Six on Saturday – 24/11/2018


Looks like it’s going to be raining most of the day and the forecast for next week is pretty dire too. Tis the season for contemplative gardening for sure. The trouble with airing those contemplations on the world stage is that there’s a bit of pressure to see them through. There are two contemplations and one under way in this six, the rest is plants.

Pinus pumila ‘Säntis’. Three weeks ago I removed a pine tree at the back of the house. There were two, now there is one. Now I am looking at that one and thinking that all the reasons that led me to get rid of the other one apply to this one, but more so. Pinus pumila is a very slow growing species and this one has been there for over 20 years. When it was four feet tall it was absolutely beautiful. When it reached about six feet it began to thin out around the bottom and at some point I removed all its lower branches so it became more tree like in outline. Sadly, it doesn’t really work because the branch framework says ‘bare stemmed bush’ rather than ‘tree in miniature’. Its crown has become rather thin too, especially viewed from ground level. From upstairs it looks a bit better but that’s not really where we look at it from. Truth is, it was at its best quite a few years ago and will only get worse from here on in.

Composting has been on my mind lately as those of you who saw my blog about it earlier in the week will know. A product called HOTBIN came across my radar and it occurred to me that I could do away with the small compost heap I have in the garden (I have a bigger one on my allotment) in favour of a HOTBIN round the side of the house. Then I could use the space to put up a shed into which I could put all sorts of things the very sight of which cause Sue considerable distress. Have a good tidy up in short. OMG, I feel a project coming on. Funny how one thought leads to another.

This bit of fence must be around 12 feet long so a 4-6 foot roof out from it would be a lot of under cover, out of sight space. It could hide a multitude of sins. The compost heap is between the two piles of pots, artfully camouflaged with weeds.

Baptisia australis. This was quite pretty earlier in the summer in an understated sort of way. Now it’s turned black and the obvious thing would be to cut it down. Except that we visited the Garden House earlier this year and there was one there, beside the house, that looked like neither frost nor secateurs had checked its growth in a number of years, such that it was four or five feet tall. So am I not going to get much flower if I cut it to the ground each year? I need to get bookish, unless someone has experience of it to share.

Succulents. A bit of rubbishy weather can provide an excuse for a bit of adult play. That’s got your attention but is not what I mean. I’m talking about getting out my toys; no, that’s not what I meant either.
My camera does WiFi, so I ran an extension cable to the greenhouse, plugged in an access point connected to a broadband extender, put the camera on a tripod beside it and connected it to my computer. Then I remotely did some focus stacks of some of the cacti and succulents in the greenhouse and stacked them using Zerene Stacker. You still with me? I had a new 35mm macro lens to put through its paces too.

I don’t usually do allotment stuff on Saturday sixes though I’ve no idea why. I have two plots, one growing fruit and veg, the other Camellias, Dahlias and weeds. I have started to create beds on the second plot, separated by mypex paths. I dug two trenches 50cm apart and laid 1m wide mypex down the resulting mesa, burying 25cm either side. I now have a path that should be easy to keep weed free, that won’t blow away or get rodents under it. That’s the plan. What could possibly go wrong. Each path took a couple of hours of work and there’s six to go. It’d better not go wrong. The first complete bed is earmarked for strawberries.

Hak mac of the wk. Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ is a very bright yellow leaved form of my favourite grass. Like many other bright yellow leaved plants it’s more prone to scorch than the green and variegated forms so midday shade is fairly necessary, but other than that I have been surprised by its vigour. It is the least upright of the varieties I have, arching out and when it rains, flopping onto the ground or surrounding plants. In the picture it is between H. macra ‘Mediovariegata’ and H. macra ‘Albostriata’, showing clearly its contrasting habit. The plant that it flops onto is black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and its hard to imagine a stronger contrast. Someone should plant a bank of alternate stripes of those two plants, black and gold, the colours of Kernow. Not that I’m Cornish, I just live here. I’m an emmet.

It’s a good thing the Hardy Plant Society seed list came yesterday, something to do while the rain lashes down. That and reading everyone’s blog posts, the links to which are at the bottom of The Propagator’s blog, just under the leaf mould.


38 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 24/11/2018

  1. I really like your pictures of succulent, Jim … Like you, I use Zerene Stacker (for a month only), which gives beautiful pictures. I have a 100mm macro lens + tripod that gives almost the same results. Very nice !
    About the other topics, I can imagine the hard work you had to do to dig the trenches … Great rendering!


