Whatever the Weather

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The elements just keep on giving this year. In the space of three months we’ve had record cold and record heat; now record rainfall, at least in some parts of the country. As for East Kent, we’ve largely swerved the dramatic thunderstorms that have squatted like sumo wrestlers over parts of the UK, not shifting, weighing the atmosphere down with heat and humidity. But we have had fog – days of it – lingering not only along the coast but inland too. Not cold, penetrating fog, but something more akin to the steam you get in a bathroom after a hot shower. I put my tillandsias outside two weeks ago and they are loving every misty moment. In fact, most plants are. It’s not ideal for Mediterranean plants, but since we’ve had almost no rain they are not too fussed.



The week began with what’s become an annual Bank Holiday pilgrimage to Kingsdown, near Walmer. It’s one of those unique and precious spots that instantly convince you there’s no-where more beautiful in the world than where you are right now. Part of the village is built at the back of a wide shingle beach, just beyond the tides’ reach. Facing the sea is a super little pub called The Zetland Arms. It’s named after a ship that foundered off Ramsgate, The Earl of Zetland. After lunch we strolled around the corner to admire the cottage gardens along South Road, brimming with santolina, centranthus, cerastium and fennel. They are utterly joyful, augmented with a cardoon here, an olive tree there, but basically a ribbon of drought tolerant, sun-worshipping loveliness. I doubt much maintenance is required. These are the right plants in the right place and that is why they are so glorious.



We undertook the three-mile walk along the rising chalk cliffs to the Old Coastguard Station, only to find that the café was closed and for sale (a snip at £1.5M if you fancy it). Neither the dog nor the children were amused at the lack of refreshment, but on the way back we stopped outside one of Kingsdown’s clifftop villas for a charity tea, so all was well. It is a little early for the chalk grassland to be in its prime, but there was plentiful hawthorn, elder, drifts of common sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) and hearty clumps of rosy garlic (Allium roseum – top row, second from right).



Going back to a five o’clock alarm call was a shock and the weather immediately turned sour. At Broadstairs station, my normal view of the sea sparkling in the distance was obscured by thick fog for three days on the trot.



Meanwhile the carpenters arrived to reverse forty years of wear and tear to the workshop doors. They had them looking almost as good as new in the space of two days. I now have to paint them so that they’re ready for my gardening opening in August. They’ll be returned to off-black on the outside (Farrow and Ball ‘Railings’) and The Watch House’s signature green on the inside (Farrow and Ball ‘Vert de Terre’). The third job is to cut a new door in the side of the workshop so I can get in from the garden. This is a messy job and has already covered everything in a thick layer of brick-dust. With any luck it will all be done and dusted (literally) by the end of next week. Despite all the noise and activity, a delightful family of blackbirds nesting in the passageway are carrying on as normal. There are five chicks, keeping mummy and daddy busy from dawn until dusk.



This weekend I need to get a wiggle on and finish potting a number of plants into larger containers. I am willing the daffodil foliage to die down so that I can shift these pots into the workshop for their summer rest and space out other plants in readiness for their imminent growth spurt. I have resigned myself to not having time to dig out all the concrete and brick to create a border in the Gin & Tonic Garden, which means another summer of watering pots, albeit larger ones. It’s not ideal, but once they fill out they will be almost invisible. It’s also time to start feeding in earnest. For flowering plants I tend to use tomato food so as to encourage flowers rather than more foliage. As for the tomatoes they are in rude health: surrounded by marigolds – French and African – they make me feel terribly nostalgic. The scene and the scent transport me back to the cedar lean-to greenhouse my dad had when I was growing up in Plymouth.



Next week I’m in Derbyshire for the second RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. One thing is for sure, the weather on press day cannot be any worse than it was last year, and let’s hope the traffic congestion has been sorted out too. Keep checking back for news and views on the show gardens and other exhibits at this wonderful show. In the meantime, make the most of your garden this weekend, it’s bound to be blooming lovely! TFG.


Categories: Flowers, Foliage, Garden Wildlife, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Plants, Walks, Weather, Wild Flowers

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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15 comments On "Whatever the Weather"

  1. That sounds like a nice week, lots to tell us and nice pictures to share. I’m putting that pub on my bucket list! I love those Farrow and Ball colours! We have used Etruscan Red in the downstairs TV room, Savage Ground in the dining room, Cord and Lime White in the entries and halls, and have been so happy with these choices. I’ve got a bunch of re-potting to do also – when you repot, do you make your own mixture or use one from the garden center? We go away for most of July and August, so I say goodbye to the plants, try make sure they’ve got some fresh soil, nestle them together in a semi-shady spot, promise I will be back to look after them in September, then entreat my early-20-something children to please please water in the dry spells! I’ve mostly planted with a spring and fall show in mind. I recall Christopher Lloyd advising to pay attention to late summer and fall as the rest will tend to come together anyway. Have you seen the movie Ratatouille? The scene in which the first bite of the dish sends him hurtling back to his childhood? That’s just how I feel when I step into a greenhouse full of ripe tomatoes. It’s one of my earliest memories. My English granny had a beautiful garden, with a greenhouse, and trellises of roses, and a lush green lawn (most of my baby pictures are me on a blanket in her beautiful back yard). But she moved from there before I was in primary school, to an apartment, and passed away when I was in my mid-teens, when my world consisted of playing sports, listening to music, and wearing neon clothing! My mom and dad were not passionate gardeners, but I feel as though I somehow received gardening genes from my granny. Hope the sun comes out for you soon 🙂

