Tuesday 30 July 2013

Monday 29 July 2013

In an English country garden

The air was full of industrious buzzing this morning, as the bees found flower after flower to visit. Dozens of butterflies danced in the sun ... until I got my camera out ! Then, to a man, they all hot-tailed it to someone else's garden to do whatever they do, in private !

Garden Bumblebee on Ligularia
I hung about, trying to look inconspicuous, until they gained a false sense of security and returned.

I was interested in which plants were top of the popularity stakes, and my random little sample was quite interesting !

I wouldn't have thought that dahlia's would be high on a bee's wish - list of places to visit, but they were almost forming an orderly queue to get to this one. I spotted three bees on one bloom at the same time.

The various Ligularia flowers were a hit with bees and butterflies alike, and this Peacock butterfly was one of many visitors.

The bees seemed to prefer the tall flower spikes of  Ligularia 'The Rocket'.

Red-Tailed Bumblebee

The Scabious in the photo above, was a-buzzin' with bees pretty constantly, as, of course, was the Buddleia, the traditional favourite of the butterfly.

Peacock butterflies on Buddleia

Tree Bumblebee

The comma butterfly , above, is the only one I have ever seen in the garden. It looks as if it has been in the wars and lost its lower pair of wings, and you can still see the tattered edge remaining. Maybe that is why I managed to capture it on camera as it was not as nifty as it should have been !

Apologies for the following photo, the only one I managed to get of a Cabbage White - I swear there were swarms of them before I got my camera out ...

We don't get a huge variety of butterflies other than the ones shown in this post, there are occasional Common Blues and Red Admirals.

Not all insects are welcomed as warmly as the bees and butterflies though... when I saw this one, I elt my Squishing Thumb begin to itch ...

The Lily beetles are decimating my lovely lilies as I write, and must be stopped at all costs ! It is an infuriating beastie, as, when I pursue it, it drops off the lily (where I can see it perfectly), onto the soil (where I can still see it perfectly because it is bright red) then rolls onto its black back, and camoflages seamlessly with the soil. 

Friday 26 July 2013

Confessions from an English veg plot ...

If I am entirely honest, I have to admit that vegetable growing does not give me a lot of satisfaction. I have read all the articles about the feeling of pride and satisfaction derived from harvesting a crop grown from seed, and I know all the benefits of organic food and zero food miles. Because these benefits are  beyond dispute - I grow veg. But I don't enjoy it that much, and deep down I regard it as a chore. I'm not afraid of hard work, it's not that, I just don't get much pleasure from it.

Now, I do enjoy greenhouse gardening , and love growing tomatoes, chillies, peppers, chillies and aubergines under glass. I grow them all from seed and enjoy the whole process. I even enjoy eating them when they are ready for the table !

The ones I don't enjoy are potatoes, onions, beetroot - you know, the ones in little military rows ! I have tried growing them in an informal way, in amongst the flowers in the borders, but I just forget about them, and they go to waste. Good job I have a partner who does enjoy growing veg in the traditional way!

 Now, the fruit is a very different matter ! I can hardly wait for the raspberries and strawberries to ripen, and love to pick them when they are warmed by the sun. The blackcurrants are examined daily, when nearly ripe, and then there is an almighty race between us and the neighbourhood birds to see who gets them first !

Three years ago I planted a grapevine, and by happy coincidence, had a greenhouse built next to it ! The vine is very lucky as it will have optimum growing conditions, with its feet in the shade and its head in the warmth!!  I had a hole drilled through a window frame, so that the vine can grow through into the greenhouse itself. The tiny grapelets developing below will probably not ripen this summer, as they are 'outside' rather than 'inside'. 

People looking  round the garden are often surprised to see a fig tree in a Lincolnshire garden, but it has coped with extremely low temperatures over the last ten years or so, and faithfully produces a crop of figs every year.

Maybe the key to happy gardening is to just grow what you enjoy, and nip to the supermarket for the rest ... 

Thursday 25 July 2013

Four months ago today ...

Yes, it really was like this four months ago exactly ! To the day ! So hard to believe on this hot, sunny day.Cold, snowy, staying by the fire sort of weather, but I did venture out to take some photos of this little corner.

On days like that, I dreamed of days like these, and now those days are here, I never want them to slip away.

The snows of March finally went leaving the soil cold and wet, with no hint of Spring.

In April, when the soil was vaguely workable, I ventured outside again and dug out the wobbly old broom in the left of the photo, which was hanging onto life by a thread. I replaced it with a cutting of a climbing rose, 'Cinderella', which I had taken the previous summer. I put in an obelisk to support it, too.

I think it is sheer optimism which propels gardeners into the garden at this time, as it so hard to visualise what the season's growth will do.

This is early May and only a couple of weeks later, but there is a lot more growth evident. The delphiniums are through, as are the 'Gardener's Gaiters' (variegated grass).

This is June and everything is nearly at its peak, the hostas are out and the delphiniums are growing fast.

Apologies for the July shot ! For some reason, I omitted to take a photo of the bed when the delphiniums were out, but if you peep past the chilli plant in the greenhouse you can just see the sea of blue through the window !

The next months will bring cutting back and dying back and ... oh no ! the snow !

Wednesday 24 July 2013

A secret hidey-hole ...

Most people must be able to remember a secret place where they loved to go, as a child. The den in the shrubs, or up on a bough of an old apple tree or in a corner of the garden shed. When you recreate those places in your mind, the safe, warm feeling comes flooding back. Those secret places made you feel secure and protected from the world at large. When everything conspired against you, it was a place you could go to for solace. If you were in trouble at home or school, temporarily without a playmate or just plain sad, it was the place to head to.

