Six on Saturday: 23 September

I’ve mitched off for a couple of weeks. But I’m back now with another Six on Saturday. Whichever way you look at it, we’re now in autumn; the days are shorter than the nights; the clocks will soon go back and allow those who without a dominant cat an extra hour in bed one night. Just means I’ll be getting up at 6am (in reality, more like 5am) for the following six months in a house that runs on Pillster-time.

Incidentally, the mitching has been sort of enforced. Apologies to anyone who has commented on an earlier post on my blog to whom I haven’t yet replied. I hope to catch up over the weekend. Once I’ve got email sorted …. It’s a long story. I’m a victim of the sudden success of my other “blog”. New internet service contract had to be arranged.



In my last contribution I mentioned that my sweet peas had been a disaster this year (and weren’t that good last year) and that I planned to replace them with a Trachleospermum. In the end, I bought two. Specifically Trachleospermum Jasminoides “Star of Toscana” *. I got two mainly because Thompson & Morgan announced an offer just as I was about to buy one from somewhere else – £19.99 for one (which was cheaper than the place I’d planned to buy from) or £20 for two. So in for a penny, as they say. They’ve arrived and are standing in the greenhouse until I finish building the supports to which they’ll be attached. I suppose they should be outside but I doubt they’d stay upright if there was a heavy breeze. They’ll be ok for a couple of days.


Number 2 is a bit of wildlife. I nearly mulched this little baby whilst cutting one of the lawns. My go-to Readers’ Digest Encyclopaedia of Lepidoptery** says this is a “yellow caterpillar with hairs and a red tail”. That encyclopaedia was a free gift with a can of bug spray, intended to allow me to identify what I’d killed to decide whether I should have killed it or not. Having never seen one of these before, I resorted to a bit of searching on the interwebs and identified it as a Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar. So there. Maybe I’ll now see a Pale Tussock Moth at some stage. Assuming, of course, that the interwebs co-operate in identifying whatever it is I will have seen whenever I see it (or not, as the case may be).


As a tribute to our Glorious Leader, number 3 is a bit of propagation. I’ve got a lot of pinks, some alstroemeria and, out of shot, some lavender which all seem to be doing ok (which for me means at least 10% are still alive). In the background you may notice some pelargoniums. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong but these surviving cuttings have rapidly developed to a size which, in late spring, I would plant out. One has even flowered! Roots are already poking out of the bottoms of the pots. They’re growing in pure coir (which is sterile, of course) and I’m adding a young plant food to their water once a week. No rooting hormone was used, they just spent their first days of “independence” suspended in water with some cal-mag feed added and I potted them up as roots appeared.

Maybe I need to cut the cuttings back or take cuttings of them? Who knows. This is the first time I’ve tried pelargoniums by the “suspended in water” method. I probably did it too early (mid-August). I’m showing you only the successes. About three-quarters didn’t make it.


Number 4(a) is an interlude; a precursor to the real number 4. I decided to make an inroad into my want list and placed an order with Beth Chatto Gardens at about 2pm on Thursday. These boxes arrived at 10 am yesterday. Not bad, eh? Beth is remarkably sprightly for her age! I’m happy to plug the nursery – a lot cheaper than many places and the plant quality (and the packaging) makes me very happy.


But the real number 4 is what was in the boxes. Fellow Six on Saturday contributors Thomas Stone and Gill Heavens have been beavering away, adding things to the list of plants I want. That list is now a bit shorter. Kniphophia rooperi and some Geraniums (thanks Thomas), Tricyrtis and a Persicaria (thanks Gill), a few Helenium “Sahin’s Early Flowerer” and some Eryngiums (thanks somebody, not sure who) have made a small dent in the list. Of course one can’t not have a look around when buying so some more plants fell into my basket. Sorry, Burncoose, you’ll have to wait till my second mortgage gets approved.

