Cheat 6 – on – Saturday 29.09.2018

Six things (not) in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

I haven’t managed to blog on this site since the beginning of September, and here we are at the end of it.  After a busy day professionally yesterday, today I’ve been relaxing at the Malvern Autumn Show.  It’s been an absolute joy of a day, warm sunshine, cloudless blue skies and the backdrop of the Malvern Hills looking wonderful.  So, in order to avoid another no-blog-Saturday, I am going to cheat and show you a few things that aren’t in my garden, but are garden related.

To set the scene – this is a bit of the spine of hills that make up the Malverns.  The show ground nestles just below them and the setting couldn’t be better.

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Considering how disappointing a lot of veg has been this year, I was most impressed to see these  below.  Entrants in the Giant Vegetable Show, they really were huge.  Those onions were as big as my head, the leek thicker than my arm and the cabbage had to be seen to be believed.  I’ve no idea how they would taste, but someone worked hard on them to get them to this size!

The Flower Tent was also a delight.  Always helpful to see what’s looking good in autumn ready for next year, it didn’t disappoint.  Alstromeria in fine form – I find them very reliable in my garden and they can be cut and cut and they last really well in a vase.  The Heuchera were a really tempting display but I steeled myself and didn’t buy any, but they just looked beautiful.  And then of course, there were the Gladioli – my husband’s favourite.  Poker straight, full of colour and big blooms. They looked a treat.

And as I’m cheating this week, and I’ve already put up 7 pictures, I just couldn’t resist these sort of garden-related creatures (depending on the size of your garden, and whether you don’t mind having your plants pecked).  I love a pretty chicken and  this Sebright Bantam was adorable, next to it the big Rhode Island Red looks like a real monster, but was a beautiful bird.  The black turkey was just asking to be photographed – chest puffed out, tail spread and making that ridiculous noise that turkeys make.  There was a child next to the cage whispering ‘sage and onion, sage and onion’ to it….

Hope you enjoyed this quick visit to Malvern Autumn Show!!  Windfalls, anyone?

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The Optimistic Gardener

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6 – on – Saturday 01.09.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

It’s a month since I posted on here.  It’s not that I’ve been busy, just lazy I’m afraid.  The garden has gone rather to rack and ruin with the over-blown (and over-grown) feel that comes through August.  First it was too hot to spend much time gardening and then, well, we kind of lost the habit.  But September will see us back in there, tidying and clearing out.  Here are my six this week:

Our little plum tree has been very enthusiastic this year, we’ve had over 20lbs (that’s 10 kilo for you younger people) of plums, and still picking.  They are a good size and sweet and juicy.  It’s a Victoria and it’s badly pruned because I don’t know what I’m doing but it still rewards us.  This year it has had brown rot again in spite of thinning twice whilst the fruits were smaller, and I’ve also been out almost every day picking off any with signs of rot as the fruit ripened. I must have got rid of at least as many plums as I’ve picked.  We would have been truly swamped if they had all ripened!  Here is yesterday’s haul, anyway.  If you don’t have a fruit tree in your garden, do try a Victoria plum.  They are forgiving and bountiful.IMG_0604

When I was bemoaning the loss of the verbena bonariensis in the bad weather earlier in the year, little did I know that it had left behind a gazillion seedlings.  They have taken over the border and I hadn’t the heart to pull them out because I love their heads of tiny purple flowers – and so do the bees and butterflies.  Consequently everything else in the border has been completely crowded out and there will be much refreshing to do soon.  Although that persicaria at the bottom of the pic is holding its own.img_0599.jpg

We’ve also had quite a harvest of blackberries this year so I diligently made blackberry jam with the ones we couldn’t eat quickly enough.  It is a disaster.  It wouldn’t set so I boiled it too hard and it has that slightly burnt taste, plus the seeds – oh the seeds!  There is more spitting than swallowing (if you’ll forgive that phrase) and the consensus is ‘never again’.  After the event helpful friends said “Oh, you should always go for blackberry jelly rather than jam’.  Readers, I hurled the jars at them.IMG_0584

Our runner beans, as I think I said last time, have been poor this year and the blackfly have been very happy.  There is, however, a silver lining.  The bean teepee is full of ladybirds and their larvae.  All different sorts, two-spot, seven spot, black, red and orange.  There a good amount of our smaller, British ladybird although I did spot (see what I did there?) a couple of the larger Continental ones which I duly squished.

