Tag Archives: colour

Summer’s back, in white and blue…

Oh, this has been a silly year. And, just to top off the most peculiar growing season, summer appears to be back. Except at night, mind. But that does mean that the garden is having a final flash of colour, though intriguingly there’s been a bit of a colour shift.

I normally associate this time of year with oranges and reds (heleniums – over) and yellows (rudbeckia – thinking about flowering but still not sure). Oh, I’ve got some, yes: marigolds and (I suppose they count) grasses, and for the reds a surprisingly late Bishop of Llandaff dahlia. But I’ve gone white:


with a good big clump of echinacea which is quite unusual for me. (Yes, I know they’ve been chewed. Everything’s been chewed.)

I’m putting their success down to the fact that I went berserk in one of my post-work evening forays into the garden this summer and ripped out all the sidalacea which has been running riot. I didn’t know this would improve life for the echinacea; it was a happy accident, but a fortuitous one. I learned at our village garden club that echinaceas like air and light at the base (thanks to Christine ffoulkes Jones of Hall Farm Nursery for that info). They’ve certainly got that now that the ******* sidalacea is dust.

The cosmos have finally decided to flower,

cosmos and bee

and are attracting a lot of attention from the bees, even if this one didn’t hang around to be photographed in situ. The sheer number of cosmos partly accounts for the whitening of the garden, but I really wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if some of them had decided to flower earlier, honestly I wouldn’t.

The garlic chives are also late, but they’re providing a nice allium note in what is really autumn, so I don’t object in the slightest…


and nor do I object to another late performer, the agapanthus. We split a huge clump last year, brutally hacking it into four and leaving one quarter where it was. Three of the quarters flowered at roughly – very roughly – the normal time; one didn’t. It’s only just gone over.


It’s the transplanted quarter which is probably in the most sheltered position, or so I thought. But in actual fact we had some vile east winds earlier in the season, and this is in the direct line of fire (look at the pittosporum on the left; that’s suffered a bit too). That is the only possible reason I can come up with, but it’s probably rubbish.

And then there’s a random blue which I love:


Chicory – just came up spontaneously. And I’d love it a lot more if it wasn’t so huge and didn’t sprawl everywhere, but it is a most beautiful colour so I daresay I can forgive it.

But the most notable plants in the garden at the moment are the actaeas, aka cimicifugas. It’s not just the sheer height (this one is almost as tall as the giant hedge which makes it about 2.5 metres),


it’s also the scent and the sheer presence. Even if mine are not as completely covered in butterflies as one in Karen’s (The Artist’s Garden) was last night:

karen's butterflies

Or at least if it has been, I’ve not noticed it. Direct sunlight would seem to be the key to butterfly madness (I’ve got bees, and so has Karen), so I shall go and watch mine closely in the middle of the day. Fingers crossed!

Where’s this year going? Phew…

I know, eek, I know I’ve got to get up the hill and check out my hawthorn before the 14th for the monthly tree following meme; I’ve got to get another book proposal finished pretty soon; I’ve got to do some research for the next book, anyway; I’ve got to get my things ready for the garden club’s summer show on Wednesday, plus I’m sorting out some show admin and stewarding; I’ve got to get stuff done for a craft pop-up I’m inhabiting in about ten days’ time… and the rest.

Every so often, though, I do manage to get into the garden, weather (and what weather) permitting. And when I’m there I sometimes manage to lift my head from the weeding, the cutting back, the ripping out of foxgloves from inappropriate places, the removal of ‘gifts’ of various kinds (pre- and post-eating, ergh, or maybe that should be fresh and, um, processed) left for me by Next Door’s Cat. And it’s not been that bad, you know.

Salvia hot lips

Even if it did take my Salvia ‘hot lips’ ages to remember that it was supposed to be in two colours and respond to what I am going to call summer. Well, vague warmth, anyway.

