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Rain and Dust: SoS December 15

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One:  The sky is the colour of the inside of an oyster shell, much paler than it appears in my photo, for reasons that I don't understand.  It isn't fog, or mist, it's dust.  Dust which has been present for two days.  It couldn't be called a dust storm, more a dust drift.  Australia's topsoil is drifting away.  Off to new Zealand. Mudgee town and the hills it’s renowned for are in the background of this photo, but they're covered in a parchment shroud, and the hospital is busy with people experiencing breathing difficulties.

The dust drift follows a few days of most welcome rain (45 mm and a Christmas beetle in the gauge), although some folk nearer the coast received more than they wanted.  My garden gratefully absorbed all that it could which is good, because the next week promises highs in the low to mid 30s.

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Two: How have I not admired this plant, Ballota pseudodictamnus, before?  It has been thriving  in the garden for at least three years, through heat and drought, and I have callously ignored it. I gathered some for a vase last week and examined it properly, noticing its felty calyxes with their central buttons which look like something an aspiring milliner might attach to a hat, or an upholsterer to a button-back chair.  An insouciant topknot completes the picture.

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Three: A new rose, the RSL rose, bred by Meilland International,  with its deep burgundy and amber petals.  Some of the proceeds from the sale of this rose go towards supporting veterans and their families.

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Four: Ornamental pomegranate flower; frou-frou worthy of a prima ballerina’s tutu. I took this as a cutting from our previous garden and was very pleased when it grew.  It's another plant that wants to be a shrub, and I want it to be a small tree.  I'm not really winning that battle, but I'm quite happy to keep removing the suckers.

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Five:  Figs.  Will they be ready by Christmas?  I hope some will, at least!

It will be a problem keeping parrots and bats away, and although I dislike the look of nets and know they impede the growth of the tree, I’ll have to cover this tree soon, or there’ll be no figs left.

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Six: Another plant that deserves a closer look:  Scabiosa stellata 'Drumsticks'.  It's new to the garden this summer and although it has rather insignificant flowers, its papery seed-heads are ping pong ball sized spheres with purple starfish inside patty pan cases. The sunlight is catching the trace of a shower in this photo.

That's my six for this week. Gardeners from all over the world are joining in Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator.  Do join in and see what they are doing in their gardens.

Weather today: 16 - 30, and it would be sunny if there wasn't so much dust.

Hello Summer, December 1

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It's the first day of Summer here. In Australia, we don't really wait for the solstice to say that Summer has arrived, and that's hardly surprising considering the temperature is forecast to reach 31 degrees today. We are still having cool nights and mornings though, and during the last ten days we had rain, wind and a dust storm. The weather gods threw just about everything at us, except extreme heat, which is no doubt, ahead of us.  On a couple of days, it was back to winter clothes!

The garden really appreciated the 28 mm of rain we received, and I'm quite glad we avoided the 100 mm+ that some parts of Sydney received in just a few hours, causing tremendous havoc on the roads, flooding in houses and downed trees.  There were even viral images of a waterfall overflowing off Sydney Harbour Bridge, but of course that was fake news.

I'm joining in with the Six on Saturday crowd again after an absence of a week. You can discover what other SoS participants are doing in their gardens here.

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One: This is Salvia "Celestial Blue'.  A native of California, it is a hybrid of S. clevelandii and S. pachyphylla.  Its whorls of flowers remind me of the InSight lander that alighted on Mars last week and I almost expect little probes to appear to steady it in the breeze.  I have seen 'Celestial Blue' Salvias online that are much more intense than this one, so perhaps my information on its parentage is not quite correct.  I'm sure there will be a Sixer who can enlighten me.

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Two: Another Allium.  This one has a jaunty pixie cap which is almost ready to fall and expose the misty mauve flowers. I’m charmed by the way the sun is highlighting the folds in its cap.

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Three: Planted last Autumn, this early Lilium 'Eyeliner' is luminous in the early morning sun. A scattering of freckles dances across the pearly petals: it looks such a fragile flower, but it didn't miss a beat in last week's rough weather.  I'm looking forward to this bulb establishing itself in the garden.

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Four: A trio of Echeveria plants catches the sun.

