Six on Saturday – 8/8/2020

The major event of the week was getting a visit from our local NGS organiser, resulting in provisional agreement that next year we will be opening for the National Garden Scheme. I’m in shock, I don’t think the full implications have sunk in. There are things I’ve been putting off that I’m going to have to get on and do. When we get nearer I have a feeling I’m going to be dreading it and regretting saying yes. Of course, the pandemic won’t have gone away so who knows how it will pan out, it seems the few gardens that are open now are requiring pre-booking, which would at least be more controllable. Ours is not a garden where you want fifty people at once.

Enough of that, it’s a good way off. What’s happening now? Lots, here’s a random half dozen.

One.
Agapanthus ‘Northern Star’. Dick Fulcher held the National Collection of Agapanthus and raised many new varieties. I think ‘Northern Star’ is the only one of his with Breeders Rights, though I may be wrong. It’s been a nice little earner for him I believe, and well deserved too. This plant has around 40 flower stems of a superb colour.
SOS1634

Two.
Crinum powellii. This has three flower stems coming up, making it a good year. As usual slugs have targeted it and the foliage is very ragged, but the flowers usually escape damage.

Three.
Cleome. I didn’t grow the two or three plants we have of this, they were a gift. (Thanks Becky) I might very well grow more next year, they’re mixed in with Ammi which I will certainly grow again.
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Four.
Cosmos atrosanguineus. I think this started as a gifted cutting. It’s really delivering this year with loads of blooms on it. I planted it in a fake chimney pot and it’s forever in need of watering.
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Five.
Muehlenbeckia astonii. Shrubby tororaro, Wiggy wig bush. A divaricate shrub from New Zealand where it was all but wiped out by land clearance for agriculture. It was probably widespread in the dry scrublands of lowland and coastal eastern New Zealand but is now found in only a handful of places.
It has tiny heart shaped leaves up to 8mm wide and even tinier flowers, 3mm wide and greenish white. As the fruit develops the petals become fleshy and translucent, surrounding the fruit. My plant is female, as are most plants in cultivation, and without a male it will not produce viable seed.
My bush is around 1m high and wide, increasing slowly but steadily. It could get to 4m.

That was the description I used when I included it in a six two years ago. It has been growing quite quickly and is double the height and would be more if it hadn’t been cut back. It has quite a lot of flower on it just now, not that you’d notice it. There were a couple of wasps working the tiny flowers. I might try to collect some seeds and check whether they are viable for myself.

Six.
I gave my family apple tree a haircut yesterday. When I’ve summer pruned by the book, in the third week of August, it’s broken and made new growth, so I’ve taken to removing new growths back to about five inches, then shortening them again in early September, by which time it is too late for it to start into growth. It seems to be working and I probably should have thinned the fruit a little. This is the before picture, I didn’t take an after. Most of that rank growth is gone.
SOS1643

 

That’s my weekly offering. It’s going to be hot today and I should go and do some weeding on my allotment. It doesn’t hold much appeal I have to say. Perhaps I’ll just mooch about and plan replacing decking. I need to pick the plums, prune the other apple tree; OK, I’ll find something to do.
Links to other sixes as ever on the Propagator’s post. Have a good week.

48 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 8/8/2020

  1. Congrats on the NGS, Jim. I’m not surprised. the selection you show today are lovely. The blue/black aggie is wonderful. The white cleome I have noted and I admit to being really attracted to the NZ plant – it’s unusual and beautiful.

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  2. I think the colour of the Agapanthus is really lovely. Quite a change from the usual paler blue. I enjoyed reading about the Meuhlenbeckia….. how interesting about its petals changing like that and becoming fleshy. The shape of the leaves is also very different. The colour of the cosmos is stunning too. Congratulations on being asked to participate in the NGS scheme. No doubt that will entail a lot of hard work. It will be an interesting process! Have a good gardening week!

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    1. The Agapanthus was backlit in morning light so is perhaps not quite as dark as it appears. Another fan of the Muehlenbeckia too, there are more of us than I thought. I don’t want to change the garden to make it NGS friendly, I want it to be our garden, created for and by us, that we’re inviting people into. Doubt I’ll get away with it.

