August 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

First the bad news. Sorry to start in this way but we heard at the weekend that we had not won the Daily Mail National Garden Competition 2010. After getting over the disappointment we reflected on the achievement to get to the final in what the judges stated to be a very high standard of finalists this year. If you have read the Weekend Supplement in The Mail during the last 2 weeks you will have seen all the 6 finalists and from some pretty average photographs of the gardens had the chance to judge them for yourselves,. We have been very touched by the support we have had and the many messages of encouragement we have received. Thanks to everyone who has contacted us. The winning garden will be announced some time in September and we congratulate the owners on their achievement. As a consolation we will get from the Mail some framed photographs of the garden and a blue plaque stating that we were finalists in the competition.

Back to our normal gardening life again - it's great!!. We have had another busy month with more visitors and lots of maintenance to do. We also found the time to have 2 short breaks - visiting gardens! - what are we like!! No ordinary gardens mind you and all very different. Our beloved Great Dixter in Sussex, Lullingstone Castle in Kent home to the famous plantaholic Tom Hart - Dyke and his World Garden designed whilst in captivity by guerillas in the Columbian rainforest, Longstock Park Water Gardens in Hampshire and The National Trust Buscott Park near Lechlade in Gloucestershire (an amazing structure garden with work by Harold Peto from the 1920's - surprised I liked it so much!)

It was good to get away but jobs still pile up at home and the normal routines of our life continue


Weather Report

We were reminded whilst in the Cotswolds and the South East how very different the weather has been there to Wales, with parched lawns and borders and many trees shedding their leaves. Here it is lovely green fields and lawns but less flowers because there hasn't been too much sunshine although there has been plenty of rain. Always look on the bright side if you can so its good to report that it has been mild and very humid and we have been out under the pergola until late every evening with the scent of oriental lilies, nicotiana silvestris and best of all 2 large brugmansias, 8 foot tall and  dripping with 12 inch trumpets in white or yellow. Fabulous !!!!!! The rain is preventing a lot of activity in the garden of late and in the vegetable garden especially as we desperately need to get the spuds up before the late blight gets any worse and the keel slugs start on the tubers (so far they have been remarkably clean).


Garden Update

It's that time of year on the cusp of the changing seasons when some of the summer stalwarts are going past their best (campanulas, early phlox, some monardas and the first flush of hardy geraniums) and others (crocosmias, heleniums and asters) are beginning to get into their stride. There is still an amazing amount of colour particularly in the Paddock Garden borders but many of the annuals especially those from mediterranean climates have hated the wet and decided they have had enough so there are gaps appearing in some borders. The dear old violas - how we love them - continue to flower and thrive, the cornutas weaving their way up neighbouring plants to reach incredible heights (3 - 4 feet) for what is supposed to be a low growing plant. They will go on until the end of September but then it's time for an annual trim and a well earned rest. The cuttings can be potted up for growing on into saleable plants for next year. For variety, colour, scent, ease of cultivation and propagation and length of flowering there can't be a better plant and every garden should have one (or more!)

In the veg garden we have managed to keep the carrot fly at bay. For us this is a major news story! Although we always use horticultural fleece over the rows, in the last few years this hasn't been so successful because the carrot fly seems to be endemic and apparently overwinters in the soil so this year we have grown them in a patch of ground that has never previously grown carrots. Result! Clean large carrots with no holes or rotting. Brassicas have loved the rain and some of the Primo 2 and Endeavour summer savoys have reached football sizes with no loss of quality - they have also stood in good condition for ages without splitting or bolting.


What's looking good

Crocosmias are Absolutely Fabulous - sorry Edina and Patsie but they are. Considering that not so long ago they were considered to be borderline hardy (crocosmias of course not Edina and Patsie), all those we grow in the borders came through the severe winter and are flowering better than ever. Much as I like Lucifer it is a bit of a thug and flops everywhere however much you stake it, it is a bit too orange for the Red Border where we have it and it flowers very early in July and is already spent. Most of the others are now really getting into their stride, Emberglow being the current star, shorter than Lucifer but much redder and more flofirous, better leaf to flower balance and longer lasting. It has been with us a long time but we acquired Pauls Best Yellow from Cotswold Garden Flowers only last year and it is already showing considerable potential, a really zingy orange/yellow, large flowered and quite vigorous. We are really pleased with it and it has had many admirers. Although there are a good few other crocosmias in the garden (names of some of which have been lost) the best is yet to come. My absolute favourite bar none is Star of the East a real humdinger with huge mid orangish flowers that go on and on (a bit like me when talking about plants - OK OK just like me!) and it can often be in flower from a late August start until November if the autumn is kind.

