The Glory of the Garden

Friday, July 31, 2015

The title for this months News Item comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. I don't consider it to be some of his best work as the words are rather cliumsily expressed and the meter doesn't flow. The subject matter however expresses many of the highs and lows of gardening. As the owner of of a  large garden at Batemans in Sussex (now a National Trust property) he was well qualified  to write about gardening and his poem addresses topics that all gardeners can readily iidentify with. In the closing sentence of a long poem he offers up a prayer for the glory of the garden that it may not pass away. To judge the poem for yourself go to

Every July at Cilgwyn we delight in the full glory of more plants in flower and at their peak than at any other time of year. Self sufficiency in fruit and vegetables, the mixed borders with height, scent.  colour, variiety  and interest, and old stalwarts continuing for yet another year and refusing to fade away.  And as always still plenty jobs to do and another round of visitors to welcome to the gardens.

The Paddock Garden in early July



Part of the Paddock Garden later in the  month



A particular highlight of the month was the success of Jane's Open Garden Party. Held at Glan yr Afon, Pumpsaint, the home of our friends Anne and Philip it was a thoroughly enjoyable event, and a  tremendous financial success, and the weather just about behaved itself.  Proceeds have already exceeded well over £4,000 from a supper evening and auction, the garden opening, meadow walks, a plant fair, teas, a book stall and many generous donations, some of which are still coming in. But the best news of all is that following surgery, Jane has been told that all traces of the cancer have been removed. She intends to continue raising money for the Roy Castle Lung Foundation and is already considering a number of  other revenue generating events. She is an inspiring and hugely energetic person and the best of company. Read on for many more good news stories in a difficult month.


Left to right:- Steven and Jane, Anne and Philip in front of Glan yr Afon



The plant fair and on the right a magnicient rose "Paul's Himalayan Musk" at the peak of perfection scrambling all over an apple tree. in a glorious riverside setting.






Summer came in with a bang on 1 July. Hot sunny days and nights, no wind what a relief, shorts on at last. I have been a bit of a whimp up to now - or so Moira told me having already been in shorts on any fine day that came along, and to prove the point even more she wasted no time in getting into the swimming pool which in the space of a few days got to 76F. Best of all was to eat evening meals outside making the most of the longest sunshine hours we have had here this year.  After  6 blissful days Max 24C min 10C it cooleld down a little and by 11 July it was raining, the persistent colder winds and grey days returned and but for the odd day that pattern lasted for  most ofthe rest of the month.  Max during this time 20C Min 11c. Unlike the balmy south east no brown lawns here! From 27th it became markedly colder with single figure night time temperatures culminating on 31st with a min of 2C, the coldest July temperature I have recorded in 40 years of living here. August can on;ly be better can't it?!


Garden update

The weather influenced the whole month. The sunshine brought on most plants and the tunnels, greenhouses and nursery areas needed watering, sometimes twice a day. The sweet peas and vegetables also need regular watering The fine spell did not last long enough to ensure the growth we normally expect at this time of year, with the result that we are about a week behind. Tender vegetables have been particularly hard hit. Runner beans only just startied flowering in the last few days, courgettes not cropping yet. tomatoes in the tunnels  (30 plants in all) which were late anyway are only setting a second truss now and what a year to choose to grow sweeet potaoes which need 4 months of warm weather preferably in excess of 21C to produce a good crop! 

At least the cooler weather has seen a reduction of pests and diseases: very little whitefly in protected areas, no botrytis until later this month on strawberries, potato blight came in early July as usual but not as virulent as usual with only earlies affected, Arran Piilot and Charlotte as usual the worst affected.

 Potato beds  with 9 varieties in 17 x 6 metre rows


Some great soft fruit which was long lasting especially strawberries and the first crop of tayberries from 3 year old plants. Blackurrants, redcurrants and blueberries too but the blackbirds have found their way into the fruit cage and they make a bee line for the blueberries even when they are far from ripe. 

Superb strawbs, a mixture of Elsanta, Red Gauntlet and the best flavour for me, Cambridge Favourite. They cropped continuously for 5 weeks.



What to do with all the bountiful soft fruit harvest? Make summer puddings of course. The best ever British dessert.



