A couple of months ago everything in the garden looked as though the abundance of summer would never arrive and then suddenly here it all is. There are plants bursting into flower and flowing all over each other.
20th April 2016
12th June 2016
Here are a couple of examples that have so far withstood the torrential rain we’ve been experiencing, but, sadly, I have to report my old fashioned roses have been hammered.
But, after a quick tour round the beds I see there’s plenty of potential waiting in the wings. There are lilies, perennial poppies and some knautia all in bud.
Of course, the open, cheerful and always reliable oxeye daisies are a favourite with the bees. They also look beautiful and fresh in the early morning sun (when we have some!).
Ten years ago when I moved to this house the patch of outside space was mostly overgrown. There was a small patch of annual weeds surrounded by mountains of brambles punctuated with ‘vertical interest’ provided by the odd self seeded holly or sycamore sapling. I spent my first summer working my way round the plot clearing, clearing, clearing.
I have read in gardening books that you should leave your garden for the first year allowing any glorious unexpected plants time to be discovered. Well, that would have been a waste of year for me as apart from a fully grown, 40 year old philadelphus, I discovered a stunted apple tree supporting an ant colony and a pale pink peony in deep shade!! And, then there was this camellia, colour of flowers unknown, and no sign of flowering.
As I have mentioned before I garden in a region with low rainfall on very free draining soil, altogether not suitable for camellias, but here was a camellia. Yes, it was sickly and struggling, but surviving – so I moved it to light dappled shade, fed it and drenched it with rainwater in dry periods and 10 years later it’s getting into its stride. Gardening is a game of waiting.
As the year turns nature dresses and redresses herself in a succession of seasonal floral and foliage combinations. Mostly this is a gradual affair in my garden, but the boundary between winter to spring offers the sharpest of the mostly blurred, creeping seasonal changes. There is the fading of the scented, late-winter blossom of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ whilst, at the same time, along the top of the fence Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ begins opening into small cascades of white flowers as it weaves its way through a climbing rose.
Around the edges of the budding, deciduous shrubs the shy, drooping hellebores take centre stage for a few weeks pushing their way through between a dwarf hebe or two.
And, it wouldn’t be spring if there weren’t patches of light shade lit with clusters of pale sunny primroses.
From March into April the pace of new growth begins to pick up and everywhere new fresh green shoots remind me of the variety of perennials that will take their place in the limelight at some point all the way through to the Michaelmas daisies of November!
It is definitive – after a year’s grace my beautiful old climbing rose is definitely dead. Last weekend I spent a few hours cutting down and removing the old skeleton of tangled lifeless branches. This winter’s tidy up has revealed quite a gap on the east end of the pergola and dividing trellis.
Rosa Debutante in full glory in the summer of 2013.
Winter 2015 and the dead rose has left quite a gap.
Initially I had been considering another pink rose planted away from the site of the dead rose, but still trailing up over the pergola. There are hundreds of pink roses to choose from and it is a case of deciding what qualities I would like such as colour, scent, length of flowering period, height and possible hip production. And, also very importantly whether the rose will tolerate my impoverished, free-draining soil and low rainfall. But another pink rose?
Very pink, disease resistant but no scent. Rosa Karlsruhe
Delicate, pale pink, scented, but not that vigorous possible as short climber. Rosa St Swithun
Striking with strong magenta, fuchsia and paler pink stripes. Rosa Ferdinand Pichard.
Perhaps not pink then. How about a white rose (the neighbouring wisteria is white) or even a pale yellow?
Single, white with small hips and good scent introduced in 1946 Rosa Francis E Lester
Repeat flowering, reliable, gorgeous scent. Rosa Alister Stella Gray.
Of course, also, what about hips too for the autumn and winter months?
Also good hips from the wild dog rose, Rosa canina, but growth is too wild and natural for a pergola.
Medium sized hips on Rosa Alister Stella Gray.
But having a good think and looking again at some of my favourite colour combinations.
And, I think that the peachy apricot colour I’m looking for could be this rose, rosa François Juranville. It was first introduced in 1906 and as it is a Wichurana Rambler it will only flower once in mid-summer, but within a few years that should make a spectacular display for July. It’s the colour and scent that wins the day!
