Thursday, 24 June 2010

Bags of lavender

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the garden starts giving you presents. You spend ages fretting over it, feeding it, topping it up with plants. Stuff dies (there is a spot where I want a small tree and so far it has eaten a Hamamelis and a Magnolia, it is the most expensive corner of the garden so far!), the whole thing takes the mickey.

But then the cuttings take better than you ever dreamed they might; plants survive and propagating themselves at will and all sorts of pretties turn up.

Finally shamed into weeding my front garden (north facing, extremely dry, shallow, sandy soil) I was picking out dandelions and rogue goldenrod, I suddenly realised that the lavender had seeded itself into the ridiculously dry and trampled strip by the car. I had no idea lavender did that sort of thing. It is a pink one and while I’m not over excited by the colour the scent is lovely. I think it is 'Miss Katherine', a refugee from a show.

I took softwood cuttings in spring from several other lavenders - excitingly most of these have survived as have the semi-hardwood cuttings I took really-too-late-but-I’ll-try-it.

Weeding is nice because things just appear. Miraculously the tulips seem to have outcompeted the dandelions, Then the verbena bonarienses survived, the Alchemilla is thriving and it is full of little frogs. Sometimes you just don’t need princes.

The picture is of my new mixed border. The rose is ‘Harlow Carr’ the sweet peas are ‘Fragrant Skies’ and the Philadelphus is 'Belle Etoile, it looks and smells lovely.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Great Hairy Weeds

Well, Chelsea has come and gone. Thought it was rather nice, actually in a green-and-white fashion. I liked the show garden by Roger Platts, and the little Rhubarb Crumble and Custard Garden. Congratulations to Thrive for their well-deserved gold medal – and thanks for the smart green tea towel that came in the press pack.

Slebs spotted include Bill Bailey, Bernard Cribbins (who I always confuse with Bilbo Baggins as he read The Hobbit on Jackanory when I was little) and that Anita off Birds of a Feather who is always there. A bit short of rock stars for my personal taste, but Ringo just tends to tear around being rude to people so maybe it is no great loss. Although I was rather pleased to meet Brian May a couple of years ago.

Gardens. Celebrities. Schmoozing. Chelsea in a nutshell.

This is the time of year when it is all about multi-tasking. Weeding is something that has to be kept on top of, or civilisation as we know it crumbles. This is best done on the phone to ones mother or mother in law, I find. Two useful things at once. Sadly the phone reception only reaches half way down the garden...

Need to do a little something about the hot border. The perennials are filling out nicely, but it is more purple than hot. A scarlet geranium is making a brave stand and Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ is coming out – but it looks vile next to an egregious allium (no idea what it is doing there, must have come in the same pack as some of the tulips). I will move it somewhere where it can be decorative and pretty, as indeed it is next to all the blue alkanet – which I swear I will chop back until I discover it is full of at least five varieties of happy bumblebee fossicking around, dusted in pollen and looking like all their Christmases have come at once.

Alkanet may not to be to everyone’s taste, indeed, it is rampant and hairy (even if you like that sort of thing) but following a letter about a school trip I feel inclined to encourage native species:

“The visit will be led by nature specialists at the centre and the children will be looking for and identifying common plants (weeds!) natural to the area...”.

I am slightly outraged on behalf of British flora in all its manifestations. Weeds indeed. Or, worse, ‘weeds!’. Ah, the bright derision of the school system.

I would like to be listening to music but I am too busy. However I have been invited to a party where I have been promised a bluegrass band and some latter day psychedelic rock. Promises to be interesting.

In print this month (June) in Kitchen Garden Magazine writing about scarecrows and in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life.