After a cold Spring growth comes at last

Saturday, June 29, 2013

After months of waiting for the garden to really burst into life at last the borders have started to fill and the veggies are looking promising. It is good to report a better June than 2012 thanks to 2 weeks of sunshine at the beginning of the month and rain just at the right time later on and the plant have responded in spectacular style. We are still a couple of weeks behind where we normally expect to be but who cares?!! There is lots to look forward to and so much to write about that there isn't room to tell you everything but I hope this news item conveys some of the joy we feel after a long cold spring, and we hope you feel the same too. 



Warm days but cold nights until mid month with wind still mostly from the north, but very good light levels from clear skies. Ground dry enough to need watering regularly but then the rains took over, the nights got warmer and growth went into overdrive. Warmest temperature 22C on 4 June, lowest just 3C on 24 June


Garden update

Lawns looking fantastic just 3 months after their massive makeover (see March News). Guru Rob has done his stuff and we are so grateful to him, although he did confess the other day that he had doubts early on if they would ever come back! 


 Say no more - job done!



Vegetables, even though sown and planted late, have made up for lost time and we are already harvesting some wonderful Hispi cabbage, Mayflower cauliflower, lettuce in variety and radish. Early potatoes (Maris Bard) and broccoli just a few days away. Strawberries are very late but colouring at last and raspberries are just beginning to set. Most veg planted in succession is growing away but again parsnips had to be sown twice - nothing new there! Some very promising carrots and peas though after the disasters of last year.


Colourful rows of Webbs Wonderful, Lollo Rosso and Imperial Green Cos



With the recent warmer nights I have been able to bring out the hanging baskets, blue vein surfinia petunias as always, one under each arch of the verandah. Single variety baskets are so much easier then the mixed baskets I used to make in the early days at Cilgwyn, each basket taking an hour, and none of them ever had the wonderful scent of the blue vein baskets. In the wild in S. America, petunia species are said to be scented but most modern cultivars apart form Blue Vein seem to have lost this.

Other tender plants have gone into the borders, in particular the various forms of salvias that are overwintered from cuttings last autumn and which grow into large plants in 2 litre pots by the middle of June. These make an immediate impact in every border into which they are planted. They flower from about now until the frosts. 

On the subject of tender plants and S. America, I am really excited that a plant of erythrina crista-galli (the cockspur coral tree) which I have had in a pot in the large tunnel for 4 years is now over 6' tall with a crown of buds on 2 strong stems. If I can get this to flower I will be over the moon because it is a magnificient infloresence with deep red pea like flowers that I hope to be able to show you some time soon.

Aquilegias seem to have been in flower for ever and only started to slow down in the last 2 weeks. We have had a fantastic range of forms and colour especially some intriguing bi-colours including a beige and apricot long spurred form that I generously sold recently to one of our very grateful Dutch visitors who had the most impecable taste!. I will be gathering seed to see what alchemy the bees have been working in a couple of years time when the resultant plants flower. I am not sure at my age it is altogether a good thing to look forward that far but it sure gives you something to hang on for!!


An American spurred hybrid form McKenna Giants seed



And a more familiar "Barlow" type



Just when everything had started to look wonderful in the garden the bugs came along to spoil the party. Bugs in the form of capsid bugs that are partial to growing tips in a wide variety of plants especially fuchsias and dahlias, and a bug that likes only daylilies - the dreaded hemerocallis gall midge. It lays its eggs in the developing flower bud and when they hatch the grubs totally destroy the flowers. I thought  I had cracked this problem last year but it has come back to bite me with a vengance and there is no recognised treatment 

Swiftly back to more positive news, the cardiocrinum giganteum seed I sowed 4 years ago has grown into wonderfully glossy leaved plants like giant hostas, which with luck in 2 or 3 years time should produce their stems of up to 10 feet crowned with long stems of the most beautifully scented white flowers. It is in the lily family and I can't wait to see it. Gertrude grew them at Munstead Wood and there is an iconic picture of her, a short lady, standing alongside this giant plant. She has influenced, with a modern twist here and there, my gardening style, and it was because of this picture I was inspired to grow them. I have the picture somewhere in one of her many books.

And finally under this heading what is this in the picture?


Answer at the end of this months news item


What's looking good?!!

 Hostas have rarely looked better and have grown enormously in just a few weeks. Many of them didn't come properly into growth until the beginning of the month and by doing so avoided the very cold nights and dull days. Some long standing old favourites like Sun Power, On Stage and Frances Williams have had as new lease of life (all of them more than 15 years old) whilst the newer kids on the block - Liberty, Bressingham Blue, Kiwi Full Monty and Marilyn Monroe (yes honestly - all curves and white underskirts!!) are trying to catch up the old ones.


Hostas in the north facing House Garden border. From the bottom up, "June", "Golden Scepter",  "Orange Marmalade", "Sun Power" and just about visible "On Stage" always the latest to come into leaf.



  And a real giant "Snowden", a Britsh bred hosta, Already 3 feet tall and of wonderful statuesque proportions (note also the several arisaemas around it  - they like each others company!!)



