Warm days and nights, torrential rain and strong winds - welcome to crazy August!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A roller coaster of a month but the garden has coped well with all the weather has thrown at it and has looked fantastic throughout the month. We are at last cropping a wide selection of vegetables after one of the most difficult years ever. The combination of warm days and nights and lots of rain has been the key and plants from South African summer rainfall areas (dieramas, crocosmias, kniphofias) have absolutely loved it and are flowering like never before. And the lawns ...... lush and green, but not so long ago we were all being encouraged to turn them into gravel gardens because of the prospect of regular drought or other obscure ecological reasons. It may of course happen but if you are a traditional gardener there is nothing like green lawns to set off the borders. They have been much admired by all our visitors. 

Crocosmia "Star of the East" large 2 inch flowers in a light orage fading to lemon white centres. One of the best and long flowering



A "red hot poker" that isn't red (not many are!!). This is an elegant, refined cultivar "Green Jade" with slim spikes to 3 feet.



On a personal level the highlight of the month was the celebration of Moira's 60th Birthday on 3 August and a long weekend which included a birthday dinner, BBQ and days out with friends staying over. She had a wonderful time and a good friend Rena made the most fabulous birthday cake decorated with scenes of the garden watched over from above by Moira's beloved cat Bojo who died last Autumn.


 The famous cake- it took Moira 2 weeks to summon up the will to cut it up as it was so perfect! It tastes as good as it looks.



The birthday girl on her special day inside her special present - the conservatory!





Mostly covered in the introduction but temperatures have been the highest of the year with 2 weeks of daytime temperatures above 21C and a max of 28C. Over the same period the nightime minimum was over 15C with a max of 19C - even on wet days!


Garden update

The rabbits have continued to plague the vegetables in particular and a few herbaceous plants. They don't eat the ones you expect them to, like juicy lettuce or hostas but they decimate things like achilleas, cornflowers, runner beans chewing off some of the main growing stems, and of course cabbages. Continuous use of fleece and an electric fence protects the vegetables but all the other garden plants have to take their chance. Slugs and snails are having a bumper year and weeds just love it!                           

With the visitor season having started earlier this month I am back to mowing the lawns every day when possible and cutting the lawn edges at least once a week. Aside from keeping on top of the weeds and slug control it is a quieter time of year with sporadic planting of gaps in the borders or introducing new plants. Lots of dead heading to do of course and continuous staking in view of all the wind we have had.

I dug all the potatoes in the second week of August and the crop was only 3 x 56lb sacks - under a third of last years record. Strangely in view of all the rain the potatoes were relatively small and some varieties like Harmony hardly cropped at all with an average of just 4 tubers per plant - it embarasses me to say so! Desiree as always the best performer by a long way. Garlic on the other hand was terriffic with 100% success rate and some fairly large bulbs to see us through the winter. Onions a disaster, some planted as sets had hardly moved beyond the size they were when planted. More embarassment!!

 Dwarf beans are one of the successes, none better than this fine berlotti bean, good for slicing when young and very early often the first week of July from a late april sowing, good shelled when still tender and for drying for winter use. Nice colour too!


Herbaceous fabulous - see below, clematis slow and struggling with the very wet ground, shrubs immense growth and later flowering annuals and tender bedded out slavias just coming to their peak. Roses repeating well rewarding feeding with rose fertiliser in early June, but flowers being spoiled and not lasting long when the heavy rains come along.


What's looking good?

How long have you got? It has been one of the best late summer shows ever with some earlier flowering plants lasting much longer than usual and all the late summer perennials now really getting into their stride boosted by those marvellous annuals like cosmos and rudbeckias. So the choice is limitless and choosing the best is difficult but I will let the pics speak for themselves.


This magnificent hydrangea paniculata "Great Star" a recent introduction with huge sterile star shaped flowers set around a few fertile flowers in a well balanced laceap head A tall thalictrum rochebrunianum providing a misty see through veil, much appreciated by recent visitors.



A charming 5 foot woodlander kiringishoma palmatum revelling in all the rain and flowering its heart out with lemon bells that don't fully open. If you want more open flowers select k. koreana. Both are fine plants and bone hardy. An all time favourite rudbeckia "Goldsturm" and the subject of our website banner image, just squeezing into the picture to say hello - what would autumn be without it? (see also August 2011 news)




A lovely white hemerocallis with light green throat. Never lose a label with a hem. With tens of thousands of cultivars it can make naming it very difficult!



