Six on Saturday – 2/5/2020

On the 6th of May three years ago I somehow stumbled across the innaugural six on Saturday post by The Propagator and felt moved to respond. I may have missed a week somewhere in those three years, I really don’t remember. It makes this my 156th six on Saturday post. Perhaps you think I should be doing a special anniversary edition, in which case disappointment awaits you. What I will do is to say a big thank you to Jon for getting it all going and keeping the show on the road. It’s proved the perfect vehicle for saying a little about a lot of different things and for showing some of the thousands of pictures I take to a wider audience than just myself. Most gardeners I know are keen to show other people round and point out their favourite plants, biggest successes, happy accidents and so on. Many of us will have flirted with the idea of opening our gardens but been put off by the complexities involved. SoS provides something of the same opportunity without having to bake cakes, organise parking or check peoples bags on the way out.

Right, enough self congratulatory wallowing, to business:

My waterworks. I try to capture and store rainwater for my watering needs. I have about 3000 litres storage capacity, comprising a 1500 litre tank and 7 water butts. There’s a submersible pump in the big tank which I use to pump water where I need it, but in order to do so I have to get the water into the tank. One small section of the roof drains into it and the water butts fill from two glasshouse roofs. Two thirds of my off roof water goes into 100 litre water butts from which I pump it into my main storage. At the beginning of this week it was about a third full, now it’s all full to the brim, which involved a lot of dragging pumps and hoses about in the rain. It’s gardening Jim, but not as we know it.

Asphodelus albus. This seems to be happy here, the two or three clumps I have expanding a little each year and flowering reliably. It’s about three feet tall with an untidy clump of leaves at the bottom. Wildside garden had big drifts of the similar Asphodelus ramosus when I visited last year, similar but with branched flower stems, making a bit more of an impact. I got seed of it from the Alpine Garden Society and have 10 or so seedlings coming along.


Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Torch’. As a young plant on the nursery this grows narrowly upright and is a very bright yellow. In the garden it doesn’t keep the shape but is still bright, comes into leaf early and has flowers now which the bees seem to like.

What it also has, in common with other Berberis and also Mahonias, is touch sensitive stamens. I tried to film what happens when you poke the stamens with a bit of wire. It might give you a sense of what’s going on. The five stamens are pressed back against the petals and when disturbed spring forward onto the stigma. Gently squeezing the petals inward is enough to set them off.

Bluebells. I’ve been contemplating a blog on bluebells but by the time I get around to it they’ll have finished for the year. We have loads in the garden and I suspect that all or almost all are hybrids between the English and Spanish species. I say ‘suspect’ because some are almost perfect English types and some typically Spanish, then you look again and there’s something not quite right. Here are one of the best of each.

Corydalis ochroleuca. There’s barely a month in the year when I couldn’t put this in, it seems to flower more or less continuously, seeds around modestly and is an altogether lovely plant.

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. By late autumn last year this plant had stopped flowering but was still a clump of stems with occasional buds at the top, none of which opened. Not until now at least. It is now flowering on every one of last year’s stems but only just beginning to produce new stems for this year. There will presumably be a gap in its flowering when this lot are done. It’s against the south facing front wall of the house, which seems to have protected it just a little more than the similar plant in the open at the back of the house. That one eventually got frosted and cut down; it’s a mass of new stems about half way grown. One day I’ll remember the name of the succulent in the pot to its left: that came in for the winter.

More rain forecast for tuesday, then mainly fine for a week or two, this is turning into a very good growing season. Today I have Dahlia seedlings to pinch, seeds (veg) to sow, seedlings to prick off, the daily round of moving things in and out to harden off. I think I’ll plant more onions on my allotment. The small things that add up. Reading about everyone else’s gardens too of course, accessed through the usual rabbit hole.
Have a good week.


19 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 2/5/2020

  1. You and Jon have been constants since I joined in…and as you say a perfect way to record and share photographs. Love the videos…The alstromeria Indian Summer has just gained an added star in my must get list! Well done on harvesting all the water.


  2. You hit the nail on the head, so to speak, when you compared Six-on-Saturday to showing off your garden without the associated hassle – but you do make an excellent cup of tea! Anyway, my 3 water butts filled completely this week too very pleasing. I haven’t tried growing alstroemerias so another one on my list. Interesting Six-on-Saturday.


