Status update…(or an end-of-month view)

It’s drizzling, and has been for ages. P and I stood under the big cedar, contemplating the general wetness of everything and the fact that we were both wearing the sort of gear which would have been fine on a North Sea trawler, and decided that there’d probably be no mowing. He’s gone to do something less outdoorsy and I thought I’d catch up.

Then I found myself looking a little wistfully at sunny pics of the veg patch,

veg patch

ones without flattened potato plants and foot-tall grass, now bent and unmowable, and realised it’s been ages since I managed to post a general round up. I keep missing The Patient Gardener’s End of the Month View meme, which is so useful. Possibly because I’m just too busy weeding. Yeah, right.

Actually, I have been. Since we blitzed everything before the garden open, I’ve almost managed to keep on top of things, though doubtless this current dampness will bring joys like chickweed and cleavers on a treat. Happily there are some areas where it doesn’t matter:


and where all I have to do is keep on top of the paths, which I mow with an old Qualcast hand mower. I did that yesterday (hooray), in a fit of enthusiasm. The foxgloves are new in the meadow this year – one self-seeded last year, so this spring we moved all sorts of foxglove seedlings from all the other places they like to grow and shoved them in here. There’ll be more next year, as many of the baby plants we moved were far too small to flower this time. I also had a mysterious Allium christophii appear in the meadow which I certainly didn’t plant; wonder if that will return?

Back in the veggie area, a lot of work has been done to clear and sort out some parts which had been sort-of ignored. ‘Sort-of’ in that occasionally we’d be working up there and notice a funny smell, think about what it could be and decide not to investigate. But the winter storms stripped the skimmias surrounding the oil tank, and the extra visibility was not a good thing. Time to sort out the compost bins. And remove a giant fuchsia from the top corner, too.

veg patch and smelly bits

While I really don’t need to contemplate the glory that is the oil tank, I am quite happy to stare at the neat corner with the compost bins. The oil tank will be obscured again soon as the skimmias recover; any reappearing fuchsia, on the other hand, will be ruthlessly eliminated. I may even be forced into the use of – shhhh – aggressive chemicals. It was busy growing through the wall, and that could not be allowed to continue.

In the middle garden, the most impact is coming from my Stipa gigantia, planted last year by the stump of the cedar. It’s amazing in the evening light,


and even looks good this morning, shivering with slivery drops of rain. I am so very glad I planted this – it was touch and go at one point, as I wasn’t convinced it would fit. And it definitely does.

Down in the bottom garden, the beds are finally filling out. The parahebes are spectacular, especially the purple one,


which is unfortunately anonymous; it was given to me by a friend as it didn’t like living at her house (I think she’s regretting it now). It’s certainly happy here, flowering away heavily for ages, and the bark chippings below it are purple with fallen flowers.

The standing stones are still working as a focus, though I may have to rethink the planting around one set in the bottom bed, but I’m generally pleased with the effect. This is the trio, and I think they’re about right – for the moment. What they’ll look like with a Bishop of Llandaff dahlia in front, I’m not sure. OK, I hope.

standing stones

The spiky-leaved thing behind the foreground geranium (a striatum) is a blue agapanthus; the one in the background is Crocosmia lucifer. The two geraniums are moving elsewhere as their colour is wrong for the way this bed has evolved, and the dahlias are beginning to show themselves and fill up the gaps. In the far background is one of my giant ferns – Dryopteris felix-mas – but this is a baby. It’s only bottom height. Most are waist height or taller; I’m waiting for one to get taller than I am. My garden = temperate rainforest.

The bark chippings are about to run out, but they’ve been great – the last of the Western Red Cedar and assorted other tree work (ash, mostly). They also fulfill a highly important function which I’d not suspected: ideal cat bed. I don’t have cats. Don’t get me wrong; I like cats. I’ve often had cats. But for now, I don’t have cats.

not my cat

They do not know this.