When I left London after, as my mother would doubtless have put it, ‘coming to my senses’ I thought life might be less frantic. My memory must have been playing tricks on me. This goes some way to explain why I’ve not posted much recently. Either I’m so glued to the screen editing and writing that I can’t face voluntary screen time, or I’m rushing frantically from one place to another in a cloud of dust and a Toyota Auris. Some measure of how bonkers life is at the moment can be judged by the fact that I was in Tesco at 8am because it was the only time available. Start your day the Tesco way. No, thanks, really, that’s fine…


I think I’d rather be in the garden. Or anywhere, with the possible exception of South London. Or, OK, I admit it, Barmouth on a sunny Saturday. Well, sitting in a queue of cars to get into Barmouth on a sunny Saturday – I counted 614, mostly stationary, as I was travelling in the opposite direction last week. Where they all thought they were going to park, I don’t know.

Er, garden!

My directly sown seed bed has been amazing this year. Great clouds of nigella, interestingly all self-sown and split into two broad patches of colour – white and blue – were most gratifying, and the poppies have been good too. Some verbascums popped up unexpectedly, and I’ve got a huge spontaneous chicory plant as well. The cosmos and antirrhinums I sowed into seed trays and then planted out might possibly flower. Only might, mind. Direct sowing for me, and in the autumn, too.


I planted this lily – Hiawatha – in October 2013, and it has been absolutely lovely this year; it was good last year, but this has been better. I also seem to have acquired a freebie, somewhere where I’d not planted one – surely a year is too soon for it to spread itself about? And the monarda has been lovely too, so it’s not all gloom and doom. It is in the veg patch, but I’ll gloss over that. At least I’m not alone.

And when I drive up the hill, rushing between one thing and the next, I get a cheering reminder that there is indeed a garden by my house:


I planted a couple of Crocosmia Lucifer in the bed by the side wall of the chapel house almost two years ago. We’re on a hill, and the lane is cut into what would be the normal lie of the land, so the side of my garden is actually about six feet higher at the bottom end – yes, there’s a wall, and yes, it’s in good nick – than the road. The Lucifers, now vastly increased in number, look spectacular and make you do a double-take if you don’t realise how high the ground is behind the wall. In my case, the double take comes as I remember I haven’t been down there for a few days and there’s a suspicious smell. That would be the NDC, aka FluffyBum, again, no doubt.

Next, I’ll get up the hill to my followed tree, honestly!

(Incidentally, there seems to be something of a red theme happening in my garden this year. Strangely, all of it was planted before we even knew the result of the last election, let alone that Jeremy Corbyn would be standing for Labour leader. The garden clearly knew. I seem to have a socialist garden.)

Spring is sprung – maybe…

Ok, it’s here. My snowdrops are over, the daffodils are flowering, the equinox is passed, the Garden Club spring show is on Wednesday: it’s spring. Of course, it’s still $3!!**5% cold at night (we’ve had frosts) and there’s a nasty bite to the wind, but I’ve almost run out of chopped logs so it has to be spring.

And anyway, this has happened. Colour has come back to the garden, and not before time:


I do love my chionodoxas.

The wonderful chionodoxa carpet, which I feared had been disturbed by the taking down of the rowan and consequent rebuilding of the wall above which it spread, is back. The little darlings have shrugged off emergency tree surgery, gales, demolition, trampling, me helping, men with chainsaws, men with boulders and the attentions of the Hell Hound of Harlech. In fact, I think they’re better than ever. They’re spreading, too.

I love my chionodoxas, and I love my primroses as well. They’re coming out in their hundreds – it will soon be thousands – and they are everywhere.

prims and chio

They’re in amongst the chionodoxas, the daffodils, the hedges. They’re in paths, beds, the lawns, walls. They run riot in the meadow where they appreciate the lack of cutting (in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to see clearly where the paths have been mown in the past by the relative absence of primroses). At present they’re mostly the wild, pale yellow variety…

but then this happens:

coloured primrose

There are more and more of the coloured variants of the wild form, in everything from an almost grey yellow and greyish-pink, through salmon and pale pink to a really deep crimson. They’re not uncommon round here, and the primrose class at the Spring Show always includes a rich range of colours. I was bowled over with them when I first saw them, and I still am. Lovely things.

I’ve a newbie this year: hellebores. I’ve never been really into them; my brother adores them, and I let him fill the vacant hellebore niche in our gardening-mad family. But in recent years I’ve been given some lovelies, all singles, all orientalis:


I need to have three perfect blooms for the show (I know I won’t win, but I’m determined to enter), all of the same variety, and they have to float in a bowl. As does my camellia, which is astonishigly still flowering though it’s been at it since November – it is beginning to look a bit ratty, mind. Or the double one is ratty, the single – well, we’ll see.