This is the last of the tomatoes and the courgettes and definitely the last of the beans, so they will all get cleared away next week.  It’s been a disappointing vegetable year, but that’s gardening.  IMG_0598

And finally, we’ve had quite a few of these in the garden.  They are day-flying moths and have a really frantic flying style, more like a butterfly, flitting around all over the place but apparently with not much purpose.  This one is pretty tatty looking, so has obviously been around for a while.  Moths are not my thing, so I’m not sure of identification, but I think it’s an Oak Eggar moth.  If anyone can confirm or offer a better id, then please do.IMG_0572

That’s it for this time.  Enjoy your weekend and your gardens.

The Optimistic Gardener

 

6 – on – Saturday 04.04.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

IMG_0583Still hot and dry here so things are a bit limited, to be honest.  Let’s start with the eatable side of the garden. Here is our first home-grown apple ever.  It’s in a pot, it’s in its third year and it has eight lovely, perfect fruit.  This one is actually not quite ripe but got knocked off whilst we were watering.  We are so proud of it, it may never be eaten.  The others are still swelling and reddening on the tree.  It’s called Red Windsor.

 

 

IMG_0588Next up are the runner beans – really suffering from the heat and the lack of rain.  Although I’ve been watering them a fair bit, they’re really not happy.  I have to watch them like a hawk and dash out and pick the ‘not-quite-ready’ pods as soon as they are a reasonable size, because if I blink they become stringy, rough, misshapen horrors, bulging with fat bean seeds.  They are also now smothered in blackfly, the only upside of which is that there are lots and lots of ladybirds in residence, together with their weird larvae.  In a normal year we would be eating these two or three times a week (the beans, not the ladybirds), at the moment we’re lucky to get one serving.

IMG_0589Another sorry story in waiting are the plums.  Victoria.  This little tree is very reliable and gives us a good crop every year.  I have already thinned these twice and will have to get in there again.  Last year 50% of the crop was lost to brown rot and it looks like being a similar story this year.  If anyone knows how I might protect them please let me know.  I love plums and it breaks my heart to see them going squishy and mouldy before they can even ripen.

 

 

This lovely thing has cheered me up no end.  It is one of about half a dozen beautiful, bright sunflowers that have appeared below the bird feeders.  So, serendipitous sunflowers that brighten a dark little corner by the pond.  We always have the feeders in this spot over the winter, but we have never had sunflowers before – linseed flowers, grass, oats of some sort crop up regularly, but these are the best of the accidentals and deserves a big picture.IMG_0587

IMG_0586This is one of my husband’s succulent plants.  I think I’ve said before that I don’t find them particularly appealing and I’ve no idea what it is, but it has these interesting flowers and is one of the few things loving the dry, hot weather.  So hurrah! for the succulents of this world.  If things carry on like this it looks as though I shall have to learn to love them.

 

 

 

IMG_0585And lastly is this little clematis which I thought I had lost in the Beast from the East over the winter.  It’s a bit feeble, but I am delighted to see it.  Last year it was a mass of these feathery purple and white blooms and repeat flowered all through the summer.  The flowers last for ages too.  I think it is clematis sieboldiana.  Welcome back, you beauty.

That’s it for this week.  Soon it will be autumnal pictures, but let’s not think about that!

The Optimistic Gardener

Dried up….

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

Busy, busy here at OptimistGardener Towers – a couple of out-patient appointments (take all day), a day shopping with sister (much shrieking with laughter as we attempt to try on clothes that might have been suitable 40 years ago), and a day’s consultancy work which reminded me why I retired (hot offices, tedious meetings and OTHER PEOPLE).  So 6 on Saturday has turned into 6 on Sunday, not for the first time!

It’s so dry here, and also very hot, temperatures at a minimum of 27 degrees for weeks and some days as high as 30 degrees.  Here in Wales we’re used to cooler, wetter weather and although I’m trying not to complain it would be good to have a spell of rain.  I’ve given up completely with the high raised bed – just impossible to keep any moisture in it.

