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