Summertime

Through these long hot summer days, the garden has filled out, knitting across any lingering gaps with a gentle progression of colour.

Long border mid-July

The long border looks better than ever, plump and full. Fountains of Stipa arundinacea erupt in clouds of delicate red feathers through all the borders. The two bushes of Leycesteria formosa, which I trimmed lightly back in the spring, have turned into giants, rather shading out some of their neighbours such that I need to leap in to the borders and cut them back a little when I find the chance. I am still contemplating whether to keep one or both of these shrubs; on the plus side they are long-flowering and always humming with bees, and they make a reliable, if slightly dull, screen through the summer, but I demur over their ‘value for space’, given the selection of other lovely shrubs that could do a similar job in time… Perhaps I will hedge my bets, keeping one and removing the other – but which? Something to ponder.

Detail of planting in the long border

Above the plumes of Stipa tenuissima and Stipa arundinacea, and the neat mounds of Geranium x magnificum foliage, its profusion of lovely purple blooms over for another year, I am enjoying the haze of Verbena bonariensis, which move around the garden each year, self-seeding vigorously, and the ever-reliable Crocosmia Lucifer; a blaze of scarlet above the smaller wild orange variety at its feet. This is another point of contemplation for me at the minute, as I am tempted to move the corms of Lucifer away from their more vigorous relatives (of which I have dug up a great number most years as they threaten to encroach too far) to give more impact elsewhere.

Crocosmia Lucifer and montbretia in the long border

They do pair together so well though; something to consider further. There is a deliciously airy Molinia caerulea ‘Transparent’ in flower that is rather lost towards the back of this border too, another plant that I have definitely earmarked to bring further forward in the autumn, to showcase its delicate form better. Generally, though, I am really pleased with the majority of the planting in this border as it matures. Glimpses of pink in the pictures above are the lovely Dianthus carthusianorum, which are bulking up nicely in a couple of places in the garden, in their second year since growing from seed.

Detail of Dianthus carthusianorum flowers

Echinops ritro ssp ruthenicus

Among the softer planting in this border, I am enjoying the more structural flowers of Echinops ritro ssp ruthenicus, another seed-raised plant that is establishing happily here, and the bottlebrush is awash with red bristles this year towards the back of the border.

Bottlebrush flowers in July

They look unexpectedly tropical in our rural Welsh garden, a beautiful sight mid-summer.

Cephalaria gigantea and Verbena bonariensis

Cephalaria gigantea flowerThe giant scabious, Cephalaria gigantea, makes a pleasing companion to the stands of Verbena through this border, the two vying with one another to reach the sky (though the bud-festooned cardoon further down the fence towers several feet above both, winning hands-down this year!).

Japanese anemone

The first Japanese anemones are in bloom in softer blushing hues, marking the high point of the season.

Lavender flowers

The front garden is a deliciously-scented sea of lavender, another summer stalwart, interspersed with hebes, evening primroses, drumstick alliums, modest roses and the occasional tall plume of Ammi majus. But without fail, my favourite flowers of the moment have to be the long wands of angel’s fishing rod, Dierama ‘Merlin’, dripping bells of metallic purple that shimmer in the sun.

Dierama 'Blackbird' flowers

Such a beautiful and graceful plant, amazingly unscathed by the snails which love to gather between its sword-shaped leaves. I also have a tray of dierama seedlings that I sowed last year which I hope to introduce to the garden when they are more robust: one plant just isn’t enough!

Sedum and Teucrium

There are quieter delights among the borders too; I love the dark purple foliage of our young Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’, and a favourite for its wonderfully curly-edged foliage and subtle green flowers is the clump of Teucrium scorodonia ‘Crispum marginatum’ which makes attractive ground cover all year round.

Field border mid-July

There are some drawbacks to the fullness of the borders though. The mounds of Geranium x magnificum in both borders grew so full at the peak of their flowering early in the summer that there were some casualties swamped beneath their canopy: the succulent new growth of two of our three astrantias amid this soft damp vegetation were completely devoured by snails or slugs, to leave just a few sorry leafless stems concealed in the undergrowth. It is fortunate that I collected and sowed seed from these plants late last summer, which germinated this spring to give me a tray of small plants that I hope to use to replace the fallen plants once they are a little bigger: I shall certainly be more careful in positioning them to avoid a repeat of this decimation, and meanwhile I am enjoying the sole survivor.

Astrantia flowers

Another casualty to the depradations of wildlife this year has been our Verbascum chaixi album; when I spotted the colourful caterpillars of the mullein moth on the plants in the spring, I rather naively left them, thinking that they would enjoy one or two of the leaves without causing too much damage; live and let live. Alas, they were voracious, stripping most of the flowering stems bare of buds or flowers as well as leaving the foliage in tatters, so that only one or two spindly flower stalks survived above the carnage of shredded leaves.

