Jungle Warfare


At a certain point each year our seaside garden passes from a neat, orderly state into jungly bedlam. It becomes increasingly hard to move around without getting swiped in the face by a wayward lily, tripped by a flailing jasmine or toppled by a booby-trapped begonia. Getting to the front door requires a machete, if we can find it in the first place. The plants are waging a guerrilla war and will hold their territory until late autumn. I was hoping they might do the decent thing and agree a truce until our National Gardens Scheme open weekend is over, but the intense heat and rain we’ve experienced over the last two weeks has stirred everything into rampant action. My defeat is my own doing, highlighting an appalling lack of restraint when it comes to planting; all at once everything is on top of one another and fighting for supremacy.

Going ape. Pots outside the front door

Going ape. Pots outside the front door filled with Eucomis bicolor, begonias, fuchsias, salvias and members of the ginger family

The forfeit has been two weekends spent staking, cutting back and reorganising the collection of pots by the front door. Importantly, I have also been removing any dead leaves and flowers. This is for two reasons; first to discourage the army of snails which form a munching platoon at night; and second to avoid any mould and rot setting in. As in all jungle warfare, disease can be devastating, so it’s best not to take any chances and keep the air moving between plants.

Roscoea auriculata produces purple flowers from June until October but requires propping with small canes

Roscoea auriculata produces purple flowers from June until October, but requires propping with small canes

The spectacular thunder storms that have been sweeping the country have not passed us by. They have brought welcome rain, although not sufficient to reach the closely packed pots. In front of each storm has been a gusty wind, so staking has been essential to keep top heavy plants from toppling over. In most cases canes have been sufficient, but with plants such as Solanum laciniatum and Echium pininana, tree stakes are the only option. Around the kitchen area, Begonia corrallina (angel wing begonia), Thunbergia gregorii (orange clock vine) and Rhodochiton atrosanguineus (purple bell vine) manage well with a wigwam of split canes.

Rambling Rhodochiton

Rambling Rhodochiton atrosanguineus trails as well as climbs, making it perfect for pots and urns

I had hoped that my wonderful lilies, L. ‘Golden Splendor’ and L. ‘African Queen’, would hold themselves back for our open weekend, but alas they have peaked too soon. Heavy rain has smudged pollen over their lower petals, but they still smell incredible, especially on these still, sultry nights.

Lilium 'African Queen' holds court in her jungle kingdom

Lilium ‘African Queen’ holds court in her jungle kingdom

Thankfully the dahlias are right on cue, their first flowers just beginning to open. More on these next weekend, but already D. ‘American Dawn’ is a new favourite. Doing especially well this year are the begonias, which I started into growth early and which are now dripping with bloom.

Bountiful begonias

Begonia ‘Firewings Orange’ cascades from a low bowl

With just two weeks until our open days I am hoping to establish some kind of entente cordiale which will allow visitors to enjoy the garden unmolested. Any pots which are past their best will be secreted away in our basement light wells and the hose and watering cans will be relegated to the cellar. For just once weekend I hope peace will prevail, before manoeuvres begin again…..

A barrage of blooms. The view from the front gate

A barrage of blooms. The view from the front gate this weekend