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Five: During the winter Mr MG and I released our two bay trees from the pots they had inhabited for about six years, and against the advice of a couple of sixers, planted them in the garden.  One is doing very well, pushing out new growth and behaving impeccably.  The other, this one you see in the photo, is about as miserable as a plant can be and hasn't grown a single new leaf.  Those that it has are brownish, dull and unhealthy. It has, however, developed one perfectly placed sucker which is growing straight and true, albeit with leaves that are at least twice the size of normal bay leaves.  The question now is whether to amputate the parent tree and let the sucker grow. I am open to suggestion!

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Six: Another presence in the garden is this Bearded Dragon (Pogona species). In fact, I think he (or she) lives in the garden, because I've had quite a few sightings. This lizard is about 50-60 cm long from nose to tip of tail, so is not small.

That's my six for this week.  Weather today: sunny, 9-30 degrees; we didn't quite make the forecast top of 31.

A Single Man?

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He arrives in the early morning and occasionally in the evening - has been for the last week or so.  He's tempted by the 'Pig Face' and I am captivated by his knowing expression.  "I've been here before, you know," he says.

He doesn't appear to mind too much that I'm lurking in the garden, angling for a decent photo. His colours are intense in the early morning sunlight: his Robin Hood mantle with its mint green blaze and his crimson suit seem an odd camouflage.

He seems quite alone. These parrots are said to mate for life.  Where is his wife,  I wonder?

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New Additions: SoS, November, 17th

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Another cool Spring morning enticed me out early this Saturday, the sun just above the horizon and peeping into the garden, enveloping all in its warming glow and highlighting zesty colour combinations.  All the plants but one in this Saturday's Six are new to the garden this year and it has been both satisfying and exhilarating to watch them as they acclimatise themselves and begin to  fill out.

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One: Verbena bonariensis. This airy perennial has leapt out of the ground and is happily taking its place in the back row of the garden. I first saw it recommended in Piet Oudolf's book 'Dream Plants for the Natural garden'. Its scaffolding of  stalks means that it doesn't form a solid wall and I like the way other plants can be seen through it: that's Prostanthera poorinda 'Ballerina' behind it.

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Two: Do they clash, or do they not?  Geum 'Mrs J. Bradshaw' and Salvia nemerosa. I rather like this colour combination, a shrinking violet it is not.

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Three: This dwarf Gaura makes a strong statement against the background of dark foliage of the Berberis behind it which throws the white flowers into sharp focus.

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Four: Erigeron glaucus 'Seabreeze', also new to the garden, came through last winter's frosts unscathed and is now producing many daisy-like flowers in an enchanting mauve-pink. I'm hoping it will reproduce itself via contact with the ground in the way its cousin karvinskianus does, as it seems to be an excellent space filler.

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Five: Aqueligia 'Crimson Star'.  I fear my garden is too hot for this charming plant, and that I'll have to try to find a more shady home for it before too long.  This morning it was looking very happy though, lit by the rising sun.

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Six:  Not new to the garden, but surely unsung heroes, Allium sphaerocephalon  'Drumsticks' are preparing to flower.  What steadfast soldiers they are, standing to attention, their backs ramrod straight,  marching to their own tune.  They are appearing all over the garden and bring such delight with their no-nonsense approach and undemanding ways. From green flowers to purple, followed by 'bad-hair-day' seed heads, they bring interest to the garden for a very long time.

That's my six for this week.  If you would like to join in Six on Saturday, or merely look at what others are doing in their gardens, do pop over to The Propagator's blog and join in.

Weather today, sunny and 10-27 degrees C.  Happy gardening everyone.

Garden Views: SoS November 3rd

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We have had a week of warm temperatures, with most maximums being 30 degrees or over.  Disappointingly,  there have been strong hot westerly winds as well which have caused damage to some of the perennials, those that have softer stalks.  No matter, they will soon recover.  Yesterday, after an unpleasant day of wind and heat, we had a thunderstorm bringing a reviving 5ml of rain. Again, stepping outside on the cool damp grass this morning was such a pleasure.

The fire season has well and truly started with an out of control fire burning just south of Canberra. There wasn't enough rain there to extinguish the flames, although firefighters are saying they hope to have the fire under control before too long.

Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by The Propagator.  An interesting and enjoyable time can be had by popping over to his blog and reading what other gardeners are doing in their gardens.  There's such a wonderful group of interested and interesting gardeners to be found there.

