Sweet pea

Above: Sweet pea, July 2004

Garden diary: June

3 July 2003

After the "phew what a heatwave" of our record-breaking June, it's been raining for as long as I can remember. Which isn't as long as it might seem - we're not talking biblical proportions and I've not seen Noah - I have a rubbish memory whose ineffectiveness has been compounded by recent events. I do remember that it started raining last Friday evening, and it's hardly stopped since, as far as I can tell.

It was certainly somewhat damp yesterday evening as I struggled heroically with the burgeoning sweet peas. These were so carefully trained to begin with, but as I've been a little under the weather recently, the sweet peas, being literally under weather that involved heavy precipitation, had been bent and bashed and appeared to have grown another metre without being attached to anything. In the manner of sweet peas they'd used their tendrils to cling to things to hoist themselves up. The things chosen are often a nearby flower stem, meaning your sweet peas end up with bent stems that are sometimes so bendy it's hard to get them to stay in a vase. And I grow sweet peas to put in vases, either my own vases or those belonging to friends and family, who are usually forced to take a bunch of sweet peas home with them. So bent sweet peas are no fun.

In the growing gloom and rain, as dusk approached, I attempted to reattach the main stems of the sweet peas to the garden canes they're supposed to be supported by, and removed some of the wandering tendrils so they didn't cramp the style of the flowers growing up from lower down.

The delphiniums are going over too, with some forming seedheads. I believe if you cut the flower stems down to the ground you can get good spikes of flower growing up later in the season, but I couldn't find ground level under all the foliage, so I settled for cutting off what I could see - not much, as it was somewhat dusky out there by then. I was glad to see, this morning, that I hadn't accidentally deheaded all my flowering dahlias instead.

I haven't wanted to go out there much since Spike died. I did wonder if I'd ever like the garden again. I wondered if I liked the house now, whether it still feels like home. I moved some furniture round, in an attempt to remove some sad associations, and did some serious cleaning (about time, many might say). I've also wondered about knocking down Millennium Shed, which became "Spike's shed" when he was ill and seemed to like sitting there, so now I don't like sitting in it myself so much. But I guess this will pass, and demolishing an outbuilding is perhaps a rather dramatic reaction to grief. Though the original part-demolition was probably inspired by similar feelings, and I know that bashing tiles from walls is also good grief therapy, on occasions.

The garden's birds have once again helped to redress the balance, when things have seemed a bit gloomy. I've never seen so many birds in the garden as there have been in the last week or two. I guess maybe this is the only garden round here that has food now all year round, as I can't otherwise explain the vast numbers of birds and the wide range of species. It's like that Hitchcock film out there, in a kind of "editor's cut when feeling happy and playful" kind of way. Everywhere you look there are birds, but they're all different kinds, and many of them are brightly coloured goldfinches, young twittering goldfinches, or baby sparrows trembling their wings, asking to be fed, so it's not exactly menacing. Along with the sparrows and goldfinches are several young blackbirds, starlings in numbers, collared doves, and now even chaffinches, with their young, and a wood pigeon. Most of the species have their young with them, and the young all carry on demanding to be fed even when they've obviously got the hang of it for themselves. I love seeing all the different species together, and the way they get along side by side. If only we humans could learn to do the same.

Back to July highlights and diaries


Crocosmia 'Lucifer' in bud, July 2004

Above: Crocosmia 'Lucifer' in bud, July 2004

Garden diary: August