    1. You know you’re always welcome for a cup of tea, when it’s no longer a crime. I can cope with visitors two at a time, more and I get flustered. There was another Alstroemeria on my wanted list, must remind myself what it was and try to find it. Variegated thing as I recall.


  3. This week we all did waterworks to have stock! it was necessary…
    These alstromerias are very beautiful, I’m waiting for mine. This succulent dark purple on the left is really surprising.


  4. English bluebells are so lovely. Our Virginia bluebells (Mertensia) just can’t compete.

    I have a few clumps of the Spanish in my garden, but I suspect the English would not appreciate the heat.


  5. That’s a lot of water storage! I was out in the rain attempting to fit a 4th water butt. It didn’t go smoothly and I ended up with more water on me than eventually ended up in the new water butt. It does feel good collecting free water. The berberis video is fascinating.


    1. Getting drenched come with the territory. As much as it is it only just got me through the last few dry weeks. The water may be free but the tanks, pump and pipeworks aren’t. The pump is powered by my solar panels, free electricity but not free panels. I doubt I save any money in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jim. A video – fabulous content! I didn’t know that about berberis’s stamen trick and incidentally I love the yellow variety you have shared.

    I too am confused by my bluebells. This week I attempted to identify the hybrids, spanish and native with the aim of removing the first two. Spanish were easy, hybrids less so. I feel it’s worth doing here as we’re literally across the road from a native bluebell wood and I wouldn’t want to sully the gene pool there with the spanish invaders. I was wondering what happens what you get if you cross a hybrid back with a native? (That sounds like one of those silly jokes!) Does the native gene win and if so need I remove the hybrids? I’m not really up on genetics…


  7. Rain water harvesting is something of a fad here. Many believe that it should be more popular here, since this is a chaparral climate. However, because it is a chaparral climate, rain water harvesting is not practical. It is even more impractical for massive homes on small parcels. All the rain falls within a brief rainy season. To collect all the water from a big roof, a small garden space would be filled with tanks. For a more ‘average’ situation, where there is more garden space than space occupied by tanks, the water from the rainy season gets used early in the dry season, so that the tanks are empty most of the time. There is no rain to replenish the supply for most of the year.


    1. The rainfall pattern is changing here, I think quite quickly. Cornwall is getting about 50% more than it was 50 years ago, but most of the extra is in winter, though summer rainfall is up a bit too. The summer rain is coming in shorter, heavier bursts than it used to, it seems, but dry spells of a couple of months or more are still rare, so storage can work if it gets you from one deluge to the next. The alternatives are to not water and let go the plants that can’t take it, or pay for using the domestic supply, which is expensive because you pay for sewage treatment based on the water you use not the water you put down the drain. I’d like to think I was going for the least worst option and that I’d thought it through fairly carefully but you’d probably need a precise audit over 5 years or more to draw any firm conclusions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It seems to me that it would be practical for such a climate. There is no need to save all of the water available all at once, so there is no need for huge tanks. Like you say, it is only necessary to save water between rain. Saving water for a month or even two takes up less space than saving water for half a year.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m another bluebell worrier. I seem to have Spanish on one side of the garden and some possibly English/possibly mixed on the other. We’re not near any native woodland so I’ll try not to worry about it. They are a complete pain to dig out anyway I’ve found.
    I enjoyed your piece about Six on Saturday and sharing ones garden without having to do teas. I certainly struck a cord with me. I’ve opened mine in the past (with teas), but our village open gardens has been cancelled this year. The other great thing about SoS is that you can ‘hide’ the untidy bits of the garden.


    1. I just posted a blog about bluebells. I’ve too many other things to worry about to be a bluebell worrier but for the last three or four days I’ve been a bluebell obsessive. I’ll move on to something else now I’ve got it out of my system. Hiding the untidy bits is great isn’t it, you can get away with it for years online.


  9. wait, what? you don’t make cake? very poor. i don’t believe you’ve missed a single SoS Jim, I’m glad you enjoy it, and you’ve hit the nail on the head, we all like a nose, and we all like to show interested folks our gardening efforts.

    i keep meaning to get hold of some of that alstromeria. i’ve had several abortive attempts to grow different kinds from seed, no joy.


    1. Pretty much cake free here, you’re right, it’s very poor. Both my pots of Indian Summer need dividing again, I could go into production. It quickly grows into whatever price you get asked for. I want a plant of Alstroemeria ‘Rock and Roll’, never seen it offered but looks about as vulgar as plants get.


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