Thursday, 31 October 2013

June & July Garden Notes

Like the principal ballerina Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ catches everyone’s eye; especially now when it’s elderfoweresque blooms are held aloft on outstretched layered branches; competing with the Laburnum Walk for attention. A real value for money garden plant with red twigs, layered branches, cream and green foliage complemented by cream flowers and finally in autumn plummy tones. Native to Japan, Korea and China this form introduced to gardens by Barbier in 1896. A wonderful plant in a lawn or arboretum where it’s striking presence can be admired to full affect; in a mixed border on the edge of a view through to the Gothick Summer House it puts us into a dilemma. Having said this I’d still like to try one in a large pot in my tiny Swindon garden! I won’t direct you to this tree, you’ll see it.

Walking past the Knot Garden and you’ll see a Rose hanging over a Box ball on the corner of a bed, quite tall and large pale yellow semi-single flowers. It could be ‘Fruhlingsgold’; but I’ll always know it as the arching monster clawing at heads and caps that struggled up the greasy, grassy slope next to the Chestnut in the secret garden, now the spa. I have a suscpision that this offending beauty was planted by David Verey, the plant you see now is a cutting that was rooted in the mist house, now appropriately occupied by the shower in suite 11. Carry on and at the next corner, on your left, another rose is just breaking bud, the Gallica rose ‘Charles de Mills’, my favourite because of it’s scent.
Looking at the old front of the house, Wisteria side, the bed to your right  is Bed 1, a study of blues, greens, yellows and whites. We stick loosely to colour schemes and Bed 1 was so. Blue Viola ‘Icy but Spicy’ grows amongst other perennials with the tiny green flower spikes of Reseda lutea for company. In the centre of this bed blue Geranium ‘Brookside’, white Centranthus (Valerian) and the blue spikes of  Echium vulgare (native Viper’s Bugloss) grow together.
Follow round to your left past the hard pruned Herb Garden, more blue Geranium ‘Brookside’ in the border behind,then up the steps, right and into the pond garden. Dark blue Siberian Iris ‘Tropic Night’ edges the pond. On the railings blue/purple Clematis ‘The President’ hangs and another later Clematis ‘Durandii’ is tied into a delicate Hazel frame. The bed the other side of the railings is home to vivid purple Geranium psilostemon jostling with Delphinium ‘Black Knight’. A dark red Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’ appears twice in this bed.
The Laburnums are releasing their blossom; beautiful none the less. Mrs.Verey admired the confetti strewn cobbles. This tipping point is the flare jetting skyward, the glaring head lights of the oncoming vehicle, the sign ‘flagging up’ that swift, sometimes brutal acts must be carried out in order for the garden not to lose it’s momentum midsummer.
Aquilegias, Violas, Geraniums must be raised to the ground; even though they still sport blooms. Aquilegias and Geraniums such as G. phaeum will produce lush clumps of foliage that will ‘foil’ later flowering plants; but Viola cornuta, cut back now, will be in full bloom from late August onwards.
Mrs. Verey saw the value of Viola cornuta as a hardworking and very pretty addition along the edges of beds and borders. Varieties such as ‘Alba’, ‘Belmont Blue’ and ‘Victoria Cawthorne’ have been Barnsley fixtures for many years. I too have a fondness for this prolific, dainty bloom and am always on the lookout for other varieties….’Alba Minor’, ‘Netta Stattham’, ‘Boughton Blue’, ‘Gypsy Moth’, ‘Violacea’, ‘Victoria’s Blush’, ‘Spider’, ‘Foxbrook Cream’, ‘Pat Kavanagh’ and ‘Icy but Spicy’ are all here.
In addition to scything down some of the perennials, spring flowering biennials will have to be cleared and removed thus preventing over zealous self seeding as well as providing space for the planting of annuals and tender perennials. Smyrnium perfoliatum is now looking dilute compared to it’s acid green ‘Euphorbiesque’ spring show, tatty Forget–me-Nots and selected Honesty specimens will also be removed. Honesty will go on to provide mother of pearl moon discs in late Summer and Autumn so it would be folly to show indiscriminate clearing where it is concerned.
Areas cleared are now being filled with Tobacco plants, Margeurites, Ami, Amaranthus and in the case of B4 Ruby Chard! Tender Salvias too get planted as well as Dahlias and you may notice pots of Lilies have been slipped amongst Roses and perennials….all to keep the show going for the rest of the season. More on this to come.
This might prove interesting, it is what the kitchens receive from the gardeners on a weekly basis in addition to the daily availability list.
Week Beginning 24th June.
Crops that are in good condition and ready to go………
In one of our tunnels we have some very good herbs especially..
Tarragon.Flat Leaved Parsley ‘Giant of Napoli’, about a dozen good bunches.Moroccan Mint, great spearmint flavour, about 9 bunches.
*There is also Salad Rocket going to flower, that still has useable leaves; but very striking veined flowers that could be used as a garnish.
In the other tunnel we have one variety of First Early or New Potatoes… ‘Swift’ (at least 6kg left) are white fleshed and quite round. There is also ‘Belle de Fontenay’ which is has long kidney shaped, waxy and slightly yellow tubers. A French maincrop variety that is used as a salad type. The first early should be used up first as if left too long they will boil to mush and after that Bell de Fontenay needs to be used, it will keep. However the Potatoes are occupying areas that get successionally planted with Tomatoes.

