Friday, 31 August 2012

End of Month Review - August 2012


We have reached the end of August, the eighth month.  Named after Augustus, who became ‘First Citizen’ after the assignation of Julius Caesar (somewhat wisely he decided not to use the title Emperor).  August, in the Roman Calendar, was the sixth month, because March used to be the first month.  This is all far too complicated, so I shall get on with the task in hand of looking at how the garden has been in August.
The weather has been changeable.  Quite often it has been quite hot, sometimes hot hot and largely warm.  There has been some thunder storms and some rain.  So all in all, not too bad really.  A bit of sun then a bit of rain keeps the garden looking good, though the really heavy torrential rain has flattened some flowers.
The good thing about all the rain is that the garden is looking quite green and lush.  It has got a little dry at times but then a few good downpours later and the garden is drinking in the rain again.
There is quite a bit of colour in the garden.  The echinaceas, heleniums and rudbeckias are all flowering well.  The Croscomia is almost over, but has been a great flash of red and yellow whilst it lasted.
The asters are now coming into flower.  They have really got quite bit this year, they will need splitting next year.
The Rosa Hyde Hall hedge is doing very well.  I've been feeding my roses with organic liquid seaweed and they are loving it.
The woodland border is still a bit sparse, but it is only its second year, first full year in reality.  I have planted several fuchsias in there and I am hoping that they will be spectacular next year.  I have grown Manx fuchsias for a few years but this year I seem to have gone a bit fuchsia-mad.  I have bought several more and taken lots of (successful) cuttings.  Next year there will be many fuchsias.
The prairie borders are starting to look as I want them too.  Again I think it will be another year before they are really good.  I am going to do a separate post on their development as it is almost an exact year since I dug this area over.
This is part of the Spring border, sort of behind the bramley tree.  It is shady and quite damp most of the time.  I've tried to grow a few things in it, but this border believes totally in self determination.  It now mainly contains hellebore seedlings, a couple of pulmonaria, several welsh poppies and a Rosa Winchester Cathedral bending out to find the sun.
The dahlia border is looking quite colourful.  The Ricinus plant is growing well there this year.  I must collect seeds from it so I will have more next year.
Some of the dahlias look remarkably like zinnias in the dahlia border.  This is because they are zinnias.  A bit small this year and slow to get going, but lovely all the same.
The dahlias are also a bit small, but the colours have been wonderful and if it wasn't for the constant slug attacks the border might actually look like I think it should.  It needs a bit more height I think from the dahlias, next year I will buy tall.
I scythed the wild garden the other day.  Largely cutting down the ragwort and nettles but leaving the grass still fairly long and the wildflowers within it.
I also liked how it looks at the moment as I walk down from the top of the garden, across the dancing lawn with the wild garden to the right of me and the dahlia border and pond to the left.
The vegetable beds are pretty much a disaster area.  A handful of peas, two handfuls of beans so far.  A couple of courgettes and a bit of broccoli.  The potatoes have been a joke, seriously, someone's been taking the mick!  If there was a competition for failing to grow spuds I would probably come second to that person who failed to grow any because they forgot to plant them.  Not a good spud year!  The onions have been ok and the garlic passable.  Next year will have to be better.  The only small whoop of excitement has been over the first gathering of a sweetcorn cob.  Next year there will be more sweetcorn.
The greenhouse contains mainly a few begonias, some stipa tenuissima for the prairie borders that are just waiting now to be planted and quite a lot of winter pansies and primroses that are part of the Thompson and Morgan trial I am taking part in.
The front garden is also a disaster area, if I was going to make a disaster movie about my garden then I think that the vegetable beds would be 'Grow Hard' and the front garden would be Grow Hard with a Vengence'.  My front garden hates me and in truth I am not too fond of it either.  I dug up the main lawn to plant a knot garden (hence little box hedging you can see).  The knot garden bit has had its ups and downs but is now relatively ok.  The main issue now is the bandit country between the box hedging and the lavender edging.  These huge crocosmia are quite stunning, but surrounded by more and more weeds that are strangling everything.  I think I am going to totally clear the bandit country and put down a nice, calming, bark mulch.  I will then be able to weed the knot garden more easily and hopefully feel less stressed by the whole garden in general.  Well, that is today's plan anyway.
I finish as usual on the pond.  Its quite full, quite happy (though a little green and slimy in places, it is not the perfect pond like Monty has created).

