Today is a day for research, Patrick is preparing a Planning Application for Church Gardens which will require a planning statement, which is where I come in. One of the frustrations of living in a listed property, especially one with a host of additional restrictions attached to it, is you have to submit a planning application for almost everything. This application concerns rebuilding sections of walls (rather than purely repairs), putting a pond in the orchard, and building an outbuilding that could be used for visitors to the garden to serve refreshments and/or hold meetings and small events. I spend most of the day trawling through Emails, letters, reports and reading up about Renaissance/Tudor gardens to find information to support our application. We want to encourage visitors to the garden because we think it is worth visiting and the new building will enable this plan. Then, hopefully we will be able to raise at least some money towards the garden’s restoration and upkeep. It should be clear to the authorities by now that we would never do anything that could be detrimental to the garden, however, we know from past experience that any such applications are not always met with the enthusiasm and support that you might like. This can be very depressing and tends to slow down progress. Considering the perilous state of the built structures of the garden and the horrendous condition of the land when we moved in, you would think that the council would be pleased with the progress made and encourage us with the project…did they want Church Gardens to disintegrate totally?
As a result of this work, little gardening is achieved today apart from dead heading sweet peas and watering. There has been little rain recently and parts of the garden are struggling. In order to reach the furthest corners of the kitchen garden, I have to use three hosepipes fixed together and my history with hosepipes is turbulent! I am convinced that the hosepipe has a stroppy mind of its own. If it can find anything to get caught on, it will, if it can kink and stop the water flow, it will and best of all, if it can become disconnected at any point and drench me with freezing water, it will!
Today the hosepipe is on great ‘obstructive’ form…anyone walking a dog in the field would have been treated to a tirade from me especially when I tried to reconnect the wrong sections of hose and caused a massive fountain of water soaking myself from head to foot! We need to pray for rain!
Today rain is forecasted – thank goodness! I try to get a bit done outside before getting dad up and I make a start on removing the clumps of delphiniums from the fruit tree border, also dead heading the peonies whilst I’m there.
Getting dad ready for the day is hard work because the health problem (still undiagnosed) he is suffering from is bowel related and it affects him in waves. This last 24 hours has been difficult and he has needed my attention repeatedly. This is not easy for either of us, but eventually I get him settled and comfortable with his breakfast. After finishing clearing the last delphiniums which is difficult because this bed is full of self seeded verbena bonariensis. This looks beautiful, but if you push past the stems, they scratch and graze your skin. At some point, I will have a major ‘sort out’ in this border and tie the verbena back to make the service path at the back more accessible. However, this is not a priority at present, so I will have to suffer some wounds for now!
My priority today is to salvage my garlic. I planted loads of garlic in the Autumn and the Spring and used a lot of it, particularly elephant garlic, early in the season as ‘wet garlic’ which was delicious. However, there is still a lot in the ground which should probably have been harvested in June. The garlic beds have become over run, they have not been weeded for months and I can barely see the dried garlic stalks amongst the foliage of companion planting and weeds. I need to get the garlic out and onto the polytunnel bench before it rains heavily. This is not particularly easy and surprise surprise, there are lots of voluminous bee filled borage plants to navigate! I manage to excavate a reasonable haul of garlic. Some of it has rotted which is annoying but there is still quite a lot intact. As usual, some bulbs are irritatingly small, it is difficult to grow uniformly large bulbs, but some are a good size. I bring it inside as the rain sets in and lay it out on the propagator trays (not switched on) to dry, although its probably already dry enough.
