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Six on a Saturday 16.2.19

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I have missed a few weeks, due to other commitments, but all hail The Propagator and his merry band once again. I look forward to reading your posts.

  1. After several years of abject failure, I have finally cracked the early Spring pot display. Get those low-growing things like Iris reticulata (here, Pixie), Snowdrop and species tulip into little pots or pans and keep them close to the house. That way, you can monitor their watering and appreciate them up close. So simple, I don’t know why it has taken so long to figure out.

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2. Hellibore. I have been appreciating these for the last two or three weeks. Again, there are rules for maximising their appeal. Site them high up, if possible, so you don’t put your back out tying to see their flowers. A bank which gets sun at some stage in the day is ideal. Also, cut off last year’s foliage, ideally before Christmas. There is a blackspot which affects the leaf and even the flower, if not tackled.

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3. Leafmould. This is eighteen month old leaf mould. We have loads of it from St Mary’s. It is so useful as a mulch, soil conditioner or potting mix. I have been using it to add to the mix in some community planters locally. The good stuff. Now is the time to break into your old stores, if you have them.

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4. Frosty edging to gravestone. Cold mornings, warm afternoons at the moment. We are all a bit wary after last year’s shennanegins, but I have a hunch that full-on Spring is just around the corner!

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5. I started a new garden last week. It is in a very warm, London microclimate. So it is going to be a foray into tropical and Eastern planting (the client is Thai). However, before I get going, my first job was to appreciate what was there. This Arbutus was a thicket which needed crown lifting and behind it the Euonymus japonicus microphyllus just needed a bit of shaping. I like this corner already.

6. Crocus. You just can’t ignore them at the moment. A purple haze in the cold, frosty, mornings, opening into beautiful pale lilac swathes by the afternoon. I love their generosity and have tuned up to several gardens ready to mow, only to pack up the mower for a month as Crocus have spilled out onto the lawns beautifully. Bees are getting an early nectar hit too. They feature in little pots on a shelf next to my front door too. I think I love them more than Snowdrop, more than Iris.

Six on Saturday, 26.1.19

 

1. The joy of seed. HPS seed is dropping through letterboxes up and down the country and what a lovely thing that is. I spent a morning getting to grips with my order, but also preparing for one of my “projects” this year. Another gardener friend and I have formed Ready, Steady, Grow! an attempt to get Walthamstow growing from seed.

It is a simple idea. We give a packet of 3-5 seeds, a recycled pot , growing medium and instructions to as many people as possible ( we have 500 packets!) and get them growing. We will support them via social media. Then,in July, we get everyone’s efforts together in a central location and have a two day celebration/ display/ party. There is a very wide group of annuals and half-hardies which will grow from seed to flower in 12-14 weeks. What are your favourites and growing tips?

2. Shed. Who doesn’t love their shed? I tend to take mine for granted a bit, but a lack of much else to do caused me to give it a good sort out in the week. There was a lot to chuck out and reorder. It was the most productive hour and a half this week.

 

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3. Polycarbonate or glass? I am making ( still!) two coldframes. I had some glass and some polycarbonate sheet for the first one. I need some glazing material for the second. Glass is £51, polycarbonate is £31. Seems a no brainer. Poly is lighter, cheaper, easier to cut, has similar thermal properties. But it’s more plastic, isn’t it? I worry about these kinds of things.

 

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4. Trees. I love Winter for the backlighting    of trees in the morning and evening. When I was 11, I did an ink and watercolour wash painting of a scene like this. It probably wasn’t very good, but I have always remembered it. The word that comes to me is Mesopotamia. Something about river tributaries?

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5. Hazel catkins are popping out all over Walthamstow. Such a beautiful and useful plant. I love them coppiced as a hedge or in a mixed border.

534e39fa-86cc-4d5e-8d72-529c3c25647d6. Cyclamen coum. This is a favourite patch in the churchyard, under some trees along the railings. It is in rough grass, with various bulbs. I am aiming to spread the many seedlings and bulbs along this area each year. It is just that when this is best done, in April or May, I am overwhelmed by other jobs!

