Hot Days in a Suffolk Backyard

Well, the British are known for their conversations about the weather so naturally this past week of record-breaking temperatures requires a comment – it was hot.

Not pleasantly, summer hols hot, but horrible hot. Here in Suffolk there was even a wildfire as grassland together with a field of wheat went up in flames not two miles from where I used to live in Tunstall.

According to the Fire & Rescue Service a wildfire is “Any uncontrolled vegetation fire which requires a decision, or action, regarding suppression” and this particular Suffolk wildfire required active suppression. The fire-fighting was captured for the East Anglian Daily Times by my next-door neighbour. She is a staff photographer on the local newspaper and just happened to be driving along the A12 (the main road up the eastern side of the county) when she spotted dark smoke filling the skyline. Diverting across country to Campsea Ashe she arrived at the scene as the first fire crew began tackling the blaze. You can see her amazing and frightening photographs here.

The seasonal bedding plants like direct sun, but potted up even they need watering twice a day in the recent high temperatures.

With 40 degrees Celsius being recorded for the first time in the UK more and more people are finally realising what we are facing with the Climate Crisis. If nothing else, this week’s heatwave has shown the UK’s housing stock to be poorly insulated. Good insulation not only means keeping homes warm in the winter, but it helps to keep indoor temperatures liveable in the high heat of summer. Unlike homes in tropical or even Mediterranean countries our housing is not built with the heat in mind and a solution of widely installing air conditioning is neither affordable nor environmentally sound. It’s time for some political leadership to get a national insulation scheme up and running – whoops, I forgot, we don’t have a leader. And, with the tragedy of short-termism in our political system, I can’t see either of the current candidates for Prime Minister making housing insulation a priority. In fact, despairingly, I can’t see either of them moving the green agenda forwards.

But what of my ‘concrete scarred’ backyard in the heat. The summer bedding is doing okay.

Pelargoniums enjoying the full sun.

Of course, with most of my plants in pots due to the concrete issue, there’s lots of regular watering to do.

The concrete issue – and there are layers too!

However, even with watering and positioned in partial shade, some flowers have gone over very quickly so I cut them for the house.

Lilies, rose ‘Breath of Life’ and a few sweet peas.
Orange canna and peach rose for colour inspiration.

This year is the first year that the climbing rose ‘Breath of Life’, on a south-facing fence, has flowered. However, before the blooms were scorched to crispy, dried flowers I cut them and took them indoors. I love both their scent and their colour.

Finally, there are some plants that have been lapping up the hot sun in the displays at the local park such as these tropical cannas. I have singled out a gorgeous orange canna and together with the peachy orange rose found some ‘hot’ inspiration for my work.

So that was May 2022

I don’t know about you, but I seemed to have been waiting and waiting for the appearance of flowers this year. Maybe it’s because there’s been so much bad news around that the need for garden beauty has been more pressing. Finally, fat, colourful buds appeared.

Tight buds of aquilegias and closed tulips.

As my own backyard isn’t particularly sunny I resorted to walking over to the local park. However, the most stunning display wasn’t in the park, but this delightful wisteria and front garden planting at 16, Fonnereau Road, Ipswich. The bold, mid-nineteenth century architecture of this Grade II listed building is complimented and softened by the delicate palette of the flowers and foliage.

Wisteria sinensis at 16, Fonnereau Road.

In my own back garden the clematis montana ‘Rubens’ has grown to the top of the fence at last and by early May the first flowers bloomed.

Clematis montana ‘Rubens’

However, again the most stunning wall/fence treatment was not at my place nor even in the park, but this gorgeous ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithin Blue’ topping the fence on a back garden running along High Street, Ipswich.

Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’

Now, really I should not complain as by mid May I had plenty of flowering going on in the yard, but it was nearly all white. Self-seeded white honesty was in every bed. I had noticed it had seeded prolifically, but couldn’t bring my self to remove any.

White honesty. Lunaria. annua var. albiflora

There was a charming, fairytale quality with all the shimmering white for about a week, before the flowers began to fade. Fortunately, by then tulips in pots were coming into full bloom and

Selection of pot-grown tulips.
Tulip ‘Amazing Parrot’

then my favourites for this time of year, the aquilegias, now too mostly self-seeded, opened into all their intriguing colour combinations.

Self-seeded aquilegias

Towards the end of the month a small clump of alliums showed off their globes of tiny star-like flowers despite my earlier stupidity of leaving a heavy pot on top of their foliage.

Allium hollandicum

And, that’s it we’ve reached June and May 2022 is now history. But before I go, I think I’d like to award first prize for the most over-the-top May display to clematis ‘Nelly Moser’. Not the most subtle of the Group 2 clematis, but it’s hanging on in there despite slugs, snails, unreliable watering and all the various fungi that thrive in the still, damp air of a less than sunny backyard.

What a difference in just 8 weeks!

 

Out-now-Thalictrum
Meadow rue – thalictrum aquilegiifolium

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.

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!).

Early-morning

Patience is a virtue

Camellia-lit-morning-sunTen 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.

pink camellia
Patience is finally rewarded.

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.

The blurred boundary of changing seasons

Viburnum-bodnantense-DawnAs 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.

Primroses-spring-favourites

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!

Summer potential - daylilies
Summer potential – daylilies

Time to fill the gap – a summer rambler perhaps?

Rosa-Debutante-againIt 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.

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?

Perhaps not pink then. How about a white rose (the neighbouring wisteria is white) or even a pale yellow?

Of course, also, what about hips too for the autumn and winter months?

But having a good think and looking again at some of my favourite colour combinations.

Pinks-a-favourite-pallet-apricot

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!

François Juranville
Sprays of scented double flowers, rosa François Juranville.

Overlapping making the ordinary odd

White-chrysanths-garden-Nov-2014It’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.

White-chrysanths-cut-from-garden

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.

Last-cosmos-with-viburnum-tinus

Dahlias in October – a last blast of colour

Dahlia-Mystery-Day-Oct2014
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.

Dahlia-Arabian-Night-Oct2014

And, the dark red of dahlia Arabian Night appears particularly rich in the late-afternoon autumn sunlight.

Dahlia-Giselle-October-2014

Not all saved from the rain!

Early-July-savedI’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.

Small arrangement for side table.
Small arrangement for side table.

Large arrangement for mantlepiece.
Large arrangement for mantlepiece.





















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.

Rain-on-daylily

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!

Cobnuts early this year. (type of hazelnut)
Cobnuts early this year. (type of hazelnut)

Cosmos-detail

You can have too much pink!

Rosa-KarlsruheIt’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.

Geranium pratense Mrs Kendall Clarke
Meadow cranesbill
Geranium pratense Mrs Kendall Clarke
(not too bad in partial shade but prefers sun)

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.

Geranium-x-magnificum
Meadow cranesbill
Geranium-x-magnificum
(gives one grand short-lived hit of purple in June, does best in full sun)

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.

geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink'
Here comes the thug.
Geranium × oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’
(in its defence though it will be pushing out a succession of little pink flowers all summer)

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 …

Rosa Ferdinand Pichard
Too much pink – no, not if it’s a fantastic rose like this spectacular specimen.
Rosa Ferdinand Pichard

pink silk chiffon scarf
Can’t seem to kick the pink habit – just finished this silk chiffon scarf.