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      1. Well I hope that you will not have to make too many changes to your garden to make it NGS friendly, as the garden is uniquely yours! It will be interesting to hear what you have to do to get it ready. (I think I would be too stressed about the whole process to follow through). Good luck with the preparation!

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      2. It can be an insidious process, where we are conscious that we are being judged on the imperfections in a way we haven’t been before, so take steps to sort out clashing colours here, overcrowding there, potential trip hazard somewhere else. I will try to balance that tendency with more experimentation, new plants and ways of growing them.

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  3. Good luck with the NGS visitor, I am sure you will pass with flying colours, there is so much interest in your garden. Love the agapanthus, Atlantic Botanic in Braunton (not far from me) now has a lot of Dick’s agapanthus, worth a visit if you are ever in the neighbourhood.

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    1. I’m slowly accumulating reasons to visit North Devon. That’s one more. We’re approved by NGS, next step is to write a description. Now who do I know that can turn a good phrase or two?

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  4. Congrats on joining the podium of gardens to be visited. Now there is a reason for some of us to arrange a break down in your area, and drop in on you and your garden. Nice colours this week, and what a wonderful deep blue on that Agapanthus.

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      1. Same here Jim, though it may just be a small add on including refreshments, to the main event at the Bishop’s Palace. I have a spare ticket if you can bear my company.

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  5. I like your hints about apple tree pruning and may give them a go. Congratulations on becoming part of the garden tours! That must be a huge honor and a huge amount of toil, as you wrote.

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    1. The Cornish climate is just sufficiently different from the rest of England to require a slightly different approach to pruning apples. All the advice in books and online is aimed at the rest of the country. The toil relevant to the garden opening was all planned already, but now there can be no backsliding.

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  6. I’m guessing that being asked to open your garden for the National Garden Scheme is recognition of your great skill in gardening. I can understand that it will require a lot of time to get ready. How long are gardens open for this? By the way, I could help you worry. I’m good at it.

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    1. Some people open once a year, some weekly. I think we may do fortnightly over three months, but not certain yet. It shouldn’t take too much preparation in that it’s in quite good shape most of the time, but there are a couple of big jobs need doing ahead of it.

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      1. I will be very much on hand. This is not garden tours, just individuals coming to visit, so the only guide available will be me, though I’d anticipate most people preferring to go around on their own or in their own group. We haven’t fixed the times, probably just an afternoon.

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  7. I went to a few gardens in the NGS scheme many years ago and don’t remember seeing any of the owners. It was lovely to just wander around. Anyway, just carry on as you are, your garden is beautiful without any further attention than you normally give it (in my humble opinion!) Lovely Six-on-Saturday, again.

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    1. I can imagine some owners go round pretending to be visitors, keeping a worried eye on people. Or perhaps they’re pinned down doing the washing up. I imagine most visitors don’t want the owner breathing down their neck. It is reassuring to be told to carry on as normal by someone who’s seen it, I think you could easily fall into the trap of changing things because you’re opening and losing some of the idiosyncrasies that give a garden personality. That, at least, is the excuse I shall hide behind.

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  8. Nice to see how Northern Star is meant to look. Planted it as a bare root last year but still not made it to flowering.
    Better get practising your baking for open gardens. Need to provide cake. It’s the law.

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    1. The photo was taken backlit, which may have made it look darker than it is. I’ve found that Northern Star, more than the other couple of Aggies growing near it, doesn’t like to be shaded by the plants around it. It may simply be that it gives the slugs a hiding place and they then attack it more. I think any baking I did would likely kill off any return visits. I should put “please bring your own cake” in the yellow book listing.

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  9. Well done on being accepted for the NGS. I expect you’ll have nerves about the first visitors coming though, but after that, I hope you’ll enjoy it. The Agapanthus is so rich in colour and 40 flower stems is impressive. Crinum powellii is very pretty, as is the Cleome – that’s another two plants that I could see living happily in my garden.

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    1. My biggest worry re garden opening is numbers, it’s just too small and crowded to accommodate big numbers. Crinum is lovely and I’ve seen pictures of some real beauties but the slugs absolutely love it.

