Sunday, 28 July 2013

Devilish hot

Midsummer. Lucifer straightens his back, rises and in a salutation to the sun stretches out his arms, glowing with crimson fire across the borders. Cooling waves of pale lavender lap around his feet but the contrast serves only to accentuate the fiery glow of the tall crocosmia, which performs with infernal constancy each July. Against the deep burgundy glow of the smoke bush and with sparkling highlights from spent alliums, firework explosions from Stipa gigantea and the shimmering haze of the deschampsia, this year more than ever the summer planting is in perfect harmony with the weather.

The sun is relentless, and quite a challenge for me as I emerge blinking from the relative cool of the courtyard area, shaded from the brightest rays by tall bamboos, a rampant pheasant berry on one side and a philadelphus on the other. Introducing some shade and vertical scale with one or two carefully placed trees is definitely high on the list of priorities for our garden; an inviting patch of dappled shade to make for on those summer days when the sun actually shines, as it’s been doing for the past few weeks with great enthusiasm. But that’s a job for later in the year.

There is a path here, somewhere. The lavender has been left untrimmed for the while, so that you have to push your way through clouds of delicate butterflies and industrious bees in order to get to the middle of the garden. It’s no hardship; the scent is intense and the thrum of the assembled humming bees imparts a kind of thrill as I wander through their harvest. I will have to cut the plants back soon – any heavy rain we get weighs the plants down and they’re getting leggier than I would like, even with a twice-yearly trim for the last five years. Before autumn comes I will need to propagate these same plants in reliable quantities, and get them sturdy enough to be nursed through the winter, in order to have enough replacements for the now ageing hedge which flanks both sides of the winding grass strip. There are doubtless more sensible choices of plant here. Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ would be less trouble and both foliage and flower lie in similar areas of the colour palette, but I’ve never been a fan of the scent of catmint of any variety and…well. Shoot me for saying so but it always seems to be something of a poor man’s substitute for lavender. That smells faintly of wee.

Over the coming week I will begin to tame the unruly summer sprawl, to make way for the later flowering plants, the cosmos and the dahlias and the nicotianas. But this weekend, I intend to revel in the untidiness.

Fiendishly hot. Lavender and cosmos are quite at home, but I’m not
used to such intensity of heat for more than a couple of days at a time.

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to keep your toes in the heat

Mid July and the heatwave continues, pushing 30 degrees during the day, not dropping much lower than mid teens at night. While far from my favourite weather so far I seem to be managing: remembering to drink enough, slathering on the sun block (which I detest with great passion) and developing a knack for finding jobs which happen to be in the shade. Sartorial standards have slipped; first it was an untucked shirt, then an open shirt over a t-shirt, and now the over shirt is usually abandoned almost instantly. But that’s as far as it goes. That, and the fact that my hairy white calves have been on show for the past month or so, though displaying a marked reluctance to develop anything which could be described even vaguely as a 'tan'.

Meanwhile, Bill has taken to flopping around like a discarded teddy bear, gazing accusingly at me from limpid brown eyes as if the weather is some cruel trick engineered by me solely for his discomfort. To be fair his fur is presently providing him with a luxuriant but entirely unwelcome system of insulation, but it will be several weeks yet until his thick top coat is ready to be stripped out.