Saturday, 11 August 2018

One Dog, Six Gardens

Mr BigNose as we met him 10 years ago.
Last week, it was such a challenge to find six gardeny things for #SixonSaturday, I figured that'd be it for a few weeks.  Unless something interesting happened, of course.

Well, our ~15 year old dog, Mr BigNose, had a non-life threatening medical episode that's taken a fair amount of nursing.

I'd already been checking him for signs of life every morning, & now that he's sick . . . well, it got real special.

Spend time with an old friend, you spend time with memories.  I realised that, during our 10 years together, Mr BN has dug himself a little den in 6 separate gardens.

So this week, the gardens of Mr BigNoseDog.

1. Five gardens ago.

This is where we learned the personal quirks of Mr BigNose, including that he loved snow.  My favourite thing about this place was a small orchard that took up a quarter of the back garden.

Orchard in winter.

In spring, primrose, fritillaria, bee orchids, & leucojum bloomed under the trees.

Under the apple trees.

Montjak grazed that orchard, often enticing BN on a chase over the fence into the neighbour's garden.  Hard to believe Mr BigNose used to jump fences but, as you can see in the first photo, he once had a waist.

2.  Four gardens ago.

Comprised of grounds surrounding a 17th century rectory & 1950s era church, this garden had space enough for orchard, pond, wasteland, small meadow.  And beds?  O my, the beds, including but not limited to . . .

The Prison Yard.

. . . which was a walled laundry yard where the flowers we planted eventually grew hip high with only a small path to a breakfast nook.  Then there was the . . .

Church garden

. . . running the length of the church.  We planted a mix of flowers & veg with a good third devoted to the sweetest strawberries I've ever eaten.  Not that BN cared about them.  What he liked best was the . . .

Miles of dog-chasing lawn.

3.  Three gardens ago.

This garden came with the previous owners' cats, a stoat family living at the bottom of the garden, the marauding lop-earred bunny from the neighbours on the left, & plenty of shade cast by the right side neighbours' junk trees.

But it had a kickass pond.

Fish included!

Mr BigNose wasn't concerned about any of these things, as there was a new addition to the family.

The puppy who would grow into Mlle DoodleFace.

4.  Two gardens ago.

My favourite of the six gardens.  Even after years of neglect, the original design retained its visual artistry.  Because it bordered a small copse, we had wildlife in on a daily basis, despite the dogs & cats.

A fox family visited every night, alerting the dogs & subsequently everyone else.  Mr BN would then do his arthritic Hercule Poirot run up & down, up & down that fence, chasing fox scent to his heart's delight.

Bridge over a man-made rill connecting 3 ponds.

BigNose dug a record of 3 dens in this garden.  See how grey he'd gotten in 8 years.

Chilling by pond #1 w/the great, late Bast.

5.  Last garden.

So we went from my favourite garden to the only garden I can ever remember hating.

As I've said before, though, I'm a sucker for nearly any tree.  I fell hard for the apple tree right outside the back door with wisteria crazy-growing up it.

Blooming together

Both dogs shared my distaste for this garden, spending most of their time inside.  BigNose started watching for fox from the comfort of his green chair.

Sun struck.

6.  Present garden.

Another neglected garden - aren't they all when you rent?  Six months ago, the potential shone everywhere here, though . . . & then we got the drought.  I don't remember gardening through a drought before.

Feeling poorly on the burnt out lawn.

Some of your beautiful flowerbeds have shown me it's possible to get colour in a drought.  And while it's been an interesting learning experience, to be sure, I hope this summer's the last of my on-the-job training.

Decapitated mullein celebrates a 2nd bloom.

Trucking the moors.

There we have it, Mr BigNoseDog's six gardens.  Thanks for coming along while I visited the past decade with the old guy.

If you'd like to read more garden #SixonSaturday blogs, drop over to The Propagator .  He not only has useful guidelines to writing your own Six, but hosts links to Sixers from all over the world in his Six on Saturday comment section.

As ever, thanks for dropping by.  See you next week, if something interesting happens.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Making the Best of It

Aubergine in waiting.

The OAP Fairy Person next door always comments on how nice my garden looks. 

I'd think she was nuts, if someone hadn't told me what this place looked like when it was a grow house. 

