Six on Saturday: 31 March 2018

Last Saturday was a different sort of day with the Hardy Plant Society as I received my inoculations of foolishness ready for tomorrow. I finally got to meet fellow blogger and SoSer, published writer, gardener to the aristocracy, flowerpot people and at least one dog, fully paid-up member of the in-crowd, the gorgeous Gill Heavens. She was easy to recognise as I had a photo of her saved to my smartphone.

She was very kind, bringing with her a tub of Haribo sweeties to sustain me through my next garden project. Well I won’t need to ration myself so carefully. She is also even nicer “in the flesh” than she is “in the blog”. And she knows all the plant names too!

Thomas would have enjoyed himself! The first talk of the day was all about plant naming or, more specifically, plant naming changes. At the end of that talk I was left pondering whether all the recent changes are actually a good thing. I was not left pondering the number of syllables in the new names which, perhaps, is the more controversial issue. As the speaker said, “Aster” rolls off the tongue whereas “Symphyotrichum” doesn’t. Likewise “Sedum” and “Hylotelephium”. And the spelling! The temptation to spell “phyo” with a “phio” is strong. Must remember the “Yo, Bro!” sound too and not the “Clio”.

But it’s back to earth and time for this week’s Six. The garden has sprung into Spring life and, all of a sudden there’s so much choice. But the rule is that it shall be six (though I have noticed a certain person making a habit of multi-part sixes which is borderline cheating but worth copying!) so I must choose wisely, picking those things that may not look so good next week. Picking a pecking order, as it were. So I’ve left out the Frutex bononiensibus as it won’t produce fruit for a few weeks, even though it does look quite nice just after pruning tomorrow. There is an art to pruning as you need to make sure that there is enough space below each fruiting bud for the long, very thin, yellow to gold tassels to hang down so that they grow straight. These eventually turn into the long, hard but brittle, fruits that are so nice when boiled for about 20 minutes in water with just a little vegetable oil added.

1 Health and Safety

There were plant sales at last week’s Hardy Plant Society do and I had, unfortunately, forgotten to forget my wallet. It is a well-known fact that the risk of plants accidentally falling into your shopping bag on such occasions is unusually high (the risk is somewhat exacerbated if you forget to forget your wallet or purse). But I practice safe shopping and so only ended up having to take care of two plants, one of which was a planned purchase and the other was a substitute for my change as I only had a large denomination note available to pay the fine.

Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’. Been after this for a while but could never get near enough to a decent specimen before. The infill flash has overdone it a bit, sorry. Much darker red in real life.


Primula vulgaris ‘Taigetos’. This was instead of a lot of change as the stallholder had run out of fivers. Plus there was a bit of a backstory to this particular plant which was interesting.

John’s rule: Only buy what you have room to plant (the lawn – shrinkable – counts as room when you don’t have an edifice to fill)

Others were not so lucky and Gill was spotted carrying plants taller than she was out to her car or asking someone to hide her plants in their car for her while she hid in the loo to avoid embarrassment.

Gill’s rule: Plant something. Kill it. Remove the body. Buy something else to fill the gap.

So I guess something in Gill’s garden is about to snuff it.

2 Moss

The soil here is heavy clay. There is about 45cm (a foot and a half in old money) of this before you hit the stone pan. I have invested a forgettable (please) amount of my cash over the years digging everything diggable in into the soil to lighten it. The soil in many places has risen to 60cm above the stone pan. In other places I have dug down, stopping just short of the equator, removed a skip-full or two of the “rubble” and replaced it with topsoil mixed with grit and wotnot.

The lawn has received this treatment and has, for several years, displayed no sign of drainage problems. It’s been scarified and aerated every year and there are no children playing football on it all the time so it shouldn’t get compacted (shut up in the back row – I don’t weigh that much!). I topped the lawn a week ago and uncovered a real problem.