Lupins that I recently fell back in love with, having been put off by lupin aphids some years ago, have been teriffic. In a variety of shades they are very valuable early summer perennials coming into flower before the main flush get into their stride.


A large stand of "The Governor" just 3 plants only 18 months old and dead easy from seed. £9.99 each in many garden centres.



Poppies too have been very welcome with their opulent colours from the deep red orientalis "Beauty of Livermere"  to the blue of meconopsis Lingholm hybrids with a few still flowering (usually they have finished here by mid June). The Welsh poppies too (meconopsis cambrica)  have done well and our friends and neighbours Roy and Barbara, have some marvellous double forms in their garden, the flowers being twice the size of the single form, and long lived because they are sterile.


Papaver orientale "Beauty of Livermere"



And Roy and Barbara's beautiful double yellow all the work of pollinators, although this form can be obtained from a few specialist nurseries.


Aquilegias in a huge range of colours and forms have flowered throughout June and the long spurred American hybrids still have some life left in them.

The small rock garden area is the only part of the gardens that is full of colour at this time of year with a wide range of little treasures.

Perhaps what pleases me most is the flowering of a batch of lilium martagon var.album that I grew from seed sown in 2009. Not only are they beautiful to look at but if you have the patience they are considerably cheaper than buying flowering sized bulbs.




Regular readers of these news items will know that I sow many varieties of seed each year, some of which flower in their first year and others like clematis and hellebores take considerably longer. The thrill I get when these flower is immense. 


The first flowering of a seed grown delphinium from the gardens. Nothing remotely like it here so once again thanks to the pollinators. What would we do without them?



Wildlife and countryside

The tadpoles in the Paddock Pond are at different stages of development; the frogs have all their legs and some are venturing out of the pond  for the first time. They seem to go back and forward for  a couple of weeks before leaving for good. 

The toads are a long way behind the frogs after a late spawning. Newts have " tadpoles" too which are less showy than frogs and toads, and take a longer time to become newts. Only common newts - I am always on the look out (without success so far) for any great crested newts that I used to catch in great quantities in a old brickyard pool near to my childhood home in Gloucestershire.

On warmer days there are damselflies over the pond but as yet no dragonflies which are always later. There have also been no blue demoiselles yet which is strange as they are usually one of the first to put in an appearance.


A delicate damselfly rests on a leaf before flying onto the pond for egg laying



Two pairs of blue tits successfully raised their broods in the stone shed by the house and a first time nesting in the garden by a pair of redstarts who also chose the shed in which to raise their brood. We also sighted a greater spotted woodpecker in the gardens on several occasions which have been very infrequent visitors over the years.

There have been plenty of bumble bees in the gardens  which is very encuraging and they seem to be on the wing even on the duller days when the honey bees are absent. One of the bumble bees' favourite flowers is the lupin where their greater weight enables them to open the tightly closed flowers to gain access to the pollen and as a by product, to ensure more seeds for me for next year!!




In the wider countryside it has been fairly quiet with less rabbits about than last year (I say that very cautiously!!).  There has been very little silage harvest because of the changeable weather and the fact that many of my farmer neighbours had to graze so late. 

The lambs have mostly been drawn from their mothers meaning a quiter time for them and us!


Visits and visitors

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) openings began on 5 June and there have been 4 visits this month including one from Saga Holidays and two from Holland, all thank goodness in fine weather. July is our busiest month with group visits including our first from Germany. This is our 14th year of opening for the Scheme and it still gives us pleasure to welcome visitors and raise money for the charities supported by the NGS . We have raised over £20,000 since we first started opening in 2000. We are often asked by local  people when we are having an Open Day. We know how much pleasure these openings gave and are sorry that we no longer have a dedicated Open Day but it was becoming difficult to cope with the increasing numbers of visitors we had each year and to cater for teas, car parking and plant sales. We also have less helpers available. Local people are neverthless welcome to visit us by prior arrangement as groups or individuals.

In a busy month we managed to find time to get away for a night to visit RHS Rosemoor in Devon taking in Hestercombe Gardens, Taunton, said to be Lutyens and Jekylls finest creation. Although the latter is good especially the areas where their quality shines through, Rosemoor is quite superb - all 46 acres of it. Imaginatively planted, beautifully maintained and full of a range of plants to delight even the most demanding of plantsmen (or women!). If that wasn't enough helpful staff, a great restaurant and the most magical valley setting on a still, moist, humid day. I can't recommend it enough.


Classic lines of Gertrude's rose, iris and peony border at Hestercombe exactly as she planned it 100 years on.




 One of the model gardens at Rosemoor. There are a string of these in the new part of the garden started 25 years ago when the RHS acquired the garden.



A quiet corner of the ornamental kitchen garden. Foxgloves and perennial stocks are used to raise the colour threshold,  provide height and scent, and to attract pollinators into the garden



And in the shelter of the thatched gazebo an old gardening friend to talk to. Quite difficult to discern the difference I know but I am the one on the left!!




It is the emerging flower bud of hosta "Bressingham Blue"  - it looks more like a sacred lotus!