Vines breaching the 2nd story window.  The lawn covered in rubbish, bits & bobs of which still get thrown up when we mow.  I've dug out brambles thicker'n my big toe. 

Thistles & nettles & bindweed, o my!

A horrible winter followed by a horrible summer, trying to get things growing in ground that's been neglected for years . . .

But with nature, there's always little spots of joy.

1.  Pumpkin update.

I now officially have 3 pumpkins.  About half what I'd hoped for, but a pumpkin in the hand, etc., etc.

The biggest Pumpkin Grows Gruff.

2.  Sunflowers.

Someone last week wrote about their sunflowers (& other blooms, I think) facing an edifice.  This week, that trend has hit 2 sunflowers in my garden, with one facing the fence, the other the house wall.

In a huff.

All my sunflowers are short this year, only about 4'.  But I've got blooms &, in the autumn, seed heads for the birds.

This one's not shy.

3.  Wind damage.

Last weekend brought rain & with it, wind.  There were a few battered leaves & some plant supports that needed reset.  And then there was this.


If you grow corn in the UK, you know what a folderol it is.  Then to have your baby dashed to the ground by an uncaring storm . . .

Defeat is unacceptable.

The OAP Fairy Person dropped by a lovely bouquet, so I made good use of it.

4.  Mr Mullein

Prior to the rain, I decapitated the mullein seed head in a bid to conserve moisture.  Post rain, there's new flower buds all up & down the mullein's stem.  That'll look interesting.

The rebel.

5.  Seeds

While the mullein is starting over, it's harvest time for both nigella & poppy.  The cooks are pleased, but think the poppies should step up their game to match the nigella. 

The cooks think these are for them.  Har!

6.  Sole survivor.

I had crap luck with my spring onions this year.  Very few germinated & the ones that did, bit the dust. 

Except for this one, that I stuck into a flower planter in hopes it'll go to seed.  I think it's dancing.

Short & fat spring onion.

The plant behind it is a blue daisy that bloomed once, but declined to repeat its performance after dead heading.  What a blah summer we've had.


And there's my Six for the week. 

Make sure to drop by our host, The Propagator who's managed to post his own Six, even though he's on holidays.

So when are you going to join our #SixonSaturday gang?  We're a nosy bunch & would love to see your garden.

See you next week!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Trial & Error

So we finally got our big rain!  And a high price we paid for it, too, missing the blood moon eclipse & the end of the world.  I hope for plenty of gorgeous rain photos amongst some of the SoSers today!

Here, though, I've been mulling a recent post by Hurtled to 60 wherein a fellow allotmenteer intimated that rural gardeners are superior to townies.  I myself grew up on a farm, yet don't see veg as more virtuous than sunflowers.  But then, my mother, who pressed her 7 chillen into conveyor belt cannery every year, also had a greenhouse devoted solely to African violets.

There are so many types of gardeners - neurodivergent, athletic, visual, artistic, scientific, clueless, those with long term mental or physical illnesses, those who garden by 'the rules'.   

Accidental design.

For every 10 gardeners who can understand a design well enough to perfectly replicate a gold medal display, there's one who can only garden in equal parts experience & serendipity. 

I have to 'do' to understand, something that got me banned from helping in the kitchen a long time ago.  What starts as, 'But why . . . wouldn't it be better . . . how about we . . .' ends with the clenched-teethed cook pointing to the door  =>  Out!  Out!  OUT!!!!!

I'm on my own in the garden, which means I'm also able to process information there in the way I need to.

Other gardeners & their ideas do give me inspiration, but it's only by seeing how this particular plant grows in this particular spot that I understand my garden at all.

Today I celebrate those of us, including myself, who can only garden by the seat of our pants.  Here's some of my trials & perhaps even an error or two.

1.  To bite or not to bite.

Like any first-time parent, I've been discussing the progress of my cucumelons with other gardeners.  Mine reached all their developmental markers right on schedule, but I wasn't sure when I could eat the little darlins.

My delightfully green striped chillen.

Fred the French Gardener said he picks his when they're as long as the distal phalanx of his little finger, at which point they taste like cucumber with a zing of lime.

Out to the garden with me to find one the right size, then gobble down a mouthful of crunchy, tasteless blech.

Well, having a trial & error mind means not stopping at the first hurdle.  Or the second.  Eventually, it occurred to me that, although I'm not petite, I may indeed have a smaller pinky than Fred.

