Flaming June - 2012 style.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"No sun - no moon, no morn - no noon,

No dawn - no dusk, No proper time of day, No warmth, ..... No cheerfulness, no healthful ease".

Just about sums up this month which has been a challenging one for everyone, with regular floods and gales.  The lines were however written by the poet Thomas Hood over 200 years ago about November!!  Gardeners tend to be optimistic and enthusiastic but these qualities have been tested to the limit with plants all over the garden suffering especially veggies. Honestly I have been growing them for over 40 years and this must rank as one of the worst ever. Most varieties have struggled as commented last month and I have recently sown, my carrots and beetroots for the last time, the 3 previous ones having failed abysmally! And I am giving a talk on Growing Vegetables at The Royal Welsh show next month!!

On a positive note the hardy herbaceous plants have got going in the last 2 weeks with lots of lush growth at last - and the lawns have loved the rain too.



Apart from all the rain and wind, it has been cold with just 3 days topping the magic 21C. (max 22C on 1 June). Cold nights have been frequent occurence with 8 below 10C and the lowest of just 6C on Jubilee night.


Garden Update

Ongoing work with the conservatory and the wet weather have reduced the amount of time to spend in the gardens and nursery. The borders are improving by the day and in spite all the gloom and doom they just get on with what they do best at this time of year - growing and giving pleasure with all the promise of the good things to come. The dahlias  overwintered in the red border didn't like the wet winter and spring and many have not made it, so a lot of gaps to fill. Fortunately another generation of dahlias awaits planting (mature plants from the nursery) as well as annuals (rudbeckia "Cherry Brandy", Amaranthus caudatus - love lies bleeding - with brilliant red foliage as well as flowers and the multi headed sunflower "Velvet Queen", a rich chocolate shade). Waiting in the wings are the other prize gap fillers, the tender and half hardy perennials. Salvias are especially useful in this role particularly s. confertiflora and S. splendens Jimi's Good Red that I have raved about before. A 5 feet version of the common red bedding salvlia but nothing common about this beauty. Grown from cuttings last September and overwintered in heat, they and other salvias have made large plants already and will double in size before the season ends and the frosts arrive.

Other borders need less plantings but still get their share to top them up and keep them looking fresh and new throughout the remaining "summer" months. Annual cosmos in all their various shades, including a recent new red introduction "Rubenza" are particularly valuable because of their height and length of flowering if dead headed regularly.

The lawns, heavily scarified, top dressed and re-sown in parts with grass seed, have at last started to grow away after some rich feeding this month, still not perfect by any means but getting better. My greenkeeper neighbour I have referred to previously , tells me he is now mowing TWICE!! a DAY!!!each time changing the direction of his mowing - and I thought I was doing well at 4 times a week!! He swears by it - I would just swear! And have you seen the price of fuel?



The paddock Garden lawns  - the "after" look. See March News for the "before" look.



Some salvation in the veg. garden with spuds, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower (briefly before the heads blow as the early varieties are prone to do under fleece) alongside lettuce and radish. Pods on broad beans filling nicely and garlic looking very healthy and promisng. First strawberries tonight, nearly 3 weeks later than last year but the taste as incomparable as ever.

The first of the established waterlilies are opening and the new ones bought last year, some quite expensive, are making strong growth thank goodness and bulking up well holding out the promise of flowering later on. The blanket weed is thick as always at this time of year and I need to get the chest waders out to start the fight back..................! I can't do this until all the tadpoles have left the water as they spend most of their time in the blanket weed.


What's looking good?

Shrub roses look magnificient in the Koi Pond Border. They seem to like the stony well drained soil, good air movement and full sunshine. They have also responded well to generous feeding with rose fertiliser in April and June, and liberal helpings of well rotted farmyard manure in early spring. Aside from the well known David Austin modern shrub roses there are lots of others too, developed by nurserymen in the UK and Europe based on old fashioned charm and scent with modern vigour, colour and disease resistance. Renaissance roses have caught my attention of late.


Some shrub roses in the Koi Pond Border showing in the foreground "Princess Anne" a recent david Austin introduction in a good shade of Violet pink.


Tree lupins sown in 2010 have made impressive shrubs up to 5 feet wide and high and are plastered with yellow scented flowers in waves. A yellow one (should have been blue!!) stands out a bit in the otherwise pastel colours of the Koi Pond Border but who cares!


 Tree lupins and not a lupin aphid in sight - Figers crossed! A lovely pale blue geranium pratense form climbing through it in that sinuous way that geraniums do when they have a suitable host to support them.


Ferns, hostas and all shade loving plants have revelled in the rain. Hostas have recovered well from the ravages of April with plenty of new growth and I am looking for more space for recent acquisitions! Over 250 cultivars now - they are seriously addictive - just as well there is in excess of 8000 to choose from.

