I was outside relatively early this morning for a lengthy watering session. It is still quite hot and the forecast is for it to get hotter through the week reaching the mid-thirties by Fri/Sat with no sign of rain. Apart from the usual areas, I watered all the fruit cage and the fruit tree border. In an ideal world, I would like warm dry days to work outside followed by nights of soft gentle rain but unfortunately this is an unrealistic hope! It has now not rained for over a week and different plants are showing stress as a result. One of the banana trees looks a bit sad, so I give them all a good soaking. In the fruit tree border, I notice the patches of rudbeckia and astilbe are looking thirsty. When I am watering containers by the pond I notice a very large tempting fig which I pick and eat as I go, it is very juicy and sweet.
An exciting discovery whilst watering the fruit tree border are my first apricots, I spot three good sized fruits and I battle my way through the bed for a closer look. They are a beautiful colour but not ripe yet.
Dad is very demanding today and with the curious impatience of the elderly dementia sufferer, decides he wants to get up much earlier than usual, he doesn’t understand that I have thousands of thirsty plants to look after as well as him!
Another interesting thing I spotted this morning in the polytunnel was a tiny cucamelon. I’ve never grown these before and I had almost forgotten that I had planted them, it will be very interesting to see what they taste like…watch this space. As well as gardening today, I have to make multiple trips to the Annexe to take dad to the toilet or to discover that dad either doesn’t know why he has pressed his button or doesn’t believe he has pressed his button…I sometimes think we are both going mad! Another issue today is that dad’s care-line button is malfunctioning (this is an external support button if dad falls and cannot reach his home buzzer this button telephones for assistance). Its recorded sounds keep activating and it repeatedly tells us it is disconnected…this is probably agitating dad further so I spend ages on the phone trying to book in a technician to check it out.
I finally get outside to my beetroot bed and by the end of the day it is looking spick and span and I have started on the celery bed. Minxy decides to help by sunbathing on top of a celery plant…cats like celery almost as much as cat mint!
Whilst watering this morning, I paid special attention to the mount which is making me very happy for several reasons. I am particularly chuffed with the ground cover perennials that I have planted along the edges of the first and second terrace. These are growing well, and have knitted together to produce a continuous tapestry of flower and leaf running fully around the mount. This was a selection produced by the Parkers catalogue and several have been flowering continuously for weeks, the campanula has been particularly good. One mystery is that the plants on the top tier are bigger than those on the first and I don’t know why. I am also very pleased with the antirrhinums which have developed into strong, bushy plants and are starting to flower, considering their shaky start, this is very gratifying. The bottom ground level bed is full of antirrhinums that were planted earlier and have been flowering for ages. This bed is also host to numerous colourful gladioli and Peacock Tigers and is a riot of colour. Whilst admiring some Peacock Tigers, I noticed something unusual. One bloom has no freckles! These amazing flowers consist of two colours with speckles which are sometimes very closely spaced, but I’ve never seen one with no freckles before.
I tear myself away from the mount to talk to a man who has come to give us a quote for resin bonded gravel at the front of the house. He was very nice (Minxy liked him) but even with us doing all of the preparation work ourselves, digging out, laying type 1 and porous concrete and laying the stone sets at the sides, it is still an expensive option. He leaves a sample for us to show the conservation officer who is visiting on Monday. I then get dad up who thankfully seems more settled today. We have a visit from the care-line button man who is unable to help us because he discovers the problem is actually with the phone line.
Aideen has got a new idea that she would like to try pressing flowers. She looks at some of my books but they are quite old and I suggest she looks online for inspiration because there are some more recent beautiful and original examples of work using dried and pressed flowers. Aideen and Meave disappear off around the flower borders with a pair of scissors and collect a beautiful, colourful bowl of specimens which they press in tissue between a pile of heavy books – there is no shortage of heavy books in this house!
It is nice to see Aideen doing something for fun because she has been working very hard recently. She has been on a mission to ‘sort out’ the basement whilst Diane has been ‘sorting out’ the workshop. Aideen can now put up a shelf unit single handed. Yesterday, she was helping James to start installing our final remaining organ pipes on the pumpkin patch fence before it becomes impossible due to rampant pumpkin growth. She is religiously helping her dad in the office trying to get him organised (not easy) and has spent hours helping him construct shelves in a new room to store his numerous files and tonight I found her grouting tiles on the washstand in the shower room. Aideen is still practising the harp but she has taken some days off practising since her final recital and I think she is relishing trying different things.
Bella is treading on very thin ice at the moment, because she dug up my flower bed again! This is the third time she has done this, someone must have moved part of my chair barrier!
