A Bit of Then and A Bit of Now (Six on Saturday 25 June 2022)

As I sit here, pondering the fact that the first five days after the weekend are the worst, I realise that we’ve hit Saturday again. Which means it’s time to keep up with the little task of producing another Six on Saturday post, in the process acknowledging, as per, the efforts of Mr Prop to keep some degree of control over the happy band of SoSsers.

Oop top of this post, you’ll see another image of last week’s mystery item, this time with my hand for better scale. I’ll put you out of your misery and say that it’s an adult water blaster – like those space-age gun things that children shoot at other children when playing around the paddling pool but for grown-ups. It’s more powerful and a lot more accurate once you get the hang of it. The blurb says you can use it to wash off the conservatory roof if a passing bird chooses to relieve itself, to water high level planty things, to shoot a vertical spray and stand underneath as it falls back to earth in a mist to cool yourself on a hot day. In my case it’s a weapon to persuade an aggressive cat which came into the garden and attacked resident cat (who can’t get out of the garden cos he can’t jump or climb, poor guy) to go elsewhere. And, after a week, it seems to have worked. Fed up with getting soaked every time it visited, it hasn’t appeared for over a week. Which means that resident cat is safe in his own garden and can continue to rub noses with visiting squirrels in a friendly manner. And friendly squirrels are also safe from attack!

RIght, on with this week’s effort.

1 Impatiens stenantha

SWSNBN is quite generous, occasionally bringing with her on her weekly visits a plant that she’s liberated from another client’s garden or propagated from her own. Most weeks she’ll do a bit of propagating here and leave with the spoils which will find their way to others to compensate for the plants she’s nicked from them. And she’s good at identifying plants that simply aren’t growing well here but which, with her TLC, can thrive elsewhere (elsewhere being her garden, of course). This plant is one such donation from her and has appeared in the area that we had decided would be dedicated to ferns. And it’s doing quite nicely, thanks very much. Thing is, ferns are green (except when they’re not) and dotting the odd bit of something else for a bit of colour does make a lot of difference. Which is why the fernery (dedicated to ferns, ferns and only ferns) is only about 75% ferns. And all the better for it.

Now SWSNBN will probably give me a lecture about zooming in on the flowers rather than picturing the whole plant. But heck, if you want to see the flowers more clearly, just click the pic for a better view. As you can do with all my pics.

From this week on, I’ll be mixing into the mix some bits about garden areas and how they’ve changed since SWSNBN appeared here just a year ago. I’ll cover the fernery as an area in a future post.

2 A Couple of Acanthus

About 20 years ago, before I was subjected to the dictatorship calming influence of someone who knew these things (gotta be nice today as she’s waving her hori hori menacingly in front of my face), I decided to plant a couple of these things in one of my borders. Cos I wanted something stately to make a stately statement, which is wot Acanthus do. On the left is Acanthus spinosus, a spiny plant (hence “spinosus”) that will happily flex its strong and sharp spines to rip your skin open and tear through your clothes, and on the right it’s less-aggressive cousin Acanthus mollis, which doesn’t have those spines.

For some reason, spinosus settled in nicely and produced a nice, stately collection of tall flowers the following year. And then proceeded to spread like wildfire. Now a tall, spine-laden plant at the back of a deep border is fine. But a tall, spine-laden plant that pops up right at the front of the border and leans over at a crazy angle to block the path and threaten the washing line isn’t. And so, for the last 19 years I’ve been trying to eradicate it. And, as anyone who knows Acanthus knows, you have less chance of success than we seem to have in getting rid of our current Prime Minister. So I’ve reached the stage of happy containment, simply digging out the runners each year. But I still like the flowers, even though SWSNBN tells me, almost every week, that she wouldn’t have planted it there to begin with.

Meanwhile, mollis has thrown up a strong clump of leaves every year but has (a) stayed within its designated area and (b) never produced a single flower. Until this year, when it’s done itself proud. All I do is, in early July, chop the leaves down to ground, leaving the flower stalks to do their thing until much later in the year. Mollis also makes a great cut flower for the (large) vase and remains decorative when the flowers give way to the seed heads.

