Saturday, 30 January 2021

Six on Saturday 30 January 2021

Time again for Six on Saturday in a week when I could write about six types of weather, but that would be too boring, and your brain may fog over.  Don't despair The Prop will have gathered several of us and no doubt we shall hear from gardeners several hopefully from some who have had better weather.

(1) It was very cold start of the week: cyclamen coum brought a spot of colour as the blooms poked up above the meagre sprinkling of snow. This couldn't help but bring a smile to my face.

The auriculas Nessun Dorma ought to brought under shelter to keep away from the wet?

If these had not been  brought  under shelter as well as all the other small pots, they would have most probably been washed out of their pots: the rain on Thursday night and during Friday was the heaviest I had seen.  We have more of this to come today!

(2) By the middle of the week, the weather became unusually warm.  Windows in the house and the conservatory were opened, and this gardener could not just sit on her hands.  The old tatty gasteria was in imminent danger of being thrown out.  It had worked its way to the back door ready to be thrown out.  Of course it has once been loved, and had been potted in an old hand-thrown terracotta pot,.  

On one of my forays before the times of being able to locate nurseries on the internet, and the era of 'Garden Centres' as we know them today, I came across an old nursery.   It wasn't so neat and tidy, but it grew plants.  It had  stock plants from which it grew seasonal plants to sell.  It seemed that tomato plants and  garden plants like wall flowers, and biennials etc. were their stock in trade.  They were also small market gardeners. You would walk out along rows, and the old gardener would dig you some up and wrap them in newspaper.  I was very young and starting my new garden.  He had fuchsias, succulents and glass house Chrysanthemums too. I got to know the 'old chap' who in the glory days of the nursery was one of the best producers of glass house tomatoes for the area around, and loved to welcome callers.   Behind one of the glasshouses I found a mountain of clay pots piled pell mell.  Many were broken but I could see one or two whole ones.  I asked why they were like that, can only remember that he explained that plastic pots were now what people wanted, and he just used the broken clay to help with drainage along the paths etc. He said it was a shame to see them like that as some were as old as the big old house that had burnt down many years before.  He was only too happy for me to have two or three.  This was one of those: it has been with me ever since then.

Gasteria carinata v.verrucosa

A few of the old leaves were showing signs of fungal disease.  Time for complete destruction and a little post mortem?

The bottom of the pot was full of dead roots.  I learnt this week that this happens to the old roots every few years. After all the bits were separated, I found some healthy shoots and decided to clean up the pot, and start again, with fresh compost mixed half and half with grit. I

This isn't the first time of repotting, but I ought to have done it sooner. I only have a few succulents, and love having them around the house, in different places. I don't have a book on how to really look after them properly, and just check on the internet.

(3) As I had the repotting tray out, I mixed some suitable potting medium  and got cracking on potting up some rooted cuttings. Three of  Salvia microphylla 'Cerro Potosi', and three of silver leaved Artemesia Powis Castle, which I had taken as an insurance should my heavily pruned shrub not survive its hard pruning.  All six are being protected in the shred from further rain. It has started to rain, but it was still warm, and a treat to out in the fresh air.  I limited myself to keeping only a few of the cuttings: for myself and to give away. Jon The Propagator used an apt term this week: "one to wear, one to spare, and one for the wash".

(4) My well packed order arrived from Pottertons. The plants may be in their winter phase, but since 'the specials' were in very low supply, leaving it a little later would end in disappointment.

New labels are best written out straight away for : Gypsophilia tenuifolia, Origanum 'Buckland', Salvia cyanescens, Pelargonium endlicherianum, Silene schafta 'Ralph Haywood', and Viola pedata.  I saw the tricolour version at Birmingham Botanical Gardens a few years ago and the whole plant charmed me. If I am successful with this one, ie I can grow it reasonably successfully, I hope to find and grow the tricolor version.

I've been asked what sort of pen I use for the labels: 

The Pen I use is Pen-touch extra fine marker in silver. For the small labels I use the Extra fine size, and for the larger labels the fine one. However I like to write on all sorts of information for instance sowing date, purchase date etc, I use Extra fine. For labels, pens and other items I find The Essentials Company gives great service and good prices.

