Saturday, 3 August 2013

The garden in July 1

Another month has slipped past, barely making an impression. Fortunately, I took photographs here and there, when I happened to have my camera in the garden, or when something caught my interest in particular. So here's another photoblog of the garden. This first part covers flowers - the early summer stalwarts passed away, and were replaced by tender annuals I sowed back in spring, finally reaching maturity (part 2 will be vegetables and fruit).

The peony had its best-ever year, with two or three dozen huge pale pink flowers. When they opened, the plant flopped over, despite having a metal support - the stems are just too flimsy for the huge, blowsy heads (photographed here after sunset, hence the odd tone).

 I got a tray of petunias from the greengrocer. They turned out to be a mix of red, salmon pink, deep burgundy (that I didn't plant in time, so I lost them), and these awesome magenta and white stripes (another after-dark photograph). The ones I put in containers have done well, and are producing fresh blooms almost daily.


Roses! The top two photographs are New Dawn, which has produced dozens of bouquets on the end of long rambling stems (it's supported on a freestanding cane structure). All these have had their best season ever, with no aphids or disease, and lots of healthy growth, and plentiful flowers. The bottom one is Redouté.

Cosmos and sweet peas have thrived - although not all the cosmos have flowered, some taking a long time, and one just producing lots of foliage. I've picked bunches of sweet peas every few days - they are richly fragrant. Elsewhere, lavender is bringing in bees, Eschscholzia (Californian poppy) produced a bright but brief splash of colour, and the last alliums (A. sphaerocephalon) provided continuity from the early summer garden.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A June miscellany 2

Most of these are of fruit and vegetable progress in the garden, but there are some flowers too.

These aren't sweet peas, but culinary ones. The purple-podded varieties, which are generally not differentiated, but differ a bit, tend to have pretty purple and pink flowers. They grow to full size - they're approaching 6' now - and provide interest with these flowers, and the pods. The peas inside are no different, but in a small garden, everything has to look good, even the vegetables (and many do).

These are sweet peas - still small, but healthy. A mix of colours, and hopefully nicely fragrant.

Perhaps not every vegetable is strictly good looking. These shallots are starting to look a little straggly, but the bulbs are swelling, and they'll be ready to harvest next month. A second batch, planted later, will take a little longer.

The pond has settled in. In the top photo, you can see the plants, which have grown well, although the marsh marigold's leaves have been eaten by something - I assume not slugs or snails, which can't cross the water, so what could it be? In the lower picture you can see two of the newest residents, a water beetle and the larva of a nonbiting midge. It's been fascinating to watch an ecosystem develop so quickly.

Fruit season is nearly here. Actually, I've seen some ripening strawberries on plants that have scattered themselves around the garden, but they tend to fall prey to blackbirds, slugs, and woodlice before they ripen properly. The raspberries are late this year - I picked them in mid-June two years ago - but they seem healthy and abundant. The cherries have not provided much cheer, though. Yet again, most of the fruit never swelled (see the tiny ones next to the full-sized fruit in the middle picture above). Still, both trees have some fruit. Finally, the quince has held on to its embryonic fruits longer than last year, so perhaps I stand a chance - but the weather turned nasty after the solstice, so it's not certain.

Leaves do well in most conditions. Grapevines on the terrace are stronger than ever - I will harvest some of the leaves to make dolmas - and apple mint has provided a massive crop.

I haven't forgotten the tomatoes. This is one of the first flowers, on a plant already in a raised bed outdoors. I don't expect ripe fruit until August, though.

Finally, more flowers! First, a wild rose that originated as the rootstock of one of the cultivated roses in the garden when we moved here more than a quarter of a century ago. I spent many years trying to kill it off, but a couple of years ago it flowered, and I changed my attitude. It has grown as a column about 7 feet tall, which I have kept pruned, providing height and somewhere for birds to perch occasionally. It is covered in buds, which have started opening into these blush pink, fragrant single flowers. The white rose (middle) was the first to open, and will flower on and off for months. The bottom photo is Californian poppies (Escscholzia californica), just broadcast sown under the quince, among the alliums. The orange ones zing, but don't really fit with the rest of the garden, while these cream ones are lovely.

