Thursday, 30 June 2011

End of month review - June

and so it is flaming June!  Well not very flaming though there have been a couple of very hot days, its been blowy June and quite dry June and actually a fairly meh June if truth be told.  I shall start this end of the month review with a view from the garden bench.  I have to say I am quite pleased with this view.  The self seeded vebascum are doing well and the Lychnis Coronaria is also looking splendid.
The roses are all steam ahead, with many coming to the end of their first flush of flowers.  This Rosa 'Young Lycidas' is a prolific flowerer.  The weight of its blooms are too much for its stems a lot of the time and I need to support it better than I do at the moment.  It does look lovely though here dipping its head to say hello to the foxgloves and Eschscholzia californica.
The sweets peas are just getting into the swing of things.  These are blooming wonderfully, but are ahead of my others which are still working up to their first flowers.  Cupani is probably my favourite sweet pea; so easy to grow, so pretty and such a scent!

The clover is enjoying the drought period we have had.  It has meant the lawn has not been cut very frequently and I have never seen so much clover as I have this year.  It is alive with bees all the time and even if it is cut down, it soon pops up again merrily.
The vegetables are also coming alot well.  The first crop of broad beans is now eaten and my peas have nearly finished their first crop too.  The cobra beans are just starting to develop and the first courgettes has been consumed.

The spinach has bolted, but I ate some and the pak choi has flowered (maybe I should have eaten that a little faster too!)  My broccoli is coming on a treat and I have eaten my first potatoes.  Last year I struggled with keeping control of my vegetable beds.  A moment's distraction meant a sea of weeds took over.  This year I have been far more careful and whilst it is by no means weed-free, I am happier with it.  I allow some poppies, nasturtians and marigolds to self seed around the vegetables a bit, I like the colour and also a bit of free spirit in an otherwise regimented space.
and the poppies, oh the poppies this year have been magnificent!  Many are going over to seed heads now, but June has seen some incredible flowers.  So many shades of red, purple, pink and violet.  Some single, some frothy multi-layered poppies.  June has been a month of poppies.
The little cherry tree is covered in cherries this year, it looks so beautiful and so far untouched by the birds.  it is kind of them to leave them on the tree for me, except I don't like cherries so really I am happy for the birds to enjoy them.
The pond is still very low.  We have had some rain in June, but the pond is very depleted.  It teams with life though.  There are tadpoles galore and little tiny froglets.  The water boatmen dance their ripples around the surface and dragon and damsel flies are frequent visitors.  This time last year though I had lots of dragonfly larvae emerging from the pond.  This year I have so far not seen any.  I worry a bit about this, but I can see the dragonfly dipping their tails into the water laying their eggs so I am hopeful that all is well.

That is it for this month's End of Month Review, an idea started by the Patient Gardener thanks Helen for making me consider by garden each month.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The wild meadow

or more rightly, a slightly miffed bit of the garden
I know I am really lucky to have what is quite a large garden for a suburban house.  This garden is my dream come true and developing different bits of it gives me great happiness.  The lady who sold me the house showed me the garden and explained it was easy to look after, it was at that point only grass.  I have cut out borders and continue to plan new areas, but one of the areas that first seemed right to me was to develop a meadow/wild area in the top left hand corner.
I let the grass grow and I have planted in various native wild flowers bought as plugs.  These are now starting to come into their own in their third year of planting.

I mow paths through the grass for most of the year.  In September I get into 'grim reaper dude' mode and scythe it all down.  Buying a scythe was probably the most exciting thing ever, so easy to use, so sharp and very good for the hips!


The clover and the daisies are coming on well.

In the summer this part of the garden is alive with butterflies and moths.  The bees love it.   I am not a bee expert, but I have seen so many different types of bee since developing this area in the garden.

The feverfew grows well, but so do some other plants I am not so sure I want to see.  The nettles, thistles, dock and cuckoo weed can take over at times.  I sometimes spot-weedkill these to try and let the flowers come through.

The shorter grass in the paths allow flowers like this to spread, carpets of purple appear.

The lawn clover also grows well, attracting bees.