My six this week are views of my garden. Here they are:

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One:  From the back of the house, part of the garden dominated at the moment by a  prostrate Ceonothus which has grown quite large and will need to be judiciously  pruned when it has finished flowering.  In the foreground dwarf salvias are coming into flower, and around the edge of the garden is an Echeveria 'hedge' which was grown (over time) from one cutting given by a friend.

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Two:  A winding gravel path behind the Ceonothus divides this part of the back garden in two.

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Three: This is 'Flora's Garden' which I featured here during the Winter, but is now full of healthy plants with a few more such as Agastache 'Sweet Lilli' to show their faces. That's Rosa 'The Prince' on the right, and in the middle Allium 'Drumsticks' are getting ready to flower.

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Four: Not a view essentially, but I do like these Romneya coulteri.  The way their petals droop reminds me of the white costumes of Whirling Dervishes as they wheel around during their mesmerising religious dance.

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Five: This is Clothesline Corner, with its inherited pavers, white stones and metal fence. A project for next Winter is to lift the pavers and cover the white stones with something of a more subdued nature, probably gravel like the path in photo number two. The metal fences, which are used so much in this area, are a problem: when the temperatures are high, those fences add to the heat.  They are being covered, but it's a slow process.  Patience- the quality I've had to learn when it comes to gardening!

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Six:  Not everything in the garden is pretty!  This is the 'Dead Pots' Society' which meets behind the shed.   Old plastic pots, a broken terracotta pot (to be used as filler in a wall somewhere), an inherited drum which we could have done without (thank you previous owners) various stakes and collections of stones.  I think most gardeners have a corner like this in their garden somewhere.  Do you?

That's my six for this week. Happy gardening everyone.

Weather today: Sunny, windy, 17-32 degrees C.

A Tale of Six Roses: SoS October 27

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This morning I stepped out over the dew dampened grass luxuriating in the early sun and relishing the peace of the neighbourhood before the lawn-mowing leaf-blowing brigade began their Saturday labours, before the dogs began to bark and the next door pool began its irritating whine.  A garden is enchanting at that early hour of the morning when the sunshine is just beginning to gild petals and leaves and the remnants of the night's dew are still fresh.

My story this week is that of six roses which have begun their first flowering of the season.  The avalanche of aphids has been somewhat halted thanks to detergent-in-water spray which has been applied several times- and I learnt the hard way not to use too much detergent.  None of my roses are unusual or particularly different, but they seem to like our climate: for such elegant, classic blooms they are remarkably hardy.

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One: Rosa 'Madame A Meilland'.  The much-loved 'Peace' rose, complete with small passenger. Look at those blushes at the edges of the petals.  She knows she's gorgeous! I've discovered that this rose, developed in France,  had different names in different European countries and was  given the name 'Peace' at the end of WW2.

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Two: Rosa 'Pierre de Ronsard' who has a habit of hanging his head, although he has nothing to be ashamed of. I was lucky to find this bolder flower.  Look at those petals: like the layers in a mille fueille cake!

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Three: Rosa 'The Prince'.  I've not been able to capture the rich velvety colour of this rose as well as I would like but I think in real life it's almost the colour of a good Mudgee Shiraz!

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Four: Rosa 'Climbing Pinkie' which perhaps could be called 'Prolific Pinkie' hasn't quite got into its stride yet and has had a dreadful case of aphids to contend with.  It's quite irrepressible and will be covered with these blushing pink flowers before too long.

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Five: Truly, I don't think this 'Calypso' rose is one for the purists, but it flowers happily all Summer- I have two in pots- and is almost disease and pest free.  Mine weren't affected by the recent aphid attack.  I like the way the petals change from this orangey-red to pink as they age.

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Six: Last, but certainly not least, 'Julia's Rose', (slightly overblown),  a new addition to my garden: so new it hasn't actually been planted yet. Starting as a peachy-pink in bud, it fades to a pale caramel as it ages.  Such an arresting and unusual colour, I can't stop gazing upon it with great admiration.

Each day for the last week the maximum temperatures have been in excess of 26 degrees, and Summer is almost upon us, even though we'd like to have a lot more Spring- meaning a continuation of the rain we've had at quite regular intervals. Soon we'll be getting out the hoses, but in the meantime, there is much enjoyment to be had in the Spring garden.

