching them!

Monday 13th July – Working in the garden I hear a deep, reverberative ‘gronk, gronk’ and an answering ‘kock, kark’, both repeated several times. It’s the unmistakeable conversational calls of two ravens (Corvus corax) as they fly overhead, one a wing-beat or so behind the other. Seen on their own their long wings and diamond-shaped tail – as well as that distinctive throaty call – helps to identify them. Seen alongside other corvids, crows or rooks, their huge size makes them obvious. We see them flying over quite regularly, usually towards the sea and the cliffs. I love them; intelligent, playful, tricksy birds straight out of myth and legend. And of course, the doomy, enigmatic harbinger of Poe’s poem ‘Nevermore’: ‘ Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

Tuesday 14th July – The three baby robins are getting their adult plumage. They still have speckled breasts but there are patches of white beginning to show through, and one of them has a red chin. They don’t have proper tail feathers yet and so have that fledgling roundness that is so sweet. They are pecking around amongst the vegetable plants. One of them is exploring the base of the wall, he is stabbing repeatedly, and is finally rewarded with a juicy caterpillar.

Wednesday 15th July – We are cutting the long front hedge this week. It’s a mix of grisselinia, pittosporum, laurel, holly and wiegela. The small birds love it, especially the house sparrows. It’s dense and wide so plenty of room for nests. This year it’s held robins, sparrows and I suspect a blackbird, although we didn’t find the nest.

Thursday 16th July – Another blasted headache. I think it’s the weather which is very hot and close. Airless. No hedge cutting today.

Friday 17th July – Same again today, although there is a bit of breeze this morning. Enough breeze to allow us to finish the hedge trimming. It’s hot, dusty work and there are lots of ants racing around. Every time I pull a weed, mostly willow-herb, from the base of the hedge it disturbs lots of them.

Saturday 18th July – Warm and humid today. This afternoon we notice the front paving starts to shimmer, silvery grey and sparkling in the bright sun. As we watch, fascinated, hundreds of flying ants –alates – the fertile adult males and females are emerging from the nests to fly and mate on the wing. They don’t fly straight away but flow steadily out of the nest, clambering over and around each other, spreading slickly….then one by one they begin to fly, heavy and awkward, seeking each other out. Today, it’s Flying Ant Day.

6 – on – Saturday 11.7.20

Unreliable weather. This week it’s been cold and hot, windy and humid, wet and dry, sunny and overcast. It’s not just ‘What am I supposed to wear?’ but ‘What am I supposed to plant?’. It’s also been too unreliable to do anything very much, other than keeping things tidy, and there is SO much to do. Maybe next week. Here for this week, are my 6.

Hemerocallis. I don’t know what flavour, but they have that rather pretty darker patch around a yellow stripe in the throat. There are lots of them in a very congested patch, so in the autumn they will get moved around a bit.

Agapanthus just coming into flower. This is an evergreen type and again, in a very congested clump. So much so, that I think this is going to be the only flower. No matter – it’s HUGE. We have others about the place, white and pale blue, so many that they’re going to get divided and replanted or passed on to friends and relatives.

These simple sweet peas have appeared from nowhere in the back garden. They have no fragrance and the growth is coarse and thick so they’re probably lathyrus latifolius, the perennial pea vine. Once they’ve done their thing I will root them out.

The vegetable garden is starting to come good. We are eating new potatoes, courgettes, radish, spring onions, lettuce, sugar snap peas, and the runner beans have just started picking. Beetroot have been pickled. There are carrots, leeks, parsnips and cabbages to come. For the first time this season I shopped this week and didn’t buy any vegetables. Yay!! Home grown.

This is Albertine. A good, old-fashioned rose. Single season, prolific blooms that don’t longer than a day or so, but superbly fragrant. Remember I was going to plant a climber to grow up that smallish, dead tree? Well, this is she. Not really climbing yet, but lots of flowers, and next year I think will be really lovely.

Isn’t this lovely as the final pic for this week? It’s a wonderful Hydrangea. The flowers start off green with pink edges (see bottom of pic) they then turn a mixture of cerise pink and a mauvey blue, slowly all turning deep pink. Then, as they age they become a deep red. It’s wonderful. I highly recommend it for a very long season of interest, but I have no idea what it’s called. Sorry.

That’s my 6 for this week. If you enjoy my 6 on Saturday you might like my wildlife/countryside blog too.  It’s accessible from the Core Edge Journal tab at the top of the blog.  Also on the In the Garden tab the June overview of the garden is up, so take a look there too.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

Week 5th July

Sunday 5th July – Ants. Why are there so many ants? Everywhere we have paving, we have ants. There are over thirty species of ant in the UK and although it feels like they’re ALL HERE they are most likely to be the black garden ant – Lasius niger. It’s the worker ants that are noticeable at this time of year (between March and October) following each other around, pushing up powdery soil in the cracks between the paving stones, and defying any attempts to reduce their numbers by fair means or foul. At some point between now and September the winged fertile males and females will fly out in a cloud, usually during humid weather, and usually in unison with lots of other colonies – Flying Ant Day – although they don’t really all come out on the same day everywhere.

