IN AND OUT OF SUMMER
Recent summer weather has really made a huge impact on the garden. However it never seems to last more than a few days then it is back to cool days with showers, though compared to last year the sunny days are very welcome. The garden is trying very hard to catch up on the late season, but we are still running at least three weeks late. I picked my first strawberry on 16th June this year whereas last year in a very poor summer, (apart from a sunny hot March) the first one was picked on 25th May. If the dry weather with a few warm days here and there continues this years strawberries will be terrific. The plants are weighed down with a very heavy potential crop, trying to make up for last years disaster when continual wet weather rotted all the fruit before it was ripe enough to pick. The blackbirds have already spotted the first bit of colour and tested them to see if they were ready, so nets are now in place and slug pellets are absolutely necessary as there are still numerous slugs and snails left over from last years plague.
Saskatoon berries are beginning to swell so I will get ready to put my nets over them at the end of June before they start to show colour.
Bramble Helen is in full bloom, very showy with large pristine white flowers, and raspberries Glen Fyne and what I think is Glen Rosa, all showing a lot of flower clusters. I do not know Glen Rosa so I wait to see how it fruits. It can certainly grow as it produces an abundance of canes which need thinning out both along the row and many feet beyond the row as it suckers very freely.
The fig Brown Turkey is full of young swelling figs. If they all ripen I will get well over fifty this year, but leaves which are needed to support the developing fruit are very slow to grow.
Apples and plum fruits are very prolific and now swelling just nice. No sign of scab or mildew as I now only grow strong healthy varieties. Bramley usually gets a few young shoots totally covered in mildew from infected buds overwintering, but I remove these primary infections as they appear in June and this stops the disease from spreading. Plums can get a serious attack of mealy aphid which can defoliate the tree and then the fruit cannot develop, so I will keep a watch to see if they appear.
Garden flowers in summer
Climbing rose Gertrude Jekyll was the first rose to flower this year but now all my climbers and shrub roses are in flower and the bush roses not too far behind..
The weather really suited the azaleas and rhododendrons which put on a fantastic display, but now it is the turn for the ceanothus, cistus, philadelphus and viburnums.
The herbaceous border is ablaze of colour with dazzling red oriental poppies mixed with flag iris and peonies. Then the delphiniums and tall scented lilies will have their day in a couple of weeks time.
I had some spare Cosmos, petunias, lobelia and Livingston daisies, but there is always a bare patch somewhere needing brightening up so they got planted in my winter garden. The kerria, cornus and willow bushes had all been pruned right down to ground level to encourage regrowth of young shoots which will colour up again for the next dormant season. Spring flowering bulbs planted in between these bushes are all finished and the foliage has died down and been removed, but as the stooled shrubs are still only about six to ten inches tall there is scope for a summer splash of colour before the shrubs need more room to grow.
To keep my strength up for all this work Anna has been busy in the kitchen starting the first batch of summer soups made with the last of the leeks, kale, broad beans,(after removing skins),and Swiss chard (all from the freezer), plus onions, garlic, celery, dried herbs and chicken stock.
I hope to follow this with some fresh strawberries for dessert picked from the allotment only when they are fully ripe, and all the more enjoyable when you can have lunch outside on a sunny patio.
Plant of the week
Californian poppies have become naturalised in a small bed underneath my climbing rose Dublin Bay. It shares this space with crocus which flower in early spring then die down allowing the poppy to take over. It seeds very easily and always grows quickly covering itself in bright deep golden and orange flowers all summer. It can spread by seeding to other bare patches and just loves dry, stony poor soil in full sun.
Painting of the month
Alyth Bridge from the rose bed is a watercolour painting from my Alyth village series showing the old 17th century pack horse bridge over Alyth Burn in summer. Other paintings in the series show the old bridge in winter plus views over the town from the top of Alyth Hill.