The consummation of our gardening year

Thursday, August 3, 2017

There are 17 separate borders at Cilgwyn Lodge and the majority were planted to be at their peak in July, which was our pereferred month when we used to hold Open Days for the NGS. There is  neverthelss still sufficient  interest to stimulate and delight us in every month except in December but never on the same scale.

 Scaffolding around one of the chimneys provided a unique vantage point. Most of the House Garden is included in these pics. The lawn, a former veg bed, was sown only last year




 The picket fence border at its peak which gives pleasure to many passers by on the road - and to us!


 The Red Border in the Paddock Garden


It prompted me to think about why gardening gives us such pleasure. I remembered years ago reading some thoughts of Liberty Hyde Bailey, an American gardener, as famous in his own country at about the same time as Gertrude Jekyll in the UK, on what he considered those benefits to be - 13 in all. No doubt you have your own reasons, perhaps even more than !3!

Then a dear friend Carole Whittaker (more about her later) came up with another - we are happy because we handle soil all time! Yes honestly. It appears that soil contains beneficial microbes whch contain Seratonin a chemical which is used medically to treat depression. For more info about this fascinating phenomenum go to

Coincidentally a few days later there was a programme on BBC 4 TV about the mystery and magic of soil (in the USA it is referred to as dirt), which I always thought was rather disparaging. If you watch the TV programme on and search BBC4 for "Deep down and dirty. The secret of soil"   I am sure you will be as fascinated as me. 

Nothing comes close to July with the mass flowering of a huge variety of plants some of which are now nearly 20 years old and create a huge impact. To have planned, planted maintained and added new plants,  gives us a sense of great satisfaction and weeks of sheer pleasure. We have been inspired in our colour harminisation and plant selections by the many gardens we have visited and the writings of our gardening heroes.

Share some of our pleasure through these pictures from a small selection of the borders.
















For the fourth month in a row it was a mixed bag of weather which has not settled for any length of time. At least until the last week, when those dreaded words "Jet Stream" started to feature in the forecasts!!, we continued to have a good balance of sun, warmth and rain which has seen good growth, but with some exceptionally heavy rain and strong winds at times: delicate blooms especially  roses have suffered, adding to the list of chores with much more frequent dead heading being required.

Rosa "Spirit of Freedom" with ball headed flowers easily becomes sodden and the petals shed before opening



 Some fabulous sky scapes particularly on the evening captured by these pics




A surreal light bathed the garden with a pink haze.


 Then to top it all, when you thought it couldn't get any better, the whole valley, within a space of just 5 minutes, was shrouded in swirling mist


Min 9C on 23rd   Max 26.8C on 6th, 8 days above 21C   Sunny days 14, 4 days not recorded because we were away.


Garden update

At last we have a good choice of 12 varieties vegetables to harvest - such a delight not to have to buy them and what a taste difference. From plot to pot in a matter of minutes. Nothing compares to the first taste of peas - such sweetness and freshness. If you have never grown them and have the space, they are well worth the effort of staking and fighting off the rodents in the early stages. I am learning to manage with a smaller area of vegetables but we have plenty and sufficient to share them with our friends and neighbours. 

Sweetcorn variety "Swift" a long standing favourite" has loved the mix of heat and rain" was already flowering by mid month!.  Nearly 60 plants in all because we love it so much and it freezes so well



Brassicas bed on the misty night



The first decent harvest on 1 July, plenty more coming in now.



What about your runner beans? They are so slow here and only now from a mid April sowing are we beginning to crop them. The flower set has been poor even though there are sufficient bees about, with hives just a hundred yards away, and the foliage is sparse.


Tomatoes too are struggling,but thank goodness we have 28 plants to make up the shortfall there will be. Mild cases of blight and virus and don't mention whitefly! And just when they start to ripen the blackbirds have rediscovered their taste for them! 