I spend part of the afternoon indoors (shock!) partly because it is very hot, but also because I am on a mission to ‘sort out’ my music room before I start teaching again….whenever that might be! This is something I’ve been meaning to do since lockdown began, but I was partly thwarted by Aideen and her harp invading the room before her final recital and also I’ve been quite preoccupied with elderlies and the garden. However, I’ve now been inspired by all the tidying up going on elsewhere and I’ve made a start on the music room spring clean (although it’s summer!).
After sorting through a very large pile of music, I go back outside…you can’t keep me away from my garden for long. Before I settle down to weeding I have a moment of pure indulgence which I suspect may become a daily ritual. I pick a big bowl of raspberries which I then eat with a bit of sugar and Elmlea cream. I adore raspberries and they are quite delicious to eat this way, a real treat!
I finish weeding the celery/celeriac bed, it will be interesting to see how they do. The celery and celeriac look quite good at the moment but they are not very big and they are tricky plants to grow well. I then plant out 35 baby beetroot plants, which will need careful watering as temperatures rise again. I then start watering the vegetable patch, earlier than normal so I can return to my music room. This turns out to be fortuitous because the light is still good when I’m watering the brassicas and I notice ‘cabbage white’ caterpillars munching some of my Brussel sprouts. It is essential at this time of year to check all brassicas (cabbage, cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, kale, swede, calabrese) frequently for this voracious pest. I do not kill many things but I do dispose of cabbage white caterpillars and box tree moth caterpillars. They arrive in such hoards that they are capable of annihilating their chosen host plant. I do not feel too guilty about cabbage whites because they are very common and I have other sacrificial plants in the garden that they can use. Sometimes brassicas self seed in parts of the veg garden where they grew the previous year, these are left for cabbage whites and I allow my monster horse radish to be consumed as well…it is already full of caterpillars…maybe this helps to keep this giant in-check! We do mainly believe in ‘live and let live’ at Church Gardens.
Monster mushroom eating slug
This morning we had a visit from James’ best friend and his father in law. A delightful gentleman who owns a chateau type property with lots of land in France. He is very interested in veg growing and gardening so we had a lovely walk and talk around the garden. This tour around the garden proved to be very fortuitous when we looked inside the mushroom house and discovered a huge slug stretched out on the eco-heater (not on at the time!). I was astounded, how did it get in? This answers a lot of questions about who has been munching the mushrooms. I scooped him up and gave him a good talking to, he must be the most audacious slug in Harefield!
Today has involved some very heavy lifting, luckily not really for me. Meave’s boyfriend sourced some fantastic York Stone paving that had been removed from a garden and was being sold on at a good price…why anyone would take up York Stone I do not know! He hired a small truck to transport it for us and he and Meave drove backwards and forwards to Essex, three times (it was too heavy for a single journey) to shift the stone! They then carried it off the truck with help from James and Aideen and a bit of help from Patrick and me to pile it up on pallets outside the garage. The slabs were so heavy that Aideen and Meave had to carry them together and they all did magnificently to move them and we are very grateful to Billy!
It was very hot today so I decided to work on the fruit tree border. This is largely clearing the path at the back by tying and cutting back plants to give me clear access to the fruit trees, which need summer pruning. It also gives me a chance to do some weeding (yippee!) and give the narrow border against the wall that the fruit trees are planted into a good soaking. At the same time, I will cut back any herbaceous perennials that have finished blooming like the Ladies Mantle and Rose Campion and Campanula. It is good to see that the roses after gentle pruning are giving a beautiful second flush of blooms, although the heat will not help them. Working at the back of this border is a hard job but good to do whilst it is so hot because my attention will help them cope with the heat. Whereas thorough weeding of a vegetable bed will probably leave vegetables too exposed to drying out by leaving bare earth. it is certainly not advisable to plant tender seedlings at the moment. My other object apart from pruning is to make it easier to harvest fruit. The Victoria plum tree in particular has produced a magnificent crop of frosted purple/creamy fruit and it is now ripe enough to be eaten. I pick a large bowl of plums and they are quite delicious, sweet and juicy. I always remember my mum loving Victoria plums and saying she tended to eat too many at once which probably gave her an upset tummy! I eat three and then go around the house handing them to James at his computer, Grandad in the Annexe and then Aideen and Patrick in the office. I even give two windfalls to Pecky who runs around excitedly with one stuck on her beak! (She loves fruit!).
I decide to start watering early because the garden is looking thirsty and I discover more cabbage white caterpillars. A few still on the Brussel Sprouts and a lot on one cauliflower in particular which resembled a skeleton by the time I intervened. I am going to have to keep my wits about me to minimise damage. This is another reason for planting lots of everything, there is enough for everyone!