I also discovered that “Sedum” is now “Hylotelephium” so I got one of those to see what the difference is. I’ll probably still call it “Sedum” though. I’ll keep the rest secret until a future Six, assuming they survive as they’re all deliberate “challenges”. Like the coracle (only Welsh people will get that, sorry).


Number 5 is a Bougainvillea. Well it’s a single flower of a Bougainvillea. Well it’s not really cos it’s actually a bract. This plant was cosseted indoors through last winter and returned to its nice sunny spot when the weather warmed up enough in spring. Fed, watered, nurtured, it has finally rewarded me with, yes, a single flower/bract. It’s so small I can just about see it – this photo was at the limit of my camera’s macro capability, hence the slight blur.


Number 6 is an Aster. Or, it seems, a Symphyotrichum as those responsible for deciding what plants are called seem to have decided that some Asters aren’t. Makes me think that anyone in need of a job could set themselves up as a naming committee of some sort – a self-perpetuating organism. In the interests of environmental friendliness, I’ll stick with “Aster”. It uses less ink. And fewer headache pills!

I have several Asters; this one is  “Alice Haslam”. Depending on whence you source it, it’ll be Aster “Alice Haslam”, Symphyotrichum “Alice Haslam”, Aster/Symphyotrichum novi-belgii “Alice Haslam”, Aster/Symphyotrichum dumosus “Alice Haslam”, New York Aster or any one of a long list. You can also substitute a single apostrophe for any occurrence of the double-quote punctuation. Pay attention at the back of the room, please.

Having lost the will to live thanks to the variety of prefixes, I thought it would be an idea to find out who “Alice Haslam” *** was. I wish I hadn’t tried. Carefully wording my search term to remove a long list of vendors of whatever they called the plant, I came across a page that purported to set out the derivation. You can read it here (and never say I’m long-winded again, please Gill). Makes about as much sense as Boris Johnson’s explanation of why the NHS will get £350m a week after we leave the EU. Then I came across this page. Doesn’t specifically say that this is the Alice Haslam after whom the plant is named but there are at least some co-incidental “facts” – other articles mention a connection with Utah – and it makes a far more interesting story.

Well that’s my six for this week. Do pop over to The Propagator’s blog where, apart from his own contribution, the comments will include links to other posts (and pop back a few times, even into tomorrow, as more links are added). Our esteemed Head Womble has also, thoughtfully, provided a contributor’s guide so if you’re new to this, it’ll help you put your contribution together. I’ve permanently linked to the guide in my sidebar, up there ^^^ on the right.

Until next time, enjoy your garden (or “yard”, “backyard”, “plot”, “enclosure” ………)


*Or “Tuscane” or “Tuscany”, depending on where you buy it. Plant names are a recurring theme in this post!

**This is actually non-existent but maybe someone somewhere in the bowels of Readers’ Digest HQ is busily writing such an encyclopaedia. So I’m ahead of the game.

***The label on mine spells the name as “Alice Haslem”. Let’s not go there. PLEASE?

16 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 23 September

  1. I was lucky enough to visit BC gardens a few years ago, the nursery was one of the best laid out I have seen. The Mail Order appears to reflect that. Good luck with your new plants.

    1. Sorry Brian, seems I haven’t sorted whatever problems I have with my new ISP. I only discovered your comment (and others) today by accident.

      Beth Chatto’s gardens are wonderful. And I’m really (really) pleased with the quality of the plants I’ve received from her nursery. And I didn’t expect to receive them the following day. Beautifully packed. I doubt I’ll need luck – the plants are really great.

  2. Enjoyed reading your post, thanks for sharing your six. I think it will take a while for any new name for sedums to catch on. I expect if you are keeping the pelargoniums under cover all winter that they will be fine as they are. If they keep growing, just cutting them back will keep them from getting leggy. It will be interesting to see just how big they get next year after such a strong start.