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      1. That would be my preference but we were told that it would be a major deterrent to people visiting. I have a feeling people may be getting used to it and that it may not be as big a deterrent as in the past.

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  10. Summer pruning of fruit trees seems so wrong to me. I grew up with the last bits of the orchards of the Santa Clara Valley. I learned to prune home garden fruit trees just like the orchard trees. It works so well that there is no need for improvement. I would not want to live with a garden that is so compact that I would need to prune in summer to fit all the trees I want into it. I can keep my trees quite small with just annual dormant pruning anyway.

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    1. In most parts of this country summer pruning would seem wrong, except for trained forms. The mild maritime climate of Cornwall tends to favour growth over fruitfulness and the choice is either to prune very little and end up with a large tree, for which I don’t have room, or to prune too heavily in an effort to contain size and get very little fruit. Summer pruning allows me to control the size and get fruit. It goes against the grain with me to try to grow large growing trees and shrubs in unsuitably small gardens and to then have to ruin any vestige of natural habit they have to accommodate them. I hate to see gardens full of clipped over shrubs, with the possible exception of deliberate topiary, and pollarded trees are even worse, but I make an exception for fruit trees, more because it suits me to do so than because they are significantly different. It’s all part of exploring what can be achieved in limited space, and limited space is what most people have for gardens these days.

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      1. Fruit trees are so unnaturally productive anyway, that unnatural pruning seems more ‘natural’ than allowing the trees to overburden themselves and collapse from the weight of their own fruit. Although I saw no summer pruning when I was a kid, the winter pruning of the orchards was very aggressive. Orchards were the main industry in the Santa Clara Valley for a very long time; but nowadays, I know of almost no one who knows how to prune fruit trees properly. The only arborists I know of who are proficient with such procedures grew up here.

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  11. Oh, that agapanthus is fabulous! Such a depth of colour! And the Cosmos – a match for it in beauty!

    Re the apple pruning – I have always found the same thing as you, that a summer pruning was always followed by a second pruning to take out the regrowth. I did a severe winter pruning this past year to remove a lot of overcrowded fruiting spurs on espalier-trained trees, and I have very little fruit this year – except on one which is a free form tree, left to nature, where I just took out two large branches. It will give us good apples next month.

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    1. I downloaded a manual of vegetable growing from the Kinsealy website and find that the advice in it is better pitched for Cornish conditions than much of what is in in English gardening books. It can take a long time to realise that it’s not yourself doing it wrong or even that the expert advice is wrong, but that conditions are not the same everywhere and understanding the effects of climate and soil and making adjustments accordingly is often needed. It’s part of why I love gardening, you never stop learning.

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      1. The Kinsealy manuals were always straight-forward and simple, no fluff or fuss and I think your conditions in Cornwall are far, far closer to mine in Waterford than they are to Kent, for example.

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  12. I saw a dark Aggie at Lanhydrock today, should have bought one! The dark ones are lovely, but 40 flower stems! That’s bonkers. Congrats with the NGS – you will have to bake and provide lots of potted plants for people to buy too! Cathy has been opening for several years so she may be able to help you with the low-down.
    https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/

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    1. Are Lanhydrock still doing plant sales then? I heard they’d shut their production nursery there down. Sue is looking to plant sales to win her some space in her glasshouse. I’m planning to move my tunnel up to the allotment and I need that up and running to be able to produce much. I’ll get in touch with Cathy, thanks for the tip.

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  13. never been a fan of agapanthus, but perhaps that one is the one to tip me over the edge, particularly at 40 stems per plant. our sole apple tree is not in fact ours, the trunk is next door. it is enormous and i suspect it needs a very good prune. certainly no orchard worker would be able to throw their hat up into the tree and expect it to come down again. perhaps i will prune our side of it next year and be damned.

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    1. Aggies seem to lapse into not flowering a bit readily and for a variety of reasons, I did something right with mine this year but it has had some very disappointing ones. So if you prune an overhanging tree to your boundary, which you are entitled to do, the prunings legally belong to the tree’s owner. Is that the same with fruit I wonder.

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