This is Mum, aka Next Door’s Cat, the digging dragon, fleece snorgler extraordinare (many cats have a wool fetish; ‘snorgling’ is the technical term), Splodge (for obvious reasons). I also have visits from her long-furred son, known familiarly as Fluffy Bum (also for obvious reasons), who is very friendly indeed and likes to play Trip the Gardener. Then there’s Smoke – grey, mad as a bucket of snakes – and the White Cat who patrols the top garden.  None of them is fazed in the slightest by the visiting dog. My aim in life is to train them to go after slugs. Watch this space.

And in the meanwhile, I’m watching the roses.

first rose

The very first one has opened on the rose hedge by the kitchen. Despite the weather, that means it’s summer. Really.


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Summer? Are you sure?! Though in fairness Saturday was spectacularly gorgeous and even today I am wearing a T shirt. I have goosebumps, but I am wearing a T shirt… Without a fleece… I was selfishly grateful for the rain yesterday as it settled all the plants in nicely and topped up the water butts. Sorry.

    I’m sure the Bishop will associate splendidly with the standing stones, unless he takes exception to the celtic hints and tries to turn them in to gothic churches or something. OK, I think I may have lost my marbles somewhere. Cleavers and bittercress are everywhere – weed, admire cleared ground, sit down and have a cup of tea, return to admire cleared ground, spot more weeds, repeat. But thank you, your Stipa gigantea has me totally convinced that I must have this in my front garden. And your compost bin area is enviably neat. Fancy tackling mine?!

    1. kate says:

      Compost bin – how can I put this? NO! (We had to empty one of the bins to move it, revealing that skanky fleece takes a long time to rot down, as do feathers from an old pillow. It looked like the Swan Maiden had mated with a sheep, died and been inexplicably interred in a plastic tub.)

      Oh, bittercress, how could I forget bittercress? And swinecress, which a (male) friend of mine has become obsessed with trying to remove? We haven’t the heart to tell him…

  2. Despite the awful weather you are experiencing the garden is coming along nicely – those foxgloves will look great in the meadow – its’ amazing how good a single on looks. Don’t you just love the noise of a manual lawn mower, there is something so nostalgic about it.
    I smiled at your pet names for the neighbours cats. I have 3 cats and have another 5 that pass through regularly. I’ve got names for them more suited to their natures than their owners gave them but I wouldn’t dare tell them what I call one or two of them 🙂

    1. kate says:

      I’ve definitely got hooked on foxgloves – you’re completely right about the impact of a single one. Unfortunately I think we moved too many, so my original site has a grand total of one, but I’ll be a bit more measured next year!

      Oh boy, the cats. I’ve just done my morning round of the garden with Fluffy Bum, who has now discovered that he can sit on the path and see into the house (the back of the house is partly into the hill) at just the right level for him to make eye contact. Silent miaowing would be more effective if I didn’t know he had at least three homes, including his official ‘owner’. This used to happen to my mum too, I’m glad we’re not alone. At least Fluffy Bum is vaguely acceptable; mum had one visitor she called Stinky, and I won’t go into the other names either!

  3. Helen Johnstone says:

    I think you garden looks lovely and so lush. I have alliums in the back garden when I only planted them in the front garden so I assume they have found their way there somehow! I have a stipa like yours and they do look wonderful in the evening light. Thanks for joining in again this month

    1. kate says:

      I’m definitely hooked on that Stipa – they are soooo glorious in the evening light. It’s unlike me to get a plant placing so right first time round!

  4. Christina says:

    Love the Stipa, difficult to go wrong with that!

  5. Anna says:

    Oh that stipa looks as if it is in just the perfect place Kate. Mine is the allotment which is a shame as I don’t get to see it in the evening or come to think of it as often as I would like. I must remedy the situation and plant one in the garden. Oh do let me know if you succeed in training those cats to earn their visiting rights. We have three regular feline visitors who provide us with much amusement and occasionally with the odd interrupted night’s sleep.

