Blaze

Summer has finally arrived, with a welcome run of long, hot sunny days which continue to stretch ahead of us.

Homegrown strawberries

The garden flickers with butterflies and is a-hum; we have to walk across the grass with a little care between cuts as clover quickly transforms the green sward to a polka dance of flowers and feasting bees. We have picked several kilos of strawberries; so many large luscious sweet fruits that we are giving them away to friends and family, and freezing batches. Raspberries and blackcurrants are cropping now too, and I’ve been picking small sweet courgettes for a few weeks now.

Courgette RomanescoThese lovely ridged courgettes are Romanesco, a new variety for us this year alongside a plant of our usual Defender.

Harvested garlic dryingThis week I also harvested our hardneck garlic, Sprint, whose bulbs are pleasingly plump. The softneck bulbs are still much smaller, and the leaves still greener, so I am leaving most of them standing a little longer to see if they can fatten further for our winter supplies.

We are also eating new potatoes, broad beans and peas, along with our widest selection of salad leaves so far. In the next few days, we must pick all the remaining broad beans and blanch and freeze them. We trialled the variety Stereo this year, a recommendation by Sarah Raven, and I must say we are impressed. Besides the few Longpod plants raised from the last of our old seeds, the Stereo plants are shorter, have required no staking, yet are covered in copious pods of sweet beans, with no sign of black fly or rust on the plants, unlike their taller neighbours, whose tips we have already had to pinch out once they began to accumulate a layer of black fly.

Alchemilla, dianthus, calendula, geranium in the long border

Calendula flowers vivid orange

There are calendula scattered around both the kitchen garden and the ornamental borders, all grown from seeds of Indian Prince, although the flowers always show a little variation: the one above does not have the characteristic dark eye of most of its neighbours. Borage is also flowering madly all over the plot; we have spent many cucumber-scented hoeing and weeding sessions as its self-sowing nature thickly blanketed the vegetable beds with fast-growing plants in the spring. They are easy to hoe or pull out though, and I wouldn’t be without its lovely blue flowers, which draw lots of happy bees to the kitchen garden.

Eryngium giganteum flower

Verbascum, monarda, Calamagrostis in the long border

I have continued painting the fence behind the long border, with just a few metres left to complete – hopefully this coming weekend – before moving onto the remaining post-and-rail fences. It has been a delicate business so late in the season, tracing my way carefully through the tall plants, temporarily staking the himalayan honeysuckle bushes away from the woodwork to give me access, with the drone of bees in its dripping clusters of flowers rather alarmingly close to my face as I worked.

Yellow verbascum

Yellow verbascum and mullein moth caterpillarA handful of tall yellow spires of Verbascum also required careful navigation, standing along the back of this border, upon which I found several mullein moth caterpillars. Although they can defoliate plants completely, this cluster of caterpillars seem relatively restrained and I am happy to let them be while the plants continue to look healthy and provide their burst of sunshine yellow.

Cephalaria gigantea

Cephalaria gigantea flowerEven these tall verbascum plants are dwarfed by the Cephalaria gigantea at the back of the border, some of which must be eight-foot tall, many of their creamy-yellow flowers now opening far above my head. They have remarkable poise. Astonishing to think that these giants have each uncoiled from a tiny speck of a seed sown last spring.

Papaver somniferum

Red Papaver somniferum in front of Monarda Cambridge Scarlet

Poppies are everywhere; jewel-toned Papaver somniferum mostly in scarlet, echoed by the clumps of Monarda Cambridge Scarlet in both borders, accompanied by a few of my favourite dark-plum coloured ones, which appear almost crimson when illuminated by the sun. We can catch a glimpse here of a brighter crimson rose which has just opened behind these purple poppies.

Plum coloured poppiesWe have ladybird poppies, Papaver commutatum, in the kitchen border too, and the usual more subtle orange-hued field poppies that pop their heads up for a day across the garden before scattering their petals at their feet.

Spires of Verbascum chaixi album

Flowers of Verbascum chaixi album

The cultivated Verbascum chaixi album are stronger in their second year, dozens of spires of beautiful white flowers, with their vivid purple furry stamens tipped with orange anthers.

