Rose Mme Isaac Pereire, June 2004

Above: Rose Mme Isaac Pereire

Garden diary: May

12 June 2002

Sweet peas blooming

The autumn-sown sweet peas began to flower as June began, earlier than spring sowings. These plants had looked so feeble early this year, as if resenting being forced to grow through a chilly Yorkshire winter. Once the weather warmed up they began to thicken up and grow stronger, and this week I could cut the first few blooms. They are mainly the old-fashioned non-frilly varieties, "Matucana" and "Painted Lady", with a few "Chatsworth" (lilac) and "Valentine" (white) - more frilly, but less scented.

Current favourites

The Alllium christophii have also recently opened, following on from the May-blooming Allium "Purple Sensation". A purple-blue hardy geranium, which I think is Geranium magnificum, has bloomed in the last few days, and its blooms thread through the pink alliums. Delphiniums in various shades of blue are opening. As the longest day approaches, the light comes into the garden in the evenings and lights this central flowerbed.

It's rained a lot, and this has bashed down the heavy flowerheads of the Peony, which always look too heavy for their stems, and don't flower for long, but their very brevity makes them all the more special - a symbol of June itself, and the year reaching its peak in the light evenings before the longest day.

Solanum crispum "Glasnevin" has been flowering since last month, and its display continues unabated, with more buds still to bloom. I'm pleased it looks so robust and splendid, as I need it to fill the gap left by a pruned-almost-to-the-ground Clematis montana.

Monstrous montanas

They're called "montana" because in the wild they grow up mountainsides. If this isn't officially true, it should be. I spent the early part of June wrestling with Clematis montanas, which should be pruned just after they've flowered. If you miss a year you find yourself reeling in tendrils about 6 metres long, the kind of tendrils that when you pull them snap off tree branches they've wrapped themselves around. My pruning of the three that grow in this garden produced 2 full car-loads of "green waste" for the tip. It also resulted in a nasty snapped branch incident, bad temper, and RSI of my secateur hand.

In the front gardens of a new housing development very close by, someone has, it seems, planted a Clematis montana in the landscaped front gardens. I think they must have done this as a cruel joke, as the Clematis is planted against a wall just over a metre high. I can see a disgruntled landscape gardener thinking "aha, I'll put this in, and they'll have to come out here every week and prune it, while it sends out 6 metre-long tendrils overnight while they're asleep, and eventually wraps itself across the front door so they can't escape, ha ha!"

The green green grass of home

At last, our mini-lawn looks healthy, and like proper turf, and though it's not going to win a best-kept lawn competition, it is at last something that I don't feel I have to stand in front of to hide it if anyone comes to visit. I could almost hide it all by standing in front of it - it is that small.

26 June 2002

It's 9.40pm, and still light, with an amazing sunset that is casting a glow over the garden. The clouds are lit from underneath and have the look of clouds in oil paintings. The kind of paintings where the artist wanted the viewer to think about heaven and the majesty of creation.


In equally perfect shades of blue, and purple, the delphiniums are still flowering, and I do love them, particularly at the end of the day, when blue and purple flowers look so good. I know I bought "Black Knight", and a variety in a sky blue colour, but I also seem to have a white form, and, appearing unexpectedly this year, a truly splendid cobalt-blue variety, which I guess came in with the batch of Black Knight. I'm not complaining about this mislabelling, as it was an amazing colour.

The delphiniums don't have big heavy flowerheads - not being a delphinium expert I don't know if this is something to do with my cultivation of them, or just the way these varieties are - I think though I prefer these more subtle and airy blooms, which haven't needed lots of string and sticks to keep them upright.

Plant supports

I did remember though, this year, to do most of the necessary plant staking, and can see in some areas that the sticks and string around plants has stopped them flopping about and crowding out things around them. One or two things I can see I supported too low down, underestimating their growth. These however are flopping so elegantly now I think it's maybe best to leave them be.


The light at this time of year is fantastic, particularly in the evenings, which seem to find me out in the garden until around 10pm. In the early evening - other commitments permitting - I'm watering or deadheading or just staring at things and listening to the swifts flying overhead. Later as dusk descends there's even less actual gardening and even more aimless wandering. Marvellous. What June evenings were made for.

There are so many things flowering now, and more in bud, eagerly awaited.

After a wet start to June, things warmed up a bit and dried off, and now the plants that need sun have begun to look happier. Silvery foliage has turned properly silver, and the Nasturtiums have begun to develop flowerbuds. The dahlias have begun at last to look like they might do something before the autumn. One of them is flowering already, because I cheated, and got a well-grown specimen of "Bishop of Landaff" from a local garden centre.

Highlights both quiet and brazen

Much less showy, indeed not conventionally showy at all, are the flowers that have recently appeared on my Iris foetidissima, growing in Woodland Corner. This plant will apparently grow anywhere, so is no doubt taken for granted, like most "good doers" are. The flowers are maybe not flamboyant, but I found them exquisite and fascinating.

Also successful this year are the Crocosmia "Lucifer", which last year refused to flower, but this year are about to flower, in their new position the centre of the garden. I was watching the impressive spears of green foliage rather anxiously, wondering where the flowers were, when a few days ago in the bright morning sunshine I noticed these amazing tightly-packed flowerheads bursting from the centre of the leaves.

Colour combining

The colour combinations in this central flowerbed will be interesting, as this year I deliberately threw in a bit of bright colour, deciding I was tired of planting the same combinations. Having always been cautious about colours clashing, I have tried to carefully segregate the brighter colours from the pastel and "cooler" colours.

The central area was generally pink, blue and purple, and the other main planting area held the reds, yellows and orange plants. It looked good that way, but I fancied a change, inspired by Christopher Lloyd's Colour for Adventurous Gardeners. So red Crocosmia and orange Heleniums have been thrown into the midst of those calmer, cooler colours. There may be a hideous orange-magenta clash later in the season. Possibly too adventurous to be viewable without feeling queasy, in which case I'll have to stand a big green hosta between them, or something.

Bird life

This week saw young coal tits zipping about the garden and demanding to be fed by their rather tatty-feathered and exhausted-looking parent. There were definitely two young, and possibly as many as four.

Broken snail shells around the paths in the garden suggest there are thrushes in the area, and a robin was sighted briefly in the garden in the last week.

Most notable this month was a brief appearance by a bird I haven't seen since childhood - a bullfinch - which landed on the trellis screen very close to the kitchen windows as I was washing the pots, before disappearing equally suddenly.

There should be a lot of blackbirds also, as the resident pair have had two nests. My photos of the first blackbird emerging from the first nest are now available on the blackbirds nesting page (which I do hope you'll have a look at, as I hung about on a ladder for ages, with you the website visitor in mind). (I hope my OBE is in the post.)

Back to June highlights and diaries


Delphinium, June 2004

Above: Delphinium, June 2004

Garden diary: July