Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Above: Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

Garden diary: July

19 August 2008 - Rainy season

I keep trying to remind myself that rain is essential and that in other parts of the world the arrival of rain is greeted with joy and excitement. Here, earlier this summer, after a lengthy dry spell, I too was rather pleased when we then had some rain, and amused, when I opened the back door into the garden, to see several frogs (generally out and about in the hours of darkness) had emerged into the afternoon's rainfall, and that one was right in front of me, on the doormat.

The smell too is memorable, when rain first falls on dusty earth and pavements.

But it's been hard to keep a sense of wonder about the rain, as it feels like it's been raining for most of August. The garden looks exuberant and lush and verdant, and I try to go out and appreciate it as much as possible in the gaps between the rain showers. All that foliage hanging down from the overhead archways and trellis looks good, but I have to remember, when I go to the shed, not to open the door too quickly, or I get drenched by the accumulated raindrops all gathered in the clematis above, which I didn't cut back quite enough to achieve clearance between it and the top of the door. (I never do remember to stand back away from the deluge, the shed in question being where the washing machine lives, and I'm usually in a grumpy rush when handling the laundry.)

The red-flowered monarda has been flourishing in the dampness. Particularly perfect, and just noticed, is a deep-pink bloom on the rose Mme Isaac Pereire, just opened on the archway. This rose seems to be having a second flush of flower, as it did last year.

By August, the garden always looks a bit overgrown, and possibly slightly 'neglected' to those who prefer a tidy plot. By this time in the year, the pests and diseases have always taken their toll, and rather than put a lot of energy into trying to fight them, I find it easier to adopt an accepting kind of approach.

A good example this year is the caterpillars on the nasturtiums. I noticed the cabbage white butterflies fluttering around the leaves of the nasturtium plants, and how they disappeared behind a leaf every now and then. I realised they'd be laying their eggs. It would I guess have been simple enough to wander over there later and squash the eggs. But I didn't, and later noticed the large round leaves covered in tiny caterpillars chomping. I guess I could have squashed the caterpillars, but I didn't. Found them rather fascinating. Even though the ragged nasturtiums looked awful. The caterpillars left me with nasturtium leaves made up only of the stem and the veins of each leaf, sticking out like spokes, like the spokes of an umbrella.

I think, on balance, before the inevitable pest and disease problems set in, this summer the garden looked its best ever. Mainly because of the changes at the far end, simplifying things.

Instead of Woodland Corner with its bark path, then my pathetically small bit of 'lawn', then a slate chipping path, I've remodelled Woodland Corner, changed its shape a bit, and its path. Now the path, and the 'lawn' area alongside, are instead covered with slate mulch. I thought this might look a bit too depressingly grey, but actually it's a pleasant bluey-grey, and hangs together much more comfortably.

The rampant akebia on the boundary wall had to be removed, and a huge choisya shrub cut right back, as the wall needed repairing and repointing. So the wall, now bare of plants, looks rather obvious, but with the akebia gone, it's more open to the sky, and there's more light. And at last we found a garden table we liked, to go with the garden chairs we finally got around to buying. Not that it's been possible to sit on them much this month, with all the rain. Enough of my weather grumbles. I'm off to check that the pond hasn't overflowed.

Back to August highlights and diaries



Above: Heliotropium

Garden diary: September