July warmth brings explosion of summer flowers

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reading through my rather low key News items for the last few months I was determined, whatever the weather in this most dismal summer, to accentuate the positive in my July news and thanks to some recent sunshine and warmth my task has been made easy. An explosion of growth and colour in the last 2 weeks has lifted the spirits and my own chloryphyll levels are rising to almost burtsing point! Even most of the veggies are starting to grow away now, although thanks to mice and rabbits and in spite of my best efforts, there will be no peas this year.

The red border with  purple globes of allium sphaeracephallum, monarda "Garden View Scarlet" and a bright red gladiolus species



The shady Paddock Border looking up to the house. More muted colours here with kiringishoma palmatum  in the foreground, about to burst into flower with many lemon downward facing bells of flowers well into September



I am going to have to rein in my excitement to keep July News within bounds but there is so much to inspire wherever you look in the garden; great roses in spite of some downy mildew causing leaf drop, cornus kousa "Norman Hadden" plastered in flowers, moisture lovers revelling in all the rain and perhaps best of all are the dieramas or "Angels Fishing Rods" up to seven feet of waving wands all over the Koi Pond Border. After waiting a long time I am truly in love with the garden again!

Cornus kousa "Norman Hadden"at 15 foot tall, making a big statement as one approaches the main garden entrance.

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Dieramas, seedlings from D. pulcherrimum in various shades of pink




Heavy rain and strong winds in the first half of the month gave way to the recent hot spell with max temperature of 27.8C on 25 July and a min. of 18C on the same night. It is amazing after all the rain how quickly the ground has dried up now that everything is in strong growth.


Garden update

Plants are really moving now even though the season is about 2 weeks later than normal. Early summer flowering plants, especially campanulas that have usually finished by now are still going strong and the main summer flush has really burst into life and with a high water table there is no shortage of moisture to help them on their way, aided by some exceptionally warm nights. Lawns are green and lush everywhere. 

A seed grown campanula that came to me a C. trachelium var album but the flowers seem too large to me. Whatever it is a fine plant which at a distance seems like a lilium candidum


At the entrance to the Paddock Garden where there were some winter damaged large shrubs that have been removed, I have planted drifts of annuals amongst the newly established clumps of rose"Jacqueline du Pre" a single white fading peachy pink. A good repeat flowering form with a pleasing scent. Annuals in shades of white/pink include papaver somniferum (opium poppy), cosmos "Sweet Sixteen", "Picotee" and "Purity" and the dark red almost black Centaurea "Black Ball", the dark cornflower setting off the pink to very good effect. 

My efforts in going out with horticultural fleece every night in April and May when an air frost was forecast, to cover the hydrangeas, has paid dividends with h.macrophylla "Merveille Sanguine" (thank you Paul of Greens Leaves Nursery for introducing me to this dark red/dark leaved beauty) flowering for the first time in 6 years (it must have heard me muttering about "one more chance and you're out!")  Another pleasing success has been with h. macrophylla "General Viscomtesse de Vibray" obtained from Portmeirion in 2001 and multiplied by cuttings which strike easily. Until now  when it has flowered it has been in a shade of blue because we are on acid soil with a PH of about 6.5, but one large plant is in ground that may be lower than that because this year it has the most wonderful china blue flowers (bracts actually but who cares?) as good as those which made me buy the plant all those years ago in Portmeirion. It serves to remind us how critical PH is in determining the colour range of many hydrangeas (whites especially and some reds are not affected by the PH balance).

Hydrangea "Viscomtesse de Vibray" at dusk. Blue colours seem to shine through the gloom at this time of day.


Despite the ravages of mice and rabbits, the debilitating effect of the unseasonal weather and potato blight the veg garden is coming on although we are nowhere near where we should be in late July, only brassicas, potatoes and salad leaves to harvest at present and it is so frustrating and embarassing, given I am supposed to be a good vegetable grower, to have to be buying vegetables at this time of year ( I try to hide my face in the supermarket check out in case anyone notices me!!) It seems however that most people who grow vegetables are similarly affected, even the great Medwyn Williams told me last week that it was one of the worst years he could remember, though you would scarcely believe it from his exhibit at the Royal Welsh Show (see also Visits item later).


What's looking good?

Well the 3D's for a start - dieramas, daylilies and dahlias all for different reasons. Dieramas quite simply because they have never flowered better even though some have been planted for 10 years. They come from a part of South Africa where they have plenty of rain in summer and dryness in winter. Challenging in the UK, but they have proved hardy here being planted in a sheltered situation in sharply drained ground. This year they have had rain at just the right time they were coming into growth during April and May and for once I did feed them well with high potash feed. The result is magnificient and unforgettable in shades of dark and light pink, sultry purples and red at various heights from 3 feet to over 7 feet. 

This pic. does not do them justice and you will be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about but don't blame the plants it's either me or the camera and one of us has to go!