3 A Not-So-Tall Tree Lily

Once mature, tree lilies grow to 2 metres-plus tall and crowned with several large flowers that I’ll be able to look up to. But that will take a few years. In the last pic, you’ll notice a little flash of pink bottom right. This is a young tree lily.  It’s got a single tree lily-sized flower at resident cat height. More blooms on the way.

Now lily flowers are impressive but lily pollen can be fatal to cats if it gets on their fur and then ingested as they groom. One of resident cat’s favourite napping spots is in the shade under the leaf canopy of A. mollis and he’ll brush against this flower as he goes for a nap. Part of my daily routine each day is a stroll around the garden to check for various things, including lilies which have opened like this one. Having taken the photo, I removed the anthers from the flower. You don’t need to yank out the stamen (stalk), just that dark lump on the end which’ll come off easily between your fingers. I’ll pop the anthers into a little plastic glass I carry in my pocket (and wash my hands before I touch the cat). This doesn’t make much difference to the appearance of the flower but removes the danger. I’ve also found that this prolongs flowering.

When you think of it, the purpose of the flowers is to attract pollinators (bees). Bees collect the pollen and then deposit it on the stigma (the little nobbly bit in the middle). Yay, the plant is now pregnant and puts its energy into nurturing its new youngsters and lets the flower die. If there’s no pollen, the plant won’t get pollinated and will continue to flash its wares to attract its “mate”. Hence flowers last longer. Yay for contraception!

4 A Taste of Things to Come

I’ve always been attracted to the concept of a vertical garden. Quite a few people out there fashion such things out of pallets. I decided to do things differently. I happen to have a fair bit of fencing around the garden and, in some places, I’ve attached meshing to the fences to allow me to train things up from ground. There’s one bit which doesn’t lend itself to this approach so I’ve used that to make such a vertical garden. But instead of pallet-bodging, I’ve used a type of prefab pot holders. Today you get a look at the structural bit. OK, it’s plastic but the plastic should outlive wood. The idea is that the “compartments” will each hold a pot. In summer the pots will be filled with summer bedding-type plants (for the mo there are a few grasses there) and these will be replaced in the autumn with pots of primulas etc. Over time, I’ll introduce trailing ivies and wotnot. The advantage of this setup is it’s easy to remove and replace pots so I can mix things up a bit.

This is actually an older pic. The entire thing is now planted with young plants which are not much to look at yet. So watch this space for a future update.

What you can see, tho, is the drip irrigation system I’ve installed. It’d be a lot of work to water 50 pots all the time but this way I just turn a tap on and voila! The pipework will be hidden by plants as they grow.

5 The Pond Border (South Side) Changes

The original border, not worth looking at save for the mini-meerkat.

Wrapping round the front of the pond was a rather inadequate “border”, only a foot wide. SWSNBN and I agreed (for once) that this just wouldn’t do and it needed to be wider and better properly planted. We’d already done the other half (which I call the north side simply because there’s a break in the middle) but I’ll cover that in a future post.

So we start with this view. In the foreground right there’s a garden light (the black post), behind which is a rather overgrown lonicera nitida. Then there’s the paving between border and pond with some container plants shoved on it and at the far end a Prunus kojo-no-mai which had run along the border and thrown up some “babies” along the way. Anything else was more weed than desirable.

Having realised that it was pasty-cooking time, SWSNBN directed me to lay out some marker for the shape I wanted the border to become before going off to cook aforementioned pasty whilst she started the job of removing the lawn.

Now if there’s one thing SWSNBN is good at it’s taking things to a point that presents a lot of difficulty in the event that I would have done things differently. And it seems that markers are like triffids and will move themselves around when you’re not looking. And so, once pasties, cheese sandwiches, cat treats (he knows when to ask), soft drinks and coffee had been consumed and we’d watched the weekly episode of Torchy the Battery Boy (look it up on YouTube) and completed our discussion of the vanities of Pom-pom and various naughty children, I was invited out to look at her handiwork.

