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

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Preparing for the summer show

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Delphinium ‘spires’

A break in the weather from a succession of warm, dry, sultry days to a breezy mixture of sunshine and showers is welcome. These past two weekends there has been much ferrying of watering cans to far-flung corners of the garden just to keep the newly planted bedding plants in existence but they don’t really develop properly without a decent shower of real rain.

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Aquilegia and Foxgloves

This weekend saw the final lot of summer bedding being planted out; the Good Lady has been planting up the Dahlia beds (Bishops Children and T&M Dwarf Mixed) and Mesembryanthemums under the hybrid tea roses; these will knit together over the summer providing a wonderful multi-coloured backdrop of brightly-coloured daisies. Meanwhile the Cosmos and Sunflowers are developing thick stems and putting on good growth.  The dayglo-flowering Californian poppies have also been planted into the borders, providing a shock of neon brilliance to the demure herbaceous visitor! We’ve had good germination of bedding this year so have been filling spaces in the borders with more Dahlias and African marigolds (Calendula) and have also been planting up a few more terracotta pots.

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French marigolds, which smell as good as they look!

This year, the spring bedding has been really excellent, with the black tulips only just going over now and the winter pansies still merrily flowering their heads off! 20130626-202225.jpgWhile we’ve planted up most of the pots with summer bedding (Cosmos, French marigolds mainly), we’ll let the spring ones run full-term as I always despair at the Council parks which proceed to rip up their spring bedding just when it is at its best, only to replace it with several weeks of bare soil before they put their summer bedding in!

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the colourful shade border, just coming into its best – the subject of a future post!

We’ve also been planting out and potting on some of this, and last, year’s biennials and perennials. The Echium fastuosum ‘Pride of Madeira’ and the baby Hostas I’ve been moving onto larger pots for planting out next spring; the former is frost-tender, won’t flower until next year and I’ll need to be able to move them into the greenhouse come the autumn. The latter, while making good growth and starting to show some interesting leaf variations (in terms of shape, size and colour) are just too little to put out, but they should be fine for next spring. The Pyrethrums we’ve been planting out in various places and we now have a line of young Catmint (Nepeta) along the front of the west-facing Yew hedge; I don’t think it will flower this year (it normally flowers in June/ July) but the young plants are thickening up well and should make a good show this time next year. The Aquilegia ‘Firecracker’, Acanthus ‘Bears’ Breeches’, and the Echinacea “Magic Box” should be ready in a couple of weeks. Other herbaceous seedlings are making rather slower progress and will be gradually potted on as they develop.

So the greenhouse is gradually emptying, leaving more space for the tomatoes, now planted into the soil, which are making good progress, with some early fruit forming already. Our Black Hamburg grape too is showing many clusters of fruit; it requires a weekly prune at this time of the year, its shoots growing about a metre a week!

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shrub rose in the Kitchen Garden, variety unknown, which has never flowered like this before. It was cut back hard two years ago, produced lots of growth but no flowers last year, was not pruned over the winter (I never quite got round to it) and is now covered with these amazing 5 inch flowers!

A Midsummer Evening in a Scottish Country Garden

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Sometimes, some green can be relaxing and a welcome antidote to the explosion of colour that surrounds us in our borders at this time of year. This year, having our big mower  out of commission for a while forced us to reconsider the value of grass as a plant in its own right. We therefore decided to leave the new grass areas in the walled garden unmown just to see what happens. The grass is now developing seed-heads which, back-lit against the late evening sun, are quite beautiful, the whole area shimmering like brushed velvet in a light breeze. Later in the summer, we will start mowing this grass once again but not before this particular display is over. In the meantime, we will continue to use the Flymo to carve interesting grass paths round the edges, and in some of the informal areas through its midst, saving us a lot of time, and a lot of fuel!

For the rest of this post, we thought we’d let the photos tell the story. We hope you like them.

