Down the Garden Path
|Published: 17th August 2011 10:14|
Down the Garden Path with Martin Horne
How can we best describe the weather of late? ‘Mixed' is probably the best word! One day we have scorching sunshine, the next the heavens open (Mother Nature's tears, as I heard it called). Whilst this is good growing weather, it brings with it a few problems.
Good, caring gardener that I am, I carefully staked all my taller herbaceous plants, tying them in discreetly so that the twine and canes were not too visible and - sure enough - the foliage soon covered them sufficiently. Unfortunately, I had not anticipated the rain and high winds and a few plants, most notably my Eupatorium -‘Joe Pye Weed' - had their outer stems beaten down. Fortunately, this is a very sturdy plant and, after some minor surgery, it looked as good as new.
Speaking of Eupatorium, I recently visited the Oxford Botanic Gardens, the oldest botanic gardens in the country, and spotted there a purple variety of this noble plant, so, of course, I had to purchase one! This now sits proudly in the garden alongside its 'big brother' It is well worth growing eupatorium for its delightful flowers which emerge in mid to late summer, attracting several bees and butterflies.
I love to sit in the garden, beer or soft drink in hand, and observe the activity of the bees and butterflies and hope that the populations will not have been decimated by this nasty epidemic which is affecting regions like the United States. Not only do they give so much pleasure to the casual observer but, of course, they are so beneficial to our plants' life cycles.
The poppies, in which I have invested so much love and attention, are now beginning to bloom. The big, bold red poppies like ‘Brilliant' catch the eye, of course, but I have two other favourites - ‘Pattie's Plum, a rich plum purple, and ‘Perry's White'. Oh heck! I love them all!
These poppies are all of the perennial oriental type - papaver orientale - but related to the oriental poppy is the meconopsis, the Himalayan and welsh poppy. Meconopsis may be grown in more shady conditions than their cousins the oriental poppies. Meconopsis betonicifolia is a gorgeous shade of blue and Meconopsis cambrica may be found in a delightful yellow. These have a habit of self-seeding, sometimes profusely.
Have I whetted your appetite for poppies? I hope so..
Another favourite of mine at this stage of the year is the peony. This may be a herbaceous perennial for the flower border or the tree peony, equally as stunning in form and colour. I made the mistake of planting one peony in too shady a spot (they love sunshine) and had to transplant it. There is a need to be careful when transplanting peonies as they resent root disturbance, Fortunately, I was able to transplant the little peony without damaging it and it now nestles next to its older ‘brother' and appears happy.
Slugs and snails have been very active in this mixed weather and have decimated the delphiniums, dahlias and lettuces in particular. I do not like to use slug pellets, as they could be damaging to birds if they eat the slugs, so I place a few ‘slug pubs' in strategic places. These consist of a cheap beer (nothing too exotic!) poured into a container such as an old margarine tub or yoghourt carton and left in the soil. The slugs and snails are attracted to the beer and fall in. What a way to go! Someone asked me if this was murder. I prefer to say "Assisted suicide!" If I threw them in - which I am tempted to do, that would be murder!
Happy gardening. Do please let me know of any of your gardening experiences and I shall try to publish them.