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

Reading time 8 minutes

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?

Top of Post: Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’

Categories: Container gardening, Flowers, Foliage, Kentish Gardens, Our Coastal Garden, Plants, Urban Gardens

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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34 comments On "Sumer Is Icumen In … Or Is It Agoin Out Again?"

  1. I like the photos of your garden from up above Dan. They give me a good idea of the layout. Interesting names for your clematis. Will you eventually end up with the whole royal family?
    It’s down time in my garden and I’m cutting back salvias etc and doing lots of pruning. The last autumn leaves are still clinging to some trees, and for some reason one bottlebrush is flowering, so there’s still a bit of colour, but soon the garden will be in full winter mode.

  2. Your new fence looks excellent, well worth the upheaval and expense, it will be the making of the G and T garden.
    Not much of a summer so far but then we didn’t really have a winter, which was good as the Buddleia speciosissima I bought, after you recommended it (and it is very good) in a post last year, sailed through the winter and is just coming in to bloom.
    Very much looking forward to the 3rd and 4th of August when we can all visit (, it looks like being your best year yet, and that is saying something!

    1. Hello Andrew. So pleased to hear your buddleja has been a success. Mine is flowering but it’s quite leggy. I am not sure I am confident enough to give it the chop yet!

      I hope it will be the best year yet, but I’ve work to do. The garden is very congested at the moment. Perhaps that bodes well for plant sales 🙂

  3. Wow, a spectacular effort of love and attention. Makes my garden look a little raggedy after the rain. Incidentally, ‘Sumer is icumen in’ was written by John de Fornsete born in Forncett, Norfolk in 1238 and the place where Granny does her gardening today.

    1. How interesting and what a coincidence. Ever since I typed those words, ‘Sumer is icumen in’ has been an ear-worm. I can’t get it out of my head (uh oh, there’s another one!)

      I am surprised the rain didn’t cause more mayhem in my garden. I’ve had a couple of young plants rot at the base due to waterlogging, but that’s about all. Your garden will soon perk up when the sun comes out. I think we’ve had all the rain we need for now!

  4. The fence looks good though! In the bottom picture, of your front door? What is the plant in the foreground on the left, lovely leaves?

    1. Ahh, that’s Pelargonium tomentosum, the peppermint-scented geranium. It’s a marvellous foliage plant. The leaves are soft and smell exactly like peppermint. I like it there because I have to brush past it on the way to the door. On the other side is Pelargonium papilionaceum which is very strongly lemon scented and has just finished flowering.

  5. Entertaining and informative, as ever – why aren’t you writing a column for GW magazine??!! I have a comparatively large plot but there’s not quite room for all the plants l want. And yet still l see, l can’t resist, l buy! I think it’s normal…….

  6. That last picture sure makes your garden/home look inviting. It would seem so exciting scooching in through those plants. I would have to go so slow as to not damage anything and it would give me time to look at everything. Having to move every plant to paint will be a pain. I hope you are able to get it done soon so you can step into the rhythm of the summer garden and enjoy every minute of the profusion of plants and flowers.
    My garden is as good as it gets this year. May was soggy which made the almost 2 weeks of June without rain tolerable. The garden got juiced up yesterday with 3.5″ of rain so all will be about normal by the end of this day. Tall lilies are abloom here with lots of lush.
    I have a banana tree this year. A first for me. It is growing beautifully but the winds have made it a bit lopsided. I turn it to hope the winds will right it but I don’t know if that is the best thing to do. The poor thing doesn’t look too happy. I guess I will just have to wait to see what happens.

    1. Ahh, yes, bananas are so easily shredded by the wind. Mine are permanently lop-sided. They don’t make a great deal of root in one season so they can be blown over quite easily. Turning it is not a bad idea, but finding it somewhere more sheltered is probably better, if you can.

