Haven't we seen this type of August before?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It is interesting to read back over the last 7 years of August News items and to reflect on just how many similar ones we have had to this year. It made me feel a little better  because it has been quite depressing at times. But as always most plants did what they generally do best - just keep calm and carry on!

Asters can always been replied upon to put on a good show (possibly "Little Carlow"?)



Roses hate the rain so flowering has been very spasmodic and a string of colder nights have set back the many salvias in the gardens. Reading through those earlier News items brought home vividly to me just how mature the borders are now, and what height can do to raise their impact, especially hydrangeas which have recovered well from those late frosts in April.




 I have over 400 pictures from which to select  those suitable for this months edition (which is a long one even by my standards!!!) It was a reminder that from the perspective of the garden, it was a much better month than it had seemed at times.

For Moira it was a good month to celebrate her 65th birthday








Not surprisingly there were far more rain days than dry ones with precipitation on 23 days often heavy and prolonged. Like most western parts of the UK rainfall was higher than average.

Only 3 daytime temperatures above 21C with a max of  22C on 27/8  and a min of16C on 11th.

6 night time min temperatures below 10C  lowest 6c on 12th and 31st.


Skyscapes were more exciting than the weather!





The promise of a blue moon and a red moon over a couple of nights kept me up late, but although there were clear skies no sign of any colours. The moon still looked nice!


 I also hoped to see the meteor showers during the latter part of the month with no success. 


Garden Update

The imminent change of the seasons is evident all over the garden - some early autumn colour, asters, a range of sedums coming into full bloom, dahlias going crazy! and my favourite and much loved rudbeckias now well into their stride. 

One of the surest signs of autumn is dew on cobwebs


 Paddock Garden Borders


Sedums starting to break in the Koi Pond Border



Rudbeckia var sullivantii "Goldsturm"


Moira deadheading roses which with all the rain has been a seemingly never ending task.



Perhaps the main highlight is the peak of the vegetable harvest - 16 types of vegetable now ready, including potatoes dug for storing, onions and garlic to dry and regular harvesting of sweetcorn,  beans and courgettes before they grow too large. The weather has played a big part in the quality and quantity of the harvest with brassicas and root crops doing very well and those that prefer warmer and drier conditions, and insects for pollination, have done less well especially legumes, courgettes and tomatoes.


 One of monster summer Savoys which have been superb, variety Miletta, and have kept in good condition for 2 months


 Another brassica doing well is  the humble swede: a row of perfect plants and good sized swedes already. Sweeter and more tender at this time of year





A new potato variety for me this year is "Pippa",, a hybrid of "Pink Fir Apple" larger tubers and a heavier cropper; earlier too.


 Like "Pink fir Apple" some amazing shapes! to win first prizes in the class of most unusual shaped vegetable at your village show.


 Kitkat the cat takes a dim view of his bench in the large tunnel being taken over to dry a good crop of onions.


 So he goes for a walk with a new friend! He is not fazed by anything.


Another big factor all over the garden and covered areas is the enormous amount of pests and diseases. Capsid bugs worse than I have ever seen, whitefly on everything, red spider mite particularly troublesome on brugmansias, cabbage white butterflies, the only form we have seen in large quantaties, and larger pests like mice eating peas before they have the chance to mature. 

Capsid damage on salvia "Amistad" which wrecks the emerging flower buds and disfigures the leaves.



Remains of peas eaten by mice



Given how highly I value our lawns it was disappointing after an absence of a few years, to see the return of cockchaffer grubs, the larval stage of May Bugs which eat the roots of grass. There are patches in both our main lawns. Somehow a range of birds especially corvids are able to locate them and rip out the affected grass to get at the grubs 




As for diseases, mildew is all over the courgettes and some of the legumes were badly affected by what I think was fusarium wilt, with yellowing of leaves followed quickly by leaf drop. Blackspot and rust on roses all summer.




 End of seaon clear up in the Paddock Pond, paticularly thinning overgrown waterlilies. 



Gardening is all about ups and downs and we soon get over them, however bad things seem to be at the time! There are plenty of good things to celebrate too. Just read on!


What's looking good?

We are so pleased that the majority of our 60+ hydrangea macrophyllas and serratas  have flowered this summer after being badly frosted in late April. The hardier hydrangeas, arborescens and paniculatas that flower on new wood, have put on a terrific show and made a big statement all over the gardens, especially as they are never cut back in Spring as you often see recommended. If you follow this and cut them back hard you will have much larger flower heads but they are not capable of holding their heads up in winds or heavy rain.

Hydrangea macrophylla "Generale  Vicomtesse de Vibraye" paired with species dahlia merckii.



 H. aspera subsp. sargentiana


Of all the h. paniculata in the gardens, perhaps the biggest inpact is made by "Vanille Fraise" 



This unusual paniculata is "Great Star"  now known by its cultivar name of "Le Vasterival" Quite rare in cultivation.



 Paniculata "Limelight" is a well deserved favourite for its lime green buds turning white"


 One of the most exciting of any of the 80+ hydrangeas  in the garden is H. Preziosa" which has fascinating contrasts of flower and leaf colours, and which can vary between plants and where they are growing in the gardens


There are many other fine things to admire in the following pics.

Agapanthus appear to like regular rainfall as they are having a good year and staying in flower for a long time.



 Marvellous deepest blue buds of Agapanthus "Royal Velvet" a brand new introduction from Pine Cottage Plants



Agapanthus "Enigma"



 Tender large flowered agapanthus are grown in large pots and placed around the Koi Pond every year, overwintered in the frost free tunnels.



 Agapanthus inapertus with downward facing flowers are an attractive alternative to the more normal flower heads



Other S,African plants which enjoy mosture in summer are kniphofias giving height and form to most borders in an open and bright spot.

