Patience, persistence, perfection!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

After last month's marathon web news I have resolved this month to try andexercise more self control. I tell myself this most months but once I get going I never know when to stop!! 

Headlines are often a stumbling block to starting,but once I have decided on one it is relatively easy to make a start. This month's Headline:-  Persistence, Patience and Perfection is quite different as it came about whilst I was thinning 7 long rows of carrots - more on this garden task later on.  I was trying to rationalise the back breaking task of pulling up many tiny carrot plants, to keep me on track 6 hours into the task! The qualities  needed to do this are much the same as what I practice every day in the garden in all the other jobs I do.You always regret later cutting corners which usually adds to more work or problems  later. Whether I think the same about the continous weeding of this wet summer is another matter!



Like most other parts of the UK the weather here has been challenging and had a negative impact on how well the gardens have  looked. Very little colour apart from green! and ground so sticky that it is very difficult to work on.


Basic weather Stats:- 9 Days of sunshine, 9 Days of precipitation,  12 days of changeable weather, a mix of precipitation and sun. Thunder on 10th.  Temperatures:- Max 26C on 29th, Min4C on 22nd, 3days of strong wind at the end of the month rated at 45 mph on local forecasts. Some minor damage to plants. Rainfall 7.7" Exceptionally high for Carmarthenshire  which has a June average Rainfall of 3"

 This fine study in green includes helleborus x ericsmithii, and in the middle of the group if you can spot it, arisaema sanguineum and an unlabelled fern.



A spell of warmer and drier weather towards the end of the month was welcome and in the space of a few days, colour flooded into the gardens as roses, lilies, alstroemeria, delphiniums, geraniums to name just a few got into their stride.

None more so than philadelphus "Belle  Etoile" one of three varities  of the genus in the garden and by far the best and most pwerfully scented which on a humid and hot evening can be enjoyed from 40 yards across the House Garden. 2 weeks on it is now plastered in flowers.







There is however a positive side in that streams and rivers have risen and so watering  the borders  and nursery has rarely been necessary for the first time in three months. Something Moira is especially grateful for as she does all the watering in the nursery.


 The Paddock Pond has now been freshened and topped  up from the stream which runs into it.


We have however been more fortunate than many other places  in that there have been no floods here and no serious thunder and lightning.

Reviewing weather records I discovered that we had 2 similar Junes in 2011 and 2012. If it is any consolation, in those years the weather finally picked up later. In a recent TV News bulletin the forecaster said that the UK had low pessure every day in June up to 16th.

 A marvellous sky on the hottest night of the year so far with what looked like a mackerel Sky. In country lore that sort of sky is supposed to predict changeable weather but there was none forecast for the next 24 hours. However the old country lore won the day - "Mackerel sky never long wet and never long dry" and sure enough during the night there was light rain into the early morning!







Garden Update


I have already referred to veggies in the heading to this News in relation to thining carrots which applies equally to beetroot , parsnips and swede.

 I thought I am getting too old for this but as I don't like bendy carrots it is worth it!


 It looks wasteful but however thinly you sow the seed there is always too much. It was and may still be possible to buy degradeable strips set with carrot seed at the corect spacings.




Most vegetables have enjoyed all the rain with the exception of onions, and the more tender vegetables (it has also been quite cold at times) with courgettes  showing yellow patches. Potatoes have very generous haulms and showing the odd flowers but are still some way off the first harvest.


The first of the brassicas are now cropping. Lettuce and salad leaves also., cabbages and kohl rabi with brocolli heading up.


Khol Rabi is an astonishing vegetable which is a swollen stem. Tasting similar to the stalks of heading broccoli but much sweeter. We roast it but there are other ways of cooking it. The most we have enjoyed it is grated into coleslaw in lieu of white cabbage, with all the other vegetables. It is crunchy, nutty and as I said sweet. delicious!


With the absence of rabbits for the first time in ages, it has been such a joy to be able to grow most veg without a potective layer of horti. fleece, which may be needed soon once the carrot fly and cabbage white butterflies begin to appear in larger numbers - just the odd one or two seen so far.  After the disappointing crop of brassicas last year I have gone bonkers growing a large and varied range to ensure that we have no shortages later in the year and into winter. Brussel sprouts already growing strongly but it will be some time before they are ready  and you don't  really want to eat them much before October.




With a smaller vegetable patch than I used to have, I save space by sowing or planting out salad leaves and lettuce around the perimeters of all the other vegetable beds.


Lawns look lush but cutting them has reduced from three times to once a week and whilst the rain continues one less chore to do! but I do try to keep on top of cutting the lawn edges which creates a sharp line between the lawns and the adjoining borders.

Many of the high impact summer perennials have needed staking before they start to flop, by which time it is almost too late to do this.




Shrubs are very valuable in mixed borders which most of ours are, and this dark leaved physocarpus with clear white flowers makes a terrific contribution and blends in well with its border comapanions through the seasons


 Even larger shrubs like the dark leaved elder "Black Lace", and the oldest shrub in the garden a ponticum rhododendron which was here when we came.


