Tying the Knot

Friday, July 26, 2019

Before I begin to unravel the knot in the heading to this months news, This month of July deserves to have its praises sung for a very fine spell of weather in which only some rainfall was missing. It has always been our favourite month in the garden and is planted for maximum impact then.

Each one of the 17 borders has been putting on a great show, benefitting from the years of top up planting we have done since they were made around 1994. Here is just a small selection of some of the best

 When the red border gets into it's stride the rest of the garden begins to blaze!


 A softer effect with plenty of impact  is seen in the Koi Pond shrub rose border





In the House Garden the border leading up to the greenhouses has had many incarnations; the current one is the best it has been, retaining the alstoemeria species aurantica, one of the first orange flowers I was brave enough to grow! Rich blue spikes of veronicas and a really choice nepeta "Blue Dragon" which is very different from the sprawling forms.



The picket fence border along the country lane is the first vistors and passers by see. Populated by tall and high impact plants which like the hollyhocks do seed around and create some intriguing crosses


 A quiet underrated border opposite the Red Border has a softening effect particularly the 2 cascading miscanthus. There is still plenty of interest however for plant lovers.


 A cosy corner near the conservatory with a much used!! love seat in a sunny spot and roses with californian poppies direct sown 


 Further up the path there is another mostly direct sown wild flower  border. Intense blue from cornflowers and echium vulgare and a variety of white umbelifers, some perennials which are long established now.



Because of how well the borders usually look then,  our  Open Days for the NGS  always took place in July. On that subject I was reflecting this week that had it not been for my Cancer condition we would most likely still be opening now which would have been our 20th year. It would have coincided with the 20th Anniversary celebrations in 2 of our local public gardens, Which coincidentally had their first openings on the same date as us The National Botanic Garden of Wales, and Abeglasney Gardens and how lucky we are to have 2 such fine gardens no more than 30 minutes from us. In those early years we often shared coach parties from continetal Europe.

Every year at Aberglasney there is an evening event for members which this year had such a special meaning for us all with nearly 300 in attandance to enjoy a fabulous 3 course buffet and drinks on a balmy night.






 It was a good opportunity to see the garden in a different light as the evening set in. A seeded wild flower garden is a lovely addition each year



And Now for something you have been waiting for -Tying the Knot!!

A very special non gardening event that took place on 24th July. After living together for 38 and a half  years, Moira and I were married in Carmarthen Registry Ofiice. We hope you will enjoy the large gallery of pics from a wonderful day.

 Up at 500.am after a night of thunder and lightening but  sadly not enough rain, it was good to see a sky that was beginning to clear which presaged a fine day


 Moira's wedding bouquet, thank goodness the sweet peas held on long enough.


 On the threshold of our new life!


 And a taxi service generously provided early in the morning by our lovely friend and neighbour Catrin with her daughter Mared



 Meet the gang at the Registry office - our guests 


 The ceremony was a happy good humoured event ably conducted by the Registrar Nicola and her colleagues. The music we chose was Elgar's "Salut D'Amour" for the entry, Mozart's "Clarinet Concerto" for the signing of the Register, and Leonard Cohen's "Dance me to the End of Love" which was a jolly way to leave - there was impromptu dancing in the ailses! I read Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 "Let me not the marriage of true minds admit impediments...." and Nicola  read a poem of her choice which she thought correctly reflected us both.




 Friends from our careers in Land Registry, Colin and Estelle were witnesses






 Nicola the Regitrar sends us on our way with her best wishes


And what a way to go as a guard of honour formed an archway for us, shaped by a selection of very clean gardening tools! Typical of the thought that our friends had put into the day.



Then off for a well earned lunch at Y Polyn, a favourite and highly rated local restaurant/gastro pub










 Back Home again





And this surprise from Moira of a balloon Arch




Tha garden was a superb backdrop for pics and is well known and loved by all our guests and neighbours who joined us later. We were so pleased how well everyone got on with each other




















 Neighbours Alun and Eieen Price who kindly brought a contribution to the buffet






 Nothing has given us greater pleasure than to see people from farming stock admiring the plants in the garden!








 The balloon arch beginning to disintegrate, leaving a scary white image as the night set in.


And finally our warmest thanks to everyone who has sent e mails, cards and presents, and supported us especially during my illness over the last three and a half years

 Back now to the usual monthly format for our Web Site News

 Weather update

Weather up to 26 July. The wonderful weather continued right until almost the end of the month with heatwave conditions and precious little rain. With streams and springs drying up we desperately  need some steady heavy rain.


There were 15 sun days with a max to 31C on 23/7 and 16 days over 20C. Only 3 rain days with measurable precipitation to 0.6 inches and 5 changeable days. Warm evenings were a common feature with many nights well over 15C and just 2 nights  of 5C on 3rd and 4th


 What a perfect end to a memorable day


 A partial eclipse of the moon in the week of celebrations for the Moon Landing was timely. The real thing was better than my humble efforts!







