Fickle June kept changing her tune

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer at last but what a mixed bag of weather! June can often be a capricious month but this year it served up something special with intermitent spells of very warm sunshine and heavy rain and gales. Although individually each brought their problems, collectively they ensured unbelievable growth across the gardens, even though flowering is still somewhat patchy, especially roses with no full June flush and blooms spoiled mid month by the heavy continuous rain.




Scarcely a rose to be seen on the bushes at the back of the large stand of artemesia in the Koi Pond Border


Of course weeds, which we had got on top of, just loved the conditionsonly so we had to start weeding all over again! This and all the other essential tasks of the month kept our outings to a minimum. You forget  how quickly the borders can change in just a few days.

Whilst it has been difficult not to be moved by all the bad news and doom and gloom in the UK at the present time,  plants, gardens, wildlife and countryside can be wonderfully uplifting, not to mention the ever changing sky, the greatest free show on earth.

Something else to lift the spirits is this sown wildflower meadow at Aberglasney Gardens



 And a little teaser for you - name this plant! Answer at the end.



Variations in the months weather ocurred in cycles which was quite bizarre, so this month the news report is presented in that format.

2/6 - 11/6 Mostly rainy often prolonged and strong winds most days Max 18.9 Min 4

12/6 -22/6  Sunny and warm every day Max 31 min 10

23/6 - 30/6 Changeable Max 22 min 11

Quite a month: warmest June day for 40 years, rainfall higher than month average and very strong winds at times

A sequence of a marvellous sunset early in the month








 An impending storm brewing


 From deep shade on a sweltering day - and what a blue sky!



Garden Update

This has to be one of the best and most exciting times of theyear as the main summer flush begins and the flowering of herbaceous plants colours up all the 17 borders here.  We commenced planting many of them in 1998 and since then they have been added to many times over so they are now packed to the extent that individual plants need less staking because they largely support each other.




This of course is not generally recommended practice in herbaceous borders, as many of the more vigorous plants are supposed to be split and replanted on a regular basis. This is all very well in commercial gardens but with just 2 of us and a 1 acre garden, it is simply not possible. If plants are struggling or  severely overcrowded then we do take remedial action and generally practice good husbandry, but other than that we just let them get on with it!

With vegetables of course it is a different story: my experience of growing them goes back over 45 years, and much further than that as a child of 6 in my parents garden! You have to keep on top of your veggies throughout the year, practice crop rotation, and feed and weed them regularly. In what has been a good year so far we have cropped  a range of brassicas, with "Greyhound" as always the first. The usual mix of salad leaves and lettuces, radish, carrots and beetroot. No potatoes yet but they are flowering as are the peas and various types of beans.






 It was not a good year for strawberries with a poor berry set. One of the reasons for that was explained when hoeing adjacent brassicas I found stash after stash of berries stored under the leaves, most likely by rodents!


 We did have  a few feeds with no botrytis for once. The plants are in their 5th year and will be dug up after harvest as they are exhausted.


 To make life easier for the blackbirds which somehow get into the fruit cage, the redcurrant saw fly conveniently defoliated the bush in just a cuple of days! Still some left for us and a distraction to keep the birds off the ripening blueberries and Tayberries


It is good to report that most plants affected by the late April frosts have begun to recover and should put on a show, but later than usual and  probably  less vigorously.

The 2 cardiocrinums that were falttened by the late frosts slowly recovered and produced a few flowers but only to a height of 3 feet, half the normal size. But still that never to be forgotten perfume. You marvel at the recovery powers of plants: no wonder they have been around for so long.