Pests and diseases :-Slugs and snails, aphids on hellebore leaves, capsid bugs on a wide range of plants, blackfly on beans, leaf miner on brassicas which I have never had before, and hemorocallis gall midge starting to destroy the flower buds before they open. All fattened or mis shaped buds need to be removed once observed.  There is also rust on hollyhocks, mildew on a variety of plants and lately some blackleg on some potato stems. Quite a summer!

 Gall midge



 Hemerocallis liloasphodelus is always the first to flower and with a perfume is a welcome arrival. The buds are mostly in a good condition



Capsid damage on newly emerged dahlia leaves.



An interesting garden bug (the froghopper or spittle bug)  has become common in the last month or so and is the source of much scientific interest because it it is suspected as being a carrier of the dreaded Xyella  disease that has ravaged  trees and olive groves on the continent but has not yet been reported in the UK. Most people will be familiar with a frothy foam with a grub contained in it, on a large range of hosts but it seems to like lavender as much as anything.

And in the tunnels whitefly are beginning to multiply which is usual once the tomatoes have been planted.


What is/ was looking good?

Latterly higher temperatures and lack of rain has at last brought on the roses very well.

Always one of the earliest flower is a delicate and gently scented rose, just like it's name sake "Jacqueline Du pre" The much loved and long since deceased cellist.



Fittingly on the morning of the D Day celebrations this intensely coloured oriental  poppy came into flower:- a fitting tribute to all those brave souls in the conflict.

Not a Flanders popy but of the same family



No Photoshop on this honestly, just the bright morning sun shining through the flowers.



Two separate events converged at almost the same time to draw my attention to polemoniums, a genus of plants that I have not grown for a long time. When I did grow them they didn't do that much for me and I soon got bored with them, but to be fair I only had one which was rather spindly and a wishy washy pale blue. This does happen sometimes and then long after you re -visit them you wonder  on re-acquaintance why you gave up on them.

I won a raffle prize last year at an HPS meeting that had no pot label and was the last left to choose from. Several of our knowledgeable members suggested in was a Jacob's  Ladder, the common name for the genus.  It went into a cold frame for the rest of winter where I found it in flower at the beginning of the month, and what a difference to the one I had grown all those years ago. The yellow red tubular flowers are attractive and it is unusual in that it comes from South America and is the only one in the genus of  25 species not to come from the northern hemisphere. 

Polemonium pauciflorum


There is also a good range of cultivars to choose from, and once I get into plants new to me I start to collect them and have since added white polemonium caeruleum f.album.; the true species, as the name suggests has blue flowers. From several variegated forms I have also collected polemonium reptans "Stairway to Heaven"  which originated from a plant society in New England. It is an unusual variegation with pink, cream and green tinges in the variegation. 

Stairway to Heaven


The arrival of the June edition of the RHS The Plantsman magazine was the other element in the convergence and contained a detailed article on the subject of polemoniums which was most timely and added much needed information to my limited knowledege of the genus.

As a major horticultural figure of my acqaintance always says, "The more I learn about plants the more I realise how little I know"!

A new genus for me occurred in late August 2018 on an HPS visit to a members garden. Elaine Horton is a fantastic plantswoman  who has acquired a large collection of plants of all kinds from friends in horiculture and the nurseries she has run. In her garden on that late summer day was a striking fairly short umbellifer in a pot near to the house and almost all the visitors fell in love with it and there followed a discussion as to its identity which is always fun in a group of knowledgeable plant nuts. Elaine brought the discussion to an an end when she proclaimed the plant to be from the genus seseli. With 11 species listed in this year's RHS Plant Finder  I have started to track some down and now have 4 at last count. Im an obsessive plant collector and thank goodness for some space still available in the garden  to squeeze in a few more acquisitions! Moira always says to me when I obtain new plants that my obsesion for plants matches hers for shoes!! But secretly she still enjoys the plants almost as much as  I do!

 Two yet to be planted forms. The large one is Seseli libanotis, Common name is Moon Carrot! Don't ask.  and the smaller one below is gummiferum (yet to flower so something to look forward to)



And this short form came to me as S. alpinum but as it is not listed in the current Plant Finder the true identity needs to be researched. A very attractive flower which  looks good in the rock garden



No garden is complete without a good range of hardy geraniums which are the bedrock plant throughout most months of the year. Just a few of the large choice available. 

And here are just a very few of the many we have in the garden here.

"Cloud Nine" is a recent introduction with palest of double blue flowers to about 2-3 feet in favourable conditions. Found in a Nursery in Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire by the nurserywoman, Helen Warrington of Ty Cwm Nursery.



Longer established is the white form of geranium pratense with large flowers on a plant to at least 4 feet tall here


Ger. X"Magnificum" which you see in many gardens. Makes a large clump but sadly has a relatively short flowering season.


And finally is there a garden worth it's name in the UK that doesn't have a long flowering, robust pink geranium of one provenance( largely unknown) or another? The original identity lost in the mists of time. What an underrated star!



Tritelia "Rudy" from small bulbs is often forgotten throughout the rest of the year but comes to it's best in summer.