Here's a rare wider view. This is across the lower part of the back garden, across the central flower bed, with roses thriving, and alliums fading. The pond is in the background on the right. Behind is the crumbling wall (which I need to replace) holding back the slope, above which is the terrace.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A June miscellany 1

I've finally gone through all the photographs I took in June, many of which I never got round to posting here. So these aren't on a theme, except they show the garden, and some are from up to two or three weeks ago, while others are more recent.

Two geraniums - one wild, self-sown (Geranium robertianum, above), one cultivated, with larger blooms (unknown variety). The latter is very attractive to bees.

Cosmos! A favourite of mine. Easily grown from seed - I've raised over 40 plants with no difficulty this year - and in three months already starting to flower. They also have lovely feathery leaves, as seen in the upper photograph above. This flower is the variety 'Picotee'. I also have plain pink and white ones - though only a white one is flowering otherwise, so far.

Roses are my top summer flower, and I have quite a few dotted around the garden. The top two photographs show the same flowers, a few days apart. I don't know the variety, but it is a lovely rich burgundy, quite small. The lower one has massive magenta blooms with a strong perfume. It might be 'Fragrant cloud'.

The first alliums are done - 'Purple Sensation', I believe (the top photo is from over a week ago; the back garden ones flowered around a week later than those in the sunnier front). But other varieties are coming into bloom to replace them. The lower pictures show A. cristophii, which has striking metallic lilac star-shaped flowers on large, low, open heads.

The peonies started opening a couple of days ago - the buds have been developing all month, ants harmlessly gathering sweet secretions from their surface.

Foxgloves have come back nearly every year I've lived here. This time, they were smaller but more numerous.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Long days

We're approaching midsummer - astronomically speaking. The whole of June is light here, with 16 3/4 hours between sunrise and sunset at the start of the month, and twenty minutes more around the solstice. You can easily get up and go to bed and see no darkness - and it's wonderful.

And the weather has been wonderful too. For the first time since late September 2011, there's been real heat in the air, and day after day of languorous sunshine. Heavy soil virtually covered by plants holds its moisture well, but even so I've needed to water a bit in the last couple of days - and the greenhouse has needed attention daily, although that's no hardship when it gets to over 30ÂșC in there (I love heat).

Last night I popped out after Gardeners' World - 9pm! - and still did some planting. It doesn't get fully dark until around ten thirty, so you feel there is always enough time to do everything. I'll do a post on vegetables shortly, but here I'll share some photographs I took at dusk. The garden has a particular character after the sun has set - fragrant, poised, almost sighing in relief from the day's heat. Hopefully these capture some of that feeling.

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) growing round the base of the house is now coming into full bloom. There are two forms here, a paler magenta, and a richer red.

These blue geraniums were a gift many years ago. They form massive clumps, and I tried to remove them, but they have returned. They look perfect for a short time, which I intend to enjoy.

Self-sown foxgloves return nearly every year. These ones are stunted, but still welcome.

 Purple-podded peas are now in full bloom, looking as good as the sweet peas that will come later - and still growing strong.

 Allium 'Purple Sensation' is still holding on. Beneath them, other varieties, planted at the same time, are starting to show buds.

 And underneath the alliums, the self-sown forget-me-nots I transplanted from a raised vegetable bed are showing no signs of going over.

 The dwarf lilacs have super-sized blooms this year. They will soon turn brown, and need to be removed. The sky here is still bright - even at 9.45pm.

A hint of the future - the garden's first roses are opening. This is a low-growing white floribunda type, with a gentle fragrance.

 The other, years-established alliums - I forget the variety - are looking better than I expected.

This part of the garden has run over into a meadow - couch grass seemingly losing to Geum urbanum and creeping buttercup. They complement each other, but I will clear them once their insect-friendly blooms have finished - they are simply too invasive to keep.