I’ve been passing a wet, windy cold afternoon by wandering around some of the lovely gardens which take part in the End of Month View meme. How verdant and floriferous they appear, I can almost hear the murmur of insects and feel the warmth of the sun!
I have been growling and muttering throughout May as the vegetable garden has remained bereft of plants, apart from the onions, potatoes and some meshed-covered beds which are allegedly sheltering seedling carrots, parsnips and beetroot, but in reality I think I’m nurturing chickweed. The Jerusalem artichokes are looking downright bilious and the rhubarb resembles the ragtag parade of a defeated army. In desperation I planted the first broad bean and pea plants in the fruit cage where they are making a brave effort but definitely sulking. Fortunately life in the polytunnel is a little more cheerful, although we’re reaching crisis point as the number of plants waiting to be hardened-off and planted grows exponentially. There is so much to look forward to and the first of the crop are always the sweetest!
With the start of a new month I’m going to spend the summer in a miasma of gloom unless I adopt a more positive attitude. So this morning when I set-off to water the seedlings in the polytunnel, I was determined that I would find something to photograph in the cottage garden. As I walked across the field down to the garden I could see the next Atlantic front rapidly approaching from the south, and mused over whether there was an algorithm which could predict how many layers ± hat, gloves and or waterproofs were required based on the strength and the direction of the wind and at what point it was just a good idea to stay indoors.
The cottage garden is best described as curate’s egg – good in parts. I will gloss over the less good: the bare patches where I lost plants in the winter and where I’ve been unable to replant yet; the brown and crispy bits, where plants have been scorched by the wind and are deciding whether life is worth living; and the “seed beds” where I’m hoping the seedling will be garden plants and not the usual assortment of chickweed, nettles, buttercups, docks et al.
However, there are a few sheltered areas where some of the garden stalwarts are doing their best to make the borders look less like a wasteland. All the aquilegias are derived from a single packet of seed and over-time they have been profligate and I now have a selection of flower shapes and colours. I really ought to cull some of the more insipid colour forms, but en-masse they are like a cloud of pastel butterflies dancing in the wind (sorry my photography is dancing in the wind too, so no need to call the optician).
In contrast the kniphofias, defiantly confront the wind, blazing beacons of colour on illuminating grey days. Named in honour of the German botanist Johann Hieronymus Kniphof they have too often been regarded as vulgar and rather bad taste. This seems a perfectly good reason to champion their cause, particularly as they thrive in my garden in the poor sandy soil and erratic climate. If you prefer something a little more subtle, lady’s mantle, Alchemilla mollis, will also brighten up a dark corner. The scalloped, limey-green leaves are often speckled with quicksilver droplets of rain, which are shed in a rainbow shower as the wind ruffles the leaves. Later the sculptured leaves with disappear under a frothy haze of tiny, chartreuse flowers. I know it has a bad reputation for self-seeding everywhere, but to me they are small gifts to fill some of the more difficult garden corners. It’s smaller cousins, A. alpina and A. erythropoda, are more discreet, creeping through the boulders and having to be rescued from the more aggressive sedums.
The assorted alliums are tardy and sulky this year, with the exception of reliable A. moly, which is ready to explode in a golden shower of starry blooms, whilst seeking to dominate every plant and the border, even the kniphofias. It may be a pretentious thug but it has great charisma. As for the rest whether they are destined to be the prima donnas or shrinking violets of the herbaceous border, they had better get their act together and toughen up. It is now June and Atlantic depressions, monsoons, storm force winds or balmy summer days, this week they will finish their acclimatisation and be evicted from the polytunnel. It is time to garden!