Whatever the weather

It’s been a funny old year so far weatherwise. Most of the plants that were hit by that hard frost in late April have come through, albeit with less vigour having had to put out new growth a second time.

The hostas don’t have quite the same stature as normal, some still show the damage in limp and twisted leaves. I lost a lot of flower buds as well which may have been due to the lack of water this spring. One week buds on I sibirica’s and I germanica’s coming on fine, then on some plants in a few days they were just dried husks.

I’m late getting in bedding and changing out spring pots this year, and where I have added bedding and water, the moles follow. I can understand that with the dry ground worms are finding it hard which makes the moles more desperate, and if we have breeding females all the more desperate and destructive. Plants wilt and can’t put out roots to more firmly anchor them in the soil and draw up what moisture there is if moles continue to create air spaces by running rings around them.

Plus we’ve had some really battering winds toppling plants and swirling and flattening clumps of others.

My (over optimistic anyway) raised woodland border. ‘The Himalayas’, which faces south but is behind one of our workshops, so sort of shaded, took a hammering from the 31C temperatures this week.

Roses at least came out (rather than balling as they do in wet weather) but too quickly. Deep red Souvenir du Docteur Jamain scorched even in a north-facing border. Note to self Blanchefleur’s flowers all go crispy brown – not a pretty sight.


This year too we seem to have more thieving birds again. Last year the currants despite being uncovered were left alone – this year they have all been taken not yet ripe. I covered the strawberries to keep out the birds but presumably rodents have taken them – not one left for us. And yesterday a blackbird started taking half-ripe blackberries from Waldo, it too will soon be stripped.

So what’s good?

Rosa mutabilis
Rosa mutabilis

The scent of our much maligned Lonicera japonica Halliana fills the garden especially towards the evening.

Rosa mutabilis lost its first flush of flowers (as did climbing deep red rose Guinée earlier on) frost/dry?, now she’s in full pink and pale orange bloom.

The grass bed is coming into its own and the grasses starting to flower, Penstemon Firebird is again really good value, it withstood the winter with its roots in pretty much pure clay, I have less luck with Andenken en Friedrich Hahn (Garnet).

Papaver spicatum

Papaver spicatum with its furry leaves and buds and soft orange petals is holding its own this year against a clump of Pennisetum Fairy Tales which was frosted so is not so far on as last year. I’ve been enjoying the more subtle yellow with a hint of burnt orange colouring of our native Glaucium flavum this year which are just finishing, the long horned seedpods which give it its name of Horned Poppy are taking over.

The majority of last year’s dahlias overwintered in the ground so have a bit of a head-start. Luckily most emerging growth missed the frost unlike the fuchsias overwintered in the ground which are struggling.

The first in flower is single dark red, dark leaved dwarf dahlia – Sarah (National Dahlia Collection). Although as the flower ages it goes biscuity not retaining the depth of red.

Galtonia viridiflora

I’ve never grown Galtonia viridiflora before – an interesting curiosity and earlier than the white G candicans.

The smell of rain-wet earth

I thought I could smell rain – I’ve just looked up and a light misting is moving across the field. According to a piece on the Metoffice website what we smell when it rains after a period of dry weather is called petrichor, a combination of plant oils secreted in the soil and soil bacteria which are released when water drops hit the ground.

Rain stopped play in the garden (temporarily)

Early June lupins and foxgloves
Early June lupins and foxgloves

Some big showers moving through at the moment. Pity I didn’t get more plants in this morning. There’s more rain tomorrow so onwards in a minute. Now it’s tomorrow (Sunday) and the predicted rain is now splashes rather than downpour, I was rather hoping for some effortless watering-in of plants. The top layer of this clay based soil is lovely to work when wet and warmed by the sun.

On Friday I built a large squash/courgette bed. Made out of lawn turf and filled with well rotted horse manure. Surrounded on all sides with string and bamboo to stop the chickens scratching it all out. Very few brandling worms in the manure so presume their work is finished and they have moved on. Hopefully come the autumn I will break it down and it’ll make a nice mulch for the borders.

A wicked wind has been blowing from the south for the last few days, trees debris everywhere. My bargain Lady’s Slipper Orchid has been getting a hammering, her fat bottom lip is browned where its been hitting the leaf below.  Yesterday the wind briefly abated as the rain came through. Today is grey but the wind has died down, hooray.

One part of the woodbed planted 2 weeks ago - work in progress
One part of the wood bed planted 2 weeks ago – work in progress

I have built two slightly raised beds for woodies in the shade, unfortunately the squirrels have buried nuts in the ground underneath so there are confused squirrels and minor excavations in many places. Its interesting to sculpt these mounds a bit to create pockets and change the moisture levels rather than just planting on the flat. The soil isn’t very woodsy at the moment so some plants may be a bit touch and go. I also discovered a very small earth brown toad in my diggings and plantings.

We caught a young red deer on camera one morning, must have jumped the stream to investigate the edible potential of the garden, it took a small mouthful of Rosa Kaznalik and appears to have moved on. We did see it ambling through a neighbouring field again last weekend.

The other day a mole broke cover in daylight and ran across the lawn, I presume the resident mole had faced it down and forced it up into the daylight.

I don't pop my bud for just anyone you know - Eshscholzia
I don’t pop my bud for just anyone you know – Eschscholzia

We got a turf cutter in on the late May Bank Holiday so the main borders are all cut out and planted up with a fair amount of plants. The first bits of the borders to be planted in January this year are filling out. Lupins, foxgloves and hesperis are making a show, the first eschscholzia and nasturtium Milkmaid are coming out. (I start eschscholzia seeds in pots rather than direct sow and then move them on in clumps rather than trying to prick out individual seedlings.)

It’s fabulous to see the amount of growth my bare root roses from Peter Beales have made, Great Western in particular is full  of buds. Some of the roses I have hoicked around in pots also seem to be recovering. The inherited roses here so far are generally pink and not very scented, the only one I know is Handel. Although I do admire a classic hybrid tea rose shape,  generally I think they are a bit stiff in a garden setting, but great for cutting.

I fear the hibiscus and peonies that came with the garden may also be pink which isn’t a great fit for the blue/white/yellow bed where they currently reside. An ordinary philadelphus is filling the garden with scent at the moment, so will stay.

Maybe the dull day should be used to pot on some buddleja who do not have a designated home as yet in this garden.