Midsummer makeover

20130728-193733.jpgThis past week has seen a change in the weather, still warm but thundery downpours have appeared on the scene. Good news for the garden as no need now for supplementary watering. I’m waiting for a barrage of previously dormant weed seedlings however!

This week  we’ve been giving the garden a mid-season makeover, hence a rather longer post than usual.

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Making hay…with the sunflowers in the background and the giant thistle to their left

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Giant Thistle (Onopordum acantheum

The new grass areas in the walled garden whose seed heads gave us that rippling velvet effect earlier in May have now been strimmed down and the hay cleared; the rain and wind had flattened it so it was time to clear it. From now on until the end of the growing season, we’ll mow it short like the rest of the grass in the walled garden. We’ve left two long drifts of long grass under the old apple trees though as the wild flowers we planted there are still flowering and we want to give them a chance of setting seed.  Some of the hay is now drying under the staging in the greenhouse; it will be appreciated by the hens and the elderly resident in the greenhouse when dry.

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the first of the Dahlias

20130728-193836.jpgThe dahlias, cosmos, and mesembryanthemums underplanting the roses have  been enjoying the sun and this has started them into bloom so we’ve been keeping the hoe going around them to keep them tidy. The sweet peas too have been excellent, although shorter-stemmed this year- we can pretty much pick a vase-full a day at the moment and indeed we need to otherwise they will stop flowering!

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Cosmos

The other annuals we’ve given their own bed to are the younger son’s giant sunflowers which at around 4 feet at present are not particularly giant but they are very stocky which means they won’t be subject to wind- blow. They’ve been lapping up the sun, they’ve starred to flower and I’m pretty sure they’ll put on a great show – one flower that can’t help make you smile! Not bad for a small bag of parrot seed…

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The area I’m most pleased to have got under control is the shade border as that had become somewhat overrun with our old favourite- willow herb and creeping buttercup, I was a bit concerned that it might suffer during the dry spell – particularly the damp-loving Ferns ( including Shuttlecock and Royal ferns), the Candelabra primulas and the Ligularia, but this border lives in almost total shade of a high wall with no overhanging trees; it locks in whatever rain falls like a giant swampy sponge and all plants sailed through, although I did give a can- full to the Ligularia as it is in full bloom at the moment and did look a little stressed.

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In the greenhouse, everything that doesn’t answer to the name of tomato has been moved outside for a break in the sun, including the perennials which we have still to plant in the  new west-facing bed; this area has now been sprayed with glyphosate to clean the ground of perennial weeds, ready for planting in 2-3 weeks’ time.

We’ve been selectively spraying glyphosate in the woodland too – just nettles this time. We started this spraying programme last spring as the whole area was overcome with nettles making it virtually impenetrable to humans as well as stifling the other plants that were attempting to grow. Most of the wood is now clear and we’ll only need to spray occasionally, just to get rid of nettle seedlings. So far we’ve only planted new rhododendrons into this area but I’m keen to plant it with some woodland perennials too if we can get the ground clean enough.

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Hosta

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Nymphea Colonel AJ Welch

 And finally, proof that plants can  pick up the internet! In a recent post, I was bemoaning the fact that my yellow waterlily never flowered and that I would probably be replacing it. No sooner had I written this this that not only the original plant but also it’s rather annoying and similarly useless progeny,replanted at the other end of the pond courtesy of one of the gardening ducks, decided to revolt by each producing not one but two splendid canary yellow blooms! The compost heap grim-reaper no longer beckons!

P.s while on pond matters, large blue 3 inch dragonfly spotted hovering over the pond this past week. These almost prehistoric insects fill me with awe; we have nothing else like them in Scotland, closely resembling a mini helicopter. Sheer magic!

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The week the mercury touched 30

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the first of the Hybrid Tea roses with Phlomis in the background

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Sweet Pea

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Yellow-flowering Iris, Delphinium and Lysimachia (Garden Loosestrife)

For the last 10 days, a period of high pressure has hung over south east Scotland. I don’t ever remember it being so warm, certainly not for the 10 years we’ve been here. The temperatures have been up in the mid 20’s and a couple of evenings ago it reached 30 degrees. And it’s set to continue for another week at least. Certainly making up for last summer!

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Canterbury Bells

This warm dry weather should help the butterflies; they need all the help they can get and very few were in evidence last year. When out for my early morning walk with the trusty hound this morning, I came across a group of them (not sure what the collective noun is for butterflies – a flight, or a flutter, perhaps) in a sunlit clearing – small black-brown butterflies with a lighter coloured rim edging the underside of their wings – Meadow Browns, I think.

August’s usually a good month for butterflies here, particularly Small Tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies and Red Admirals so we’ll see what the buddleias attract when they come into flower.

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Delphinium

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Achillea flower bract

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Lychnis

The dry weather has meant dry soil, so much of the time has been spent watering the recently planted bedding and herbaceous. For those plants in the borders, once a week’s enough, but the pots have needed a watering every couple of nights.