    1. I may treat them to larger pots though. I think back to my 20s (I think Victoria may have been on the throne then) when every year I tried and failed with pelargonium cuttings. In my 30s I resorted to lifting them, letting the rootballs dry a bit then wrapping them in newspaper, boxing and consigning to the attic through the winter. In my 40s I potted them up and left them in the greenhouse. In my 50s it was compost them and buy new. Now in my 60s I’m getting somewhere with propagation.

  3. An entertaining and educational post. How I laughed about “dominant cat”–mine woke me at 5 this morning. And sedum is now “Hylotelephium”? How can we possibly keep up?

    1. You haven’t met Resident Cat. He relocated from a neighbour who has been grateful ever since. We can’t keep up with all these new names – we can’t remember them! 😉

  4. A great fun post. I am thankful your wee caterpillar survived. That is wonderful service from Beth Chatto nursery. I wonder if they post to Ireland. I visited the gardens a few years back and they are so inspiring. Happy gardening.

    1. Thank you Brigid. The caterpillar must thank his lovely bright yellow (daisy coloured) coat for his survival. I would have mulched a less “stand-out” critter. I’ll be looking around for the pupa in a week or two, to make sure I don’t destroy it during the final hedge-trimming session of the year.

      Beth Chatto does deliver to Ireland (see but I suspect the carriage charge will negate any saving from their plant prices. Yes, the gardens are wonderful. And inspirational and educational. Selecting the right plant for the right place is something we gardeners often fail to do; OK we can get past the problems with constant care and attention but Beth shows us how we can avoid that overhead. And she has such a lovely smile too! And a knowing wink.

    1. It’ll sound even better if you read it after next weekend. Incidentally I think it’s you I need to thank for introducing me to Agapanthus “Twister”, of which a 3-pack arrived from somewhere else this morning.

  5. Great 6 again fella, cuttings looking rather good! And so jealous about the plant order! Bit worried now, I hope the plants go well! Good luck with the names as well!

    1. No worries. The plants on my want list are ones I know will do ok here. It’s the non-want list plants, like Epipactis, that will challenge me and you’re not responsible for those. 😉

  6. Welcome back! Wondered where you’d got to. Your cuttings all look very healthy. Mine are all busy turning up their toes. Gaura all but gone, salvia looking iffy. Not sure what in doing wrong. Probably potted them up too soon. Or maybe they don’t like being in the heated bench once rooted. I dunno. Bit depressing.

    1. Could be the latter, sadly sometimes when the roots aren’t fully formed, potting on can cause breaks in the roots and the cuttings die ☹️

      1. Hmmm. Hadn’t thought of root damage in the potting on process. Now I wonder whether my technique (see my reply to Jon) is giving me a (albeit low-ish) success rate because I’ve inadvertently found a way to minimize this damage. Come to think of it, back when I used to sow in trays and prick out, my failure rate was much, much higher.

        Plus I bought a couple of heated propagators earlier this year to give bottom heat to seedlings on a window sill. Now thinking back, I’m suspecting that I had more success with things in the greenhouse, simply maintaining a minimum temperature overnight with the greenhouse heater, than with what I sowed in the propagators. Must keep better notes next year.

    2. I did mention that I was only showing the successes. I turfed out about 100 failures before I grouped the survivors together for their photo opportunity. I’ve relegated another 200 to one of the growhouses where it’s up to them whether they wake up or not. I wonder if it’s technique. I root almost everything in water with some added nutrients (alstros are the only thing I’ve tried from root cuttings, with about 10% success), then pot up into little modules (24 to a seed tray size) – I just suspend them over the module with one hand and sprinkle coir loosely with the other. No firming to speak of, other than a watering with a fine-rosed little indoor watering can, as long as they stay upright. Once roots have spread out into what is probably a 50-50 mix of air and coir, I pot up into “proper” pots. Seeds go into tiny module trays (the ones Dobies send out their value plug plants in); once there’s a decent little plant, I poke the plug out from below and pot it up.

      But then I’m not propagating as much as you do and concentrating on the easy things. If I want a Ceanothus, I’ll buy an established plant. 😉

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