Arisaemas just get better and better and my friend Tony (shadyplants.com) on a fleeting visit between plants fairs last week was amazed how well they have grown. There are 18 species currently in good growth in the gardens and more to plant out thanks to Tony's generosity (he now calls me his plant manager as he doesn't have time to fully assess them in a garden situation). 

 Airisaema sikkokianum a Japanese form and a stunner but difficult to please in the garden. I am cheating here because this one is still in it's pot awaiting planting.


Last year Hemerocallis (daylily) gall midge severely decimated the flowers, the larval stage forming inside the flower buds and destroying their flowering capability. As the adults over winter in the base of the plants they are difficult to eradicate and there are few remedies available to amateur gardeners. Last winter I tries an experiment, watering garden disinfectant around the base of the plants (it is not recommended for this) but it seems to have had a measure of success as there are far fewer spoilt flower buds. Those that I didn't treat are far more badly affected. I am looking forward to the exuberance of some of my old favourites in full bloom in the next couple of weeks.


Hemerocallis "Cartwheels", a really large flowered form with outward facing flowers that make a terrific statement in any border.


Foxgloves both annual and perennial are flowering all over the garden and are good value plants, some of the perennial forms are reliably hardy, repeat flowering and live for a good few years. They are easy from seed and generally come true from seed. They flower in their second year from a surface sowing made in spring. Last year I sowed digitalis X mertonensis a really choice form with "crushed stawberry pink flowers" (the text book definition of the flower colour). I planted some out last autumn but left others overwinter on bare ground in the nursery. Before I could plant them out they had rooted in the soil and I could not remove them but what a atatement they make in the standing out beds of the nursery!


Digitais x mertonensis



Finally just a word about greenhouses. They are invaluable in any garden especially on wet days when you have somewhere dry to go to carry on tending your plants. You can overwinter many plants with the minimum of heat, and make early sowings in the spring. Although we have 2 polytunnels we stiil use our 3 greenhouses to the full;2 are only 8 x 6 feet, the other 10 x 8 feet. One is used as Moira's succulent house in the summer, another is dedicated to species and cultivars of pelargoniums, and the last one contains wide variety of plants that perform better with some protection even during summer months. The range includes fuchsias, ferns, begonias, streptocarpus, coleus, pelargoniums and a few other special treasures. It is amazing just how many plants you can get in such a small a small greenhouse with staging on both sides and three rows of shelving. I counted well over 100 plants today. Such an enjoyment for little other than watering and dead heading and no rain to spoil the lovely flowers. 



 My first greenhouse erected in 1987 with a wide selection of plants looking their absolute best



 Two cracking recent introductios to the succulent house, kalanchoe thyrsiflora variegata on the left and echeveria "Compton Carousel" on the right. We have coveted this form since it was introduced and at last we got our hands on it at Malvern last month 


Wildlife and countryside

Emerging froglets all over the gardens; always a special time when they start to leave the water (frog poles always the first with the toads a few weeks off yet). 

Damselflies on sunny days over the Paddock Pond but no dragonflies as yet (they like it really hot and sunny). 

Very few butterflies seen this year (who can blame them?!) but laterly a few small tortoiseshell are beginning to appear

Birdlife is with us all the time especially the blackbirds but we fear for our friend the mallen streaked one whom we haven't seen for a good few weeks. Still no sign of any robins. Less red kites of late but plenty of the magpies worst luck.

A highlight of the month was the sight of a sparrowhawk on 2 occasions in an aerial battle with swallows. Red Arrows eat your heart out! It was an amazing sight and I am pleased to report that on both occasions no swallows were caught. Whatever the sparrowhawk did the swallows were one step ahead. All smaller birds when when attacked form into groups to distract the predator but the swallows do it better and some of their manoevres were breathtaking. 

Some great wild flowers enjoying the rain and cool conditions to stay in flower longer, none better than the ox eye or moon daisies. Roadside verges (when not cut back too soon) are great refuges for a succession of flowers throughout the summer months. There was tremendous show in the sand dunes at Oxwich Bay on the Gower coast with around 15 pecies in flower at the same time; some good orchids and geranium sanguineum which I have never previously seen in the wild so a special memory.



Our first visitors to the garden this Friday and we are looking forward to it as it has seemed strange to have had no visits during June compared to 15 groups last year. 

We have had the chance to visit a few gardens and  nurseries this month a highlight last week being a trip to Bourton Hill near Moreton in Marsh a beautifully tended 3 acre garden with some rare and unusual plants and a Cotswold stone Georgian house as the backdrop to the garden.


Bourton Hill Garden the house across the main lawn showing the relaxed planting style of the gardens




One of the smaller quiet corners in the 3 acre garden a restful pond and a well placed and tasteful ornament


Also managed to fit in a detour to Cotswold Garden Flowers, Bob Brown's fantastic plant emporium in Evesham. A staggeringly wide range of beautifully grown and reasonably priced plants. Kids in a sweet shop!! Spent loads a money but who cares. Enjoy your gardens and let's hope we get some summer soon.