Sumer Is Icumen In … Or Is It Agoin Out Again?


Since the last time I wrote about my garden, my sole purpose has been to prepare it for summer. I’ve been potting, repotting, feeding, staking, tying-in and mulching, whilst at the same time doing battle with an army of voracious slugs and snails. All the lifting, shifting, arranging and rearranging has taken its toll on my out-of-shape body. On a Monday morning I ache all over, but it’s a good ache, and satisfying when progress is made. Another fortnight and I should have the majority of plants roughly where I want them for the next four months. (Gardening in containers is quite unlike gardening in the ground, since endless adjustments can be made to ensure every plant looks its best in relation to its neighbours. Once in situ they can mingle, sprawl, tangle and twist as much as they like, until the containers disappear from view and a jungle-like effect is achieved. See below for evidence ….. and this is only June!)

This year my summer preparations have been especially arduous owing to a number of projects and circumstances that have complicated my plans. None of them have thwarted me, but they have each slowed me down to a degree. Here are my top four hindrances, in no particular order:

1. You Can’t Swing a Cat In Here

The greatest hindrance has been lack of room. It has come as no surprise to me (and it won’t to you) that I have too many plants for the space available in my garden. Over the spring a constant trickle of new plants arrived at The Watch House and yet more will arrive with The Beau in a fortnight. In complete denial of the impending plant pile-up, I have been taking cuttings and nurturing seedlings, some of which I planned to give away, but most of which I intended to keep. Finally, I have run out of space in which to indulge my obsession. Any gaps I did have disappeared weeks ago. There’s no two ways about it, the plant buying has to stop.

2) Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

The long awaited replacement of the fence around the Gin & Tonic Garden has been my next challenge. The old fence was already tatty when I first acquired this little plot at the back of my house. It became progressively more shabby and decrepit as the elements took their toll. I wanted the new fence done and dusted by the end of March, but Dave the Carpenter wanted to wait for fine weather before starting the job. Fair enough, but this meant hanging on until mid-May, by which time everything was growing like topsy. Dave got his tan and I got my fence, but the clematis I planted to disguise the ugly old boundaries had a tough time of it. Each was carefully detached from its supporting wires before Dave started work, but a month of laying on the ground did them no good whatsoever. C. ‘Princess Diana’ has recovered fastest – what a classy clematis she is – but C. ‘Princess Kate’ has been chewed right down to ground-level and I am not sure I will be able to save her. She is no match for her late mother-in-law and rather a sickly plant in my experience.

Painting the fence is going to take me several weeks, so the summer will continue to be challenging for all the clematis in this area. In the short term I’ve made them look as respectable as I can and they are valiantly producing a few, bedraggled flowers. Meanwhile my neighbour’s clematis, which are planted in baking sun and biscuit-thin soil, are putting on a marvellous display.

3) A Dripping June Sets All in Tune ….

…. Or so sayeth the ancient proverb, the sentiment being that rain in June will increase the bounty of fruit, vegetables and flowers later in summer. Last Monday alone we experienced more rain in a single day than we normally do in an entire month. If the proverb has any truth it, we have unparalleled abundance to come. The result so far is a green, lush garden with a conspicuous lack of flowers. Although I’d planned to bridge the June gap with potfuls of lilies, these have been held back by the cold weather in May. So far not a single one has flowered. They will now bloom in tandem with the first of the dahlias.

4) We All Find Time To Do What We Really Want To Do

During the summer months everything revolves around the needs of the garden: housework and friends are neglected, meals turn to toast and watering is done in the dark. What the garden needs, the garden gets. Every moment of my spare time is spent outside, in the workshop or tending to my houseplants. Somehow everything gets done, even if it’s only in the nick of time. In the end we find time to do the things we really want to do …. which does not bode well for the ironing. TFG.

May and June are among the busiest months for gardeners. Has it all been plain sailing in your garden, or have you experienced challenges too?

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