Thursday, 12 June 2014

Evening in the garden

Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt', looking a little ragged, but beautiful nonetheless
The second week of June, and the spell of unseasonably dry and sunny weather continues. The ground is beginning to crack, especially in those spots where I might have skimped a little when mulching. The World Cup has begun, the great British public is getting out white wobbly bits that make you long for more decorous seasons, and there’s nary a drop of rain forecast for the next few days. But if I were to venture an opinion, by far and away the best things about these hot and sunny days are the early mornings, the late evenings and, if you absolutely must be out and about in the middle of the day, the shade. If you’re able to rustle me up a cooling breeze, a swinging chair and a cold beer, that would make things tolerable.

As it is, due either to being mad dog or Englishman – or possibly both – I’ve been working through the warmest parts of the day, and so it’s pleasant to stroll through the garden in the failing light, enjoying the slightly cooler conditions and serenaded by birdsong. The birds seem particularly chatty this evening and, now that presumably most of their broods have hatched, I wonder what it is they have to talk about. Nursery schools, childcare costs, tax credits – next door’s cat...

Floribunda rose 'Harry Edland', in reality a little cooler than here

Some years I worry that my garden suffers a little from the ‘June gap’ – but then I tell myself not to be so silly. True, many of the geraniums are going to seed, as are the aquilegias and the paeonies, and the blackbirds have been getting into all sorts of daft positions on the amelanchier in order to steel the tempting, red berries. It’s a few weeks before the lavender is in full flower and the crocosmia, solidago and anemones won’t bloom till July. The acanthus, true to form, is as luxuriant in foliage as it is wanting in flower. And the sweet peas this year are annoyingly tardy, probably due to being a little thirsty – the soil is cracking particularly badly around the tripods. But  before I’ve gone more than a couple of paces from the back door my nose is telling me where to find the greatest burden of flower this week. Raising my gaze to head height, both the leycesteria and the philadelphus are in full bloom, and the scent from the latter is exquisite; rich vanilla underneath, cut through with a sharper citrus tang. This is one of those scents for which you really have to make time to simply stand, eyes closed, and breathe in through your nose for several, peaceful moments; to hurry by regardless would be worryingly indicative of some deep malaise of the soul. So, I stand and sniff, while Bill looks at me as if concerned I’ve finally lost it. Silly human, he may or may not be thinking. No tail and the worst sense of smell in all nature. Still, he seems to know the best places to find sausages and cheese, so he earns his keep. 

Philadelphus coronarius. I think.

I was unaware until recently that philadelphus is a member of the hydrangea family, appropriate really, as another plant that’s looking particularly wonderful as the evening falls is the oak leaved Hydrangea quercifolia, its delicate white petals just beginning to open on panicles tightly packed with flower heads. I think if anything they’re more lovely just now than when they’re in full bloom.

Hydrangea quercifolia. A great value plant for year-round interest.