Monday 31 August 2015

31 August : Asters

How do we all feel about asters? I have a feeling that they are not quite The Thing. I've had a bit of a brain wave for next year but it involves a Bold Statement in purple and pink asters and I don't want to commit a faux pas. Please save me from being that woman who doesn't know asters are So Last Century. I should add that I am Most Grateful for your guidance on this and other matters horticultural.

Sunday 30 August 2015

30 August : Dahlias

It was a bit rainy at the garden party so I stood under the awning and talked dahlias with Natalie's dad. He said "I always lift my dahlias so I can dig my border, I like to know where I am. In the big gardens I think they leave them in, especially if it is sheltered, but I like to lift mine after the first frost. I dry them, wrap them in paper and put them in the shed. I've only got 8 but they come on lovely in the spring. I put them out in April and by July they are so big you have to string them up. It's hard to go away in the summer, I have to ask my brother-in-law to pop in so that he can check that the neighbour is watering them properly." 

Saturday 29 August 2015

29 August : Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks and me are no longer an item. It's over. In the end they weren't even trying. I made allowances but they were late for everything important (e.g. Summer) and when they did turn up they grew at odd angles as though they had been having pre-drinks before the party. The last straw was the pox. I'm pretty tolerant but we all know that virulent rust is the sign of a misspent youth so they've been given their marching orders. It was hard, the end of a dream, and I may need therapy to help me let go. Here are some photos of the start of the affair in Banon, Provence, June 2012. 

Friday 28 August 2015

28 August : Confession

Echinacea purpurea 'Virgin'

I seem to be making a habit of talking to elderly ladies in garden centres - I hope that they don't complain that they were pestered by a mad woman in a yellow coat. Anyway, the lovely lady yesterday spoke to me first so I was not entirely at fault. She was very tall and slightly stooped, probably because of the enormous camera around her neck. Definitely a card carrying member of the Dahlia Paparazzi. We had an intense discussion on the merits of Penstemon and I know that I should have admitted that I do not like Penstemon but she was very enthusiastic and perhaps it is the next new thing, one should always keep an open mind.  Looking slightly guilty as she put another plant in her basket she confessed that her husband had just gone back to the garden to take more photos. I wished her luck smuggling her stash home.

Thursday 27 August 2015

27 August : Savill Garden

I escaped from the house after three days of heavy rain and spent two peaceful hours wandering around the Savill Gardens. There was hardly anyone else there except the gardeners. The great summer borders are awe inspiring : bold swathes of yellow, orange, red and purple with splashes of magenta and blocks of dark foliage. Attempting to photograph the density of planting, subtlety of colour and variations of height with my phone was at once absorbing and frustrating. I know that I could use my proper camera but the simplicity and immediacy of a phone camera suits my purpose so I am prepared to put up with the limitations. Occasionally I crop an image but most of the photos on this blog are straight from the camera so that I have a record to refer to.

**The last photo is all about the orange Tithonia, a virtual birthday bouquet for Sam** 

Wednesday 26 August 2015

26 August : Flood

I think that I might have over-achieved because after two days of heavy rain the Japanese Anemone is fully recovered...but our road has flooded. I am feeling a bit guilty and trying to avoid the neighbours. In view of the circumstances I have included a photograph of an underwater lavender bush in the front garden. Not the Japanese Anemone which is looking fabulous in the back garden. I should also like to add that I bought a new yard broom yesterday so I looked very chic as I swept away the mud. 

Monday 24 August 2015

24 August : Anemone

Dear Lord,
I know you are terribly busy but could we have a little chat? It is about my Japanese Anemone 'Whirligig'. This might not seem very important to you but it means a great deal to me. The thing is that I have repotted, watered conscientiously for a whole year, fed regularly but not too much and I have also ensured that the plant has been in a prime position throughout the growing season so that it has never felt ignored or neglected. In the last two weeks the flower stems have appeared and each one has been welcomed and celebrated. Alas, when we were away on Saturday you sent a scorcher of a day but unfortunately to the wrong place because it rained heavily in Devon - perhaps your GPS was not working properly? Anyway, we arrived home to find a frizzled and tragic Japanese Anemone. I wonder if you could see your way clear to working a miracle? Just a little miracle. I would be very grateful.
Yours in anticipation

PS I have included a photo from last year so you know which plant I am talking about.