Now the season starts to turn, a few leaves have started to fall, the nights are drawning in.  Soon it will be apple crumble time.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The dilemma of sweet peas

I've been growing sweet peas for many years now.  Sometimes I sow them in the Autumn, sometimes in the Spring, depends what mood I'm in and whether I remember.  In honesty it never seems to make much difference so more often than not I sow in Spring now.
I always grow Cupani, it is one that I am very fond of.  Usually easy to grow (as are they all) and has a wonderful scent.  I only grow sweet peas that have scent, whilst the frilly ones are pretty, they seem pointless to me if they do not smell as a sweet pea should smell.
These dark ones have been wonderful this year, I think they are Beaujolais, they smell wonderful.
It is these red ones (King Edward VII) that have flowered the best and longest this year, I am very pleased with them.  The scent is good too.  It has not been the best year for sweet peas, they seemed slow to get going (I would say sluggish, but the slugs had a few too).  Now they are in full swing

and here is the dilemma.  The other morning I was sitting outside having my breakfast on the evening bench (I know, wrong bench, but hey they're my benches and if I want to eat breakfast on the evening bench I will).  It was a lovely still, hot, morning.  As I sat there the scent from the sweet peas that are growing in pots alongside the coal bunker (I am painting a romantic picture I know) wafted over me.  It was heavenly.
I had had a very busy week, so I was behing on my picking of the blooms to bring into the house.  I try to pick fairly often to keep them flowering as long as possible.
I sat there thinking how pretty they looked and how wonderful they smelled and wished I could just leave them to do their thing, after all, they do their thing so well.
I knew that I would have to pick them soon, I have to prevent them from setting seed as then they stop flowering.  For that brief moment though I enjoyed them so much.

Then I went and fetched the scissors.
Then they made my kitchen smell as wonderful as they had outside.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The last castle and no hobbits


Devon Odyssey 8 – Castle Drogo

Ah, Castle Drogo.  One of those places I had seen mentioned on Blue Peter all those years ago and it was filtered away at the back of my mind as somewhere I would like to visit one day.  When I was in Devon a couple of years ago I drove past it there and back again, but had no time to stop, so it was on my list of ‘must visit’ for this trip.
I was not disappointed.  The castle itself is a proper castle as you would design for yourself if you had tons of money and could just buy whatever you wanted (as it would appear the original owners did).   Apparently it is not named after Frodo's long lost brother Drogo, it has no connection to hobbits at all, I admit to being a little disappointed.  I believe it is the last castle to be built in England and was finished in the period between the wars.  Sadly it does seem to need quite a bit of repair, structurally it feels much older than it is materially.

Anyway, nice house, but the gardens are what this is about. 
A good bit of arts and crafts gardening greeted me, designed by Lutyens (who also designed the Castle) and Gertrude Jekyll.   It is still a good garden to visit.  There are four arbours of Parrotia persica at each corner of the formal garden.  These work very well and give that balance and proportion that works so well.
The paths work well and look designed for slow strolls on a warm evening, to reach the chairs in the arbours and to find the Vesper, ice cold, waiting for you.  
I liked this square effect in the grass, it worked well, I imagine now the roses are in bloom it looks stunning.
Not all the paths were straight, there were some pleasing curves.
Great terracing and steps, clearly a garden where every view had been thought through and accounted for. 
There is a good rhododendron walk which leads up from the formal garden towards the huge croquet lawn. 
The croquet lawn is able to be used, sadly I have no idea of the rules and I think it takes more hand/eye co-ordination than I have got, it was a great space though which a beautiful circular hedge as its boundary.
There was also this rather twee children’s play cottage.  It looked like it had escaped from an Enid Blyton book and that probably a family of bonny-faced fairies lived in it.
Yes, I liked Castle Drogo, not the largest of gardens but that was nice in itself, it made it feel like a real garden for a real family to enjoy rather than just a formal set-piece to show off what wealth had been accumulated.  Of course the house and garden are about wealth (you don’t build yourself a castle if you want to live a modest simple life), but it was also about home.