(5)  Galanthus Magnet, from Cathy, (2018)  and Eranthis hyemalis.  When separated and replanted last summer, the snowdrop bulbs were repositioned  it seems too close to the eranthis, or even over the top!  

(6) Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis Firefly/
Crocus sieberi atticus 'Firefly':  the second crocus variety in flower this year.  Not quite as bright a purple as Tricolour, however the gentler colours look great in the conservatory border.

I hope my gardening friends find something to keep them going and maintain their hopes, but also there are great memories that emerge during quieter times. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Regular walk round Hay Hill

 Stepping out from home our regular walk takes us round Hay Hill.  Today there was still a little of the light snow left, but the roads were just about free from ice except along narrow hedge lined sections. This morning it was grey with intermittent fine drizzle.

 Whenever we have been away from home, the view of the hill just before we turn off is a cherish view.

Particularly in winter when the paths get muddy, we stick to the lanes. We are able to walk all around Hay Hill and back, passing the riding centre at Burcott, walking through Coxley Wick and then down onto Hay Moor. We walk along Haymoor Drove, which is edged by Rynes that drain the levels, and then turn back home.  

There are some old trees characteristic of the levels, and a number of birds.  For the last few times we have seen two pairs of stonechats.  Today we spotted the kingfisher, buzzard, swans, crows, jackdaws, blackbirds, robins, goldcrests, different types of ducks. 

There is an old thorny tree most probably a Hawthorn from which sprouts a large spray of male mistletoe.   It is have a more yellow look to it on account of the male flowers.

I've been meaning to frame its lonely growth, no female in sight, for some time. 

 It was at this spot that we crossed with the farmer, who was checking out the water levels around her fields. We hovered and chatted for quite some time, it was a treat to chat to a person face to face. She mentioned that they also get snipe in the area, which we shall look out for, but we ought to bring our binoculars to view further in details across the fields.

On the homeward stretch we catch a view of the barn on  Hay Hill. Still quite a way to go but always the beautiful green grass and the tree topped Ben Knowle Hill on our left.

We alternate directions around Hay Hill.  We cycle around if we want a short cycle ride, but walk if we want a longish walk from home.  During the covid lockdown, we feel this is all we ought to allow ourselves! 

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Six on Saturday - Signs of spring

 Time again to gather together and share our weekly six things from our gardens.  Jon blogs as The Propagator, but this he is also turning into a 'runner' not of strawberries but miles.

After days of rain brought on by the latest storm Christoph, yesterday was sunny, and although no great task was accomplished, I took delight in the garden.

(1) Stepping out from our back door, the three oriental pots in which the deciduous small fern are quietly resting,  the soft green cushiony moss caught my eye.  Needing as much cool shade as they can get, these pots remain here except for a few days when their fronds start to uncurl, when I may move them onto the 'blue table' or the shed shelf, where I can see them from the kitchen window.

This is the  narrow alley leading to the garden

(2) In the pouring rain the closest Kitchen Herb', except it is no herb but a shrub, is my pot of Bay, also a major ant nest....

(3)  The sun has coaxed open the first crocus: Crocus chrysanthus Snowbunting.

(4) Lady Beatrice Stanley is a pretty double snowdrop, and a cherished present from gardening friend Anna. I have only a few specials and this is a one that is starting to bulk up. Anna suggested I might like to listen to last week's Radio 4 programme on snowdrops.  I enjoyed listening to Open Country this week, in which Alan Street from Avon Bulbs described his passion for snowdrops and discovering new forms. I don't know how long the link will last, but it is worth sharing this with you.

(5)Frost warning the natural way.  I can check the outside thermometer, via the base station, but it is much more fun to peer out at Iris Jane Phillips.  At the first hard frost she bowed down completely, but within a short time as the sun coaxed up the temperatures, she soon perked up. Jane Phillips has curtsied several times this winter.

(6) An hour of so in the sun is good for everyone 

I was moving around mindfully, and thought to move some leaves, luckily I was wearing gloves, and only using slow gentle movements, as I thought there may be snowdrops hidden below. The dome of leaves was a covering for a hibernating hedgehog. She made her own bed in between the plants and the stone wall, and to think some of the neighbours have set up Hedgehog houses, I shall have to share this on our WhatsApp group.