Daylilies (hemerocallis) after a really poor year in 2011 have come back with a vengance after treatment of the gall midge last winter (see June news), some splitting of the larger clumps and yes dear reader, all the rain. I have added to my collection with some good purchases last year and the plants I grew from seed received from the American Hemerocallis Society a few years ago have matured well with some stunning colours and unique flowers including a large red and yellow spider and a purple with ruffled petals and very tall.

The superb spider form of daylily


Although individual plants don't flower for more than about a month there are early, late and repeat flowering forms so with careful selection it is possible to have something in flower from May until September.

Hemerocallis "Scarlet Oak" a big robust very floriferous form with really dep red flowers 



A very good puple/blue form - loose the label of a hem. and you are lost!



Dahlias overwintered as always in the garden, struggled with the wet winter and many have failed to come back but fortunately I always have some mature plants in pots to replant, and some new plants grown from my own seed sown in late February  to make large flowering plants by mid July. When growing from seed you never know what you are going to get as where you grow different varieties close together they cross readily to give a wide range of forms and colours, some better than others but unlike many crosses you don't have to wait very long to find this out. I select the single flower forms with dark foliage which are personal favourites but not to the exclusion of some of the more blousy "in your face" dahlias that typify the genus.


Seedilngs from  the seed parent"Twynings After Eight" - a very dark leaved single with pure white flowers.Seedlings include pink, vermillion, yellow, dark leaved, plain green leaved, tall and short forms. If such a range troubles you take cuttings in late March which will come true to type



Wildlife and countryside

Very little to report on the wildlife front with a distinct absence of bees, butterflies and moths even though there are plenty of flowers for them. I did get a brief sighting tonight of a falcon over the Lodge either a peregrine or a merlin. It was such a brief sighting it was difficult to make a positive identification but it had serious designs on the large number of swallows driven lower by the wet evening.

Blackbirds have discovered the ripening tomatoes in the polytunnel and started to make a nuiance of themselves taking them just before they are ready to harvest. I don't mind losing a few but there are lots of blackbirds around and they have a voracious appetite! 

One blackbird was seen on several occasions last week in the hot weather sunbathing on the lawn. Spread flat out it looked injured but as soon as I went to investigate it flew off, and of course by the time I retrieved the camera it had flown off. 

One final piece of good news is that after an absence of over a year we have a robin back in the garden. We just hope he stays around for the winter months when they become very tame and a constant companions whatever the weather.

On the farming front it has been a very slow silage and hay harvest but last week's fine weather presented an opportuniy to make hay while the sun shines and the lanes were busy all day with harvest traffic.


Visits and visitors

It has seemed very strange to have had no visitors in what has been traditionally the month when we have our NGS Open Day so for the first time in 13 years, we have had the chance to go visiting ourselves. We did however have at short notice last Saturday, a wedding party visit the garden to have their photos taken. It is a pleasure to be able to provide this facility and to use the gardens in a different way.



A quiet moment for the bride and groom, looking out over the Paddock Pond. 



The getaway car wasn't too bad either (a Beaufort kit car), which sits very well on the drive with the house and new conservatory but unfortunately the driver was reluctant to leave it behind!



As for us we have visited NGS gardens and been to RHS Tatton Park for the first time, By staying overnight nearby we were in the showground as soon as it opened  giving an hour or so before it got really busy. Some good nurseries many from the north that we hadn't encountered before, and some inspiring show gardens, more than any other RHS Show.

The soft fruit competition was mouthwatering, none better than this beautifully presented basket



In the floral marquee there was this marvellous stand of disa, an orchid group I had not previously encountered.  I was very tempted to buy some at £10.50 each but caution got the better of me. especially as they seem to be very demanding culturally and with my track record of orchid growing I decided to stick with herbaceous perennials!



Last week I gave my talk entitled "Growing Vegetables" at The Royal Welsh Show on a steamimg hot day. There was little ventilation in the marquee and in the circumstances there was good attendance, the audience participating well.

The "On Stage" arena prior to the talk


The horticultural element of the Show does seem to be contracting over the years which is disappointing but there were some good exhibits and nurseries in attendance. It was great to see Medwyn Williams exhibiting his tremendous range of vegetables staying loyal to his "local" show in spite of all those Chelsea Gold Medals. I have not seen better vegetables anywhere so it was great experience to be introduced to him after my talk and he spent a long time talking to us. He seems unaffected by all his success and is very down to earth. As the result of that contact Medwyn has invited me to North Wales in the autumn to give a talk to his area of the National Vegetable Society. You can imagine how I feel about such an honour and I just hope I am up to it!!

The great man with his large gold medal and the backdrop of his superb vegetables. Medwyn is on the left! If I had known I was going to meet him I would have taken more care with my outfit!!


Our visitor season begins in earnest in mid August with 6 group bookings and if you would like to come there are still a few dates left so please get in touch with us. 

 In the meantime on Friday Moira celebrates her 60th Birthday with a weekend of activities planned with family and friends coming to share the milestone event with her.