I think everyone of us who lives in the UK knows it has been hot! hot! hot! for weeks (and accordingly dry! dry! dry!) and despite hints of possible thunderstorms in some parts, the weather app on my phone doesn’t show any change in the current pattern here in the Midlands for at least the next fortnight. I do remember the hot summer of 1976 but it was the year I first married and I had not yet left home so had no household responsibilities and definitely no garden to fret about. In the here and now, I had been using the hose every evening in the week leading up to the garden openings but am now trying to restrict watering mostly to pots for the time being. We have 9 water butts but almost all are empty and I want to retain some rain water for topping up the water features before our group visits, all of which are currently switched off to conserve water. I am not quite sure what the outcome will be, as a hosepipe ban is already being introduced in Northern Ireland; meanwhile I am a rather concerned gardener, torn between nurturing my thirsty garden and the environmental implications of doing so…
However, putting aside concerns about water shortages I am delighted to be able to properly administer In a Vase on Monday again today. Thank you for your forbearance last week – I managed to read all your comments but not catch up on all your vases but perhaps I will be able to take a peek when I see this week’s offerings. Even if there had been time to create a vase last week, it would not have contained such sunny blooms as those shown above as they have only been gracing the cutting beds (and the bold borders in the case of the inula) within the last week. I am delighted to be able to include zinnias, probably for
the very first time but not for want of trying. The larger ones are ‘Summer Bouquet’ whilst the smaller are ‘Lilliput Mixed’; there a few pink ones blooming too so perhaps they will also make an appearance soon. Included with them are Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ with its gorgeous contrasting reverse, dwarf sunflower ‘Microsun’ and Inula magnifica. The jug is a Royal Doulton car boot buy with a pretty orange trim.
The cutting beds are teeming with promising blooms and I am excited about future vase prospects, as well as enjoying the progress of the plants from seed through seedling towards colourful blooming plants. If you have room for even just one small cutting bed I would highly recommend going for it as it will bring you far more pleasure than you could ever imagine. Whether you have cutting beds or not, please consider cutting blooms or other material from your garden and popping them into a vase or jam jar to bring the pleasure of your garden into your home. If you would like to share the result with us on IAVOM please leave links to and from this post in the usual way.
A very quick End of Month View this time, with just a slide show which I hope most of you can see but I know can be a problem on some devices. Thanks to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting this meme which helps us a keep a record of our gardens from month to month and year to year.
There are some trouble-free plants that you can always rely on, so whilst enjoying a welcome couple of days of getting to know the garden properly again and regaining some ‘headspace’ I thought I would highlight some of them and link them to Chloris’ ‘top plants’ meme.
The above rose, ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’, certainly has to be one of them as it has thrived on what must surely be benign neglect as it is never deadheaded and often takes me surprise as I find myself forgetting it is there. It really does flower all season, has a reliable crop of attractive hips and is almost more striking from the other side of the wall as there is less of a jumble of plants in the foreground. ‘Rambling Rector’, seen in the background of yesterday’s main photograph, is equally reliable but only flowers for a month or so and is just on the wane now. It will drop its 10s of 1000s of petals as it does so, and in about a month’s time I will cut off all this year’s flowering stems and tie in the new ones for next year’s display. This year, it flowered bang on time for our main visitors who missed it is last year it bloomed early; our group visitors will miss it this year, but enjoy some later flowering clematis instead.
To the left of Parkdirektor is Inula magnifica, certainly magnificent in both stature and impact. I had potted up several offshoots for sale but probably only sold one of them, as it may be just too big to suit many gardens and I myself tend to cut mine back more than once during the season. I have used both buds and blooms of this striking plant in vases many of times and there is certainly no shortage of these on the plant. Apart from staking it seems to need no attention whatsoever.
In the cutting beds on the other side of the wall that these two plants are against, I have to hand it to cosmos for ease of growing, floriferousness and longevity. As well as ‘Fizzy Rose Picotee’ and ‘Click Cranberries’ shown here I am growing ‘Double Click Snow Puff’ and ‘Carmine’ and as long as they are picked or deadheaded they will continue flowering for months. Also shown is this unknown dahlia, one I have had for years and which has survived my original dahlia ignorance as well as frequent reductions in the massiveness its tuber and continues to be the tallest and longest flowering dahlia of the lot. There may be nothing special about it but boy! it is a very good do-er!