The regular disease and pest suspects have taken advantage of the weakened state of plants caused by those frosts, and seem more in evidence than usual. Chief offenders are white, black and green flies, capsid bug on dahlias, impatiens, asters, fuchsias, hydrangeas, monardas and  brugmansias, (which are also showing signs of red spider attack since last week's heatwave). Hemerocallis gall midge has made its usual appearance but damage so far has been limited to only  the the terminal flower buds. Rabbits too are plentiful despite the best efforts of Kit Kat

Capsid bug damage on a dahlia



And on impatiens tinctoria



Black spot on roses early on was quite severe, especially David Austin cultivars, but a spraying regime has brought it under control. I know that will not appeal to some readers but it is the only way to grow good roses here in mid Wales.

One of the few of over 80 roses to flower in mid June, R. "Jacqueline du Pre". Pure white flowers with red stamens and a gentle perfume. A tribute rose for the great cellist.


And what is a garden in June without the scent of massed plantings of roses, sweet peas, philadelphus and honeysuckles in variety,  and best of all the wonderful cardiocrinum giganteum - the so called Himalayan lily. Oh and I nearly forgot the coming into flower of the first brugmansias in the tunnels, at their best after 6.00pm on a balmy summer night, 4 large 7 feet plants in shades of white, yellow and pink.

Philadelphus "Belle Etoile" for me the best scented form I have smelt and reasonably compact


 A variegated and rare brugmansia "Miners Claim" in a pot in the conservatory border


 Sweet peas need no introduction


 Unfortunately for the 3rd year in a row  most of the plants have turned yellow in spite of regular watering and feeding. I am afraid it might be fusarium wilt for which there is no cure.



From  a very early age living alongside a canal and river I have enjoyed messing about in the water, and still a favourite job of mine is to clear out excess pond weed from the Paddock Pond, in full chest waders, giving me a human's eye view of the many fish and other pond life, and a chance to inspect the water lilies in profusion now coming into flower, and to cut back any otherwise inaccessible overhanging branches.





Piles of pondweed are left on the bank overnight to let the pond creatures return back to the pond. It makes excellent compost


There is always work in the tunnels, greenhouse and nursery, especially with watering regularly in tempreatures to 46C in the large tunnel. In these temperatures even tropical plants suffered and some were badly scorched.

At times like this you need all the help you can get! Part of my large army!!



What's looking good?

As usual a gallery of pics of some of the very best , with so many to choose from,  but the star has to be the hardy geraniums, a true hardy plantsman's plant if ever there was one.Summed up best of all by Margery Fish many years a go who said if in doubt what to plant where, plant a geranium!



The 3 large ones at the front of the dish l to r are "Rozanne", Lakwijk Star" a rare wallichianum hybrid and the white flower of macrorhizum album from a late flush





Another striking array featuring numerous pratense forms and in the centre the pink rayed flower with dark eye is the superb form "Sue Crug"


 One of the first geraniums I bought is pratense "Mrs Kendall Clark"


 And another real good doer is G. "Magnificum" a long established favourite in many gardens.



Daylilies - hemerocallis are a great favourite and one of the major contributors to the late June/early July border. There are over 70,000 cultivars to choose from plus  some species forms

A special one to me is this spider form grow from seed donated by American Hemerocallis Society members . Its flowers are larger than my outstretched hand










 In total contrast to the "Hems" are are arisaemas, a woodlander and specialist plant for shade and humus rich moist but not too wet soil. They grow from tubers with archtectural leaves in all shapes and sizes and mysterious hooded flowers that give the plant its common name of "cobra lily" I have my friend Tony Marden, who specialises in them at his nursery, to thank for introducing me to them, rather reluctantly at first! They have grown on me and I like the challenge they present to place them in the right spot in the garden.

Arisaema ciliatum var. liubaense, the flower, white a white stripe is lurking in the shade 


 A. costatum mixing comfortably with other shade lovers



A. candidisimum at Aberglasney, a challenging form to grow well. I have tried it several times without success



 A. speciosum is a tall and impressive form with an attractive mottled stem. Like many ariasaemas the flowers are held lower down the stem



Another tall form is quite a mouthful; A. exapendiculatum with a striking green and white striped flower that comes straight out of the stem which lends the plant its name.


