6 – on – Saturday 30.05.20

Hello. Hope you’re all ok, safe and well. Another week of shouting at the telly, cursing our politicians and feeling powerless. A hot one here in Devon, no rain, soil like powder, hosepipe working overtime. Can’t be long before we get a hosepipe ban. All very cheery. Not. But the flowers are lovely and the garden is, as always, my saving grace. Here are my 6 for this week anyway:

First up is this Hosta. It’s Prince of Wales and seems to be enjoying being in the sun. Later in the day it will be in dappled shade, so it shouldn’t completely fry.

Next are two lovelies that I have posted before at this time every year, but not from this garden. Right, of course, is Gertrude Jekyll, left is Munstead Wood. These are two of the David Austen roses I bought by mail order earlier in the year. They are covered in blooms. The Munstead Wood is lax as always, so that is MrOG’s hand just lifting its head. I must put some supports in. To be honest, I didn’t expect so many blooms this first year.

I’m not sure if you can see this very well, but it’s a Fuschia that is at the bottom of our front path. I didn’t prune it earlier in the year and now it has just gone wild. I love the reddish foliage and it’s a mass of these slender blooms. I’m not sure of the variety but I shall definitely be keeping this.

This is actually quite a small flower. I think it’s Campanula poscharskyana – a bit of a mouthful. Now I’ve been cursing this plant all spring, as it grows in low, leafy mounds, it’s quite invasive and there’s masses of it in the garden. I’ve been pulling these soft green mounds out left, right and centre. And then suddenly, it put out longish stems and all along them are these lavender blue starry flowers. I forgive it, completely. Although, I still think I’ll pull quite a lot out later on.

I couldn’t resist putting this in close-up. Last week, this was in the picture of the haul from the garden centre. It is Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ and is just a delight in the sun. Almost double-flowered, that lovely apricot-tinged red, and powdery yellow stamens. Buy one.

Last up is a wildflower. In fact, it’s two wildflowers. The main bloom is purple toadflax which seems to like our soil and is waving those lovely tiny snapdragon blooms in various parts of the garden. Photobombing it down in the left hand bottom corner is Torquay Pride – centranthus. I’m happy to have both of them in the garden.

That’s my 6 for this week.  No matter how nice the weekend weather – stay near home, keep safe, slap on the sun protection.  In England we still have pandemic conditions and you need to be careful, my friends. Remember – 2 metres.

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 May overview of the garden will be posted after the weekend, 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 24th May

Sunday 24th May – Above the garden, the first swift of the season. At least, the first swift of the season for me. Just one black crescent against the blue, firing across the sky like an arrow, swooping and switching direction, and then – gone. There was no sound, I missed the shriek and scream that usually draws attention to these little sky-bullets. I hope it comes back. I hope more come back.

Monday 25th May – Bank Holiday. Very warm. The birdsong is the usual mix of chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch and of course, blackbird. The chaffinch is catching insects. From its perch on next door’s apple tree it darts up, flutters furiously as it grabs at some small fly and then back to the perch. For all the world like a spotted flycatcher, but I can see his pink breast and white tail feathers as he repeatedly forays out.

Tuesday 26th May – There is an overgrown patch at the south end of the garden. I have been investigating it for wild flowers. The rest of the garden has the usual weeds – daisies, buttercups (creeping and meadow), dandelions and the ever-present willow herb – but the overgrown patch has some rather more interesting ones. The most noticeable are the tall spires of purple toadflax, with flowers like tiny snapdragons, often bending with the weight of bees which love them, and happily seeding themselves everywhere. They seem to particularly like the base of walls here, where they bake in the sun. I like them and am happy to see them around the garden. The most prolific in the patch is wood avens, sometimes called herb bennet. One of the geum family, it tells me that the more desirable geums will like our soil and grow well. Wood avens has small, bright yellow flowers. Again, the bees like them but they spread ferociously and are all over our neglected garden. They’re said to be able to drive away evil spirits and protect from mad dogs and poisonous snakes. That’s all right, then. More exotic are a couple of plants of stinking iris. Their muddy yellowy/greeny flowers are well over but they are developing clusters of orangey red fruits which they will hang on to through autumn and winter. If you bruise the leaves, they smell pretty bad – hence the name. Closer to the ground is ubiquitous herb robert, a teeny tiny pink geranium-type flower with red stems and deeply dissected leaves. Again, present all over the garden and fortunately it’s easy to pull up. It has lots of uses in folk medicine – for nosebleeds, diarrhoea, toothache and healing wounds. If you crush the leaves and rub them on your skin, it repels mosquitos. Allegedly. Maybe I’ll do a whole blog on wild flowers one day. They’re fascinating.