Sunday 23 August 2015

23 August : Clematis

I've been indulging in clematis envy and it isn't pretty. I took one look at this lovely yellow clematis scrambling up the granite steps at Cowslip Workshops and thought "WANT!" My own efforts at clematis are so meagre in comparision, pathetic little plants which give the impression that they are losing the will to live for most of the year. I am dissatisfied with these puny weaklings, I want great waves of clematis crashing over my fences and walls. However, if I am going to be completely frank, open and honest with you, I would do without the clematis if I could have the barn with the black door and granite steps so I am open to negotiation.

Friday 21 August 2015

21 August : Cabbages

Here is a weekend treat for all you lovely vegetable people.

I took my mother out to lunch at Cowslip Workshops. I think that I had imagined we would sit and chat while we ate lunch but what she really wanted to do was wander around the vegetable garden. "It's so inspirational" she said.

"My beans are not so advanced as these - I was late putting up the sticks. I will cut them in advance next year. Oh! That parsley! My guinea pigs would love that parsley!"

"Look at those onions! They are almost good enough to enter into the Produce Show. Now let's look in the polytunnel - have you ever seen so many tomatoes?"

"Of course I have to have a fence because of the rabbits. It is so high now that it is quite difficult to climb over. I suppose I should have a gate or something."

"Can you stand there, Alice, I want a picture of you. Yes, there. Why not? Yes right there, with the cabbages."

So... that's another unforgettable photo of me in the family album then.

Thursday 20 August 2015

20 August : Magic

I could hear the rain in the night and the air was damp. When I opened my curtains in the morning the sky was a lifeless curdled grey above a sodden garden. At that moment a shaft of light illuminated my cherry tree from the side and every dripping leaf lit up so that the tree turned into a glowing green crystal chandelier. Magic.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

19 August : 'BB'

The local hospice bookshop has come up trumps again! 

First of all I must admit that it was not the prospect of pools, streams and waterfalls that attracted me to this book but the charming image of myself and MrM wandering beside our waterfall, in front of our Lutyens house, accompanied by our Irish Wolfhounds. We are walking the dogs wearing evening dress.

The introduction claims that "anyone can have running water in their garden, even though they live miles from the nearest stream. The cost will not be prohibitive, a ten-pound note should cover it...Some people lose more than that amount at cards in one evening's gaming, or a dinner and dance at a swagger hotel." So, if we cut back on swagger hotels we can have our own waterfall!

Inside there is a plethora of instructions and enough illustrations with cross-hatching to make your knees go wobbly. The advice is based on experience "A word of warning! Let me tell you that the lady of the house will, in nine cases out of ten, be against the proposal...Tact, therefore, must be used, and guile...By far the best time to execute the work is during their absence, indeed, in these difficult times of servant shortage, I would even go so far as to murmur that a short holiday is just what they need." Indeed. Well, I am not sure if MrM has noticed that there is a servant shortage but I am sure I could pack him off on a holiday.

Our new stream, pool and waterfall could offer endless opportunities for artistic expression. I have spent some time examining the method of carving gargoyles from concrete blocks - why have I never thought of this before? There would also be the chance to earn pin money from breeding goldfish. I am sure that the visiting cat would contribute to that project. But no water fowl, which is fine by me.

On the back cover are the descriptions of other books in the series - I am quite tempted by 'Gladioli' which the Glasgow Bulletin describes as "One of the most complete manuals I have ever seen" but feel that as a beginner 'A Real ABC of Gardening' might be more appropriate as it gives "fullest details of the simplest horticultural operations". I'll keep my eye out for it in the bookshop.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

17 August : Progress

The Lovely Katie came to supper bringing with her a dahlia of glorious pinkness from the Columbia Road Flower Market. It is now on my patio, a gorgeous urban supermodel surrounded by rather shocked fuschias and pelargoniums who will need to up their game to get any attention.

Katie, who is a gardener and knows what she is talking about, admired the frilly hollyhocks and the white fuschia which looks like tiny candles at dusk and then said kind things about my August Border. I helpfully pointed out the many deficiencies but she was adamant "Don't forget that I saw it this time last year - it looks so much better now." Sometimes you need a friend to say the right things to help you change gear. If I roll up my sleeves and stop making excuses even the Dismal Border can be transformed by this time next year.

