Keeping going

There’s more happening in our garden than we realise, sometimes. I’ve been thinking everything’s giving up and going over but after a wander to do some watering this morning I felt inspired to snap a few pictures as there’s still a bit of colour about.

The back garden is still looking reasonably neat (and from this distance you can’t see the weeds):


We have a salvia in a pot that’s still doing well – I grew this from a cutting last year, taken from the one in the front garden that was originally a cutting from Mum (phew!):


The dwarf hydrangea’s vibrant pink flowers are starting to fade but I do like to leave them over the winter.


Several plants are having a late second flush – notably lychnis, geranium himalayense and fuschia – while the half-price scabious I bought a few weeks back seems to have settled in well.


Tucked away in the corner by the greenhouse is a mahonia which I tend to forget is there, snuggled up to the flowering currant and somewhat overshadowed by its louder, larger cousins nearer the house. Unlike them with their simple yellow flower spikes, this one has a lovely burnt orange hue.


And this year’s random self-seeded flower is a nicotiana. I haven’t grown any for a few years so it’s anyone’s guess where it came from.


Meanwhile at the front, it’s all about the sedum:


Looking back, I posted an almost identical photo a year ago!

The salvia “Hot Lips” has been spectacular again this year and I must have another go at taking cuttings. Last year’s cuttings didn’t make it, apart from the one I gave to Mum. I think that says more about my lack of skill at long term plant care than I’d like to admit.


The plants in the troughs are mostly doing well, though one of the santolinas is already suffering:


And we have more garden spiders than ever – any casual meander around is fraught with the risk of walking into an unfeasibly large web.


We have a hedgehog house at the bottom of the garden now, so maybe there’ll be some bigger visitors too.

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Winding down

There’s a definite feel of autumn about and everything seems to be slowing down now. Compared to last year we have very little colour in the garden but then, last year we grew lots of annual rudbeckia and all that lovely blue clary.

We do have some bits and dots of colour – the hardy fuschia is flowering, the little hydrangea is doing really well and the snapdragons and lychnis are having a second go. But we might need to have a think about what else we grow next year to try and prolong the flowering season, especially if the very hot weather we had this year is going to become the norm.

I’ve had a little potter about this morning, just to do a few small tasks. We have a big pile of cut/uprooted stuff from our major tidying day a couple of weeks back, because there was too much to fit in the garden waste bin. The bin gets emptied every two weeks, so sometimes we just have to pile the stuff up and wait for bin day. I filled it up on Thursday and it was emptied on Friday, and I have just filled it again this morning, but there’s still a lot left over.

I also cut the rest of the foliage off the tomato plants. There’s a lot of fruit but it’s slow to ripen now. The blossom end rot put paid to a lot of fruit early on – it’s caused by irregular watering, but when the weather was so hot it didn’t make any difference how careful we were as the plants dried out between waterings anyway.

The one thing I really wanted to do was sort out the strawberry plants. They’re obviously happy as we had a lot of fruit this year and they are sending out loads of runners again, like they did last year. Mum lost all her strawberry plants this year so I am trying to get the runners to take so she can have them. Last year’s came in handy for filling in gaps and seem to have done well. So the runners are being coaxed into pots of compost in the hope they will put down roots.

Our local council has issued us with new bins for recycling, which means that our old crates (black for glass, green for paper and card, blue for plastics and tins…) are now redundant. I have plans for them for next year, which revolve around the possibility of growing a few more veg. We’ll see. It certainly seems a shame to just send them back for recycling, which is the other option, as they are really too battered to use for storage. Watch this space!

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Filling the gaps

Yesterday I took Mum to a garden centre we hadn’t visited before. She had some gift vouchers to spend and it was a good excuse to try a new place. We both did pretty well – her vouchers came in handy for a couple of new roses, and we found quite a bit of reduced or special offer stuff as well. I needed something new for the troughs under the living room window and wanted to try more long-lasting plants rather than having to do a complete change twice a year – a bit of continuity is always good! I also needed a plant for a rat burial, and after last week’s marathon tidying session anything I could get cheaply to fill in gaps was going to be welcome.

So for the troughs, I went for a couple of cineraria, which should see us through well into next summer, plus two santolina “Lemon Fizz” and two artemisia “Oriental Limelight”, which should last well and can be split if they get too big. In amongst them I’ve planted some viola “Coconut duet” for instant colour – these should continue to flower through the winter.SONY DSC

In the reduced section I found a couple of half-price plants – a blue scabious and a pink veronica. I have a white veronica but the pink was so pretty I couldn’t resist it (Mum bought one too). And all my scabious seem to have turned up their toes this year so I need to replace them. The veronica had quite a dense hard rootball so I split it into two clumps, and all three then went into the bed by the greenhouse, where J pulled up a lot of snow-in-summer on Monday – we are trying to encourage it to soften the edges of beds rather than take over the whole surface. So this area looks rather scruffy at the moment. Let’s hope they look better by next summer.


