Six On Saturday: Time for a rethink

Finally rain arrived.  Great for the garden, less good for other plans.  I’m having family over for lunch on Sunday, and rain is forecast all day.  Outdoor entertaining will have to come inside and someone will be cooking in the rain!  This week has been very hot. The plants in the garden are scorched, the veg plot is desiccated but I managed to find six things in the garden:.

One

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The lawn.  Quite an interesting view at the moment.  The crispy dry stripe is where, long ago, there was a path. The middle section is a mixture of green weeds and brown grass and the far corner is the part of the lawn that is always waterlogged through the winter.  There is local talk of underground streams but I think even these have dried up this summer.  The grass hasn’t been mown in months but a close look showed the creeping buttercup is, of course, creeping very nicely and the little acorns planted by squirrels are growing into mighty oaks.  The clover is mostly going to seed and providing food for the birds.  Such biodiversity.

Two

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The hydrangea in the front garden is usually uniformly pink but this year it is pink on the side that gets the sun and shades of pink, purple and blue on the less sunny side.  Curiously it is doing well in the heat.  The front garden is watered very sparingly – and this plant hasn’t been watered once.  I hope last night’s rain will keep it in good health.  It will probably die of shock.

Three

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The first ripened chilli in the greenhouse.  It’s a cayenne – looks pretty hot to me but apparently not a knock your socks off chilli.  Picked now and soon to be added to a tomato salsa.  The tomato crop is also ripening you can see a few ‘Golden Crown’ tomatoes in the background. Note for John K – I’m only up to four trusses.

Four

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The combination of tithonia and blackberries looks so autumnal to me.  There are lots of berries to pick and I haven’t watered these at all. Maybe they do have their roots down in an underground stream.  The tithonias have now made it to six feet and with the help of the magic water I think they may well make eight feet.

Five

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The shallots have been harvested. They were planted out in late November and again I didn’t water them so they are on the small side.  I have been so mean due to a  combination of lack of time and a short hose! Some of these are heading into a potato salad this weekend.

Six

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And finishing on a sort of ta-daa!  Work on the ‘ugly end of the garden’ project started. Temperatures were in the 30s and all was going well until the imminent thunderstorms meant the electrical equipment had to be packed away.  Now I  want the rain to stay away today so that the job can be finished.  Then I need to start planning again.  The beds get afternoon sun and I have asparagus on my wish list.  I’ve grown beans against the fence for two summers but I think it is too shady for a really successful crop.  More thinking to be done.

Who else is suffering and who is winning the rainfall lottery?  Those down under speak of cold winters.  Find out more by visiting The Propagator’s blog for this week’s links.

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Six on Saturday: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

 

It was the best time to spend a week on the Suffolk coast. High temperatures, blue skies and lazy days. But the worst time to leave the garden. First the best.

One

A stop at the Beth Chatto gardens was made en route. I wanted to purchase Convolvulus cneorum, also known as shrubby bindweed.  It seemed strange to be looking for a plant with convolvulus in its name when most of us are digging out its less popular relative. But Christopher Lloyd planted it with  Erigeron karvinskianus and if it worked for him I’m going to give it a go.  It seems very popular in Suffolk:  I found it growing in the holiday garden alongside bindweed and I was soon spotting it everywhere. The silver foliage looked wonderful in the sunshine.

Two

If I maybe allowed to stretch the rules, here’s one I would like to have in my garden. It’s the scabious ‘Stafa’ planted here with knautia macedonica. This is a photo from the Beth Chatto garden.

Three

So there I was having a lovely time on the coast, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the North Sea, vaguely aware that temperatures were soaring elsewhere, when idly checking in on Twitter I come across a conversation between The Propagator and Fred, a French gardener discussing drip feed systems for the greenhouse tomatoes and the constant watering required elsewhere.  I had soaked the greenhouse plants before I left, left seedlings in trays of water and given the garden as much of a soak as I could.  What would I find on my return?  The plant here – which I confess is not in my garden – is marram grass.

