Wednesday, 29 July 2009

July 29th day course

We have now had ten days of torrential rain. There was a time when I would have been fearfully embarrassed about the state of the gardens and scarcely allowed people through the gate but I had a day course long pre-arranged for today.... the weeds were reasonably under control a couple of weeks ago but now they're winning again. Botheration. I briefly toyed with the idea of cancelling the day course as it has been so wet it's quite difficult to pick some things, I haven't even been able to deadhead the masses of cornflowers or nicotiana, the ammis are all looking at the ground, catanache, scabious and other delicaate flowers are drowned and unpickable.... But actually there's plenty that is still managing to thrive despite the deluges (and wind). So we went ahead. And had rather a good day. The participants made some utterly beautiful bouquets, tackled wild globes, and even got round to buttonholes. It was great fun and some beautiful results - thanks to all who took part. In the morning we prepared globes, managed a walk round the gardens in between the worst downpours, prepared flowers and made bouquets. Then we had a good lunch (indoors by the Rayburn, very popular!), and in the afternoon people either got stuck into making eccentric and beautiful globes or more arrangements, before a bit of playing with wiring and making up buttonholes.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

damp flowers

Someone kindly said that the field must look amazing at the moment. Sadly it looks bedraggled, overcast, and windblown. But I still love it. Today it is so wet it is a day for thinning future stocks in the tunnel and popping in some snapdragons that won't get going outside.

Monday, 20 July 2009

traditional summer

Whoever said July was going to be a scorcher was on the wrong track. On July 11th we held a surprise party here for my husband. It was the wettest night of the year so far (but still a good party) and it has been raining and blustering on and off daily since. This weekend a photographer came down for a two day photoshoot for a magazine feature next year, sadly it had rained almost nonstop for three days beforehand so lots of my favourites were trashed, then it rained and blew gales for most of the weekend. Luckily the photographer was very keen on inside shots so we did lots in the flowerhouse, and rushed out for the necessary outside shots. But I was rather sad as there were lots of areas of flowers that I would have loved to have shot - blocks of different ammis, annuals, gorgeous patches of scabious, swathes of lime green nicotiana, waving pink and white sanguisorba, dahlias, drifts of mixed achillea. half an acre of lovely blue-purple phacelia..... But I'm sure he did his job and got some good shots anyway. It's sometimes hard to let go when you need to!

If it is dry tomorrow I'll try and get out to take some field shots. Meanwhile here are some poor snaps of mine to show some of the things we got up to inside.

Meg is away for three weeks, so we took on someone else to cover for two days, plus an occasional student. Linda really got stuck in, but sadly she couldn't stay long because of family health commitments although she enjoyed her few days here, but we hope Siobhan will come through the summer until she goes back to uni, she has already spent a year working on farms in France and Corsica so she's used to the glamour of it all! I was amazed that 15 people applied to come and weed, I guess there just aren't many jobs round here, which is probably rather lucky for me.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Back to the gardens

While it's lovely doing weddings it does mean great chunks of time are spent away from the business of gardening. So this week we have taken on more help and things are looking more possible again. Because the plots are quite large and things are scattered it sometimes looks as though there's not much flowering and then I feel despondent. But in fact we are picking masses of cornflowers, ammi, several flavours of lovely scabious, cerinthe, astrantias, various campanulas, veronicas, poppies, sweet peas, marigolds, florists dill, marguerites, some eryngiums, heleniums, catanache, bupleurum, nicotiana, achillea, phlox, lavenders, deepest purple larkspur....It just doesn't look great from a distance. Which is a problem, as there's a magazine photographer coming next week and now it's very wet, very windy, and very bedraggled looking. I will have to hope and hope and hope for some drier weather.

The annuals in the original patch have been fairly useless, lousy germination and lousy growth. I think I was too optimistic too early and they just couldn't compete. Even the cosmos has baulked. Those I sowed later in the patch we started using this year are so much better, the soil is better there, more heavily mulched and moister underneath so it doesn't seem so much like the unreconstructed clay the main patch threatens to turn into as soon as I turn my back. Next year all annuals are going in the newer area, and the original patch will be all perennials. But it will probably still be a year or two before it looks just like a couple of giant borders, there's a way to go!

We planted out some sunflowers in the newest patch this week. All the original sown seed germinated well and within two days of germination had disappeared thanks to rabbits and birds. Very very disheartening. The phacelia has competed well, it germinates running, and there is a reasonable crop of marigolds appearing among the docks, but the sunflowers were a disaster so we sowed some in pots and have transplanted them. A bit of a faff but if they survive it will be worth it. This new acre will be partly tulips next year, partly tough perennials I think. We'll see, it's easy to dream but not always so easy to realise the dream!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Weeding. And More Weddings.

Still weeding. I think that should be my catchphrase. The good thing about always taking on more than I can possibly manage is that things just may happen, the bad thing is that the weeds just may take over. I have had to sacrifice a couple of blocks of annuals that I just couldn't get to in time but it's all a learning curve. Next year I am having 90 per cent perennials in the central hedged acre, annuals are moving out below the tunnel - the ones I sowed there more in hope than expectation all germinated and are somehow surviving. I put so much mulch on that bit of ground before covering it with landscape membrane for a few months that the soil is much easier than in the main patch where it is still horrific uncompromising clay near the top despite tons of compost. Or it may be that I sowed later so everything had a better chance. Or it may be that corn spurrey hasn't really taken hold over there yet. We have put several tons of mushroom compost as a mulch in places in the hope that it will help neutralise the soil as corn spurrey thrives in slightly acid conditions.

It all sounds grim but actually I am loving it. Flowers are popping open everywhere  - though a friend came round the other evening and said he couldn't see that many.........It is deceptive as everything is currently rather spread over different areas, so there is not a massed effect of colour in the field at this time of year, just patches. But the top gardens are lovely. If weedy!

It's such fun playing with the different colours. Alchemilla has been the main filler for the past few weeks. I'm beginning to use lots of fluffy green ammi foliage now, plus golden rod and aster foliages and herbs, but at this time the flowers really take over and sometimes I don't use any foliage at all. A current favourite combination is lime green nicotiana with cornflowers, and gorgeous frilly knicker picotee poppies are divine.

Two more weddings to prepare for this weekend. So today and tomorrow will be flat out. It's just after 5am and I must go and start picking now. I have a total of 28 jugs, 5 garlands, 10 sheaves of flowers to hang, 1 globe, 7 bouquets and about 20 buttonholes this weekend, as well as hair flowers, cake flowers and a mass of church flowers for one wedding.... One bride wants bright (lots of cornflowers and marigolds with purples, yellows and oranges), and one wants nothing bright but the whole country vintage look with lots of scent, so at least I should be able to distinguish the two!