In a Vase on Monday: Also-Rans

Today’s vase contains blooms I have not used in a vase this year, and in some cases never; not necessarily because they were not worthy of inclusion, more that they were overlooked for one reason or another…also-rans.

It was the pale pink self-seeded achillea that began this train of thought, possibly the progeny of some achillea plugs I used in pots a couple of yours ago – or maybe a wild form, brought in on the wind. I have to confess to being totally underwhelmed by achillea, and have never successfully grown any of the bright varieties seen in other people’s borders; I again have some free plugs this year and they are also pale and wishy-washy. Low growing too, they are never going to make an impact in a border. Joining them are the pretty blue flowers of caryopteris with their intriguing and equally blue stamens, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ and S ‘Nachtlvinder’, fresh seedheads of annual scabious, a spent heuchera flower spike and a couple of stems of Sedum ‘Xenon’.

It made a refreshing change to have paler and softer coloured blooms in the vase, instead of the solid and brighter colours of dahlias and sunflowers and the like, and there were several vases I could have chosen to house them, but my final choice was one of a pair of green glass vases with a fluted pie crust rim.

Today’s prop is a ‘silver medal’, awarded to me in one of the many athletic competitions I took part in as an older adult. The Golfer and I met at our local athletic club – he was a jumper and at the top of his game for his age group, whereas I was a sprinter, and although faster than an average female of my age very much an also-ran in terms of women who were competitive members of an athletic club. We competed in our ages groups at local, regional and national level, and at regional events you could still be awarded a medal if less than three people entered, as long as you reached a certain standard. No doubt this medal was awarded on one of those occasions!

In a Vase on Monday is not competitive in any way and there are no medals to be won, although occasionally there may be a prize draw, usually on annual anniversaries, the seventh of which is coming up in November. We pick flowers or other material from our gardens purely for the pleasure it brings ourselves, with the added bonus that it also gives pleasure to those we share the vase with and brings us into contact with a lovely bunch of people too – long may it flourish! If you would like to share a vase with us, arranged or plonked, please leave links to and from this post.

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Six on Saturday: More than a Second Glance

Just a quick and fairly random selection of things from the garden for my Saturday Six, things I have paused and admired on more than one occasion recently. The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by gardening friend Jon the Propagator, so please take the time to check out his six too, and follow links to many others.

Above is one of my new roses, the one with the clumsy name, R Tottering-by-Gently’; I am really pleased I relented and choose this rose is there is already something endearing about the pale yellow single blooms and it definitely looks at home in the woodland edge border.

I had been without the dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ for a couple of years, and there wasn’t quite enough space for the replacement with the others in my dahlia beds, so it has been in a pot and not received the attention it should: it really is the most gloriously vibrant shade of scarlet, although this photo does not do it justice:

Equally vibrant is this geranium, probably G ‘Rozanne’, quite rightly the recipient of many accolades:

A friend visited yesterday in a socially distanced way and commented on the number of bees on this ivy, itself a mass of flowers; I was pretty sure I had read recently about the ivy bee, the last bee of the year to emerge, feeding exclusively on the nectar of ivy flowers and not emerging till September or so. Although a solitary bee, nesting in in loose soil and favouring sparsely vegetated south-facing banks, nesting aggregations can be huge in suitable locations with thousands of nests. There were certainly hundreds of bees on the ivy that sunny morning, but none to be seen this cooler afternoon when I took the photograph:

Many roses here are floriferous again with their latest flush of blooms, but additional blooms on R ‘England’s Rose’ have been sparse, and the bed would probably have benefitted from additional watering; my feeding regime tailed off rather earlier than it could have done too. However, there are occasional blooms, and I was taken by the frilly edges of this one and the gradual fading of the pinkness towards the outer petals:

Finally, a pleasing and accidental combination of Agastache ‘Blue Boa’, Persicaria ‘Jo and Guido’ and that rogue range orange nasturtium. This is the first year an agastache has lived to see another season, and it took me by surprise when it started flowering.

