Flaming June - I don't think so!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sorry folks. Continuing problems with loading pics and I had some good ones too. Will continue to try and resolve them. It's so frustrating.



If there was ever a month to test the patience of the most placid of gardeners, people like me for example  - no don't even think it - this was surely it. We have had weather from all 4 seasons with the exception of snow. Most "memorably" we had thunder, lightning and large hailstones on June 11 when there were in the Gardens 40 people on a trip from Holland with Garden Tours NL. They took it in very good spirit and fortunately it did clear up before they left.  It was so cold that the ground was white for an hour after the storm had passed and overnight we had a minimum of 1C - as near as you can get to an air frost without actually having one. Fortunately no serious damage was done but some of the larger leaved plants showed the effects of the hailstones especially the hostas which had until thenhad been having their best ever year. Some look like they have been blasted withy a shotgun! Digging potatoes has been "fun" trying to find the them amongst all the mud!

In weather like this most flowering plants decided quite reasonably not to flower but to wait for better times to come, and those that did flower at the right time held onto their flowers for much longer than usual. As for our native wildflowers they just got on with it, especially a field of red poppies we saw in Bewdley, Worcs and a massive stand of spotted orchids on the road verge near Hay - on - Wye.



Garden update

In early June, we completed all the border re-planings and also the bedding out of pot grown annuals from a fantastic range which includes poppies of numerous kinds, three colours of cornflower (blue, red and black), amaranthus cordatus (Love Lies Bleeding) in a gorgeous red form called "Red Cathedral" , iberis umbellatum "Giant Hyacinth Flowered" a very unusual canytuft, Bells of Ireland with striking green flowers, nicotianas in a variety of forms, convolvulus "Blue Ensign", sunflowers and my favourite of all orlaya grandiflora, a truly classy and elegant umbellifer with white flowers rather like a dainty serrata hydrangea but smaller (to about 18").

So underrated true hardy annuals, many seed themselves year after year. but as extra insurance and so that we can plant them where we want to, we gather seed in the autumn and sow it in the spring to flower June-September depending on the weather and the type sown. The best value plants in the garden which will enliven any border, create almost instant impact in a new garden or to cover  gaps in established borders.

We have a good collection of hemerocallis in the garden as regular visitors will know. The gall midge which lays its eggs in the forming flower buds totally devastates the flower and there is so much in evidence this year that there is hardly a plant that isn't affected. There is no cure apart from picking off all the infected buds and destryoying them. Later flowers are usually OK but the plant loses a lot of impact. Fortunately the plant itself survives for another year.

The lawns were looking good but once again the lawn grubs of May Bugs and Daddy Long Legs are doing their best to wreck them as they munch their way through the grass roots causing parts of the Padddock Garden lawn to turn brown. The magpies and crows do their best to clear them for us but all they succeed in doing is to dig up clumps of turf in their quest for the large and tasty grubs (they don't look it!)

The sluice I completed in February to feed water into the Paddock Pond from the stream is working very well and now keeps the pond topped up and looking in fantastic condition. gently intoducing well oxygenated water all the time from the stream that rises on the hill behind us. The new fish look very healthy and the waterlilies are growing and flowering well ( I was a little concerned, without foundation, that as the stream water is cold it would lower the pond temperature and slow down the rate of growth of the lilies).

The nursery is always "work in progress" as there is a continuous succession of new plants becoming available for sale to find homes for, and gaps to fill as the result of sales to our many June visitors. Best sellers have been violas, red astantias, campanulas in particular a superb cultivar of takesimana called "Elizabeth" with large pink bells and whilst on the superb theme, rodgersia pinnata superba with lovely bronze foliage and deep pink/red flowers - highly popular and already sold out.



What's looking good?

For once the humble veggies take pride of place! Most of them (apart from then more tender forms) have enjoyed the weather especially brassicas and spuds. Some huge ballhead cabbage Primo 2 coming in now, heading brocolli, purple cauliflowers almost ready and later sown varieties growing strongly with no sign of root fly thanks to the covering of horticultural fleece which for 18 years we have have used every summer for protection. It has so many other benefits too like keeping off rabbits that we strongly recommend it even though it's not the most attractive thing you willl ever see in the garden!

Arisaemas too have done wonderfully well, giving us great pleasure and intriguing our visitors. We have over 40 in active growth around the gardens in 15 species and our friend Tony owner of the nursery shadyplants.com is positively purring with delight (an overexagerration perhaps!) but it gives him confidence to recommend them to customers knowing that they have survived and thrive in a frost pocket garden in Mid Wales provided they are planted in the right place (the arisaemas that is!).