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the first of the newly-sown wild flowers starting to show, with the new Medlar, currently in flower and the wonderfully-scented lupins over to the right

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the verbascums and lupins of the south border, with the grey- leaved giant thistle starting to make its presence felt

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the herb garden, probably at its best at the moment, with some young rocket and flowering chives

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some cottage-garden favourites in the south facing border – foxgloves (Digitalis), Delphinium and more lupins!

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a spectacle of lupins, sentinals of our new Acer palmatum Sangokaku

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Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, we think!

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Granny’s Bonnets (Aquilegia), all colour-combinations possible!

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and finally, out in the Policies, the extraordinarily-ornate and exotic blooms of the blue Iris, completely hardy in our cold climate!

A November wander round the walled garden…

imageThe beginning of November heralds the onset of the quieter winter period. We’ve finished the strimming of the longer grass areas of the policies and very likely witnessed the last lawn-mowing in the walled garden. The leaf raking is in full swing and one might be forgiven for assuming that the garden is now ‘closed for the season’.

And yet, there are flowers to be found. While the tea roses are now a bit lanky, mild spells encourage buds to break and fine blooms to result.

imageOur David Austin roses are probably at their best now; while they have bloomed almost continously since June, many of their blooms have ‘balled up’ and been spoilt  in all the rain we had during the summer. As long as we don’t get it too severe, they could still be flowering at Christmas!

imageThe herbaceous border continues to present interest – we have pink mallows still flowering and the wonderful Rudbeckia shoots out its cheery flamboyant bright yellow daisies like the big finish in the Fireworks display.

Talking of fireworks, in the south facing border, our pink Nerines have put on an excellent show this autumn – such an exotic, tender looking thing and yet tough as anything,image as long as it gets some hot sun to toast its toes in during the summer – ah, well, maybe next year….

A few weeks ago, we cut back our Lupins and they are now putting out a new flush of smaller, but still very imageattractive blooms. Not to be outdone, a nearby Delphinium is giving them a run for their money with its sky blue and white spires.

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With such a mild winter last year, our 2011 sowing of Verbena bonariensis has really delivered this summer and autumn with its spectacular explosions of lavender-coloured clusters. They’ve been really good this year round in the kitchen garden against a very late-flowering buddleia and providing a variation on a theme to the metallic blue of the Eryngium sea hollies, but if we get a hard winter we’ll need to repeat-sow next spring.

Lurking at the back of the west border I discovered the beautiful white goblets of a Colchicum spec. album; how it got there is somewhat of a mystery! In the spring, when its strappy leaves start to appear, I shall lift the clump, divide it, and give it a new home where we can appreciate it. Colchicums are one of a range of autumn flower corms and bulbs which really deliver value at this time of the year. Another are Cyclamen, and we got some recently from the garden centre which we’re trialling in a pot. imageThey are supposedly hardy, but we shall see; so far, they have coped well with a few frosty nights! Next year, I’m hoping to grow some C. hederifolium from seed, which is the autumn variety you usually see at this time of year, often naturalising under established trees.

Our new East facing border has done quite well this year, although we have used annuals to deliver the colour. We transplanted some Antirrhinums from another area of the garden and they have never stopped flowering. Same story with the African Marigolds and the Californian Poppies (Escholtzia) in their shockingly bright colours of yellow, red and orange, and you’d think that hailing from these countries, they’d have given up at the merest hint of autumn. While most of the herbaceous perennials in this border have been too young to flower this year, the Achillea ‘Summer Berries’ imagehave put on a great show – a nice contrast to ‘Gold Plate’ which we have elsewhere in the garden.

Finally in the shade border, which faces north and gets little sun, the Hellebore ‘Ballard Red’ imagehas thrown up its new clutch of flowers –  a real touch of the exotic at this time of year. We have other Hellebores in the garden, but none flower in the autumn.  The Japanese anemones – we have the white ‘Honerine Jobert’ and the imagepurple ‘Praecox’ –  too have been superb this year, relishing all the damp weather.

And yes, round in the kitchen garden, we are still getting modest pickings of sweet peas with their marvellous scent, evocative of those warm summer evenings we occasionally had a few months ago…image