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Garden update

Once again I’ve been too busy in the garden to actually blog about it! I started sowing seeds in trays and containers in the summer house back in March, and I was clearly a bit optimistic! We had several failures – seeds not germinating at all (I’m looking at YOU, strawberries!), others very slow to appear and too weak-looking to plant out (I gave up on about 75% of the sweetpea seedlings). One new bed against the side fence I thought would be great for growing peas and beans, but seedling after seedling got eaten (slugs? squirrels? birds?) – there are now two sugar snap peas and one sweetpea left standing. I’ve baptised it as the ‘wall of death’ – the soil is very poor and it’s right under a big bay tree which has rained down its dried out blossom and leaves for the past 12 weeks, which can’t be good.

Anyway, things started to improve in June and finally the weather warmed up, better late than never. We’re now experiencing a heatwave with little rain for the last month. Not that I’m complaining! But watering is a major mission!

Here are some photos I’ve taken over the last 8 weeks or so.

The tomato seedlings came up nicely. I’ve been reading and reading all the (complex) instructions about how to grow them. Here are three plants potted on into a big blue pot at the end of May. The white thing is a sunken plastic bottle (for watering) with a fleece cover to prevent leaves or other stuff falling in and clogging it.


Here is the pot now – as you can see, very bushy. I probably should have removed the smallest plant, but I haven’t yet learned to sacrifice some for the good of the others. Some flowers coming but no sign of tomatoes yet! 


First attempt at growing salad. The pale green leaves are called ‘Salad Bowl’ and are designed to be ‘cut and come again’. The redder leaves are a lettuce ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons’ recommended by my guru Sarah Raven. It can grow into a proper lettuce with a heart but I want to harvest this as leaves also.


End of May: a rose we planted last year ‘Winchester Cathedral’, some of the big alliums we planted last autumn and a huge lavender in the foreground.
We went shopping at the end of May and this was among the purchases – a rose called ‘Schoolgirl’ (which I was a bit doubtful about) but it’s the most wonderful colour. Planted on the pergola with another climbing rose at the other end, ‘Zephirine Drouhin’.


We’re very pleased with these matching brown pots for the top of the steps, in which we’ve planted two heucheras ‘Lime Marmalade’.


It was fantastic to see the digitalis (foxgloves) all coming up. Planted as wee plugs last autumn.
And the alliums were great too. You can see the state of the soil here though.


So here are some photos I took a few weeks later:

Raised bed number 4: sweetcorn, rocket, Florence fennel and lettuce ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons’. Once we discovered wool pellets we started fighting the slugs.


The pond corner, before we decided to move the lavender (well, we donated it to the communal garden) as it was overwhelming everything else. The soil on this side of the garden is poor, so we’re trying various things, including alpines and small succulents around the pond. The hydrangea was a gift from friends last year and it has come back marvellously. This and the lupin we have to grow in containers. We’ve barracaded the lupin in with slug wool pellets.


Here’s the hydrangea at mid-June, flowers still forming.


The sedum to the left behind the pond was rescued from the other side of the garden and replanted, rather sad for a while but seems to be finding its feet.


Here’s the lupin ‘Gallery Red’ around mid-June.


On the pergola the two roses either side and the honeysuckle are coming on. In the middle are a range of peas – sugar snap, sweetpea or mange tout it’s not clear! I had to replace so many seedlings as they got eaten I can’t remember what are there. On the right is the one Cobra bean I’ve planted – after having way too many growing last year this year I am cautious!


Along the back of the house the apricot in the central bed seems fine, and the geraniums/pelargoniums around it are also coming back – I dug them up last year to save them over winter in the summer house and to be honest I never expected them to survive, so It’s fantastic that they have.


The ‘Tumbling Tom’ tomato in the bucket was bought as a plug plant and so far is the nearest of all of them to produce fruit. In the large terracotta pot is one sugar snap pea and one purple mangetout. Behind to the right is an area of poor soil and it’s under a yew tree so a bit dark too. Over time we’d like to find a way to improve this area.

I don’t think I’ve introduced you yet to Antonia. We bought her from Chilstone near Tunbridge Wells, where they have extensive gardens full of statues, pots and stone features.

The plinth was in their ‘bargains’ corner as it has a small chip, but Antonia is newly made. Over time they will weather down and look more ‘as one’. The bust is a copy of an original which is in the British Museum. Antonia was the daughter of Mark Antony. (The bust is also known as the nymph Clytie).

So bringing things up to date, here are some pics I took yesterday and today:

The honeysuckle Lonicera ‘Serotina’ on the pergola as flowering… above is how it looked yesterday…
.. and today, out in all its glory!
Having pulled up the big woody lavender we bought two shrubs to go here to the right of the pond next to a rosemary. I love the purple leaves of the Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ (front) and the purplish stems of the Aster ‘Lady in Black’ behind it. We hope they will settle in and bush out a bit in time.


The ‘dancing ladies’ trough is spilling over with various bedding plants…Lots of foliage from the geranium, the periwinkle and the aquilegia but not many flowers yet.  Luckily the blue lobelia is doing a fine job (in the window boxes too). (Don’t look at the lawn, that clearly needs mowing!)


In the pond corner, the hydrangea and lupin are fully in bloom, as are some of the lovely marginal plants.


Beds 1 to 3: the clematis and rose (St Swithun) in bed 1 have flowered a little better than last year, although nothing spectacular.  Also in this bed is a thyme, two nasturtiums replanted from bed 3 to make space for broccoli, two garlic plants ( I planted 9!) and two courgettes. in Bed 2 the broad beans have been badly damaged by pests but are still producing a few pods, and the three yellow courgette plants are getting big.


Some pond-side plants have done better than others. We planted a fair amount of aubretia all of which struggled. We loved the bronze-leaved ground-cover plant Trifolium Purpurascens which is doing OK, and the semi-succulent Lampranthus Orange is stunning.


A view down from the top of the steps showing the lovely detail of the back of Antonia’s head! Also rhubarb (bed 5) and netting half-erected for the broccoli.


Bed 4 is the most successful so far. I must have been mad to plant sweetcorn, I just didn’t think about how tall they can get – in a month’s time we won’t be able to see anything in the bed behind! The rocket has bedded in wonderfully and we cut it to eat every day, same with the lettuce next to it, which is brilliant for ‘cut and come again’.  BUT the slugs have started on it again, so I need to renew the wool pellets. The two remaining Florence fennel plants are doing OK.
Yes! Sweet peas! Some of them have actually made it to flower – and they smell gorgeous.


One of two new roses we’ve planted, but sadly I can’t find the label to tell you the name of it….
Looking down from the top garden towards the pond you get the best view of the Hebe (purple flowers), the Phlomis (Jerusalem sage) and the Potentilla ‘Pink Beauty’. All of these were transplanted from the other side when we had the garden re-done, so it’s encouraging to see they’re taken, although the Phlomis hasn’t flowered much this year so far.

When we bought plants for the pond we were determined to have a water lily, and after shooting up many leaves we now have the first flower which you can see here. There are two more coming. The two goldfish are still alive and kicking (?) but we do have to clear weed and algae now the weather is warmer, and keep the pond topped up with cool water.
Dahlias have done really well this year in the window boxes and central bowl. Last year the slugs got them, but maybe they’ve found tastier things this year, such as sweet pea seedlings 🙁
I never imagined growing and eating our own blueberries!

Ah, lunch!

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