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Mid-Summer Flowers

July 20, 2016

Lavender tends to get over-watered here in the garden and ends up leggy and loose and then outgrows the space. It’s now re-planted in full sun in window boxes on the two balconies outside the sitting room windows.  Centranthus ruber ‘Alba’ a perennial plant that tolerates drought and relies on nothing more than rain water to thrive is in the mix too.

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A row of 3 m high Hydrangea aspera villosa are towering over the garden shed with a huge evergreen bay tree forming the backdrop. It’s lovely and will flower for weeks and I’ll save the flowers to spray silver for Christmas decorations.

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Other hydrangeas are in bloom as the garden enters mid-summer.  This is H. Madame Emile Mouillere which looks great in the bed but also makes a fabulous cut flower.

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All areas are changing as summer moves on with groups of the Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ flowering and standing in where roses have finished.DSCN7029

On the allotment the last sowing of beetroot has been made and lots of dwarf French beans sown directly in the ground. I never have huge success with this crop but I’m trying again and have put lots of spent coffee grounds over the bed to deter slugs. Strangely they ignore beetroot, flat-leaf parsley and fennel all sown directly in the ground and the emerging young leaves never get touched.

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The Rainbow chard and Ruby chard is flowering so it’s been cut hard back to re-sprout and a new row of Swiss chard seeds sown to get more leaves in Autumn. This was it at its peak about six weeks ago.

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Curly Kale is looking good and will stand in for leaves whilst the chard re-grows and there’s lots of summer Brocolli ‘Marathon’ producing florets now. Here it is steamed for 2 minutes and griddled for 5 minutes before adding to char-grilled courgettes in a salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, soya sauce, garlic and honey.DSCN7042

I wouldn’t normally pick Verbena bonariensis in quantity but I needed to move a few clumps when it grew to tall for the bed.  Inevitably since it was 1.80 cm the brittle stems broke so I cut back Stipa tenuissima and alliums to put with it and it’s a meadow in a vase.DSCN7033

Simple Pleasures

July 13, 2016

I peeped into a poly tunnel in a walled vegetable garden at the weekend and this huge clump of flowering dill took my breath away. It rarely performs like this out in the fresh air on the allotment but I shall try sowing it in a corner in the green house next year.

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At home the Geranium psilostemon is looking good and adding much needed pops of colour.

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And a few Dahlias ‘Happy Days’  are dotted around the Cistus ‘Sunset’ making a lively combination. These are new to me and although the flower stems are short there’s a profusion of flowers that go on for weeks.

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I spotted this bee covered in pollen in a magnificent Lavatera possibly ‘Burgundy Wine’ in a local garden. It’s a good shrub for filling gaps and the large flowers bloom for weeks at this time of year.

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Many vegetables can be grown in limited space and in the smallest of containers. These parsnips were sown from seed in a plastic potato planter to flower late summer to brighten up the back lane.

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Allotment blackcurrants, picked this week, weighed in at 2 kilos thanks to the net curtain that kept the birds off. The row was weeded regularly and the three bushes were fed with a fertiliser in Spring.

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The first crop of beetroot was ready too and the healthy and colourful leaves washed and simmered in a small amount of water with a knob of butter.

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The cut flowers are sweet peas from a friend’s garden.

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And in a favourite Indian pot a bunch of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ mixes with the drumstick Allium sphaerocephalon and the leaves of Sambucus nigra.DSCN6959

Mid-Summer and New Phase

July 6, 2016

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The garden changes rapidly at this time of year with the glorious roses now rain-soaked and seemingly over which leaves the palette largely green.  But a forest of Verbena bonariensis is about to bloom in the main parterre and there are pockets of colour elsewhere.  Crocosmia Lucifer is opening with its extraordinary primitive flowers cheering up a shady border under the dark maroon leaves of Sambucus nigra.

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Cistus ‘Sunset’ has been flowering since May and is likely to go on till October and is looking gorgeous.

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Two clematis are filling empty spaces really well. C.Jackmanii below is climbing and mingling with a Vitis purpurea against the wall.DSCN6935

And the herbaceous clematis C. Jouiniana Praecox, with its dark green leaves setting off pale violet flowers, is scrambling through empty spaces at ground level and looking very pretty.

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A blight alert was sent by the site rep on the allotment so I sped down to lift the Charlotte potatoes and all was well. We had our first supper of spuds steamed and drizzled with butter and mint. They accompanied broad bean burgers, available from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, but my photograph looked like a dog’s dinner so you will have to trust me on that.

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But with a warm and wet summer vigilance regarding blight is necessary and the same for outdoor tomatoes. Greenhouse ones are less susceptible which is a relief since this is my first year and they are looking good but I’ll be checking them regularly.

The seeds of Calendula Indian Prince dead-headed and saved in an envelope last year were scattered six weeks ago are now brightening up the allotment.DSCN6912

And I keep picking this Few-Leaved Hawkweed growing against a garage door in the lane and I rather like the simple form.

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Give Peas A Chance

June 29, 2016

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It’s terribly tempting to snack on raw peas on the allotment …

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but this week I’ve resisted and a mushroom and pea risotto is planned.

