Wonderful Summer!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weather Report

What is it about gardeners (and farmers) that we are never totally satisfied however fine the weather? We have had some fabulous days of warm sunshine for most of June which has brought many plants on very well but the lack of rain (very dry indeed for this part of Wales) and some very cold nights in mid month which turned some tomatoes blue, have been regular concerns. We worry more than we should, as at present there are no hosepipe bans here. Some of the more tender shrubs we thought we had lost after the winter have begun to show growth at the base or on low branches which offers hope that in time they may fully recover. Moira has been in her swimmimg pool more times this month than the whole of last year so she has no concerns about the weather!


Garden Update

There is just too much in bloom now to mention everything. All areas of the garden look full and colourful with many spring sown annuals such as poppies, cornflowers both blue and black, orlaya grandiflora a lovely white umbellifer from the meadows of Europe, ursinia speciosa and dimorphotheca aurantica from South Africa and the ubiquitous Californian poppies providing vivid shows of colour all over the garden. Such a mass of colour for the price of a few packets of seed augmented by seed gathered from the garden last autumn.

The lawns are brownish but they will come back when we get rain. Vegetables look very good and we are already cropping various members of the cabbage family, carrots, broad beans, beetroot, lettuce, and potatoes. Strawberries are tremendous and we can't keep up with them and the raspberries and currants are coming into full production. There seem to be less bugs and slugs this year but a few potatoes are showing signs of early blight.

There is also the really attractive nicotiana "Lime Green"which has been judiciously planted all over the garden and at 2-3 feet it really is a sight and goes with almost anything it is planted with. One of our lady visitors last Tuesday fell in love with it and gathered up a large number from the nursery in her arms and brought them for payment. At that moment my mind went back to the late lamented Christopher Lloyd and what he would have thought if he had seen her. Apart from complimenting her obvious good taste in plant selection, he would, I am sure, have been impressed by the colour combination suggested by the nicotianas up against her deep pink jumper. Over the top yes but what a picture!!

We were worried how the more tender plants in the red border and the Koi pond border would fare after the winter but with some inevitable losses other things have come back, like many overwintered dahlias, salvias (including the tender involucrata) and most pleasing of all a big stand of lobelia tupa at the foot of the yew tree on the edge of the red border.

Although there aren't many roses in the garden they have enjoyed the sunshine none more so than the lovely David Austin rose  "Gertrude Jekyll", a really strong grower, very floriferous, good scent in a deep shade of pink. Now thinking of the Lime Green nicotiana that gives me an idea....!


What looks good at the moment

Apart from all the plants mentioned above there are some less obvious stars scattered around the garden which we treasure. One plant which always sums up late June to me is crambe cordifolia a 7 foot tall member of the brassica family, with big leaves and an inflorence not unlike a gypsophila and a most wonderful honey scent. This is quite a feature of other member of the cabbage family, especially wallflowers. It is not a plant for small spaces or the faint hearted but I would not be without it. It is a stalwart of many white garden planting schemes, which is where we first saw if many years ago in the white garden at Margery Fish's old garden at East Lambrook Manor in Somerset. Four of them at each corner of the planting scheme and the scent coming from them was overpowering. I took some root cuttings of our large plant last autumn, using a stout spade to chop the dense root crown into segments, each with a small growing eye. They have all taken well and are for sale now in the nursery.

Staying with the white theme in a little shade is the graceful gillenia trifoliata, an unusual member of the rose family looking like anything but a rose. It holds its star shaped flowers clear of the foliage and has persistent red sepals which remain long after the plant finishes flowering in mid July, which is typical of roses (think of hips for example).

Finally out of many strong contenders for plant of the month there are the waterlilies. They are magnificient and the well established ones covered in blooms. This has encouraged me to get "down and dirty" in the Paddock Pond and I have waged war on the blanket weed. Chest waders get me to all but the deepest parts of the pond and when the weed is removed it helps the water to warm up quickly just the conditions appreciated by waterlilies. I did however come unstuck late one night when in the fading light I failed to spot a lily basket and ended up with more water inside the waders than outside. Glad there was no-one around to see. I got no sympathy from Moira who thought it nuts to be cleaning the pond in near darkness!

Just a brief mention of clematis which look well and the early large flowered have had the best year for some time even though a few have suffered from clematis wilt. The promise of many flowers on the excellent growth of the later flowering ones is exciting.



The pied flycatchers in the nest box successfully raised their brood as did the pied wagtails in the woodpile under the verandah. We heard a cuckoo for all of 30 seconds in early June, the first we have heard here for many years. They were common in my early years in the 70's at Cilgwyn Lodge. The same applies to redstarts of which we see less and less each year.

The tadpoles in the Paddock Pond are rapidly turning into froglets  but as toads spawn later their tadpoles are still developing in the pond. There are thousands a golden rudd fry, scarcely visible, and large shoals of decent sized rudd. Considering we started with just 12 fish they have proved to be very good value as they spawn at a relatively young age. We have also seen several grass carp recently which have been in the pond for 2 years and this is the first time we have seen them (obviously they have been too occupied with the mountains of blanketweed until recently).

There are some wonderful damselflies and dragonflies in great numbers of numerous species some of which escape identification. The blue demoisselles are dainty but have large irridescent midnight blue wings which shimmer in the sunlight.They prefer the running water of the river at the bottom of the garden but make regular forays over the pond. In contrast are the big bruisers of the dragonfly family including the menacing presence of the emperor dragonfly , up to 6 inces long with a big wingspan. They are often seen elsewhere in the garden away form the garden and sometimes fly quite close to us to decide if we would be worth eating. Usually they decide against it fortunately and return their attention to hunting down all manner of flying insects. In particular their aerial combats with butterflies is something to behold.



We had 6 group visits in June and numerous individual visits. Largely the weather was good. July is our busiest month with our Open Day on 25 July from 1 - 5 pm, and visits from the garden clubs in Talybont-on-Usk and Ferryside, Wales Historic Gardens Trust and the British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society on their Summer Weekend get together, their first in Wales. Members come from all over the UK and there are 2 overseas visitors from Sweden. We are really honoured they are coming to see us. Fortunately it seems to be a good year for hostas and at present they look very good. There are also several visits booked by groups of private individuals. Already we are having interest for visits next year and were visited by representatives of another garden tour company based in Holland.

On Saturday just gone I turned visitor for a change when I judged Llanwrtyd Wells in Bloom competition. Moira and I spent all day visiting 22 gardens, meeting some lovely people and seeing many interesting and thought provoking gardens. It was a humbling experience to be asked to do it and we enjoyed our day.


Late News

On Monday 28 June we attended a Reception at Llwynywermod, the home in Wales of TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, which is just a couple of of miles away from Cilgwyn Lodge in the community of Myddfai. It was an honour to be asked and a very pleasant evening was spent in the company of many local people in the Great Barn which has been restored to accommodate events of this kind. The Prince of Wales is the Patron of the NGS and his love of gardening is reflected in the courtyard garden of Llwynywermod which is perfectly in keeping with the buildings surrounding it. We met both the Prince and Duchess and they were very easy to talk to and interested in what we are doing. Moira wasted no time in giving them our garden brochure and we hope that one day they may take up our invitation to come and see the garden.