Oenothera odorataAlso more settled this year are the seed-raised Oenothera odorata; last year I found them untidy despite their beautiful flowers and sweet evening scent. This year they have bulked up so that despite their long stems only carrying one or two open flowers at a time, the massed effect is rather lovely.

Oenothera odorataTheir pale luminous butter-silk flowers break up the pinks in this border nicely, gracefully aging to apricot to match their stems.

Faith the cat on the summer grass

Ammi majus flowers from below

Summer. Ahhhh. I could certainly get used to these languorous days, with the garden in all its finery, harvests flowing, and the cats tiptoeing through the shadows to flop in the border beneath the plant canopies.

Campanula flowers white

Helenium Sahin's Early FlowererIt’s such a pleasure to return from a long desk-bound day to so much beauty and plenty at this time of year, leaping out into the sunshine at the first opportunity.

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16 thoughts on “Blaze

  1. Love your poppies, I bought some seed at Chelsea, do you just sow directly or start off in a seed tray? I also grow Romanesco zucchini, I think they have the best flavour and texture, hope you’re enjoying them too.

    • Thanks; I love the poppies too. I collected the original seed from a purple poppy that sprang up in our building debris our first summer here. I sowed it into seed trays the following spring and planted out the seedlings; the next year I sowed again but they had self-sown quite happily as well, so I have relied on them since. I give them a helping hand by scattering some collected seed directly in the spring too.
      The Romanesco have a lovely nutty flavour, I’m certainly enjoying them.

  2. I only have a few broad beans but haven’t really grown them before so your post made me think I better check a pod and see if they are ready to pick – and peas too, for the same reason, so thanks for prompting me. Great to see all the other floral goings-on; as you say , it’s a pleasure to see so much beauty and plenty (and even when one isn’t returning from a long desk-bound day!)

    • Ah, I hope your beans and peas are sweet and tasty! I love homegrown summer veg, can’t wait for this year’s first carrots and beetroot!

  3. Looks beautiful, Sara and so much bounty. I’m trying to find the time to harvest garlic and new potatoes – the days aren’t long enough. Nice to see so many plants that I have at the Priory but also some I don’t – Oenothera odorata I don’t know at all. D

    • Thanks Dave. I don’t know where the evenings disappear to at the minute! I read a recommendation for these evening primroses, they grew easily from seed and in their second year are rather fabulous.

  4. I hope that the flowers and bees can enjoy their polka dance all summer long Sara. It sounds as if you have a veritable feast to gaze upon and nibble on. Have grown ‘Romanesco’ for a number of years. I’m away from home at the moment so keeping my fingers crossed that my lottie neighbour is watering and that there will be something left to eat by the time I get home 🙂

    • Thanks Anna. It’s an abundant time of year. I’m sure you will come home to find heaps of fruit veg waiting for you, a lovely welcome home gift!

  5. Beautiful, beautiful flowers, Sara! And I love that caterpillar – it looks almost too garish to be real. Thanks for the recommendation of “Stereo” Broad Beans. I’ll give them a try next year, because I have been very disappointed with “Aquadulce”.

    • Thanks Mark! A handsome caterpillar indeed. Hope that you have success with ‘Stereo’ broad beans, the difference has really surprised us, particularly after a poor year with rust on our beans last year.

  6. sounds like coming home to a paradise Sara, your flower garden looks beautiful as ever and your cephalaria gigantea are doing much better than the one I bought 2 years ago, your veg growing is encouraging me to want to grow more, I am thinking I need to make a larger area for veggies, long may you continue to enjoy summer, Frances x

    • Thanks Frances – they truly are giant scabious, towering over me and usuallly covered in butterflies and bees! Fresh produce from the garden is so enjoyable; we had our first tomatoes today – bliss.

  7. Glorious photos. Your garden looks stunning and makes me realise how much mine has been neglected this year. Poppies are on my list for next year and I do love anything with scent so I’m rather attracted to that evening primrose plant.

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