So I waited, like the troll under the bridge, for a bigger billy goats cucumelon & learned that to get that zing, the optimum size is the middle phalanx of my index finger - about 1.25".

Size zingy.

Now that my berries have all dried up, it's cucumelon for brekky.

2.  Hosta trials.

As I've written before, I've never thought hostas worth the ongoing slug war, until I found Big Daddy.  He was fairly slug free in the beginning, I thought because I'd put dried cedar & bramble twigs at his base.  But you can see, the slugs found a way.  When Big Daddy started his 2nd growth of leaves, the slugs threw a keg party.

Big Daddy blues.

About that time, various bloggers were trying out sheep's wool slug pellets.  I had a sheep fleece in the closet that'd gone past its spinning days, so've stuck some of it under BD.

Big Daddy has new leaves.

That's my current trial.  We'll see if it's also an error.  There's a frog quite happy with the new arrangement, so if not the fleece, then maybe the frog will sort those slugs out.

3.  Great Pea Debate of 2018.

Despite other gardeners' distaste of them, we've enjoyed a good season of blauwschokker peas.  Our resident chef has this trick of pouring boiling water over them & letting them sit a few minutes rather than cooking them on the hob.  Sweet as mange tout, tasty as peas.

There were no cooks at home when I decided that was too much palaver.  I tossed peas in with my tortellini & boiled away.  A quick drain, a splash of chili oil, sprinkle some mozzarella, & voila!  I, too, am a chef.

Picture me sitting under the deck umbrella, utterly pleased with myself & surrounded by the sound of bees pollinating my cucumelon vines . . . note the literary device signalling a previous bad dining experience.

Do not boil your blauwschokker.  Ever.  Tough as old boots.  Ptoo Ptoo Ptoo.  Dogs liked them, though.

Last of the blauwschokker.

4.  Seeds, glorious seeds.

I usually toss out last year's seeds at the end of summer, having collected new from the current plants.  This spring, however, I found several small containers of seed I'd collected from 2 gardens ago.

Eventually, I sorted out what still interested me & planted various trays with only a few stragglers germinating.

Except for the hollyhocks.

22 of them bad boys.

The parents were both single & double in pastel colours - yellow, peach, & pink.  Can't wait for next year's blooms!

5.  For the love of trees.

The things I love most in the plant world are trees, which is a shame since I'm rubbish at telling them apart.  That doesn't, however, stop me from gathering seeds at every chance.  In all the years I've done this, I've successfully grown one tree - a motley looking monkey puzzle whom I hold very dear.

So an empress tree growing in the local park dropped these nuggets.

Empress tree seeds & pod.

I left them in the shed over winter.  Thinking nothing would come of this anyway, I did zilcho research into how to grow them, cracked one open & without being precise, dumped half its seeds into a small pot.

What cuckoo nested here?

I've lifted some of the seedlings (thus the bare spot in the pot) & moved them to a trough to give them more leg room.  Although I've image-searched empress seedlings, I don't have a good enough eye to come to any conclusion.  To be honest, I don't believe they're empress.

If they are, I now have a jungle.

6.  Corn angst.

My corn saga started with losing a third of my plug plants during hardening off, followed by the supplier being out of stock, so replacing them with a different strain from another supplier.  Although the new plants were about the same size as the originals, their growth rate was slower, so I ended up with Tall Corn & Short Corn.

Amazingly, the Short Corn tasseled first.  But their tassels didn't open.

Silked, but closed tassel.

Tall Corn gave me brilliant tassels, so pollen all around.  Now, though, even regularly watered, the tassels are brown, yet new silks keep popping up.  I do my feather duster routine & hope great corn sex to be had by both Tall & Short.

Dried tassel.

Expect photos of some funny looking cobs come autumn.

Who splattered paint on Spidey?

There's my Six trials & errors.

If you'd like a gander at other gardens, check out these Six on Saturday Guidelines by The Propagator.  He'll also have a post of his own Six, plus you'll find links from all over the world in his comment section.

Thanks for stopping by.  Look forward to seeing you next week.

Saturday, 21 July 2018


Caterpillar-eaten kale flowering away.