  2. What a beautiful small town, and the street with the flowers is absolutely lovely! No wonder you return there each year. Good luck with your garden and door projects — I’m sure they will look great by open garden time. Thanks for sharing your holiday weekend with us! Best, -Beth

  3. My first thought when seeing your pub photo was ‘Look at all those people sitting out in the sun, no sun umbrellas and only a few hats’! It does look like a very pleasant place to stop for lunch, though. The cottage gardens are charming, and full of cheer. Thanks for the tomato food tip. I didn’t know that.

  4. Ooooh, F&B Railing is such a nice color. I wanted it for the door of the shed, but couldn’t justify it since I had half a tin of Drawing Room Blue left over from the front door…

  5. The garage doors are looking promising, better still when they are flung open to reveal your delicious National Garden Scheme tea’s. Roll on the 4th and 5th of August!

    Thanks for identifying rosy garlic, I wondered what it was colonizing the Sandwich bypass.

    1. Roll on …. but not too fast. I have a bit of preparation do yet!! I’d appreciate your thoughts on the best colour for the doors. Having bought the off-black I’m wondering if the green might be nicer. D

  6. Dan, what a lovely show of front gardens there in Kingsdown. Enjoyed your ‘mixed bag’ blog. Spotted the Stretocarpus saxorum plant on your fireplace. I have had one for years. Took cuttings early Spring this year. They just sat there (in a sweet jar that I use as a propagated) for a month. Took them out and moved them to root in a jar of water, which all four did! Now have four small plants thriving with signs of flowers appearing. Thank you for interesting blog. Wishing you well for your mixed week of ‘goings-on’ and the trip to Chatsworth.

    1. I thought it was time for a more general post, and to be honest I love writing these ramblings after the more formal Chelsea reports. So pleased you enjoyed it.

      I had an amazing day visiting gardens today, and next Chatsworth. I am running the risk of horticultural overload. Goodness knows when I’m going to find time to write about it all!!

  7. Ohhhh such lovely memories of our trip this time last year to Warmer Castle and lunch at the Zetland….bought back some wonderful memories Dan. Our little red car and that road! Omg….

    So looking forward to the Chatsworth reports. Please check out the dahlia exhibition for me! ( and pics too if poss…). Hope the weather is more inviting than it was last year. I recall it was nearly a washout, so disappointing for all the exhibitors and no fun for intrepid reporters such as yourself. 💚💚💚

    1. Shhhh, the forecast is looking good. I have packed summer clothes and shoes ….. but I might just pop wellies in the boot just in case!

      I visited a garden today that you HAVE to see next year. You will love it to bits. I’ll give you a nudge when I get around to writing my report up. Packed with Aussie and Kiwi specialities, yet with green lawns and roses and a vast collections of salvias. X

  8. What a lovely post Dan. You have been busy! I wouldn’t mind one of those cottages with the gorgeous garden at the front. Kent definitely appears much drier than here in the south-west. I was hoping to grow Mediterranean plants down here, but it is far too wet for most of them. At least my soil is. So I am now looking at plants that love moister conditions and will have to use containers for any others. I think your black doors will look great and a nice contrast with the pale green inside. The doors remind me of a garage where I lived when I was very small. That had black doors too (1950s). Have a good week, and let’s hope the sun shines and that horrid humidity disappears. xx

    1. Definitely. I’m considering painting the doors pale green on both sides now. It will a week or two before I have to make a final decision. I am a little too busy at the moment, I wouldn’t mind slightly less to do!!

      We get less than half the rainfall of Cornwall in Kent, and this far east I think we get even less than that. So no hydrangeas for us. Forget the Med and go lush and lovely instead! I would. Dan

  9. Definitely funny old weather, but what would we talk about if it wasn’t 🤣. I love the borders outside the white cottages, such a fabulous photo too with the contrast of colour against the white walls. Is that valerian growing also? I know it’s prolific, to say the least, in Cornwall but adds wonderful colour.

    1. Yes, a confusing common name I’m afraid as the valerian you can see is not Valerian in Latin, it’s Centranthus ruber. And Centranthus ruber can be pink, red or white. Whatever the name, it’s a marvellous plant for this kind of situation.

      Fabulous weather again this weekend, which is all that matters to me. Hope you had a good one Ronnie. Dan

  10. Way up in your second picture, what is that circular pattern to the right of the middle window (between the left and right windows) on the upper flower of the white home in the background. It resembles a Pennsylvania Dutch Hex, although I do not recognize it.

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