Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Don't panic, prioritise!

New flowers are emerging all the time. Here is the chocolate-scented Cosmos atrosanguineus, its dark flowers are easily overlooked but so neat and beautiful when you do notice them - and such an odd fragrance!

Cosmos atrosanguineus - can you smell chocolate?
And here is Ipomoea purpurea 'Grandpa Ott'; he has taken a while to get going in this cool and generally dull summer but at last he is beginning to show his true colours, along with the good old petunias which aren't quite so pernickety.
Ipomoea purpurea Grandpa Ott with Petunia 'Easy Wave' and Fuchsia 'Climbing Lady Boothby'

Social Climbers
Time will tell whether I have been foolish to allow Grandpa to climb up Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'. Fuchsia 'Climbing Lady Boothby' is in the same pot. She isn't flowering yet, I think she is spending all her energy competing for height with Grandpa. We'll soon see whether Grandpa and Her Ladyship manage to come to an amicable arrangement.

The picture on the right gives an idea of just how much the plantings in front of the Octagon are filling out - compare them to the posts on 8 June or even 1 June (planting in filthy weather). I shall be told off for letting the plants hide the pots, so there's another angle on the same collection below. The large pot is a relatively new design, the Shakespeare Planter. I have to say that this is a really useful pot, sturdy, capacious and with a chunky rim and banding which contrast nicely with frothy plants.

Shakespeare Planter in front of the Octagon

Circus skills
It's at this time of year that I really feel like I am spinning plates. I have planted or re-planted about 250-odd pots this summer and still I have more to go. But while I plant out the new stuff I have to maintain the recently planted, and at the moment just dead-heading the displays takes at least half a day a week, especially in sunny and showery weather. Meanwhile plants in the greenhouse, polytunnel and standing-out area are pleading with me to get their feet into new compost. I must keep calm and carry on! I really want the displays to be burgeoning by the time of the Summer Garden Party at the end of this month.

Fleshing out
Talking of looking succulent, yesterday I planted a whole display of succulents in the Kew Collection of pots. This eminently practical collection of mostly quite small pots shows off part of my extensive but for the most part unnamed collection of succulents rather well, I think.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Collection, filled with succulents

These plants will take a LOT of neglect but they were looking a bit sad in last year's pots in the greenhouse so I was glad to have the chance to pot them on. They will soon start to flesh out, and until they do I have used pebbles and grit in toning or contrasting colours to dress the compost. This has the added advantage of keeping the drainage sharp around the necks of the succulents.

A mulch of pebbles complements Aeonium decorum 'Sunburst' and what I think is Sedum pachyphytum

Pest of the Week
No, I'm not talking about the pesky throwers who heckle me from the pottery windows when I'm gardening. This week the prize for most entertaining pest goes to the Large Rose Sawfly caterpillars. Babs spotted them on the rose by the pottery wall which I featured last week. They look like little formation dancers as they munch their way through the rose leaves. I was pruning that rose this week as it needs to be kept fairly tight against the wall so that the customers don't get spiked while selecting their pots, so most of the caterpillars have gone to the bonfire. I shall keep an eye on the survivors and remove more if the damage threatens to become extensive. I expect the birds will pick off most of them.

Large Rose Sawfly on Francis E Lester

By the way, a Japanese friend (and expert on many gardening matters) thinks the rose is 'Francis E. Lester' and after looking it up in several places I'm inclined to agree with her.

Feathered Friend
On Monday I pulled out a large patch of Phuopsis stylosa which was marching across the path, much to the delight of one of our resident dunnocks. This neat little brown and grey bird scuttled about in its usual mouse-like way, gathering up the tiny insects which had been exposed. I am very fond of our dunnocks: like the blackbirds and robins, they follow our activities very closely but much more discreetly, and are very happy when John gets a new delivery of straw for the packing shed. They usually nest somewhere in the garden, sometimes in the box topiary, and have a surprisingly sweet song.

Scuttling dunnock plus weeds - notice that some of them are cowslips, I scatter their seed deliberately every year.

In the stockyard this week - note the self-seeded Euphorbia.
The pot on the left is a Jekyll pot from the RHS Collection.

Tolerance - or knowing when you're beaten...
You will notice from this picture and others that we tolerate many weeds and self-seeders in the cracks of the path. This is partly because we would have to spray on a regular basis to keep the paths "clean" and I prefer to avoid using weedkillers and pesticides. It is also because we like the informal look of the greenery on the paths. I try to pull out as many dandelions, thistles and plantains as possible but even this is a losing battle as we are almost surrounded by fields and rough grassland and verges from which seed is brought by wind and feet. Besides, if you don't fuss too much about obliterating weeds you get the bonus of self-seeded scabious, Erigeron karvinskianus, Welsh poppies and many other delights.

I'm leaving you for now because I need a decent night's sleep before another day of planting (but not weeding). Back with more ramblings next week...

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