June in fantasy land!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I am running out of superlatives as each month seems to get better and better. The best June here since 2006 with many warm sunny days and mild nights stimulating tremendous growth.  Only 2 years ago I was forced to compare June with November  as it was so cold, dull and wet. This year however, the season is  at least 2 weeks ahead of where we usually are.


The Paddock Garden looking across the Koi Pond Border at the end of June



The Red Border in early June with papaver orientale "Beauty of Livereme" the sole contributor!



The Red Border in late June - red everywhere except for that sneaky papaver somniferum lilac self sown poppy, and the dieramas in the distance!



There were some real highlights especially the flowering of 7 cardiocrinum giganteum in the Paddock Garden, and the earliest ever flowering of roses, the first coming in the last week of May. The visitor season has started in earnest, one of the reasons for the delay in publishing this News Item for which I apologise. 

 This magnificent stand of 5 plants of cardiocrinum, all 6 feet tall and dripping with perfume.




24 consecutive days above 20C starting on the 6th, max 25C on 19th when we had a group garden visit which was nice. Night time temperatures generally above average but with the wind direction mostly from the north west there were some occasional cold nights with a min of 6c on the 1st. Barometer pressure steady at just above 30" meaning very few windy days. Perhaps because of the residual moisture left in the ground following the wet winter most borders did not need watering untli the 3rd week of the month but after that the sprinklers were needed particularly in the vegetable garden. 


Garden update

Mostly pictures under this heading  as there is so much to report. The abiding impression has been  of early flowering and delicious scents from so many sources, wherever you are in the gardens, which has delighted many visitors - and us!.  


 In my view the best philadelphus, "Belle Etoile" great perfume, lovely pink centred flowers and compact form.


A range of vegetables has come to harvest none better than the brassicas: Hispi cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower  and the first ball headed cabbage Primo2. Root crops and potatoes are slower than usual because of late sowing and it is the first time for many years that we haven't harvested any potatoes in June. Peas have germinated well (under 10 days in the last of the 5 rows) but there the good news story ends.  Mice and rabbits have done their best to destroy the pea crop either digging up the swelling seeds in the case of mice and the rabbits shearing off the new growth in their own version of "the Chelsea Chop"

Planting out the last of the brassicas, winter cabbage and purple sprouting in late June



I struggle to grow good cauliflowers as many gardeners do, so you need all the help you can get, Soil conditions, good feeding, keeping them growing strongly and choice of varieties are important, and this year I hit the jackpot, 14 perfectly formed heads from a variety called "Serac" by D.T. Brown, far superior than any other early summer variety I have ever grown. Seed sown in gentle heat on 17 January on a day of howling gales! (9cm pot for comparison)


Herbaceous perennials which are the mainstays of all our borders look well and the main flush is now close to the "July spectacular" as the early flowering forms are caught up by the later ones, phlox and monardas especially. Daylilies (hemerocallis) however are having a terrible time, many of their flowers being devastated by the dreaded gall midge, a pest for which there is no cure.

A wide view of as much of the Paddock Garden as I could fit into the picture!



The dreaded gall midge - all flowers on this head of a daylily have been infected by the grubs which totally destroy the bud before the flower can open. It is essential to reduce infection next year that all the infected buds are removed and definitely not composted.


There are other pests too revelling in the warm weather, lupin aphids and more difficult to manage, capsid bugs which affect especially dahlias, fuchsias, hydrangeas and brugmansias.


Capsid bug on brugmansia leaves - you rarely see them but they do untold damage and usually wreck the flowers too unless controlled by sprays.



Tender perennials have been bedded out to augment those which came through the winter: Salvia "Hot Lips", salvia involucrata and salvia microphylla "Cerro Potosi" which is already a sizeble plant with intense flowers ( see the pic - I don't know what to call the colour but it is much darker than the picture suggests!)

Salvia microphylla "Cerro Potosi"



The walk to the Monet seat alongside the garden boundary with salvia "Hot Lips" in the bottom right hand corner.


Plenty of weeds still but the drier weather has seen them slow down at last


What's looking good?

A difficult choice because there are so many contenders, but I have settled on the ones pictured below which are the best of the very best.


Papaver orientale "Beauty of Liveremere" 5 stands of which in the Red Border set the garden ablaze in early June



Lupins galore, all sown from seed last year and what impact at up to 4 feet tall and scented too!