Garden Up date

As referred to earlier all parts of the gardens are looking magnificent  to which the pictures below are testimony. Vegetables have benefitted so much from the generous top dressing of  long rotted manure in April. Brassicas has never looked better with brignt green leaves and no sign of any slug or caterpillar damage, so unlike last year, and no sign of protective fleece in sight which the calabrese and cauliflowers have much appreciated as they hate being covered which makes them sweat. There is now a wide range of veg ready for harvesting all we are now waiting for is runner beans french beans and peas ( all not far off). Sweetcorn is beginning to show the polination tassels evidence that the the emerging cobs are ready for polination

 For me one of the highlights of the gardening year is digging up the buried treasure where the new potatoes were grown. Often their flowering conveys the message that the spuds are ready to dig. I always however take the precaution of using a border handfork so as not to waste all the unready smaller ones.  Nothing like the fresh sweet taste of   the first garden spuds and for us none better than our all time favourite, the salad potato "Venezia"




 As I hoped our local colony of white tailed bumble bees in the log store had done a great job in fertilizing the broad bean flowers with a very good crop.


 A general view of veg gardens containg spuds and brassicas


 Further up are the root crops and onions with fleece over the carrots now to keep th carrot fly at bay.




Crop harvest for evening meal 


Less rain means less mowing of the lawns which I still feed periodically. to keep them looking green. Weeds never stop however hard we try to keep on top of them but the hoe is such a valuable tool all over the garden and saves much back breaking work for both of us. Moira remains in charge of watering the nursery which releases me to water borders which I have recently planted out  and of course the veggies. A leaky hose  is an effective and labour saving piece of equipment for runner beans which have a copious thirst but need plenty to ensure good flowering. The hose is left on all night as beans are such a long lasting and valuable late season crop.

 Paddock Pond and waterlilies


 Henerocallis "Chicago Sunrise" with astilbe chinensis var davidii - waving wands of  deep lavender flowers to 4 feet or so


 Having some disappointment earlier in the year with frosted hydrangeas I was delighted when at least 3 of our quercifolia forms showed flowers for the first time in their 6 years here. They can be unreliable for some people even though planted in what should be places that suit them. This one has for company, hemerocallis "Joan Senior" and clematis "Arabella" a non climbing form which sprawls. I plant in this fashion all over the garden using shrubs for them to climb in this way


 It is touch and go in our frost pocket whether we can get tender salvias through a cold winter. The best we have found is "Hot Lips" which in this picture is situated in a well drained spot and south facing which has now made a tall well wooded plant. I wait to tidy it up in spring until the better weather arrives




What is, was looking good


So many contenders vying for a top spot but I am most pleased of all that the hydrangeas have come back following that late frost in May which will be a lesson to me not to worry again in the event of another late frost. Asperas in particular are very pleasing because they never looked liked they would make it this summer. The form Sargentiana that I showcased last year on Gardeners World have some fine buds now so flowering by late July, August should now be a possibility. Hydrangeas macrophylla and serrata are now flowering well and responded positively to the cutting back that I should perhaps have done some years previously seeing how well they have done now.

 Aspera Subsp. sargentiana


 Progress since some of the hydrangeas were frosted




 I was also concerned for the well being of the hemerocallis that were riddled with gall midge but the last few weeks they have recovered well and there are few affected buds so they are flowering as prolifically as they should be at this time of year.


Perfume in the garden from a huge range of plants is a welcome addition to the current charm of the garden. Main contributors are Honeysuckles, sweet peas, the remainder of philadelphus flowers and of course the 100 or so roses that are scattered all over the gardens. Phlox too are firm favourites and most are intoxicatingly scented There are a few unexpected contributors:- clematis "Betty Corning", and a few hemerocallis, mainly  some of the yellow ones that have the genes of Hem. liloasphodelus, a species form, in their make up. One of the best for me is hem. "Vespers" a classy and elegant cultivar with outward facing trumpets.

 h. "Vespers"


Sweet peas are superb this year after years of disappointment, but following a revision of the plant supports and digging a new manure lined trench they are transformed






Finally there are also numerous lilies in the borders or set in pots around the conservatory, along with brugmansias,  where we are closer to the perfume on warm evenings 


 Lilium "Night Flyer"  Not strongly perfumed but very intense colour in the Red Border




Lilium leichtlinii, a species form and always one of the most admired in the garden





It takes some imagination when gardens are still young to find suitable places to grow honeysuckles. The same is also true of clematis  that in time may bring tremendous value to maturing gardens. Fortunately I did that and we now have at least 4 areas that are well served by a variety of scented forms of clematis. This one over trellis alongside the summer house near the Koi Pond is periclymenum "Graham Thomas"


 Clem. "Betty Corning" , a light waft of perfume in hotter weather. So many interesting and unusal clematis available as a change from those in the large flowered groups and no pruning mysteries or wilt to contend with


 Clematis viticella from seed 15 years ago, Allegedly the true form that has sported many poular cultivars


 Phlox "Franz Schubert" in the foreground with "Blue Paradise" at the rear. We adore these old fashioned, classic border plants of which there are plenty to choose in a range of forms and colours. For us some like these have been in the borders for up to 20 years.


