The roses were so wonderful in June and mostly (other than Rambling Rector) still are, apart from looking rather washed out in the endless heat, and as I talked to visitors at our Sunday opening I found myself deciding that the garden simply MUST have more of them! Now, with time to contemplate, those thoughts can be a given more attention and plans made. They would definitely need to be in the area between the house and the sitooterie, the sunniest part of the garden and in full view from the house, and would probably be climbers and require another structure like our existing rose supports here. No further details yet, but the ideas are bouncing around in my head and perhaps a mock-up of a potential framework is needed to make a firm decision.
Even in the lead-up to the openings, amidst the tidying and sprucing up, there were thoughts of what could be improved on – with the slate chippings either side of the ‘bus shelter’, a magnet for rose petals and twigs which have to be painstakingly picked off in any clean-up, definitely doomed. An alternative harder surface could usefully eat into my stockpile of reclaimed bricks!
Not every niggle will have such a relatively easy solution, and as yet I am unsure how the smallest of the main borders, the one in front of the ‘gallery fence’, can be improved. Like the other three borders, it is filled with pastel perennials but nothing ever looks very happy here because it is fairly shaded, probably only receiving sun from the late afternoon. Behind the fence is the woodland, with a neighbour’s very large and imposing beech tree beyond that, so it is unlikely ever to be any less shady because even in the winter months when the trees are leafless the sun will not be high enough to peer over the fence. I am considering removing all the plants and having it as a raised paved area with pots, which could perhaps contain shade tolerant annuals like busy lizzies – or, being thrilled with the cutting buds, are there enough suitable varieties of shade tolerant annuals for the bed be planted with these instead? Just something else to bounce around with the rose thoughts!
Annuals in the herbaceous borders are another matter altogether, as the only one I have had any success with at all is short nicotiana (Nicotiana alata ‘Nicki Lime’ and ‘Nicki Red’) and perhaps autumn sown cornflowers – I have planted out dozens of choice plants but they have quickly disappeared, whether from slugs, the weather conditions, or the borders already being stuffed. I have come to the conclusion that unless they are in the cutting beds or pots it is not worth the effort, and of course it is disheartening too. Oh, and I will never again be tricked into thinking that nasturtiums are anything other than red, orange or yellow – after being fooled by the red ‘Cherry Rose’ ones last year, I was similarly fooled with ‘Ladybird Cream & Purple Spot’ this year, only to find they were yellow (albeit pale) with red spots. ‘Ladybird Rose’ failed to germinate.
The borders being over-stuffed probably doesn’t help, as perennials bought to plug gaps last year try to fill out to their full potential, and further decisions on what is really worthy of a permanent place are necessary. Much as I love the impact of this Inula magnifica, every year it tries to oust its neighbours and despite frequent trimming really needs to be taken down a peg or two, as do some of the newer aconitum which are far taller than the original plant I had. And with such tall plants behind them, the front of these bold borders do not want piddling little front-of-border plants but something with more substance, even if they do have to be staked. Despite this, these two bold borders are at least the nearest of all the borders to becoming satisfactory.
lI think some dissatisfaction is possibly inevitable at some stage in the gardening year, whether it is the transition between seasons or when there are no pressing jobs to otherwise keep the gardener busy. There is no such dissatisfaction with the cutting beds; I stand and admire them for long stretches of time running, my hands through the leaves and blooms and talking gently to them. I may need to tweak positioning in future – amaranthus are always far taller than the seed packets suggest, for example, and all zinnias will go at the front next time, even the taller varieties. With many of the dahlias only just coming into bud the beds are far from reaching their peak, but this does not reduce the pleasure they give as they progress towards it. Particularly evident in the two pictures below are cosmos, rudbeckia, clary sage, dwarf sunflower, helichrysum, larkspur, dwarf sunflower and amaranthus.
A brief pause in admiring the cutting beds yesterday resulted in the decision to cut down the Winter Sunshine’ sweet peas in the adjacent greenhouse; they have been struggling in the heat and keeping up with cutting them has been hard, with blooms rapidly going to seed, so they have now been added to the compost heap to be graciously replaced by the thankful tomatoes which have been patiently champing at the bit for more spacious accommodation and look much happier in their new quarters. And of course I have had more than two months of continuous blooms from the sweet peas…
It is still too hot for anything other than short and relatively non-taxing jobs like this, but at least the bees and butterflies have been enjoying the heat, unlike the frog in the bottom picture who is no doubt bemoaning not just the drying up of his favourite watering hole but also his unrequited love for the cast iron frog that shared the same trough…