The meadow is really starting it’s thing, what with the daffs and the prims and everything – oh, the anemones, how could I forget the anemones?


Mostly deep blue, some paler and a few white. Again, they’re spreading, and I’m so glad they are. Go anemones!

Walking up this way I saw a sort of haze, a blur, a vagueness, over the old bonfire site. Last year I planted it up with some foxgloves from other places in the garden, but that wasn’t it. I even thought it was my glasses. But it wasn’t:

moss flowering

It’s been colonised by the prettiest, softest moss – all flowering away like mad. This is the meadow so I don’t care – and anyway if I tried to eliminate moss from this garden I’d be left with lawns that looked like an outbreak of a particularly virulent skin disease and a nervous breakdown. It’s not going to happen. You have to come to terms with some things. Like the sudden loss of rowan trees. Opportunities, not disasters. And I love the textures of moss. I could have been twisted away form the path of righteousness by winning moss garden classes in the village show when I was a child – and I’m pleased to say there’s a class for them in our show on Wednesday. My one regret is that I’m not either 5 and under or 6–11. Rats.

And it’s sunny, right now, so I’m going out to do a bit of tweaking before I go to work.

colour returns

Or I could just dance around the garden singing ‘The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hooray, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play…’

One day of sun (a not-at-all wordless Wednesday)

Yesterday was lovely. It was mild, it was still and – shhhhh – the sun shone. To celebrate I took a quick turn round the garden, and I was surprised by how much is still in flower. Oh, there are the hangers on: the now-tatty cosmos still with a few white flowers, the dahlia still blooming away, the salvia ‘hot lips’ whose flowers are now almost entirely white. But some things have suddenly appeared which are a sign that we are in deep autumn, and heading towards winter.

The Viburnum is always the first, and sometimes it starts flowering really early, almost in late summer. Not this year, though; it’s getting into its stride now:


and the scent is lovely. It’s up at the top of the garden, near where logs are chopped, and its fragrance seems to merge with the sweet resinous smell of the cedar logs. (No clothes moths up there, then… OK, that’s partly the absence of clothes – hang on, no nude log chopping here, rather the absence of stored clothes. Oh, I’m just getting more complicated. Leave it… but cedar is a good moth-repellant.)

The yellow jasmine hedge is gearing up for the seasonal show too,


and though I used to regret that this had no scent, I’m now convinced that it’s just as well. If it did, it would be overwhelming.

All the mushrooms in the meadow have gone, and I have a lovely show of autumn crocuses in the meadow proper instead (they were along one edge earlier). I’m becoming used to the fact that they are clearly migratory, as there were none last year – or any year – where I now have a substantial clump:


They’ve been flowering for a couple of weeks now, quite happily. (I marked their position with a large stake as P would be quite capable of hitting them with the mower when he’s in the zone – he’s mowed crocuses before, and other things like, agh, spotted heath orchids. No further comment necessary.) And then yesterday I spotted another collection,

crocus 2

which I swear I’d not seen before, this year or any year. Mind you, they were making themselves rather obvious in the sun, glorying in the warmth and light. I felt much the same myself!

The bottom garden is in more shadow at this time of year, but I couldn’t miss the cherry. Poor old thing, it really is on its last legs – we took a substantial branch off it recently in case it fell off and smashed through the roof of the chapel house next door – but it soldiers on. I have certainly no intention whatsoever of doing anything about it until it is absolutely necessary, because every winter, generally around Christmas, it does this:


It’s stunning. Keep your fingers crossed that it lives on for a few more years!

Hot Hot Hot Hot

Actually, today isn’t that hot, but it has been. And the good weather is coming back – oh yes it is – and may even get better: Derek, Wales’s Weather God, has been tweeting about a potential heatwave. But for now I am consoling myself with the thought that at least the water butts are full again.

The plants, on the other hand, are hot. Hot hot hot:

Dahlia Procyon

so hot you can almost warm your hands on them, or at least this Dahlia is. It’s Procyon, and isn’t at all bad considering that it cost me 75p in Wilkinsons. When I spend, I spend.

The bottom bed, which I intend to be a hot bed – well, warm shading to hot – is beginning to work it.