If I had a couple of dozen red astrantia I would have sold them to my recent visitors, but as the truly red ones are only just establishing I had none potted up but will certainly do so for next year. All the ‘Buckland’ and most of the A maxima were sold and generally they were the most asked about group of plants in the garden. What good do-ers they all are, with the whiter ones especially flowering for a long period if cut back after the first flush; I can also forgive A maxima its promiscuity because it is so pretty. Shown below, clockwise from top left, are: Buckland, Shaggy and A maxima, Star of Beauty
Finally, I have recently come to value Lychnis coronaria, with seeds of a pink variety from Sandra (Wild Daffodil) a couple of years ago and a white variety from Brian (Brimfields) a little later. Although I appreciate they are short lived perennials and need to plan some continuity in case they don’t self seed, they flower all season and look wonderful, the former in a warm pink way and the latter, unsurprisingly, in a cool way with its white flowers and soft grey-green leaves. Within the pink version, but perhaps too co-ordinated, Salvia ‘Neon’ is another trouble free favourite which sailed through the bitter cold periods of last winter and is looking all the more attractive a plant for having been cut back severely in the spring.
Finally, whatever we think about petunias, sometimes they really do work well and having slightly tweaked the contents of the two baskets at the front of the house this year is one of those time, especially as I have added both slow release fertiliser and water retaining granules to the baskets and they have coped admirably with this endless (please, no…) heat we are experiencing. Sadly, I can’t have mixed these extras into other pots as efficiently because they have still needed at least daily watering.
Thanks to Chloris at The Blooming Garden for allowing us to share our monthly special plants, many of which can in fact be quite ordinary, as this post shows: do pop over and have a look at her blog and the links on it.
Rather than wait till the three group visits in July are out of the way I thought I would give you a brief update of how the garden openings went. As I had to scoot off to see Elder Daughter first thing on Monday (and had been on call to head in the other direction to my Mum’s later this week too), it is really only today that the Golfer and I have had the opportunity to sit down together and talk about how things went.
You can see from the above photo, taken on the Sunday, and the earlier Wordless Wednesday one, that both days were hot, dry and sunny, and with the advance forecast pretty confident that this would be the case so that was one less thing to think about. Everything was organised, ready and waiting on both days and there were only minor hiccups before opening – struggling to open the barrier at the local village hall for helpers’/overflow parking, misplacing the key fob sometime between Wednesday and Sunday for our neighbours’ electronic gates to access our main parking (thankfully found – much later!), and another neighbour helpfully avoiding our Sunday opening by choosing to take the render off his house on Saturday instead, covering pots, plants, paving, windows and vehicles outside our house in dust and pieces of masonry….hey ho!
Last year we had the ‘novelty value’ of being open for the first time, but in any year there is no way of truly estimating how many people might visit, although I was fortunate that our local paper published a full-page illustrated spread about the opening, an unexpected improvement on the 3 or 4 lines the event was given last year! My personal target was to raise more money for the NGS than I did last year and I dithered for some time about the percentage of plants and refreshment to give to my local charity, which I still wanted to do. I am pleased to say that with the three group visits I should still achieve this, although I was disappointed with the number of visitors on Sunday. On Wednesday, we had visitors non-stop from the moment we opened with a total of 63 altogether, half as many again as on the Wednesday in the previous year. I was therfore hopeful for a similar increase in numbers on the Sunday but the latter, it turned out, had to compete with open gardens at our neighbouring village and, more importantly, England playing in the World Cup!
There was definite lull in the afternoon so there were times when my helpers (twice as many as on Wednesday) were left twiddling their thumbs, and by the end of the day we had received a further 63 visitors whereas I had been hoping for over 100. We think it was probably more the football that kept people away, as there are always several village gardens open at this time of year. Two of our visitors had opened their garden for the NGS for the first time this year – on Royal Wedding day – and numbers were low, and this and the football are just two of the things we have no control over, like the weather. Rainy days would definitely keep visitors away too, and we are fortunate to have been blessed with good weather both years so far but need to be aware that there will be continue to be uncertainties every year we open.
All we can do is to make sure everything is organised and prepared and see who turns up, so I must put aside my initial disappointment and be thrilled that all those who did visit enjoyed doing so and made positive comments about the garden – and that we raised a healthy sum of money for charity. I shall write more about these openings once our group visits are over and we can begin to get the house back to normal, dismantling our ‘pop-up café’ in the back sitting room and returning all our NGS stuff to the loft until next year.
Clearing up yesterday at the end of our second Open Garden day all I had the time (and energy!) to muster up for today’s vase were a group of the tea table vases, empty plates from the cake display and some of the proceeds. As there are family duties to attend to, I may not be as diligent in replying to your comments or admiring your vases as I usually am, but I will do my best. However, please pick your blooms and post links to your own vases as usual.
ps these Winter Sunshine sweet peas have been especially wonderful this year!