Friday 23rd July 2021

The last Friday Group of the year 2020 – 2021. And what a year it’s been! Zoom has been a boon, we’ve all become vaguely I.T. literate and our Latin is coming on apace. By this stage, using Latin phrases to look smart is our modus operandi.

Oh, ita quidem, my dear!

However, it’s not merely a party-session for us. By no means. Today we need to ensure the garden is going to look at its best for the Macmillan Garden Trail (Brighton), which it is participating in over the weekend of 24th-25th July. Cakes have been made, volunteers have signed up to help with refreshments, rain-dancing is due to take place later on (making sure to use the deterrent version of the choreographic score)

Paul Seaborne, of Pelham Plants fame, has brought in a variety of delectable things for sale, thus providing us with the opportunity to lighten our purses and, of course, do the

Plant Ident.

Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’

A hardy Fuchsia with delicate, dangling flowers in quantity, which are white with a faint green wash to the tips. A seriously classy plant. Tasteful even. A true example of haughtyculture. 90 cms tall.

Dianthus deltoides’Erectus’

Aka the ‘Maiden Pink’. Has small, vivid red/cerise flowers held high over a mat of deep green foliage. Delicate and wafty. Nice in a pot – and easy from cuttings. 15cms tall. Very desirable.

Hylotelephium ‘Black Grape’

Hyloyouwhat? A Sedum by any other name is still a Sedum. Except, admittedly, this one is rather special, as it’s a very dark seedling from Pelham Plants. Rich, black-purple foliage and stems, the flowers emerge as deep purple, fading to an attractive old rose colour. 40 cms tall. Be odd: get 3, 5 or 7. Good in growth, in flower and dies well.

Scabiosa columbaria

Scabious are cracking herbaceous perennials for use in summer to early autumn. They may be comparatively short-lived, but they flower well, are attractive to pollinators and add so much to a border. This variety’s pale lilac-blue pincushion flowers dance above the filigree foliage. Given a position in the sun with good drainage, they will seed around, and especially so in a gravel garden. Upright in habit, they grow to about 60 cms.

There are also many other types of Scabiosa available now, of which ‘Moondance’ is one. Pelham Plants says of this cultivar that it has “clouds of palest yellow pincushion flowers for a sunny well-drained spot. Outstanding compact hybrid with prolific flowering performance.” Sold! H. 50 cms and loves chalky soils.

Cosmos sulphureus ‘Bright Lights’

A half-hardy annual – so remember to collect its seed at the end of the season, so that you can re-sow it and enjoy its bright lights once again next year. Attractive to pollinators. Keep it going for longer by continually dead-heading. And don’t be lazy! Time taken doing this properly will be well repaid. Cut the dead flower head off right down at the next leaf joint. “A zesty orange gap-filler”. Wear sunglasses.

Jobs for the week

Dead-head flowers in the Top Garden. See instructions above.

Continue planting in the Dry Bed

Scabious and Verbena bonariensis to be dotted through the border. Dead-head, weed, water. As per. For more information about gardening in dry conditions, read Beth Chatto on the subject. On which note, here is a recent newsletter from the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex :-

Rainfall! Beth always paid very close attention to rainfall, and we have continued her tradition of monitoring the rainfall at the Gardens. This year has felt wetter than others, but what is the reality? 

According to our measurements, annual rainfall in Elmstead Market, known as one of the driest areas of the country, has averaged 54cm a year for the last 5 years. Even though we saw an intense heatwave in 2019, rainfall still reached 56cm for the year. 

In April this year, we recorded no rainfall at all – last year it was only 0.2cm. But this year we have had more rain in May, June and July (17.1cm compared with 7.6cm last year). Is there no longer such a thing as April Showers?!

What does this mean for planting and plants? In some ways it means the planting season is extended – more rainfall in warmer months lends itself to planting outside the ‘spring’ planting window. But it also means that you must be prepared to water your plants frequently when you first plant them, even if you plant in spring – they need good soakings (not the occasional sprinkling) to allow their roots to go deep and establish; this is one of their mechanisms for drought survival.

It also means that if you live in a drier area, you would do well to consider plants that cope well with drought
Sustainable planting is at the forefront of everything we do and we are delighted to announce that 30 years after it was first published, Beth’s popular book, the Green Tapestry has been updated with beautiful new images and information.
 Garden and Nursery Director David Ward and Head Gardener Åsa Gregers-Warg have contributed to this new edition and we are very much looking forward to holding a launch here on 27th September; more details to follow!July and August are wonderful in the Gardens – when hot, the Water Garden often feels a few degrees cooler than elsewhere and there is an incredible summer stillness and calm that is so rejuvenating. 

Rejuvenate alpine troughs

Plant alpines in a well-drained, gritty compost. Add horticultural grit to the surface as a finishing touch. Discourages slugs and snails, aids drainage, keeps the plants’ foliage away from any dampness and stops compost being washed about when watering. Oh, it looks properly posh too. Bonus.

Seed sowing

What’s being sown? Beetroots, Carrots, Radishes, Cavolo nero, Salads. Keep ’em coming.

Work on Little Dixter

Think about using more shade-loving plants in that area; the pansies and violas have been fantastic. Maybe Hydrangeas would be good? Perhaps Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ ? Or maybe the wowser that is Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’?

She’s very belle indeed

Meanwhile, Bridge has forged ahead with the peat-free compost trial. Not one to do things by half, she’s trialling 19 (!) different composts. Some have also had a dollop of magical G/H compost added. Echinacea ‘Primadonna’ and Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ plug plants have been potted up. Monitoring is ongoing. With clipboards and everything.

Time for a break, to celebrate the Friday Group year 2020-2021.

By gad, this gazpacho’s good!

So, everything in the garden’s lovely.

Now, are we on target for the weekend’s visitors?

Very much so

So, until we meet again….

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back;

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rains fall soft upon your fields.

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