At the back is "Uvaria nobilis" up to 8 feet tall, and the shorter green flowered one is "Green Jade"



All time favourite here and much admired over the years is impatiens tinctoria, scented flowers, shade loving and not invasive. Now in its 18th year.



Thalictrum "Hewitts Double" like a giant pink gypsophylla 7-8 feet tall flowering much longer than most in the genus



I have been infatuated with our Red Border  ever since seeing the one at Hidcote years ago, and enjoyed the never ending challenge of blending together , in as wide a variety of plants as possible, all the shades of red in a harminous fashion.



Which begs the question "What colour is Red?" and of course there isn't a definitive answer. I have discovered they don't all have to be true red, but a colour that will blend in if appropriately sited. Just some of the contributors to the overall border:



Lobelia "Ruby Slippers"



Salvia "Silkes Red"



Dahlia "Nuit D'ete"



Lobelia tupa, and the helenium which definitely isn't red, but was labelled "Moerheim Beauty" which is!


 Rosa "Munstead Wood"



At this time of year I look forward to the smaller, later flowered clematis that are so in tune in scale and size with the season.


Clematis rehderiana, vigorous and lightly scented of cowslips so it is claimed.



C. "Prince Charles"


 A possible hybrid of c. texensis x c. crispa which I grew from seed many years ago and has taken that long to flower prolifically. Well worth the wait!




Perhaps of all the clematis in flower now this is the best because it is colourful, very vigorous and well scented. C. x triternata "Rubromarginata" is another hybrid form which deserves a place in any garden. Like many of the smaller flowered forms if performs well if grown up a large shrub.



Even when the flowers are spent, the seed pods, (atragenes) of many clematis are an attractive, long lasting feature, such as these from c. koreana



It's not all about the big "show offs!" there are some  understated quiet corners all over the gardens. Monarda and teucrium "Purple Tails" in a veil of gypsophylla



 Cyclamen hederifolium, part of a large colony  in a shady spot under an acer.



A pleasing combination of hakonechloa macra, hosta "Orange Marmalade" and  inula hookeri


 I am really pleased with this planting combination of Jap. anemone and a delicate pink sanguisorba. 



Wildlife and Countryside

The distinct shortage of butterflies all month, most likely due to the wet weather,  is disappointing even when the buddleias were at their peak. Aside from Cabbage Whites, Peacocks are the most numerous with Red Admirals not far behind them, but Commas and small Tortoishells have been very scarce. A few dragonflies on the wing in drier, warmer interludes.

 One solitary Peacock on Buddleia "Black Night"



Damselfly ? "Blue demoiselle" was an unusual sighting in August. Quite a feat on a hand held long zoom!


 On the same day at Rousham (see visits later) Green unidentified dragonfly laying eggs.


Making an appearance in the gardens after an absence of some years is the green woodpecker or Yaffle, on account of its peculiar call which it utters during its distinctive dipping flight. Sadly no opportunities to photograph it as a I rarely see it on the ground. Another elusive bird heard recently for the first time this summer is the kingfisher. I still live in hope of that magic picture of one, perched on the end of the boat on the Paddock Pond, which I saw some years ago, minus my camera!


Swallows ready for the off on 28th



They were everywhere including many trees, more like murmurations of starlings in winter



Ash Die Back disease, is now showing itself again all over Carmarthenshire, and in other parts of Wales and England  that we have been to on our travels around. It seems worse than last year with most of the trees in our gardens affected and branches up to 2 inches in diameter that have now become so brittle they are dropping off in even a gentle wind. It goes to illustrate what a liability it will be for landowners when larger branches begin to be shed particularly where trees are close to a public road.

In the surrounding countryside some trees have started to show autumn colour and begin to drop leaves. Our farmer neighbours were glad of a settled spell of weather towards the month end to get in a first cut of silage, one the latest I have known since the late 1970's when the grass harvest was predominantly hay and much more challenging in a wet summer.




We had a short break in an area of middle England covering 4 counties that are very closely connected:- Buckingham, Oxford, Northampton and Warwickshire. There is a tremendous range of gardens here to choose from but not enough time to do as many as we would have liked.

Those that we did visit included the following

Rousham Oxfordshire.  www.rousham.org  Sorry I couldn't get a direct link to work. If you type the web address into your search engine  it will take you to the website and it is well worth it.

An entrancing,  almost 400 year old historic house,  formal garden and landscape park by William Kent one of the pioneers of landscape design and mentor of Capability Brown.  Still in the same family, it is one of the few gardens to have escaped alteration over the years. It made a considerable impact upon us, as few gardens have such presence and variety of interest and style.












Unusual and secular stained glass panels catch the eye 













What an unexpected surprise along the River Cherwell to find this one plant of an unidentified impatiens. Unfortunately the bank was too steep to make a positive identification. I am not aware of a native species so will do some further investigation. 



Waterperry, Oxfordshire. www.waterperrygardens.co.uk










Fibrex Nurseries Warwickshire. www.fibrex.co.uk

Holders of  a National Collection of Pelargoniums and with over 2,000 different cultivars and species, it is the largest collection in the world.





P. lanceolatum one of a wide range of species forms.



 P. schottii



P. litterale so rare it is not in the current edition of the RHS "Plant  Finder"









One of the joys of driving around mostly country lanes is the range of pubs you come across, many of which are unique, if they have not been taken over by the large chains. They have done well to avoid closure, which seems to be the fate of many rural pubs, and a significant loss to the local communities.



Raise a glass to them and the hope, however faint, of an Indian Summer to welcome in the Autumn. We do deserve one don't we?

Happy gardening.