For over a week, we have been enjoying warm sunshine here, although strong winds have been frequent visitors.
The garden has flourished in the sun’s embrace, catching up after the long cold spring. Our first showers during this hot spell fell overnight; a welcome drop of rain for the garden, which left another fine day breaking slowly through the clouds. The last daffodils finally conceded a few weeks ago, and their dying leaves are mostly concealed by the surging growth around them.
I have been thrilled this year by our swathes of aquilegias, particularly those which are scattered though the long border in a rainbow of colours, accompanied by the first hardy geraniums to leap into flower. Their cheerful mixture brings to mind a confectionery shop.
The combination of purple and yellow from the large mound of Geranium x magnificum, flanked on either side by Aquilegia longissima, is a particularly serendipitous placement (I’m not sure I can entirely claim credit) that has been catching my eye. In the front garden are several more seed-raised aquilegias with similar colour and form to these, but their long-spurred flowers are on much more statuesque plants, barely a foot high, which suits their more exposed situation – although they are destined to be taller in years to come, unless the wind keeps them in check.
Returning to the long border, another hardy geranium, Mavis Simpson, which my Mum recently gave me, is filling one of the last few spaces along the front edge with delicate pink flowers, a change from the blues and occasional white cranesbill that have established nearby.
Furthest from the house where the long border slips into partial shade at the feet of the horse chestnut tree, the first foxgloves are standing sedately with others poised to join them soon: in bloom so far are specimens of Pam’s Choice with their pretty white bells lined with dark purple speckled throats, and what appear to be common Digitalis purpurea.
The last are puzzling; from seed I raised and planted out Pam’s Choice, Sutton’s Apricot and Digitalis x mertonensis, whose spires should be shorter and bedecked with flowers of crushed strawberry colour. Nothing that should have given rise to these. A white foxglove flowered nearby last year, but if it set seed then its progeny would not be in flower until next year, so the provenance of these common foxgloves leaves me wondering. Still, although I do favour the more interesting colours and forms, I find these purple-pink spires attractive enough – and the bees don’t seem to mind! I shall watch the unfurling of the remaining plants with interest.
Across the garden, the field border has a more restricted palette; mostly blues from Centaurea montana, Geranium x magnificum and the last forget-me-nots, punctuated with splashes of pink, white and red. My eyes, however, are drawn to the troupe of flamenco dancers in scarlet at the back of the border: this Oriental poppy is bigger and blousier than ever before.
Aren’t they beautiful? I am always staggered by the size of the flowers; they must be about 15cm across.
The red is repeated again further along this border, by the single flowers of Geum Mrs J. Bradshaw, which grew easily from seed last year and were planted out a few months ago. Mrs B is flowering modestly for the first time as the plants find their feet.
I love the combination of red, purple and blue that these make against the perennial cornflower and the wayward spikes of Verbascum phoeniceum; while magenta Geranium macrrorhizum flows around the trunk of the birch tree behind. This may be one of my favourite colour combinations in the garden.
These richly coloured verbascum, always humming with bees, were also raised from seed to flower this year for the first time; one of my selections from the RHS seed scheme last year and another firm favourite already. Although modest in height at perhaps three foot tall, they are a little unsteady on their feet after high winds have swept through, but no less alluring for their rakish angles.
Two more mounds of hardy geraniums are beginning to bloom in the kitchen border for the first year. These plants, also from my Mum, were named Midnight Blues, but this identification is rather belied by their bright green foliage and pale pink flowers! They are joined by a mass of sweet williams, just beginning to open throughout the garden, with a mix of lovely fresh green and dark red foliage. Sown last summer and planted out in the autumn, with most placed along this curve, they are threaded through with short ornamental grasses that are already flowering.
While the garden is filling with colour – and much more still to come – the weeds here and in the vegetable garden are also flourishing; there’s plenty of work to keep us busy. Yet, with such a feast for the eyes – and indeed for the kitchen, as salad leaves and radishes are coming thick and fast – this summer is starting to shape up rather nicely. Long may it continue!