Only one more story to tell from the Devon Odyssey.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Success looks a bit like orange daisies

This year is the first year I have grown Tithonia rotundifolia.  They originate from Mexico so it is not surprising that they are tender annuals.  So many of my annuals this year have been eaten by slugs but these seem to have resisted them quite well.  The leaves are quite coarse and hairy so that probably helps.  Anyway, after much anticipation they have finally started to flower.

They are rather wonderful, even the butterflies like resting on them.
Bees like them too
They are my new love and I shall definitely grow them again.

By the way, you have to say 'tithonia' like they do 'Kavonia' in the adverts

Monday, 13 August 2012

Gloire de Dijon

Last autumn I bought a Gloire de Dijon rose.  I had heard about it from the DH Lawrence poem and was pleased to find out it was easy to obtain.

It looks a bit weedy at the moment, so I keep feeding it with liquid seaweed and wishing it good thoughts.  It has just had its first flower which I was delighted to see.  Not quite as yellow as I had expected though.

Anyway - the poem:

When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
She spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
For the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses. 
 D H Lawrence (1885 - 1930) 
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176791

Friday, 10 August 2012

Thelxinoē and Serendipity

Of muses and moons
Muse:  to be absorbed in your own thoughts.

I spend a fair amount of time in my garden absorbed in my own thoughts.  I often think that weeding is a type of meditation, I will spend hours weeding away, thinking about all sorts of things or sometimes just focusing on the weeds and the garden, enjoying having that space to just be and do.
Of course once I start to think about things like the word muse, I then generally have to look into what that is a bit deeper.  So I starting musing about muses.

A muse can be a poet, a source of inspiration and also it is the name of a band from Devon (whom I rather like).

There are also a various number of muses, quite often nine, who were the daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus.  These nine are (depending on what source you look at):

Calliope - Epic Poetry
Clio - History
Erato - Lyric/Erotic Poetry
Euterpe – Music (specifically flutes!)
Melpomene - Tragedy
Polyhymnia – Choral/sacred Poetry
Terpsichore - Dance
Thalia – Comedy and pastoral poetry
Urania - Astronomy

At some point I will return to Thalia, she interests me.  The nine muses is also central to the plot of Xanadu (1980) a film starring Olivia Newton John.  If you have never seen this film and fancy a dose of real 1980s fun then you must watch it.  It is almost as good as the 1965 classic Three Hats for Lisa starring Joe Brown and Una Stubbs amongst others.  (seriously, everyone should watch Three Hats for Lisa).

So, back to the muses, I said there were various numbers of these.  There were apparently three original Muses, Aoidē ("song" or "tune"), Meletē ("practice" or "occasion"), and Mnēmē ("memory").

Bearing in mind we are talking mythology and ancient at that, things are a bit muddled and do not stay the same as we pass through time, so three became four:  Thelxinoē, Aoedē, Arche, and Meletē  (no one seems to know what Thelxinoē did but one of the moons of Jupiter is named after her aka Jupiter XL.)

These four then became nine as mentioned above.  Except when they became ten as Plato declared that the poet Sappho was the 10th muse.

This actually brings the total to 11.  Those of us who gain most of our myth knowledge through watching films know that there is also Serendipity, the muse who left heaven to become an artist in her own right.  She is played by Salma Hayek in the 1999 film Dogma (Kevin Smith).  Again, an excellent film that contains the wonderfulness that is Alan Rickman in one of his finest roles. 

So what has this to do with my garden.  Well ,its all a bit serendipitous really (see what I did there?)  I spend my time in my garden often lost thought, miles away in my head thinking through my day, planning ahead about this and that and often just clearly away with the fairies.  Part of why I garden is to create a space to think.  My thoughts turn and twist and I end up having to resolve questions that I ask myself and through this all I now know that Jupiter has many moons.