Notes from a soggy garden

It’s been raining, a lot, a deluge that just keeps on coming. Gardeners up and down the country have been complaining, somewhat bitterly, that growth is slow, seedlings are sulking, French beans aren’t germinating and slugs are thriving; but on the other hand, the plants themselves just go about their business: growing, flowering, preparing to reproduce.

Aquilegia vulgaris

The plants in the ‘cool shades’ east-facing border seem unperturbed by the wet, if anything they are revelling in it. The aquilegias are now at their prettiest. I was given the dark purple wild ones by a neighbour in a swap (she got tomatoes from me in return), and the white one was picked up on a quick visit to the garden centre. It sports fabulous spurs, and looks good with the Ostrich or Shuttlecock ferns in the background.

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Alba’

The aconite has begun its mysterious unfurling. The tight new buds higher up the stem look like inscrutable little aliens, while the opened petals bring to mind their common name, Monk’s hood, although I like to think of them as deadly cloaked assassins, fleeing from the scene of their unspeakable crime. Aconite is a highly poisonous plant, so this role of assassin suits them.

Aconitum napellus ‘Spark’s variety’

Another dusky plant, Geranium phaeum ‘Springtime’ is a quiet character in the border, but its satin sheen gives it grace and allure, and this variety also has striking white and green marbled foliage.

Geranium phaeum ‘Springtime’

Alchemilla mollis is at its best when bejewelled by rain drops, although at this point only a couple remained. It’s growing at an astonishing rate daily, and threatens to engulf its neighbours. The frothy lime flowers will be out soon to make lovely contrasts.

Geraniums don’t mind the rain either. Many of them are just getting into their flowering.

G. himalayense ‘Gravetye’

So hard to pick a favourite geranium, but I love G. himalayense ‘Gravetye’, which has lovely large cup-shaped petals with violet veins and black stamens. There’s a Geum, ‘Scarlet Tempest’, upping the tempo in the background. Both are in dappled shade at the top end of the front path.

Further down the path, a clump of chives is in full bud – I love this stage – with some chamomile also coming into flower.

And while we might bemoan the rain, don’t these glistening drops add magic to the buds of oriental poppies, which remind me so much of dinosaur eggs that I expect pterodactyls to hatch out any day now. Even in the humble veg patch, the rain adds a touch of magic to the flowers of peas, this one is ‘Douce de Provence’.

To top it all off, the first rose to open up in the garden: what a moment, I feel a glass of Prosecco is in order! This one is a lovely botanical rose, single flowers of soft primrose yellow, and interesting almost fern-like foliage. It’s Rosa¬†x¬†cantabrigiensis, a rose developed in Cambridge botanic gardens in the 1930’s.

Rosa x cantabrigiensis

So really one feels much better after a tour of the garden, to see things alive and well, by and large, in their soggy domain.

Six on Saturday: Seeds: 02 Jan 2021

Happy New Year to you all! As my featured image, I share a sunset in the forest on New Year’s day. Still no snow, not even a proper frost here, but weak winter sunshine through the trees.

Lots has been said already about hoping for a better year for us humans this year, and being a member of the human race I of course share that hope! But I also harbour another hope, and a recognition that 2020, while awful for many, was a year of recovery for the natural world, a respite from our dangerous incursions into it, and our thoughtless spoiling of our environment. So my hope is that the success of the vaccination programme isn’t accompanied by a return to pumping tons of carbon into our atmosphere. Given the likely origins of Covid-19, it would also be something if we could ban the trade in wildlife and while we’re at it, improve conditions for animals in our factory farms. Here’s hoping…

In the New Year my thoughts turn to all the things that will grow in my garden in the year ahead. If January starts to drag a bit, which inevitably it will, I check my seed packets: a nice pick-me-up, especially in this dry (alcohol-free) month. So the theme this week is seeds.

1 Garden seed harvest. Isn’t wonderful that free seeds abound in our gardens? I have got better at harvesting them. I have never tried growing Asters from seed though, it seems easier to take the little plantlets that form around the parent. I will collect and sow some of the Hollyhock seeds, which itself arrived as a surprise gift seedling in my veg patch in 2019.

2 Panicum Frosted Explosion. Another gift, this one first arrived two summers ago in a crack in the pavement by our front gate. What chance, as this is a superb annual grass, that creates a misty frothiness around whatever it grows around, and is too insubstantial to block out the light. It has now popped up all over the place, and I’m saving some seed to use more deliberately. It could be fun in containers with other annuals, like the frilly pink Cosmos.

3 Aquilegia and other seeds in the ground. I was given a load of Aquilegia seeds in a plant swap last summer, and I just scattered them on the earth and hoped for the best. I think these are them, coming up here along the front path. There’s something else too, the frillier leaves, could be Chamomile. Part of the fun is waiting to see what pops up.

4 New flowering plant seeds. Probably the most exciting of the lot? New plants I haven’t tried before, including two types of Tithonia or Mexican Sunflower, which I probably don’t have the space for but hope to squeeze into the new border (purple/orange themed). Will they be happy? Who knows, it’s a gamble. A surer bet are the Nasturtiums, which I love and grow among veg and in pots, but have never tried the variegated version, Alaska. There’s also a sunflower with an enticing name, Velvet Queen, which I will have to save from the slugs but which will be nice to grow as food for the birds as well as a feast for the eyes.

5 New veg seeds. Ooooh, also exciting! I’ve never grown Cucamelons, or Mouse Melon, which is possibly the cutest name for a vegetable that I’ve ever heard. Another gamble, am going to try these in a large container growing up the south-facing brick wall of our terrace. Handy if we’re out sipping gin and tonics, and fancy a zingy addition to our drinks. Last year I grew a squash up this wall quite successfully, so fingers crossed.

6 Seeds sown in the autumn. Here in the mini-greenhouse, we have nicely labelled pots which in theory have seeds in the them, but no sign of life. The Bomarea edulis is an exotic addition thanks to the generosity of another Six-on-Saturday blogger, know for his unusual plants. Regulars may be able to guess who. The Nigella is from an old seed pack, so I just hope the expiry date can be ignored!

I will have to wait just a little bit longer before I can start sowing in earnest. Meanwhile, there are other important things that need doing, including a bit of hard landscaping and putting in paths where the mud has become intolerable, pruning etc. I wonder what other gardeners have planned – to find out, check out The Propagator’s blog, the host for the excellent Six on Saturday theme. Have a great gardening year everyone!