The view across the Paddock Garden herbaceous borders



One of the nicest and later flowering thalictums the very choice and highly sought after double delavayi to 3-4 feet Rather lax in habit  (not morals!!) and will probably need some gentle support. Sterile so expensive to buy



My camera and I have had another diagreement! (its days are numbered).  This is a rare species yellow flowered delphinium zalil which I say is lemon yellow as does the marvellous Chiltern Seeds catelogue from whence it came but the camera says it is cream. Whatever it is absolutely charming. Grows to a about 2 feet.



Wildlife and countryside

Some of the bigger dragonflies are very active on warmer days but far less than just a few years ago before the 2 very cold winters. Another reason for wanting some milder winters! Plenty of dragonfly larvae in the Paddock Pond so hope for the future.

Several good sightings of kingfishers this month and do I ever have the camera? You hear them before you see them with their high pitched whistle folowed by flashes of brilliant shining blue. The most exotic bird in the UK without a doubt.

As with last August very few butterflies on the wing just some tortoisehells and peacocks with the obigatory cabbage whites. Plenty of smaller insects with many suitable flowers to choose from. One of the best plants for attracting insects is currently echinops ritro a globular headed blue thistle which is always smothered in them and bees love it too.


 One of the few peacock butterflies I have seen,  luxuriating on the lovely flower head of phlox maculata "Hesperis". More wide spread and smaller individual flowerheads than the paniculatas they have coped well  with all the heavy rain. 4 feet+ tall and absolutely no staking.


Farmers are still stuggling to get in the harvest mostly silage and some haylage being made, with little suitable drier interludes to make hay (4 day minimum).



At last we have started to have visitors again for The National Gardens Scheme with 6 group visits in the last 9 days and 3 more to come. It has been such a part of our summers for the past 13 years that it has seemd strange not to have had them before now. The weather has been kind for us on the days we have opened this month. Since the conservatory has been built we we have less space to provide teas for larger groups but Myddfai Visitor Centre and Community Hall just 2 miles from us has proved to be an excellent venue for our visitors to have tea and browse the well stocked gift shop. We will however continue to serve teas for groups of 16 or less.

In 2013 we will be able to resume accepting visitors for the NGS by prior arrangement from June to the end of September so if you are planning a garden outing then please get in touch. We regret that we will not be having another Open Day. Every year since 2000 visitor numbers on Open Days had increased to the point where it had become almost unmanageable even in a one acre garden with a large field close by for parking. It had become an eagerly awaited annual event in the area and we are so grateful for all the support we have had and hope that people will understand the reasons for our reluctant decision. It is of course still possible to visit by prior appointment and to purchase plants from the nursery and we look froward to receiving visits on this basis from gardening friends old and new.

In September the garden talks season begins with bookings all over south and west Wales but there are still plenty of dates available between September and March so if you would like Keith to give a talk to your club or society please get in touch.

Just time this month to make one garden visit, to Picton Castle near Haverfordwest and what a delight it was. One of those magical days out when the sun shone, the cafe, gift shop and plant sales were of the highest order, the Castle tour very interesting and 40 acres of gardens took us 4 hours to tour! The herbaceous planting in the walled garden was exceptional and a plantsman's delight. We thoroughly recommed it as a venue for a quality day out. With the exception of Powis Castle, a personal favourite, Picton is surely one of the best gardens in Wales.


Picton Castle. 700 years old and a great backdrop around which to build a garden.



A short distance from where the earlier picture was taken was this wonderful deep purple mop head hydrangea but when you need a label can you ever find one?!! The PH of the soil obviously has a big part to play in the sensational colour of this clone.



At the entrance to The Walled Garden (the main herbaceous garden) was this magnificient stand of kniphofias, 8 foot tall so probably at a guess and in the absence of a label, knifophia uvaria nobilis which as Bob Brown says in his wonderful catelogue for Cotswold Garden Flowers, "may when conveniently sited be used as a local landmark". He can always be relied on to find the right words to capture the essence of a special plant.