And from one of a few special special plants, a gift from Ivor Stokes, a former director of Horticulture at the National Botanic Garden for Wales, an unknown strawberry variety this huge 3 oz. berry held in Moira's dainty hand



Brassicas however have revelled in the cooler conditions and although there has been a return of clubroot we have still had a harvest even from quite badly infected plants. The biggest scourge however has been carrot fly for which there is no reliable cure available to home growers. I have so far lost 5 of the seven rows I have planted. Many of our visitors have reported similar problems. It is so bad this year that I am considering not growing carrots next year and they are a year round vegetable staple. So now because there are no chemical remedies available and many organic ones seem hit or miss, I shall probably have to buy in carrots that will have been treated with the chemicals that are not available to gardeners like me and the many others i come into contact with during the year.



The devastating effect of carrot fly on early sown carrots - all a total write off



But good crops started to come in regularly from mid month onwards - later than usual. From left to right:- Cauliflower "Pavilion", broccoli "Green Marble" salad potato "Belana", beetroot "Red Ace" and broad bean "Imperial Green Longpod"



The ornamental parts of the gardens have fared much better than the vegetables.. We now have a the full colour show we expect in all the borders and in some new colour combinations that have pleased me. I have planted out most of the annuals and tender perennials to keep the late summer colour show going and planted large shrubs in gaps in the main borders - some of them influenced by the fine specimens we saw earlier this month on a trip to Dinlge Nurseries and Garden in Welshpool. The Pictorial Meadows Seed Mix I sowed in May has grown on well but as much of it is in some shade or overgrown by larger companions in established borders, they are not as fullsome as they could be but nevertheless are putting on a good show  in a better variety than I expected and sowing seed direct is much easier than growing on and transplanting plugs of the same plants.

Red poppies and some umbellifers from Pictorial Meadows wildflower seed



Hydrangeas of all kinds are having a great summer which is particularly pleasing since the late April frosts threatened to end all flowerings this year on macrophyllas and serratas. Hydrangea "General Viscomtesse de Vibraye" is a really good blue in our PH 6 soil and I particularly like the way the agastache spears provide contrast to the domes of hydrangea flowers. A special feature on hydrangreas in next months News Item



And by way of compete contrast just 2 plants contribute to this pic of shades of grey, a delicate ferny artemesia (var unknown) with gypsophyila "Baby's Breath" growing through and over it.


Finally the lawns have kept well and grown on after weeding and feeding earlier in the month . The scarifying in June paid dividends and the quality of grass and the colour has improved considerably

The view across the Paddock Pond showing how the fine green sward shows off the individual borders to good effect



What's looking good?

Too much to express it in words so some pictures of a selection of the best with apologies to all the others

However I must just say a word about hemerocallis. We have over well over 50 in the gardens and nursery, many of which are long established plants, but more recently we have added  plants grown from seed generously made avaialable in the UK by the American Hemerocallis Society. For years they flowered brilliantly but for the last 10 years or so they have been badly affected by hemerocallis gall midge. This year however the mid season forms which are usually the worst affected have been largely free of the distorted buds that can ruin the look of the plants and the length of flowering. This and the colder weather plus daily deadheading and removal of occasional distorted buds has seen a greatly extended flowering period and floriferousness (is that a word?!)

The impact of hems. en masse in the Red Border



A long established unknown  cultivar in a lovely shade of apricot



Flowering for the first time this year a rather choice spider form in an unusual shade of lavender blue; good shaped even sized petals and and consistent colour.



Two flowers on plants from my 2014 sowing of American Hemerocallis Society seed





 A difficult decision to name my favourite hem. in the garden but if pressed it would probably be h. "Vespers", a very old cultivar from the 1940's, with trumpet like flowers over a long period and a pronounced scent



Lobelia tupa all the way from Chile. Strictly half - hardy it has thrived here since being planted in the red border in 2000. In really dry soil under a yew tree it gets better ever year



The unique flowers really are something different probably needing humming birds to pollinate them - what else could gain access to the flamingo like neck?



Some good lilies in flower all over the gardens. At the rear of the Paddock Pond in damp conditions is L. pardilinum, the so called ditch lily from the western USA. A tall lily at 2 metres



A personal favourite is this species form, lilium leichtlinii with shining golden yellow spotted flowers and striking black stems to 1.5 metres



One of the most eagerly awaited flowerings is that of dierama hybrids mostly  from seed companies,  plant society seed exchages and self seedings direct into their flowering positions.



