Summer’s light on the hill in front of the house
My water butts are almost empty, despite holding 1700 litres of water and without rain I will have to draw on my well to water the plants. The ground is as hard as a rock and you would need a jackhammer to plant anything – this despite a winter and spring of relentless rain. The wind is the main culprit here as it dries the ground as soon as the rain has stopped. We have had a lovely few days of heat which both I and the plants have loved but the forthcoming rain is welcome.
I have never been too fond of Phormium, but recognise that they are a very good plant for the front of a hedge in a coastal garden. Their tough leaves withstand even the worst storms and I have used them in the garden as the first line of defence when starting a hedge or shrubbery. Their flowers are another matter. They are exotic and graceful and dominate the garden at this time of the year as they arch towards the sky. This year they have cemented themselves in my good graces, as they have been covered in honey bees for days on end. You can barely see the bees with their deep orange pollen sacs as they blend in with the flowers to perfection. In the evening the bees are joined by a small flock of chittering starlings and it gives me a smile to watch the stems bounce up and down as they feed from the plant.
The Phormiums have another use – they provide the perfect cool spot for my dogs. Sadie is particularly fond of crouching under the leaves and only emerges for the odd bit of fly catching.
While I encourage wildflowers in most of the garden, I do have a few more manicured areas where I have planted trees. These have been very welcome during the hot days as they provide a cool space and a rest for the eyes. In the copse above I have added trees to supplement the original planting and to replace those blown down by Storm Darwin.
I am very fond of American dogwood as the flowers are delicate and long lasting. I did not know that they were also very resilient. This Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ is as tough as it is beautiful and is thriving in the copse. It has developed a graceful shape and although it now has some protection from a low hedge it started its life exposed to the worst of the winds from the south.
This maple, above, is one of the first trees that I planted when I arrived. It was one of the hundred or so plants and trees that I had bought and tended whilst I searched for somewhere to live. It does not seem to have minded its nomadic life in a pot and does very well in the shelter and shade of the copse.
American dogwood Cornus capitata. This may be my favourite dogwood although I don’t like to admit to favourites in the normal course of events.
This is a small garden at the top of the drive. It has a few mature ash trees and I have again added to these. I am also planting a hedgerow in the hope that I can put in some more delicate trees such as acers when they mature. I have decided to retain this as another ‘cool’ section of the garden as a contrast to the mass of colour provided by the wildflowers elsewhere.
This is a photograph of the end of the driveway and shows the contrast with the top garden when you let the grass grow for the summer.
Some of the wildflowers in the fruit garden are now past their best. I never have to worry about spreading seed around the garden as Millie and her long coat are past masters at it. Sadly, she is not discriminating. To date she has transferred the seeds of Cleavers or Stickie Willies from one tiny corner of the garden to everywhere. I do try to keep the Cleavers in check but with little success thanks to her. I am itching to do some more extensive weeding as this is the time when the garden looks pretty ragged. It is also the time when the finches can feast on the seeds that are emerging so I have to be patient. The fruit trees did not do so well during the late storms and I have lost my gooseberry bushes and one redcurrant bush. As I did not get around to building a cage to reserve some blackcurrants for myself the blackbirds have had a feast. For evidence all you have to do is look at the purple bird poo that now decorates my garden furniture. This has replaced the red bird poo as the redcurrants were stolen ages ago.
I am nominating these sea pinks for the category of ‘toughest costal flower’. These thrive on the rocks in the nearby cove despite being covered by salt and water on a regular basis. When I moved here, I thought it would be very clever to buy a few plants for my garden. Of course, they all died. I have not tried to replace them and now much prefer to see them in their natural setting.