This area of the garden sometimes just looks a mess, sometimes it looks wonderful, at the moment its a bit half and half but in general it makes me happy.  It is not a lazy way of gardening as it does have to be managed, but it is worth it for all the wildlife it brings.  I could not truly call it a wild meadow, but it is untamed.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Purple reign

Atriplex Hortensis, or purple orach is possibly the king of self seeders.  I have mentioned previously that I am a fan of self seeders, but that they are not without their downsides.  I think it is possible that every seed that the Atriplex Hortensis develops germinates into a plant; and they develop a lot of seeds.
I was given my packet of Atriplex seeds at Great Dixter, following a day event I attended a few years ago.  This small packet of seeds was given with the caution that it can self seed proflically and that once you have it, you will never be without it.  These were indeed words of truth.

I carefully nurtured my first seedlings and I let them set seed as I was happy to see some plants for free.  Some, did I say some?  If you turn your back on these seedlings for a millisecond they romp around the garden like some sort of alien invader.
Yet the foliage is beautiful; the colour works so well in the garden.  These are good plants to grow.

They grow well, they grow tall - four to five feet tall at times.  They are also called purple orach and are a form of wild spinach.  They are annual, but that is irrelevant as they will seed and you will have  them forever.
However forewarned is fore-armed and this is not an ungrateful grumble.  I now know to weed them assiduously from the moment they start to appear.  They are easy to recognise as a seedling due to their colour.

Like all self seeders they know where to place themselves to the best effect.  If you turn your back for a minute there is one that you have missed.  Some seem to appear fully formed at two foot tall, when you are certain you had cleared every one from that area.
However they look so stunning, so architectural and with good foliage colour that I remain grateful for my free packet of seeds. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Rosa 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'

or if its good enough for Vita .........
Souvenir du Docteur Jamain is a very beautiful rose.  It has lush dark red petals and it smells like a rose should smell.  It has a strong scent that on a warm day wafts across to where I sit in the garden.

I sought this rose out because I read that it was Vita Sackville West's favourite rose, well if its good enough for Vita then it is certainly good enough for me......

...... but.......
It has a tendency to be a bit manky (manky is a technical term).  Not all the flowers open, the buds quite often just stay balled up and whither away.

I know that this can be caused by rain/damp conditions, but this year it has not been very damp so far and this rose more than any other in garden suffers from this problem.  This is easily solved by removing the dead looking flowers so that new ones will develop. 
The rose does produce more good flowers than not and the colour and scent more than makes up for its irritating habit of mankiness.  I only have two, one shrub and one climber and the climber performs better than the shrub.  However, the climber has not actually climbed very far either, so it is a plant with some disappointment attached to it .....

....but if its good enough for Vita then it is good enough for me.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Of temper and gardening

As an avid tweeter, it was not long before I came across Anne Wareham on Twitter.  Anne is the author of 'The Bad Tempered Gardener' (Frances Lincoln Ltd 2011) and my daughter kindly bought me the book for my birthday.  This book has been much reviewed and commented upon, so to a point what is there left to say?  But since when has that stopped me from putting in my two-penn'worth.
The title is explained as a play on the title of the Christopher Lloyd classic 'The Well Tempered Garden' (Cassell & Co 2001, first published in 1970).  This is without doubt my favourite gardening book.  One reason that I rate this book so highly is that it is not full of glossy photographs, the text is sufficient enough.  Unlike most gardening books I own (and I own a lot), this is a book I do not dip in to and put down; I have read it from cover to cover several times.  It stands as a good piece of writing on its own, not just a good piece of garden writing.
But back to Anne's book.  I think it fair to say that Anne never intended it to be judged in the same league, it is a play on titles not a comparative work.  Anne's book does have beautiful photographs taken by her husband Charles Hawes, but not too many or large to make it a picture book; the text is clearly the important thing.

I am not going to comment on the temper or not of Anne.  I cannot get surprised that an intelligent woman is capable of having an opinion, never mind more than one.

When I read the book what delighted me was that the oft mentioned contentious opinions do not overwhelm the book.  I thought the book well structured.  Others have said it dots around a bit, I actually found this a useful mechanism.  There are the chapters on the garden, various plants and the things Anne wants to share her opinions on.  It starts with an introduction to herself and her husband, then to the story and history of the garden itself before starting onto what is the meat of the book.  If the book did not move around from subject to subject it would be too dense to read and would feel unbalanced; whereas I think it keeps you interested by changing tack for each chapter.

