What an extraordinary spell of weather we have been having. It’s so hot that I am relieved to be returning home to the coast every evening to enjoy a gin and tonic or glass of chilled rose, as far from the capital’s oppressive heat as I can get. There is always a faint breeze and a certain freshness in the air by the sea. Today, Midsummer’s Day, promises to be the hottest day of the year so far. I am going into an office that has no airconditioning and now, apparently, no water either. Perhaps I should turn around and go home?
The garden is taking it well, much better than I am. The lilies are having their moment, albeit it a brief one: the bright sun and heat will see off the blooms relatively quickly. Rather than choose lots of different colours I have continued to plant more and more of a variety called ‘Pink Flavour’. This Asiatic type lily has bronzy-pink flowers that tone beautifully with my aeoniums, which I grow as miniature standards to get the equivalent height. Sadly ‘Pink Flavour’ does not have any scent – apparently some folk prefer that – but it comes back reliably, year after year, even in a pot. At this time of year I am very vigilant when it comes to lily beetles and adult vine weevils. Fortunately both pests appear to be under control for the moment, but one can never be complacent.
Warm evenings are ideal for carrying scent. The 25ft wall of Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) which leads to the front door started to bloom at its southern end last week, and a heady tide of white flowers is slowly moving north. The scent is utterly intoxicating; I swear I can pick it up the moment I turn off the high street, 50 metres from home. I had to prune a couple of the plants hard at the end of last year, back to old wood, but they have come back strongly. Because trachelospermum flowers on new wood there was no impact on this summer’s performance. This is good to know as star jasmine is incredibly vigorous once established.
I managed to carve out enough space in my overcrowded greenhouse to squeeze in a cucamelon and two chilli plants. I wanted to plant tomatoes, but didn’t get myself organised fast enough. It’s probably not too late, but I’ll be competing with my neighbour’s tomatoes which are already 6ft tall and heavy with green fruit. Perhaps I will have a go at making some space at the weekend.
Watering is a must in this heat, especially if anything has been planted recently. A light sprinkling will do more harm than good, encouraging roots to form close to the soil surface. A jolly good soaking is what’s called for. I always favour watering with a can so I can judge exactly how much water is going where, but that’s easy for me say because I have a tiny garden. If you are using a hose with a sprinkler, leave it trained on each area for a good couple of hours. I am feeding my pots with tomato fertiliser now as the nutrients in the compost will have been quickly exhausted. Plants like gingers and brugmansias are hungry beasts and tomato fertiliser will encourage flowers over foliage, which is what I want.
Meanwhile, I have planted sixteen old-fashioned pinks down the path to the gin and tonic garden – not because they are cool or coordinated, but because I’d like some flowers I can pick (and also because they are pink, which is a prerequisite for my neice Martha, who will be visiting in a month’s time). There are not many cut flowers that will grow successfully in a border six inches deep at the foot of a wall, but pinks certainly should. They will also help to shade the roots of my newly-planted clematis and provide deliciously spicy scent until the end of autumn.
However you are spending this scorching Midsummer’s Day (do tell!) I hope you stay cool and comfortable. TFG.