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!

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.

Now that the snows have gone…

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Snowdrops carpetting the woodland floor

wpid-20130413_145849.jpgThe last traces of snow finally left us this week, although I see that large swathes remain on the hills. The tractors round about have finally got going with their spring sowings, much later than usual, so hopefully the weather will be kind come late summer for the harvest. Today the mercury finally got into double figures, spring temperatures at last! The birds have known which season it is for the last few weeks as evidenced by the resounding dawn chorus which starts at around 4.30am, long before dawn, with the quacks from the trio of mallards which have taken up residence by the lily pond; they come every spring for a few weeks, then move on for the rest of the summer. By 5.30am, all the birds are singing their hearts out- only in Spring are they in full voice.

In the garden, plants gradually come out of their winter slumbers. Buds are swelling, bulbs are appearing, weeds are starting to grow! In the woods, the snowdrops are still flowering, preserved by the incessant cold that we’ve experienced this past month. This is one of those years when daffodils and snowdrops are flowering at the same time, although most of our daffodils are yet to burst into bloom.wpid-20130413_145650.jpgwpid-20130413_145737.jpg

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the new Medlar, finally planted in the walled garden

I finally managed to get round to doing some planting this past week. The ground wasn’t too bad in places, although very wet and heavy in the woods, where the new Rhododendron has gone. A new order of three David Austin roses arrived during the week for the new west-facing border; I started planting this last spring with herbaceous but it lacked height which the roses will give it. wpid-20130413_150723.jpgI’m a great fan of David Austin roses; we have some already which start flowering around June and were still flowering in early January this year. The varieties I’ve just planted are Golden Celebration (golden yellow), Port Sunlight (apricot) and Harlow Carr (pink), named after the marvellous RHS garden in Yorkshire.

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this year’s sweet pea seedlings

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naturalised polyanthus, under the apple trees

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Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’, the first to flower in the shade border

Delighted to see that the first of my Easter greenhouse sowings are starting to come through with the advent of the Pyrethrums; hopefully we’ll start to see some movement with the others during the week now that the temperatures are starting to warm up a little. Meanwhile the sweet peas, early lettuce and wild flowers are making good progress.