Rose Mme Isaac Pereire, June 2004

Above: Rose Mme Isaac Pereire

Garden diary: May

2 June 2003

We're having a heatwave here, so I've tried to be out in the garden as much as possible, though remembering to limit the time in the sun, as I've not yet invested in sun screen and don't really like that red peeling look. So while lurking in the shade I've attempted to clear up some of the corners of the garden. I thought the garden was looking okay, but it's amazing what you find to do once you look more carefully.

There are many pots of bulbs that have faded now and look scruffy - I always have a problem knowing where to put these until the leaves die back entirely. I know they don't really like being stuffed into a dark corner, and seem to prefer some sun on their leaves to build flowering power for next year. So I try to place them in the sun but obscured from view as much as possible by something that looks a bit more like it's green and glowing with potential.

And there are lots of things green and glowing, as June begins. The month opened with fabulously extravagant blooms on a yellowy-caramel iris called "Butterscotch Kiss", while also in flower - and about as bright as it's possible for pink to be - is the rose "Mme Isaac Pereire". Solanum crispum "Glasnevin" riots across the wall in the south-west facing corner, sending out vigorous thick stems covered in the purple flowers with a yellow eye. It might look like the potato, to which it's related, but that doesn't affect my high regard of this plant, which is one of those that is so exuberant you've just got to feel cheered up by it when you see it waving its branches about on top of a wall.

Many things seem early this year. The roses started flowering in May and the peony which I'm sure usually flowers much later in the month is already in flower, as are the hardy geraniums (Geranium magnificum, I think), which mingle with the just-opening Allium christophii. These two form a subtle combination - not so the Clematis "President" (purple) which is now "complemented" (though some would disagree) by the bright apricot blooms of the rose "Bridge of Sighs". Rather a startling colour combination - Christopher Lloyd might approve.

The walls, and the trellis that tops them, have virtually disappeared from view now, under the growth of ivy, clematis, and any other wall plants I could find space for. I've tried to clip over some of the more exuberant growth of plants like early-flowering clematis, which have finished flowering now - and plants like ivy that don't mind when you prune them, because if I don't keep control of the plants on the walls I think they'll become so bushy that I'll end up with only about a metre of free space in the middle of the garden, between a tangle of planting that began on the periphery but ended up taking over.

This hot weather and sunshine is fantastic. I wait all winter for these days when the temperature outside is hotter than it is inside the house, so you just wander from house to garden without having to think about extra clothing, or footwear, and the wicker chairs can be left outside so there's somewhere to flop into when you get chance to be out there.

It's evening now - 8.15 - and the sun is beating in through the open window here at the front of the house, just as warm as it was during the heat of the day. Sparrows - maybe (I hope) the ones that nest in the eaves here above the window - are twittering noisily from the tired old laurel shrub. Even the tired laurel looks bright and fresh with new growth. And above it all the swifts, flying with their characteristic screeching call, hurtling through the beautiful blue of a big kind sky.

30 June 2003

May and June are my favourite time of the year, partly because of the freshness and lushness of the garden, but mainly because of the generous daylight and increasing warmth. If I didn't have a garden I would be wandering around somewhere else out of doors as much as possible. This June has been a fine one, weather-wise - the "flaming June" it's supposed to be.

In the small pond, the tadpoles are at last developing legs. This morning I saw one in the shallows at the edge of the pond that was like a perfect miniature of a frog, yet with a tail still, soon to disappear as the froglet develops. I had worried about my tadpoles, which seemed to be slow developers, so am glad to see signs of legs. The vegetation in and around the pond is well-grown now, providing cover for them when they emerge onto land.

The garden doesn't "peak" in June, particularly, as much space is taken up with plants that provide interest throughout the year. It would be nice to have a garden full of roses and peonies and delphiniums all in a blaze of colour, but much of the garden is filled with plants that provide colour in spring, autumn and winter too. The parade of colour is gradual, and most of the colour is green - provided by a background of foliage on the walls.

In flower now are the annual sweet peas of various types, the most strongly-scented being "Matucana", an old variety that has simple, non-frilly petals, but a stronger scent than any of the modern varieties. I'm pleased to have managed to nurse my delphiniums and protect them from the ravages of slugs and snails, so now several varieties, including the deep purple-blue "Black Knight", flower in the central flowerbed among the fading flowers of Allium christophii. On the archway, the jasmine and Clematis x jackmanii are beginning their display.

The stronger coloured flowers I usually associate with later summer have started earlier this year. Already beginning to flower are Crocosmia "Lucifer" and Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff", both a startling true red. My pale yellow Anthemis tinctoria is covered in flowers (also, unfortunately, covered in blackfly, which I'm trying to ignore).

The trees - there are three of them crammed into this small garden - are all now carrying developing fruit of some kind. The Rowan's orange berries I won't be eating, but the birds will, once they turn from their current green state. The Morello cherry tree, a rather diseased and strangely-shaped specimen, still produces an excellent crop of cherries each year, which the birds have already started to devour where they've begun to ripen on the highest branches. We occasionally manage to get a few of the Morello cherries for ourselves, to make one small pie, before the birds have the rest. The apples too are forming on the apple tree branches, ready to feed us and the birds later in the year.

I've got small sunflower and nasturtium plants ready to fill the gaps when the sweet peas go over. Aside from filling other gaps (there haven't been many) with bedding plants bought on the local market, I've been trying to trim back where necessary as some plants spill out rather too far and swamp others. In a garden as small as this one, I realise that constant vigilance is needed to keep all these rather crammed-in plants growing healthily.

Back to June highlights and diaries


Delphinium, June 2004

Above: Delphinium, June 2004

Garden diary: July