May roundup

Things are dry as dust here, with no significant rain for weeks and soaring temperatures.  While its been lovely to enjoy the garden in the sunshine, all three water butts are empty and the ground is rock hard. Hard to believe we were swimming in mud back in February.  This is a quick round up of May’s ups and downs.

The heat is getting to the roses now but for the last week or so they have been gorgeous.  Climbing up the patio wall is ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ which has the headiest scent and is ideal for sitting under with a glass of wine on a warm evening.  Next along is ‘Comte de Champagne’. This has apricot buds which fade to pale gold as they age, with open cupped flowers and golden stamens, scented of honey.  The shape of the bush is quite straggly, but its forgiven for the elegance of its flowers and the fact the bees love it so much. They bumble around the stamens getting covered in golden dust.  

Compte de Champagne

In the front garden is Rosa Desdemona. I bought this as a cutting rose but the flowers go so beautifully with the Iris Siberica and alliums behind that I don’t think I have ever picked one.  The front garden is at its best in late May to early June but a bit sparse later on in the summer. Today I planted a few bronze sunflowers to try and fill the gaps once the iris and alliums fade. 

The greenhouse is starting to look and smell like a proper greenhouse.  I have planted out four sorts of tomatoes, courgette, cucumbers, chilli and pots of basil. The tomatoes are beefsteak, consuela, gardeners delight and some sort of tumbler.   Some of the Gardener’s delight have developed little bushy tops rather than a straight stem with side shoots so I have pinched half out and left half bushy to see what happens.  The courgettes and cucumbers were planted at the same time but the courgettes are definitely winning – the cucumbers look rather miserable and don’t seem keen on putting on any new growth.  Peeping through in the seed trays are some echium, and loofah seedlings, just for a bit of fun. 

Every year my beautiful Solomon’s seal get stripped by sawfly larvae. An advantage of working from home in lockdown is that I actually saw it in action this year and could intervene. 

For a long time I thought the flies laid eggs on the leaves, because it is always the leaves that are stripped, but have never found any eggs.  However, seeing the black flies ‘in action’ while I was having a cup of tea, meant I could see them laying on the stems instead.  

The eggs are almost invisible, but if you run your finger and thumb up the stem you can feel slight raised ridge and see what looks like a scrape along the stem (as though a wasp has eaten the surface).  Press gently up the ridge and the eggs will burst, leaving a black mark after a few days.  It’s hard to photograph because they are so well camouflaged but the individual eggs in the strip are more noticeable once blackened.

I systematically checked all the stems in the back garden but missed a few in the front, which now have a few small holes and tiny sawfly larvae chomping the leaves.   But this is nowhere near the carnage of previous years (right hand picture) when the plant has been stripped to a skeleton in days.

When the greenhouse was built I had to remove an arch pergola as it blocked access for the fitters.  I wasn’t too sorry to see it go as it was a bit on the twee side and starting to rust.  While I don’t want to replace it with another arch, I did like the feeling of enclosure it gave and how this marked a passing from one section of the garden to another.
In its place I have planted a Tetrapanx rex, the rice paper plant, mail ordered from Ivy Hatch Plant Supplies.  This is a large leaved exotic, but hardy enough for Yorkshire and should grow to a monstrous size, just like its namesake. Ivy Hatch were great – they ordered a plant in for me and it arrived beautifully packaged by next day courier, at a good price.

Opposite, on the other side of the path, my plan is to repeat my attempt at growing echiums.  The idea is that the tall exotics on either side will create the same tunnel like feeling of closing in, then opening out into the next part of the garden.  As you can see, the T.Rex is still a baby and the echium seedlings are less than an inch tall so this is another long term project!


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