Snowdrops and stillness

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For the first time for months, the wind dropped, the sun came out, the sky was blue and the birds sang. It certainly felt like the first day of spring, although in reality I fear we may have more days of winter to contend with. While we did certainly get some flurries of snow this past week, we have had to contend with none of the extreme weather that our English and Welsh gardening friends have suffered. If your gardening world is currently underwater or you have lost much loved trees this past week, huge commiserations.

 

This weekend we finished pruning the fruit bushes, concluding with two wall-trained gooseberries. These are fan-trained against our south-facing wall and are actually quite a good way of growing this bush with its evil daggers of thorns, as one doesn’t need to reach deep into the bush to extract the berries. In truth, we tend to leave the fruit to the blackbirds who also build their nests in there (I discovered two or three left over from last year’s nesting season, which I left for this year’s incumbents!); for me, it’s worth growing them for the very early-spring flush of apple-green foliage followed by the bee-attracting flowers in May.

Next week, noting that some of the early herbaceous is starting to come to life, I’ll be returning to the borders to finally cut back last year’s growth…

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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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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

Of Golden rain and Granny’s bonnets

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Laburnum vossi

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the giant thistle, Onopordum acantheum, still a baby, with Verbascum in the foreground

A week of high pressure, sunshine and warmth has really pushed the garden on. Indeed, this has been a weekend of watering to ensure that the sunflowers, new herbaceous, sweet peas and transplanted polyanthus don’t suffer a check. In previous years, we’ve found that the sweet peas can often suffer quite a check in growth once planted out. This year, we germinated the seed much later and as soon as they were ready to go out (early May), we planted them out. No yellowing leaves, no check – something to note for next year – don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant them in the spring!

20130609-172034.jpgThis weekend, we have started to plant out the Dahlias – between the two teacup yews in the walled garden and round in the ‘kitchen garden’, the air of which is now filled with the scent of the white lilac.The dahlias should provide a welcome blast of strong colour right through until the first frosts. As well as a dwarf variety, we are also growing Bishops Children again with its lovely dark-red foliage, a perfect foil for the almost tropical-coloured blooms. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll get the other bedding planted out; for the moment, it can stay cosseted in the greenhouse, with a weekly feed of Phostrogen to keep it moving.

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Tree peony in the woodland (species not known)

The rhododendrons in the woodland this year have been marvellous and just keep on coming – a positive legacy 20130609-171910.jpgfrom last summer’s washout! With them the focus of attention at the moment, I nearly missed the tree peony flowering there – unlike the yellow Ludlowii which seeds itself in the walled garden, this one is a more modest size and a has a rather old-fashioned, poppy-shaped, dark red flower.

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the east-facing border, with Perennial cornflower (Centaurea Montana) and Heuchera in the foreground

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lupins in the south-facing border – quite a spectacle!

As the days go on, the herbaceous starts to change from green to technicolour – irises, geraniums, blue perennial cornflower, lupins in all shades, to name but a few, but my favourite are the Granny’s Bonnets – aquilegia,

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Aquilegia, ‘Granny’s Bonnets’, surely one of the most diverse cottage-garden perennials

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a contrast of golden and dark-purple acers (Crimson King) growing in the policies near the pond. The deciduous trees at this time of the year are at their best.

which we grew from seed a couple of years ago and which are themselves now starting to set seed. Each clump offers a different colour combination – some blowsy, some quite unassuming – all very beautiful.

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Laburnum vossi

Finally, our Laburnum, now freed from the deep shade caused by a tall holly,  is in full blossom now – a cascade of golden rain – surely one of the most beautiful early summer trees.

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the south-facing border looking east, with Aquilegia in the foreground, Verbascum and lupins in the distance