At a broad guess, around 50% of the lawn surface is moss. Conditions here through the winter have been perfect for moss. It’s appeared in beds and borders, containers, pots and trays of plants growing on in the growhouses and greenhouse; anywhere it has felt like spreading. Some people like it. If nothing else it tends to stay greener in drought conditions and doesn’t need cutting all the time. But my preference is for grass. So my chemical-free grass will have to suffer an application of moss killer. And I’ll have to find the hollow-tine exercise machine.

3 Alpines

Apart from some bulbs to fill the gaps, the two alpine sections of Edifice 2 are now planted up. There are a few careful distractions – some miniature roses and the above-mentioned Primula – but, in the main, everything came from the wonderful Potterton’s Nursery who (not “which” as they are nice people) thus qualify for an unsolicited plug. It looks good. I was very firm with myself – devising a planting plan, buying plants to fit it and sticking religiously to the plan (save for a single plant which I leave you to work out from the clues in this paragraph).

It will expand. Click if you dare! Large white areas are filled with bulbs. Couldn’t be bothered to add all those botanical names to Word’s dictionary so lots of red lines.

I’ve started planting up the large non-alpine section but will keep that for another week. The irrigation system is also working fine. I may nibble a Haribo or two to celebrate.

4 The Next Generation

The early laid frogspawn has hatched. There’s about twice as much spawn remaining to hatch so it looks like I will start with a rather congested nursery. It’s a bit sad that maybe no more than a dozen of these little babies will survive to adulthood.

It’s also sad that as a new generation appears, an old gives way.

No sign of injury though it looks very thin. Old age or illness, Which, I wonder.

While I was taking other photos before nipping back inside for something in which to collect the body, down swooped a magpie and in a flash, the body was gone.

5 Tasmania lanceolata

Jim Stephens kindly identified this for me back in December when I couldn’t remember if the little clusters of spring flowers started red and became white or started white and became red. Well some are white, some are red, some are orange and some are yellow. Must dig out the old encyclopaedia and lecture it on what it’s supposed to do. But it looks good all year round so I’ll forgive it the confusion.

6 It’s A (Fire)Cracker

The “Beast From the East” and “Baby Beast” knocked back my baskets and containers of Polyanthus and Primula but most recovered at least in producing fresh greenery. Many have flowered and, with the benefit of a little less crowding, seem to have decided to get a bit big for their roots and fill the gaps.

So I could make my sixth this week this Polyanthus Most Scented

Or I could make it its paler neighbour which looks similar but is actually a Primrose Husky:

But I won’t! Instead I offer you Polyanthus Firecracker. It’s a real stunner:

We give thanks to the great and glorious Wizard of Prop. If you follow the yellow pricked out road to his blog, you will find links in the comments to his Six on Saturday post of the day to all the other Munchkins who take part in this meme from all corners of the world. There are now so many that you may want to make yourself some coffee and sandwiches to sustain you as you navigate the wonders of the blogosphere.

Until next time, enjoy your garden. Have a great Easter and remember lots of places shut on Sunday! But lots of lovely nurseries (where you find the best plants) will be open.

22 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 31 March 2018

  1. I’m speechless! So impressed by your planning, mastery of Latin and all round gardening know how. I absolutely love that white primrose- as you may recall I’m a fan of the yellow but I have seen the error of my ways. Like you I am suffering in the lawn department. Serious squelching noises and much moss. Poor frog too.

    1. I like yellow too. Those feisty colours are for containers, not the ground. Latin was in my top three subjects at school. I really enjoyed translating Latin into English, though not so much the other way. I find myself using botanical names more than the common ones these days (even when joking).

  2. What an impressive planting plan for Edifice 2: look forward to seeing it in actuality.
    I bought a very similar Primula vulgaris ‘Petticoat’ a couple of weeks ago – like these white varieties. Coveting your red hellebore.