The book contains a wealth of subjects, from choosing mowers to deal with meadow grass to discussions of hellebores and hostas.  Anne also talks us through the development of the garden, what went well and what has not gone well.  I particularly like that Anne talks through the history and the meanings of the garden.  I enjoy particularly gardening that has meaning as well as being beautiful.

I have not met Anne yet, but the book has a really strong voice to the point I feel I can hear her speaking.  It also is a very personal book, it deals with her relationship with her garden and her husband and how these are clearly totally entwined.  This gives the book an emotional touch that was not expected.

I don't agree with everything that Anne says, but then I don't think I have read a gardening book yet where I have agreed with every word.  Gardeners have their own opinions on what they like, what they don't, what they do and how they think it should be done; this is not news.

It is well worth a read and hopefully Anne will not mind my temerity in writing this, I will meet her in a couple of weeks when I am going to visit her garden Veddw and The Laskett (Sir Roy Strong's garden) so I hope I am still allowed in!

The books:

The gardens:  

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Art depicts landscapes and plants in so many different ways.  There are the highly detailed botanical drawings that are breathtaking in their beauty and skill through to abstract images of nature.  Sometimes the landscape/flowers are the background, sometimes they are the main event.  Art has been capturing nature since art began.

Today I have been reminded of one of my favourites; 'Tiger in a Tropical Storm' by Henri Rousseau (1891), which was first displayed under the title 'Surpris!'
I first saw this painting on Blue Peter, yes I was an avid Blue Peter watcher as a child and many things I saw on that programme have stayed with me.  What I remember most about the painting was that Rousseau had never left France when he painted it, he painted what he imagined to be a tropical jungle from visiting botanic gardens.

This makes me think about jungle/exotic planting in general.  I do not have what would be termed an exotic garden, but I do have bamboos and I did have a tree fern.  I grow bananas, dahlias and cannas and a host of plants not native to the British Isles.  I am not aiming for a jungle look but many do and the results are often amazing.
We create landscapes in our gardens that are not necessarily accurate but they make the best of the environment/climate/soils that we have.  Like this painting they might not be exactly what the tiger would have lived in but they are pleasing to our eyes and bring happiness to our souls.

(photo of Austin pretending to be a tiger, not.)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Rosa Gallica 'Rosa Mundi'

I have never really liked stripey plants, I have very few varigated varieties in my garden.  I used to lump Rosa Mundi into this category, seeing it as a splodgy rose and I could not imagine how it would fit into my garden.
Rosa Gallica 'Rosa Mundi' is a very old cultivar, dating back to the 16th century.  The gallica roses are native to Central Europe and it is a very hard and robust plant.  Mine does not suffer from blackspot and it flowers for a long period of time.  It is currently covered in buds, open flowers and flowers just gone over.  It needs regular deadheading but responds well to this by producing ever more flowers.
It has a lovely scent.  It isn't as strong as some, but it is enough to make it into the garden.  I do have a rule that I only buy roses with scent.

The Fair Rosamund (John William Waterhouse 1917) is a painting of Rosamund Clifford (1150 - c11.76).  Rosamund was the mistress of Henry II.  She was also known as 'the Rose of the World' and was famed for her beauty.   The name Rosamund possibly came from 'Rosa Mundi' - Rose of the World and one legend says that the rose Rosa Mundi is named after her and allegedly sprang from her tears as Henry went off to war without her.  Stories say that Henry kept Rosamund in a tower, surrounded by a rose bower, that was hidden in a labrynth.
The affair with Henry became public and Rosamund was sent to a nunnery in disgrace.  There is a holy well at Blenheim Palance that commemorates her as it is close to the bower where she resided.  Rosamund was buried at Godstow Nunnery but her grave became an unwanted shrine so her bones were removed to outside of the nunnery.
This is not the happiest of stories for the naming of a rose, the beauty of the Fair Rosamund led to her eventual downfall and disgrace.  It is however a beautiful rose; currently I only have one as I was cautious not being certain whether I really liked its stripeyness or not.  I am now definite and I will be planting more in the autumn without a doubt.