Wednesday 27th May – A little fat, fledgling dunnock is hopping about, calling for food. The parents have raised just one, but it is noisy enough to keep them very busy. It has a beautifully spotted, pale breast and tawny upper parts, not a bit like the adult appearance. It’s like a tiny rock pipit.

Thursday 28th May – I notice the local crows making a fuss over the garden. Looking up, there are four red kite, lazily circling around, casually ignoring the mobbing crows. I’ve never seen them over the garden before, but their long, angled wings with ‘fingers’ spread and their forked tail are unmistakable, plus the fact that they are considerably bigger than the crows. I don’t know how common they are in the south west of England – the RSPB site doesn’t list them as a locally breeding bird, and the distribution map shows them in the south west over the winter rather than all-year. I hope they are establishing themselves nearby and we see them more often.

Friday 29th May – Too hot to be outside today. The birds are loving the warm weather. Don’t forget to fill your birdbaths so that they have somewhere to splash and keep cool. And to drink, of course. They’re singing their hearts out. If you’d like to be better at recognising bird song try this skill development course from the BTO. It costs £20 and looks really good.

stinking iris – pic in the public domain

herb robert – pic ©sannse

purple toadflax – pic ©jgirvin

6 – on – Saturday 23.05.20

WordPress has finally forced me to use the new editing tool, so bear with me if this looks a bit weird. I haven’t mastered it yet. And it’s making me swear. A lot.

I’m really not grumbling about the run of sunny weather, but Lord knows, we could do with a good dollop of rain. The soil is powder dry here and planting requires a pick-axe to break through the surface and get anywhere near a planting hole. Nevertheless, gardening is taking place. Even better, our nearby good garden centre has re-opened so of course, we have been tempted out. Gloves and mask are the order of the day when buying and there has definitely not been any browsing. Any way, on with the 6.

First are these irises. I think I showed you one last week – here are a few more. There are white ones too, but I can’t work out how to get two pictures side by side, although I seem to have found out how to cut the corners off….

Second up are the purchases from the garden centre awaiting placement. Some of my good old favourites here – 3 pots of erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’and 1 of ‘Winter Orchid’ (I think, it has lost its label), 2 hardy geraniums – ‘Rozanne’ and geranium sanguineum ‘New Hampshire Purple’, a lovely geum called ‘Scarlet Tempest’, and a shedload of antirrhinum, red and white. Now, where’s that pick-axe.

Number 3 is a hardy geranium just coming into flower in the border. I think it is ‘Ann Folkard’. There’s lots of it so plenty of scope for increasing it around the garden. I do love hardy geraniums, they’re such good value and I’m delighted to see them popping up in various places.

Next up is – guess what? Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. How can you have an herbaceous border without it? It’s a marvel. Starts flowering now and doesn’t really stop, increases size pretty quickly and splits easily. What could be better?

Number 5 is this lovely thing. It’s coming up randomly in the garden in ones and twos and provides a fabulous pop of colour. It is gladiolus communis byzantinus, commonly called ‘Whistling Jacks’ in parts of the far southwest, where it has naturalised. I love it, and plan to buy lots more with my spring bulb order.