It looks as if we are to have snow tomorrow. Delicates have been brought into the conservatory.


Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Marmalade wrapped up

There is something quite enchanting about fruit beautifully presented.   Ordinarily Waitrose sells the oranges in Kg boxes, but I was attracted by the wrappers adorning the fruit, beautifully packed, in open cardboard boxes, depicting The Ave Maria Organic Orange Farm close to Seville. Don't they look pretty used up as a wrapping for the jars before they are stored away?

These organic Seville Oranges were fresh, bright and in perfect condition.  The wrapped ones had slight marks, but it just proves that they are grown on trees and not made by some magic plastic fairy.


Fruit tissue wrappings for transport are not a novelty.  The New Gastronome has an article by Lisa Schultz on citrus fruit wrappers which is interesting.  I was transported to the foothills of Mount Etna, when we  walked through the organic citrus groves, after a delicious lunch cooked for us on the farm, 

And are those oranges on the kitchen tiles?  Maybe.  I have been making marmalade each year for years.  A note in my old cook book for 1977 shows I had made 48lbs that year, and that the oranges cost 16p per pound, and the sugar om 1979 29p per kilo.  In 1980 the oranges were 24p per pound.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Cyclamen posy In a Vase on Monday

After all the fireworks, it is now time to do a little spring cleaning, and yesterday, during a little pottering around in the garden, found some early flowers.  Linking up with Cathy, who is the 'House Keeper' of this weekly Monday 'club', I am able to share with others a little of our gardens.

This particularly early flowering cyclamen coum could have featured in a posy a couple of weeks back, and really needs her moment of glory before the specials emerge. 

 The little bit of greenery is from a fern which 'arrived' in my previous garden, spores floating in from how far, your guess is as good as mine.  A few leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ picks up the deeper maroon of the base of the petals and underside of the leaf.

The posy is set against a very large and beautiful antique damask linen napkin which came to me from my grandmother.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Six on Saturday - 16 January 2021

This morning I joined a Zoom talk given under the auspices of the local branch of the Hardy Plant Society.  I've taken a few ideas, and made some notes too.  I mentioned the meeting to Anna who contributes here and also to In a Vase on Monday.  These talks are open to non members for a fee, and if anyone is interested, next month's talk is on Euphorbias given by Timothy Walker.

I'll just pop over and link in with Jon and anyone else who is posting this Saturday.  

 1. Its toes leaves are turning blue pink with the cold: some succulents let you know when they are stressed. It is kept very dry and it will have to enjoy the minimums of about 6c at night! I usually split and repot them before they become this congested.  If anyone is a knowledgeable succulent grower they probably think this is cruelty. By the way the standard colour is that aqua blue right through all the leaves.  It will be interesting to observe what happens to those pink leaves as the season progresses.  Some younger plants in larger pots have not 'turned'.

2. Our gardening club is a member of the Gold Scheme at Castle Gardens Group, and each year they offer composts delivered to your door at competitive prices.  It is the first time I've put in an order.  Ordered before Christmas, the bags arrived this week.  The very nice delivery man from Castle Gardens had several orders from our club members, but he still had the time to move them all to my potting area right round the other side of the house.  Thanks John!  I thought to move just one bag to the shed and now it smells divine in there.  Am I alone in liking the smell of a good compost or manure? The grit, sand, and other composts are outside.

3. I read Jim's post about the history of his garden where he mentioned that he probably had not taken sufficient pictures of the garden layout.  Of course I would not deem to compare my garden with his, but I did lean out of the study window and took a picture of what my garden  looks like now, at the bleakest time of the year.  I'm not happy with the winter look, but boy,  there are a lot of plants out there, just waiting their moment of glory.  It is mainly the plants which I am interested in! But I shall have this picture to look back later in the year, and also in years to come.

4. Mr S came and had a look to see why I had opened the window and was letting all the warm air out, with the cold air flooding in.  He happened to look down and noticed my row of cyclamen hederifolium.  He was taken by the similarity of the colours: dark grey green leaves with what looked like aqua, ie silver markings of different kinds, and also how the leaf shapes were quite different. For a 'non-gardener' I was impressed by his observations. However he does have great powers of observation, and enjoys detail.

