The early summer is flying by. I can draw breath today because I am at home looking after my 9yo son, who is suffering with a nasty summer cold (the worst sort to my mind), and wasn’t up to the school’s Swimming Gala. Other than that, it’s hectic.
At The Manor the mowing regime is in full swing. Eight lawns need constant cutting, which takes more-or-less one and a half days each week – with any ‘spare’ time devoted to weeding and tidying. Elsewhere, in other clients’ gardens, the need to mow is not quite so pressing, especially in dry weather when the growth of grass slows down somewhat. But there is still lots to do. Many early perennials are now over for the year, so lupins, poppies, delphiniums, irises and others need a good tidy-up. Aquilegia seed heads need taking off before they spread too widely (especially as the seedlings are usually quite ‘plain’ when they flower), as do the flower-heads of Alchemilla mollis which would otherwise seed everywhere. Digitalis and Verbascum need their spent flower-spikes removing as they just look tatty when they die back; and I have been taking perennial Geraniums back to the emerging small leaves once they’ve flowered, in the hope of a second flush of growth and more flowers later in the summer.
The Verbascums in my own front garden have been spectacular so far, with the tallest measuring about 15 feet tall – its yellow flower spike disappearing into the leafy branches of a nearby sycamore tree. These are Verbascum thapsus, the common mullein, which boasts an amazingly long list of vernacular names – Aaron’s Rod, Duffle, Fluffweed, Lady’s Candles, Old Man’s Flannel and Woundweed to name but a handful. They are biennials, so will not live another season – but I hope seedlings will establish themselves from the three I planted, as they’re quite spectacular plants, however ‘common’.
Lysimachia, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’, Alliums, Lavender, Valeriana officinalis – working together quite nicely
Elsewhere in my own garden, the Japanese Anemones and Hollyhocks have just come into flower in the past day or so, while the Hemerocallis are coming to an end after a great show for about three weeks. I only have the dusty orange Hemerocallis fulva established, but picked up a red one (H.’Stafford’) the other day and will get that going as they like the conditions here.
In the greenhouse I have two new tomatoes. One is the (much-promoted) ‘Tomtato’, about which I remain ambivalent as a concept, but which I was sent gratis to try out. The tomato end of it is certainly thriving. The other tomato is ‘Maskotka’ which I have grown from seed. This is a trailing/basket variety, which I’ve not tried before – but which has had some decent reviews for both flavour and cropping. These are all in large tubs, so can be moved outside in due course.
One last success is a terrific crop of Verbena bonariensis, again grown from seed. I must have thirty or more healthy, vigorous young plants coming on in pots. I am slightly stuck as to where they will all end up. I imagine some will go to clients’ gardens, and others will be popped into the perennial borders at the front and back of the house for height, movement and colour. When I was a student at Sparsholt College there was a long border planted entirely with V. bonariensis, which looked absolutely spectacular. A lovely plant, slightly overdone I think in recent years, but still a lovely plant.