After a sunny week in Portugal, I arrived back home to a surprisingly lush garden. I’d expected to return to dried out hanging baskets and shriveled pot plants. Instead, I found everything overgrown. Our English summer has been dreadfully rainy so far, but it’s made my borders blousy and gorgeously verdant, so I don’t mind. This is what midsummer should look like.
The grass is long. Formerly bare patches have been filled, and the whole lawn is covered in pretty white clover flowers. In just seven days, the shady, damp areas of the garden have begun to resemble a tropical rain forest, and the sunny borders are filled with seedheads and flowers that have gone over. The copious rain has caused a few unstaked herbaceous perennials to flop and collapse onto neighbouring plants, and some of the more delicate rose blooms have rotted on their stems.
This week, I’ll get out there and slash back the geranium phaeums in the hope they will have a second flush of flowers later in the summer. It will also make space for other, later flowering plants that are currently being smothered. I need to cut down tall seedheads of aquilegias and irises. The whippy water shoots of the wisteria need taming (not too hard, cut back to 5 or 6 buds). There are bowlfuls of strawberries and broad beans to pick. And the roses all need a thorough deadheading. But these are not arduous jobs, and will be rather pleasant to do if the sun comes out.
There have been a few disasters while I’ve been away. The clematis that was growing vigorously up my new pergola has developed wilt. Or maybe it’s sulking because I disturbed its roots when I planted my new rose, a musk rambler named Ghislaine de Feligonde. I don’t seem to have much luck with clematis. But the rose is looking fabulous, so I suppose it’s swings and roundabouts.
There has also been significant slug damage to some of my dahlias, and the pumpkin that is growing in the compost bin. I have decided to be philosophical about this, and I am not going to sweat it too much. Alys Fowler, The Guardian’s gardening columnist, has said that this is the year of the slug apocalypse, and I fear she may be right. I see no point fighting an unwinnable battle. I did have a go at collecting up the slugs in a bucket of soapy water one night, but it made me feel terribly nauseous, so I won’t be trying that again. I’ll give vulnerable plants a bit more protection and hope for the best. Next year may be better.
Today I plan on making the most of the summer sunshine that has finally arrived in Norwich. I hope you have some sun where you are too, and that you have time to enjoy your garden this week. Midsummer is such a beautiful time of year.
OBERON, KING OF THE FAIRIES:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.”