In the nursery I am still propagating and growing on and at present there are some fine salvias, hardy chryanthemums, and annuals cosmos and rudbeckias. Whilst in the tunnels large brugmansias fill them with their overpowering perfume always on the dot of 6.00pm!!

 A beautiful pink brugmansia  teamed up with the flower of fuchsia arborescens in the large tunnel. This pic was taken on the evening of the pink glow which seemed totally appropriate!



There is a great range of fabulous annual  rudbeckias from seed which make robust plants from now until late autumn. This one is "Irish Spring" with large flowers.



The two main ponds are looking very good with crystal clear water and no blanket weed, the scourge of the fishkeeper in hot, bright weather. There are less water lilies than last year, only 50 currently in bloom,  half the number of last year, but for some reason a wider range of colours than we have had before.  






What's looking good

Pictures tell the story better than I can but I should say a few words about the recovery of affected plants after those 2 late frosts in April. I had all but given up hope for many of the hydrangeas macrophylla, serrata and aspera but most of them are showing some buds on mature well wooded plants, and may flower later than usual. Dieramas were disappointing this year but agapanthus have really got into their stride lately and will be featured next month

 I was particularly pleased that schizophragma hydrangoides flowered as I went to great deal of trouble to wrap it tightly in fleece whenever frost in April was forecast. In most forms it is a vigorous climber to cover a big shrub, but unfortunately I chose the cultivar "Roseum" which is very slow growing!


Hostas are of mixed quality and many are already looking like they do at the beginning oiautumn. Later lilies are showing good buds at last and a few are in flower.

Hosta "Orange Marmalade" grown on its own as a specimen  is a complete mess


 But those planted en masse in a mono culture border look much better. The tall pink astilbe is a.chinensis var davidii a rare and beautiful form I grew from HPS seed a good few years ago


Lilum "Honeymoon" one of the so called tree lilies up to 7 feet with huge flowers and overpowering scent


 A really special species lily is l. lechtlinii,  tall to 7 feet. When it is in flower (2 -3 weeks) nothing else in our tightly packed borders can compete with it. It is a relatively cheap and easy lily and should be more widely grown - so I am!!



There is no sign of flowers yet on aster frikartii "Monch" which is usually in full bloom by now and numerous other plants are later than usual. 

Having said all that there are many plants putting up a great show.

Some of my favourite July perennials in this pic are front to back:- phlox paniculata, geranium violaceum plenum, hollyhocks from seed, verbascum chaixii "Album" and second flush lupins


 Of all our phlox in the gardens, the all time favorite is "Blue Paradise", early to flower, good scent and  a marvellous blue at late evening - as many blue flowers are.



Old fashioned or not, hollyhocks add tremendous impact in classic borders, and all of ours have been grown from seed giving a good range of colours and forms.




 Lobelia tupa on the left is brilliant this year and seems to be a darker red than usual. For a plant from Chile it has coped well with every winter we have had since it was planted in 1999. Good drainage helps, as it does for its companion dahlia"Nuit d'Ete which was planted at the same time and like all our other dalias, never dug up for the winter.


 More happy harmony, roscoea seedling from "Brown Peacock" teamed with persicaria "Purple Fantasy" which can be a real thug but is mercifully easy to pull up and share with your best friends!?!!



Acanthus Spinosissimus Group seems to have a good year followed by a bad one and this is a really good one. Whether digging up large portions of the established clumps last year has made the difference I don't know but I am glad I did!


 Not the best of pics as hydrangea paniculata  in the foreground  is overexposed, but the aim was to show the impact of veronicastrum virginicum "Album" in the shady background - a well deserved AGM from RHS it is the best form of the genus I have encountered


Wildlife and countryside

On warmer days the big dragonflies are beginning to make an appearance and one even took a liking to the warmth of the converatory, and feeding on the flying insects that find their way in. 