 

 

 

Six on Saturday 12.1.19

A late, happy new year to all you Sixers! I have managed to cobble a random selection together for your delectation this week. Don’t get your hopes up though.

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  1. Hammamelis intermedia Jelena. Nuff said.

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2. Obligatory snowdrop shot at this time of year. I am no galanthophile, but I am slowly expanding my range. This is S. Arnott, I believe, given to me by a client. Big fat buds, really putting the drop into Snowdrop at this stage.

3. I noticed this morning that it is the ground covering “thugs” which are in bloom right now. The two periwinkles (Vinca minor purpurea and Vinca oxyloba) flower sporadically throughout the year. Whereas the Symphytum is perhaps just up early because it is so mild. All of these are easy to overlook and take for granted, but will thrive where other plants curl up and die.

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4. I had to occupy my daughter and her friend on Monday, so we went to the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. Wow! It is amazing there. The Winter Garden is particularly striking right now, with Rubus, Cornus and Salix looking great. However, it is the scent which is perhaps the best bit. There were so many spicy and sharp scents in the air that we didn’t know where to shove our hooters next. Then my phone died, so I couldn’t get any pics of the Alpine house which was outstanding. Have to go back again, I suppose.

5. The Enchanted Garden, an exhibition of garden related paintings at Walthamstow’s own William Morris Gallery until Jan 27th. It’s free, I am leisure rich at the moment, so it would have been rude not to go. Walthamstow is London’s first Borough of Culture this year (more on putting the horti into that in due course), so there has never been a better time to visit.They obviously have a Monet waterlilies, but it was these two that caught my eye. I love that bloke’s gardening attire! He has a spade like the fork I featured before Christmas. His hands are really meaty. I am now looking for tweed plus fours to garden in. What’s the most outlandish clothing you wear in the garden?

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6. Behold, two new cold frames under construction. The Royal British Legion were supposed to pick up these wooden frames from the Remembrance Sunday event when they were used as a huge sandpit with crosses in. They didn’t. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I set about making cold frames for all those new seedlings in Spring. I had some perspex panels knocking about anyway. I have spent £5 so far on two sets of hinges. Quietly pleased with myself.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Six on a Saturday. 15.12.18

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  1. As I wound up my professional gardening for the year this week, to perfect crisp, cold, dry weather, I was put in the Christmas spirit by the sight of this beauty. It had been a rather sprawling, badly pruned holly until I gave it a hard chop earlier this year. Now, the berries sing out and the leaves are lovely and glossy. The holly wears the crown, eh?

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2. It was my first time growing Nicotiana mutabilis from seed this year. I had high hopes for them. Perhaps they are a little slow to get going, but my word, when they do, the flower power is extraordinary. They are still flowering mindlessly away in my front garden to the extent that I am now thoroughly bored by them and will whip them out next week. Probably six months of blooms  from them though.

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3. Miscanthus (unknown cultivar, as I dug them up from somewhere). I really like them at this time of year for their wind and light catching properties. There is no light to catch today, but they are impressively tall and elegant plants for a sunny spot. Easy to split and divide in Spring, which is exactly what I will do with these.

 

4. I am pretty poor at looking after my tools. I will admit it. However, I gave this old fork a clean last week and was reminded how much I love it and enjoy using it. From the worm eaten handle to the sharpness of the tines and the lightness of its balance, it is a joy to use. New forks are often made from heavy steel and are really clunky. This is light and strong and great for digging out roots or turning compost. It may not be long for this world as cracks are starting to appear, so I will miss it when it’s gone. What tool would you grieve for, if it went?

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5. Euphorbia characias. Touched with morning frost, which only accentuates its grace. You may have heard me extol the virtues of this plant before. I love it. It just does not have a bad day.