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Wordless Wednesday: Harlow Carr

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In a Vase on Monday: Test Tube Baby

Time and circumstances dictated that today’s vase should be just the bare necessities, which is what you have here in more ways than one.

I love to see the pared-down simplicity of colchicum at this time of year, naked without their leaves (which appear in spring), and especially before the weather turns their party dresses into bedraggled rags, so after wordlessly admiring my C ‘Water Lily’ on Wednesday I determined to give it another chance to shine in my next Monday vase. They can have surprisingly long, albeit delicate, stems (this one was about 5″, just under 13cm) so a vase required both a narrow neck and sufficient height to display the flower above it, and I did not think of my box of test tubes, snapped up from eBay, immediately – but I am glad I did, as together with the planned choice of prop, it produced a very neat title!

If you have the time and inclination to find something to pick from your garden today, then please do so, sharing it with us if you like by leaving the usual links to and from this post.


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Six on Saturday: a Lanky Lodger and Other Stuff

Having shown the delightful crab apple ‘Evereste’ last week, I thought it only fair to show the equally bright and fruitful ‘Golden Hornet’ this week; however, those of us acquainted with this buzzy crab apple also know its weakness, that of ageing disgracefully. Unloved by the birds, the fruit just hangs there and gradually disintegrates or shrivels on the branches – I could go down the crab apple jelly option, of course, but as yet haven’t tried it as I have more than enough fruit to deal with as it is!

My David Austin roses arrived last week and were duly planted, although choosing them had taken a considerable time. In the rose garden where the Blush Noisette were removed, the unusually coloured rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ has been planted, four of them in total against the fence. As the other roses here are mostly shades of pink, along with the crimson Darcey Bussell, I wanted something complementary but not contrasting, and growing no higher than the fence; ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, actually a purple rose, seemed to fit the bill and although one of the four bushes was flowering on arrival it’s not very clear on the picture below which shows two of them. The whole area looks a lot neater and access will also be easier now the tall and bushy Blush Noisette have gone, but there is still more ivy to be removed when time permits.

I wanted to add a rose to the woodland edge border, taking advantage of the increase in light following removal of the oak, one that looked informal, but for some time I avoided my eventual choice because of its name; gritting my teeth I finally decided to go for it, as it was a very pretty rose with single yellow blooms and fitted the bill nicely. Let me introduce you to ‘Tottering-by-Gently’ (named after a cartoon in Country Life magazine):

The hardest choice was for the bed by the streamside border from where the persicaria was removed and as this can be seen from the house it was a particularly important decision. I toyed with so many inviting roses before realising that many of these would block views beyond the bed, so changed tack, buying instead a very ‘ordinary’ ground cover rose, ‘Scented Carpet’ – three of them actually, to grow together and fill the bed, spilling over the stones at the front. Wanting instant gratification, if they hadn’t been available as potted roses, I am not sure what route would have been taken…

In the Coop, I am delighted that some of my potted nerines are in bud, albeit only a few of them. This is Nerine bowdenii, the most readily available variety in the UK:

And our lodger? He* has been an ongoing project during lockdown, but is finally lounging around on a bench in the woodland. Unusually lanky in the body, he really needs a cushion behind him, to support his unique anatomy:

Originally conceived as a sculpture with a chicken wire frame, to be covered by a cement, sand and compost mix to look like stone, I got as far as a pair of legs before deciding the end result would be too heavy and very difficult to move, unless constructed in situ. The legs sat about for several weeks, awaiting a wet weather day to consider alternatives. As wet days were few and far between earlier this year, it was some time before the project moved on to the Mark 2 version, utilising some plaster of paris bandages acquired (legally!) when I accompanied a friend on a hospital visit (plus several additional purchased rolls). Again, chicken wire provided the framework, this time in a lighter and more manageable format, before being covered in layers of bandage and painted when dry with gesso, primer, and several coats of stone effect paint. He is desperately in need of a friend…

That’s my Saturday Six for this week, but please visit our SoS host Jon the Propagator who will have his own to share along with links to many others

*All the way through construction I was determined that the sculpture would be amorphous in terms of gender, but found I had written ‘he’ above without thinking, so perhaps he is a ‘he’ after all…

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Wordless Wednesday: Naked as the Day She Was Born

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In a Vase on Monday: Flaming Flowers That Brightly Blaze

There are so many variations of paintings of sunflowers by Van Gogh and I did not set out to recreate any of them, but they were certainly in my mind as I tried to arrange the wayward stems of my own sunflowers into some semblance of artistry, an artistry they were reluctant to succumb to.