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It’s so exciting to find the first tomatoes nestling on the plants in the pop-up greenhouse. I’ve been feeding with Tomorite every 2 weeks to give the plant the micro-nutrients needed.  Growing in the ground rather than in a grow-bag means a balanced feed is essential.

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The first squash has also emerged and the tips of the plant pinched out to stop it roaming and reducing the crop.

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Lychnis coronaria is looking great in the back lane and has been in flower for weeks.

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It’s a short-lived perennial but it does seed itself and responds well to division from March to May. I found several clumps on the allotment from a division in April and one of these was lifted out and gently separated at the roots. It made five new plants for the main garden and as a stalwart will contribute colour and height mid-summer next year.

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The mottled-leaf of the nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) makes a great contribution to the smallest of vases. If picked when tiny the leaves add an intense peppery flavour to mixed salad leaves.

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The Hungry Gap Has Closed

June 22, 2016

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The allotment is beginning to fill with various beans climbing their supports and lots of tomato plants in flower in the new greenhouse. The paths have been strimmed – an irksome but essential task and it always improves the feel of the space. Broad beans, spinach and summer calabrese are cropping and beetroot and flat-leaf parsley sown six weeks ago are growing well.

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And it’s onion central here in the porch. These were planted from sets last Autumn and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time that I’ve planted before Spring. They filled out the beds and gave form from the start of the growing season.

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The potatoes leafed up relatively early too so within weeks the allotment looked as if it meant business. Broad beans have started to grow strongly after a faltering start and are covered in flowers with the first substantial crop this week.

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The garlic is small but good enough ( 2 rows were lost to rust).

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And the courgettes have produced their dramatic flowers in the last two weeks …

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I picked a small vase of Iceberg roses for a moment of calm and tranquility.

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Glorious Roses

June 15, 2016

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June is for roses and I’m over my fantasy of limiting the garden to white and green plants-well in summer at least.  Madame Isaac Pereire (above) kicked off my conversion and I hope to train this rose to climb and line the wall to mingle with the purple vine Vitis purpurea. The garden is now full of roses: soft pink, strong reds, dramatic maroons and all chosen for their scent.  Below Ferdinand Pichard a repeat-flowering old rose opened this week.

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And above it to one side Rosa Veilchenblau.

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R.Felicia a hybrid musk with a strong fragrance has been in the garden for several years and this summer has a gorgeous profusion of flowers.

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Another old resident Rosa rubrifolia is a great rose for cutting with simple open flowers and remarkable purple/pink leaves.

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In my neighbour’s garden  the wild R. Complicata with its brilliant pink petals and large stamens is a robust and trouble-free rose.

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As is the climber Blush Noisette with a clove scent and the promise of repeat flowers.

DSCN6806The modern shrub rose Cerise Bouquet seems to have turned into a climber. It has clambered into her walnut tree and is in bloom high up in the branches.

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I’ve picked three vases this week of roses and Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ and put them with a pretty white- flowered weed with no name.

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A shady corner caught my eye with a very lush Hydrangea petiolaris in flower and lining the wall in deep shade. It is suspended over a Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’ fern.

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In an inspired experiment I cut three stems of the hydrangea for a vase and they are still looking good four days later. I love the greenness against a favourite very green oil painting.

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On the allotment Autumn King carrots have been sown and more Squash seeds pushed into the ground. All the onions are now lifted and drying but the garlic was hit by leek rust and only one row of the three was salvageable. I brought all the garlic plants home to destroy rather than composting and just hope that my recently planted leeks don’t get hit.

Keep it Simple

June 8, 2016

I am inspired by this front garden planting where the lavender has nothing to compete with and is simply soaking up the sun. It lines two sides of a paved square 3 m x 3 m with a pendulous tree in the centre, possibly Salix Caprea, and with a path up to the front door. The refuse bins were out for collection so I was unable to photograph the whole thing but what a brilliant solution for interest and low maintenance. The paving gently slopes towards the plants to keep them watered when it rains.

DSCN6735  Who would choose to park a car rather than this pretty view? Well two doors along they would apparently.

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Good planting doesn’t have to cost a fortune and can be really easy to manage as here with Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ growing next to Cheiranthus ‘Bowles Mauve’ through pea shingle and self-seeding. It’s a small public space with a bench at the end for people to sit and enjoy the view.

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Then round the corner on a pedestrian walkway Pyracantha is in flower and with bright orange berries to follow in Winter.  It’s planted in a bed 30 cm wide against a brick wall and relies on rainfall and not much else and is thriving.

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And all along the pavements next to garden walls the simple beauty of campanula filling every nook and cranny.DSCN6765

On the allotment a bed of onions is now lifted to make room for Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I forked the ground over then dug a trench and lined it with chopped comfrey leaves before drawing the soil back and planting the PSB.

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And the purple peas are flowering steadily and as soon as the pods fill they’ll be picked.

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Phlomis fruticosa makes a great cut flower especially at the stage before the flowers have fully opened.

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These were picked on the allotment with the Nigella ‘Love in a Mist’ and by the time they were placed in the jug the phlomis had bent double and drooped. However six hours later they were upright again and the lime green leaves and fat green balls look stunning mixed with the blue nigella.

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