My own children had a series of dens around the garden, and I remember us all being together in one of them, which was in the middle of a huge Box shrub, furnished with little stone seats. Outside it was raining hard and there was a huge storm. Inside, we were safe and dry, listening to the sound of the raindrops. It brought back those feelings from my own childhood very vividly, and I could see through my children's eyes for a brief moment.

So, as adults, does that need for a secret hidey-hole still exist? And if it exists, where do we go to get that fuzzy, warm feeling. There is so much to escape from in the real world, and we are accessible at all times by mobile or computer.

I have a place, way down the garden, where there is no phone, tv or laptop. No one can reach me, or even find me !

It is hidden away in the sub tropical garden, tucked away from sight, flanked by trellis covered in honeysuckle.

It smells of warm wood and dust and is full of only the things you REALLY need !

It contains a lantern, some candles, rickety chairs, cushions covered with bonfire spark burns, something to read  ('Gardener's World 2009'... honest !), a snuggle blanket to wrap up in when it gets chilly and some matches. Oh, and a bottle opener and corkscrew, naturally!

On summer nights we can sit down there through the growing twilight, talking, drinking a glass or two of wine, listening to the owls and the church clock chiming.

When I want to climb off the world for a little while, I can go down on my own and read, nap, or just ... sit ! The world seems very far away, and I can feel again that childlike feeling of being safe and secure.

If I want to look at the sky through a canopy of leaves, I can go and lie in the hammock (harder than it sounds - getting in is a real art !). I can swing gently and listen to the birds until I am ready to walk up the garden again and enter the world of phones and laptops again.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

The good, the bad and the twirly ...

The climbers are at their peak in the garden now, and what a jaunty band they are !

My perception is that they divide very firmly into two camps - the Good Guys and the Sneaky Guys.

 I have a covert respect for the Sneaky Guys, but they need to be watched with vigilence at all times. For them the only way is up ! Cocksure scalers of trees, fences and pergolas, they twine and twist their way to the stars, not caring how they get there. They can smother, strangle and choke any unsuspecting plants which get in their way.

Cunning and sly, they slip where they know they shouldn't, shunning your carefully constructed trellis or obelisk to strangle an innocent adjacent shrub. Their murderous tiny fingers  have to be uncurled from delphinium stems and foxgloves before they choke the life out of them.

The sneaky guys move like lightening when your back is turned...

 'Polish Spirit', the lovely purple clematis in the photo above, snuck into the fig tree seemingly overnight, weighting it down with its bulk, but I can't bear to do anything about it while it is smothered in flowers. It was safely on its trellis the last time I looked ! 

Golden Hop is as bold as brass, swinging effortlessly up into trees, like a trapeze artist without a net . It laughs in the face of caution and scrambles to the tips of high branches, vines wrapping exuberantly  around anything in its path.

But there are good guys too ...

The roses are, to a man, well behaved. They don't do the sneaky overnight growing and twirling thing, and they stay within their allocated spaces. Hard to fault with big, fragrant blooms often repeat flowering throughout the summer. For the most part, if you tie them in, they stay there. Sometimes a high wind will release them, when they will wave helplessly about, begging you, silently, to come and help them. Its true, some are vigorous and grow very strongly, but an annual prune shows them who is boss, and after that they are obedient .

'Cindrella' (above) is  always well behaved, growing strongly but not being disobedient. Smothered in flowers for most of the season, it is hard to fault.

Climbing rose 'White cloud' sticks to the rules ! 

Sweetpeas are good guys too, when they reach the top of their tripod they just wave about helplessly, waiting for rescue. Like children on a climbing frame, they stay on their tripod, and although they explore it fully, they don't leave it. Like children, they do need constant attention though, and if not regularly deadheaded they sulk and stop flowering.

Small flowered Cupani , in the photo below, is even more well behaved than the other Sweet peas, perhaps even a little  timid .

Above, is a really good guy - so good he can be eaten ! These are the flowers of 'Tenderstar' a cross between a French bean and a runner bean, which has no hairy or stringy bits ! Although it needs a good run of netting to grow up, it doesn't tend to sneak off anywhere else like the dastardly Golden hop or clematis !

Honeysuckle ... hmm ... ought to go on the naughty step, but with a scent so delicious, it can be forgiven anything ! It twines and twirls, slipping from the fence where it should stay, up through shrubs and hedges, robust and unstoppable. Impossible to kill off, even if you wanted to, easy to propagate through cuttings, which root incredibly quickly. And when you walk down the garden in the twilight of a summer evening, that rich scent is almost palpable. Got to be a good guy !

The Passionflower, in the photo below, is another thug, albeit another  lovely one. It has a sinister side to its beauty as it will cheerfully strangle anything in its path. It will shin along wires, and up posts, stealthily climbing up house walls and sheds. It is rampant and defiant, beaten only by icy weather which cuts it down to size. Often however, it rises again, zombie-like, to grow again, the following season.

But all the bad guys are nothing in comparison with the Godfather of all sneaky climbers ...

Columbine/ Bindweed ! I hate it ! I pull great thick ropes of it out of the trees and shrubs, yet it still comes back in a nano second. Like a teeny Boa Constrictor  it wraps around the stems of my innocent delphiniums and foxgloves, squeezing tighter and tighter until it strangles the life out of them. I painstakingly unwind a corkscrew of vine from around a treasured stem, but no matter how careful I am,  it still cunningly beheads the flowers at the last moment. Clearly a master criminal and one which I am determined to outwit.

So, those are the  Good Guys and Bad Guys in my garden, I wonder who you sit on the naughty step in yours ?