Six on Saturday: to Bee or Not to Bee

With temperatures up to a relatively balmy 11°C today, the garden was hive of activity even when the gardener was occupied elsewhere. The birds were the noisiest they have been for many weeks (assisted perhaps by a recent topping up of the bird feeders) and on one of my rambles there was the distinct buzzing of more than one bee which I realised was coming from the flowers of Fatsia japonica. From previous comments, Jon the Propagator (host of this Six on Saturday meme), knows that these flowers are way above my head and, despite craning the aforementioned head and reaching as high as I could, it is unlikely you will be able to spot either of them in the above photograph but I can assure you they are there!

Still providing colour in the December garden are the vibrant crabs of Malus ‘Evereste’ although perhaps not for much longer as our extended family of blackbirds have been feasting on them; sadly no-one, feathered or otherwise, is interested in those of ‘Golden Hornet’ which have gone from bad to worse and with it not yet being a tall tree I have begun removing the offending fruit – but it wasn’t me who secreted a cache of them in the streamside border under recently cut back persicaria foliage, where they have rotted further – and I can’t imagine who the culprit might have been…

As well as persicarias, most of the hellebore leaves were trimmed this week too, except where they looked exceptionally healthy and upright as a few still do, a job not usually done till after Christmas. The impact on the snowdrop border was particularly noticeable, with the emerging spikes of snowdrops standing out clearly and the hellebore flower buds exposed to the light.

Snowdrops in flower from left to right: Peter Gatehouse, Gabriel and an out-of-focus Three Ships.
Hellebores left to right: White Spotted, Harvington Double Lime, Harvington Double White.

Also tackled, but for the first time, was the protection of penstemon and tender salvias with straw, in a bid to establish how much difference it makes to their survival or performance; I have visions, however, of the straw gradually being redistributed around the rest of the garden – or less gradually, given a strong wind…!

They may not actually need any any protection, as the mildness of this winter so far has already been noted several times. One of the resultant seasonal oddities has been fresh growth on many of my summer flowering clematis, particularly C viticella; shown below are fresh buds on ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ but some have quite lengthy new shoots. Has anyone else found this happening in their garden? I partially cut back my Group 3 clematis at this time of year before cutting them right back in early spring, so any new growth is not to their advantage.

That’s my mixed six for this week, so do now pop over to Jon’s blog to see some more.

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23 Responses to Six on Saturday: to Bee or Not to Bee

  1. bcparkison says:

    Fatsia is awonderful plant. I went to a ‘party’ where they were used as chargers under the serving dishes. They made the table look grand. Having tried growing one and failing I need to try again. They do get large.

  2. Well, Fatsias in the Uk still boggle my mind when I have none!

  3. tonytomeo says:

    The popularity of Fatsia japonica is surprising. I thought that it went out of style a long time ago, and that it had only been in style here where the climate is mild. Yet, while it is now uncommon here, it is more popular in harsher climates, such as in the region of Seattle. Before I saw it there, I did not know it was so tolerant to frost!

    • Cathy says:

      Interestingly, it was one of the very few things that was in the garden when we bought the house, although we have moved it at least once since then – would struggle to move it now though!

  4. I believe you! How nice to have blooms and pollinators in December! We have several inches of snow today.

  5. That’s interesting re the crab apples and the predilection of the birds for Evereste: red is tastier? They look lovely, I would love space for a crab.

    • Cathy says:

      Golden Hornet has a reputation for this – especially not good if you have a big tree! Evereste’s crabs are actually more peachy than red, and really attractive. I can’t remember if I bought mine on a dwarf rootstock but I would have done if I could – i’ve only had it for about 4 years and it is still small

  6. Paddy Tobin says:

    It’s wonderful to see the snowdrops appearing. In flower here with me at the moment are ‘Three Ship’, ‘Faringdon Double’, ‘Barnes, ‘Castlegar’, ‘Colossus’ and ‘Mrs. Macnamara’. ‘Peter Gatehouse’ is one which has never got moving with me – I think there is a single bulbs somewhere, planted years and years ago, but it has never multiplied which is a pity as it comes early in the season.

    • Cathy says:

      It is indeed, even though they are rather earlier than I would have liked for my mid Feb NGS opening (which of course may not be able to go ahead anyway). Barnes is in flower here too, but FD and Mrs Mac are not quite there yet. It’s strange how some will sit for years and do nothing – my Cowhouse Green has been but a single bulb for over 5 years! By chance, I came across an article by you for the Irish Garden Plant Society yesterday when I was checking out something else – knowing your enthusiasm for snowdrops I am sure it won’t have been the only one!

  7. Anna greentapestry says:

    Oh that fatsia must be a tall ‘un then Cathy 😂 Poor malus ‘Golden Hornet’ – the berries definitely look worse for wear in comparison to ‘Evereste’. My ‘Red Sentinel’ is still just clinging on to a few berries. Lovely to see your drops emerging. Yet another mild damp week predicted! I hope that we have some colder weather soon.

    • Cathy says:

      A least 7ft I think! Glorious day here today – lots of blue sky, no rain and temps up to 11 or 12. No cold weather imminent, I think…🙄

  8. Pádraig says:

    You reminded me to get some straw for the penstemon, Cathy. And snowdrops will be added to my lists for next year. I read of several of our writers raving about them.

    • Cathy says:

      Some of the joy of snowdrops is the anticipation at a leaner time of year – but it is easy to get sucked into snowdrop purchasing, which can become an expensive pastime! 😉

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