Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Above: Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Garden diary: July

1 August 2001

This week I have been mostly looking at . . . trees

I don't often look at my garden from the "lying on the grass" angle, and when I do I really appreciate the trees that were inherited with the garden. Particularly fine just now is the Sorbus (Mountain Ash), which this year is laden with berries that are just turning orange. Berries turning orange look good against a blue sky. Every now and then the swifts passed overhead, still screeching delightedly as they've been doing since May, tireless and eager.

I would like to be tireless and eager, but today had to settle for tired and calm. At last finding my head becoming clear, like the August sky above me.

18 August 2001

Plant highlights

Inula hookeri - a yellow daisy, a small piece of which I brought from my sister's garden a couple of years ago. Since then it has spread to form a huge clump, growing more vigorously each year.

Golden hop - this herbaceous climber is, I'm pleased to see, covered in its tiny insignificant flowers. The flowers are nothing special, but the hops that form from these flowers make an impressive display in the autumn.

Monarda didyma 'Cambridge Scarlet' - just now covered with its shaggy-petalled red flowers. Always a favourite because of the refreshing scent the whole plant carries.

Lilies - I have three lilies sold to me a few years ago as Lilium regale 'Album'. Having since grown Regal lilies I've realised, as a visiting gardening friend suspected, that these were mislabelled. I think they are maybe 'Casa Blanca', one of the oriental hybrids. No matter. They are beautifully scented, beautifully formed, and flowering just now to liven up the August garden.

Bird life

The resident male blackbird has been seen on several occasions sitting on the wicker chair in the sunshine, sunning himself with his wings spread out, preening his feathers. He seems to be moulting his old feathers all over the garden, and seems to have no tail just now. Despite this he seems perky and is eating the berries of the Rowan tree, accompanied by another bird which looks like one of his now fully-grown offspring.

More on the blackbird sunbathing . . .

The swifts were still screeching in the skies above my garden for the first couple of weeks of August, but I think they may have departed now. One evening recently I watched them for a long while, and thought I could see smaller birds among them, young ones maybe. This year I've appreciated swifts more than ever - such amazing birds.

The starlings congregate in the late afternoons now, huge groups of them appearing at this time of year. Their song isn't a lovely melody, but I still like all that chattering and whistling, and associate it with the movement towards autumn.

Garden tasks

I've been 'tidying up' in the garden, doing some cutting back. I like the wild look, but I had to take some action when I realised that unless you were a very tiny, very thin person, it was virtually impossible to get around the garden comfortably. Not only were the paths overhung by great curtains of foliage from archways above, but the plants by the sides of the paths were flopping over them. Trying to wander through the garden after the recent rain showers meant getting drenched by wet foliage.

There's been removal of some plants as well - the Malva had finished flowering, and were being blown over by the wind. Likewise the foxgloves. In a larger garden I'd maybe leave everything to set seed, but here I have to reclaim small spaces, and when biennials have finished I need the space for late-flowering Nicotiana sylvestris, which were still in pots waiting to be planted.

Though this is a 'wildlife friendly' garden, it is also a small town garden, so some intervention is necessary to keep a balance.

27 August 2001

August can feel like the month marking the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The freshness of greenery faded a while ago, but you begin to notice it in August. Suddenly it's getting dark again in the evenings before you've had chance to tidy up the heaps of compost and garden debris from the day's gardening. The plants have flopped into one another attractively, but you know that underneath that tangle there are plants dying off swamped by more vigorous growers . . .

So, in the last week, I've cleared up. Underneath the tangle I did find plants almost suffocated, and these have been rescued.

I also made a pond, and built a raised bed in 'Woodland Corner'. More of these things later - all the digging has left me exhausted.

Plant highlights

Golden hop (again . . .) - Ten days ago I commented on the formation of this plant's 'flowers'. The hops I was anticipating are formed now, on the part of the plant on the south-facing wall that receives most sunlight.

Dahlia - On a shopping trip to buy something else entirely I spotted a sad-looking dried-out specimen of Dahlia 'Ellen Houston'. This was reduced to half-price, and the only one left. It did look disheveled and slightly wilted, but I had been wanting a dahlia like that all summer . . . .

The half-price wilted dahlia would have to do, though I didn't fancy it would ever look impressive. The woman at the checkout took off the 'half-price' label, as if I was going to be giving this plant to someone else as a gift. I was slightly worried by this - some of my gift ideas have been off the mark, but I've never wanted to present anyone with a wilted dahlia carrying dead flowers.

'Ellen Houston' soaked for hours in a deep bucket of water, and I removed the dead flowers. She miraculously revived, and now looks fabulously brash in the middle of all that yellow, with Nasturtiums frothing about around her. The first time I've bought a wilted 'bargain basement' plant - worth it on this occasion.

Back to August highlights and diaries



Above: Heliotropium

Garden diary: September