Dahlias never disappoint and are a little later than usual but incredibly many survived the winter in the ground and are making up for lost time. All time favourite is Summer Night a really dark red/black cactus form. It anchors the red border throughout it's length, as does a new dark leaved incredible, almost black waterlily type called Karma Choc (what a name!). David Howard a warm orange waterlily type never disappoints, some good orange and red pom poms are interspersed in their appropriate borders but with my passion for more natural looking plants the current star is dahlia merckii, a species form with lovely dainty foliage and small single pink flowers in  profusion that is dotted over the garden. One specimen in the North Facing House Garden Border is 6 foot tall and almost the same across. It takes my breath away every time I look at it and it just gets bigger and bigger. I just love plants like this to keep us in our place and fill us with wonderment and delight. A native of Mexico putting on a show like this in such a miserable late summer. Absolutely Fabulous (sorry!!)

I must also mention the supporting cast without whom none of this would be possible (sounds like the Oscars and in a way it is) A variety of thalictrums in some shade love the current weather, as do impatiens tinctoria, arguta, namchabarwensis a fabulous blue and a newish introduction. Gingers too in the borders, yes overwintered, are growing well but may not flower, and thanks to my special friend Tony of a growing collection of arisaemas that have done well in the open ground. There are some real show stoppers grown as much for their foliage as their flowers especially conccinum, tortuosum, galeatum and costatum, some of which are up to 5 feet tall.

One last star to mention, like the Oscars it's Bob Brown's (no relative) big night, is a stunning recently introduced astrantia, dark red, with blackish stems and leaves in shade, 3 feet or so in height and no staking:- ladies and gentlemen I give you Ruby Star and predict a glittering career. Loud applause again for that great nursery, Cotswold Garden Flowers



I am normally a very mild mannered person and passionate lover of all forms of wildlife both great and small and having lived in the countryside for most of my life I respect its place in the natural order of things. My mother much to my embarrassed has always called me "nature boy" but two recent events have tested my patience this month and called my love of wildlife into question. I always accept that some soft fruit will be taken by birds and mice and that caterpillars will attack brassicas but the audacity of the attacks on my produce has defied belief. Firstly a family of blackbirds has found the tomatoes in the big polytunnel and taken such a liking to them they are making serious inroads into the crop. They are so bold that they carry on munching whilst I pick tomatoes just a few inches away!! If you want to know what the pecking order is - sorry that is NOT funny - it is 1 Sungold, 2 Piccolo and 3 Rosada suggesting to me the order they rank in sweetness. Knowing that the blackbird has a very discerning sweet palate I think this can be taken as the definitive taste test (at my expense!). There are of course plenty still left for us but I mean it's the principle after all.

Not so funny was the concerted squirrel attack on our first crop sweetcorn. Just a couple of days before harvest would have begun, overnight there was such a violent attack you wouldn't believe it. AK 47's couldn't have caused more devastation. Out of 50 ripe cobs we lost 30, the haulms ripped off, some of the cobs removed and all of them eaten to the core. I have never experienced this before in all my years of growing veggies and I was seriously pissed off (sorry!) I have never liked grey squirrels and needless to say they are not on my Christmas Card List. And they have eaten all the marvellous crop of hazelnuts of course, long before they were ripe.

Lovely kingfishers have returned to our stretch of the river restoring my faith in wildlife, their high pitched whistling being one of the best ways of spotting them. There is a also a giant hawk moth caterpillar with its enormous "eyes" (privet hawk I think) getting stuck into a fuchsia cordifoilia and I don't care!! There you are normal service restored!


We still get regular private visitors to the gardens and have numerous bookings over the next week or so and a group visit from Builth Wells Community Support this Thursday. It's still not too late to arrange a visit so get in touch please if you would like to arrange to come. By the end of the season visitor totals will exceed 700 - a record for us and we are overwhelmed by such a show of support. So as my neighbours would say "diolch yn fawr iawn" Thanks very much.


A final note of apology for the absence of pictures. I have been told how to do it by Ed my mentor and designer of the website but I just haven't had the time to perfect the processes to load them. With increasingly less tasks to do in the garden I am determined to come to terms with this and to bombard you in the not too distant future with the dozens of pics. I take every month.