As always, to see what other gardeners are doing, go to the Propagator's blog and enjoy gardens from all over the world.

Happy gardening everyone!

Leptospermums dazzle in Spring

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We are experiencing a sublime Spring in the NSW Central Tablelands this year.  There have been  some excitingly plentiful rainfalls: gardens are luxuriant with blossom, lawns are green, and trees are putting on rapid growth.  Roses, which grow exceedingly well in this area, are producing exuberantly: voluminous beauties floating over garden walls, arresting the walker in her tracks and ensuring a moment of admiration and reverence.

Some strange anomaly has meant that my roses aren't quite out yet, which is a Good Thing as it gives me time to admire the Leptospermums in my garden which are flowering in stellar fashion, and which deserve a post to themselves, in my opinion.

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Here is Leptospermum scoparium 'Kea' which started flowering in May, and is still going strong.  Top marks for perseverance, don't you think?

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The petals on this Leptospermum are the palest of pinks contrasting with crimson centres.  Its seed cases are shaped like miniature buns and are very hard.  Like so many plants native to Australia, the seed cases open better when subjected to fire.

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Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Cascade' is a frothy concoction of exuberant pinkness, its flowers floating  along the branches like the corps de ballet gliding out of the wings across a stage.

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Leptospermum scoparium 'Nanum Rubrum' has burgundy coloured leaves and scarlet flowers with almost black centres. Its flowers cover the plant like barnacles clinging to a ship's hull.

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'Outrageous' is flowering, well, outrageously!  What a lot of pinkness there is in all of this: this time a darker pink with an almost lime green centre and white anthers.

And there you have them.  My Leptospermums, providing a bit of excitement in the garden for a few weeks.  Native to Australia and New Zealand, their common name is Tea Tree  (in New Zealand,  mānuka as well) and they are called this because early settlers used their leaves for making tea. In New Zealand, the mānuka tree provides world famous honey which is believed to have healing properties, and indeed, my late father-in-law used it to successfully treat an ulcer on his leg.

On a final note: the drought which has been holding NSW in its iron fist is not over even though there has been some good rain.  Being such a huge area, there are many parts that didn't benefit from the rain, and dams are still not full, so we are hoping for what is called 'follow-up rain' which the Bureau of Meteorology informs us is not terribly likely.

Saturday Splendours, SoS Oct 13.

Spring is galloping ahead here in Mudgee.  We’ve had some rain and the garden is flowering in quite an unrestrained fashion. Many trees have finished their Spring blossoming and are now decked out in leaves of soft tender green.  I’ve been away for almost a week and have returned to find that new blooms are out, weeds have been profligate, and myriads of aphids have attached themselves wantonly to new rose shoots and buds.  


There’s plenty to do outside but still time to enjoy the extraordinarily enjoyable sensual pleasures that this season brings. Without further ado, here are my six for this week:

One:  In a froth of pink and mauve, Alyssum and Leptospermum scoparium ‘Pink Cascade’ jostle for space in the front garden.


Two:  Bees are loving the heavily flowered Ceonothus ‘Blue Pacific’, stuffing their saddlebags to the brim before flying off to deposit the largess from this generous shrub into their hives.

Three:  As mentioned before, Ranunculas are a soft spot with me for their hardiness, their ability to spread around the garden and their apparent disdain for slugs and snails.

Four:  Dainty butter yellow flowers cluster  below the garnet-coloured leaves of the Berberis  thunbergii Atropupurea.  This shrub has terrible thorns, but it’s easy to forgive it this shortcoming when it has beautiful leaves, flowers and berries.

Five:  A beautiful Bearded Iris, given by a friend.  I have no idea of its name, but find it quite unusual. The colours of the petals are so delicate and the veins highlighted exquisitely in fine point.

Six:  This is an Australian native- Tetratheca thymifolia ‘Fairy Bells’. It has the common name of Black Eyed Susan but it isn’t like any Black Eyed Susan I know.   It’s had a struggle, first finding clay soil difficult to deal with (too much water being held in the soil), and then taking  a battering from the severe winter frosts.  It looks as though it has decided to pick up now and I hope it will continue to do well. It should be covered in flowers for months.

It’s a lot of fun looking at what other gardeners are doing in their gardens, and you can look too, by popping over to The Propagator’s blog as he’s the host of this very popular meme.  You can see the other Six on Saturdays here.

