Monday, 14 September 2009

Time to get back to the gardens

Now I've not got so many demands it's time to get back to the gardens which are looking a little sad and neglected right now. But I went to pick for five mail out bouquets this morning and was pleased to see how much there still is and how much still to come. It has been fantastically sunny for the past few days so the blocks of cosmos are begging to be picked bucketfuls at a time, and more dahlias seem to open every time I turn my back. I grew too many dark ones this year and not enough white cactus ones, but the fuchsia pink shaggy ones are probably my favourites this year. I still have plenty of green ammi, but the white traditional forms are getting to the far end of their lives, in every block. There are plenty of red and green glads left, cornflowers in white and pinks as well as blue to come, and masses of tiny pearly achillea but I sowed them rather late so they'll probably all be over by now this time next year. Asters of course are doing brilliantly right now, I still favour the wonderful mauve blue frikartii monch above all others for pickability, though there are a few other contenders too. The traditional small flowered tall white and pink forms aren't good in bouquets as the flowers open at different times but they're great in churches and big displays for a mass of impact and background. 

Catanaches have been good this year, I seem to have had some flowering for months, and I picked sweet peas again today, only a jugful but lovely to have something for our cottage for a change instead of all for other destinations! There are of course plenty of heleniums, still verbena, many eryngiums, some lovely delphiniums, and roses are having a beautiful late flush - the top garden has quite a few bushes of scented cream and ivory roses plus old pink ones, and now we can enjoy them without picking them which is a different pleasure. 

Persicaria has been excellent, flowering for months, and all my different astrantias have done brilliantly and flowered very well for a second time. I'll be sowing huge numbers of astrantias soon as I intend to have almost a quarter of an acre of my favourites for cutting next year! Annual phlox are another thing worth considering in more bulk, I grew them for the first time this year and have been well rewarded. The bulk of the solidago I got from Noel Kingsbury is now at full burst, I'm hoping it will continue for quite a while but I didn't cut enough back hard earlier so it won't continue for as long as it could. 

I got the photos through to look at for the Gardens Illustrated article next year. It's very exciting, but as a gardener of course I feel the gardens were looking much better the week before and definitely a few weeks later when the gales and rain stopped..... But I know they'll make it look beautiful and I have to admit I'm rather looking forward to it.

I've just started editing lovely Alys Fowler's new book. She's a hard working gem and deservedly popular. As someone rather older whose first gardening forays - apart from those in my mother's garden - were rather hippy gardening where anything went and we grew masses of vegetables in a rather higgledy piggledy fashion with flowers mixed in when we felt like it, it's fun to see how a younger generation have reinvented hippy eco gardening and given it more credible labels. What we experienced as ordinary gardening is now presented to a new generation of young hip ( as opposed to hippy) gardeners as polyculture, growing a mixture of flowers and vegetables together in drifts for effect and productivity. 

I've never been a great fan, on the other hand, of permaculture. I feel it was rather hijacked by grunge eco-gardeners (now I'm using silly vocabulary) to denote a state of gardening where aesthetics were of no importance, often to justify a state of non gardening rather than gardening. Though I know there are also some brilliantly sound principles. I was a friend of the late delightful Robert Hart, pioneer in this country of permaculture and forest gardening and spent many happy hours in his gardens and cottage. It was challenging having lunch with him, not because of the delicious produce from his permaculture plots, but because he didn't believe in using water very much so nothing was ever washed up. The residue between the tines of his few forks was serious and demanded a different way of eating! His gardener was called Garlic, and the two of them had a penchant for making extraordinary juices. I do not remember finding sycamore juice particularly pleasurable and can still remember the after taste and dried out mouth effect!

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