Plenty of wasps this year and a few hornets too which dwarf them and look really menacing. Butterflies  are still scarce in spite of the warmth. Most commonly seen have been Red Admirals. I don't think my wish to see a humming bird hawk moth will come true this year although there have been sightings elesewhere in Carmarthenshire

Our hedgehog visitor is still seen around the house on most nights and a smaller one made an appearance once after dark but has not been seen since. They are quite territorial and generally don't mix with others except in the breeding season( well they have to don't they?!!)

The smaller one is still a little shy!


A heron has been seen regularly on the Paddock Pond but it appears that fishing has not been good for him as the pond is so thick up to the edge with water lillies it would be difficult for him to walk in.



A novel sighting on the incoming electricity supply were two recently fledged swallows who were fed on and off by the parents over a period of 5 hours despite the attentions of several corvids that were not able to get to them. They flew off by nightfall and were there again the following day.  



The transference of food from parents to chicks was so fast that even on burst shooting I couldn't capture it. A picture of a parent on the wire was all I could get!!



A summer break in Cornwall was long overdue and much enjoyed at the end of the month. Mawnan Smith near Falmouth was our destination staying at Meudon Hotel which boasts 9 acres of ravine garden initially started by R.W. Fox in 1800, a wealthy Quaker businessman whose relatives  later went on to buy Glendurgan (in 1820)  and Trebah (1830), just down the road. The plantings in all the gardens is very similar although Trebah is on an epic scale.


Meudon Hotel and gardens





The private beach


 A bizarre sight right to the waters edge is a large stand of gunnera, a key planting in all the 3 gardens





 Tree ferns in a abundance some well over 200 years old


 The 7 foot flower spke of an unidentified Puya, a bromeliad from South America




 Durgan village at the bottom end of the garden.



 A huge tulip tree , liriodendron, full of buds but none in flower




 Trebah. My 5th visit and it has lost none of its magic.


 Two more signature plants of all 3 gardens are agapanthus and echium pininana around the house at the very top of the garden before the steep decline into the ravine





 Hydrangeas in their hundreds on  the lower slopes


 One of my favourite hydrangea relatives is dichroa febrifuga, a rare and rather tender shrub which I have coveted for years and at last obtained from a nursery on the way home. For a big pot to be overwintered in the large tunnel. Hope mine will be as deep blue as the one at Trebah!



You can just catch a glimpse of the sea through the lush planting at the bottom of the garden and the white sail of a convenienty placed yacht



And then onto the beach, but the joy and happiness of the seaside and the beauty and peace of the wonderful gardens then come face to face with the  momentous events of 1944 on this very beach




And then the long climb back!



Earlier in the month we went on a day trip to Bishop's Castle in Shropshire for an open day at New Hope Daylilies, a specialist nursery owned by Mark Zennick, an American who sources the newest and best cultivars from the USA. With our current passion for hemerocallis which have had a magnificient year, purchases were inevitable!


Moira getting to know Mark, or is it vice versa?!!


An equal pleasure was the ride through rural Shropshire with poems of A.E Houseman ringing in my ears, especially the lines "Clunton and Clunbury, Clungenford and Clun are the quietest of places under the sun" If he were alive today he would find that nothing much has changed! And in Clun there were more walkers than cars, whilst in the Public Conveniences, a sound system played arias from well known operas - civilisation indeed!!

The nearest I came to capturing that quietness came in Knighton was  when walking up the High Street on that Saturday afternoon. Count the cars in this side road.



 Finally in a very full and enjoyable month, we met up with gardening friends for lunch at Glyn Bach in Pembrokeshire owned by Peter and Carole Whitttaker, who open regularly for the NGS and are holders of a National Plant Collection of Monardas. For more details go to

Carole loves her monardas so much she complements her clothing so as not to clash with them! It isn't too late to catch most of them in flower



Hope you had a similarly enjoyable month and that summer ends in a blaze of glory with another fine August.

 To keep you in holiday mode if the current weather ever relents, this pic of a schooner? far out in Mevagissey bay at 40x zoom on my Nikkon P610 camera