Four

Well the hollyhocks seemed to have enjoyed the heat.  These have been grown from seed gathered from the old allotment plot.  I thought I had collected the deep burgundy ones.  Last year’s  seedlings came up yellow and this year’s are white.  So far not a burgundy flower among them.  But they are very impressive.

Five

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes had just about held on, the chillies and basil were drooping and an optimistically sown tray of tagetes had shrivelled to a crisp.  I was relieved to see that the only two euphorbia seeds to germinate had made it through as had some potted on Ammi visnaga – who where very tardy in their germination.  I had recently been given two young plants of Japanese cucumbers which had also just survived.

Six

The best news was that the blackcurrants, which grow on a shady side of the garden are just ripe – so the job for today is picking them before they go over.

I’ll also be doing a week’s worth of dead heading – the roses look a sorry sight, plenty more watering and planting out the japanese cucumbers and my new bindweed!  Visit The Propagator  to see what other SoSers are doing this weekend.  Enjoy the sunshine.

Six On Saturday: The strange case of the two tier rhododendron and other oddities

So Monty Don recently said  ‘Gardening is easy. Stick it in the ground the right way up and most plants will grow perfectly well.’ Which is essentially true but every now and then strange things happen:

One

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I think I know why my rhoddy looks like this.  It’s possible that the tree was planted soon after the house was built, which would make it about 100 years old.  I think it had been left to its own devices and being on a north facing border it had reached forward for some sun.  I think the previous owner then cut it back hard at the bottom to regain some of the lawn.  My evidence: when we moved in I discovered a large pile of wood stashed behind the foliage.  Since then the bottom of the tree has regenerated and this year has put out some fabulously healthy flowers and more luscious green leaves.  But the top of the tree struggles on with yellowing leaves and smaller and much later flowers.  My guess is the bottom is sapping the energy of the top.  So do I radically cut back the top, probably reducing the height by half – which feels like vandalism, but if it needs to be done….or do I lightly prune the top every year until the tree balances itself out again?  It has plenty of water and although north facing it does get early morning and late afternoon sun so I think the conditions are okay.  Any thoughts?

Two

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This beautiful iris came free, picked up from the allotment sharing bench.  I think it is  ‘White City’ and last year they were all the palest blue colour fading to white.  This year there is an interloper.  Now since it was a large clump divided from an even larger clump maybe the purple iris has been there all along and has only  just flowered. Or has it been cross pollinated?  Either way I am enjoying them both.

Three

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Is my Sneezeweed trying to tell me something?  I bought some last year with the aim of adding some late colour to the borders but it has been in flower since May.  Label says ‘Flowering period: late summer’.  My, the year is going fast!

Four

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Back to some normal happenings.  These stunning Siberian irises came as several divisions from a friend’s collection.  This is their second year in the garden and they have multiplied amazingly, definitely a case of growing perfectly well.

Five

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The equally successful Astrantia ‘Claret’.  I did try to grow some from seed but that didn’t happen so I happily bought some 9cm pots which have bulked up well in their second year.  The roses in bud behind are ‘Blush Noisette’ – so close to popping but not for this week!

Six

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I must give a shout out to the growers at the Finchley Horticultural Society who also seem to have the knack of making gardening easy.  I decided to diversify my tomato growing this year.  Instead of 15 plants of one variety grown from seed I have six plants of three varieties bought at last week’s plant sale.  I’ve missed the roller coast ride of raising them from seed but I’m going to enjoy the variety: Marmonde, Golden Crown  and Alicante.  I was also tempted by some chilli plants and a couple of Romano peppers.  I’ve taken the plunge this year and planted them direct into the soil instead of in grow bags.  Let’s see what the greenhouse soil has got in it!  I have grown my own basil which I’ll be planting around the tomatoes.

There’s an extra gardening day again in the UK.  Will it be hot and sunny, hot and thundery or a wash out?  Let’s hope we can all find a way to enjoy the weekend whatever.  More gardening stories can be found at The Propagator’s blog.  The contributors also seem to be growing very easily.