      I love your comment about the rhythm of the garden. I’ve not found it yet, which is why I don’t feel 100% satisfied with its development. Perhaps this morning I felt it for the first time, and it made me smile. Meanwhile, I can’t wait for the lilies to bloom. They are covered in buds and free from bugs. I’ve lucked-out there! Dan

  7. Wise words. The solution to the biggest issue is simple….you need a bigger garden Dan 😀

    1. Well, that’s been discussed at a high level, but until I have a little more time on my hands and money in my pockets it’s probably the road to a nervous breakdown and / or financial ruin! Plus my friends say they’d be devastated if I moved so I shall have to stay put and show a little more self control instead.

  8. Understand Dan. We’re in the middle of the same debate ourselves. Move or stay? If the gardens right ..the aspect isn’t …or the house isn’t ..if not the budget. Restraint on the plant buying front Love your garden and your blog. You’ll be pleased that my plant purchases based on your recommendation have been a great success x

  9. Wow! That peony is gorgeous! What a lovely colour. Your garden looks so lovely Dan, is that a gate in the G&T garden? A little snicket to get into it? You have an awful lot of painting to do, I don’t envy you! And a reminder to me to go and get some paint to do my conservatory! Your front entrance does look welcoming. I love a door surrounded by plants. I have made a start on my front this year, though I do need to paint the steps as they get very green (algae) and slippery. Rain has not been the problem here, but it has been chilly so some flowers are taking their time. Hard to believe we are almost at the longest day of the year!

  10. Stop buying plants? Impossible.
    You’re too good a gardener that’s the problem. You will have to move back down here. If the winter wet doesn’t get them, the slugs will. And then you’ll have gaps. Which of course you’ll need to fill with more plants..

    1. I fear you may be right. Impossible. I have actually given a plant away this week which is another way of making room for more. The snails are doing their bit but they can never manage a whole one. They just munch a bit of everything 🐌🐌🐌

  11. The best fence is the one that got cut up for firewood. I so dislike fences, and they interfere with cat swinging. My colleague down south, who is the landscape designer (which I have nothing to do with) craves privacy in his landscapes, so surrounds them with nice tall hedges, which take up more space, but are softer on the cats.
    There is a sweetgum back there?! Oh my. That could shade an area bigger than your entire garden. If you prune it for confinement, it will not get as colorful in autumn. (However, in your climate, it might color quite nicely anyway. Without pruning, it would be spectacular.)

  12. Really enjoyed this update during the busiest time of year for gardening! Best of luck getting everything done. Although, to be honest, your garden is looking beautiful already.

  13. My big challenge this year is getting the balance of plants right in my new garden. I’ve made some egregious mistakes, and have definitely been over-enthusiastic in some areas. I’m hoping to hit the Edit button a bit more next year.

      1. I’ve been trying to start up my own business (art conservation/mount making) whilst continuing my full-time career at the museum. also while trying to manage my little bit of “farm” land. If a candle had four ends, they’d all be burning. For a little while I had a five month gap in between posts! And for five months it lingered in the back of my mind and continually bothered me. So lately, I’m just forcefully taking back my passion projects despite daunting deadlines.

        One of the things I used to do on Mind Your Dirt after a gap was to apologize for the first paragraph or two. I’ve stopped doing that though. For posts with legs, self-deprecation is out of context anyways. Now I just pick up where I left off unapologetically. It’s rather liberating.

        Lovely to talk with you good sir. How goes life for you?

  14. I am also frustrated, but I smiled because of your name ‘The Frustrated Gardener’:)
    Thank you so much!!!
    I have a question, do you have problems with mosquitoes or insect pest in your garden?
    If Yes, then how do you manage it?

    1. Mosquitoes no. This being a chalk landscape there are very few rivers, ponds and other places for them to breed. This is a blessing.

      Other insect pests I have in abundance. In general I either let them manage themselves naturally or I remove the pests (mainly vine weevils and snails) by hand. Having a sheltered, almost frost-free garden is great for plants, but it does mean that the pests enjoy the same benefits. Dan

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