June Review

Linaria maroccana 'Sweeties' and Potentilla recta sulphurea

June has been another topsy turvy month for us. Sunshine, street parties and sorrow kicked off the month, barrelling us straight from Jubilee celebrations to bidding an untimely farewell to the smallest member of our household, young Willow, a few weeks shy of her second birthday.

Black and white cat relaxing on the path

This week, we planted a Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’, or black pussy-willow, in her memory. Rather nondescript at this time of year, in the late winter its red stems should be lined with furry black catkins with vivid red anthers.

This is joined in the garden by a couple of stems of more traditional pussy-willow, that rooted in a vase at my parents’ house, still holding on to their soft grey catkins. These will be threaded into our native hedge, while the Mulberry willow is planted more prominently in the border to be coppiced each spring.

Catkins on willow stem

Another day of highly charged emotions later in the month involved a whistlestop tour of the motorways to a lovely dinner where we received a posthumous award of achievement for my Dad, who is sadly missed. It is barely three months since he lost his courageous battle. A bittersweet occasion for the family.

Teasel buds against trunk of birch tree

Meanwhile, undeterred even by rain, wind and fluctuating temperatures, the garden has been galloping ahead. The older border on the field side is becoming lush and full; hardy geraniums and alchemilla mollis froth and foam at the front, spilling onto the grass.

Field border, end of June 2012

A rosette of soft furry silver leaves appeared in this border earlier in the year. Not recognising them either as something I’d planted or as a known weed, I left them to see what would grow from them. The silver leaves pushed up and suddenly this month produced vivid pink flowers, revealing itself to be Lychnis coronaria, or ‘Bridget-in-her-bravery’ – what a wonderful common name! It forms a serendipitous combination of colour with the dark foliage of the black elder it has grown up through, almost better than anything I could have planned. From the house, the vivid flowers seem to float in the elder.

Lychnis coronaria and Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'

The first of the dark purple poppies also burst into flower yesterday. Unfortunately this coincided with more strong winds, immediately splaying open its tender petals in a rather unflattering pose. It makes a wonderful complement with the pink linaria in front, despite its dishevelled state.

Purple opium poppy behind Linaria purpurea 'Canon Went'

The newest border is beginning to fill out a little, though there is still a preponderance of bare earth in its first year as I wait for plants to reach their potential, and waver over what still to add and where. It is peppered with splashes of colour, mostly from annuals: white Nicotiana alata and Ammi majus, the blues of Cerinthe major purpurascens, yellow Oenethera, dark Daucus carota just about to bloom; joined by the perennial dark pink Knautia and scarlet Potentilla. The dahlias in this bed have also formed their first buds, poised ready to open.

Sparse planting in newest border

Down in the kitchen garden, things have also picked up tempo this month. We picked our first cucumber in the greenhouse, along with boundless quantities of strawberries, swiftly followed by the first raspberries, young peas, courgettes, mange tout, broad beans and first early potatoes.

Plate of homegrown summer raspberries

We continue to pick salad leaves most days, with radishes cropping fast and furiously. Trusses of green tomatoes have formed on both greenhouse and outdoor plants, and I watch them impatiently for signs of ripening.

Green 'Sakura' tomatoes

Nearby, the aubergine plants are in flower, their pretty purple blooms hopefully the precursor to black glossy fruits.

Aubergine flowers

The first small fruits are forming on the squashes, while the sweetcorn are few and far between this year, still small spears in among the wandering arms of the squashes. We have even planted two squash plants into a compost heap in an effort to maximise space and productivity this year.

Apple espaliered on two tiers, with strawberries below, raspberries behind, and broad beans in the distance

The first crop of garlic has dried in the greenhouse, and is ready to come into the house for storage, while I have pulled off the most rust-pocked leaves from the softneck garlic which is still standing, in the hope that these immature bulbs will continue to swell and give us a harvest.

Despite the sad start for us and erratic germination in the kitchen garden, it has been a good month for the garden, all told. The borders are awash with colour; in fact I am earmarking one or two plants for transplanting in the autumn already to keep things slightly more controlled. There are still bare patches here and there in the newer borders, which I have to keep restraining myself from tucking more and more plants into. Tantalising buds are appearing almost daily as the garden picks up speed; half the year gone already!

Thanks to the Patient Gardener for hosting the end-of-month view; I seem to have concentrated on smaller details rather than the bigger views today, but it is still useful to track the changing seasons in the garden this way.


21 thoughts on “June Review

  1. I am so sorry to hear about your cat and so soon after you Dad – tough times.

    What is the flower in the top picture – lobelia, toadlfax?