These are doing well.  A lace-cap hydrangea, the name of which is long forgotten and that does this lovely pink and blue thing, as if it can’t quite make up its mind.  In front is a clump of Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’ that I somehow managed to keep over winter.  It is loving the dry, hot weather.  The hydrangea needs a big can of water every couple of days.IMG_0555

I’m showing you this so you can see just how desert-dry the soil is – it’s an Achillea that I thought had succumbed to the conditions, but it’s managed to pop out a couple of these bright pink flowers.  I think it’s called ‘Desert Eve Red’ so it’s aptly named.  You can see that the border is bone dry and bone hard with deep cracks.IMG_0556

This Veronica is shrugging off the heat and drought with aplomb.  It’s twice as big as last year, has been in flower for almost a month now and is just going over.  The bees love it.  This is also a good picture for showing you how totally overrun I am with Verbena bonariensis seedlings.  Fast as I pull them out, more appear – like grey hairs when I was younger and minded about them…In both cases, I have given up and let them do their thing.IMG_0557

I love crocosmia and these two are beautiful.  They have been in pots all summer as I haven’t got around planting them out and now the soil is too hard to try.  Consequently they are needing a lot of watering attention.  The orange one is called ‘Coleton Fishacre’ and the one with larger, rather lovely salmon pink and apricot flowers is ‘Limpopo’.  Both are divine and I hope will forgive me for neglecting them.IMG_0560

Earlier in the season I spread garden compost on part of this border and surprise, surprise one or two unexpected plants have shown up.  Here is a tomato plant which is doing quite well without any assistance and a marigold too.  I do love opportunists and I haven’t the heart to move them.  More verbena bonariensis seedlings too…IMG_0558

And finally… this mallow is defying the odds in a pot that is too small for it.  We thought it had died in the Beast from the East so we dug it up and put the dried twigs in a pot ‘just in case’, as you do, and here it is.  I think it’s ‘Barnsley Baby’  and I shall nurture it from now on.  It has such lovely delicate pink flowers with a deep flush at the base and a yellow centre.  Those rather sad, scorched leaf tips to the left of it are a very unhappy Rodgersia podophylla.  IMG_0561

So, there you have them, six for the weekend!  Hope you’re all enjoying your gardens!

The Optimistic Gardener

Eating from the garden…

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I love it when the garden starts to give back.  Although we only grow small amounts of vegetables and fruit (the garden is a suburban 30 x 90 feet so not huge, and vegetables are fitted in here and there rather than in a dedicated bed) it gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure to pick and eat our ‘own’.

We have been using lettuce and spring onions for a while now, but recently the bigger veg have started to put in an appearance.  This weekend we harvested all of the bag potatoes – I’m always amazed at how three wrinkly seed potatoes shoved in a bag of compost  give us several meals worth of beautiful, new, waxy, and wonderfully tasty new potatoes.  This year we grew Rocket, Charlotte and Pentland Javelin.  The Rocket and Charlotte have done really well, both giving us about 40 potatoes.  The PJ are disappointing.  They have suffered badly in the heat and their bag is the one the ants chose to nest in this year.  I haven’t emptied it out yet but I suspect they have not done as well as the others.

I have elephant garlic now pulled, dried and stored in the shed.  Some of it I’ve used as one of the ingredients in a small batch of pickled beetroot.  I’ve written before about how growing root veg is difficult in my garden – thin soil and club root is a problem.  However, I managed to grow a few beetroot in a ‘manger’ bed and got about 15 roughly the size of golf balls.  Because they were small I was able to boil them all at the same time.  They’ve been pickled with cinnamon, star anise and garlic – it should make a lovely warm undertone to the sharpness of the vinegar.  In a month or so I’ll let you know how they’ve turned out.

IMG_0101I’ve written before about how many cucumbers have already been picked and there are six more little ones just starting out.  This week I learned something about cucumber plants.  If you leave the fruit on for too long, the plant aborts any new little fruitlets and stalls your supply.  I did this, and yes, the little fruitlets all dried up and fell off and I thought that was the end of the cucumber plant.  But once the ripe cucumbers were all picked off – hey presto!  A new flush of fruitlets.  So keep picking!  I’m a big fan of cucumber and onion ‘bread and butter’ pickle so I can’t have too many cucumbers.  I make it and freeze it in containers with enough for a week’s supply.