Monday 6th July – A pair of great spotted woodpecker in the garden this morning, flying in with a loud call and investigating the cherry tree. Unmistakeable in black and white flight, they are the most lovely things close up, bigger than they appear flying through. Although both sexes look very similar, the males are distinguished by a red patch of feathers at the back of the head, which one bird is clearly showing. Neither bird is displaying the red crown of the juvenile, so – a pair.

Tuesday 7th July – Warmer today with less threat of showers. We decide on Bicton Gardens for our walk. A pleasant ten minute drive away plus it’s big enough to not have to be close to other people. The herbaceous borders are beautiful – great for ideas for the garden, and I am busy photographing likely plants and rummaging through foliage to find labels. There is a mediterranean garden where we pay particular attention. Phlomis, agapanthus, ballota, yucca and cistus – all get noted down. Iridescent blue damselflies skim the ponds and fly up, mating on the wing.

Wednesday 8th July – Cold, wet and windy. An indoors day.

Thursday 9th July – Having left a garden behind in which we never saw a greenfinch, we are now in a garden that is always full of them. If we can’t see them hopping about in the shrubs and plants eating aphids and insects, we can hear them ‘tscheeeew, tscheeeew, tscheeeew’ all day long. They are most welcome.

Friday 10th July – The sun and the warmth is back, and so are the swifts, screaming and wheeling overhead. Masters of flight, we watch them darting about high above the garden, jinking and turning sharply to snatch the insects from the air. Butterflies are also enjoying the sun. Red admiral, peacock, small white, gatekeeper. A meadow brown with its bouncy flight skips across the lawn. A mouse makes its way under the front wall. Too close to the house for comfort. Traps (humane) out tonight.

Week 28th June

I almost forgot to post this this week. Better late than never!

Sunday 28th June – The weather begins to break. A little cooler and more cloudy. The sea is grey and clouded from our window, the horizon pale and luminous. Later in the day mist rises from the woods on Trow Hill and the air feels heavy and saturated. Headachey.

Monday 29th June – Yesterday’s gloominess has lifted and there are blue skies and a fresh breeze. We take a walk up onto the cliff gardens and find a sheltered spot to enjoy the sun and keep out of the wind. It’s still very peaceful here, but soon the tourists will arrive and our lockdown quiet will be gone. No more lunch takeaways from the garden cafe, the seats will be full and there will be more people around. Too many for us. We shall reschedule our walks to earlier in the day and keep away from the gardens. We shall enjoy being out of doors just as much.

Tuesday 30th June – Rain all night and all day. The parched garden will be drinking it up. We put all the pot plants from the conservatory outside for a drink and a wash and tidy them up generally. They look very much better for it. In a break in the rain I pick the first mange-tout peas, crisp and juicy, they lift tonight’s salad into something rather lovely. This evening it feels cold, almost cold enough for the heating. Cold enough for a blanket over the legs instead. No birds to be seen all day.

Wednesday 1st July – July is the month our Anglo-Saxon ancestors called Heymonath or Mead monath, the first referring to haymaking and the second to the flowering of the meadows. Sadly, there are precious few flowering meadows around now. Years ago July would have seen our countryside a kaleidoscope of flower-rich meadows and grasslands that were an intrinsic part of our farming landscape. Over 97% of our flower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, that’s 3 million hectares or 7.5 million acres, and just 1% of the UK’s land area is species-rich grassland. Even with this staggering amount of loss, a meadow is still a crucial habitat with often over 150 different species of flower and grass that support a whole eco-system of insects, small mammals and birds. You can contribute to the making of meadows by supporting the National Trust’s Meadows appeal here and by involvement with Plantlife, take a look here. Also, Saturday 4th July is National Meadows Day. I don’t ‘journal’ on Saturdays usually which is why I’m mentioning it here. Anyway, it’s much nicer than Stupid Saturday and rushing to the pub, as far as I’m concerned.

Thursday 2nd July – Cool and windy. All day. We’ve had a 12 degree drop in temperatures from last week, no wonder I’m feeling the cold. The birds don’t like it either, they’re not hanging around the garden for long. The blackbird is all alarm calls and tossing leaves around under the camellia. The young birds – greenfinch, goldfinch – are fluffed up and still doing that furious wing flapping thing, asking to be fed. The parents don’t oblige, they have to fend for themselves.

Friday 3rd July – The long-tailed tits have brought their babies into the garden. They are the cutest of cute things – tiny, mostly grey and white, and with a quite bewildered look. They manage their long tails remarkably well, finding their way through the coronilla, investigating the empty bird feeder, not straying too far from parent. Spells of sunshine tempt a few butterflies out – small white, speckled wood and a new visitor, a gatekeeper. More warm weather please.