Finally something’s happening: End of the Month View, June 2013

I think we’re all agreed that it’s been a funny old year – everything’s so late, and then there was a sudden spurt of activity (plantwise; I’ve been pretty active throughout – for once), and now everything’s sulking again. Chilly nights, that’s the problem. I suspect there’ll be another sudden flurry with the garden growing in bursts, rather like an adolescent boy. Hopefully there’ll be no grunting…

But at least we’ve had some sunshine this year. All right, not today – so a few of these photographs were, I admit, taken a couple of days ago, but they do show what’s been happening. In the bottom garden, last year’s ‘new’ bed in the foreground is filling out nicely, and there’s been plenty of planting in this year’s contribution to digger’s elbow and mattock hand (that’s the bed in the background with the acer, now 6 feet tall, in it):

bottom garden

The bed at the front, just visible behind a rosa rugosa, is no longer home to the bean tunnel; I direct-sowed a selection of annual seeds instead. I’d like to think there was a plan, but there wasn’t; I was just using up the contents of old seed packets and shabby envelopes with faded handwriting. There are – or should be – salvia horminium bouquet, cosmos, cerinthes, some nicotianas though I can only see one and may have weeded the others out, antirhinnums, calendulas, tagetes, nigellas… oh, and quite a few things which may be weeds. At the moment this bed is hiding behind dark glasses, saying ‘no photos, no photos,’ but I expect it will be more photogenic soon.

The ‘new’ bed has some lovely things in it. The cirsium is almost as tall as I am this year, and the echinops ritro is enormous. But I’m most thrilled by the pennisetum thunbergii, which I grew from seed and strongly recommend (RHS scheme, thank you):

pennisetum thunbergii

I keep going out and having a quick stroke. Beautiful. This bed is, however, rather too tasteful at present – it definitely needs an injection from the opposite side of the colour wheel next year and I’m thinking of adding something mad. Hmm… mad but annual, so if it’s a disaster I can get rid of it. My current favourite would be californian poppy, especially as I’ve got some gorgeous ones in clear orange, and they come true from seed.

What it doesn’t need, however, is washed-out yellowy-cream achilleas which should be something else – crimson, pink or reddish. I grew these from seed too:


and they are absolutely not what it said on the tin. However, they will doubtless be useful for plant sales – not for me, of course – and I will be digging them up. Almost all of them are this colour, with one exception.

The giant Portugal laurel is flowering like mad, the weight of the blossoms bringing the lower branches down even further.

portugal laurel

The scent is extraordinary, and at one point low branches bend elegantly towards the ground on either side of a dark space, in which stands a single white foxglove. I’m so impressed by the foxgloves this year that I’ve planted a load more, but I would never have thought to add any in the wildy bit behind the greenhouse; they did this by themselves:


and have been absolutely stunning. They are also humming with bees, which has meant – I suspect – more bees finding their way into the greenhouse.

But the greenhouse is still stuffed with things. Normally seed trays – etc – find their way into the cold frame or out by now; not this year,


though I am going to be a bad plantlets’ mother and boot some of these out soon. Rudbeckia in the individual pots; a couple of trays of red kale, more than enough pyrethrums for next year, a couple of trays of cineraria and mesembryanthemums (just in case the sun should feel like reappearing) – they’re all cluttering the place up. And now the tomatoes have taken off, there’s no room. Particularly as I’ve just added more seed trays – white foxgloves and purple sprouting broc. Oh, well…

But there is a huge upside to this strange season. I’ve had some really happy accidents; not just the foxgloves nestled behind the greenhouse. The paving in front of the house, where alchemilla flipping mollis runs riot, has also suddenly sprouted with purple sisyrinchium graminoides.

