Uncouth Cats and Kamikaze Kisses

The Watch House Garden, September 2013

On Saturday we a had a visitation from the Assistant County Organiser for the Kent National Gardens Scheme. So naturally, what could go wrong promptly went wrong.

Eager to impress I was up at the crack of dawn to prepare for our inspection. The weather was a dream – sunny and breezy with the morning air crisp and fresh. I turned around and immediately my Begonia ‘Million Kisses’, which have been precariously balanced on shelves above our outdoor kitchen all season, decided to commit hara-kiri. Two plunged to their deaths as a gust of wind tipped them over the edge, completely decapitating themselves and planting a million floral kisses across the granite worktop.

Begonia flower on granite worktop, July 2013

Meanwhile a nasty niff emanating from beneath the bay tree betrayed the uncouth toilet habits of our neighbours’ two very cute new kittens. They have claimed the garden as their own, flattening various plants in order the make themselves the feline equivalent of a sun lounger. Both seem immune to any kind of deterrent, particularly the Cat-a-pult spray which I purchased at great expense from the local garden centre. The kittens immediately scrambled onto the ledge I had just liberally doused, settling themselves down with a grandstand view of proceedings.

Helped by the dazzling exuberance of our Agapanthus africanus and much crushing of rosemary I managed to steer our visitor’s attention away from both crime scenes. Ultimately it seems we managed to make a good impression and our lady from the NGS went away happy.

Agapanthus africanus, August 2013

If we get into next year’s Yellow Book we’ll be one of the smallest gardens in the country to open. Hopefully we will twin with another garden nearby to make it worth visitors trekking over to Kent’s Far East. I’ve offered up the following description for our entry:

Adjoining an historic fishermen’s cottage in the town centre, this small garden measures just 20ft x 30ft. Sheltered,and enjoying a unique microclimate, the garden is home to an array of exotic and unusual plants. Designed as a space for entertaining, the outdoor kitchen and slate courtyard are surrounded by lush foliage, luxuriant agapanthus, towering echiums and rare trees from as far away as California and the Chatham Islands. A constantly changing display of tender plants in containers introduces seasonal colour.

I think this neither under nor over promises, but one thing I know about garden visitors is that they’ll correct me if I am wrong! When we have dates you’ll be the first to know.

Dahlia 'Karma Choc', August 2013

Meanwhile, our containerised hot ‘border’ is really rocking and rolling (top). Dark red and aubergine foliage highlights are provided by Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’, Eucomis ‘Sparking Burgundy’ (alas no flowers) and Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ (above). By playing around with the pots I’ve discovered what a wonderful pairing a leggy aeonium makes with the acid green, burgundy-edged flowers of Eucomis bicolour. Joining them shortly will be the white-splashed-maroon flowers of Gladiolus callianthus. The opportunity to mess around with plant combinations is one of the great rewards of container gardening, as well as being able to swiftly delete any failures.

Eucomis bicolor and Aeonium Zwartkop, September 2013

The heat has been provided by Dahlia ‘Firepot’, D. ‘Jescot Julie, Solanum pyracanthum, Cautleya spicata, Lilium ‘African Queen’ and L. ‘Debby’. I am not convinced by Miss D on her own – her habit is a bit stiff and starchy for me – but the colour is certainly hot, hot, hot.

Lilium 'Debby', August 2013

By the end of the weekend, I’d got ahead of myself and started planting autumn bulbs. I’ve begun with selected narcissi and crocuses, but the rest will have to wait until the end of September when I am back from the first of two long work trips to Asia. Meanwhile I’ll sign off today with one of my favourite fuchsias, F. ‘Dark Delicious’ which overwintered successfully outdoors and is once again in superb form.

Fuchsia 'Dark Delicious', Sept 2013