If I could stop time…

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The Green Lane

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Rudbeckia, with cranefly

If I could stop time, it would be at the end of August.

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Japanese anemone

Late summer is my favourite time of year. All around abound the steady but somehow comforting whine of combine harvesters with the occasional beep, beep, beep of their reversing signals. Days, noticeably shorter now, book-ended by a sky-full of bats and their new progeny, with house martins and swallows assuming the daytime shift as they perfect their flying skills in preparation for their imminent journey south to warmer climes. The sun remains warm, but shines a different light, a light that bathes the countryside in a soft focus, less harsh, easier on the eye.

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‘Cuckoo pint’, or ‘Lords and Ladies’ (Arum maculatum)

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Dahlia, T&M Dwarf Mixed

The green lane through the woods is now littered with leaves, spotted and curled, that prematurely dropped as a result of the dry spell back in July, to be joined by the rest during October and November. In the hedgerows, wild raspberries make way for burgeoning brambles.

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the ‘Kitchen Garden’, with Sunflower in the foreground, Buddleia ‘Gulliver’, Verbena bonariensis, Dahlia ‘Bishops Children’, with Sweet Pea frame in the background.

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Eucryphia ‘Nymansay’, with Achillea ‘Gold Plate’ in front

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Eucryphia (close-up)

In the garden, the plums are just ripening, a little later this year but the trees are laden with fruit. The bedding is at its best, with the carpets of mesembryanthemums with their antisocially- bright colours starting to meld together in a delicious colour- clash!

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Buddleia (variety unknown) with bumble bee

The late summer herbaceous has taken over from the earlier flush in June, and my two favourite shrubs are holding court: our Eucryphia Nymansay is covered from head to toe with its white, powder puff- stamened flowers and attracted to the mellifluous white and purple racemes of the buddleias, surely the signature scent in the British garden at this time of the year, it’s pleasing to see that peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies have now joined the large whites; hopefully some red admirals will appear next month to feed on the surplus plums as they drop to the ground.

I must get on with the hoeing, though. although the weeds are growing a little slower now. I shall though pause a while from time to time to enjoy this marvellous season before we start the autumn tidy- up next month. Enjoy your late summer too! And for those in the Southern Hemisphere, you have all this coming!

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Lilium (variety unknown)

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Montbretia (Crocosmia)

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Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

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the Sunflower Border

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the Shade Border (aerial shot), with the orchard to the left of the grass path. The long grass has wild flowers in it, and will be strimmed in the next two weeks.

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When the swallows return…

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Primula ‘Wanda’

Those masters of the sky, with their unparalleled aeronautical brilliance, the swallows have returned. How these tiny, light-as-a-feather birds make it all the way from Africa amazes me, but they do, and here they are, albeit a little later than usual. Wheeling and screaming round the house, they re-familiarise themselves with their mud nests of previous years, which they will lovingly repair before the first clutch of eggs appears. They will be joined in the next few days by the House Martins, who nest on the East and West sides of the house.

The bumble bees, the Lancaster bombers of the insect world with their low, comforting hum have more to choose from on their menu now, as every few days new plants come into bloom.

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Spring has finally arrived!

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Magnolia ‘Susan’

All the daffodils are now in bloom, to be joined by the first of the photo 16flowering trees, the cherries in the Policies. Our Magnolia soulangiana ‘Susan’ (we think), in the south-facing border, is pushing out its purple candles which will in time open into large goblets, all before the leaves start to appear. We have planted a new, lighter pink, Magnolia soulangiana further down this border, so hopefully it will provide a welcome contrast.

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early Plum blossom

Behind the north wall, the shelter belt of larch, Scots Pine and broadleaves has come to life, now joined by the first of the fruit trees in the walled garden. On lifeless twigs, the delicate snow-white blossom of the plums has been joined by the first of the pears.photo 14photo 1

There’s been quite a lot of activity in the garden this weekend. We’ve given the new grass we sowed last summer its first cut, which will help thicken it up. It’s looking good, though, and a lovely shade of emerald, helped by the showery weather we’ve had recently. In the east- and south-facing borders, we’ve been trying to fork out the more tenacious weeds – creeping buttercup, nettle and willow-herb, which I hope will reap dividends later in the season. Good to see plenty seedlings that we would wish to keep coming through, though, including foxglove, golden feverfew and honesty – all good cottage-garden favourites.photo 12

photo 2 - CopyIn the greenhouse, most of the perennial seeds we planted a few weeks ago are at least starting to come through, which is encouraging! The first of these to emerge, the Pyrethrums I have now pricked out into modules. In the hardy annual department, I’ve also been pricking out the cosmos, french marigolds and Californian poppies. Last year, we had quite a lot of root-rot with the Californian poppies while we were growing them on, so I’m using more perlite in their compost as an experiment to see if we can avoid this.

I’ve also started off some Verbena bonariensis from seed as it looks as if few, if any, of last year’s plants have made it through the winter. It’s at the limit of its territory for winter hardiness here – some times it gets through, sometimes it doesn’t.

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Forsythia

The Good Lady has been refurbishing the herb bed; unfortunately our elderly curry plant and lavenders didn’t make it through the winter, but we have planted some new lavenders which we grew from seed last year. She’s also been planting spinach and rocket in short lines, with spring onions, basil, parsley and a second sowing of lettuce started off in the greenhouse.

Earlier in the week, The Good Lady potted up small handfuls of wildflowers into 5 inch pots to get them really well established before we plant them out, and the speed they are growing is incredible, even in the space of a few days. We’ve also started off a second tray of ‘Bee Mix’ which we found in the seed box, photo 15which should help out the insect population later in the summer. Meanwhile we’re giving last year’s perennial seedlings a really good feed each week to really push them on as I’m keen to get at least some of them into the open ground and established such that they will flower next year.