Clearing out the salad drawer in the fridge (to make room for cucumbers…) I found a bag of old satsumas.  Ever resourceful, I turned them into marmalade at the weekend.  It’s lovely – sharp and sweet at the same time, a hit of ginger just lifts it from the commonplace.  I’ve also finally got round to harvesting this year’s gooseberries.  They have been begging to be picked by quietly dropping off the bush and being eaten by the birds and hedgehog.  One bush has given us 2 kilos of goosegogs and so it was out with the maslin pan again – half of them turned into crumble and jam and half of them into an indian-style chutney.  I’m going to need a bigger supply of glass jars!

Although the birds have been busy at the Morello cherry espalier there should be enough to preserve in brandy as a treat, and like everyone else we are eating courgettes at almost every meal.  There are lots of little four-inch beans on the runners, so a promise of dinners to come, and the carrot tops are plentiful, though I suspect more top than carrot.

There is something very satisfying about eating food that you have grown yourself – whether it’s new potatoes or gooseberry jam,  snacking on spring onions and cucumber, or pickling anything and everything.  It gives me a decidedly happy feeling!

The Optimistic Gardener

6 – on – Saturday 23.06.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

After last week’s post which included the sundial and the week before which included the crow, Nat asked  me about sculpture in the garden.  So I thought this week I’d share some with you.  Not really ‘sculpture’ but a look at some of the non-plant decorative stuff we have dotted about the garden.  You’ll likely laugh at some of these, and that’s fine, we have some of them because they make us laugh, and all of them have a story and often memories.  I shan’t picture the statue of the Blessed Virgin that you can see in the header picture above because I’ve written about that before, but here is a selection (yes, there’s more than I am putting on here!).  None of these were expensive pieces – some clearly not expensive – but they’re all valuable to us.

img_0507.jpg1. This is a figure called ‘The Wood Nymph’ by a relatively local artist, Christine Baxter.  We’ve had this for a few years now, but she has finally found the perfect spot overlooking the new teeny-tiny wildlife pond.  The birds perch on her, poo on her, and she is getting a nice ‘aged’ look.

IMG_05112.  This painted tin Blue Tit is one of a pair I bought on a visit to a National Trust garden.  I think it was Tyntesfield, but I can’t be sure.  I kept one and gave my sister the other one for her garden.  It sits on this left-over retaining post just in front of where the old wooden lounger chairs are.  Every time I see it I think of my sis and I often end up texting her from the garden.

 

 

 

IMG_05083.  This is the rhubarb forcer.  I’ve only used it once to actually force the rhubarb – usually it gets moved around the garden to wherever we think needs a bit of extra interest.  It’s just a cheap one from the local garden centre, but again, it’s ageing nicely and has lost that ‘brand new’ terracotta look.  Quite often it is full of ants….

 

 

 

IMG_05094.  I call this ‘The Japanese Woman’.  I don’t know if she is or not, but it seems to suit her.  This was a serendipitous buy one year when we were on holiday in Suffolk.  We’ve had her at least 15 years.  She’s made of moulded cement (cheap and cheerful) and has suffered in the frost over the years with bits of the surface flaking off, but she’s a great favourite and reminds us of windy holidays on the Suffolk coast.  She’s another object that gets moved around the garden.  A bit of a gap?  Put the Japanese Lady in it!

 

IMG_05105.  A tortoise.  I took this little chap from my Dad’s garden after Dad died.  Dad was 92.  The tortoise had been in the garden for years and years and years.  I think one of us kids must have bought it for him (I have a brother and a sister) and it lived on the rockery outside the sitting room window.  When we cleared the house this is one thing that I wanted to have to keep.  One of his front legs is chipped and moss is growing on his back but he is kept in a sheltered spot underneath a suitably tropical-looking Fatsia Japonica.  When I catch sight of him, I think of my old Dad.

 

IMG_05126.  Those of you who have been reading the garden blog for a while will recognise this.  A cast iron bird bath that doesn’t hold the water, rusty and chipped and vintage-looking.  I don’t think it is vintage, I think someone just made it rusty and chipped and waited for someone like me to come along and buy it.  I bought it at a flower show.  I know, they saw me coming, but I really like it.

 

 

 

Cheating a bit on the 6 theme, I also have a penchant for garden gnomes.  I’ve got about six in varying sizes and sometimes they’re on show, and sometimes they’re hidden away.  In the winter I line them up on the patio, looking in through the window.  MrOG says I’m weird.  And then there’s this pig. My mom bought it for me as a gift when she went on holiday once (Mom, why?).  It’s quite big.  It used to be bright pink, but the weather and the years have turned it grey.  It has a cheerful look though and I can’t bring myself to throw it out.  It usually lurks somewhere near the compost heap.  Mum died just six months before my Dad in 2016.  She was 89.

