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Balmy Summer Days, June 8th

Jo Perry

May was an extraordinary month. After such a miserable spring with so little growth, our garden was still very bare at the beginning of the month but after just a few weeks everything really burst into life. I dreaded the week when all the Tulip pots would be taken out of the courtyard, there is always that feeling of anti-climax.

This year though, the border edging the vegetable potager has taken over the ‘wow’ factor baton. Of course, it isn’t so glamorous and the planting is very much in the cottage garden style, but it is so pretty. With late spring flowers such as sweet rocket, aquilegia, iris and lupin mingling with chives, rhubarb, mint and red kale it is a real haven for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

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A really stunning and totally unexpected combination has been the gentle creamy yellow flowers of the Redbor red kale flopping over and growing up through a self-sown patch of Cerinthe major purpurescens. I’m sure if I try to replicate it next year it won’t be half as beautiful.

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Years ago, I planted a Wisteria against one of our covered compost bins. I had been working on another garden and the plant was surplus to requirements. It hung around the place in its pot for some time and eventually I stuck it in the ground without much hope, as the only Wisteria I had grown here before had finally flowered just before I accidentally garrotted it whilst trying to train it. So I haven’t done a thing to this one and for the second year it is absolutely
festooned with flowers.

Recently walking down to the compost heap, the combination of the scents of firstly the sweet rocket and then the Wisteria was wonderful. These balmy summer days of early summer are really special. The heat is gentle compared with the hot days of August but the greenness is what makes the difference. Everything is still fresh and lush and despite all the demands of the garden, we should really take some time to enjoy this wonderful spell of weather while we have it.

'The Beautiful and the Bountiful'

Jo Perry

Tuesday, May 1st

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At this time of year I find it almost impossible to prioritise my priorities. I am talking particularly about the propagating tunnel. I am so easily distracted. This morning I started by pricking out salad leaves, Mizuna, mustards and Persian cress. Then, as I was moving trays around to make space, I tripped over a module tray of flat leaved parsley. So I potted up a few, and while trying to find a home for them, a lovely Pelargonium Sanguineum caught my eye. This tender plant had been overwintering in the tunnel and really needed repotting into a terracotta pot for the summer. And so it goes on.

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I am constantly torn between the need to grow plants for the vegetable garden and wanting to grow flowers and ornamentals for the rest of garden. The ongoing routine of sowing and pricking out salad leaves to make sure there is a seamless supply for the restaurant is sometimes very tedious when more exciting seedlings of flowers are waiting for attention. Nevertheless I try to keep a balance and think of the garden as a whole entity. We have always attempted to mix the beautiful with the bountiful to create a sustainable micro environment. It isn’t easy on a semi commercial scale but when it does work it is very rewarding. At the moment the tomato plants must be a priority as well as the continued sowing of salads.

But this week the tulips are at their glorious best, and what would attract all the pollinating insects if not for the succession of cottage garden flowers that will take us through the summer? A little bit of perspective is what’s needed but I really do need to start planting those tomato plants.

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Photos by Sarah Twomey ©

Bloomin' Tulips, April 13th

Jo Perry

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Weeks ago the first of the specie tulips popped their pretty heads through the soil and I thought spring was here. Tulipa Sylvestris has such a lovely golden flower, with elegant arching stems. It naturalises well in the garden. Tulipa humilis ’Violacea Black Base’ violet pink and ‘Little Beauty’, violet with a blue base edged with white, all so beautiful; and then it snowed. Any vestige of spring well and truly quashed. It is a bit warmer and even a bit drier, but the late spring is taking its toll. Cattle can’t be put out to grass, leaving farmers desperate for fodder, the ground is so wet that crops can’t be set and lawns are left unmown. However, the tulips in pots have started to flower.

Candy Prince was the first. It looks so delicate with its faded mauve petals looking every bit like Shot Silk. Then Vendee Globe. Why it’s called Globe is a mystery to me, as it is what is known as a Lily flowered variety, with elongated golden pointed petals, flamed with red. Mount Tacoma is a double flowered tulip, white like a peony, exquisite. I won’t go on, lists are boring and I don’t want to diminish the sheer beauty of tulips by just reeling off their names, but even in this disappointing spring, the extraordinary depth and variety of colour really brightens the day and the heart.

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The renovation of the Herb Garden is well on its way, the structural work is done, and we have replanted the majority of the herbs. The rest of the garden will be planted up as and when the plants become available. Already it looks so much better. I am happy to say that the Olive Tree blown down during Storm Ophelia, appears to have recovered. Tad, Rachel and Sean manhandled it into an upright position and put a wooden framework around to hold it in place. The little bit of root still secured in the soil seems to be providing enough nourishment to keep it alive, so I will watch it carefully through the summer. It may need watering if we have any prolonged dry spells. We can live in hope.