5. Being encouraged to grow from seed.  Apart from veggies, I am fairly new to growing shrubs, and other plants from seed.  I am delighted by how easy it has been to grow hardy geraniums, and this little pot has been in front of me each day, in good light in the conservatory. It may be Geranium Harveyi.  Whatever it is I have enjoyed watching it.  It will probably need potting up singly soon.  When it flowers I'll be posting it to the HPS Hardy Geranium group to see which they think it is. Thanks again to Jim for great quality seed.

6. Reading and books. I had another SOS contributor: Off the Edge gardening recommend  this book.  I managed to get it from the local library before the current lock-down.
The Garden Jungle or Gardening to Save the Planet by Dave Goulson: Earth worms, hover flies, bees, etc. Which are the best plants to grow for wildlife such as the specific lavender etc.  

Monday, 11 January 2021

Sourdough Flax Prairie Bread revisited

 It has been a while since I last made this loaf.  This time I scaled up the quantities to made two loaves in my Silverwood 500g tins.  These tins are great to bake bread in, but they are not 500g tins! Having measured the volume of a number of bread pans, I found that 700g made up sourdough is about right.

All the seeds for the recipe were ground and added to the flour.  However I thought adding some seeds as a coating to the inside of the tin would be fun.  However they tend to fall off, quite nice for the birds who will have all the dustings.  They had a 13hr cold rise in the conservatory.  Next time, I shall just leave them overnight on the kitchen counter to rise during the winter.  This makes a lovely loaf, and whilst the seed is still in date, I shall bake these for a few weeks in succession.  Looking back on a previous post, I found that I had made some of the dough into fruited breakfast buns, and intend to try that again next week.

In a Vase on Monday - More Fireworks

 Just as people continue to let off fireworks apparently on random evenings during the year, I am following with some even larger fireworks than last week. I don't have a vase large enough, and in any case, these are quite dry and don't require water.

Featuring this week are the seedheads of Allium schubertii.  

 This is the largest of the seed-heads, and is perched alongside my Great-grandmother's 19th Century pancheon, which is 45cm across.  It sits on the bottom rung of our conservatory side table, alongside an old copper stockpot and an arts and crafts salver. 

I had a wonderful harvest of these seed-heads last year, and was able to give several away too.  The remainder spent the summer hanging as chandeliers down from the conservatory ridge.  After the big pre Christmas clean of the room, they found their way on the side of shelves. As Mr S and I each have our different allergies, and some scents and blooms are difficult to bear except for the shortest time, these dried seed heads are a welcome floral decoration.

Linking in with the great goddess of Vases on Monday: Cathy.  She has some of her scented specials this week.  We have gardeners from sunnier climes and at opposite sides of the world so there is always something interesting to see.  Keep safe everyone.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Somerset Charcuterie for Saturday Lunch

 Bought at Wells Market for our 'stay at home' Christmas, we enjoyed the last of our Black Pepper and Garlic salami for lunch today:

topped with a few olives which I had marinated in olive oil, with some of my home made preserved lemons, freshly cooked beetroot topped with home made mango chutney, a few leaves, and home made baked pumpkin rolls with Wookey Farm goat's cheese.  

Six on Saturday - 9 January 2021

I'm linking in as usual with Jon: The Propagator, and will be fascinated as to what each contributor adds to their posts this week.  I'm relieved to hear that Jon has now planted all his daffodils. Some have great big gardens and will easily have plenty to share, but it is encouraging to read posts from people with small gardens like mine, as well,  as it is at this time of year that we can glean interesting morsels.  I find that each season, I build up posts that I can refer back to, and find useful.

1. I wonder how many of my borderline hardy plants are going to survive this freeze. A few years of mild weather have spoilt us.

Salvia Amistad in the garden, blackened and looking sorry. I shall cut it back, and maybe it will shoot up from the base. Otherwise, I have some nice rooted cuttings coming on, brought into the conservatory just in time. I had already given two away to different people, so I hope they have been under cover there. Thanks to my husband's patience walking around plants in our conservatory.

2. For me it is too cold to garden outside, but I could not resist doing just one thing: going out to pick seed heads. The finches seem to prefer the naked sunflower seeds, which attract many different birds.