And finally, here’s a little update on the veg patch. Parsnips and carrots up nicely at the back, lettuce and spring onions just showing next, beetroot doing well in the middle. Then a patch of leeks, a couple of courgettes and the runners which are finally making progress. Growing vegetables always takes so long. I feel sorry for all those people who rushed out and bought seeds thinking they were going to feed themselves. Growing veg from seed is a looooong game.

That’s my 6 for this week.  No matter how nice the Bank Holiday weather – stay near home, keep safe.  

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 is the April overview of the garden, 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 17th May

Sunday 17th May – At last the blue sky is back.  Warmer too.  The young veg plants might just be safe.  A greenfinch sings long and loud from the top of the cherry tree and sees off a goldfinch that tries to join in.

Monday 18th May – A reasonable butterfly count in the garden.  Speckled wood, small white, holly blue, peacock.  New birds – I think a siskin may have flown in, but is out again too quickly for me to confirm identification.  It may be one of the resident greenfinches.

Tuesday 19th May –  I can’t imagine being without the birdsong in my garden, as you may have noticed.  According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) turtle doves have decreased 94%, cuckoos by 70%, skylarks by 75%.  I’ve never heard a turtle dove which I consider to be quite a gap in my birdsong experience.  I still hear skylarks if I visit ‘lonelier’ places, and I miss the joy of hearing them on almost every country walk.  I haven’t heard a cuckoo for a long time.  I love this soundscape of birdsong in an English meadow, based on records from 1901, by @JosephMonkhouse and @JackBaddams. Soundscape here: bit.ly/LostSoundscapes

Wednesday 20th May – An early walk down by the beach this morning.  Calm sea.  Local fishermen putting out lobster pots inshore, and close in there is a paddle-boarder, two kayaks and someone swimming without a wetsuit.  The sea must be warmer.  Two rock pipits in the boulder breakwater and swallows over Connaught Gardens.  My first view of swallows this year, their white underparts and streaming tail feathers a welcome sign of summer a-coming in.   A takeaway coffee from The Clock Tower Cafe reminds us of the tastes we’ve been missing.  Our first ‘away from home’ cup of proper coffee. 

Thursday 21st May –  Hot and dry.  The soil in the garden is really hard, and powders when disturbed.  Breaking the ground for planting needs water to soak in for an hour beforehand.  No worms, lots of woodlice.  Two positively identified siskin seen first thing this morning and a visit from the green woodpecker this afternoon.

Friday 22nd May – The forecast overnight rain missed us – still dry here.  The wind is blustering through the leaf-laden trees, they swirl and sway in strong gusts.  The small birds are quiet but the blackbird, ever reliable, sings through it all.

Week 10th May

Sunday 10th May – So windy today and frost forecast tonight.  The trees are full of leaf so there is rushing and swaying and more than a little nervousness about weakened branches.  It hasn’t stopped the blackbird beating his chest in song, nor the robin proclaiming his territory.

Monday 11th May – Still very windy and from the north so a real chill to it.  The runner beans are battered but luckily I have more waiting in the wings.  Our usually gentle part of Lyme Bay is dotted with white wave caps and the clouds are sliding across the sky, in a hurry to get further south west. A crow twirls and tumbles its way across the valley.

Wednesday 13th May – Still cold and windy. Frosts are forecast until the end of the week. We go for our daily exercise but it’s too cold to do anything other than head down, quick march and get home as fast as possible.

Friday 15th May – Wednesday’s cold wind on my face left a legacy of facial pain and migraine, so no walking, no time in the garden, just sleep and analgesia. Better times next week.

6 – on – Saturday 09.04.20

Here we are again.  Another week of lockdown gone by, another week of glorious gardening.  Another week of wondering if we’ll all have agoraphobia when the time comes… Once again, the garden saves me from dwelling too much on the more unpleasant side of things, although if any of you follow me on Twitter (on my ‘other’ account @ProfJuneG, not @Optimistgarden) then you will be all too aware how I rage about ‘the situation’.  So, the garden, god bless it, is my refuge.  Here are my six:

First up is the apple tree.  After 2 years in the pot at the old house and 8 months here, this week it finally got put in the ground.  Cause for great celebration.  It’s a little bit wonky – Mr OG suggested it should have been lined up against the fencepost – but it’s totally fine right where it is, I say the fence post is leaning.  It had lots of blossom so I hope we get some apples.  It’s surrounded by the dreaded Japanese anemone but we did clear out a space for it.  Behind it is Nerine foliage.