Sisyrinchium graminoides

There are loads. I brought a plant up from my London garden over ten years ago, and it vanished (like many of my plants, it had done a round trip and I thought it was maybe one trip too far, or maybe it just wanted to stay near an all-night kebab shop). Evidently it was biding its time, and I’m so glad it decided to reappear. It’s also been the sort of year so far in which some things have done remarkably and surprisingly well – some of my paeonies are as tall as I am, or were until the wind got them – and amongst those are the perennial poppies,


which have been stunning. Until the weather caught up with them too, that is.

Up in the top garden, the vegetable plot is finally taking off. The beans seem to have realised they are climbing and emphatically not dwarf beans, and are heading up the teepees. However, I am normally not only cropping by now but have also retired the earliest (Cobra).

veg patch

On the currently positive side, the garlic looks promising and will be harvested very soon, and the shallot leaves have just bent over. The potatoes (Ratte this year, my favourite) aren’t quite there yet – I dug a couple of plants just to see, officer – but the kale is promising. And so – shhhhhhhh – are the courgettes. I’m growing them in big pots this year, to see if that works better. If so, I’ll plant them in potting compost-filled holes rather than straight into the soil next year. Or lime my acid soil in time. Ahem.

The meadow has been stunning, and I’ll be devoting a couple of posts to it soon. That’s has been fantastic; has been wonderful. Some of the grasses have been taller than I am, again – can’t get over being dwarfed by the garden, though I am just over 1.55m and you’d have thought I’d be used to being overshadowed. And then we had weather. No, we had WEATHER:


Oh, bum.

Something tells me that we might be strimming it earlier than usual, but it may recover. And there are always those compensations; the rose hedge by the kitchen is just coming into abundant flower and only about 3 weeks later than last year, so maybe things are catching up. It’s worth waiting for, and it’s worth tolerating its loose habit (I will be giving it a serious prune before it pokes someone’s eye out; it’s either that or tie it up with washing line) for the three weeks or so in which it looks sensational.

perfect baby rose

This bud is about the size of a large marble. And it is one of hundreds this year. Can’t wait for the rest!


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    Rain really does make things grow! Love that poppy, and the foxgloves.

    1. kate says:

      It does indeed, but it could stop now. I know I wanted some, specifically to fill up my water butts, but they’re full now, thanks. Sun and warmth (er, within reason, I don’t want to be caught in a ‘be careful what you wish for’ trap) would be good…

      I’m going to have to devote another post to the foxgloves; they’re always good, but this year they’ve been exceptional. That’s gardening!

  2. Dobby says:

    A very odd season indeed. Some of my plants are stunning and others are still sulking. I was hoping that this year would give me an idea of what I needed to do to extend the colour further over the year, but it is not to be. Perhaps next year!
    Your bottom garden is really taking shape. I was admiring Karen’s paeonies the other day. They have obviously enjoyed our topsy turvy weather!

    1. kate says:

      I’ve come to the conclusion that every year is odd in some way. I think I’m going to have a lot of colour in September this year – which is what I wanted, yes, but it’s only happening because everything is so late. Next year it will be completely different…

  3. Cathy says:

    Oooh, lots of things to comment on Karen! An enjoyable read, as always, with your inimitable style and turn of phrase. Lucky you with your sisyrinchium – I only have a yellow one which periodically appears and disappears – but I am hoping I will be lucky with the pennisetum seeds I had through the RHS. I had to peer at your bean teepee to see how tall your Cobra were – why aren’t mine like that than when I sowed them in very good time? Good to see how other things are progressing too.

    1. kate says:

      The beans on the teepee which are at the giddy height of, oh, 3 feet are actually the Cosse Violette (I’ve just been up to double-check). MY Cobras are still about half that, though they do seem to have just got the hang of winding round the canes – I am glad it’s not just me, and they were all sown at the same time. Most odd.

      I had a yellow sisywhatsit once, but it vanished and hasn’t reappeared. I’m still stunned by the purples’ appearance, and fully expect them to vanish for another 10 years.