Verbascum chaixi album decimated by mullein moth caterpillars

Verbascum chaixi album decimated by mullein moth caterpillars

Not very elegant at all. Next year I shall obviously have to be less lenient, and remove the caterpillars early in the season. We have suffered a few further losses; none of the trio of Agastache ‘Black Adder’ nor the lovely Salvia ‘Amistad’ reappeared this year, sadly. However, there are some unexpected appearances to balance these losses. Having flowered for almost two years non-stop, our Knautia macedonica was nowhere to be seen last year, and indeed I missed it so much that I bought seed, and have a tray of young plants waiting to find homes around the garden.  I was still thrilled a month ago to find a handful of those lovely dark crimson buttons pushing up in the space where the original plant stood, where it must have self-seeded.

Homegrown peas

The kitchen garden is a little quieter than usual this year, as my stomach swells and wriggles with its own new life that makes it uncomfortable to bend for long, and much of my energy is directed away from the garden, but we are still enjoying a bounty of good harvests. The peas and broad beans have given us several decent pickings; the first early potatoes were lovely while the slightly less impressive second earlies are still going strong; the freezer is full of blackcurrants; juicy strawberries continue to ripen almost faster than we can keep up, despite eating them every day; tomatoes and cucumbers continue to flow from the greenhouse; bulbs of softneck garlic are drying in the greenhouse (unperturbed by being picked early after succumbing to the usual rust); and the courgettes are in ample supply.

Blackcurrants from the garden

So far, this summer has seen me spend more time enjoying the garden than working in it, though I have been keeping up with the worst weeds in the borders, and spent some time pulling out the sea of Briza maxima that engulfed the semi-circular kitchen bed and part of the long border. These swathes of grass sowed themselves from the plants I had grown from seed  last year, germinating quickly in the mild autumn and overwintering to flower early. While I love the rustle and movement of their golden seedheads, they seemed out of keeping in late June amid the otherwise green and colourful beds, so I pulled them all out (ensuring enough seeds fell to grow again next year) and made a little breathing space, soon filled with the last dahlias and a few other plants that were waiting to go into the garden.

July moon

The long run of good weather has brought us some lovely skies recently as well as the wealth of flowers and edibles; we were mesmerised by this lovely moon at the weekend, framed by fast-flowing clouds as we sat out in the sultry night.

Thank you to everyone for their kind words on my last post; we really miss our lovely soft cat, but slowly time starts to mend the worst wounds. Life does indeed go on. This month is busier than ever, leaving me with a stack of reading to catch up on: it must be time to curl up with our remaining cat, Faith, and see what everyone else has been up to.

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13 thoughts on “Summertime

  1. Everything is looking stunning (cough, verbascum, cough), and you have obviously worked so hard. Hope you’re getting time to enjoy it too!

    • Thanks. Best not to talk about the verbascum, indeed… I am spending more time relaxing in the garden than usual (though it’s so hard to stay sitting and not leap up to weed or deadhead something that catches my eye!)

  2. Your garden looks fabulous. Some fantastic plants there which I’d love to grow and have made me dig out my notebook to jot down their names. I’m getting itchy feet to create a new garden. Is the bottlebush reliably hardy? I’ve seen it growing happily in Cornwall but always assumed it wasn’t hardy.

    We’ve had the same problem trying to keep up with the strawberries. Not a bad problem to have though. 😉

    • My MIL grew the bottlebrush from seed in the mid 90s! She planted one into her garden a few years ago and gave us the other, and it seems perfectly happy with our climate so far, it’s certainly grown since I planted it out, and is smothered in flowers most summers since. My Mum has a mature one too, though she is a bit more protected in the South of England than us here. I’d recommend trying one though.

  3. Such a shame about the verbascum, but you have every right to feel delighted with how your borders are knitting together. I too am entranced by the combo of cephelaria gigantic a and verbena bonariensis, they look wonderful against the dramatic skies we’ve been having. Look after yourself, and your wriggling passenger, and enjoy the fruits of your labours!

    • Thanks, Janet. It is lovely to watch the borders come together so – I like that you are enjoying one of the same planting combinations as us too, there have been some lovely skies to show off these taller specimens.

  4. When I started reading your blog the garden was new and you spoke of waiting for things to fill in, well it didn’t take long; all looks great. Lovely combinations too, I’d love that giant scabious to join my Verbena bonarienis. Enjoy your bounty and rest too, and just enjoy looking!

    • Thank you, Christina. The scabious came very easily from seed, I’m sure you can add a handful to your lovely borders. I am trying to enjoy the peace and quiet this summer! – if you don’t count the building work going on next door, that is…

  5. wow, a very impressive range of plants! However, the photo I like best is the one of the dramatic sky-scene at the end of your post! The eternal struggle between our desire to have good-looking and productive plants whilst still fostering and enjoying nature (in the form of pest, all too often!) is so well described in your writing.

    • Thanks – you can tell I am rather a plantaholic! The sky was lovely and such a warm night to enjoy it too.
      It can be hard to find the balance between encouraging wildlife, and watching your crops be decimated by it!

  6. Sara it all looks so wonderful, all your planning and hard work is giving reward, it’s good to take time and enjoy it instead of the more usual rushing about, Frances x

  7. It’s a good time for contemplating, letting the garden get on with what it’s doing and thinking about minor adjustments you might make. I have grown briza from seed this year, so I am unsure whether to be pleased or not that they seed around so readily! Hope you are making time to contemplate other things too and are keeping well

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