So, there we are.  Another 6, another insight into my garden, and into me!  Happy weekend.

The Optimistic Gardener

6 – on – Saturday 16.6.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

Here we are again.  Cloudy and cool today, spits and spots of rain but nothing substantial. Still lots of things to show you!

  1. First up is this absolute beauty.  This is “Munstead Wood’ and I think it is probably my favourite rose.  It’s shrubby, even a bit lax in its habit, but is covered in these wonderful deep red, velvety blooms and they just keep coming if you deadhead.  They’re a good size for cutting, but I can never bring myself to take roses from the garden.  I keep telling myself I will plant some just for cutting but suspect I wouldn’t want to cut those either.  Roses are best enjoyed in all their glory in the garden.  This one smells wonderful too.img_0483.jpg

IMG_04872.  We bought this decorative sundial in a sale at a National Trust property we visited in the week.  It’s base was missing and it cost pennies.  Our bird bath gave up the ghost last year and although we threw away the broken dish, we kept the base.  Hey presto,  one rather nice looking garden ornament.  Not sure where we will put it yet but for now it’s sitting on the patio congratulating us on being thrifty.

 

 

3.  This is growing all through our lawn.  It’s Ground Ivy.  If we were lawn people we would be killing it off, raking it out and generally being horrified.  As it is, we rather like to see those little purple flowers.  Also, our lawn is getting smaller and smaller as we keep stealing strips of it to make the borders bigger.  Pretty soon it will just be a grass path (hurrah!!).IMG_0484

IMG_04884.  MrOG is a fan of succulent plants and at the moment this Aeonium is his pride and joy.   Grown from a very small plant from the garden centre, it’s turned into a thing of loveliness.  There were several more purchases this week and so I can envisage a table of succulents appearing as a thing in a sheltered part of the garden.  Like an auricula theatre, but more of a succulent stage.  Personally, I can’t stand the things, but live and let live.

 

 

IMG_04915.  These seedlings have appeared in a pot over the past two weeks.  They are monsters.  I have no idea what they are.  The leaves are smooth with lighter veins.  Can any of you help with identification?  To help with scale the pot they are in is about 15inches (37cms) across.  Unless I can find out that they’re worth keeping they will go on the compost heap.

 

 

 

6. Last week I put up a picture of a single ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ rose.  Here is the whole bush. It’s so lovely, I can’t leave it out.img_0489.jpg

That concludes my 6 for this Saturday!

The Optimistic Gardener.

6 – on – Saturday 9.6.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

IMG_04651. The first thing to show you is this sculpted relief tile of a crow.  It’s meant to be hanging on the house wall but somehow we have never got around to it.  Maybe this weekend.  MrOG and I both have a bit of a thing about corvids – there is a rookery at the bottom of our street and we love to watch the rooks whirling and calling early in the morning and in the evening before they settle to roost.  We get the occasional crow in the garden, especially if we put down bread, and they are so beautiful with glossy, black feathers and such an intelligent look.   At this time of year our bird feeders are visited by jays – always a delight to see with their pinky fawn feathers and that flash of brilliant blue on the wing – and of course we have magpies. Not so keen on them – scavenging, noisy, bullying the smaller birds.  To complete our corvid family, very occasionally in the summer a raven will pass over the house and garden, quite high up, often harried by the rooks, but identifiable by its size and the unmistakable harsh ‘kronking’ noise it makes.  This plaque is by Anne Windsor.  You can see some of her work here.

IMG_04622. It’s rose time in the garden in June and we have lots of them in flower.  Always early, always gorgeous, and exquisitely perfumed is Rosa Gallica versicolour, better known as Rosa Mundi.  It only flowers once, early in the season, but is a mass of these lovely old-fashioned, striped blooms.  I wouldn’t be without it.  I love it so much I am giving you a nice big picture so you can really appreciate it.

IMG_04603. In the part of the border that we haven’t got around to sorting out yet there is a mass of self-sown seedlings doing their best to enliven a really scruffy patch.  This is Nigella damascena or ‘Love-in-a Mist’.  The seedlings come up in a variety of dusty blues creating a soft hazy blue layer.  I pull loads out, but there is always plenty.  And besides, how could you not give border room to a plant with such a wonderfully romantic name?