  3. Now I am gutted that I missed it, not the talk (although that would of been rather good indeed), nor the sweets (again would of been good), nor the Plants (now that would of been bloody expensive and room is running faster than saints hopes of staying in the premier league!) but to of met you and Gill!
    Great six, so happy to see you have one of my favourite peonies in there, tennifolium brilliant Plant and the very unusual Tasmannia devil, also nearly brought one of those forms you shown, but spent me money earlier on, again on some more forms of primroses…..
    great six

    1. There were meetings all round as we ran into people with whom we’ve communicated online for ages but not in the flesh before. It was a really good day. I came away with just two plants, congratulating myself on my restraint. But I’m now wishing I’d bought two more (I ummed and aahed over a Stachyurus in two of the break periods before deciding nay and now I’m about to buy one without seeing it first).

    1. There’s a backstory in that not so many years ago I really went to town on the lawn. This ain’t shady, it ain’t compressed from foot traffic, it’s just waterlogged and, thanks to winter temperatures, perfect moss generation weather. I will apply mosskiller for the first time in living memory, then I will scarify, then I will hollow tine, then I will take a flame gun to it.

      Or I may just dig the bl***y lawn up and make more flower beds.

      I like that idea.

  4. Love the plan for the Alpines. Jealous how organised you are. I had the same idea about the polyanthus and primula hanging baskets. By the looks of it I have the same baskets!. Also got the Firecracker ones in my front garden. Good Blog

    1. Thanks. Organised? I need planting plans because the memory fails me. Every plant in the garden has a label nearby. Colour coded so I remember seasonal maintenance and backed up with computer records and a Shoot Gardening subscription so I get regular reminder emails. Those “easy fill” baskets and wall planters are so easy to plant up. Almost therapeutic. I’ve reached nine baskets and 23 wall planters so far. And it only takes an afternoon to plant up the lot. Though there are now a lot of (I think) very poor imitations appearing on the market and you need to shop around for the “proper” easy fill ones. Even then, prices vary wildly.

  5. I admire your restraint in the plant buying department.

  6. If you can’t get rid of the moss, let it take over, plant an acer, some azaleas, a few clumps of ophiophogon, drop in some boulders and gravel and you’ve got yourself a Japanese garden!

  7. Whether I forget my wallet or not, there’s always a plant that yells “take me home with you” which means I end up borrowing money from my companion to accomodate that plant’s wishes!

    That’s some impressive tadpoles! Hopefully they’ll not be fighting over space in the pond.

    1. I actually had a reserve stash of plant-buying funds in the glove compartment of the car. Just in case. I was sorely tempted but managed to resist (largely because I spent a lot of time flat on the floor having been elbowed out of the way by Gill). There are a lot more tadpoles waiting to hatch. They always congregate initially before spreading out. They have a 3 x 2 metre pond to explore when they leave home. Which they need to do soon as the magpies are hovering and can get at them where they are.

  8. I just finished reading Gill’s Six and now yours …. I do like your humor to all 2 .. you seem very complementary and you should write a book with her!
    Polyanthe Firecracker is a cracker as the name : wow!
    and also surprised by this amount of tadpoles! …

    1. Would the censors let a tome written by the two of us through, I wonder? I have a lot of Firecracker. It is a lovely Polyanthus. The current throng of taddies is only the beginning. I always feel sad at the thought that maybe half a dozen will survive to become frogs.

  9. Where on earth did you find that old picture of me? Must have been taken 20 years ago! Love your plan, the list of plants is like poetry. Tasmania (was Drimys 🙂 ) is a wonderful shrub, that one looks like a great specimen. Was great to meet you too. Not sure we should be allowed out together again, it was a dangerous combination. 🙂

    1. My injuries have healed now. I look forward to the next time. The suit of armour is on order.

    1. Looks a lot but out of that mass, maybe three adults will survive. So sad.

    1. All those dead plants……… I’m looking forward to propagating from the primrose. I don’t think my photo did it justice though.

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