Work in progress

Now the border looked a bit different to what I’d expected. I didn’t remember laying out that “bubble” around the Prunus. However I had to admit that it looked good. Still more to do but it was now my turn to get involved as I laid out the edging (the photo shows the edging (Everedge) in place ready to be knocked into the ground, whilst SWSNBN worked on the planting of the north bit of the border. This is teamwork, I guess (SWSNBN’s definition of teamwork involves me staying out of her way). Prunus runners were removed and the lonicera bush cut right back to a stump (it’ll regrow but in a controlled way cos we’ll control it).

And so to planting:

Young plants at the mo but they’ll grow ….

The edging is now knocked down to grass level – this make mowing a doddle as, instead of having to go round with edging shears, the edging will hold the grass upright and the mower blades with do the job. There’s a mix of plants with bulbs in the “empty” areas. Flickering flame solar lights will look good in the dark (the orange thing on the back right is simply capping over the light cable until I install a new mains light). The black pile across the back of the border is for the irrigation system and the metal stake at the front end simply marks where the mains cable to the light and pond pump connection runs underground (not deep enough but that’s another story – damned builders!).

That’ll do for now.

6 The Conservatory Border Becomes the Conservatory Bed

Maybe I need to draw a plan of the garden from above. Maybe I will at some point. But, for now, let’s just say that if you stand outside the patio door here, then the pond is over there and the conservatory is to your right (or left if you’re looking into the house) and between the conservatory and the lawn is what I used to call the “conservatory border”. I’ve got a photo somewhere but suffice to say this was another of my stupid foot-wide concoctions that served simply to separate the lawn from a patio area around the conservatory.

I’d already decided, prior to first appearance of SWSNBN, that I wanted to do something with this and had cut a new edge to the lawn that made this border (a) thicker and (b) not straight on the lawn side. It was a bit more curvy. Of course, as per, as soon as SWSNBN got to grips with it, the curvy edge changed. This was because I’d made the mistake of showing her the plants I’d already bought to fill the new bed. (I thought “bed” was now the correct terminology as it would be clearly viewable from several sides rather than being designed for observation from only one side.) “Do you intend to plant all those plants on top of each other?” she exclaimed, eyebrows raised so high that they were now starting to scratch the back of her neck, “You need at least twice as much space for that lot! Go and cook my pasty!”

The planting starts

Well, this was early last year. The intended edge moved further into the lawn until she was satisfied that my mix of hardy fuchsias, aquilegia, agapanthus, together with dug-up-and-replanted-better original inhabitants had room to swing at least half a cat. And the result was as above.

First summer

I have to admit, she had a point. This was how that bed looked in its first summer. The tall lily-like things on the right are tall lily-like looking things made of metal whose job is to (a) look like tall lily-like things made of metal and (b) mark the mains cable run (see above) for future reference.

But I do get my way now and then and it came to pass that some added plants and bulbs got inserted into spaces which I noticed. Clearly she’d over-estimated the extent to which some plants would grow so score one for me! And so we come to the present day and this is how it looks:

The fuchsias haven’t flowered yet, the aquilegia and camassia (one of my additions) have gone over and there are some more young plants ready to grow. And another of those metal stakes ….. you know. And a lot less lawn. And I’m happy. If you scroll back up to the Pond Border work in progress pic you’ll see the pond bit on the left and this bed on the right. Yup, they look good together.

And I’m off to do whatever it is I’m off to do. Until next time, enjoy your garden.

4 thoughts on “A Bit of Then and A Bit of Now (Six on Saturday 25 June 2022)

  1. I have been considering buying everedge for a while now as my wooden edge is rotting so I have to resort to cutting the edges by hand. Is it easy to install? And does it work? Your curvaceous borders are looking very good. SWSNBN had the right idea.

  2. I was far from thinking that it could be a water gun! Thanks for giving the answer.
    The lily flower that you showed us is very pretty and you will eventually be able to see in my
    Six this Saturday that I have a similar one but which is a little higher and full of flowers.
    The border (copper circle?) which delimits the beds is very aesthetic, I seem to remember that we had already talked about it in the past.

  3. Nice edging! My lawnmaster wishes I would use actual edging. I had seen everedge and like it very much – maybe next year. I should figure out how much I would need. The lawnmaster abhors curves, preferring to mow back and forth in straight lines. I like the curves myself, flowing organic loveliness!

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