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Better late than never!

It’s been a while!

I normally start feeling the urge to blog some time in February/March, but 2016 has seen such a dismal start to the growing season here in my corner of the UK that I simply couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for it.

The year began promisingly enough. We had a mild January following on from a very mild December, and it looked at that point as if we were destined for a pleasant, early spring, but it wasn’t to be. Without ever being especially harsh – we had no snow to speak of – the cold temperatures arrived in February and proceeded to roll all the way through March, April and May leaving the garden more or less in a state of suspended animation. Plants that had started to stir in January, mainly clematis and roses in my garden, were stopped in their tracks almost until June. Daffodils that should have been flowering in March didn’t make an appearance until almost the end of April; brunnera and pulmonarias, usually in full bloom here in April, didn’t really hit their stride until May. As for my Flagpole Cherry tree (Prunus amanogawa), the blossom on that was the latest I’ve ever seen it in the 16 years since I planted it, more or less coinciding with the unfurling of its leaves in mid-May rather than April.

So spring barely happened, and there has been little respite since then. I don’t know what the records say, but to me this has felt like the coldest, dampest June ever. Plants have grown, but oh, so slowly, because there’s been so little warmth and sun to fuel them.

And then there have been the pests. Winter and spring might have been cold for plants (and humans!) but not cold enough to see off the slugs and snails, whose numbers have been truly epic this year. I lost several emerging perennials before I’d even seen they were on their way, and it’s been a battle to keep seedlings and young plants from being decimated.

All things considered, I’m glad I decided not to grow any veg this year other than a few tomatoes – watching them struggle to get anywhere would have been too disheartening.

Still, enough moaning!

The calendar says that it is summer, and I do have some pretty things to look at, so I dusted off my camera and took a few photos yesterday.

Firstly, there are the remnants of my foxgloves:


I believe they are Candy Mountain Mixed, though as it’s a year since I sowed them and I disposed of the packet, I’m not 100% sure! (note to self: labels!) Whatever they are, they’ve been gorgeous, rising to a stately 5 feet or so and persisting for many weeks. They are also a magnet for bumble bees, which is nice to see.

Then there are the alstroemerias – or what’s left of them after repeated slug/snail attacks:


They’ve probably come in for the worst mauling of any of my plants this year – from afar they look good, but up close the foliage looks distinctly tatty, and I’ve more or less lost a couple of clumps. At least some have survived, though.

Next is a grouping consisting of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’ (which is pink because of my mildly alkaline soil, but still pretty!), Lysimachia punctata (Yellow Loosestrife), Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (heavily munched by slugs, sadly), ¬†and the golden-leaved Heuchera ‘Marmalade’:


The heuchera and brunnera were new last year and are slowly establishing themselves, not helped, it has to be said by the cold spring. I was hoping to propagate them this year, but they’ve taken forever to get going, so I think I’ll leave them for now.

Another new acquisition from last year is the pretty blue hardy geranium ‘Rozanne’ which is seen threading its way through some yet-to-flower hemerocallis and crocosmia:


It’s supposed to have a long flowering season, and as I’d like it to be a foil for other flowers (when they finally arrive!), I hope this is so. I certainly like it in association with the golden spiraea to the right, so that’s a good start!

My hanging baskets are gradually filling up:

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They’re just my usual mix of fuchsias, petunias, verbenas, impatiens, helichrysum and begonias planted in 12″ Easy Fill baskets. They can require rather a lot of watering on hot days, but thus far we’ve not had any of those, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, if nothing else!

Last but not least is a new plant to this establishment, a dahlia called ‘Ambition’:

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I am in love with this colour, especially of an evening when the setting sun slants across the garden and catches it alight:


My grandfather grew wonderful dahlias when I was a child, but I’ve never grown one myself, so this is something of a challenge for me. I bought it as a tuber in March and started it off indoors in a tray of compost (no heat, other than ambient), eventually potting it on and hardening it off outdoors in May. I couldn’t think where to plant it out in the ground, so in the end I put it in a large pot and it seems quite happy, producing a number of flower buds on its 3 stout stems. I’m under the impression that they are greedy feeders, so I added a handful of Vitax Q4 to the potting mix of bought multipurpose compost and well-rotted garden compost, and will give it a weekly liquid feed of Phostrogen throughout the growing season. Come autumn, I will probably have to think about giving it some protection over winter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

In the meantime, let’s hope there’s a glorious summer waiting in the wings to surprise us all…