Tag Archives: summer

Progress (garden open, 2). And digging.

This post is supposed to be wordless, as it’s Wednesday, but I’ve tried that and I can’t shut up. My word of the day, however, is AGH as I did too much gardening yesterday and my back is protesting. But progress has been made. Less than a week to go to open garden, so that’s just as well.

First, the veg patch. Still needs work, but better. The wind has damaged the squashes, despite the windbreak, but they’re coping.

Veg patch

Next, the meadow. Parts are strimmed, the paths gave been mown, but the bonfire heap still looks like Goosegog Mountain. Tough.

Meadow

Then there’s the horrible wilderness that was the capel bed. This is why my back hurts.

capel bed

I know, I know, all this ought to have been done weeks ago, and so it should. I tried to tell the weather gods, but they weren’t listening. But some lovely things have been happening, even if half the dahlias have been eaten by slugs and snails and earwigs have been snacking on what remains.

Karma Choc dahlia

This is Karma Choc, my favourite. And the Monarda in the background deserves a closer look, too, especially as it’s in its last year. Got a bit weak and scraggly, might try splitting and moving, might just get new.

Monarda

I’ve even uncovered some decent ferns. And now it’s stopped drizzling I must go out and play again. With added paracetamol.

Ferns

I’ll just leave a couple of my outlandish colour combinations, as they cheer me up (even though I’m thinking ‘why would anyone want to come and see this?’ at the moment. First, Salvia ‘Neon’ which my iPad camera wasn’t at all sure about:

Salvia neon

(the silver thyme helps to calm it down a bit), and then my mad euphorbia, rescued from a skip at Chelsea many years ago so, no, I don’t know what it is but it was a new introduction in about 1990, together with Physocarpus ‘little devil’…

Madness

And, yes, the big hedge in the background does need clipping. Another job that isn’t going to happen; freshly mown grass and edged beds will make up for a lot. Right, where’s the Deep Heat?

Summer summary

What a summer – not that the weather’s been spectacular, because it hasn’t, but because I’ve been very busy indeed. When you freelance, you’re used to being busy in the summer because in-house publishers and journalists go on holiday like anyone else, and work doesn’t stop. Now I’m much better (thanks to intensive physio), I’m back working like a loony during summer. It pays for the Maxicrop, that’s what I say.

But all this means the garden has been somewhat neglected. I’ve tried to make sure I got out there for an hour a day, just to try and stay on top of the weeding as well as keeping sane, but It’s not always possible. So It’s great to have whole areas which look after themselves, like the meadow:

meadow July

which has been very good indeed this year. It will soon be time to mow it – mow it, what am I saying? Strim it. Using a big strimmer and a big strong man (flattery will get you everywhere). But the tendency to be about three weeks later than normal this year is still the case – usually by now everything has set seed, but I still have some meadow flowers in bloom.

One of my highlights this year has been the ‘random seed’ bed. Last year it was a little disappointing, and this year I thought I was in for the same – and then I realised that even disappointing plants self-seed:

seeded

and it’s been lovely.

The nigellas have come up in two marked clumps, white and pale blue, and I have tried to perpetuate this when scattering seed as the heads ripen – but I’m sure I won’t have managed it. One thing this has taught me, big time, is the value of autumn sowing – so give it a couple more weeks, and I’ll be out there with my seed packets. The things which I sowed in seed trays in the spring have just not cut the mustard. Some of them – cosmos, are you listening? – have still to flower.

I’ve added some new plants, though I have been quite restrained… this is my Salvia Amistad (I do like to keep up with trends, even if I’m a couple of years late):

Salvia amistad

and my penstemons have been consistently good:

penstemon

This one is a mystery, and if anyone knows what it is, I wouldn’t mind knowing too. At least I wrote it down this time; the only problem is that I’ve written ‘mystery penstemon’. That, Kate, is not the point of keeping records. Must remember this.

On the veg front – meh. Some things have been good – I’m regularly picking a kilo of beans at a time, and I actually reduced the number of plants this year – and some things have been terrible. (Courgettes. Again. Thought I’d cracked it. Wrong.) The spuds have not been good but I do seem to be setting a good number of squashes. My artichokes have also finally been in full production, and one of them won the ‘any other veg’ class at the village show:

artichoke

And, and, and I have finally managed to grow aubergines – or perhaps that should be ‘I have finally managed to grow aubergines without having the whole greenhouse infested with white fly’. That’s thanks to Green Gardener and their Encarsia, which I strongly recommend (and which I bought and have not been paid to push – used it before; this time it really, really worked). Evidently, because I have this

aubergine vincent

instead of a load of plants in the compost bin.

