Colour comes to the gardens at last!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

 The best and longest  lasting colour has been around the Paddock Pond with candelabra primulas still flowering strongly supprted by a succession of iris, daylilies, hostas and mimulus




We had started to wonder by the end of the third week of  the month whether we were ever going to see an end to the very unstable weather patterns we had experienced since late April.  Well into June there had been an almost persistent northerly breeze , cold nights and often dull days There were some brighter, warmer interludes however, and some invaluable rain just when we needed it because the breeze had substantially dried out the borders. The omens for the month weren't good as there was a tremendous gale on 1st which shredded new leaves all over the gardens and snapped a couple of branches on the large beech tree near the nursery, necessitatting the viist of Sam the tree surgeon to make them safe as they were well out of my range with the pole saw. At last towards the end of the 3rd week the weather started to settle down, the nights got warmer and the plants responded. The max during the month was 28C on 30th, with 6 other days over 21C. The min was 2C on 4th and 8th with 10 other night below . And then on 30th the heatwave started  - summer at last!


Garden update

Vegetables have been very slow and those which were sown early (carrots in particular) have been overtaken by later sowings which is often the case. Runner beans and courgettes have needed fleece protection and even the earliest sown peas on 21 April are showing yellow foliage as the result of the cold winds and low night time temperatures. There has however been good success with brassicas even though there is evidence of clubroot returning in spite of the copious liming that I did last autumn. Early cabbage Hispi and Greyhound have however cropped well and early under the protection of fleece, with the first cabbage cut on 8 June.

The 2 rows of carrots in the middle of this picture were 18 days before those in the following picture


 Note the vigour and health of these which will be ready for harvest in about 3 weeks


As always radish was the first to crop on 2nd and shortly afterwards lettuce followed, Can - Can a reallly good "cut and come again" type the leaf of which looks like an endive and is the staple of many salad leaves pillow packs in the supermarkets. Following on we have a wide range of mixed leaves, "Little Gem", "Lollo Rosso and "Iceberg2"

Staying with salad crops I have come unstuck this year with my all time favourite tomato "Rosada" from Thompson & Morgan. Not being able to buy it anywhere I resorted to the web and found some on offer from Sri Lanka, which is where many of the seeds supplied to seed companies in the UK come from. I wasn't too concerned and sowed the seed in the usual way but it seemd to take ages to germinate even on the hot bench and when it did start to grow away was very short and reluctant to send put a leader as indertiminate types do. I have now concluded it is a mini bush type, so no Rosada this year and no boasting at Christmas of picking fresh tomatoes from the 17th truss!. I am left with standard types Gourmet and Alicante,  both fine tastiing tomatoes,  Alicante a last minute garden centre purchase much to my chagrin! The first time for many years I have not grown from seed all our own tomatoes.

Potatoes have looked good from a late planting on 15 April , 9 varieties in all, and many are now in flower.  First to crop was Exquisa, a well named salad potato and very early, just 75 days to harvest on 27 June. That unmistakeable fresh, firm taste and one of the eagerly awaited highlights of our gardening year. We just have to hope that with hot humid weather forecast for early July the dreaded blight keeps away.

In the flower borders the slow season has suited some plants better than others especially shade and moisture lovers, Hostas continue to impress and this month I refreshed the front borders at the front of the house with newer cultivars. Being in sun for a third of the day it may be too much for some of them so I am using this as a trial and if any aren't happy I will replace them.

The "Pictorial Meadows" wildflower seed mix has grown on strongly after a very rapid germination and should flower during July which we are looking forward to,


Some good martagon lilies in various shades of white, red, purple and orange  are flowering in more shady areas and having been establish for a good few years are bulking up well. I am delighted that after last years stellar performance, we will have some cardiodrinum giganteum flowering again this year. Only 3 plants but just to have that wonderful scent and the impact they create will be a special treat. There are numerous other forms of lily in most borders and as is typical with them they are in growth and bud for many weeks before they finally flower at their appointed times. I am always asked by visitors if we suffer from the dreaded lily beetle and I have all fingers crossed when I say this, we have been very lucky so far; one of the benefits I suppose of living in a cooler and wetter part of the country,that and perhaps the fact that I never buy in liliy plants. only growing them from seed or bulbs.


A white martagon



This superb red martagon came in an unlabelled pot as "martagon lily! Lucky me. It is growing in 60% shade border unde a large apple tree



And the next generation of cardiocrinum just about to break 2 days ago. The buds have since opened. I love the darker stem which wasn't a feature of any of those which flowered last year


My hopes of missing the dreaded henerocallis gall midge were not fulfilled. As they come into bud the mid season types are full of distorted buds, The late season ones are usually too late for the gall mid midge and are largely unaffected fingers crossed!

Every bud on the large plant has been infected by the gall midge. This plant has always been the worst affected  in the gardens so it wll be removed and the space freed up for a number of shade loving contenders to repace it



And further up the same border is "Moonlight Masquerade"



And in the Red Border is this seed grown example of an unusual form of day lily. The flower is wider than the span of my hand. Note the surrounding slim buds to follow with no trace of gall midge.


