July 2021 – halfway through the year

I’m feeling as I usually do by this stage of the growing year, too much to do and not enough hours in the day.

It’ll be calmer next week. All the annuals will be in the ground and there will be a chance to take stock (not too long but a chance nonetheless) as we move more into maintenance mode for the rest of the summer.

Well I say maintenance mode, there is still plenty of perennial planting to keep us out of mischief. The Secret Garden is beginning to take shape, but the April 2020 plant order was cancelled of necessity. Now in 2021, with supply issues we are still waiting for some of them.

We’ll get there but there is still a flowering cherry and a Cornus kousa that needs to go in that we’re waiting for and a host of smaller perennials. It will look fabulous but planting it has been one of the most protracted experiences I can think of in my horticultural career.

But the key indicator for me that we have reached the halfway point of the year and one that I love is the flowering of the oriental poppy Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’.

No picture can ever fully do justice to this wonderful but fleeting plant in the garden. Its rich plum tones are completely different from other poppies we tend to see like ‘Ladybird’, Beauty of Livermere’ or ‘Maiden’s Blush’.

It always flowers at the end of June, beginning of July and reminds me that even if I have lost track of where I am in the calendar it hasn’t. It’s also a sign that things have caught up with themselves after the freezing spring.

I thought we had slipped into Narnia where it was always winter and never Christmas. But the sun finally prevailed, and the garden has leapt into growth with a vengeance.

So too have the weeds, the little dears. But am I downhearted? Not at all. I did see several mullein moth caterpillars munching on them in the Hot Border – a reminder of what an important food source weeds can be.

But also because our volunteers are doing amazing work. Some areas like the very bottom of the Hot Border didn’t get any attention last year. Now everyone is working hard to tidy and to plant annuals and perennials.

I got the last of the dahlias in at the end of June. I made it harder for myself by insisting on doing it on my own. Not because I don’t want to share but because I needed to split some of the tubers (some so big I risked my back just lifting them) and the only way to do it was with a saw.

I’d not done this before, and I feared for the health of tubers so brutally treated. So I planted them myself so that if any of them turned their little tuber toes up, I would know it was absolutely my fault.

Fortunately for me, every one of them appears to be in rude health so I can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to a bumper display of beautiful flowers in September.

But this month’s award for unbelievable graft must go to Tony. The aforementioned Hot Border was a jungle which Tony has single handedly cleared for the rest of us to plant.

Day after day he’s worked, steadily filling the tractor trailer with all the horrors that can creep in over a year (giant hogweed anyone?) to leave fresh clear soil. He’s been an absolute marvel. Tony, take a bow.

Filed under: Blog