Out in the beds and Potager……
Still on the subject of herbs we have good quality Marjoram, Bronze Fennel Herb, Coriander, Green Sage. Is there a use for Lemon Balm? The Potager Sorrel is statuesque!
Some really good headed  mixed Lettuces including the varieties Red and Green Salad Bowl with oak leaf leaves, Marvel of Four Seasons is a butterhead type with bronze tinted leaves, Valmaine an American cos type and some really good tight headed Little Gem in the Potager.
As well as lettuces there is also the yellow Frisee Endive a curly Dandelion relative, quite a lot of this.
Magnificent spring sown Rainbow Chard, two strip beds of it, leaves easily a foot long! All the colours of the rainbow.

Two varieties of Garlic..’Thermidrome’ is a commercial variety and ‘Chesnok’ is a pretty little bulb, quite elegant for a garlic. At the moment they are a premium product as they are still ‘wet garlic’ i.e the papery membrane hasn’t yet developed between the cloves, couple more weeks and they’re just garlic. When they mature they then put up curly ‘scapes’, flower stems that when young can also be used.
We have about sixty bulbs of the Red Onion ‘Electric’ that we planted as sets last autumn, sets are small bulbs that overwinter quite well and crop earlier, they can be planted in spring too. Younger onions have a milder flavour, in my opinion, than those left to mature.
The Potager has some very interesting and pretty ‘products’ that could be used to ‘pep up’ salads and dishes such as the petals and flowers of Violas (almost black), Pot Marigold ‘Coffee’ (an orange fawn), White Borage and young Rat’s Tailed Radish pods, they’re quite fiery! Is there a culinary use for the herb Hyssop?
An old way of deterring blackfly on Broad Beans is to remove their soft growing tips, I remember eating them cooked as part of the greens on my mother’s Sunday roasts. Do we have a use before they go on the compost heap or my plate.

What will be ready in a couple of weeks?
Very soon there will be a small amount of mixed Beetroots…’Cheltenham Greentop’, ‘Cylindra’, ‘Boltardy’, ‘Golden’ and ‘Chiogga’. Next week we should also have available the Summer Cabbage ‘Golden Acre’
Broad Beans ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ will be another two weeks as will the outside bed of Flat leaved Parsley alongside the second early Potato ‘Cherie’, red skinned with a yellow, sweet waxy flesh, my favourite.
Soft fruits such as Raspberries, Gooseberries and Currants will become seasonally available in July. In the Potager White Alpine Strawberries are flowering and along with Japanese Wineberries will provide delicious fruits in July and August.

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