It would have helped if there were more blooms than this, but I picked all those that were suitable, the middle and right ones in the foreground being ‘Velvet Queen’ and the remainder an assortment of self-seeded ones, largely cross pollinated. The seedhead is from one of the self-seeders and it never ceases to amaze me that sunflower seedheads, along with many other natural phenomena, show complex Fibonacci sequences, not that I could count the seed spirals on this example yet.

Not surprisingly sunflowers seem to inject their own sunshine into our days, regardless of the actual weather, although yesterday – when this post was prepared – was an exceedingly pleasant September day. Despite the days being noticeably shorter and bookended by cooler beginnings and ends, there is still plenty to enjoy in the garden throughout September and into autumn. Over the last few days I have also been enjoying a vase of leftovers, a dahlia casualty and trimmings from the persicaria I evicted. Perhaps there are some trimmings from your garden you could pop in a vase and share with us? Just leave links to and from this post if you would like to do so.


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(agapanthus plus pot) minus (ceanothus and ground elder) equals X

…where X is a Project.

I have always enjoyed working with numbers, especially the logic of algebra and equations, quadratic or otherwise, and studied Maths beyond what was statutorily required at the time. This little project somehow reminded me of an equation, an equation with a neat and satisfactory solution, even though numbers didn’t actually come into it at all (apart from the number of recycled paviers needed). If mentioning algebra and quadratic equations hasn’t put you off, let me explain:

On numerous occasions I have mentioned that inspiration for projects is often triggered by a random thought or comment, and this is a classic example. Less than a week ago, I visited a friend I hadn’t seen since before lockdown and was thrilled to see her agapanthus in flower, grown from seed by me and bought at our open garden two or possibly three years ago, The seed was taken from the seedpod of a plant growing in the grounds of Bristol cathedral, a city we visited for the weekend back in December 2016. Not having seen the parent in flower, I had no idea what to expect, but this is it:

The seedlings I kept for myself have not yet flowered and look nowhere near as mature as my friend’s, but the pot hers were growing in was much bigger and I determined to repot mine as soon as I could.

Coincidentally, on the same day, one of our blogging community remarked on a particular pot she had spotted in one of the pictures I had posted, the big square pot that the fig had been removed from last year. This would look brilliant with mature agapanthus in, I found myself thinking, but the reason the pot has languished in the nursery area is because it IS so big, and therefore hard to place in the garden, so at the moment is temporarily housing a displaced rose. The pot was certainly too big to sit adjacent to the blue & white border, which is where I want to keep the agapanthus.

I went to bed that night and the moment I lay down, into my head popped X!

The uninspiring border next to the fence, shown below, is one of three that make up the overall blue & white border, although it has rarely offered anything in the way of blue or white. The fence, a neighbour’s, replaced mature leylandii some years ago and the soil has always been relatively poor and dry, despite attempts to improve it, and is partially overshadowed by our climbing hydrangea, H petiolaris. Increasingly it also suffers from an invasion of ground elder from the other garden. I had been trialling a prostrate ceanothus in the border, and earlier this year dug the three plants out to tackle the ground elder before replacing them. Stupidly, they weren’t watered enough when I replaced them and not only had one died but the ground elder was still popping up between them.

So what was X, the ‘neat and satisfactory solution’?