Eryngium Silver Ghost is now shedding its seeds. This has proved to be a biannual in my garden. Your seeds were posted yesterday Anna. I have plenty still to share, so if you are interested, let me know.  It is quite easy to pop some in the post to you.

Our gardening club is a member of the Gold Scheme at Castle Gardens Group, and each year they offer composts delivered to your door at competitive prices.  It is the first time I've put in an order.  Ordered before Christmas, the bags arrived this week.  The very nice delivery man from Castle Gardens had several orders from our club members, but he still had the time to move them all to my potting area right round the other side of the house.  Thanks John!

3. Action taken too late

I was counting on a number of possible flowers from my new Alstromeria but I ought to have brought the pot into the conservatory before the freeze set in. As it was expected to reach -5C during the week, even though it was too late to save the growth, I thought the plant would be better in the conservatory.

4. I was quite touched by this present from Mr S, which was a complete surprise.   He knows how I love to find and watch the spiders in and around the garden. Mandy sent me a picture of a spider she hadn't seen before, at her allotment some time ago, and using the book I was able to identify it as a female orb spider. probably Araniella cucurbitina. Is is usually greener than the one in her photograph, but it may be in the process of moulting. It is going to take some time to read and learn how to use this. Any spiders around the house are some to be caught and studied under a glass.

5. Present from my grand-daughter: little match box  called Tomato and Basil Soup in a box, but grow your own.  Would something like this be a great little present for members of a gardening club at the Christmas Party.  I am optimistically planning for 2021 December's Gardening Club party.  There may not be the fancy little miniature bottles, but little seed packets.  Maybe send some Forget-me-not seeds for a friend to sow in their garden? Yes, I have checked you can buy mini glass bottles with stoppers, and blank boxes, or maybe just learn how to fold origami seed packets. A couple of packets of seeds could be split many ways, or better still use good seed gathered from your garden.

I wonder whether all those vaccine bottles, which are in such short supply, are going to be recylced/reused/ or could they be upcycled?. If there are any doctors/nurses amongst you, maybe you could salvage some, if that is permitted?  

6. First snowdrop Diggory. These came from a bulb sent to me by Anna of Greentapestry in 2019 is up, though perhaps not yet fully open to allow correct identification.  I've been watching the soil held in the grip of ice, 'heave' and fall repeatedly over the past week, with my eye on the the first to emerge special snowdrops.  It seems as if I may have lost a few varieties of  the special snowdrops. I removed some small plants, and moved Diggory to the edge of the 'Conservatory' bed, close to where I sit.   Anna also sent me Lapwing and Lady Beatrice Stanley:  I shall be out checking whether or not they survived the warm summer.  Cathy sent me Blewbury Tart, Magnet and Mrs Macnamara in 2018, and I had also bought a couple in 217 : Woronowii and Elwesii, but I think they have not survived. I am hoping that Viridapice nivalis (2018) will come up, as it is an easy one to recognise. Indeed I need to check that the labels are in the right places and snowdrops correctly identified.  This is also the time I enjoy getting out my Naomi Slade's book The Plant Lover's guide to Snowdrops.

I do hope that you all will enjoy watching the snowdrops emerge.  Little clumps in parks and gardens, or along hedgerow, somewhere near you on your daily walks will surely bring you joy.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Thistle Socks

 With another 'plant named' socks on my needles, I find comfort in knitting in those odd moments.  These have been on my needles since 12 December 2020, so have been knitted over the Christmas period, and should be finished before the end of January. This hand knitted pair of Thistle Socks will then be stored in my box of socks.

When I could no longer fit all 'The Knitter' magazines in all my boxes, I realized that it was time to review why I was keeping them, and what I should do going forward.  I ditched over 100 magazines, tearing out patterns that may appeal, and the majority were sock patterns. It was a very hard thing to do, as there is so much eye candy.  I still have another 59 stored! I've also stopped my subscription to the magazine.  I have sufficient patterns to use, and enough yarn to knit up for at least three years. 

I have a few more magazines till the end of the current quarter, and my interest was piqued by an article on historical knitting of Welsh Wigs: an interesting article and so well written up Penelope Hemingway.

The enter and they leave the newly knitted sock depository.  