 "Blue Paradise" is quite magical at dusk when in the fading light without warning the flowers get more intensely blue. On of the plant highlights on a summers night.


 There are in excess of 100 roses all over the gardens and those in the sunny well drained Koi Pond border do best of all. From the French nursery of Delbard comes this blowsy flowered form "La Rose de Petit France


 Bury your nose in here and be intoxicated!




 In total contrast is this species form rosa glauca with long lasting prolific numbers of pink flowers on a large wide spreading bush


 Rambling rose "Bobby James"


Moira is dedicated to dead heading roses and makes a very good job of it especially as some of the bushes are much taller than she is!


 She even takes her passion with her when visiting other rose gardens but this rose arbour  at Aberglasney was just a bit too tall for her!


 Moving on from scented plants here are a selction of choice plants and planting combinations that have pleased us this month. Geranium violaceum plenum in harmony with Alstroemerias that have done very well in the garden this summer


Another alstroemeria we much like is "Indian Summer"


 Dierama pulcherimum always enjoy warm sumers which follow wet springa and this year is no exception


 A shorter form and very floriferous is Dierama igneum sharing a pleasing combination with artemesia ludoviciana



 Campanula "Iridescent Bells" a newish introduction which is quite a stunner. One of many in the genus we have in the garden from alpine plants to tall border border perennials. All really good doers



Senecio "Angels Wings" and Dianthus deltoides with more artemesia. Not hardy the senecio can be over wintered under cover somewhere frost free like I did with this one. They are generally easy to find in nureries etc




A good show this year from schizophragma hydrangoides. It came to me years ago as the form -rosea but is always white and not as vigorous as it should be. This plant was well protected by copious layers of fleece when we had the early spring frosts which repaid the efforts 



A rare and unusual form of lychnis cognata that in spite of it's rarity I manged to obtain from the HPS Seed Exchange. It looks nothing like the often silver leaved and pink flowered forms that we are more familiar with.


 I have lready raved about clematis early in this News and this is another of the scrambling forms that weaves its way around border comanions. x durandii is the name


 Most exciting this, as 7 years ago I acquired from a  wholesale nurseryman, around 10 veratrums that he had lost the labels for and I planted them in moist part shade and humus rich soil. Half of them were in shade that is too deep and they are struggling to cope and I have been biting the bullet about whether to move them but they are notoriously difficult to move succesfully.

In this pic however in a more open situation one of the veratrums has raised flowers in white which is in its early stages so not that clear to see in front of the euphorbia. It should make up to 2 metres or so before the end of summer when

I hope to take a more informative picture. There are only 3 clours of flowers, white, black and green but I was well pleased it was white

Nice colour combination with the orange alstroe. and the euphorbia which I believe to be Sikkimensis


Wildlife and Countryside


Most farmers these days store their grass harvest as silage in large round bales or in clamps. In cutting and gathering the harvest which is often completed in a matter of a couple of days, it is mostly achieved by machinery and people are rarely seen in the fields.

When I first came to Cilgwyn in the mid 1970's it was a very different picture, and very labour intensive, so someone young and fit like me moving into the area was a bonus for the local farming community. Home from the office, a quick change of clothes and I was out in the fields loading traditional square hay bales onto trailers along with often a dozen or so relatives or friends of the farmer.  Weather was always critical to getting in the harvest as the mown  grass needs a spell of 3 -4 days of turning to fully dry out, and in a wet summer often longer than that with the risk that the crop can spoil if bad weather continues for some time which it often did in the 1970's.

Tradition had it that after helping in the fields everyone went to harvest supper as it was called, in the farm kitchen. Although I was not a Welsh speaker, people made me very welcome and included me in all the coverstions It was such a natural way to get to know many of the local people and the history of the area and its farming traditions. Conversation often turned to  making hay with far less machinery and what hard work it was. The older people recalled cutting the grass with scythes, and the sound of them being sharpened on wet stones using goose fat as a sharpening agent. resonated across the valley, an abiding memory as was how full of people the fields were then.

In a favourable spell of weather this month our friends and neighbours the Price family made hay the traditional way in the  field opposite  the Lodge. It always brings back happy memories for me but I am sadly no longer fit enough to help with the harvest as in those  bygone days. Experience something of what it feels like from the pics below and imagine the heady scent of mown grass. 









At last the dragonflies put in an appearance in mid month, warmer weather having brought them out. Just a few butterflies but not as many as you would expect with so many flowers to attract them. Maybe with the budleias just coming into flower we will see more.

In the fruit cage we have had a resident pair of blackcaps taking advantage of a gap in the netting to feast on a very large crop of redcurrants. Blackcaps are not uncommon birds here but I have not seen them so close up before. They are very busy flitting back and forward but wih no discernable song just a  constant twittering. Doing some research on them I discovered that they are in the warbler family and as such they have a sweet call resembling a nightingale which gives them the title of false nightingale. I can't say that I would recognise the call if I heard it and it was not clear from my research whether it only sings after dusk. I keep my ears open anyway on late tours of the garden!