    1. I got the new Canon 35mm macro and I love it. I take a lot of pictures of Camellias in poor light, winter and shade usually; it has image stabilisation and a built in light, perfect for my needs. I was using free stacking program (AP stacker?) a lot, then tried Zerene and thought it worth buying. I’ve never regretted doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoy contemplating the garden shed. Remember sheds are only second to greenhouses in the “I wish it was bigger” stakes. If you thing a six-footer will be big enough, then go for an eight-footer. And tell Sue to resign herself to the fact that even then there will still be a pile of pots and stuff to look at. Especially if the shed has a window and so becomes multi-purpose! One day I may get the hang of all the photographic techniques you use to produce wonderful photos as of your succulents. One day I will get to grips with the new camera I bought over a year ago to take better photos. So far I’ve charged it’s battery!


  3. You have inspired me to get the manual out for my camera again and learn a few more tricks. It does so much that I have never got around to using and perhaps a few drab days might give me time to play and experiment.


  4. Beautiful succulents! I especially like the repeating header (might have to copy that effect someday, hope you won’t mind!)

    I’ve grown baptisia before and never used to cut it down in the fall, but as I recall that was because of its stunning seedpods. Does your blackened plant also have seedpods? I couldn’t tell from the photo. In the spring, the dried stems made good pea sticks. But I can’t remember whether that method of growing was recommended, or just something I did because I’m fond of seeds.


    1. Food for worms and the lower orders which are then food for things up the chain. I bet some of it ends up as nest building material too. And for as long as it’s not eaten it’s sequestered carbon. How am I doing?


  5. I’m in the native range of Baptisia australis, and the plants around here all die back to the ground every winter. The only reason I could see not to cut it now is if it has hollow stems that might channel water and lead to rotting of the crown—and I can’t remember if the stems are hollow.

    I think the number of flowers is just a function of plant size. If it is happy, you’ll get more stems every year.


    1. Yak macs do well in pots, my usual strategy for deferring a decision on where to put something. Have also done HPS seed order, having joined this year. Ordering it is the easy bit.


  6. I love the photo at the top of your post, is that what you mean by stacking? I’ve never heard of that before. And Jim, you have a ‘Dead Pots’ Society’ too! It’s much tidier than mine.


    1. The Wikipedia entry describes it thus: Focus stacking is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field than any of the individual source images. So you focus on the leaf nearest the camera, take a pic, advance the focus a tiny bit, take a pic, repeat until you’re focussed on the furthest leaf. Then combine all the images on a computer which takes the in focus bit of each shot. The software does all that for you. Shame it won’t stack pots, let alone wash them.


  7. I was interested to read about your pinus as I have been thinking about a pinus mugo for the garden but could only find p. pumila. I think I have to accept that I have ideas above the size of my border! Looking at your photo brought home the space it would need and although I could keep it around the 4 foot height with pruning maybe I should find something that fits the space naturally. I think your shed project is a definite goer! And I always enjoy reading about your allotment – keeps me encouraged to do more.


    1. Most conifers have a very even growth rate so if they are very slow they spend years being smaller than you want them and if they’re quicker they get to the size you want but don’t stop. Pines are not the easiest to keep to a particular size, they don’t take to pruning terribly well. Chamaecyparis obtuse and its varieties is rather better but still won’t break from old wood if you need to cut it hard. The Pinus pumila is quite likely Pinus mugo pumilio, which is a compact form of the species. Pinus pumila is a five needled pine, related to Pinus parviflora. I kept Pinus parviflora ‘San Bo’ within bounds for a few years, only removed it because we were having a new porch put up. There are many beautiful P. parviflora forms, but very places that sell them. I found this Dutch nursery the other day, I see they do Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ which is superb.


      1. Thank your for the great link – what a great number of pinus mugo there are! So now I have a compact pine back on the wish list. It’s for the north facing border that I am going to focus on this year. Unlike our host I am a slow, slow gardener, so may be getting round to actually acquiring plants next November.


  8. Alys Fowler calls the hotbin ‘sexy’ AND it converts dog poo, which means I could do away w/my poop bin in the back garden. Have to think about that. Hopefully you’ll tell us your decision in a future SoS. Your mypex path interested me, & presume you’ve used this method before so – I’m wondering how long it’ll be weed-free, as there’s already soil getting tracked over it. Do you have to sweep it on a regular basis or does foot traffic keep stuff growing on it? Not having ever used it myself, I’m also wondering if it gets slick when wet. Since you’re in wet Cornwall, my thought is that it doesn’t. The side trench method of keeping it in place looks effective. Do tell all.


    1. I’ve been using 18 inch wide strips of old carpet as paths between plots on the allotment but was looking for something a bit less alfresco. It works very well; I never tread on the beds and mulch them well so weeds are easy to pull out. The paths get compacted so the weeds are hard to pull but the carpet just smothers them. I didn’t want to just lay the mypex on the surface because I’d have had to peg it and mice/voles/slugs love going under it. I’m hoping burying the edges gets round that. The ground slopes quite a bit so I think most of the water will run off, I don’t think the amount of use I will give them will churn the soil beneath to mud. Here’s hoping. Alys is a strange woman.

      Liked by 1 person

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