It’s November and the hardy chrysanthemums have just come into flower, but as we still haven’t had a frost (unusual for my part of the world), the cosmos remain upright and blooming. I’m certainly not complaining and there’s even enough with the addition of some viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ to bulk out a half decent flower arrangement for the mantlepiece. Ordinary flowers, but all naturally flowering together resulting in a slightly odd combination.
Okay with just a tiny bit of extra help. I bought a 10 bloom bunch of supermarket salmon pink carnations that looked so awful they’d been reduced to half-price. Strong salmon pink is not a favourite colour of mine, but with plenty of the dark, evergreen viburnum foliage and the rich magenta cosmos they made a passable display.
Sometimes as the quality of our northern light cools rapidly into the blue-greys of autumn, bright coloured dahlias can look strangely out of place, but if there’s enough dark green still in the garden their vibrant presence makes a welcome cheery picture.
And, the dark red of dahlia Arabian Night appears particularly rich in the late-afternoon autumn sunlight.
I’m English and therefore ‘the weather’ rules! I have been so fed up with the rain ruining the flowers that as it started to pour again I decided to cut the remaining roses. There will be a second flush from the repeat-flowering varieties and a smattering of blooms from the continuously-flowering, but that’s it for my summer only roses.
Sadly, as daylilies (hemerocallis) live up to their name, flowering for just one day, they aren’t really used as a cut flower. It is a case of appreciating them in the rain and taking a quick photo.
I don’t think I’ve noticed the ‘plant’ year so ahead of itself as it is this year in East Anglia. I heard on the radio that in some parts of the country the cobnuts are already forming nearly a month early. I trotted down the garden and sure enough I spotted some beginning to mature on the tree – well that will be until the squirrels find them!
It’s the third week of June and the roses are looking good despite a couple of heavy thunderstorms the other day, and the July-blooming lilies are already fully out. Also, specimens from one of my favourite useful plant groups, the hardy geraniums, are now busy flowering.
Hardy geraniums, not to be confused with bedding geraniums (pelargoniums), is a large genus with most of the popular garden favourites performing reliably year after year. I happily and successfully grow both geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ and geranium x magnificum underneath roses and through other herbaceous perennials. However, I appear to have unintentionally invited a thug into my garden. I wanted small pink flowers to interweave with the mauve and purple geraniums beneath the pink climbing roses.
A fews years ago I bought (yes, I did, mea culpa) geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ and the label stated “makes excellent ground cover”. Well, if it likes your conditions it rapidly reveals its true thuggish nature. Now, every summer I spend several sessions ripping out its spreading root system in my battle to keep it restrained.
I know I shouldn’t complain as it keeps flowering through the summer, but sometimes you can have too much pink – obviously only if it’s the wrong type of pink. Because . . . roses …
With this year’s centenary commemorations for the start of World War 1 there will probably be more representations of poppies than usual.
Various forms of the poppy single or double, annual or perennial and in a variety of colours from white through yellow to salmon pink to deep red are found all over the world.
The delicate annual field poppy (papaver rhoeas) germinates from recently turned soil, thriving and blooming across the summer. Up close poppies are striking, but still have an ephemeral quality that has long inspired visual artists.
There’s even the stunning blue Himalayan poppy, meconopsis. I once grew some meconopsis (M. baileyi I think) in my front garden as it provided the best conditions. Eventually in its second year it bloomed. I was so thrilled with the amazing colour, but to my utter surprise the next day somebody leaned over the low wall and picked all the flowers and I hadn’t even had chance to take a picture! I hoped it was a child that was so in awe of the colour that they had taken the flowers home to show to their family.
Well, that’s very disappointing. My once magnificent rose that showered down from one end of the pergola has just keeled over and died in the last month. I shall wait until the autumn before I undertake the post-mortem, but digging around the roots may still not yield any answers to this total plant failure.
It is rather unsightly, but its structure is supporting a clematis so I won’t be able to cut it down until the end of the season.
However, on a brighter note, a couple of hardwood cuttings I took from another rose, rosa Souvenir du Docteur Jamain, are finally robust enough to start flowering. I had to leave the original plant in my garden when I moved back to East Anglia from Devon. I guess on this occasion you could say you win some you lose some.