What a difference a week makes. This week definitely brought the sun and the flowers where there used to be rain! In fact, my little garden is currently being slow cooked at Gas Mark 2 due to the open south-facing nature of the site. Being on an incline doesn’t help either as there is very little shade. Even our pergola which hasn’t yet celebrated its first birthday doesn’t currently provide much respite.
Having at least a third of the garden grown in pots and planters doesn’t help either. Thank goodness the hosepipe ban has been lifted for now. (We are still struggling to find somewhere to fit a waterbutt due to a complete dearth of drainpipes).
At least there are upsides to this weather, the most obvious being that it’s not raining! However, I’m not an exotic creature and struggle almost as much as my garden in this heat. My priority is not lying out in the sun either – I’ve never liked lobster in any form. No, the reason I’m most excited about this weather is because so many flowers have suddenly and gloriously come into bloom!
In particular, my spring flowering clematis have suddenly gone mad and after several patient years in some cases, I have flowers where no flower has bloomed before. Admittedly, in some cases, blink (or work all week) and you miss them, so this year I’m capturing as much as I can on camera.
For a small garden we probably have more clematis per square metre than the corresponding section of the garden centre and counting… It’s amazing what you can pack into a small space (and yes, my talents do extend to shoes and suitcases, much to my husband’s exasperation). However, this does mean that each morning this week I have been greeted by another surprise – a large nodding head of another clematis greeting me.
In some cases they have been slightly nibbled, in others they are holier than the Bible due to our slug infestation but some of them, to my delight, are perfect! I can’t be sure that my neighbours have taken as much delight in my finds or my squeals of excitement at silly o’clock each morning (I can’t resist just popping out to check before I head off to the rat race each day). I would try and restrain myself for the sake of being a better neighbour but it really is like Christmas at the moment … and long may it last. Ho ho ho!
We’ve had a royal visit this week. The Queen came to stay! Not the real one of course, but a gnome I bought to celebrate the Jubilee. My daughter loves her and has paraded the smiling monarch all over the garden.
She has surveyed her Kingdom with a regal air and has decided upon the vegetable plot as her palace. She took a dip in a bucket which was filled with water from the recent rains and even had a shower using the watering can. No expense spared for our guests!
My little gnome friend was suitably impressed by the bunting of the Union flag which hung majestically from the pergola on our patio. I have to say though, she keeps a slightly unnerving eye on me. She appears where I least expect her. I had quite a shock whilst I was peacefully potting up some geraniums in my haven (the greenhouse). I moved a piece of green netting to discover her Royal Highness smiling up at me. Later, I was informed that Queen Elizabeth needed some rest and liked the look and warmth of my glass retreat.
Just before the heavens opened and our Jubilee weekend became a very British affair (rain, strawberries and a stiff upper lip in the face of cold winds), I managed to plant my cherry tomatoes. Their new home was hanging baskets and also, a wrought iron manger I had been given. The latter is now impressively adorning the wall of our once bare garage, like something you’d find in a medieval castle. I did wonder whether it would overpower the patio.
I used marigolds to give the displays a burst of colour. Those little yellow and orange flowers were like knights of the realm protecting the tomatoes from white fly. Surprisingly, the planter didn’t look too bad and has softened the expanse of white that was there before.
I still have a quest to fulfil though, which is to plant the Alicante tomatoes into grow bags. Not an easy task. I have about 25 plants and a toddler who has taken to pulling my delicate little seedlings out by their stems in an effort to help Mummy. I think a couple or so will have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
I can’t wait to see his little face when in the height of summer he toddles into the greenhouse, pushes the lush green foliage aside and discovers the little red gems waiting to be eaten. Having said that, he will probably stumble in, trip over the door frame or the Queen and, in an effort to steady himself; grab the plant pulling the whole lot out in the process! Fingers crossed that the tomato plants and our little gnome make it through the summer unharmed!
I love the arrival of daffodils in my garden. They signify the start of spring and their blanket of yellow is like a wash of sunshine after a dreary winter.
It saddens me when they begin to fade and I look forward to their return the following year. This season I vowed to pay special attention to my daffs, in the hope they would repay me with an even more impressive display next year. I diligently deadheaded them by pinching off the withered flowers and seed pods, which redirects energy back into the bulb rather than into seed production.
Then I left the leaves in place allowing photosynthesis to continue; charging the bulb with even more energy. However over the past few weeks, whilst wandering around my neighbourhood, I noticed many of the unruly leaves had been ‘tidied up’ into neat knots. Eventually only mine remained in a tangled mess and I begin to feel that I was letting down the area.
In a vain attempt at ‘keeping up with Joneses’ I promptly set about neatening my borders. I carefully separated the matted leaves; twisting and folding them into neat bunches. Then using some loose ends I secured the knots; rather like styling a pony tail. My clusters may not have been as well-ordered as the neighbours’ but still I was rather pleased with the result.
Feeling rather smug I went indoors to peruse the RHS website… only to discover they do not recommend this knotting of daffodils! Apparently it hinders their ability to function and as a result can cause ‘Daffodil Blindness’ – a condition where the foliage grows but the flowers fail to form. Instead it is advised that the leaves are left loose for around 6 weeks until they turn yellow; at which point they may be removed. My vanity had got the better of me and I have probably done more harm than good. However a lesson has been learned, and in future I will do my research first before ‘blindly’ copying others.
Our next guest blogger is Charlotte, telling us about her struggle with everyone’s favourite little yellow nuisance…
I’m ashamed to reveal that my lawn contains a higher proportion of moss and daisies than grass. However, I can live with this; in fact I find the happy faces of the little daisies smiling at me rather pleasing as I wander down the garden path.
It’s their dandelion companions that bother me. Despite my best efforts to eradicate the yellow menaces, every day when I open the curtains more have appeared overnight. Unable to tackle the problem alone I’ve enlisted the support of my sons with the invention of a new game – Operation Dandelion. With buckets in hand we each, on the count of 3, race around the garden, battling to pick the most yellow heads until the lawn is rid of them. We then count them out to determine the winner. Rather disconcertingly in the last game we each filled our buckets with over 100 flowers! And in spite of our determination the next day more had raised their heads as if to taunt us.
The key to obliterating this weed seems to lie in removal of the entire plant. It has a long deep tap root which can be difficult to extract in its entirety and often snaps unless it is first loosened. It’s crucial that the whole root is removed otherwise the plant may regenerate.
Dandelions are one of our most common and recognisable weeds, largely due to their incredible method of seed dispersal. What child can resist blowing the beautiful seed head or ‘dandelion clock’ and watching as the seeds float away in the breeze? Even I cannot fail to smile at my toddler’s joy upon finding a stray flower which has survived ‘operation dandelion’ long enough to go to seed. I join in his pleasure as he gently holds the stem and blows, dispersing the tiny seeds across the lawn. All the while I try not to imagine them settling between the blades of grass ready to produce next year’s carpet of yellow.
However irritating, I can nonetheless appreciate that to many, the dandelion is considered a delicious and versatile plant. My guinea pigs certainly seem to enjoy munching them and I myself am partial to a cup of dandelion tea to cleanse the system. In fact I think that rather than fretting about their spread I should instead relax with a cuppa and enjoy the many apparent health benefits dandelions can offer.