6th August

Well, what have I been up to in my absence? Battling with sun-baked clay, mostly.

 

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There’s not a whole lot you can do for the larger areas of ground, unless you have money and machinery (we have neither). The fissures turn into cracks, the soil turns into dust, the most worrying thing is that the rain pours down into the crevices and undermines the structural integrity of the ground, but I suspect this all part of some perfectly legitimate plan the earth has, so I don’t interfere. I’ll probably disappear into a sink hole one of these days!

With beds, I do try to intervene as best I can: mulching like it’s the end of the world and covering the topsoil with a dense layer of wood chips: I use it like sunblock, hoping the earth underneath will stay moist and protected (wood-chips sweat something chronic en masse), and it will all rot down to provide some much needed hummus. I’m hoping it will retain what little rain we get instead of letting it run straight through into those terrible dry gunnels as well.

 

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Having clay soil can be a little like having concrete when you get sudden downpours, so we get flooding, even though we’re surrounded by hedgerows and trees to drink it up. Inventing ways to slow down the water and retain it is an exciting prospect, and so-called ‘rain gardens’ are very fashionable in these parts for exactly this purpose.

Half of me wants to collect it for the dry seasons to come, but I can’t help wonder what effect that might have on the wider landscape? Dry rivers and streams need the run off, I’m not sure me hoarding it is the best course of action…

Anyway, for now, I just work on slowing it down rather than stopping it moving altogether.

I dug over two of the small beds and beefed them up with some home-made compost, but I was forced to use a bit more of the grass compost than I wanted, so I’m waiting to see now if that’s a bit too acidic.

The herbs seem alright, the verbenas are managing, the shrubs are fine, and really it’s only the roses which seem a bit bothered by it. I’m surprised because I’ve never known a rose to mind anything!

Still, even on a bad day, you’re guaranteed to get something.

 

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July 10th

We are not amused.

It is too hot.

I am an English gardener, not a sun worshipper – not a sitter-on-beaches or a basker-in-parks interloper. I should be at rest only during the harshest winter (after a long year’s work), and yet, here I am, not in the garden…

I hide in shade or lurk in cold baths, flashing mossy fangs at people suggesting social events during daylight hours. I don’t mind a summer thunderstorm – how can one resist the decadence of storms? When the cling-film sunshine is overcome by the velvet of actual weather? – But the sun these days is a bully.

Like the grass, I turn brittle in the heat. A newt left out on a paving slab. A dry seed-head rattled by the kick of a leaping grasshopper – legs scraping like nails on a comb. Everything papery and stubbled.

We islanders talk a good game about craving the sunshine, but we still need our regular watering…

I begin to dream seriously of Elsewhere.

 

The soul makes a katabasis. The mind dips deep below the surface, and in a cool place, shimmers. For everything there is a waiting time. Enforced stillness. Lessons whispered in the breath between phrases.

 

This, I suppose, makes the intensity lovely.

 

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A Cheeky Look Back at Spring…

June 17th 2018 – Purple Lace

 

A few left over photographs of stunning summer grasses I can’t get let go to waste…

 

Honey Garlic

 

With great thanks to Audrey, who correctly identified my mystery plant – this charming Honey Garlic (Allium Siculum) has been very shy coming out, so I can’t wait until all her bells have all opened…

 

June 11th 2018 – Neglect

Let us swear an oath, and keep it with equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind…

Tennyson

 

A neglected garden tells its own story. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Almost always there is still beauty to be found.

 

May 15th 2018 – Any Ideas?

Sometimes, even the best laid plans get sidelined. You can be philosophical about irritating set-backs, as the chess master Patrick Wolff says: ‘If you try to over-control what you think you will achieve, you’ll miss what you can actually accomplish.’

Nice, right? I like to find smarter people than me to excuse/substantiate/embellish what would otherwise come under the category of ‘total disaster’.

Anyway, whatever the reasons, when you can’t get out and do respectable gardener’s gardening, you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the weeds.

How about buttercups, dandelions, and wild chives sweetening a sunny evening?

 

 

A few other surprises have popped up to remind me that last October I went on a bulb planting frenzy and just put every bulb I found languishing about the shed in the ground to see what happened. Most of them didn’t emerge, but some came up marvelous!

Unfortunately, I may have been a tad slapdash towards the end, because I certainly remember planting Alliums to pop up under the kitchen window…

 

 

But I don’t remember planting them so close to the Astilbes…

 

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Whoops! Never mind. The alliums will have orbited away before the pink and white plumes come out, and then I’ll dig them up and move them along – trying to remember that the bald patches will yield foxgloves next year. I’ve got plenty of plants to fill the gaps waiting for me when I have the opportunity to get my hands dirty again.

This is the thing when you don’t stick to a rigid plan in the garden. You set yourself up some lovely surprises!

Speaking of which… does anybody know what these two strapping green sentinels are most likely to be when they pop open?

 

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I feel like there should be a sweepstake…