If it were not for the soft patter of rain on the skylight above my desk, I might hear a pin drop. My house guests have gone home, tired and happy, to their own beds and their own familiar routines. The sound of my niece shouting “No Dan!” and “Silly Uncle Dan!” is still ringing in my ears, preventing me from being plunged further into melancholy silence. Unrehearsed of her favourite role-playing games I was constantly getting things wrong and spent most of the week in the dog-house. I do not make a very good baby, hospital patient or post office customer; not in Martha’s world at least. Perhaps I will redeem myself at Christmas, given some practice: my Father Christmas is Oscar-winning. Being content with one’s own company is a virtue, but it can take a while to readjust after a week of noise, bustle, laughter and jolity.
I’ve absorbed myself in tidying up so that I can spend either Saturday or Sunday in the garden. The way the weather has been this week, I wouldn’t like to predict which will be the better day. After a period of hot, dry weather, followed by warmth and rain, everything is growing like topsy: I rather like it that way. I have a lot of potting up and on to do, and the greenhouse needs ridding of a rampant Eccremocarpus scaber I grew from seed and stupidly offered free rein. If I had to describe the scent of this pretty climber when cut or torn I would have to liken it to a teenage boy’s sweaty gym socks. If I clear a little at a time it will reduce the nausea.
Normally I would be building up to opening the garden for the National Garden Scheme. Having taken a year off, I feel much more relaxed and able to plan for the long-term rather than one weekend of glory. The quest to have everything in its prime and standing to attention is enjoyable but stressful and I have not missed the pressure or the preparation one iota. Keen as mustard, Mrs Double-Barrelled, my NGS coordinator, has already been in touch to check I will take part next year, which I fully intend to. What I will miss most is the people, who are always so kind and interested.
In the meantime, I had the opportunity to get over to The Salutation in Sandwich this week to see what Steve Edney and his team have been up to. Here is a garden that is always evolving and begs to be visited time and time again. Steve has a penchant for dahlias and plectranthus in particular, increasing his collection of both, season after season. He’s created a new area called The Jungle in which both plants feature heavily.
I first pictured the garden’s new layout in a post I wrote in March, when beds had been freshly divided and paths covered in wood chippings. Then it was an empty, open space, oozing promise and opportunities. The joy of exotics is that they grow fast, transforming bare borders into a bounty of foliage and flowers in the space of a few months. The Salutation boasts fertile, silty soil, bolstered by careful improvement over many years. Despite the floods of December 2013, when the garden was inundated by sea water, the planting has recovered brilliantly, and The Jungle has been transformed from bare earth to bold brilliance in just a couple of months.
Many of the plants will peak later in the year: September is a great month for dahlias and the bananas won’t stop growing until they are prepared for winter. I love the colours and textures exotics bring to a garden and am reminded that I should try again with cleome, which I’ve always struggled with, and to grow amaranthus next year. Those trailing flowers are to die for.
If you are interested, and I seriously suggest you should be, then Steve’s own garden at Sweetbriar, Ash, near Sandwich is open for the National Gardens Scheme on August 6th, September 10th and October 8th 2017. Click here for more details. To find out more about the gardens at The Salutation, click here or read some of my previous posts. TFG.