20130712-175550.jpgStill, less rain has meant fewer weeds, and for that I’m grateful, although in the shady, north-facing border there is much to be done as the creeping buttercup has, well, crept over much of the earth, so this is the current project. When I’ve tidied it up, I’ll do a post as it’s quite colourful at the moment.

The grass growth too has slowed, which means faster cutting with less box-empties!

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Climbing rose “New Dawn”

The plants are really enjoying our tropical weather with the roses coming into bloom, including the first of our new David Austin roses that we planted in the spring. The herbaceous continues to flourish, although the bedding is starting to come into bloom as competition! The first of the dahlias and mesembryanthemums are starting to flower, so that will be them until the first frosts in October or maybe November if we’re lucky.

In the pond, the water lilies have all come into bloom too, but we’ll leave that for a future post.

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our ‘functional’ sweet pea frame!

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Herb garden corner. The rocket has gone to seed, but it has rather attractive flowers, popular with an elderly garden resident

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the east end of the south-facing border, with Feverfew (Pyrethrum), golden and green, taking centre stage

Daft about daffs

wpid-20130427_122812.jpgwpid-20130427_122440.jpgThe continuation of a relatively cool airstream has meant an outstanding spring bulbs season so far. We still have a few snowdrops, even now, although the spotlight is now firmly on the daffodils, with most of them in bloom.

wpid-20130427_122555.jpgIf truth be known, I’m actually quite pleased that next wpid-20130427_123156.jpgweek is to be cool, as this will hopefully mean we get a good long flowering spell from these, surely the cheeriest of spring flowers, almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face! I’m not sure how many varieties we have here in the garden, but we do have quite a few and I thought I’d feature a few on this post.wpid-20130427_145635.jpg

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Hyacinths

Very pleased to see the hyacinths coming out too with their evocative scent; we grow them in dry, dusty soil in a south facing position round the front of the house – in common with the daffs, the local rabbit population makes no attempt to snack on them!

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Forsythia flanked by tree paeonies

Nice to see some real growth in the borders, particularly the south-facing one. The forsythia is in full bloom now and the buds on the tree paeonies are really starting to open .

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Solomon’s Seal with Primula denticulata

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Omphaloides

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P. Ice Ballet

The hostas are unfurling and the Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum) is at its best at the moment, a sea of writhing serpents rising up out of the ground. We’ve got it in a few places in the garden where it spreads easily; we also have a variegated one in the shade border but I’m not so taken with that. What is good in the shade border at the moment are the Pulmonarias;

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P. Blue Ensign

I’ve mentioned our white one before, mistakenly calling it ‘Sissinghurst White’ in previous posts, but it’s actually ‘Ice Ballet’ according the invoice that I dug out the other day; our other one, ‘Blue Ensign’, is now out with an intense blue flower, and mauve buds. Oddly so are some dwarf daffodils, perhaps ‘Minnow’, which I really can’t recall planting there. The Good Lady thinks this could have been the gardening exploits of a rather horticulturally-challenged, not to mention forgetful, squirrel!

The grass-cutting season has started, certainly in the walled garden. We have more to cut here now, as we put the two productive vegetable areas to grass late last summer; we’ll mow these as we do the main lawn, leaving the bulb areas under the fruit trees un-mown until later in the summer. We have been growing some wildflower seed in the greenhouse which is coming on nicely and which we’ll plant in these areas shortly. The grass round the front of the house is much more exposed and it will be a couple of weeks before that needs attention.

wpid-20130427_123856.jpgIn the greenhouse, all the hardy annuals we planted a couple of weeks ago are now through, I’m pleased to say, although some of the perennials are a little more leisurely in their germination. They are starting to come through now, though, so one shouldn’t give up hope too early! Probably starting next weekend, we shall be pricking the seedlings out into modules, a time of year when the greenhouse is at its most productive.

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Helleborus, the Lenten Lilly

This last couple of weekends, I have been working over the borders, removing grassy weeds, willowherb and creeping buttercup, all very determined to withstand the rigours of the hoe. I don’t like hoeing at this time of the year as there are many interesting seedlings coming through and I prefer to wait until I know what they are before I remove them. Lovely to hear the hum of the bumble bees, though, as they feed on the early flowers of the wall-trained gooseberry – worth having if only to provide this early food-supply!

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Doronicum, Shepherd’s Bane

wpid-20130420_123609.jpgSpring is definitely here. Daybreak comes before 5am now, we have daylight until beyond 9pm, and there is warmth in the sun when she chooses to show her face. A new flock of proud mums and their newborn lambs have arrived in the field; each day they gain a little more strength and a little more confidence. The buds are starting to break on the fruit trees but I’m just hoping that they don’t fall victim to the late frosts scheduled for next week. This is what happened last year over much of the UK, leading to an almost non-existent apple and pear crop. Fingers crossed that they will be okay this year.