      OOPS, PS, meant to add that out of all the pennisetum seed, I only got 5 to germinate. Never mind, it was enough…

      1. Cathy says:

        Thanks for checking, Kate – strangely, the day after I wrote that comment my Cobra had put on a spurt and I can now say they are CLIMBING, which they definitely weren’t doing before – I wonder what triggers their decision to start the big climb…?

        1. kate says:

          I suspect it’s temperature. I’m going out to threaten my Cobras, because they’re not showing much oomph. Maybe it will temperature and threats of physical violence, in which case I may be onto a winner, as a heat wave is forecast…

  4. I did enjoy that post! Our garden is mixed too, given the cruddy weather this year! WE also have fabulous self-seeded foxgloves, one white and they are wonderful. Our beans are reluctant too and the sweet peas only 4″ high! In the Observer today, they suggest we should be cutting them for the house by now!

    We are also growing our courgettes in a big tub this year and tonight I realised that we have two flowers about to open. Happy growing! 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Hah – another courgette-in-pot grower – I think one if mine is about to open, too. All we need is a little more warmth and sun (this half of the country seems to be in gloom and coolth while the rest is enjoying ‘the warmest day of the summer’ according to the weather forecasters), and everything will take off. Please!

      My broad beans, on the other hand, are ace. Must harvest again today…

  5. Lea says:

    What a fun post to read!
    I love the plucky little flower growing between the paving stones.
    Other flowers beautiful, too! I especially like the rose bud.
    Veggies may be behind last year, but looks like they are coming along nicely now.
    Happy Gardening!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – and the roses are lovely, lovely, lovely… there really are always compensations in gardening; the beans may be sulking, but I’ve never seen so many buds on the rose.

  6. Angie says:

    You have so much going on – you garden not only looks great but is full of productive promise 🙂
    That Pennisetum is so very tactile – I don’t think I could stop stroking it!
    Washed out looking Achillea don’t do much for me either – I’ve a wishy washy pink one that really needs to go!
    I hope you have a sunny week to come!

    1. kate says:

      We need a ‘rip-out-achillea’ pact then – you get rid of your weedy pink and I’ll dig up all the nicotine-stained distemper yellows. I’m only hesitating because it will leave a gap and I like the flatness of the flower head, but getting rid of them will also get rid of a lot of aphids…

      Oh, just had a thought: maybe the reason why my echinops ritro is clear of aphids this year is because the achillea is heaving. Hmm…

  7. Pauline says:

    Your Pennisetum id fabulous, is it an annual or perennial? You have so much going on,I agree, foxgloves this year are amazing, and coming up different shades of pink/purple. Also white ones are coming up where I know I haven’t put them, lovely surprises.

    1. kate says:

      It’s lovely, isn’t it? It’s getting bigger, too… one or two retail sites say it’s an annual, but Kew have it firmly down as a perennial, and I know who I believe – but it is it’s first flowering year, so we’ll see. Lucky you with surprise white foxgloves – I’ve had a couple, but that’s all. There are some really interesting varieties of Digitalis coming on the market now, too. Hm – must stop spending money, ho ho!!

  8. hillwards says:

    I love your pennisetum – I grew it from the RHS seed scheme last year too, but then I think I must have accidentally ripped them out earlier this year thinking it was rogue grass *sigh*. Hopefully I still have some seeds left, so will try again – and label them subtly for the following year!

    1. kate says:

      I so nearly did that – easily done, not like me to be so careful… definitely worth a reseeding, so go for it (mind you, I did have patchy germination – I’ll keep my fingers crossed)!

  9. It has indeed been a strange year with weather. I have loved the cooler temperatures, but I have found myself anxious for some things to begin sprouting or blooming. I like your happy surprises.

    1. kate says:

      According to the weather forecast, we’re in for a heatwave at the weekend. I’ll believe it when it happens, but it might – because I’ve asked P to chop some more logs. That should bring about an immediate improvement!

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