    1. kate says:

      When I placed it I was a bit worried – I’d seen stipas in Karen’s (Artist’s) garden, perfectly positioned for the evening sun, and I didn’t think I had a spot that would replicate the effect. Until recently I thought I’d got it wrong – it’s the changing angle of the sun over time that’s made the difference. Wrong earlier in the year, right now. Wonder how it will look as the year moves on? Exciting!

      Oh yes, the interrupted sleep. We had a bit of an argy-bargy last night – must be the season for it. But I’m not sure I can blame the Interloping Three as I know they’ve all been fixed, ahem… Suspect the cats are training me, alas.

  6. hillwards says:

    Your stipa does look stunning in the evening light. I have seedheads from my MILs to sow, though they’ll catch the morning light here … and that’s getting a bit too early in the wee hours for me to even think about wandering outside to enjoy, even though my bump is already remarkably insistent that I should be woken up every couple of hours!

    1. kate says:

      I’m quite sure that fairly soon you will be able to appreciate a stipa at all hours of the day and night, especially – oh – about 3 a.m. Just about time for those seed heads to grow too… Just saying!

      1. hillwards says:

        That’s what worries me!!

  7. wellywoman says:

    Well it’s looking more like summer today than it did yesterday. That photo of the stipa is just beautiful, the light is stunning. I wish I was more of a morning person. I know the light is so much better for photography but it’s a struggle to get up most mornings as it is. As for training cats to catch slugs, now that is a fantastic idea and would be a great way for them to redeem themselves for all the mess they leave in my garden. ;0 I fear cats are too independently spirited to take instruction though.

    1. kate says:

      Summer = temporary, alas. If anyone asked me to sum up this year so far in one word, it would have to be ‘wind’. The stipa is now face down in the rosa rugosa hedge, though I have hopes of it pinging back up.

      (Slug training going badly. Playing with bent stipa heads, however, is progressing rather well…)

      1. wellywoman says:

        My neighbour’s cat likes Stipa tenuissima. It likes MY Stipa tenuissima a lot, so much so it nestles on to it as if it is a cat cushion. I got so fed up of my stipa being flattened and spending the summer with a cat bottom imprint that I’ve moved them to the very edge of my raised beds. The cat doesn’t seem so enamoured with them now. 😉 Hope your stipa pings back and isn’t flattened by a thundery downpour.

        1. kate says:

          So it’s not just Fluffy Bum! So far, FB’s fondness for the Stipa has been something of a blessing, distracting him from other things (like using the whole garden as a cat toilet or following me about like an insistent furry shadow). But if he thinks for one moment that he is using it as a cat bed then I shall seed it with holly leaves and see how he likes that.

          It’s just the Stipa for him – no other grasses have the same appeal. What is it with Stipas, I wonder?

  8. Pauline says:

    Your Stipa is beautiful and in just the right place, it’s my favourite grass. They do look so beautiful with the sun shining through them, the flower heads are almost like spun gold!

    1. kate says:

      So right; they are so beautiful – I can’t quite believe that most of my gardening life has been stipa-free. What a waste!

  9. lizard100 says:

    Looking great in your garden.

  10. Cathy says:

    I enjoyed reading your catch up post, Kate, with all its goings-on. What a shame that your stipa is not looking a perfect now as it did when you took that lovely photo – and I am looking forward to your tips on slug training cats in due course 😉

    1. kate says:

      Stipa just recovered a bit in yesterday’s dryness, and now it’s flat again. GRRR.

      Between us, I and a neighbour – neither of us the official Cat Owners, btw – have trained Fluffy Bum in traffic-calming measures. He sits in the middle of the lane and has a long, veeeery slow wash. Yesterday evening two cars had to wait while he finished (well, they could have run him over, I suppose, but not with me one side and neighbour the other as witnesses). Slugs should be easy

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