Finally this is the time I add tender perennials such as salvias to the borders and a wide variety of hardy annuals whcih continue the flower well into autumn. Particularly useful are rudbeckias, cleomes, zinnias and nicotianas. I am planning to to prepare  a new talk on annuals which I have grown for many years and are such under rated stars that should be much more widely grown


What's looking good?

When I first came to Cilgwyn Lodge  there were in excess of 200 roses in the gardens in formal rose beds. They were a mixture of HT and floribundas  cultivars that were popular at the time and many still are. Over the years they began to fade away as blackspot, poor pruning techniques on my part, and a difficult climate took their toll. and I was glad to get rid of them. I replaced them in the early 80's with shrub roses in a dedicated bed underplanted with hardy geraniums, alliums and digitalis. For years they were the only roses we had in the gardens. As fashions changed and with my developing mixed borders I then started adding roses to raise the colour pallette, height and scent. With a few exceptions they were shrub roses old and new.

 The Koi Pond Border which contains 43 roses all in bloom but the bright sunshine dulled the impact that they are making to this border which is much admired by visitors


As others who have adopted this style will have discovered the roses were healthier, more attractive (none of those "bare legs!") and I learnt the benefit of feeding roses in March and June with Rose fertiser in addiion to well rotted manure, Pruning is now a simple hair cut with a hedge trimmer to aboout half the original size and it works brilliiantly. I also discovered that the best place to grow them in the gardens here is in the Koi Pond Border, in full sun and very stony well drained soil. Result is that I love our roses all 43 of them in harmony with other sun lovers lavenders. nepeta, sedums, dieramas and hardy and tender salvias to name just a few, all in a pastel colour scheme. They are having a particularly good year 

"Gertrude Jekyll" one of David Austins best introductions with good clear colour and large prolifically produced flowers.



And from Delbard in France is "La Rose de Petit Prince" in an amazing shade of lilac. And look at the size of the bloom against my hand




Awarded the Rose of the Year some time ago "Rhapsody in Blue" is indeed a deserved winner and is much bluer than the pic suggests. Light purple is perhaps a better description but that doesn't have the same catchy name!



Often given the name cobra lilies, the true name is  arisaemas,  have been grown here in excess of 10 years since our friend Tony introduced us to them, Stlil relatively unknown to many of our visitors they have done well for us in part shade. Some can be very challenging but there is a hard core of about 10 which we find reliable, long lived and totally hardy. 

In the shade border alongside the conservatory is arisaema ciliatum liubiense, one of the easiest to grow in my experience. It is at least 7 years old and over 3 feet tall. By the way the fabulous blue hosta is "Bressingham Blue" 


It is said of gardening that the more you learn about it, the  more you realise how  much there is still to learn and in  truth there are times when I feel like an absolute beginner! Latin names and plant families are however something that I am keen on, but I reguarly come upon gaps in my knowledge. Only last week when researching the Latin names of common wiildflowers, I came across the family Caryophyllacea when reading about Red Campion and Ragged Robin. It was quite an embarassment to realise that it is a large family of 93 genus and over 16,000 species, many totally unknown to me  The best known genus are pinks and carnations, lychnis which includes Ragged Robin I mentioned earlier, and silene which includes Red Campion.Go to www.the for more info about this fascinating family

A lovely dianthus we have had for many years in the rock garden. Label and name long gone! but I remember it was suggested in the plant label that this is how dianthus would have looked in Elizabethan times



The ever popular dwarf dianthus deltoides which flowers over a long season


 And this little beauty came to me as "Domino" from Derry Watkins Special Plants nursery some years ago but I believe the name has been changed



Grown from seed from the Hardy Plant Seed Exchange this spring I was excited when  I saw these large orange flower. Lycnis cognata comes from the far east and reaches a height to about 2 feet. A bit straggly in growth but really different and I will be hoping for seed from these plants later in the year.



The white form of the ever popular lychnis coronaria for a sunny spot; nice but the straight coronaria with its deep magenta flowers and silver foliage cannot be beaten for impact



And this is silene armaria, new to me this year from seeds given to us by friends Liz and Paul, fellow NGS garden openers. There is quite a network of us now in West Wales and we are always swopping seeds and plants between us.

Silene armaria is European in origin for a well drained situation and will also do well in dry shade. It is a perennial which grows to about 2' 6" wih glaucous leaves and sprays of intense pink flowers from June until autumn. A real winner.



Other good silene to look out for ar s.schafta and s. fimbriata with white deeply incised petals


A few pics of some more major contribritors to the  garden in June


Aruncus dioius as always  makes a major statement in the House Garden with huge spikes of cream flowers to 6'



A charming combination in the shade of the large beech tree is this dryopteris namegate with an orchid which appeared in the gardens about 6 years ago. I have never  been able to find the name but  Katherine, a former Nature Conservation Officer National Trust, who visited the Gardens recently suggested it was a hybrid between 2 native British orchids dactylorhiza and the common spotted orchid. A natural cross which was collaborated by Joy and Martin owners of Winllan the Coronation Meadow mentioned further on in this news item



Simple but naturalistic planting in the Paddock Garden are the blues and yellows of geranium "Orion" and anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise" I really like this



Wildlife and countryside

The dull weather limited the amount of butterflies seen on the wing, but some damsel flies put in appearances from time to time over the Paddock Pond. Very few tadpoles found when clearing out the pond recently but plenty of newts and dragonfly larvae. Whilst doing this 2 redkites swooped  low over the pond with me in the water and many fiish sunning themseleves in the sunshine. They soon dispersed and so did I! It is the closest I have ever been to a Kite and are they big birds!