Weather today: 7-21 degrees C, mostly sunny.  Happy gardening everyone.

Bagworm

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Whatever is a bag worm, do I hear you enquire?  Indeed, I didn't know myself (despite having often seen them ) until quite recently when I discovered one of these interesting creatures dragging its home laboriously behind itself across our gravelly path.  Fascinated,  I watched its action as it ventured, half out of its cocoon,  to grab the next couple of stones with its strong front legs,  and then with the rest of its body pull its twig-decorated shelter behind it.

Saunders Case Moths (Metura elongatus) for that is their real name, spend most of their lives in these cleverly constructed cocoons.  Even mating takes place (with difficulty) inside the cocoon.

The caterpillars can 'extend' their homes as they grow bigger themselves, by adding twigs woven in with their own silk, an onerous task. They move around by using three pairs of legs to pull themselves and their cocoon along.  It's a very slow process. When they are ready to pupate, they attach themselves to a handy tree or post  by silk threads, as shown in my first photo.

The female,  who lives all her life in her cocoon ( no emancipation in this species) lays many eggs and dies within the case. She doesn’t develop wings.

The male moths, however, emerge from their cocoons in orange and black suits complete with wings, ready to search for a mate and begin the cycle all over again.

Until recently, a metal power pole on a roundabout in our town hosted scores of these case moths or bagworms.  It seems they were very appreciative of the plants growing below, which rapidly showed signs of ill-health thanks to the caterpillars’ ministrations. After the moths departed, the cases hung and swayed in the breezes, slowly disintegrating over time, their occupants long gone.

 

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Because I know so little about these creatures, I resorted to an information sheet from the Queensland Government to fill in some of the details.

Bounteous: SoS September 29

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It was like snow in my garden this morning!  White Pyrus petals were drifting, tossed here and there by the breeze, flurried across the garden and coming to rest, eventually, on the lawn.

Almost overnight, it seems, Spring has really arrived, and I am in an unusual quandary: that of having many plants to choose for this week's Six on Saturday.  Each week gardeners join to present six things from their garden to showcase.  The Propagator is the host of this popular meme, so do visit his site to see what gardeners from all over the world are doing.

Here are the finalists in my 'personal six competition'  for this week:

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One:  Crabapple, Malus floribunda.  This tree has been in the garden about three years and hasn't been in a hurry to grow.  It's a very odd shape, but then perhaps that is common to the species.  It's flinging its fat flowery arms  into the blue sky as if shouting, 'Hallelujah, Spring is here!'

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Two:  Only recently have I become aware of this plant, thanks to Northern Hemisphere blogging friends-you know who you are.  I've never been very fond of orange shades in the garden, but I am in thrall to this Geum 'Totally Tangerine' which I planted recently.  I find the colour mesmerising and the shape beauteous.  I've planted three, and though there have been whispers of slight thuggishness from some quarters, at this stage I am watching its development with delight and hoping it will fill up empty spaces in the garden.

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Three: Ranunculus No ID.  I planted some bulbs a few years ago and they have spread themselves around the garden in a very satisfying way.  I sometimes think they are somewhat looked down upon by gardeners for being a bit too ordinary, but I love them- trouble free and undemanding, they seem to be ignored by snails too. These white ones are delicately tinged by the last rays of the sun and  I'm mesmerised by their beauty every time I see them.

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Four: The aforementioned Pyrus, an inherited tree, one of five.  I don't know its name, but its columnar shape seems to suggest calleryna 'Capital' or 'Chanticleer'.

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Five: Continuing with a bit of a white theme here, this is Rodanthemum.  Is it hosmariense?  I'm not sure, but I particularly like the feathery grey foliage and the mass of flowers.  It grows very well from cuttings too- always an added bonus.

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Six: Was it because we had a very cold winter that my cabbages and broccoli were so slow to mature?  I don't know, but here they are, ready to be eaten just when we're beginning to think  about salads! Not only do they look very healthy, but they've been ignored by white butterflies and are almost free of caterpillar holes.  It's of some concern to me that I've seen so few white butterflies: I feel it's a portentous sign of the ills that are besetting our climate and the damage being caused to our insect populations.

Sorry to end on a low note.  That's my six for this week.  Do look at what others are doing in their gardens and happy gardening everyone.

Weather today: 10-18C and sunny.