We continue to battle large numbers of weeds! Long days, heat and some moisture mean a struggle to keep things together, as usual at this time of the year. So I need you all to come and help, as you have been over the past few months. Thank you all for your hard work both in keeping the garden in good condition and for making the Plant Fair another great success.
June is a very colourful month in the garden. Even the Dining Room shrubbery, in need of replanting, is lush and vibrant with colours at this time of the year-pink from the roses, martagon lilies and Rose Bay Willow herb ‘Stahl Rose’, purple from the toadflax and white from roses and the white willow herb. Both of the willow herbs are special varieties, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they are any less invasive than the common sort- because they are not! Miller in his Garden Dictionary says this plant ‘was formerly planted in gardens for the beauty of its flowers; but as it usually spreads far by the creeping roots, whereby it over-runs all the neighbouring plants, it has generally been cut out of most gardens..’ Not out of Gilbert white’s it seems!
The dragon arums are now over- they have been spectacular, but the hollyhocks are now starting to bloom, and this will provide lots of colour all around the garden. At the moment we have pale lemon yellow, pale and dark pink, and there will soon be many more in bloom. They were popular with Gilbert White who mentions them over thirty times in the Garden Kalendar between 1751 and 1763. Miller doesn’t mention the need for staking in his care instructions given in the dictionary: but staking they most certainly need! Without being carefully tied up, after heavy rain they will be flat on the ground in the mud… and they never look quite so good when they have to be hauled up on strings1 Staking is an art which needs to be very carefully practised…. The right place to put the stakes, or stake, (and the best way to get it in the ground deeply and securely) the tension of the string, how many strings to use- these are all things that come (to some people at least!) with practice. Jim , my stalwart and invaluable helper for 25 years, would tress everything up tightly with bright orange baler twine- either that or place a big rock or house brick at the base of the offending plant- not really what I wanted. A ‘light string, taken in a cats cradle around the many flowering shoots of a plant, is usually the best way to keep the plant upright but natural- not looking staked at tall, which surely is the key objective. And the strings are best secured to the stake before winding around the plant, or otherwise they slip down and fail to give proper support. A clove hitch is an ideal knot for this purpose… if you can do it! We use Hazel sticks as Bamboo canes, we were told by Lord Selborne many years ago, would not have been used in an 18th Century garden. On the other hand, as Gilbert White had the Giant reed, with it’s bamboo like canes, perhaps…. Or perhaps not? Anyhow, as Christopher Lloyd (The famous author of the ‘Well Tempered Garden’) says, the watchword of staking is anticipation knowing when something needs it and getting there in time! So please, everyone, let’s get staking hollyhocks now before the rain comes. You’ll suddenly realise quite how many hollyhocks we have! New volunteer David (not me, but my name sake) has prepared a fine array of stakes, we have plenty of string…. So, no holds barred!
On the subject of staking, we have planted up the marigold bed by the shop doors, and the central sunflowers have grown so fast that not only have they outgrown their stakes, but the strings were cutting deeply into the stems! Left unattended, they would soon snap off at these pinch points, so now, released of their tourniquets, they now need an urgent re-staking. Nearby, the motherwort now stands waving gently in the wind by the garden interpretation boards (specifically, the Garden 250 years ago). One of my favourite plants, with purplish deeply cut leaves and pretty, but tiny pink flowers on 6ft stems, I once wrote an article remarking how this wonderful perennial needs ‘no staking’. Not actually true in exposed situations, but, well, nearly!
The deep pink of the Apothecaries rose, and that of the old gallica ‘Conditorum’ at either end of this bed are very similar. The purplish flowers of the hardy geranium G.macrorrhizum are striking at this time of the year, and blend well with the roses. This is an interesting plant, planted by Margaret for us as ground cover in the 1980’s, but which I thought was a little anomalous being introduced much later. In fact, I was very wrong, it was known in the 18th century as ‘Long rooted Crane’s bill’, and had actually been introduced much earlier- at the end of the 17th century -and was certainly growing in Oxford by 1648. The difficulties of garden history in the 1980’s! In the north rose bed the striped Rosa mundi is flowering well, although we didn’t get around to giving the purple flowered tradescantia (Moses-in-the bulrushes) the Chelsea Chop so now it is rather tall and floppy. In the centre of this bed the Jacobite rose, Rosa alba Maxima, is flowering well, the pure white flowers contrasting well with the grey green leaves which are typical of the alba group of roses. The deep maroon-crimson flowers of the rose Tuscany are superb, but sadly the blooms are fading and some dead heading is neded to keep it looking tidy.