Farmers have been busy with grass harvest mostly silage as we haven't had setlled enough weather to make hay. The councils have been slow to cut the verges this year thank goodness as they look absolutely superb, clear beneficiaries of the cool spring.

But to see widlflowers at their best you need to visit a hay meadow in June which suddenly have become all the rage. Little tresures are being unearthed all the time and recently in Carmarthenshire a new group has been set up to increase interest and awareness in these priceless wild flower refuges. For more info go to


Visits and visitors

We had a lovely day on 6 June at the inaugral Toby Buckland Garden Festival at Bowood Hose in Wiltshire. In good weather it was a relaxed and enjoyable day with a wide range of stalls laid out informally in the the grounds at the front of the house which was a perfect backdrop. In contrast to many of the big shows nowadays, it was a reasonably priced event with a more intimate feel and smaller businesses represented on most of the stalls. Food and drink was the best we have ever encountered at Garden Festivals. Most of all it was fun as I hope the pics below will confirm









Our NGS garden opening season began on 1st June and  soon afterwards we had our first visitors - a charming couple from Holland who spoke the most perfect English. Since then we have had a small parties of visitors, several of whom had been to the gardens before - it is always nice when people come back often with family or friends.  We also had one group from a number of gardening clubs in West Wales, many of whom we know from giving talks to their clubs. Early in July we have several pre-booked visits and other commitments but if you would like to arrange  a visit later in the month please get in touch.

The entrance to the Paddock Gardens on the last day of the month. As I said earlier still not much colour but I will publish a pic in each News Item for the next few months to show how the borders change in this time


We managed to find time to visit some gardens opening for charity during June. A village opening for the benefit of the church roof in Skenfrith a lovley village on the upper river Monnow north of Monmouth. A  private garden in Kidwelly opening for Motor Neurone Disease Association. Jan the owner lost her husband Dave  to this debilitating illness last year and has worked tirelessly this year to raise £2,600 by opening her garden. And finally for the NGS the Coronation Meadows in Ceredigion referred to above. 

The entrance to Jan's lovely garden which has been therapy to help her through the hard times after she lost Dave, She is an excellent gardener in all aspects and also tends an allotment and raises many of her own plants.



 Jan is so well known in Kidwelly that even the Town Mayor paid her an official visit. Moira never wastes a photo opportunity!



 The Coronation Meadows at Winllan, near Talsarn, Ceredigion open for the NGS in May and June



A view of the meadows with 6 species of wild orchid and many hybrids. The meadows are species rich.



Returning home we called in to see friends Robert and Barry near Myddfai, who have a meadow and lovely gardens  that they are openiing for the NGS for the first time in 2016.  It was approaching twilight when I took these 2 pics and without any enhancements with Photoshop,  these show the meadows as they appeared to the naked eye. Robert is my"Lawn's Guru" and the meadow is introducing him to the beauty and variety of native grasses





On 5 July with our plant sales, we are supporting a charity event at the home of friends Anne and Philip Large who are opening their 23 acres of gardens, woodland and meadows for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Founadation. The event is fittingly called Jane's Open Garden Party. Jane is a friend of Anne and Philip who was diagnosed with with lung cancer at the age of 41 and she is determined to raise as much as she can for the charity. The event takes place at Glan - yr Afon, Pumpsaint SA19 8DJ from 1 - 6pm on Sunday 5 July. Apart from ourselves amd 2 other nurseries there will also be live music, a huge raffle, secondhand bookstall, basket weaving demonstration and of course the obligatory teas, coffee and cakes withour which no garden visit is complete. The suggested entry donation is £4. Please do try and support this major gardening event in a glorious part of north Carmarthenshire and whilst you are there why not have a drink or a meal in the the local pub, the Dolaucothi Arms or visit the nearby Roman Gold Mines owned by the National Trust.

Having opened our garden for the NGS for 16 years we are in no doubt of the benefits to charities of garden opening. In this time we have raised over £30.000 and to have done so gives us a great sense of pride, but we have also had the fulfillment of giving pleasure to the many people who have visited us and they in turn have rewarded us with their kind comments, generous donations and help and assistance , all freely given especially when we used to have published Open Days. The NGS is a a large national charity which last year generated donations totalling £2.5 million to its supported  charites. There are however many others raiising money for charity at a more local level, all of which will have experienced the same generosity and kindness of people  - it is always said that gardeners are the nicest people you can meet and I would wholly endorse this. Gardening brings so many things at different levels, but for me optimism, hope, love, gentleness, kindness honesty and continuity are at its core, old fashioned values perhaps but in an increasingly dangerous and troubled world what a refuge to have and sustain us each day.

Happy gardening!