There’s still a lot of bare ground, but it is only the second year, and we did shift a lot of things round last autumn and again in the spring, so they’re sulking. But the Crocosmia Lucifer isn’t, and neither are the Heleniums. Those are bunching up beautifully, and I have the makings of a good clump of Moerheim Beauty (in the foreground). I’d intended to move the Agapanthus (Agapanthi?), but they’re staying put. All this heat needs some cool blue.

I aimed to fill up the edge with some marigolds. Last year I had some big African marigolds which went on for ages and were quite tall; this year I got some French ones for the front. I’m thrilled by how variable they are, and how delicious:


I love the way that the paler orange underside to the petals almost seems to outline the darker fronts on this one, and on this:


and then there’s the girly frilliness of this one,

marigold 2

and the form of this one:

marigold 3

I’ve always been a bit sneery about French marigolds before, but never again. And I’ll be growing them next year, maybe in a more prominent place and in greater numbers. I’d better get some seed in. They are, for interest, simply described as ‘Durango Mixed’, and I’ll say they are mixed. Wilkinson’s, again, possibly at the same time that I splashed out my 75p on the Dahlia.

From an all together higher class of supplier (*adopts lofty tone and sticks nose in air*), come these lilies:

Hiawatha lilies

They are Hiawatha from Peter Nyssen last year, and though they’re only short this year, they will get bigger. They’re not in the hot bed, but are giving extra warmth to my middle bed, where they go brilliantly with the Monarda (a sulkee – but a survivor – of the Spring Move).

I have a love affair of long standing, but it’s with a bit of rough. Oh, all right – it’s red geraniums.


I’ve got to have them, and this year I put pots and pots of them along the kitchen path, the path from the road to the door that everyone uses (front doors are largely ornamental, of course; for a long time mine wouldn’t even open). The path is in shade for much of the day; not only is it cut down into the slope of the ground, it also has the house on one side and a retaining wall topped with a rose hedge on the other. I thought the red geraniums would warm it up a little, which they do. They’re also quite protected here (by the standards of my garden, that is), and don’t suffer too much damage in the rain. But boy, do I need my water butts to be full. Every year I swear there won’t be so many pots, and every year there are… and they even increase. Sigh.

Finally, there’s the other interpretation of ‘hot’, of course:

ta dah

This is another of the 75p dahlias. It’s Tsuki Nori No Shisha and on reflection it might have been £1.00. Not bad, especially considering that the flower is bigger than a saucer, and that it gives the middle bed a real zap.

(It also hides earwigs, but to quote Some Like It Hot – and I evidently do – ‘nobody’s perfect’.)

Morning sun in the garden

After my last post – on enjoying the evening sun and appreciating the garden rather than working in it like a maniac – Pauline from Lead up the Garden Path (hi Pauline) said that she did most of her photography in the mornings. Her shots are lovely, and even though I don’t have her motivation – midge avoidance – I thought I’d give it a go. So out I went, before even having a cup of tea.

The house faces west, and the garden runs round it on the east, south and west sides; the north side (phew) is on the lane running up the hill. Because the hills/mountains/whatever – the Rhinogs, anyway, and the other hills running between the interior and the coast – are to the east of me it takes time for the sun to get high enough to shine into the garden. The first areas in direct sunlight (7.30 today, seven thirty, and that’s at midsummer) are parts of the meadow and the veg patch. Of late I’ve been rather ignoring the veg here, but let me celebrate the golden mangetout,


beautifully lit by the morning sun, which has flowers as pretty as any (almost any) sweet pea. Plus the mangetout – which are pale yellow rather than golden – are delicious; none have made it into the kitchen so far because they make an ideal wandering-around-the-garden snackette.

In the meadow the early sun picks out things which merge into the background later on. Some of the self-heal is enormous, for instance, and until this morning I’d not really noticed that. The ox-eye daisies I can’t miss but they seem to welcome the morning sun, unfolding as they do so:


One effect of the very focused angle of light at this hour is that backgrounds can be very dark. This really makes some things stand out, like the Verbascum chiaxii album, which is much better this year than last:


What a great plant that is. Must get more, different varieties…

By this point I was in desperate need of tea and toast, so I retreated inside and let the sun rise higher up. Another hour, and it had cleared the tree tops as well as the hills and the houses above me, and started lighting up the middle garden. And my unfortunately deep pink bench (‘damson’, my arrrse), which I still haven’t got round to repainting. Ho hum. Turn away from the bench, and there’s this:


Some overgrown cineraria plants which I meant to pull out and didn’t quite get round to removing. OK, they are over a metre tall; OK, I didn’t plan for this colour – but I like it.