 Arisaema leaves of several plants showing how they continue to make a contribution to the border even when the flowers can't be seen or have faded. 



Something very different are the vivid yellow flowers of oenothera "Firewoks" which makes a tidy clump to 2.5 feet and unlike some evening primroses does not seed around.



 Like firework sparklers this tender perennial NZ beauty, arthropodium cirratum, does really well when cascading over a tallish pot, Needs frost free protection  and will make a sizeable plant if potted on each year in early spring. Very easy from seed.



Wildlife and countryside

Some very happy farmers around here as the fine weeks gave the perfect opportunity to get in the grass harvest - and even to make some hay which is particularly choice when taken young.

Many of the lambs have gone to markets and the fields are much quieter now as their mothers have a welcome break before the cycle begins again in September

On the birdlife front, at the beginning of the month I was pleased to see the return of redstarts to the gardens and along the lanes. Sadly no sign of pied flycatchers which were regular summer visitors here, nesting in bird boxes, up to 3 years ago, since when I have not seen one. A bird doing well is the bullfinch and several pairs in the garden have each raised  a brood. Mistle thrushes are more common than for some time and always seem to find a way into the fuit cage, even though I have failed to find any gaps. They seem partial to redcurrants and the saw flies have done them a favour by conveniently defoliating most of the bush!

Our very special and now regular visitor comes around the conservatory at about 8.00pm each night and makes for the border where cat treats await him. So rare now its a privilege to see one so close to home.


I have mentioned before the wildflower interest all along the A40 in Carmarthenshire on verges, adjoining embankments and roudabouts which makes them difficult to admire close up and even more difficult to photograph!! The ox eye daisies have been spectacular all through the month. 


 But we don't have to venture outside the front gate to see wildflowers in the gardens and right up against a stone shed is a good stand of self seeded prunella vulgaris or "self heal" in many country areas 




With so much more to do at home we have been out and abut only a couple of times to venues old and new.


Llanllyr, Temple Bar, Ceredigion opens by arrangement for the NGS. Situated on the site of a mediaeval nunnery it is a fascinating and atmospheric garden with a surprisingly good range of plants and habitats









 Another old garden is Aberglasney, the nearest garden to us which is very fortunate because it demands regular visits throughout its opening period which is every day except Christmas Day.






 In the sunken garden was this brilliant bronze coloured lily called Grand Cru, an asiatic hybrid



Our final gardens visit was a coach trip with South Wales Hardy Plant Society Group to Somerset. Elworthy Cottage garden and nursery in the morning and Yeo Valley in the afternoon. 2 very different but perfectly contrasting gardens

Yeo Valley was a complete surprise because none of us knew what to expect. In rolling countryside and with views of the nearby Blagdon Lake it is on a suitably grand scale and brilliantly planned and planted with some great ideas to take away.

The Gravel Garden in a limited but imaginative colour palette is sculpted into mounds which break up the flat elevation of other parts of this garden, echoing what we saw last year at Keith Wiley's Wildside garden, altough the planting there is quite different.








As a complete contrast you pass into the cooling shade of a glade of dozens of white stemmed birch underplanted with ferns. It makes a huge impact even though still rather young.





From that you pass into the Bronze Garden, a contrast again with some lovely touches and superb colour combinations all on a bronze theme. Strong design lines too.









 And finally no hardy planters ever go home empty handed! More plants to find room for!



And finally the answer to that mystery plant. If you got it right well done. Not easy by any means. It is the flower head of a giant hogweed alongside that famous Carmarthenshire plant highway otherwise known as the A40! Normally white the flowers, in a group of plants, had been sprayed by local council workmen to identify them for subsequent weedkilling. It is an extremely toxic plant and owners of land on which it grows have a duty to erradicate it. Shame in some ways as it is an impressive plant with stems up to 10 feet.



That's all folks, thanks for reading and have an enjoyable summer.