The serendipity of nature really tickles the beejayzus out of me.  It's an unseen collaborator, making quiet little gardening tweaks such as herb Robert around the peony, bindweed twining up the wrought iron gate, cosmos colluding with kale in an optical illusion.

This week, let's see what the Collaborator has done to my pots.

1.  A magic stick.

When we moved during the Beast from the East, some of our lifted plants came in plastic bags wrapped with sheep fleece.  As soon as possible, I rammed them into any available pot.

This included pots left by the previous tenants, who were specialist gardeners (har har har).  Our black grass went into one that had a three-tined dead stick in it.  Today, the black grasses are blooming in front of the bark-shedding dead stick.

In bloom.

The pot luck here isn't the black grass, but the thriving dead stick with its one summer's worth of growth.  Can anyone ID it for me?

It lives!

2.  Oh, Cory!

Earlier this year, I sowed some lambs lettuce in the pot with the fading erythronium.  An effort which produced a feckless feckall.

Late, great dogtooth lily.

With other more successful seedlings rampaging around the garden, I forgot the FF pot in its shady corner.  And then this appeared in it.

My buddy, Cory.

A lovely self-seeded corydalis, possibly from our last house where it grew like crazy.  My Unseen Collaborator, she knows what I like

3.  Another stowaway.

I rescued this teeeeny weeeeny fernee fella from the lawn & slapped it into what, at the time, was a plant-less pot.  Now the fern has company.

Am I pink knotweed?

Last year, my 92 year old neighbour gave me pink knotweed as thanks for always stopping to let her pet Mr BigNoseDog on our daily walks.  Mr BND'd knock me down for a pet from anyone, but I kept that to myself, & graciously accepted the cutting.

Not sure why it took so long to show itself this year.

And for those of you aghast that I grow knotweed, rest assured my garden has far, far worse things growing in it with my full consent.

4.  Like this thug.

Another pot luck caused by our move was thrusting goldenrod & queen of the prairie into the same pot so I could replicate how they looked last year:

Last year's golden queen.

This is what that pot looks like today.

Queen makes way for a thug.

The queen of the prairie survives behind the asters, but only foliage, no bloom.  There wasn't a whiff that those sneaky aster bastards were in the pot, yet now they've taken over.

There'll be a separation of powers in this pot come autumn.  Rest assured no thug shall perish in this coup.

5.  Comedy of errors.

I wanted verbena bonariensis for my last garden, but in some type of brain glitch, ordered common valerian instead.  The valerian didn't bloom its first year, so when we moved, I dug up its dead stick, & brought it along.

The foliage that came up wasn't valerian, but I let it grow, hoping for a pleasant surprise.

I got this ugly thang.

Ugly weed.

The tiny yellow flowerbuds never seemed to open, yet've already gone to seed.  Floaty, flying millions upon millions of ugly thang seed.

Ugly thang's back lit glam photo.

6.  A cosmos by any other foliage . . . 

My perennials've mostly been stalled or killed by drought.  The smattering of annuals that were meant to be colourful interludes, now have to carry the can.

All grown from seed, they're cheap & cheery low maintenance types which include, of course, bog standard cosmos in the white to red spectrum.

Dark pink cosmos.

I also bought a packet of dwarf cosmos in various colours, purportedly including a deep, deep purple.

Growing 2 types of cosmos, I kept both packets, referred to them several times during the seedling process, so I know for certain this wasn't my mistake, but an Unseen Collaborator intervention.

When the foliage matured a bit, the dwarfs looked more like marigold than cosmos.  The dwarf blooms opened this week & they're orange!  Every single one of them.  A fiery yellow orange!

Orange cosmos at bottom, usual suspect at top.

Searching 'orange cosmos' brought up photos of something with the same foliage as mine - cosmos sulphureus Cosmic Orange.  I don't know how those seeds wound up in that package, but they go well with the golden rod & the mint green raised beds.

My Unseen Collaborator certainly knows what she's up to.

Woodwardia beauty.

And that brings me to the end of my #SixonSaturday.

Thanks for dropping by.  I love feedback, but folk've had problems with the site letting them comment.  If you can't speak here but're on Twitter, I'm @lorahughes7.

Lets have a chat!

Oh, & don't forget, if you've got a garden, drop over to The Propagator & read his participant's guide.  You'll also find his Six, plus links in his comment section to other SoS gardeners from all over the world.

See ya next week!