• Kay

A hard taskmaster

28 MAY 2020

Nobody slept well last night, probably too hot… Patrick got up about 5am, his alarm went off at 6am waking me, my attempt to switch it off failed and it went again at 6:10am. I give up trying to sleep and get up thinking I will do all my watering before getting Jean and dad up. I water the entire fruit tree border and the narrow fruit tree bed against the wall. This is not an easy bed for plants, it is particularly dry because of the wall and it isn’t easy to water. The fruit trees have been in about four years and are established, I presume their roots go deep enough to takes up moisture further afield, so I just give them a good soak now and then. However, in between the trees is a collection of ‘tough cookies’, I have planted extras in this bed on previous years but now apart from occasional weeding I’ve allowed it to colonise itself. It has some Echinacea that I planted several years ago and some gazanias that have survived the winters. It also has lots of self-seeded verbena bonariensis and now some companula both seeded from the bed in front. These are the plants that can survive the arid conditions. I give the fruit cage a good soak and note there are plenty of strawberries for breakfast. I also spot some potential good photo material – red poppies around the terracotta urn and pale blue delphiniums framing lead grey organ pipes of similar shape – I will let the house photographers know when they get out of bed! This week is a week of deliveries, I have just finished dressing Jean’s legs, when Medequip arrives with a new hospital bed for Jean. It has been decided by district nurses/Rapid Response to remove the hospital bed from the bedroom, move the sofa from the living room to the bedroom and build a new bed next to her in the living room. This removal/construction process proceeds whilst I get dad up and is completed by the time I bring him into the living room. It must be quite disorientating for dad who seems to understand what is happening to start with, but later in the day he is found wandering around his house trying to find things, and asks us to remove the bed, we offer a reassurance and take him for a walk in the garden. All of the extra commotion this morning means I am in the Annexe longer than usual, then we receive a call from ‘wheelchair services’ and I spend some time explaining our situation to an extremely kind and helpful lady who seems keen for us to have a wheelchair which would enable us to take Jean into the garden.

Today is very hot, apparently it is not due to rain until James’ birthday (6th June) which is not good for either of us! I do the same as yesterday, weeding and tidying the polytunnels central bed, extricating dahlias from the middle, weeding them and putting them out on the path. When it is cooler I go outside and plant out about 45 Borlotti beans and 16 French climbing beans around James’ remaining wigwams. The soil is dusty with big hard clods, certainly not idea for young plants. Unfortunately, I have no alternative as they cannot stay in root trainers forever… we will just have to be careful about watering. James and Aideen continue to remove the tulip bulbs, and work continues with just a pause to listen to and join the final ‘Clap for Carers’.James offers to water again and I am just about to go inside when something makes me check the newly planted calibrachoas on the mount which I finished planting five days ago.I was expecting to see lovely green lush plants, as they were when I planted them because the mount has been watered every day. To my horror I observe that the majority of the calibrachoas are pale and dry looking, some of them shrivelled.Only about ten of the original sixty look healthy and James had only just finished watering the mount.I deduce part of the problem is that the edge of a raised bed/terrace is especially dry and I used some of my well rotted manure around the plants to help bed them in and this may have dried out even more badly. I am extremely upset and frustrated by this and decide to water each plant individually and then add some of my best quality bagged compost around each plant and check it is properly firmed in. This situation highlights the importance of keeping a close eye on things and the only disadvantage of someone else watering, especially when light is fading, is that they would not spot something like this. Earlier in the day something similar had happened with the organ pipe bed. Patrick had watered it thoroughly the previous night so I assumed it was fine but luckily I just happened to look at it in the late afternoon the following day and large amounts of primulas and other plants were collapsed and wilting. Poor Patrick then got told off by me, what a meanie I am, but again it wasn’t his fault, it was dark when he was watering and he had watered the bed thoroughly. The problem is it is too hot and there has been no rain for weeks. The only answer long term is probably to change one’s style of planting. To be fair much of my planting is quite ‘drought resistant’ and plants are positioned to cope with conditions, but I am not creating a Mediterranean, tropical garden I am restoring a 17th Century, Tudor garden and my true love is the traditional English style.I am also a keen vegetable gardener, producing my own vegetables and companion plant seedlings and they need to be planted out, and no tiny, newly planted plant can cope with these conditions. It is very depressing, I will just have to watch everything like a hawk, and keep watering, but it does not do much to improve my mood!

My beloved garden for all its beauty and benefits to us all can be a hard taskmaster!

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