    Your tomatoes are way ahead of mine which have only just started flowering but I was slightly slow in potting them up etc. I also have an aubergine. We bought it on a whim for Β£2 in the garden centre, it was looking very sad but now has a couple of tiny fruits!

    Thanks for joining in again this month


    • Thanks, Helen. It is definitely not our year. We miss our sweet-natured Willow. 😦

      The top picture is indeed toadflax – Linaria maroccana ‘Sweeties’ grown from seed, will pale lemon Potentilla recta sulphurea floating behind.

      We were very early with our tomato sowing, the cucumbers struggled and we had to resow them later, but the tomatoes seemed to cope.

  2. So sorry about your cat dying so young, that must have been very hard for you all.

    Your garden is looking wonderful. Like you I also grow teasels and poppies, things that self-seed around can be such good value.

    • Thanks Alison, it really hit us hard.
      The teasels came from my mum’s garden in the spring, we’ll let them self-seed here though, they’re easy to identify and pull out if we don’t want them.

  3. Your garden is looking lovely which is a positive – sorry to hear about your little cat – these things are sent to try us.

  4. Sara sorry to read your father passed away earlier this year too, the first half has been a hard year of loss for you, congratulations on your Dad’s award, I love the idea of a pussy willow in rememberance of a pussy called willow, the salix you have chose sounds beautiful,

    your garden is looking good despite the wind and rain you have had and your kitchen garden has been very productive, you must spend quite a bit of time working in it, Frances

    • Thanks Frances. This is a very sad and testing year so far for us; I think working in the garden has at least helped to ease the heartaches, there is something about the rhythms of gardening, rain or shine.

    • Thank you. Yes, very proud, I just wish he had been there to collect it himself 😦 – it was announced in his last couple of days, so at least he knew and could be proud too… x

  5. A brilliant EOM review – reads like a garden diary. Balancing borders is the hardest thing- eiither overcrowded or bald patches and so hard to predict the ultimate growth. You have some lovely combos and the toadflax is such a sweet, airy plant. What a lovely memento for Willow- your images are serenely stunning

    • Thank you Laura.
      I think I will continue squeezing plants into the borders until the greenhouse is empty, and then next year I will be pulling many of them back out again when everything is elbowing its neighbours in the ribs :).
      I really like the toadflax, I bought the seeds to liven up a few containers then couldn’t resist putting some leftover plants into a bare patch at the front of a border.

  6. The black Pussy Willow is a lovely idea as a reminder of a very pretty cat. I like the Lychnis – I keep meaning to try it myself as I like the intensity of colour. Your dark poppy looks like an Iris from a distance πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, it seemed quite fitting. I have no idea where the Lynchis came from (the birds?) but it is lovely, taller than I expected it would be too. The dark poppy does look like an Iris with its tattered flags. A second flower has opened to be torn apart today too, alas. Hopefully one of them will meet a dry day sooner or later and take a bit more time before losing its shape!

  7. I do hope the rhythm of the gardening year helps sustain you through your losses. Your garden is developing very quickly, I know you planted a lot of it only last year and it’s looking mature already. Christina

    • Thanks Christina.

      Yes, all the ornamental borders were only planted last year, some earlier than others, though a handful of plants were mature survivors from the previous incarnation of the garden, which help. Only the yellow rose and the older trees have not been moved! It’s amazing how quickly herbaceous plants can develop and fill space.

      The longest border has a backbone of shrubs along the fence, which will take longer to bulk up of course; that border will look gappier for a few years until they do – but I can disguise that behind fast-growing annuals and biennials hopefully!

  8. Your willow has been on my wish list for some time πŸ™‚ A perfect reminder of your dear cat. It must have been a most emotional day collecting your Dad’s award but you and your family must be so proud Sara.

    Despite all the wet stuff our gardens continue to perform. I love that lychis/ elder combo. I grow both of them but one in the garden and one at the allotment – must unite them. Have not heard of the lychnis’s common name before – intrigued to know its origin πŸ™‚

    • I’d spotted the willow a few times too, it suddenly sprang back to mind when we were talking about planting something in memory of our lovely cat, and seemed the obvious choice.
      ‘Bridget-in-her-bravery’ is a wonderful name isn’t it? Not as common as ‘rose campion’ I guess, and I couldn’t track down the origin of it (I did try before I wrote my post) except that it appeared in a poem from the first world war – Lob by Edward Thomas. It looks wonderful against the dark elder foliage.

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