 

 

6. Winter projects. I have come by a motley collection of containers which look weird and shabby right now. I have a vision though. I want to make a linked series of ponds, pools and bog containers so I can grow plants which thrive in those conditions. I have very little experience of these conditions, so am eager to experiment. I am also trying to create a situation whereby frogs and toads can access the lowest and shallowest container (by half burying it), hop into the next one and so on until they reach the deeper ones (and get back again!). I patched up the old water tank with floor tile, but have to see whether it holds water. That will be the sixth container. Anyone got recommendations for must have water and bog plants?

I am also gathering together all the broken gravestones and slabs which clutter a 900 year old site in order to make a new path to the compost heaps. It’s going to be a busy Winter.

Soggy on a Saturday 1.12.18

Yo, ho, ho! Let the festivities begin, with a dank, wet December Saturday. Today’s post has a business like feel to it, largely because it is that time of year when practical jobs and projects replace the joy of plants.

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  1. Compost. Tepid compost. Inspired by our glorious leader’s hot composting post a week or two back (https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/diary-of-a-failed-hot-heap/), I tried my own bay. Never short of compostables, I felt I had a good chance to get the temperatures up into the 40s and 50s needed for fast and then weed seed free compost. It is labour intensive (four turns of the heap so far) and requires regular monitoring, but I am moderately determined to give it a good go. After a fast start and three days the temperature peaked at 35 degrees, then declined to 30 or below. I am a bit miffed really as it has had ten days and plenty of the right stuff in the right ratio, with turning and water and covering. I will give it the same treatment for a week, but if there is no change, I might have to subside into cold composting and spend my turning time on weeding.

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2. Leaves. A client has a big, healthy Ash tree which overlooks his garden from a neighbour. There are always lots of leaves to collect up in Autumn. He doesn’t want to compost or make leaf mould (weirdo, right?), so I came up with the solution of spreading a thick leafy mulch under his well established hedge. There are only so many leaves you can effectively do this with: Ash, Lime, Chestnut would be my favourites. They break down quickly. Better than letting the council have them.

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3. Bird box. I had a spare couple of hours yesterday, so I went raiding one of the many loft conversion skips of Walthamstow and came up with some floorboards. This is my Mark 1 bird box, with three more in the pipeline. I have ordered those metal entrance cover things to stop Woodpeckers and Magpies raiding. They will be adorning some of the trees in the churchyard soon. Emma was delighted to see old floorboards and tools all over the recently cleared decking.

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4. Just when I thought it was safe to put away the bulb planter, Helen Lerner offered me a job lot of free bulbs from the London Parks and Garden’s Trust (250 of them!). Never one to look a free bulb in the mouth, I gladly accepted. Three types of Tulip, two of Hyacinth, Allium Graceful Beauty, Camassia Leichtini (white), Ipheion Alberto Castillo, Triteleia Aquarius. So now the fun of finding little spots for them. Not today, it’s too wet.

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5. Oh, ok then, a few plants, then. I quite like this little Winter combination of Cornus Midwinter Fire, Ophiopogon Nigrescens and Rubus Cockburnianus (my favourite plant name ever). This is a rubbish photo, but the combination works well over Winter in a slightly shady spot, even surrounded by big shrubs. Snowdrops come through it in early Spring. In Summer you have to prune out straggly Rubus stems.

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6. Have I told you about Cypress spurge, Bonaparte’s Crown, Graveyard Moss, Kiss me Dick, Love in a Huddle, Welcome to our House or Euphorbia cyaparissias before? Well any plant with that many common names is going to be a prolific spreader. On poor dry soil, it will tick over, but in a lush bed it can be rampant. I keep this one tame in a pot by the front door where it gets no attention, no new compost, very little water and does really well. The Spring display is nice, like you would expect from a Euphorbia, but the Autumn colour is the best thing about it. Like little firework rockets going up. Recommended (in a pot).

 

Six on a Saturday 17.11.18

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  1. Cotinus Grace. Just shining out in my shrubby corner. I love the way that there are pinks and oranges and reds in its beautifully veined leaves as the chlorophyll breaks down. This will be over in a week or so, but I have absolutely loved every minute of its display this year.