Remember those 36 tiny geranium plants from a while back?  This is them planted out.  They’re still pretty small but some of them are flowering and I’m hopeful of a reasonable show later on, and a very good show next year.

Third pic is this aquilegia.  Normally they irritate me in all their tedious self-set dark purpleness, but this one is a rather delicate lavender.  We also have quite a lot of white ones, so perhaps we will see repeats of this lovely colour.


Next are these fabulous poppies.  It’s not a great picture, I’m afraid.  There are lots of them, all over this part of the garden, all of them look as though they are this wonderful scarlet.  I think they are ‘Beauty of Livermere’ but they have no label.  Each flower head is a good 7 or 8 inches across, they are huge and so heavy they can barely hold themselves up.  I love them.


This week’s penultimate picture is the weigela hedge.  Just coming into flower, it’s about ten feet high and screens the shed.  I think it’s ‘Bristol Ruby.’  It’s in the back garden which is a bit of a shame because we only see it in passing.  The only windows that overlook are two frosted bathroom windows and the spare room.


And finally, is this weird lantern-type flower.  I noticed it growing through our overgrown front shrub border – starved of light, quite spindly, probably too tall, and over a week or so these clusters of red flowers appeared.   A mystery to me,  I had to resort to looking it up on the internet – googling ‘drooping red lantern flowers’.  It is, I’m pretty sure, a Crinodendron hookerianum.  Try saying that after a few drinks.  I’m going to try and rescue it, so that it is more visible.


And that friends, is it for this week.  No matter how nice the weather – stay home, keep safe.  I think we still have a long way to go.

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 is the April overview of the garden, 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!

The O.G.

Week 3rd May

Sunday 3rd May – The robin and his mate are taking food into a low conifer outside the sitting room window.  The dunnocks are doing the same at the bottom of the front hedge.  Quite a nursery in the making!

Monday 4th May – Our weekly walk on the beach this morning.  Just warm enough without a coat.  The sea is calm and grey-blue, small waves lapping rather than breaking.  Herring gulls doing their noisy aerobatics, common gulls sitting dejectedly on the shingle.  A single crow accompanies us along the front, bouncing from handrail to tarmac and back again.  Along by the rock island breakwaters there are crambe cordifolia and white sea campion in flower.  The crambe is beautiful, thick glaucous leaves and umbels of white flowers.


Tuesday 5th May – Rain for most of the day and strong easterly winds.  The robins are busily feeding their chicks in spite of it.  They are wet and bedraggled but the constant supply of insects and worms must go on.  Exhausting work getting the chicks to fledging stage.

Wednesday 6th May – A bright sunshine morning.   Blue sky reflected in the sea which is waveless and smooth at this distance.  A neighbour’s mature liquidambar tree has its fresh green leaves; soon it will be a rich, deep red and a strong 60ft focal point at the bottom of the street.  In the same garden is a dead tree trunk covered in clematis montana, a glory of pale pink for a few weeks at this time of year.

Thursday 7th May –  The green woodpecker is back today.  We hear it a lot but rarely see it closely.  It appears in the tree calling that unmistakeable ‘yaffle’, and then down onto the lawn probing the edges for food.  As usual, it doesn’t stay long and is soon up and swooping away.

Friday 8th May – Another lovely, warm day.  The air is so still we can hear the cows lowing across the valley and this afternoon a donkey braying furiously.  It always shocks me if a donkey brays when I’m close by – such a harsh, totally body-wracking sound, the rib cage moving, the neck thrust forward, something ancient and threatening about it.