Six on Saturday: 19 June 2021: Bloomsday

The title for this week’s Six on Saturday is inspired by a small Bloomsday gathering I was invited to this week by an Irish friend/neighbour. The idea is to commemorate and celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce, whose famous novel Ulysses features the protagonist Leopold Bloom. Bloomsday takes place on 16 June, the same day the action takes place in the novel in 1904. The dress code for this high-brow evening was Edwardian, so I gathered the floppy peonies and scented roses in my garden to create an Edwardian hat:

The hat went down well, and the readings were fun and unusual: the language in that novel is rich and quirky, and unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Apparently some hard-core James Joyce aficionados hold marathon readings of the entire novel, lasting as long as 36 hours. So to turn to the gardening Odyssey that is Six on Saturday, hosted by chief protagonist The Propagator, I promise to be more concise: 36 hours is a lot of gardening time, and things are getting unruly out there:

1 Yellow roses. The roses are having a glorious year, but I have been a bit slack at tying them in and staking. This unknown climbing rose was knocked about by a heavy rainstorm on Thursday night, which had the unintended consequence of pushing one of the main flowering stems horizontally against the wall, luckily it didn’t break. This now looks better as one can appreciate the flowers at eye level.

The same cannot be said for the Pilgrim shrub rose, which is now weighed down to the ground with the weight of its flowers. Oh dear. Today I need make some belated wooden stakes.

2 Rose ‘Ballerina’. Luckily this hybrid musk, a variety that goes all the way back to 1937, bought as a bare root last autumn, needs no staking and so the gardener gets away with doing nothing. It is a cheerful little thing, appreciated by all manner of bugs and bees.

3 Unknown weed. More lax gardening now, but I am quite taken with this weed growing by the front gate, next to the Ballerina rose. With those little tufted hairs, it looks rather natty, and has a nice way of swaying in the breeze. Anyone know what it is?

4 Allium ‘Eros’. A new allium for me, this one has mixed well in the front path border with its neighbouring geraniums and Erysimum ‘Bowls Mauve’, its violet-pink blooms poking through at just the right height – about 40 cm – above and around them. It’s going over, with a nice papery effect.

5 Nasturtiums with Geranium ‘Brookside’. This narrow little bed was supposed to be the ‘pollinator border’, with a colourful mix of annuals sown from seed in the early spring. The weather and the slugs had other plans, and in our cold spring almost nothing came up, apart from nasturtium ‘Alaska’ which I grew in plugs and planted out here. So it didn’t end up being just a bed of nasturtiums, I added a couple of young Geranium ‘Brookside’ that I had in pots.

6 Lilium ‘Must See’. Growing in a pot on the terrace, this is taking up the gauntlet now that the Dutch iris are over. It’s got that lovely oily sheen that some lilies have.

So now I need to go out there with secateurs, stakes and string, and have a good tidy up, before more roses flop over and chaos reigns. The grapevine also needs a good prune, so I should do what my mother does so well with the leaves and make ‘dolma’ – vine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, onion and spices – which is definitely a slow food dish that takes hours to make but is one of those things that tastes heavenly when homemade. But, to loop back to Bloomsday, it will be quicker than reciting Ulysses in a 36-hour reading marathon.