Salvias outdoors are already getting into their stride but this unusual form is another of the forgotten plants because being tender it spends most of its time in a polytunnel until the risk of frost has passed. Salvia africana is one of a few not to come from salvia heartlands in the Americas. Really different flower colours and shapes on a woody plant.


Rhodohypoxis in a number of forms makes a big contribution to the rock garden which is looking very well this year



Asiatic lilies like this choice almost black form in the Red Border are some of the first in the genus to flower


 But lilium martagons in a range of forms have caught up the asiatics. This red beauty is "Claude Shride." now 6 years old it has clumped up well. We have 4 others of this group in the garden




 And a lily we could not live without is cardiocrinum - they look beautiful and their perfume is exquisite, another of those that can be smelt all over the garden.


 Whist we are proud of ours, given how many years they can take to flower (up to 7) from seed, Those in Aberglasney Gardens are long established and we were pleased at long last at the end of the month to see most of them all in flower at the same time in such a natural setting.


The Paddock Pond planting is still making a great contribution now that it has been esatblished for some years




 Dactyloriza orchid  possibly a cross with spotted orchids in the garden. This is a fine form with intense colour. They love really moist conditions





I am a big hosta fan as many readers will know and at last count some years ago we had over 250 here. Probably more now but I haven't got the time to do a re-count! They seem to more generally popular this year and have been regularly  in the public eye at RHS Shows. There have also been a number of features in horticultural magazines where growers and others in the trade have given lists of their 10 favourite hostas. So here are mine and it was quite a task.

Our hostas are either in monoculture beds like this one here, or grown in a mixed border with other plants



 A smaller collection of shorter forms outside the conservatory



Favourites in no particular order

"Lakeside Love Affaire"




 "Yellow River"


 "On Stage"


 "Night before Christmas"


"Devon Green"


 "Snake eyes"


 "Patriot" and some lovely Viola cornuta white form sitting well together


"Love Pat"


 "Good as Gold" Flowers are another reason to grow hostas but some growers cut them off seeing them as only a foliage plant


Wildlife and countryside

The effect of the wet weather can be seen  in the countryside with grass harvest only now having been cut by many of our neighbours. If it stays wet silage will be the only harvest option - what a contrast to last year when the harvest was in just before the fields dried out.

 Ox Eye  daisies are along many roadsides but we have these along the boundary hedge at the top of the garden and they seed everywhere! Not clever of me to sow them there.



Choice wild rose along another boundary at Cilgwyn along the river Ydw



Lacking warmth there have been very few butterflies and dragon/damsel flies on the wing Bees however seem to be coping better, both the hive bees from just down the road and masses of white tailed bumble bees from their refuge in the firewood stack under the verandah. There are  in all 26 species of Bumbles in the uk and all of them live in social colonies totalling a couple of hundred bees. They have made a tremndous difference to the poilination of the broad beans whch are always covered in bumbles so hopefully a good crop may be forthcoming soon. When tying up the beans as they continue to grow I never realised quite what a scent they have - no wonder the bees get so excited! Or how gentle they are when you are close up to them. They rarely sting unless their nest or they feel threatened




Plenty of wasp nests already, this one just outside the conservatory.



Red kites still continue be seen every day overhead from the comfort of a chair in the garden, so why would we want to go with friends to see the kites being fed morsels of meat scattered every afternoon in fields 8 miles or so from here? Two simple reasons, it is a nice outing for friends who do not see them as often as we do, and secondly  even for us the sight of approximately 100 kites swooping en masse from the sky to feed is a truly a spectacular sight and the noise they make from their wings as they swoop down is incredible. Visitors come from all over, many armed with cameras fiitted with huge telescopic lenses.  If you are ever  in the area I can thoroughly recommend it to you.










 There are always some gate crashers at the feast!






After last months round of garden visiting the weather has not encouraged us to go garden hunting, and we have had an increasing number of jobs to do at home, none more frustrating and time consuming than erecting a kit form of a gazebo using totally illegible and  unclear instructions. We sent for the cavalry  and our friends Liz and Paul  rode to the rescue! With 4 minds on the job and the extra manpower what was a problem was quickly solved.



So as I suggested last month I have carried forward pictures from a visit to The National Botanic Garden of Wales towards the end of May  wich was looking quite fantastic, especially in The Great Glasshouse. In june we had one quick trip to a local Plant Fair and an HPS outing to 2 NGS gardens in West Wales.

Botanic Gardens. 






 Another the very tall echium pininana - just room in the Great Glasshouse


 This astonishing flower head looked like it was part of the glasshouse structure. It was not accessible so no name could be established.





Banksia is probably one of the earliest to have been be discovered in the massive collection of plants in the Glasshouse


 Kangaroo paws generally don't do it for me but on the day of our visit they were looking spectacular with such vivid colours on a very dull day. Maybe it will change my mind!




 And this close up of the red flowers did! - so much of interest to admire.



Happy gardening to everyone and thanks for reading. Let us hope we have the sort of weather to make for a memorable July as there are so many flowers waiting now to burst into bloom including the dahlias which at last are growing away strongly. The July News should be worth reading