Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Above: Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Garden diary: July

3 August 2002

This is one of those weeks when I feel I've let the garden go, stopped feeling so connected to it. This does happen sometimes. Though this website could give the impression that I spend all my time in the garden, and that everything out there is always tended to, this isn't really true. It sometimes looks really good, sometimes it looks disappointing, and sometimes things die off and I don't know why. As well as the Woodland Corner and Kitchen Corner there is of course a Messy Corner - and sometimes several.

In Messy Corner at present is my Witch Hazel "Hammamelis x intermedia "Diane", which seems to have died. I noticed it ailing, and tried to give it more careful attention, but it appears to have given up. I'm reassured by the fact that my mother said she had one once that died for no obvious reason. (Though on the other hand it's worrying as I bought her a "Pallida" Witch Hazel for her 70th birthday.)

Enough of the failing bits. Exciting this week was my discovery of the small just-forming "catkins" on my Garrya elliptica, which had an excellent display over the winter before last, but then nothing over this most recent winter. These catkins, I remember, lengthen slowly from now until the autumn, and by February are swaying elegantly in the breeze.

In the central area of the garden, the Heleniums are full of flower. Though I didn't consider it when I relocated "Moerheim Beauty" to the flowerbed in the centre of the garden, a really nice effect just now is the way the colour of its flowers reflects the similar orange of the berries on the Sorbus (Rowan) behind it. This tree is large now, but still has an open canopy of spreading branches, and one of these reaches out over the central flowerbed, just over the orange Helenium. The berries will disappear soon, eaten by the birds, who previously demolished the entire crop of Morello cherries.

My mini-lawn does now look like real turf, which is reassuring. I'm hoping that this apparent thickening up will stand it in good stead over the autumn and winter, when last year it looked thin and bald and muddy. I must remember not to trample about on it too much when the weather's wet.

The golden hop has advanced impressively over the side wall and other available surfaces nearby, forming a great mound of golden foliage. This plant, each year, starts off beautiful, with bright new growth, then gets covered in whitefly and looks terrible, then gets covered in ladybirds and their larvae, which eat all the pests, then it somehow gets a second wind, and looks fantastic again by the summer. I particularly appreciate the way its golden leaves seem to light up shady Kitchen Corner.

21 August 2002

My dahlias, grown from dry tubers and from cuttings, have put on growth, and some are flowering, though others look a little like they're lagging behind. The Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff", bought as a well-grown plant from a local garden centre, has been flowering for many weeks now, as has a smaller dahlia called "Firebird", red with a yellow centre, that I bought as a dry tuber early in the year. I managed to keep the tuber of Dahlia "Ellen Houston" over the winter, mollycoddled her through a touch of tuber rot, and took some cuttings.

I thought dahlias were plants I really didn't like, plants I could turn my nose up at as being a bit brash and common. Horticultural snobbery is something we all have in some form or another, I guess. There are still plants I don't enjoy particularly and wouldn't want to grow, but dahlias are now on my list of "need a lot of effort but are worth it" plants. I'm not sure if my dad grew dahlias when I was young, but some garden I spent time in in my childhood must have had dahlias, as the smell of the plants is particularly resonant to me, and seems like a very early childhood memory. Geraniums too (more properly "Pelargoniums"), remind me of childhood, and the greenhouse with its galvanised metal trays, paraffin heater and row upon row of pelargoniums in clay plantpots.

The garden of my childhood years was a very tidy place, which is possibly why my own garden now is rather wild and messy. Today I wandered about wondering if I should just leave it to do its thing and get messier, or whether I should do a bit of pruning and trimming. I remembered that some things in the garden keep flowering until October, so I decided to do some tidying now, to try to keep things looking reasonable for a bit longer.

The golden hop looks magnificent, having draped itself artistically about the place. I love the way it twines exuberantly around other plants, but I did need to cut off a few creeping tendrils.

The Helenium "Moerheim Beauty" in the centre of the garden was a good focal point when it started to flower. It's still flowering, but is looking a bit ropey now, with long stems, lower leaves chewed to ribbons by slugs and snails, and flowerheads rather more sparse. I decided to risk moving it to a different position, near the runner bean tripod, which will prop it up until it finished flowering altogether. I do move things at "the wrong times" very often, following the Christopher Lloyd school of thought, that the "right time" is when you have the time and energy and motivation to do something.

There's another Helenium of the same variety, a less established plant, which is near the dahlias, and is about to flower. It's much later than the other "Moerheim Beauty" because I had to cut its growth back quite substantially when it started to make just a few rather long and unwieldy stems earlier on in the year. Having been reduced in size at that point it has, as I hoped, regrown from lower down, and its later flowering will be appreciated, its orangey-red flowers being a good late summer-autumn colour.

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Above: Heliotropium

Garden diary: September