 

 

4.  Also flowering now is this Rosa Gertrude Jekyll.  It fits perfectly into the border and flowers all summer, gifting these fragrant, strong pink, double blooms on good upright stems all through the season if you deadhead regularly.   It’s another favourite of mine, and even if it wasn’t relatively trouble-free, I would still find room for it.  Another lovely big picture to make the most of!IMG_0459

IMG_04645. This is Sisyrinchium striatum.  Reliable, long-flowering, with pale green, strap-like leaves, this is a great companion for roses and hardy geraniums – it’s a good ‘cottage’ garden plant.  It’s quite well-behaved in my garden – it spreads well but not overwhelmingly – and wherever it pops up I tend to leave it for at least one season before potting up the plantlets and either putting them where I actually want them, or giving them away to friends and family.  This particular plant appeared in the vegetable bed earlier in the year.  For a while I wasn’t sure whether it was a sedge grass and very nearly rooted it up.  I have been made very cautious by rogue sedge grass….

IMG_04586. And bringing up the rear this week are these darling little pinks.  Dianthus ‘Pink Kisses’ is a compact little plant and very floriferous.  It is a perennial, happy in pot or border – I have these in half a dozen terracotta pots on the patio and with regular dead-heading they should give me these lightly scented blooms all summer.  When they’ve had enough I shall put them in the border and hopefully they will be back again next year.

 

 

So, there are my 6 for this week.  Happy gardening!

The Optimistic Gardener

6 – on – Saturday 2.06.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/ It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

June already.  So many plants, so little time.  Lovely in the garden this morning, just still fresh, light breeze, sunshine.  Fresh fruit salad for breakfast – bliss.  And quiet before the neighbours are around.  Anyhow, here are my six for this week.

  1. IMG_04401. This is the common cranesbill.  A happy accident that appeared in the garden last year and that we just left alone to do its thing.  And here it is climbing its way through a white hydrangea (which is a bit late flowering this year).  Yes, it’s straggly but the colour is beautiful and if I chop it down after its first flowering it will give another flush later in the season.

 

 

2.  This is the shady border. North facing, in the dense shade of the house for most of the day, it gets this early morning sun until about 10.30am.

IMG_0437The far end is very damp and cold, but Astilbe and Hosta and Tiarella grow there pretty well.  At this end are more Hosta, what I hope will be a very tolerant Hebe and a lovely white dicentra (Lamprocapnos spectabilis).  There are more Hosta to go in, they’re testing out the position in their pots at the front of the border.  They are ‘June’ (of course), ‘Parky’s Pride’ and a ‘Halcyon’.  The latter gets quite big so will go a bit further back.  I tried Ajuga for ground cover but it hated being waterlogged and died.  I am replacing it with candelabra Primula which were cheap at the garden centre because they’d finished flowering.

 

 

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3.  As you know, I love an oriental poppy and “Beauty of Livermere’ has put in an appearance this week.   I am very pleased to see her.  She’s not quite as robust as the salmon pink ‘Princess Victoria Louise’ that I have shown you before, but she’s just as lovely and, I think, a little more dignified.

 

 

IMG_04424.  I have been picking these mini-cucumber all week.   They grow really fast and are prolific, just one plant gives us masses and they taste so much nicer than shop bought ones.   We are becoming connoisseurs of the cucumber sandwich, trying various breads to find the best combination.  MrOG prefers a thin-sliced, soft white with salted butter, I prefer a seeded granary with a hint of Marmite.  Next year I shall grow more.

 

 

 

IMG_04435.  Remember the ‘Morello’ cherry that gave us just one fruit last year?  Well after putting on plenty of growth this year and having masses of cherry fruitlets, something has stripped the branches bare of leaf – except for the very ends – and taken some fruit, but has kindly left us a few.  I can’t see any caterpillar pests or sawfly or anything, and I suspect it may be sparrows taking the leaves in the early morning.  Unless any of you know more and can tell me what it might be so that I can steps to prevent it next year.

 

 

IMG_04446.  And last but by no means least, the Zantedeschia is still flowering away after at least 6 weeks.  These are probably its last few flowers but it has been magnificent.  Tightly potted and standing in a saucer of water it has been very successful with no fewer than four of those wonderful white bracts at any one time.  I hope I can keep it over winter.  I suspect it will need to go into the greenhouse and then into a slightly bigger pot next spring.  We shall see.