Monday, 4 January 2021

In a Vase on Monday - New Year Fireworks

 Were there fireworks near you to see in the New Year?  

Though the window the neighbour's Christmas lights shine bluey purple, and the street lights white.  Allium cristophii, and the glass rhinoceros, which have been on the window sill of the smallest room in the house, for the past few months.  The container is a Victorian medicine or poison bottle.

The neighbours have taken all their lights down now.  So it was timely that I took the picture on Saturday night when I first noticed the effects. We are waiting till twelth night to clear the decks of  holly, Christmas tree, and other decorations.  If I had brought under cover my tub of nearly in flower Alstromeria in time, when I first thought of it, before all the heavy frosts, it would well have been a different vase. 

Happy New Year to all the IVOM contributors and readers.  I am linking into Cathy, who gathers us each week. Her post is so amusing, out of the mouth's of babes....

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Six on Saturday 2 January 2021

 Happy New Year to Jon our leader and self confessed propagator, and all the rest of the gang of plant lovers. A choice shrub, yet to flower, and a bunch of carrots which Jon modestly describes as probably fit for a class 3 bag, but probably tasting superb, are part of his six.  I'll be over to catch up with friends there during the day.

I seek absolution. My sin I believe is not in the activity itself:  no ill intent or premeditation to cause harm ever existed in my mind. However my actions caused a vexatious reaction far beyond what I would ever want to cause.  Since it was my actions that caused this,  I must confess and say it was my fault. What was I doing?  I was dead heading a window box, which had been standing on the ground on a public thoroughfare.  It was within my eyeshot as I lock and unlock my bicycle at my usual parking place. I thought the box was outside one of the many airbnb quaint cottages which line the side roads of Wells. 

This was not the first time I had done it, and noticed how the petunia and bidens, started to thrive after I started to dead head it weekly.  I had of course admired greatly the bidens to the extent I had looked it up and thought it to be Bidens Bee Dance, and it had been added to my list of plants to acquire next year. 

I had but dead headed half the trough, when a woman ran out the front door, and had a right old go at me.  I tried to explain that I was not harming her plants at all, and even put all the dead heads on the floor at her feet, socially distanced, of course.   I felt absolutely mortified. She had either had a very bad day, and was fed up with the passers by, or does not possess the ability to see the good in people.

Why do I bring this up around a month later?  I had tried to 'forget' the incident, but as I was putting away my lighter outer coat during the week, I found some detritus in my pocket, from a previous dead heading session.  Right in the bottom of the pocket, some of the spent flower heads yielded some seeds, and the whole episode has come back to mind, and I can feel the hurt, as if it happened yesterday. In my heart I have forgiven the person for her overreaction, and I hope in her heart she has forgiven me.

This little spot of soul searching, which I have been in the use of doing at about this time of the year, and others, gives four of my Six on Saturday.

1. Dead heading.  Yes I shall only do dead heading in my own garden, or only with permission of the owners. Penance: maybe I ought to volunteer at the Bishop's Palace and get all their dead heading done.

2. Seed collecting:  only gather seed intentionally, and with permission, and only seed that one intends to grow at a later date.

3. Go through my seed box, and make a plan and timetable for seed sowing for the coming year.

4. Offer seed from my garden. Back in the summer the Eryngium Silver Ghost was putting on a good show, and I have left the seed heads on.  It was in late February 2019 when John Massey gave me a seed head straight from those growing in his garden, with his own hand, in case you form the impression that I take seed from anyone's garden, from which these were grown.  They are now ready to fly and be broadcast in just the right place in other gardens, and come up and display their beauty.  Let me know if you would like some.

5.As good as any silver Christmas decoration: Cotyledon orbiculata.  This is a favourite of mine, and is able to take the low temperatures in the conservatory, though we do have a froststat setting overnight.  More plants are being moved from 'The Shed with a side Window', which is my only semi protected area.

6.  Another reason not to allow cold and non gardening weather to put paid to the weekly posting, and again, forgiveness please for now having posted last week, is to reveal the answer to the mystery plant. What you saw were the thick branched rhizones, and unlike some descriptions, for me this plant is not evergreen. 

It is Viola sororia 'Albiflora'

Next week, I may reveal some of the garden related presents I received....