And occasionally from bought in plants like this lovley cultivar d."Blackbird"



We have a wide range of geraniums in the gardens (who doesn't?!!) but for me none can top g, pratense "PlenumViolaceum" a superb double form of the meadow cranesbill - more on them later. It flowers for up to 6 weeks as it doesn't set seed. It has been in the gardens since the mid 1990's and is a much treasured plant.



It is easy to take the Paddock Pond for granted because for the area it covers it is easiest of all  similar sized spaces in the garden to maintain, However when the waterlilies are flowering as never before and the water is crystal clear with a total absence of blaket weed, it takes some beating



Wildlife and countryside

Not a great deal to report but once again the wildflowers have stolen the show. Meadows are cropping up everywhere it seems and with the council cutbacks, we have had no cutting back of all but the verges on major roads in Carmarthenshire. Usually cut back here in late May or early June, long before the plants have reached their peak, we never get to see all the full range of plants along the verges and certainly not the maturing grass seedheads which are a delight in themselves. Stars of the month are a wide range of umbellifers, meadowsweet, ladies bedstraw and huge drifts of geranium pratense, the meadow cranesbill, rivalling bluebells with their haze of blue along many roadsides perhaps none better then the Llandeilo  by pass.



Nearer home in Myddfai in one of the meadows of our friends Robert and Barry a glorious sunset creates the most wonderful effect - honestly absolutely no photoshop enhancements - just pure nature.





I have scarcely seen a butterfly just the odd comma or two, and with the cold nights not many moths either. Dragon and Damsel flies need warmth to become very active. I know from clearing out the Paddock Pond there are many mature dragonfly nymphs we just have to hope it warms up soon to enable them to commence the incredible metamorphisis from a water borne nonentity to a magnfiicent, brightly coloured flying machine.


A recently hatched female Emperor dragonfly, the bulkiest UK dragonfly



In contrast a dainty blue damsel fly. To be honest there are so many similar forms and colours, I haven't a clue of the name of this one. However from the 2 pics it is easy to see the most noticeable difference between a dragonfly (wings carried straight out from the body when at rest), contrasting with the damsefly whose wings  lay straight down the body.


Young blackbirds as always are making a nuisance of themselves in the fruit cage that they somehow find a way into but for the life of them they can't find their way out again! Preferred fruit is blueberries at any stage of ripeness; at a push they will settle for redcurrants. 

Herons are regularly seen and kingfishers have been heard recently but no sightings yet, and in broad daylight a few days ago a hedgehog was seen scurrying across the Paddock lawn.

Very quiet on the local farms with little grass harvesting, many of our neighbours having made the best of the fine weather window at the beginning of the month which was just as well because in such changeable and unpredictable weather bringing,in the harvest especially hay, iis very difficult. With many of the lambs having gone to market (prices much lower than last year), the surrounding fields are quieter now.


Visits and visitors

During the month we had a steady stream of visitors to the gardens and as always met some interesting and deliightful people. We thank them all for their support. We had friends Sylvia and Tony visiting in mid month and took the oppourtiny to go visiting ourselves which was a nice change.

One garden we had to visit was our friends Liz and Paul at Llwyngarreg, Llanfallteg, open both for the NGS and as a public garden. 3.5 acres of pure heaven with an amazing range of plants especially trees and shrubs and perfect planting everywhere. One of the hidden jewels of Wales. see more on their website at



Paul is a master of living  willow weaving as in the case of this incredible latticed multi stemmed tree. There is also woven seats, archways and huts around the gardens



They also make the most of the many shady, moist areas in the gardens with huge drifts of plantings of a wide range of moisture lovers especially primulas



And as former smallholders they still have some livestockaround the place like this clutch of muscovy  ducklings



Then on to one of my all time favourite places in Pembrokeshire, Porthclais harbour near St. Davids, hidden away and almost unchanged since I first visited it nearly 50 years ago



 And on the cliffs drifts of wildflowers the dominant purple in the pic being a fine form of heather



On the cliff tops many parts of Pembrokeshire are planted with cereals , the wind through the barley creating beatiful patterns



I have also spent time with our friends Robert and Barry in Myddfai helping and advising them with the making of ponds and a 40 metre stream garden which was great fun but daunting as it is the biggest gardening project I have ever been involved with.

Planting of the stream bed after 3 days of construction by a mighty mechanical digger,  including tons of earthmoving and reshaping of the lie of the surrounding land. More pics next month to show you how the planting develops


The aim is to have it looking at its best when they have their first opening for the NGS in 2016. More details nearer the time