On the fruit front, a lot of apples are dropping but my new pear tree looks promising. Unlike the plum, which is coming out. Not in the sense of revealing to all that it’s a gay plum, but in the sense of being dug up and put on the bonfire. Terrible infestation of plum mites and though it’s laden with fruit now, they are manky and nasty inside. Plus, it’s wasp central. Who cares when you can have Japanese wineberries instead?

Japanese wineberries

Ok, there aren’t enough for a crumble, but who’d want to eat them any other way than off the bush, warmed by the sun? Not moi…

The wildlife has been much in evidence, and that includes Next Door’s Cat who has been a fairly constant companion, at least until feeding time when he vanishes completely, or until I trip over him for the sixth time. It’s also been a great year for the spider population:

spider web

though I realise not everyone will consider this a good thing, and I’ve even heard plenty of crickets which is amazing given the weather.

cricket

But personally I could live without the dead rat that NDC gave me last week. Nice. That’s what your real owners are for, Fluffybum.

Hopefully the arrival of autumn heralds a rather more organised and less frantic pace, and I’ll be able to blog more regularly. I haven’t even been taking lots of photographs – a real indicator of just how busy I’ve been. Right, let’s break out the camera!

The year turns… end of the month view, July

I’ve been very bogged down with work, but there’s a small hiatus due to a disappearing author (I’m sure he’s fine, he’s just gone quiet) – perfect timing for an EOMV post. Not perfect weather, though – overcast with a hintette of drizzle.

July’s been splendid here – even been swimming in the sea – and just when the waterbutts ran dry again, it rained. And at night. But it’s a bit more chancy now – well, Gorffenaf indeed. (Gorffenaf – July – translates as ‘summer’s end’). The Rosa rugosa hedges are laden with hips, and the meadow is beginning to look rather tired:

tired meadow

I think the Big September Strim is more likely to happen in August. Most things have set seed and if there are any complaints whatsoever about the fact that it’s lying rather flat, I shall point to the fact that it’s not been so much a meadow this year as a dog’s playground. She’ll be older next year. Or staked down.

The fruit trees look promising, all except for the eirin bach – the little local wild plum; one’s in the foreground here. This one looks as though it’s got mildew – I had to uproot the nearby mangetout more quickly than I hoped; they were dreadfully affected and it may well have spread – and the other has had plum leaf gall mite something rotten. Out?

Moving down from the meadow,

salvia BA

I have been very pleased with my containers this year. Mind you, I have been all round the garden with the three huge urns filled with Salvia Blue Angel (plus Geranium sidoides and, in one case and totally accidentally, a bright yellow nasturtium). It’s a difficult plant to place, but when I suddenly realised how yellow the middle garden was this year, I knew I’d found the right spot. Ignore the erigeron in the background and look at it with the senecio. So glad I didn’t cut the flower heads off the latter!

The middle garden is going to be changed (again). Here it is, complete with big pink bench of doom.

middle garden

That middle bed – packed with tulips in spring and a sundial and some black cow parsley, and now some dill and not much else – is too small; it has to change (the bench is approx 1.8m / 6ft long, to give an idea of scale). Spent ages working out where the washing line goes, where the biggest clumps of snowdrops are, where the deepest shade falls – and completely forgot to consider the fact that the garden slopes, so there’s only one area for the BPBOD. Redrew plans. Plans not right. Accused of adding shaping for shaping’s sake. Quite right. Plans redrawn. Laid out rough outline with P using canes (I know). Canes danced on by dog.

The upshot is that the middle thing will become part of a new bed which will essentially stretch away at about 10 o’clock (towards that shadow), if you see what I mean. It will expand a bit bench-wards, but not that much because there just isn’t enough flat ground anywhere else. But I need more room for plants and this garden isn’t matching the rest now: it’s too functional, I guess. Washing-line space. Barbecue space. Sitting on the BPBOD and drinking tea space. Not garden space.

Mind you, there are some parts of it I love, like the stipa and the dill and this:

love these

plus the snowdrops are very, very prolific – and spreading. I just need to remember where most of them are. Oh, and avoid the roots of the ash, of course. Most of them. The bigger ones. If possible.

Looking down from the top garden, I’m particularly fond of the evening view towards the sea,

path and capel

(especially with the way the sun highlights the down pipe, ho ho). The Stipa has been fabulous and is just beginning to keel over, though that might be partly down to canine activity, and I wish I’d grown much more dill – foreground, left – and planted a bigger clump. Next year I’ll do that.

