Capricious June

Monday, July 4, 2016

The rosy hued vison of June, the start of summer, is of  the longest of warm days and the perfume from masses of unspoilt roses. If only every year it could be like that, but June is often an unpredictable and frustrating month. On the whole we have fared reasonably well here in contrast to the weather experienced in the south east of England. There was plenty of colour in the gardens and the roses especially were very early, in part due to a good finish to May.


I have felt well and been able to do my usual range of garden work. A recent review of my condition has concluded that my cancer appears to be stable at present with full lung capacity and no symptoms which are causing any undue concern. 



The first 10 days  were idyllic with some hot days for June and consistently high overnight temperatures. The rest of the month was a real mixed bag with plenty of heavy rain, frequent thunder and lightning, interspersed by occasional sunny warm days .The rain was however welcome as we had been watering the nursery and gardens daily  since the last week of May. Vey little wind throughout the month. There were 16 daytime temperatures over 20C, min  max 25C, and only one night time reading below 10C  (min 7c) and a max of 16.3C.

On the evening of the summer solstice we were promised a "strawberry moon" which only occurs when a full moon coincides with the solstice. The moon appears as strawberry pink but unfortunately there was too much cloud here.


 However the following night we had the most wonderful strawberry sunset - and I didn't have to get up in the small hours to capture it!


Garden update

We cannot believe how well the garden looks in spite of me being largely out of action for 3 months until April, and a slow cold spring.


The spring flush lasted longer than usual  with some partcularly fine aquilegias which had no trace of the recently reported downy mildew that has devastated  aquilegias in many parts of the country. We always dead head them before they set seed to avoid unwanted seedlings everywhere but take seeds from the best forms to sow in pots. The stars of June were quickly into their stride with late bearded iris, oriental poppies and lupins to the fore. The pond edge plantings  continue to look wonderful with contributions from awide variety of plants including a very early showing of hemerocallis "Chicago Sunrise" from the second week of June


We have again been plagued by Hemerocallis gall midge which appears to affect June flowering forms more than those which flower earlier or later. Fat distorted buds are sure sign of infestation and need to be removed as soon as you discover them as there is no other means of breaking the cycle of  infection from one year to the next.

A perfect flower of hemerocallis "Minight Masquerade"



A gall midge affected bud on the same plant plant


On a brighter note the vegetables, none of which were sown or planted prior to the end of April, have come on well and we are already cropping salads, cabbage, calabrese, cauliflowers and beetroot.



The first crops are always eagerly awaited, more so than ever for me this year


 There are flowers on the potatoes but for the first time in 40 years we are not growing maincrops, only earlies, second earlies and salad varieties. A later start is often recommended by experienced veg growers as the soil has warmed up by then  and with more daylight hours and generally warmer conditions there are no checks to growth of the plants. This year I decided to grow under fleece, all types of vegetables apart from potatoes, as it protects crops from pests notably carrot and cabbage root fly, gives protection from the extremes of weather.

Fot the first time this year, after having had it recommended to me by Medwyn Williams who swears by it for his show brassicas, I have used a soil conditioner called Perlka which encourages beneficial  soil microbes. It has 20% nitrogen and with 50% lime it  raises PH in acid soils like ours and keeps clubroot at bay. I have to say that I have never had such large brassicas with huge heads of calabrese and caulifower. Greyhound and Hispi are 2 early summer cabbage I have grown for many years but I have never had such consistently large heads on what are normally fairly small cabbages. The heads on broccoli are larger than cauliflowers! It comes with a range of cautions for use but so do many gardening products, it has been in around for 100 years and is licensed for use in the UK.

Perlka in a tub - black gold.


Since coming here I have had a three course veg rotation in separate beds each about 120 sq metres. This year we made the decison to reduce them and have put the bed nearest the house to lawn. This has substantially reduced the workload but we still have room for most of the 25 plus types of vegetables we usually grow.

Moira and Robert the "lawns guru" levelling off prior to seed sowing, assisted by Kit the Kat


 As a former golf greenkeeper Robert has all the necessary equipment including the drag mat shown here which in no time gives a final levelling and removes the larger stones


Talking of lawns they have looked especially good after using a summer fertliliser called "Evergreen" which, in adition to a high proportion of nitrogen, also has other nutrients and 2% iron which really greens up the grass. Growth is amazing and regular cutting is required!



Finally special mention should be made of the Paddock Pond which after its rigorous clean last month is brilliantly clear and free from duckweed and blanket weed which can be such a pain as the weather warms up. This may well be due to a square bale of rushes I placed at the top of pond where an inlet suplies fresh stream water to the pond. Not only does it filter out some of the silt, but it may well contain, as barley straw does, elements which inhibit the growth of blanket weed in particular. 




What looks good?

A huge cast of contenders makes it difficult to select the very best so I will leave it to pictures to tell the story. They represent a cross section of plants for all situations, many favourites old and new from the smallest to the largest.

Almost hidden amongst many brightly coloured pelargoniums on a dedicated bench in a polytunnel is this little gem p. gibbosum. It is a really straggly old thing with the flowers at the ends of long wood stems. An unusual colour and a scent - it's good to have something different in plant collections.