Sunday 16 August 2015

16 August : Gloom

The sun came out after days of rain but when I went into the garden I had one of those terrifying moments of Gardening Gloom. The sort where you look around and see everything that is flattened by the rain and the plants that need sunshine looking depressed, the weed seeds that have flourished and the grass looking moth eaten. The sun was shining brightly on the Shady Border which is currently awaiting renovation and is therefore known as the Dismal Border. And then, as though I was falling to my doom, all the other gardens I had ever visited flashed before my eyes in their manicured magnificence and I went back inside and made myself a cup of tea. Hard work and attention to detail will bring me the garden of my dreams but not today. I will start again tomorrow.

Thursday 13 August 2015

13 August : Red

I love the names of the flowers of late summer: Helianthemum, Leucanthemum, Argyranthemum, Chrysanthemum and Rudbeckia, Crocosmia, Dahlia, Achillea, Echinacea. I am a late convert to the yellow, orange and red charms of these flowers and this time last year there was nothing once the roses had finished in July but now there is a fledgling August border with shades of gold, copper and bronze. The orange Crocosmia has done well for the first time - although as a good Cornish girl I prefer to call it Montbretia. The sweet little rosy red Helianthemum and some gorgeous rich amber Echinacea are putting on a brave show and will be joined by others by next year. There is much room for improvement - two yellow Rudbeckias have keeled over with shock and died, clearly not team players, and there are gaps at the back where I need some tall Achillea. I think that I need to go garden visiting to get some inspiration. Do you want to come with me?

Wednesday 12 August 2015

12 August : White

It is the turn of the White Guard next. I am a bit wary of this crew ever since I tried to buy some white summer stocks in a local supermarket and the lady at the till gave me a lecture on looking after the flowers so that they lasted as long as possible. I tried to lighten the mood by mentioning that I had some lovely apricot roses in my garden but this was obviously a faux pas because she looked appalled and said "I only have white flowers in my garden. White. Nothing but white". There was the slightest hint of mania in her eyes so I didn't make my quip about Dentist-hurst.

You will be interested to note that white Nemesia that smells of vanilla was reprieved, split up from its chums on the windowsill and made to sit in a shady place where the fragrance would not be so overpowering. As a result it has worked hard all summer and now has a Certificate of Commendation. Well done Nemesia!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

11 August : Pink

Next up in the Trooping of the Colour we have the Pink Platoon which is a bit thin on the ground at this time of year. Geraniums, Pelargoniums and Fuschias are in the front rank but there are also one or two roses and a lovely pink Sidalcea which is a new purchase.

I am delighted with the pink Marguerites which I rescued from the End of Season Sale shelf at the Garden Centre. They were looking at me quite pitifully, begging to be taken home, so I did. After a short back and sides and a bracing tonic they are now putting on a good show outside my kitchen window. I like to think that this demonstrates my nurturing side and compensates for the Orange Begonia Incident.

Monday 10 August 2015

10 August : Blue

I thought I could have an Unofficial Garden Birthday like the Queen, with a Trooping of the Colour to celebrate. Well, why not? Anyway - here is the Blue Brigade looking trim.

All of these flowers are growing in my garden at the moment except the spectacular Delphiniums which I photographed in Clare College Fellows' Garden. One must have have dreams and make plans...this time next year?

Sunday 9 August 2015

9 August : Hollyhocks

I'm feeling bad about nagging the Hollyhocks now. This is a flower that needs a little time to get ready for the party. So Many Ruffles.

I have been away but now I am  back in the garden, ready for August. There will be much lounging, drinking wine and eating crostini. The garden could be more perfect in many ways but it is quiet and shady on a hot day and the sunny border is full of bright summer colours. Next year I hope it will be more polished but for now I am satisfied. A friend came to lunch the other day and said "It's like a secret garden!" which is exactly the effect I wanted to achieve. Even the Hollyhocks are cooperating.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

4 August : Fennel

The bronze fennel is Teacher's pet at the moment. It grows at a prodigous rate but does not need constant nurturing unlike certain others who shall remain nameless. The whole plant bobs around delightfully in the slightest breeze and when it rains the fronds turn to polished steel as they trap the water droplets. I am not sure that it looks its best in a mixed border where the delicacy of the fronds gets lost but here, in a pot at the front of the class on my sun trap of a patio, it is flourishing.