Whilst it is raining, I sow four root trainers with eight different varieties of dwarf French bean. These will be able to go into the beds vacated by the garlic. These beds already contain some stray potatoes which were left from last years’ rotation which have grown into decent plants. Despite the rules of rotation, they are allowed to stay and add to the potato harvest, I’m sure we will eat them! In-betweens showers and numerous visits to grandad I deadhead all the lovely marigold companion planting in the brassica quarter and pick the first of the new cabbages for dinner. This beautiful green Offenham cabbage has already been attacked by caterpillars so I decide to harvest it before they eat any more of it! I remove the head and leave the plant with its outer leaves in the ground. This is partly to not leave a hole in the bed, but also to maybe provide a sacrificial plant for caterpillars. It will also re-sprout and possible produce more greens. Tonight’s dinner is a giant quiche containing, amongst other things, our own white onions, courgettes and mushrooms. Roast potatoes with tonnes of rosemary and garlic and cabbage cooked in butter and garlic.
Today is a real ‘English weather’ day, a mixture of sunshine and showers. When I walk around this morning the whole garden looks more fresh and there is colour everywhere. There are now quite a few gladioli in bloom and the variety of colours is stunning. In the latest batch to be planted, in the mount, there are several bi-colours, one is yellow/orange, another pale pink/lemon yellow. There are some very tall vibrant orange and some very deep purple gladioli that have bloomed in the fruit tree border amongst a mass of soft lilac Russian Sage and bright purple verbena bonariensis, a happy accident which looks beautiful!
Amongst the gladioli are the peacock tiger lilies which I cannot recommend highly enough, their colour combinations are gorgeous and their flowers are hard to beat for exotic appearance.
I am also delighted with the giant lilies which are a fabulous addition to the middle section of the central borders with their tropical backdrop of banana trees, cannas and thread palms and the scent from them is sublime. This is without even mentioning the dahlias, which probably give you every colour, shape and size you could possibly wish for. I really do feel as if I am walking through a rainbow! Today, I decide to pay some attention to the arches in the garden. We have a lot of arches, it is a bit of a theme at Church Gardens, maybe because we have in mind the arcaded wall and the three big arches built into the front of the house. There are eight arches just in the vegetable garden and I am trying to grow things over all of them. Three arches are very successful, one with white passion flowers, one with yellow fremontondendron and one with white solanum and a small pink clematis.
The others, all have different varieties of clematis but they are still getting established and are quite small. I bought them last year from Parkers catalogue and they were so scrappy I’m amazed they survived (in fairness, they were cheap!). Today I plant out the last of the climbing nasturtiums and pink/puple ipomea that have been hanging about in the polytunnel. Whilst I’m there, I weed the four tiny raised beds at the top of the veg garden that house the four dwarf apple trees, three of which are laden with fruit, the fourth is sulking! Whilst I’m in the kitchen garden, Aideen and Diane and later in the day Mary, use the dumper which was hired for the weekend to move stuff. They move the coping bricks (about 1600 bricks), 5 tonnes of sand and two crates of Indian Sand Stone from the front of the house. This is to clear everything so a start can be made on digging up this area. They moved the heavy metal mesh for the wildlife hide, scaffolding boards and big ply sheets. They were very happy with themselves and tired by the end of the day, well done girls!
I carried on, tidying and weeding and made a start on the main onion bed surrounded by very tall/bushy blue cornflower plants. I harvested about half the bed and brought the onions into the polytunnel to dry out on my shelving of recycled fridge trays. These onions were not amazing, some were very small, the others, medium in size. This is probably because we’ve had limited rainfall and also I have not kept them weeded.
Unusually, my Autumn onion crop have been better this year, producing plenty of good sized onions, this is never usually the case. As a gardener, I think you have to accept that it will never be a good year for everything, different conditions suit different vegetables, for example, this years’ cabbage look much better than last years, particularly the red cabbage. This is probably because I’ve spaced them more sensibly this year. Also, all the brassicas suffered from an early aphid attack, but they have all grown through it and look great now, particularly the Brussel sprouts.
I finished the day preparing a huge pot of meatballs in a tomato based sauce with lots of veg and I felt very happy to be able to pick such a large selection of fresh herbs to add to the dinner – oregano, thyme and basil.