Another success has been a large plant of the southern marsh orchid , not wild collected I hasten to add to be politically correct, but we were given it by Margaret a gardening acquaintance from Llanelli who has them growing all over her garden, arising she thinks from imported topsoil some years ago. It is a large and native UK orchid liking as the name suggests ground that doesn't dry out and a little shade. Large flowered 12" spikes in a nice shade of purple /pink. We hope they seed around for us so deadheading is definitely off the agenda!

Delphiniums have flowered earlier and for longer than usual because of the colder nights and the lack of sunshine. One particular cultivar has caught everyone's eye - "Finnsteraahorn" with strong stems requiring no staking and intense midnight blue flowers, a really good form from Cotswold Garden Flowers. Bob Brown certainly has an eye for a special plant and whilst singing his praises I must reiterate my delight at astrantia "Ruby Star" a real stunner, bulking up quickly with dark flower stems and large very deep red flowers. Bob wondered in his 2009 catalogue if this new introduction would equal "Hadspen Blood" or "Ruby Wedding" - in our experience it is off the radar compared with them!

Although many of our overwintered dahlias succumbed to the winter, there have been some amazing successes that should never have coped with -18c. Several overwintered salvias - darcyii, grahamii, patens and involurata "Hadspen" are all growing away strongly in well drained soil in the Paddock Garden, lobelia tupa from the sea cliffs of Chile came through its 12th year under the yew tree - again in very well drained soil, and our beloved and much cherished impatiens tinctoria now an old friend, once again survived its shady, damp position under a huge mound of beech leaves close to its long term companion and another survivor, cautlyea spicata.

One final mention of a special plant that is supposed to need at least  a min. of 10c, overwintered in the large polytunnel where temperatures dropped to -5c but wrapped in its fleece blanket and close to the gas heater it came through and is now delighting everyone with its large trusses of pink flower racemes. As it  comes from Brazil you will understand why we are so pleased at its survival - and so easy too from cuttings to ensure future generations.




Baby frogs everywhere! Its amazing how far they will travel in a short space of time and they can already be found at the top of the House Garden, at least 100 yards from the Paddock Pond. These are noticeably larger and more frog like in colour than the newer ones nearer the pond. They can already jump for Wales!! The toadpoles are much slower, blacker and more freeswimming in larger groups than the frogpoles. At last there a few newts in the pond and whilst clearing the blanketweed last week I found some dragonfly larvae and some pond snails to prove that life is slowly returning to the pond.

Although we see redstarts regularly we have not seen the pied flycatchers for some time nor any fledgling birds-. This may be due to the predation of magpies of which there are more this year than I have seen for a long time. I counted 10 in the garden the other day. Only the arrival of a red kite causes them to interrupt their almost continuous menacing chatter. As you may guess they are not my favourite birds.

We hear kingfishers regularly on the river with their unmistakable high pitched whistle but all we ever see of them is that brilliant blue flash as they hurtle up and down the river. It's great to know they are around.

We have some rabbits in the garden and they have taken a liking to achilleas but not much else and the fleece keeps them off the vegetables. In the fields around us we see plenty more and are happy as long as they stay there!



There have been 12 group visits this month and 324 visitors - a record for this time of year. 3 from Holland and 1 from Hilliers Garden Club. The day Hilliers came was a memorable one because the group was accompanied by John Hillier and his wife. It was such an honour to be able to welcome them to the gardens - John is of course one of the great Hillier dyansty, an elder statesmen of his generation and a very eminent horticulturalist and yet he was so down to earth and easy to talk to. He and his wife bought many plants from the nursery and said that it made a nice change for him because he is first and foremost a "woody plant man". I can't tell you what a thrill this was and so unexpected. 

We have another 5 group visits before our 12th Open Day on Sunday 24 July from 1 - 5.00pm. Please do come and see the gardens if you can.

In between all the hard work in June we managed to fit in 2 visits ourselves; one to a Rare Plant  Fair at High Glanau in Monmouthshire, a beautiful Arts and Crafts house in a magical setting, and the other to Stonehouse Cottage Garden and nursery near Kidderminster. A plantsmans paradise with so many unusual and rare plants. There are several brick towers built in the gardens, mostly it seemed to us their purpose is to provide climbing frames for the many climbing plants in the gardens. An unusual and individual garden and well worth a visit. Take plenty of money for the fabulous array in the well stocked nursery!