Bountiful Summer

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer perennials at their peak in the Paddock Garden.  Two 50 yard long complementary borders which give the "Wow Factor"



Sitting under the pergola tonight writing these notes is a pleasure indeed. It is a balmy evening and the scent of the brugmansias and oriental lilies is quite overpowering. It is also nice to have a break in a busy summer of visitors to the gardens and to recharge the batteries after our most successful Open Day for the National Gardens Scheme. We have even found the time to have a couple of days in North Wales last weekend. We have had so many compliments about the gardens it makes all our efforts worthwhile. It is good to know that they give such pleasure to others.

If you have been recently you will know that the revamps we have done to some of the borders have lifted them to new levels, especially those that had begun to look tired. It is easy to get the impression that having so many perennials in the garden makes gardening easier and reduces replanting every year but in reality even perennial plants need refreshing every few years and some of the more vigorous forms need splitting or reducing on a regular basis. An active garden nursery such as we have ensures a steady supply of new plants for the gardens and plenty for sale to our visitors.

Every year more and people switch on to perennial planting with demand for robust hardy plants capable of withstanding the coldest winters. With this in mind I am preparing a new talk for my winter series entitled "Designing with Perennials - Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden" which should be a popular talk in our portfolio of talks (see Nursey, Talks and Teas elsewhere on the website). If you would like us to give a talk to your club or society during the winter months please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements.


Weather Report

What a strange month July was - very cold nights until mid month with overnight temperatures below 5C on several nights and dull days with some rain. Then suddenly, like someone flicked a switch, the days and nights got warmer and we had some torrential rain at times which triggered a tremendous spurt of growth in all plants. The last 2 weeks have been exceptionally humid day and night and throughout the month there was no significant wind. Not quite the weather you expect in July and although we often look longingly at the weather enjoyed in the south east, we have had some good rain and the grass is green and I wouldn't swap that (on second thoughts perhaps I would because we could use the swimmimg pool more often!!)


Garden Update

The humid weather saw the arrival of potato blight, affecting the most susceptible variety we grow, Charlotte, one of our all time favourites for taste and keeping qualities until March. By cutting off the haulms as soon as the blight appears it saves the crop. Most others are reasonably OK but a few plants of each are now showing some blight damage. The crop however is fantastic, even the earlies giving a bucket of healthy tubers to 3 or 4 roots and of a very good size. An early planting in March, no late frosts and plenty of June rain is the key to success this year.

All the root crops are doing well carrots again with littke carrot fly damage but a few chewed leaves thanks to the occasional visit of a rabbit or two. Runner beans coming in now and a good crop of dwarf french beans from a variety called Delinel. We are trying a late sowing of a climbing form of French bean that has been highly recommended to us called Sultana - a strange name for a bean but who cares if it tastes good and crops well later in the season.

Sweet peas have done fantastically after looking like they would never flower. Because of the cold nights and lack of sunshine they put on lots of leafy growth but all the flowers aborted before they formed. Now we can't keep up with them - 12 wigwams of 14 plants each producing a tremendous number of flowers for cutting each day, scenting the whole vegetable garden where they are grown. 



The sluice to the Paddock Pond has done a great job in keeping the levels topped up and providing fresh water every day. This keeps the water in good condition and the constant movement keeps the surface glass clear. The only down side is that the pond water doesn't have the chance to warm up quickly so the water lilies aren't flowering so vigorously as previous years, but nothing is ever perfect in a garden is it?



What's looking good?

The hostas had their peak in June before the hailstorm damaged them but on one of the many cold nights in July I was fortunate to capture this amazing picture of the hosta walk in the picket fence cottage border when a very heavy dew shimmered silver in the light of and LCD torch. I must be nuts - who else takes pics of their garden at 1.00 am?!! What price a hosta in this colour?



Now every other part of the garden is looking good! The Paddock Garden borders, each 50 yards long and up to 8 yards wide are full of colour and as each phase of plants begins to slow down others wait in readiness to take over from them. We have also bedded out lots of salvias in numerous forms to provide for a blaze of late summer colour to last until the frosts and good long lasting annuals like cosmos and rudbeckia. labour intensive earlier in the season but now paying dividends. 

In these borders there is a growing collection of hardy impatiens (balsams but not please note himalayan balsam which would not be a welcome visitor! having taken over many of the local river banks). Queen of these is the majestic impatiens tinctoria, a form from the highlands of Kenya and east Africa. Seven foot tall from a tuberous rootstock and proving very hardy here over 12 years, it has large beautifully scented flowers and makes a massive statement is moist soil in some shade. Much admired by visitors who always want it but I can never produce enough as it does not come easy from seeds or cuttings. Probably due to my incompetence!!



It is difficult to single out a few plants from so many that deserve top billing but right now one of the best because of its sheer flower power is brugmansia sanguinea. Not as tall or vigorous as the larger flowered suaveolens forms nor sadly scented, it is nevertheless dripping with many red flowers. It prefers a cooler summer and is much better in some shade in a pot. Like all of the brugmanisia tribe easy from cuttings, all of which will flower the following year from cuttings taken in the autumn and overwintered frost free ( and have you seen their prices from nurseries and garden centres?!!)



