Although the weather has not been quite what we would want for July, the flowers in my backyard are flowering well, especially the sweet peas. Naturally, flowering plants like plenty of sunshine, but not necessarily tropical temperatures and this is certainly true of sweet peas.
Good daylight is essential and I have planted mine against a southwest facing fence. However, to flower well they prefer cooler temperatures, moist soils and a feed once a week with tomato food or similar. It’s been a good season so far for them.
Of course, the heavier rain showers ruined the delicate pink roses and also battered the big old hydrangea. The larger, soaking wet mopheads weighed down some of the sappier stems as the whole bush became a drooping mass of pink mopheads. I nipped out and cut back some of the stems where the flowers were hitting the ground. The plant’s loss was my gain and I filled a vase with them together with a few white lilies that have also done well this year.
One flower that can be cut for the house, but is too much of a faff for me, is the daylily. I prefer to leave them doing their thing in the garden. At least their blooms speckled with rain made a vibrant, almost zingy photograph.
Last month I mentioned that I’d been over-optimistic about growing flowers in my backyard. As it has turned out, the sunflowers have provided the evidence for precisely what kind of conditions prevail across my patch during the course of a spring to autumn flowering season. I grew two varieties, Black Magic and Evening Sun, from seed and planted all the seedlings out at the same time in two different aspects.
There were seven seedlings planted at the end of the yard in a bed facing south-east and another seven grown in a narrow strip against the south-west facing fence.
Both varieties were supposed to grow to the top of the fence, about six feet tall, providing blooms that would be easy to cut. The plants in the back bed were weedy and only four made it to flowering, rather disappointing, and it has confirmed my suspicions that the soil in that bed is markedly impoverished. Yet both varieties in the south-west facing strip grew and grew and grew, and it became clear that they were obviously well fed, but was there more to it than that?
They all eventually flowered although the flowers at the top of these nearly 12 feet tall plants have not been easy to cut. Their unexpected height has been mostly due to a significantly richer soil in this bed. However, I can’t help but feel their height has also been as a response to the light shade that occurs during the couple of hours in the middle of the day courtesy of the neighbouring, fully grown eucalyptus tree.
Really, I should not moan as I have never had so many sunflowers all at once – almost enough to sell bunches from a bucket on my front steps!
As is often the way the yellower variety, Evening Sun, nearer to Mother Nature’s original, has grown and flowered more than my favourite the very dark red Black Magic.
Growing sunflowers has been a useful litmus test indicating the quality of growing conditions across my garden. Additionally, it has also turned out that the handful of them planted in the front garden weren’t up to much, but then I had seen what the builders had ‘tipped’ onto that small patch! At least next year I will have a much better idea of what to expect. And, with a bit of luck and after my efforts during this coming winter to improve the soil, I will have a small crop of medium height sunflowers easy to harvest.
Since I wrote this post on Monday the recent storm with high winds and heavy rain has brought down the tallest sunflower. That’s another pot needed then.
As we are almost into September the temperatures have finally dropped enough for my sweet peas to bloom. They were an impulse purchase, reduced to clear at the DIY superstore when I was buying yet more paint. In all honesty they were planted too late, in too small pots and then were unfortunately hit with the heatwave we experienced this summer.
Apparently, high temperatures cause sweet peas to pause their flower production, they prefer cool nights and cool days, so that would be a normal English summer! But finally, yes, they are blooming.
Another impulse purchase of desperation back in May were some random dahlia tubers. They too have eventually begun to bloom displaying ‘surprise’ colours mostly neither colour combinations nor shades I would choose if picking from a dahlia catalogue.
The very dark red ones are fine and can stay, but I have been busy in the backyard ticketing the rest, yellow, messy yellows and muddled pinks as ones for the compost at the end of the season. Somehow they just made the dreary backyard (not even a work in progress as yet) look even more of a dump. However, when I chopped off all the flowers and brought them in (any flowers indoors are better than no flowers at all) I was genuinely surprised that they made a passable arrangement.
Now I have the dilemma of whether to keep them or not. Mmm, actually that will be probably not. If I had more space or an allotment where I could grow flowers just for cutting I would, but in such a small backyard all plants will have to work hard for their space and fit into my overall scheme.
Oh yes, there will be an overall scheme, but, deep sigh, it is all going to have to wait at least another year.
Some of you may remember seeing photos from my old garden of the white Japanese wisteria that I trained over a pergola. I originally bought it as a grafted specimen and it flowered from the first year, but it really got into its stride around about its fifth year. By the time I left that garden to a new custodian the wisteria was 11 years in place and blooming spectacularly every May. It also provided a canopy of green shade for all those long hot days of summer!
I have moved from the outskirts of city living back to urban life proper and no longer have the space for such a rampant plant in my backyard. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I need the sunny area for some fruit as well as flowers.
However, despite my ‘restricted space’ predicament, I am not entirely starved of this beautiful, May blooming flower as from the bedroom window I can see the charming Chinese wisteria decorating my next-door neighbour’s pergola.