 Iris of all kinds have done well including those that like moist conditions such as iris versicolor in the foreground and iris ensata, the Japanese water iris in the background



Delphiniums take over as lupins begin to fade in the Picket Fence Cottage Garden



Unobtrusive and in truth rather dull for the rest of the  summer except for a couple of weeks in June when aruncus dioicus has the most fabulous spikes of flower to 6 feet tall with an impact perhaps matched only by pampas grass



We have had some fabulous lilies, true martagons in the white form in various parts of the Gardens, and some really tall, choice crosses with other species lilies, some to 6 feet tall. This one is lilium "Claude Shride"



And this one is lilium "Orange Marmalade"



This beautiful early flowering Turks head form is lilium lankongense 5 feet tall an wonderfully scented



Not a true lily of course but who could not fail to be charmed by the many water lilies in the Paddock Pond in shades of white, yellow, red and pink - they just warmth and sunshine.



Flowering of summer shrubs has been amazing this one is kolkwitzia amabilis, the so called beauty bush with a profusion of flowers throughout June. In the same family as honeysuckle but only gently perfumed



Deutzias look very ordinary, twiggy shrubs when not in flower but in June they are major contributors to flowering shrubs in shades of white or pink and some are doubles. This one is a large flowered form called "Magicien"



I am delighted with the way the hydrangeas both macrophyllas and serratas have flowered - plants are twice the size than normal and the flowering is exceptional. It is so often the case that these forms are devastated by late frosts which delays or prevents flowering. This one is a curiosity the parentage of which cannot be classified. Known simply as h."Preziosa" It is terrific and shows considerable variation depending on where it is planted. The PH of the soil in the Gardens is about 6.5 which would normally suggest blue flowers but as you will see that is not always the case!

This one is in full sun;the leaves are almost black and the flowers are a kaleidescope of lilac, white and lilac/white



This one is in 75% shade, the leaves are green, the flowers pink and the form is lacecap!



And this one is in part shade and a hybrid between the 2 extremes of light and shade



In 2001 I purchased one of the fabulous blue forms of h. macrophylla "Generale Vicomtesse de Vibraye" from Portmeirion in North Wales which boasts some of the bluest hydrangeas you will ever see. I have waited ever since for it (and many of its offspring from cuttings) to flower like this here and we have been rewarded at last! Patience is a virtue for all gardeners and gives the greatest satisfaction.



Roses - another magnificient June flowering. A gallery of some of the best forms.

This delicate cultivar is "Jacqueline du Pre" named for the cellist of that name who died tragically young and is generally recognised as one of the finest ever.



This David Austin favourite is "Graham Thomas" named for the prominent rosarian and gardens and one time advisor to The National Trust



Another David Austin introduction "Kew Gardens" is a cluster flowered form rather different from the old rose forms which dominate the David Austin range, It is never without a good flush and is one of the best repeat roses. Simple charming flower heads but only lightly scented (well you can'have everything!!)



 The French too know a thing or two about roses but they are not necessarily suited to our wetter climate in west Wales - gardeners never give up! so I keep trying them and this year - success! This is "La Rose du Petit Prince" and yes it is they do have this fabulous lilac coloured, exceptionally large  flowers



Clematis are exceptional - they can be very tempremental here and flower poorly in some years, As some are over 20 years old you begin to wonder if they are past their bast when BANG! they show you there is still life in the old dogs yet. It is a difficult choice but theses are a few of my persoal favourites at present with many more still to come.

This one is "Blue Angel"



And this one "Hyde Hall"



And one I simply adore is this cross between a c. viticella and c. crispa. It is c."Betty Corning" with exquisite slightly scented flowers that look anything like the traditional view of a clematis.



The mystery of the boy and the giants can now be revealed. I love tall perennials that you can look up to, and there are plenty of them in the gardens. This year however they are supercharged after the rain of the winter and a the perfect growing conditions since early spring.

Here I am looking up to the heavens at peucedanum verticilare an umbellifer that takes 4 years to flower then dies! but sets masses of seed for the next generation. I am 6 foot tall to give you an idea of the height of the plant.



Achillea grandiflora at the front entrance to the Gardens makes a great statement but is a "flopy Joe" and needs careful staking before it swamps its neighbours



The gunnera manicata over 20 years old has gone scarily crazy this year with 6 feet leaves - it looks like I am about to be consumed by it. As it has been around since the dinosaurs that is a distinct possibility!!