I also like the way you move down this path and are immediately confronted with the middle bed in the bottom garden, my spiky special – it’s very tall and full of things like Cirsium and Verbena bonarensis and Verbascum chiaxxi album (just cut back) and Echinops ritro: either I didn’t think this through, or I just need to go with it. It’s not too bad when viewed from behind the lavender hedge.

middle bed and lavender

I’m going with it.

On Monday, P said he thought the garden was looking its best for ages. I’m not so sure; I’ve had one real disappointment, and that may have coloured my view, I suppose. Last year my random seed bed was fab. This year, I carefully assembled a selection of seeds, mixed them up, did exactly what I did last year (except I didn’t plant any in seed trays for security) and – huh.

rats

Most of the things I sowed deliberately have failed to germinate, except for some beautiful scarlet Linum.

rats2

The whole thing is dominated by wild carrot, now dying back unattractively, and feverfew. Both of these seeded themselves last year, as did the poppies – they are lovely – and the nigella. Then there are interlopers, caused by me literally emptying the seed tin over the bed last year:

verbascum

When seen in detail, it’s fine. The trouble is that most of the time you don’t look at it like that; you look at the whole and think ‘what a mess’ because it’s all accidental. I know it was ‘accidental’ last year, but it was a deliberate accident, if you like. However, it has taught me two things: 1) those carrots are coming out, architectural or not, and 2) I will be seeding this bed in the autumn and seeing what happens. I suppose there’s a third: have seed trays planted as back up.

And when it really annoys me, I can turn round and worship my heleniums in the bottom bed:

heleniums

Acer in the background, mostly Moerheim Beauty in the middle, with an Actaea in front of them, and the stems of the Crocosmia Lucifer. And, of course, a dahlia. So autumnal!

 

A birch fruit by any other name… Tree following, July.

I’m just catching up, taking a break from chasing Next Door’s Cat around the garden with a string of shallots (see previous post). Why I’m taking a break from this activity I do not know, given that he gave me a frog this morning. Correction: most of a frog. Ergh. On to something more edifying: my downy birch.

The leaves have almost all lost their freshness, though they seem to regain it in the sun,

leaves and sun

and the sun also reveals the soft slight downiness of the newer twigs. But there’s no denying that the crispness, the startling bright green, has changed.

maturity

It’s a deeper green and the leaves are much less glossy than they were; in Welsh, July is Gorffennaf, which translates as summer’s end.

My birch is still hanging onto what Collins’ Field Guide tells me are its fruit:

fruit

and I decided I’d better investigate them more thoroughly before they all fell off. They’re not ripe yet, but they are definitely heading that way:

downy birch fruitThe scales come off quite easily, and the seed cases inside are getting quite dry. It won’t be long before the ‘cones’ (I suppose I could call them that, though I doubt that it’s technically correct) dry out and release the seeds… Gorffennaf indeed.

So what of the bark, which was still looking orangey-brown and tawny at the start of my tree watching? The newer twigs and the branches are still very orange – burnt orange, really. So is the trunk, from about a metre up. Below that, though, it is definitely beginning to turn more silvery:

birch trunk

A little difficult to see both in this shot, but take it from me: it’s going silvery.

The meadow around the birch is – or should be – at its height. In some ways it still is, but it is far from being physically at its height (usually about as tall as I am, in parts), given that it also doubles as a dog’s playground / dog bed on occasion. There is still a lot of Bird’s Foot Trefoil; the St John’s Wort is flowering and almost all the grasses are shedding seed.

There’s a fair bit of wildlife too; butterflies fluttering by, insects crawling up the grass stems, a couple of crickets shouting at each other. Makes a change from frog-catching felines – though the FCF seems to be nervous in the meadow and waits for me outside it, rather than trailing after me along the mown paths. Wish the same could be said of the dog. However, even the most determined collie pup (and she is) has managed to avoid breaking down all the Hogweed.

hogweed opening

This is coming along nicely, and I do love it. It’s almost triffid-like as it grows, sharing alien qualities with the Angelica gigas which I grew a couple of years ago. Not surprising, really; the coarser members of the carrot family all have this tendency, I think. Again, I should be careful what I wish for: once, I dreamed of more umbellifers. Now, I’ve got them. Only in the garden, in the form of wild carrot, and not in the meadow. Oh well.

Wonder if the leaves will be turning for the next post? There’s been some tweeting about how autumn seems to be early this year; I’m not so sure. But we will see…

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.

beauty

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:

marigold

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:

zap

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.

geranium

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,

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:

daisies

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:

Vca

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:

cineraria

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.

AGH!

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…

path

the evening light,

fern

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

light

working its magic on colour combinations.

wowser

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:

contrast

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.

osteo

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…