In the bottom garden more plants spring into prominence, and another which shouldn’t be flowering where it is currently flowering is this sidalacea. I dug it up and moved it. Oh yes I did. It’s flourishing in its new home. But I think I missed a bit, as the morning sun clearly highlighted:

sidling sidalacea

It’s hiding behind the ginkgo. Hello, plant…

and hello other things I’d missed. I am, for instance, going to be harvesting my first artichoke,

hee hee

…um, providing nothing else harvests it before I do, that is. This is the one veg which has found its way into a flower bed, for the simple reason that it’s a perennial and looks good there. But I love artichokes and they’re not that easy to get hold of round here. By my rules – grow things which are either expensive to buy, difficult to find or which taste much better straight from the soil – I ought to have more of these. But where could I put them? Hmm.

The grasses are doing well, and the Pennisetum rubra is flowering away – I’d forgotten how cute it is, like furry red rabbit tails. Hm, not very much like rabbit tails, but hey.

P. rubra

If I hadn’t gone prospecting into the garden at this hour, I’d never have managed to get the sun behind one of my red rabbit tails. (I keep almost mis-spelling that as ‘tales’ – Red Rabbit Tales, perhaps a Soviet translation of Little Grey Rabbit?)

Clearly time for more tea, but before anything else I had to get the tape measure out.

I grow good foxgloves. That’s not boasting; it’s a statement of fact – they like it round here and flourish all over the place with no encouragement at all from me, nor any exercise of skill (controlling the ******s is where the skill comes in). So I thought I’d add a bit of alternative colour and grew some white ones from seed. Wasn’t sure they’d flower this year, but they have.


Yerrsss, as Jeremy Paxman would say. That’s a roof. Well, it’s a bargeboard. It’s the side of the chapel store at the bottom of my garden, and it’s quite a bit taller than I am, even at this point in the slope. The foxglove is over 2 metres tall, plus it has a kink in it where it got stuck under the bargeboard and decided to grow sideways.

I think it’s something to do with midsummer – well, it is Midsummer Eve and foxgloves are a ‘fairy plant’ in the folk tradition. Maybe druids are involved. I’m surrounded by neolithic monuments, too – perhaps the foxglove is trying to see Ynys Enlli on the horizon, over the roofline (quite a few local megalithic monuments are lined up on that).

So happy solstice from the servant of the Mighty Foxglove – best to keep the Fair Folk happy, especially as the foxglove of fate is still growing – and a happy summer to us all!

Evening sun in the garden

We’ve had a lovely few days, doubtless caused by me having a friend to stay – well, she assured me that it was down to her, and I’m going with that. It’s been gorgeous; my water butts are empty but nothing’s fallen over yet: that perfect point, when a spot of rain would do the trick and I’m not worrying about the cost of using metered mains water – yet. Plus I’ve washed everything in sight, up to and including half a ton of wool, and almost everything that has to be planted has been planted. The broad beans are ready for harvesting, but it’s not reached the insane stage there either. Perfection, really.

I turned round after I’d put the tools away last night (left them scattered all over when work and a garden club committee meeting interrupted) and realised that I can just enjoy the garden…


the evening light,


which always seems to emphasise certain colours, making deep ones even more saturated,


working its magic on colour combinations.


I’m almost used to this valerian/geranium combo, as it’s just outside the front door, but I’d not spotted the euphorbia being quite so striking against the Acer, even though it was no longer in the direct sun – down to light direction and intensity, I guess:


Yes, I know the fennel is a bit feeble. I abuse it on a regular basis but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

And the osteospermums – which will need thinning this year if they’re not going to take over – were still open at 9pm. OK, the sun leaves that bed last, but still. Amazing. Midsummer. Almost.


Sometimes I need reminding that I need to enjoy the garden as well as weed it, coddle it, shout at it, dig holes in it and chase Next Door’s Cat around it. And now I must dig some spuds. Oh well…