For the rat burial I got a little Torbay palm (a variety of cordyline) and a smart new pot, plus new pot feet to help with drainage.


Finally, a couple of plants in pots that have been looking good this week – heuchera “Ginger Ale”, which had a shaky start back in the spring but is doing really well now:


And a little osteospermum which I bought reduced a few months back when the plant over another rat burial died and I needed a replacement in a hurry. It’s been steadily putting out flowers, just a few at a time, all summer.


It’ll probably need to overwinter in the greenhouse but that’s not a problem.

All in all I feel as though we’re starting to get things under control again.


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At last, we did some gardening

We haven’t done much in the garden this summer. It’s been one of those summers with too many distractions, not to mention the weather. Finally, yesterday we got out there for a few hours and had a proper tidy up. A lot of plants have died, as we suspected. Some may just be marshalling resources to return next year – I can hope.

Still, the back garden looks respectable at long last.


Not much flowering at the moment, but the little hydrangea is doing well.


The hedge on the right needs a good trim but that will probably happen the weekend after next. Next Saturday I’m aiming to get Mum to a garden centre as we both want to get some plants – I have a lot of gaps now, especially at the bottom of the garden where even the lavatera has suffered. It’s hanging on, but this is the first time in six years I’ve seen it struggle. More plants for dry shade needed!

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Muddling through

Last weekend we had some rain, so the water butts are a little healthier, but we are now back to hot days and no let-up in sight. I’m aware that there are going to be losses and we’ll have to think hard about how we replace some of them, if this sort of summer is going to be a regular thing.

Our raspberries and gooseberries gave us a relatively poor harvest, all things considered, and I suspect it’s due to birds. Mum had the same problem with her gooseberries and redcurrants, both of which were stripped bare just as the fruit ripened. Birds would of course take the berries for the moisture, and who can blame them?

The blackberries, on the other hand, are doing well and I’m determined to have our best harvest yet. We already have as many as we had last year, and there are many more still to ripen. There will be blackberry and apple crumble!

blackberries 4 aug 2018

Today’s harvest – doubling the crop so far, and with almost twice as much still on the plant.

And in other good news, I have at last identified my friend’s mystery plant. This morning I was walking past a florist’s shop, and they had some plants for sale outside with some very familiar-looking foliage (but no flowers). It’s a Lewisia, so we’re glad to have that sorted!

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Mystery plant

Don’t we all love a good mystery? My friend H sometimes asks me to identify random plants, and lately it’s been interesting because she bought a job lot of herbaceous perennials (one of those “36 plants for a fiver” things you sometimes get in catalogues) and mislaid any information on them. So working out what they are has been a matter of waiting for them to do something distinctive. (We’ve all been there at one time or another!)

Today she posted a photo on Facebook:

heather's mystery plant

I’m racking my brains because it’s familiar and when someone tells me I’ll facepalm and say “Of course! I knew that!” but right now… nothing. H says the leaves are quite thick and almost succulent-like and the flowers seem to be in clusters of about four or five. So if anyone can suggest something sensible we’d both appreciate it.

Very little news from my garden, it’s been suffering badly because of the weather but I’m hoping things will start to recover now we’ve actually had some rain and the temperature is less unbearable. The tomatoes all seem to be succumbing to blossom end rot, birds have been raiding the gooseberries and the roster of plants lost to hot dry weather has been growing, but the summer’s not over yet…


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It’s oh so quiet

Actually, it’s oh so hot, and dry. We are desperate for some rain – not downpours as the ground is too baked and it would just run off. We need lighter but prolonged rain.

Around town, the grass everywhere is like tinder and it’s hard to believe it will ever be green again. In our garden, everything is scorched and thirsty. The water butts are almost empty and I’m eking out the last of it for the azalea, rhododendrons and camellia as they won’t tolerate our lime-infused tap water. We have a combi boiler so there is usually a good deal of cold water to run before the hot starts, so that is carefully put aside for watering. Biodegradable washing up liquid means we can use our washing up water on the flower beds – but not on anything edible.

I’m resigned to losing more plants, probably even more than I lost to the cold weather in March. One dwarf rhododendron looks very sad. The prunus is struggling. All of the cornus are suffering and the hydrangeas are definitely not happy. The Met Office says we will have slightly lower temperatures this week but there’s no certainty of rain in our part of the country. We might get showers on Friday; but then, they said that last week. I really hope they’re right this time. At least we haven’t got a hosepipe ban yet!

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