Six On Saturday 08-02-20

It is the time of the year when you find yourself peering down at emerging buds and leaves with a mixture of hope and relief. There is the thrill of seeing tender plants starting into growth mixed with the slight trepidation of what February may still have in store for us. Perhaps this is another example of the limitation of describing the world in only four seasons. We are in transition just now from winter to spring but not in a straight line, it goes back and forth a little, from day to day.

Six on Saturday is a weekly garden diary from all around the world curated over at the propagator blog.

1) Haircuts

Both the hellebores and I have had a bit of a haircut this week. I have come to terms with the fact that at a certain point in the life of a man you just have to accept that your hair is just not growing so well any more. If only it could be divided and replanted as easily as a waning herbaceous plant. Perhaps I should take comfort from these hellebores who look a lot more dignified and resplendent when shorn of their straggly old leaves.


2) Hamamelis

I posted a picture a couple of weeks ago of emerging flowers on one of the young hamamelis as an example of how much variation there is in flowering time across the country. A fortnight later they are coming into full bloom and almost seem to be lighting up the ground at their feet.


3) Cyclamen

The cyclamen are really flourishing just now and have a certain way of picking up the light at either end of the day. This photo came about by accident. I haven’t scratched the camera lens. The hair like wisps forming vapour trails are form a small pot of stipa that I had put down for a minute after finding it had over-wintered in the cold frame.


4) Wallflowers

The self-sown patch of wall flowers in the front garden is starting to flower. Initially I grew some yellow ones which were a bit too stark so I replaced them with dark red ones. It looks like they have now hybridised nicely with some burnished copper varieties popping up. I let them grow wherever they like amongst the gravel and just weed out the old woody ones or those that are in the way.


5) French Tarragon

Growing tender herbs up here each winter can be a bit of a gamble. There are a couple in particular that have a fifty-fifty chance of succumbing to the frosts; French tarragon and lemon verbena. I usually take cuttings as an insurance policy but this year I didn’t get around to it. Both herbs look to be in good health so far after a fairly mild and dry winter.


6) Moss

An unusual choice perhaps and regarded by many as a weed. I don’t even know the name of this every day moss that grows on gaps in the paving. At this time of year it looks like a small army of hedgehogs. I love it when the light shines through it and it looks almost autumnal. I was talking with a friend of mine last week about the subject of joy and wonder in the natural world. Where better to look for this than something which we walk across each day without even noticing. If you thought your love life was complicated you should spend a few minutes trying to decipher the lifecycle of moss.* If nature hadn’t started throwing up these sorts of life-forms 300 million years ago we wouldn’t have had the infinite variety of plant life that has since followed.


* It is mind-blowing in its complexity. Unlike almost everything else in the garden they don’t have roots, don’t flower and don’t set seed. They go through most of their life as ‘haploid’ organisms which means they only have one set of chromosomes (like a sperm or an egg). In a reversal from the more common process they transform themselves briefly into a diploid form (two sets of chromosomes a bit like a fertilised egg) in order to set spores on the end of a long filament and then repeat the whole process. Except there are about another fifteen steps in between!

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Great photographs Keith and that shot of the hamamelis with the glorious countryside behind is joyous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      It was stunning when the sun was shining but looks quite different now that the storm has blown in!


  2. Yeah, really nice photos – I love the Cyclamen with the curving grass and the moss shot. I’m always amazed at how moss, here, stays bright green all year – even more vibrant in the dead of sub-zero winter, when the vagaries of temperature melts the snow – than in the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      I think moss is rather under-rated in this part of the world. One day I would like to see some of the incredible Japanese moss gardens where it is revered almost as a work of art. I saw a program once about a moss lawn in Japan where the gardeners had to weed it with a kind of toothbrush like implement while suspended from boards!


  3. Heyjude says:

    Another who loves your photos! Especially the moss. I love photographing moss and lichens 😁 And I also like your hamamelis – I see it is in a container so I am thinking I might actually be able to have one too, though I’m not certain whether they cope with wind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      Yes they seem to cope well with wind and anything that flowers in January has to be tough as old boots. I have one in the ground and one in a half barrel and they seem equally content. I have seen them grown to quite a size (about three times as big) in large containers so I don’t think they mind too much. They are slow growing and if you grew it in a container you could keep it near the door or window to enjoy the colour and scent. They aren’t cheap but I think pretty they are good value for what they provide at this time of year. Go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The cyclamen look great in your photo. I bought some corms in the autumn and have planted them up, but I haven’t decided where to put them. I’m going to give growing tarragon a try if its managed to survive in your garden. I love the flavour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      It has managed to survive ‘so far’. Always encouraging to see new shoots though. I think good drainage is the key (one third grit, one third perlite and one third soil) It does smell and taste lovely.


  5. Jim Stephens says:

    It always seems to me that moss in a flower bed, or a lawn, is indicative of conditions being rather poor for the plants, hungry, compacted or poorly drained probably. Amongst trees I would see it much more positively. I wonder to what extent that is accurate, given that the woodland soil is probably the least compacted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      Yes, the small patches of moss that appear in the border are usually a sign of compaction or a leaky drainpipe. Looks much nicer on trunks, branches or old stone though. I have even found myself painting a mixture of yoghurt and manure on to new pots to age them a little.


  6. cavershamjj says:

    Fab moss picture, I’ve got plenty of that in what I laughingly call my lawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      Likewise. In fact I think if you scarified the back lawn and removed the moss there might not be anything much left. But in the end it is soft and green and you can sit on it so who cares!?


  7. Lora Hughes says:

    The moss love life is amazing. How do they manage to reproduce? Some really great photos this week. Particularly love the witch hazel, the moss, & cyclamen pix.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith says:

      Well if you are really interested you can find out on this website.

      Essentially a droplet of rain water carries sperm from the male to the female part of the moss which then forms a spore. I found it fascinating but I accept that I do need to get out more!

      The most interesting part is about the role of microscopic creatures called water bears or moss piglets (I am not making this up) which have a role in this process. These creatures, properly known as ‘tardigrades’ are believe it or not the first animal proven to survive in space. I am not sure if they are endearing or horrifying or a bit of both.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lora Hughes says:

    I’m not sure what I think about crash landing earth critturs on the moon, to be honest. That blows my mind just a tad. I’ve seen the moss-blended-in-yogurt used on some house show or the other, but it didn’t work. I wonder if they used the wrong moss, altho the article says buttermilk works best. Thanks for that additional info!


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