 

So, that’s it for this week.  Next week, I suspect it may be roses all the way.   What are you all up to?

The Optimistic Gardener

Coleton Fishacre

Coleton Fishacre is a south Devon house and garden in the care of the National Trust.  The house was built in the mid 1920s in the Arts and Crafts style (I love it), the architect was Oswald Milne, a student of Lutyens.  The owners, Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte of Gilbert and Sullivan and Savoy Theatre fame, spotted the beautiful valley as they were sailing around the south Devon coast and promptly bought the land and built a home there.  Milne also laid out the terraced gardens near the house, the rest of the grounds being a wonderfully planted valley leading down to the sea at Pudcombe Bay.  Mr OG and I visited on a warm and sunny day in late May – it wasn’t terribly busy, plenty of space to see the gardens and wander around – and, as you can see  below,  it was delightful.

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The house at Coleton Fishacre nestled into the hillside overlooking the valley.

The entrance to the garden past recently pruned cherry trees and some wonderful trees with a bright orangey-brown, dusty, peeling bark (which I later discovered are Chilean Myrtle or Luma apiculata) leads either down into a cobbled courtyard and the entrance to the house, or to the right into the Seemly Terrace.  Here the Hellebore were going over but Euphorbia still stood and scented Daphne and lilac filled the air.  The sight of a full-flowered wisteria set against the mass of a huge deep pink rhododendron made me catch my breath as we walked through to the Rill Garden.

IMG_0413 The Rill Garden with its trickling water and smooth, straight stream edged with flagstones, is a reminder that Milne was a student of Lutyens, it is so reminiscent of the larger gardens he designed with Gertrude Jekyll.  The Rill is punctuated half way by a pool in a smooth, stone-lined depression before it continues its way to fall over mossy stones into a larger more informal pool and then on down through the valley.  In the borders there was the promise of great clumps of Delphinium, spiky Crocosmia foliage and hardy Geranium just leafing up, as well as roses, tender perennials already in flower in shades of pink and white, and Nepeta with its soft blue spires and grey foliage.  A little later in the season and this will be a real sight.  The exit from the Rill garden was framed by a beautiful orange Azalea, planted alongside the informal stream below but lending a splash of sunshine to the formal garden above.

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The Rill Garden

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The bottom of the Rill Garden

IMG_0417Along the stream and down into the valley garden there are plantings of Azalea, swathes of yellow candelabra Primula, purple and yellow Iris as the stream becomes a large pool and then continues to tumble through denser planting of Bamboo, Magnolia, Camellia, Rhododendron (including wonderfully scented varieties the I couldn’t identify but that we buried our faces in), Gunnera just beginning to push out its fabulously large leaves, and a veritable forest of tree ferns.  Little bridges cross and recross the water and all around here there are frequent benches to sit and take it all in.  A magnificent tulip tree rises above it all.

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After exploring the main garden we walked along a shady path that runs above the garden, below us a bank planted with really tender plants including huge echium, some magnificent specimens of agave and an impressive eucalyptus tree with its shimmering leaves and striated bark.  As this path becomes woodland it was carpeted with bluebells, forget-me-not and campion, and a break in the trees offers a view of the sea over a bank left as rough meadow sloping back down to the garden, a taste of the wonderful view to come.

At the edge of the trees a wooden gate leads out onto the cliff top and opens out into what the guide-book calls ‘a stunning view’.  It isn’t wrong, and it isn’t exaggerating.  As you come out of the shade onto a rough grass slope the rugged coast across to Blackstone Rocks opens up in front of you.  It really was breath-taking and a sight not to be missed if you visit.  There is a steeper climb up to this point from the garden below, and it is certainly worth the effort.

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The Stunning View to Blackstone Rocks

This is a wonderful garden and it will take more of a plantsperson than I am to do justice to it.  Everywhere there is something beautiful and interesting, either in flower or about to come into flower.  Specimen trees, shrubs, hardy and tender perennials, the unusual and the astonishing.  If you are in this corner of Devon do try to visit – you will  not be disappointed.  Oh, and don’t forget to go inside the house – decorated in 1930s style – it is homely and familiar.  We could’ve moved straight in!

The Optimist Gardener