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2. Beautiful zig-zagging berries on this Cotoneaster. It sits in a dark recess barely earning its keep for most of the year, if I am honest, but now it looks absolutely fabulous.

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3. This is the newly made architectural wonder that is The Drawing Shed, Attlee Terrace, E17, a community garden and space for arts projects on the estate. I was invited to the opening and look forward to working with them on garden workshops for the community in the next year. Nice lights.

 

4. Free plants one. Bamboo. Phyllostachys Aurea. The well behaved one. It is good time of year to crown lift, thin and divide these. I spent a merry couple of hours doing just that to this clump, harvesting about forty stout canes and lots of compostable material. I also dug around each clump and ended up with five nice culms which I have potted up for the next client who wants some bamboo. These go for £50 each in my nursery, so that was worth doing!

 

 

5. Free plants 2. Eriobotria japonica (thanks, Jim for the ident.) You may remember this relatively new garden from the Summer and the fine tree which I couldn’t identify. I only go once a month at the moment, but I found a lovely seedling of it which I was allowed to take. Need to find a good home for that to now.

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6. Seeking a bit of natural inspiration earlier this week, I had a short walk in Epping Forest. This Birch clump just sang out to me with its lovely golden leaf and bracken underplanting. Beautiful.

Six on a Saturday 3.10.18

After weeks of blogging inactivity, due to helping my sister in law, Laura Marshall become Enduroman 35 (check out her simply awe-inspiring achievement here: http://www.enduroman.com/solos/4594382533 ) and sowing a meadow in the churchyard, I return to the task refreshed. There is still plenty going on, thanks to a warm and long Autumn. There will be a bountiful harvest of other world wide blogs at the head honcho’s site: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/six-on-saturday-03-11-2018/

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  1. Tis the season of the Chrysanthemum. I was lucky to be given three varieties from the Essex HPS to grow in the churchyard (unknown variety, Picasso and Albert’s Yellow). I have no experience of growing them. They tend to sit around a long time doing not a lot (that’s a lifestyle I aspire to!). Then, this. I like it a lot. However, I think for next year, I will dig them up, place them elsewhere to grow, pinch them out much harder and transplant them in July  ready for showtime.

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2. Silphium mohrii. An impulse buy from Beth Chatto which I didn’t expect much from this year.Like a small sunflower, but perennial, with attractive hairy leaves. I reckoned I had a sheltered, sunny, free draining spot for it, but was really pleased to have this late show. It is a rare plant from the southern states of the U.S of A.

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3. Rosa moyseii hip. Makes you wanna spend the afternoon cooking up a rose syrup, doesn’t it? Or maybe you just haven’t got time. Still, these hips are a bit special and I am pleased I moved the plant from my garden where it was becoming too big for its space into the St Mary’s bed where it can go as nuts as it wants to. I believe it wants to, and will next year.

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4. Anyone remember that little roadside verge that we sowed with annual meadow seed in April? Did rubbish because it was too hot and dry? Well here it is in all its (knap)weedy glory. Seeds just know.

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5. So, the tsunami of Autumn leaves hasn’t really started yet and this is the haul so far. This is one of three compost sites in St Mary’s that we are making. The Community Payback team have been great in clearing and gathering debris, now we need to get busy one-time making proper bays. Gratifyingly, some of last year’s compost haul will be going to new planters that some local residents who featured on the Chelsea Fringe walk are constructing near by. This is very much part of my vision for the churchyard: that is become a community resource rather than a “maintenance problem”.

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6. Leaf. One of my big beds at home is going to undergo a transformation over the next year. Inspired by my visit to Dan, The Frustrated Gardener, over the Summer, I am going to make it a tropical border. The Melianthus major, first photo, is a lovely plant which loves the cooler moister weather of Autumn (sulking rather in Summer). Beneath is a newly acquired Tetrapanax papyrifer, whose foliage is rather glorious. That’s a start, but more to come.