…remove the remaining ceanothus, dig out enough soil to lay paviers (on top of a weed-suppressing membrane of course!) recycled from a previous project, creating a level area to fill with pots – not just agapanthus but blue & white annuals in season and whatever else takes my fancy – thus removing the dual problem of ground elder and an unproductive border and replacing it with months of blues & whites to supplement those of the adjacent two sections of the border. Here is just a taster:

The Golfer, being a Whizz at levelling paviers, laid the blocks, whilst I sifted the soil and redistributed it around the garden, like a prisoner at Stalag Luft III. As projects go, it was a small one, completed in just a few hours, but the improvement was instant and even the Golfer commented on this, whereas he normally just accepts my improvement whims without expressing an opinion. We may or may not move one of the smaller benches to join the pots, but in the meantime I can now pin myself against the fence and get a better view of the rest of the blue & white border:

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Six on Saturday: Summer Suns are Glowing

I look forward to the above view in late summer, when the peachy rose ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ has its second flush and the peachy crab apples of Malus ‘Evereste’ are beginning to ripen, a match serendipitously made in heaven as it didn’t cross my mind when I chose the roses two years ago. Last year, however, the crab apple was mistreated by the Beast From the East and cropping was poor, and there was no such spectacle.

Deadheading down by the cutting beds this week, a seedhead of Calendula ‘Orange Prince’ crumbled in my hand, transformed into viable seed, prompting me to take action and start putting little ‘hats’ on seedheads of plants I feel it is worth collecting seed from. The ‘hat’ is a little gauze drawstring bag, bought on eBay and sold to hold jewellery or party favours, and on the photo below contains seedheads from two-tone Lychnis coronaria ‘Occulata’:

The white and pink varieties seed around quite generously, but I don’t know if this variety does. I shall not, however, be collecting seedpods from this wayward nasturtium which not only clambers through the bed and onto the path but also up the trellis and into the climbing rose, extending possibly as much as 12 feet or nearly 4 metres. I quite like its exuberance and it certainly adds brightness to this bold border, but it was meant to be RED (Crimson Emperor)!

Also clambering exuberantly is this clematis, C viticella ‘Walenberg’; nothing unusual in that, you might think, but all this growth has been in the last couple of weeks! I suspect molluscs hiding in the leafy growth around the base destroyed the first new shoots, but I was confident that the plant was still alive and would grow as normal next year (subject to mollusc vigilance) – so the almost overnight emergence and growth of what you see below took me by surprise, even more so when I found there were also flower buds, as shown on the second and rather out of focus shot. The plant clearly wants to make up for lost time!

There seems to be a lot of active plants in this post as this week I have removed the ‘overactive’ Persicaria ‘Firetail that I referred to in my EOMV. This plant originated in the woodland edge border from where an offshoot was taken and planted in one of the main borders, where it didn’t do much, before a border overhaul saw it taken out and replanted in the bed next to the streamside grass. This was a little over a year ago and from a very small root this is what it has grown into now:

Fairly humungous, wouldn’t you say?! It’s strange, but all the persicaria in the bottom part of the garden seem to show a bit of restraint, but here the opposite is true, and although I talk of  ‘the streamside’ it is an artificial stream contained within a butyl liner, so the ground should be no moister than the rest of the garden. It may get more sun, I suppose, but whatever the reason P ‘Blackfield’ and P ‘Inverleith’ both need a bit of attention in the coming months, as does the whole of the main streamside border where couch grass is proving difficult to keep on top of. In the meantime, most of the big chunk of ‘Firetail’ was replanted back into the woodland edge border, co-ordinating nicely with P ‘Red Dragon’ in front of it:

Jon the Propagator kindly hosts this Six on Saturday meme, where gardeners are asked to feature any six things from their gardens, giving rise to an intriguing and varied range of subjects, so do consider visiting his blog to check them out. My sixth today is one of our regular visitors, one of the welcome ones, which I am thrilled to say we see or hear most days, although with an active family or families around it is not always possible to tell them apart and yesterday, when this photo was taken, I also saw his/her sibling/parent/offspring/friend scurrying away in the opposite direction:

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Wordless Wednesday: a Cross Hippeastrum

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