Tuesday, 26 June 2012

I know how the flowers felt

 The rain to the wind said
‘You push and I’ll pelt!’
They so struck the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt –
And lay lodged – though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)    

The garden remains overgrown and the snails are merrily munching everything in sight. Although I’m not fond of them I merely dislodge them and throw them as far as I can, despite knowing that they stoically turn around and methodically glide back from whence they came.

Rabbits have eaten all the beans and peas on the allotment but as the flowers of the broad bean are said to induce madness and bad dreams perhaps that is no bad thing. 

Yet more snails have chomped their way through my carefully-nurtured sunflowers. I hope to have rescued three - out of a whole seed tray - which is such a pity as each year my huge sunflowers have waved cheerfully to all and sundry as they leaned over the allotment fence. 

White wisteria flowers at last!

I have managed to plant out most of the new perennials for the border, despite the huge deluge on Sunday afternoon that thoroughly soaked both Pablo and me. 

Only fit for entering a wet t-shirt competition, I consoled myself by remembering that my grandmother always maintained that ‘rain was good for the complexion’. She always rinsed her hair in rain water too. Grandma Lee wore her hair in a small, flat bun, held in place under a fine hairnet and I recollect how amazed I was the first time I saw her wash her hair – in a bowl on the table – to see that it reached almost to her waist. 

Proof that rain doesn’t only make plants grow!

Monday, 18 June 2012

St Vitus's Day

15th June was St Vitus's  Day and the rhyme goes

If St Vitus Day be rainy weather
It will rain for forty days together 

Farming lore also promises that 'If on 8th June it rain, that foretells a wet harvest, men sayen'

Dreaming of sunshine

The rain certainly has 'raineth every day', keeping snails and slugs very happy but the rest of us have been very unhappy indeed, including Pablo who kept going to the door, looking out and turning back. He dodged the showers by hiding underneath the cars and to compensate has spent most of June to date asleep.

Unable to garden, I have visited lots of garden centres, trying to decide which plants to buy with my  birthday garden tokens. Because I am able to buy plants, I couldn't decide what to chose and so chunks of the borders are still bare of perennial planting. I have added some pre-sown annuals - salpiglossis, nasturtium and cosmos and have scattered nigella, cornflower and various poppy seeds - but, like a child in a sweet shop, I still can't make my mind exactly what effect I want to achieve but I am enjoying trying to decide.

Finally, today, the rain stopped and the sun came out and Pablo got to spend time in the summer house.

 The garden has become a jungle - a  riotous mix and tangle of weeds and flowers.

Rampant shuttlecock ferns

The smell of new-mown grass - as husband Glynn, in common with most of the neighbours, dashed madly around the lawn, mower at the ready -  together with the glory of the welcome sunshine which lit up the rampant borders to perfection, almost made up for the long wet days.

iris sibirica plus various perennial geraniums

'What is one to 
say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfilment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade'

Gertrude Jekyll

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Through the garden gate...

Gate leading to Wyken Hall garden

Recently returned from a visit to some of the iconic gardens of the South East of England – the highlight of which was Beth Chatto’s garden at Colchester – reinforced the realisation that the best gardens are those which tantalise the viewer and make the visitor want to find out just what is around the corner, exactly what is through that door, and where does that path lead on to?

… Mary had stepped close to the robin and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it – a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.

…It was the lock of the door which had been closed ten years and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it.

…then she slipped through it and shut it behind her and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement and wonder and delight.

Through the garden gate...

Planting is crucial of course and all the gardens had been meticulously designed to give variety and year-round colour and interest. Some were a delightful mix of herbaceous and kitchen garden planting, as at the interesting Grimsthorpe Castle and Gardens in Lincolnshire – incidentally home to Zurburan’s original Benjamin – and we’ve just finished sampling  delectable asparagus, freshly picked from their walled kitchen garden.

The glory of the peacock

Rustic fencing

The ancient estate of Wyken Hall in Suffolk, is an Elizabethan manor house, surrounded by four acres of magical garden, including a knot garden, old rose garden, an amazing maze garden with peacocks, guinea fowl and huge black turkeys which, as a vegetarian, I was delighted to learn were also kept as pets. There was also an award-winning   vineyard and a most delightful Leaping Hare shop, described in Country Living as a ‘model of what a shop should be’.

There were also visits to the RHS Hyde Garden, Belton House near Grantham and the National Trust’s Ickworth House with 1800 acres of Capability Brown planting. A summer wedding was taking place whilst we were there and the Italian gardens provided a fairytale backcloth for the champagne reception and photographs. 

... She was standing inside the secret garden.
How could one resist ...
 It was the sweetest, most mysterious looking place anyone could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses, which were so thick that they were matted together… one of the things that made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains … It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious.

       from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sunday, 3 June 2012

June is busting out all over

For me, June is the most exciting month in the garden...

Come honey bee, with thy busy hum,
To the fragrant tufts of wild thyme come,
And sip the sweet dew from the cowslip’s head,
From the lily’s bell and the violet’s  bed.

Looking towards the summer house

There are more family birthdays in June, including my own, which might have always influenced my preference, but I always associate the month with expectation and promise and, above all, burgeoning perfume in the garden.

Acer among the euphorbias

 The spring bulbs have gone to ground to regroup and prepare for the growing traumas of the following year to come. The borders are beginning to bulk up with perennial planting, which helps impede ubiquitous weeds. The spring shrubs, flowering over, are concentrating on colourful leaf production and annuals are starting to poke their heads tentatively above the soil’s parapet.

In the herb garden, various sages, chives, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, mints, and the dreaded lemon balm are thriving. One of my favourite herbs, lovage, is growing apace and, with its celery-like flavour, is a welcome  accompaniment to meals when used as a vegetable in its own right; it does also make a  wonderful soup, much beloved of the Romans. I wouldn’t be without it in the garden. Angelica doesn’t linger long but friend Terry Ferdinand has promised me sports from his garden so I will try again!
Marigolds beside the pond

In the greenhouse, tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies and sweet peppers are now potted up and ready to face the growing challenge and the promise of coriander, rocket and a mix of delicious basils make mouth-watering progress.

The allotment seems to delight in encouraging perennial weed growth, despite regular weeding forays. Even so, beans, peas, salad crops, early potatoes and rhubarb are almost ready to harvest. Seeds of beetroot and white turnip, are showing promise and purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and celeriac are being nurtured, prior to planting out. 
The glory of white tulips

I can’t wait for the roses in my literary rose bed – Jude the Obscure, The Lady of Shalott, Brother Cadfael, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Tam O'Shanter and William Shakespeare, to raise their lovely heads and join with sweet peas – aptly, for Pablo’s 1911 garden, the symbol of Edwardian England - to join with me to celebrate the delights of the June garden.

Pity about the rain – but the sun WILL shine - after all it is flaming June