Although many of our dahlias succumbed to the winter a few came through and a stand out one is Karma Choc a waterlily type with dark foliage and almost mahogany black flowers. Pictures scarcely do it justice. We have introdoced some new cultivars this summer and having had so many good reports about it we are growing Rip City a really big flowered decorative on stout stems in a most brilliant in your face red which anchors the red border with its colour and solidity.

Dahlia "Rip City"  - how about that for in your face  red and stout stems too!



What sadly isn't looking good is our large collection of hemerocallis (daylilies) which were ravged by the deadly gall midge. They stunt and destroy the flowers and what they haven't finished the dull conditions and heavy rain has. The older the clumps the worse they seem to be. Some splitting and reappraisal to do in the autumn. However the few remaining plants we have from American Hemerocallis seed are flowering and some real stars have emerged.

These are 2 of the best a good yellow and red spider and a really impressive purple with crimped edged petals.



On a happier note my little mentioned small greenhouses are star performers in their own right. Small. none of them bigger than 10 x 6 feet, they are packed with plants and are plant specific. In one we have a large collection of choice pelargoniums, some rare or unusual and also species forms. Another plays host in summer months to Moira's growing collection of succulents lovingly acquired over many years and the third is a mix of tender plants of all kinds. It is amazing just how many plants you can cram into such a small space including streptocarpus, triphylla type fuchsias, ferns, begonias, pelargoniums, tender impatiens, unusual small shrubs including coffee, and winter flowering plants having a rest like clivias, cyclamen and Christmas cactus. There are also regularly changed bulbs in season from the larger polytunnels. This house is heated to keep a minimum winter temperature of 4C.




One really special plant flowering right now in that greenhouse and so tender it spends the winter in the cosy luxury of the wood burner warmed house is clereodendron myricoides Ugandense with unusual deep blue flowers and glaucous foliage. A joy to see it every day it was loaned to and painted by the botanic artist Sonya White. Her painting was exhibited at the Society of Botanic Artists Winter Exhibition in London.





Red kites to order! These wonderful birds are common now but have the habit of putting on a special show for visitors, especially those from overseas. They made an extra special effort when we entertained a group from Groeii and Bloeii Garden Group of Holland on 21 July, whistling from the tall trees along the river and doing flypasts that would put the Red Arrows to shame! Our visitors loved it!

The toadpoles have at last left the Paddock Pond and once again the lawns around the pond are alive with them. They have a much longer time in the tadpole stage than frogs.

It seems that the cold winter may have had a detrimental effect on future dragonfly populations because there are not nearly so many on the wing as in previous years, even on the warmest of days.

All activity seems to be around the Paddock Pond where the new fish have settled in well and the carp have doubled in size and are eager feeders whenever the pond pellets are thrown in the pond. They need to be wary however because the kingfishers have been much in evidence the last month once or so, sometimes even perching on the rowing boat in the pond.

Another recent visitor and one not often seen or heard here has been the green woodpecker or yaffle as it was commonly called in Gloucestershire where I grew up. It's relatively large size, dipping flight pattern and unmistakeable call makes it easy to identify. Greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers are relatively common with their black and white plumage and red heads

The magpies still plague us night and day with their constant squaking and general air of menace; the only time they go quiet is when the sparrowhawk is around and where are the goshawks when you most need them? 

Rabbits are everywhere, in the fields, on the roads and occasionally in the gardens. At present they are not too much of a problem but seem to have favourite plants that they chomp merrily away, especially carrot tops and achilleas which they seem determined to "Chelsea Chop" even though it is no longer May.



Apart from that wonderful Open Day we have had 5 Group Visits in July from local Clubs and Societes and one from Holland. Groeii and Bloeii is a national Dutch garden magazine that has regional groups all over the country. We had a visit from the Asten-Someren Group which was very enjoyable. Some really good plantspeople and great fun as is always the case with our Dutch friends.


Group photo of Groeii and Bloeii Asten/Someren Group in the Paddock Garden.



As many of them knew each other well there was great camaraderie and leg pulling and one of the group took it upon herself to clean the coach windows and got a bucket of water over her for her pains!



We have had a few outings ourselves this month with trips to gardens great and small from Cheshire to Harlech and Powys to Herefordshire, not all at the same time! Its nice to see what others are doing and to get ideas for making improvements to our own gardens.


The Herbaceous Border at Arley Hall,Cheshire . reputedly the oldest border of its kind in Britain



If you would like to visit our gardens or visit the nursery, please get in touch.  We don't have that many free dates left for visits but we will do our best to accommodate you.


Best wishes from Keith and Moira

Here is a final picture a the end of the Open Day looking relaxed and delighted with our successful Open Day, a fitting end to July News.