Summer’s Here!

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Having so often mentioned the terrible, rain-soaked summer we’ve been having I feel it’s only reasonable to acknowledge that the sun is finally out. The weather has turned hot (and humid) just in time for the opening of the Olympics, bringing London to life and turning the Underground into a sauna. The fish in the pond are getting frisky and the garden actually needs watering. It’s summer and for however long it might last I am going to make the most of it.

The absence of flowers in our London garden is very apparent this year – the annuals have not enjoyed living in the twilight zone, and even the Busy Lizzies are pretending to be shy. This won’t be helped by the imminent arrival of six storeys of scaffolding, which already covers 3/4 of our building and will arrive in our garden by the end of the week. There is already a coating of brick dust on every leaf, which reminds me that our chances of sitting outside are probably now over until October. Typical!

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Meanwhile, there are a handful of climbers which are guaranteed to bring instant sunshine to any garden and I am trying the first of these by the coast this year. Mina lobata, now known as Ipomea lobata, is on first sight enough to induce a double-take. More showy that a bird of paradise, the flowers are a dazzling combination of translucent flame-crimson, cream and yellow and twinkle in bright sunshine. Added to that the wiry stems appear to tremble, even on a still day. It will cope with some shade, so should do well this year. The picture above was taken at Sissinghurst in the Cottage Garden two years ago, when I encountered this plant for the first time. As so often, the dark hedges create the perfect backdrop to the extrovert flowers. In my garden I’ve left it to scramble over an unruly rosemary bush and will hopefully have my own flowers very soon.

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Above, another great foil for summer foliage is Tropaeolum pentaphyllum, a slightly trickier customer, but how gorgeous? This rhizomatous climber drapes itself like a string of lights across walls or hedges and illuminates the gloom with its flaring trumpets of green and cinnabar-red. This close-up was taken at Sissinghurst on my last visit, where it quietly adorned a hedge in the corner of the orchard.

Finally, what better climber to perfume the air on a hot, sultry evening than honeysuckle? Our common honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum is performing better than ever this year, doing an indecent tango with a rampant Clematis x fargesioides “Summer Snow”. In the interests of decency I have included a picture of a slightly more demure specimen, top, gracing the wall of an outbuilding. Perhaps “Graham Thomas”? I can’t be sure, but I love the way the butter-yellow flowers glisten in the sun. Let’s hope there more of that to come. Now, which to grow up the scaffolding?……….