Sue has been working hard in the herb garden and it is in pretty good order. The chives by the entrance have been divided, the sage is in flower- and oh yes, I must check if the greeny yellow spurge under the espalier pear tree is really the broad leaved variety, platyphyllos, which is quite rare, but reasonably common around Selborne. The Flora of Hampshire enters the first record as being found in Gilbert White’s field c1770. We have Caraway and Coriander and Summer Savory newly planted. The tall yellow shaggy flowers of Elecampane (Inula helenium) make a fine show growing through the big summer obelisk. The annual beds have been carefully planted by Rose, and contain spider plants, amaranths and cornflowers and many others.
We have both black and white bryony by the Cedar of Lebanon- the white (Bryonia dioica), is related to squashes, and invades the hedge: it has a root like a huge parsnip: the black, Tamus communis, is at the base of the cedar.; it is related to the yam, and has big black tuberous roots. The Flora of Hampshire says the white is less common on heavy clay soils- the one in the broad walk hedge shows no signs of disliking the heavy clay there! I remember a client of mine, a very skilled gardener, in the 1970’s saying why she couldn’t imagine why some people call their baby girls after this plant, as it invades borders and hedges alike!
In the orchard walk the Quatre Saison roses compete well with the growing tunnel of vegetation: many thanks Mike for taming the jungle and propping up the Buddleia! The Christmas trees in the Quincunx continue to grow, but not all equally well. They need careful weeding around and watering at this time of the year. Several of you have done battle in the veg garden and it is looking much better than it did a few weeks ago: in particular Keith, who has hoed and weeded steadfastly and is making great inroads on the upper, large, permanent crop beds, and Amanda who has looked after her splendid line of Flax (Linum usitatissimum- interesting one to pronounce, that!) . It has dainty blue flowers and has been sown as a thick line (rather like peas) for self support. Amanda is looking to use it to demonstrate linen production. It’s also known as the Linseed oil plant. Nearby, she has done great work tackling the sea of weeds around the squashes, as well as weeding the cabbages under the net. Elswhere, the purple podded peas have created a lot of interest, and the broad beans have filled their pods. But the wonderful stand of wheat has been trashed by the badger, as he does every year, so is now all horizontal instead of vertical.
In the Melonry, sadly, one melon plant has died (rotted off at the base despite Mandy’s careful attention, we needed the glass on when we had heavy downpours)) but the other is producing some small fruit. In the large new frame (made and given to us free of charge, thank you Tim!) we’ve sown some melon seeds in pots and all have germinated in their hills. These won’t be producing fruit, I guess, but will be fine demonstration plants. Next year, we’ll try for the super-early hot bed… but, who knows what the weather will bring? This year the park was virtually under water in February when we wanted to bring the manure in.
The cutting beds are in desperate need of attention, being the last in line of our attention when growth reaches crisis point. So we need a lot of help here!! Having said that we do have Painted Lady sweet peas, English marigolds, and cornflowers blue and pink in flower, with some other plants likely to flower if we can do some clearance of weeds: cutting bed recovery team please- any volunteers??!
The martagon lilies are flowering well again this year, and the nearby Medlar looks to have a reasonable crop of fruit. The Rambling Rector rose is now out of bloom, and needs some cutting back to keep it within bounds.
All in all there’s lots to see and even more to do in the garden this month, so I look forward to seeing you all at some of the sessions outlined on page one of the newsletter. If you want to come at alternative times to these dates, let me know and I’ll see what can be arranged- we need your help!!
Best wishes & Good Gardening
Just a selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden:
- Cutting bed clearing & planting!!
- Grass edging throughout!
- Prune & train the greengage on the Fruit wall
- Continue to cut down sweet rocket & others in the Six Quarters- & weeding!
- Stim weed under all hedges
- Plant annuals in fruit wall border
- Remove ivy from wall on corner by house/six quarters
- Continue Hoeing & Weeding veg garden
- Couch grass & Bindweed patrol throughout
- Train and tie in herb garden vine
- Weed & water Ranunculus by house
- Remove brambles under yew tree
- Continue to re-organise Compost heaps
- Weed pits in Orchard walk
- Continue to make illustrated labels for plant stand
- Purchase new gate to replace broken one of six field gates
- Continue planting/design work in pond garden: add water tub and bee skeps
- Water hot bed, as needed
- Still…Pricking out plants for sale!
- Plant new herb garden arch
- Start work clipping hedges
- Sort out plants in cold frames/poly tunnel- discard or pot on as needed.
- Train or replace new laburnums as they grow…
And much, much more!