Hostas have been magnificent this year. With over 200 to admire we are spoilt for choice.They are all over the gardens in monoculture  groups as at the edge of the pond, or as part of mixed border collection


 Of all the plants in the nursery probably the best seller is a small rockery plant from S. Africa  rhodohypoxis. A range of species and cultivars is available in the UK and the one shown is one of the largest R milloides "Claret". Provided they are given very sharp drainage for the tiny bulbs which form sizeable clumps in time, they are totally hardy for us in our wet, frost pocket garden.


 Plants we grow from seed always give the greatest satisfaction and these martagon lilies f. album took 4 years to get to flowering size. Settled down now and 7 years old, in part shade they make a stunning contribution to the June garden


 Another seed grown lily cardiocrinum giganteum is producing second generation bulbs which give slightly shorter plants but still have that spine tingling scent all over the garden up to  a distance of 20 metres



 Cercis canadensis "Forest Pansy" and cornus kousa var. chinensis


Salvia nemerosa "Caradonna"



Canpanula alliarifolia: masses of white bells on a spreading plant to half a metre



Perfection of flower form in  "Munstead Wood" from David Austin



Simplicity and charm with wonderful flowers and foliage on a 2 metre wide and high plant: rosa glauca. Grown from seed and now 20 years old.



Wildlife and countryside

Two views from the top of the hill behind us, this one to the North east towards Llandovery


 And this one due east to the Brecon Beacons


Birdlife tops the bill with a range of visitors to the gardens none more welcome than redstarts, more numerous than they have been for some years. We were lucky enough to have a pair nest in a small whole in a soffit board under the eaves of the verandah.

The hansome male bird with bright plumage 


 And the rather dowdy female! It makes a change - the roles are reversed in our house!!


They are such busy birds that kept us entertained all day long with their comings and goings, for almost 6 weeks. In the wider surrounding countryside they are everywhere particularly roadside hedges. Plenty of common garden birds too including grey wagtails on a visit from the river 60 metres away.

Less welcome birds have been the pesky magpies which again raised a brood in the large conifers in the Paddock Garden. With  the parents and 4 hungry youngsters on the look out for food, a lot of the smaller birds have their nests raided or their young taken soon after they have fledged. Redstarts however are smarter as their eggs hatch over a period of a few days rather than all at once, unlike tits for example which often have up to 10 young to protect from predators. Redstarts usually have only one at a time to defend which gives them a greater chance of survival. 

A heron has been sighted regularly on the Paddock Pond, the exceptionally clear water this year giving them more chance to take advantage of the large shoals of rudd.

Finally we a had a recent vist from a collared dove, a gentle and unassuming bird, but with the most montonous call of hoo hoo (pause) hoo, which it keeps repeating all day long. Fortunately it has moved on to pastures new!

On the wildflower front the star plant has to be the foxglove which is everywhere, especially along roadside verges which it shares with ox- eye daisies which do well everywhere every year whatever the weather. Once again the local council seems to have abandoned cutting back verges on most minor roads, which gives all plants a chance to complete their life cycle and for us to enjoy one of the best free flower shows from the comfort of a car seat.

Sadly few butterflies yet or dragonflies but a few day flying moths have been seen here.

One of the few sightings was this yellow tiger moth




As we no longer open our gardens at Cilgwyn Lodge,  it has been so good to have the opportunity to visit many excellent NGS gardens in West Wales and further afield. There is  great camaraderie amongst NGS garden openers and we have made many friends from doing so who have supported us so well over the last 16 years that it is nice to be able to support them for a  change. 

1,000 feet up in the Cambrian Mountains is Bwlchau Duon, Ffarmers. It is  a challenging place to garden especially with weather like this to contend with. Woodland plants and moisture lovers do well


 A superb stand of primula florindae enjoying the moist conditions



There are also lovely ducks, hens and geese to admire



 In complete contrast just 4 miles away is The old Post Office, in a village setting and a sheltered location. The owners  make ceramics and garden statues which are displayed all over the delightfully laid out garden



 An artists eye in the planting of this large hosta


The highlight of the month was the first NGS opening of their gardens at Gelli Mydog by our friends Robert and Barry. It is a garden we have seen develop over the last 5 years and supplied lots of advice and plants. It was a thrill  on a perfect summer's day in early June with gardens looking  perfect, to be able to provide plant sales. There were over 180 visitors and takings from entrance monies, plant sales and teas raised £1,300, a magnificent achievement for a garden opening for the first time.

Apart from some large specimen plants the gardens have been developed in only 5 years and there are plans to extend the gardens further over the next couple of years.




Plant sales and tea tent


The 40 metre stream bed has only been constructed for one year but has already  taken on an established look with massed plantings of primulas, iris, ferns, hostas rodgerisas, astilbes and other moisture lovers


 After a long hard day owners Robert and Barry take a welcome break under a rose and clematis covered arbour



Make a note for your diary. The next NGS open day at Gelli Mydog is Sunday 24 July 12-5.00 pm. Teas and plants for sale from Cilgwyn Lodge Nursery. Gardens signposted with yellow direction signs from Llandovery and Llangadog


It was the weekend of the NGS Garden Festival which is held every year at the beginning of June and a special visitor on the day was the Chief Executive of the NGS. A complete surprise to us was  the presentation he made  of a certicate recognising all our efforts and the money we raised for the charites supported by the NGS since first opening in 2000.We were deeply touched by this kind and thoughtful gesture.

The presentation to us, George Plumptree of the NGS on the left and Barry on the right


We had a short break in Devon at the end of June - garden visting of course! and news of this will appear next month.

Happy gardening