For all the undoubted claims of  the many plants featured in this mammouth News Item none comes near the one featured in the next few pics. Nothing has given me greater horticultural satisfaction in all my gardening life than growing 12 plants from seed sown in 2008. Here I am looking up in wonder at the beauty I helped to create just before the buds opened in the third week of the month



All this from this elegant seed pod (yes this was the original one) and the paper like seeds not as big as a 5 pence piece.



The flower spikes begin to unfurl



And the flowering climax. Believe me the scent is like nothing else heavy, itense, complex and utterly beguiling - it gave me shivers down the spine every time I smelt it!


Wildlife and countryside

The fine weather resulted in a very early harvest with more hay being made this year. Many of the lambs have gone to market giving therir long suffering mothers a chance to recover before the whole process starts again in the autumn  but  the fields are quieter! 

My fears expressed last month that there may be some ash dieback disease in our area seem justified when 2 trees,  one in the garden and one just outside, are showing clear evidence of the disease with sparse leaf cover anThd dieback at the end of many branches. I will be monitoring what happens to them during the summer.

The ash tree between the 2 alders showing very sparse leaf cover and clear evidence of die back at the tips. This scene is repeated all along the A40 corridor eastwards.



A Southern Marsh orchid given to me by a gardening acquaintance from seed of plants that just materialised in her garden



And this beauty, the common spotted orchid, at 2 feet tall just appeared in the Gardens some years ago and gets bigger and bigger, Seedlings are now beginning to appear in the immediate vicinity - isn't a gift of nature the most wonderful thing?



There are plenty of dragon and damsel flies over the Paddock Pond on sunny days and many of the frog tadpoles have now left the water and small as they are, can be found all over the Gardens -amazing strength and determination.

Birds have star "billing". There are simply masses of young birds in the gardens and surrounding countryside, whole family groups of blackbirds, tits of various kinds, wagtails, wrens, robins, redstarts (at last) regularly being seen, the young robins in their brown plumage flecked with gold when seen close up as I chase them out of the fruitcage after raiding the excellent crop of blueberries!

A redstart in the fruit cage - what a job to take a picture as they are such busy birds they are very difficult to photograph at maximum zoom range. Lovely red tail markings which give the bird its name, stort being an old word for "tail"



What might be the reason for this explosion in the number of small birds? My suggestion is that there is plenty of food available as the result of the warm weather, but also far less magpies than in previous years, they being a serious predator of eggs and fledgings in the nest

There are large flocks of corvids (the crow family) and in particular ravens which have had some serious aerial battles, as one pair takes on another,  in territorial disputes over the fields surrounding Cilgwyn Lodge.

Once again , after the grass harvest,  the large seagulls I first observed last month were back  again, probably on closer inspection more likely to be herring gulls than black backed gulls. They are certainly an unusual sighting here, and somewhat bizzare when seen mixing with traditional inland birds like buzzards and red kites.



Visits and visitors

The beginning of our opening season for the National Gardens Scheme has been very successful with 4 Groups (including one from Holland) and numerous other visits in smaller numbers, everyone of which has been in fine weather. They all get the same welcome  and it is so much more pleasant and  rewarding  for everyone than having to share the gardens with 400 other people on a public open day,  which is the main reason we no longer have one.

This is a group last week from Narberth U3A Gardening Group 



We have also managed to find the time to go garden visiting ourselves to get more inspiration and just to have a break! At the end of the month I was honoured to be asked to judge Llanwrtyd Wells in Bloom  competition.

In early June there was Rare Plant Fair at High Glanau Manor near Monmouth a beautiful Arts and Crafts House and Garden in a hilltop setting with far reaching views of beautiful countryside



A trip to the coast to visit a  Penrallt Nursery/ Garden Centre tucked away down the lanes of north Pembrokeshire near the village of Moylgrove is worth travelling a long way for. One of the best privately owned garden centres we have ever been to. On the way there was this view of Cardigan Island, just off the coast, in a shimmering haze of blue on a glorious summer day. It was perhaps a a scene like this that prompted Sir Johm Betjeman to pen the  line in one of his fine poems   ".. where sky and sea and Cornwall meet"



5 visits are booked for July which will continue to keep us busy and raise funds for the NGS


Happy gardening and do find time to "Smell the Roses" and see some more gardens