Booming Blooms to mark the end of July

We see the final days of July roll by, marked by booming huge blooms all around. The pink asiatic lily this year has hit new heights – maybe 8 feet tall or more. The scent can be physically felt as one approaches the plant along the path or from across the grass lawn. It’s heady, swoony, powerful stuff, this flower business!

Asiatic Lily in Glory (end July 2021)

The picture below shows how tall these beauties really are.

Asiatic lily, with crimson flowering spike of very tall hollyhock in the middle meadow area in the distance. The plant ‘froth’ low to the ground at the base of the lily are wild violets which bloom very early spring.

The Asiatic lily stand absolutely on their own and need no staking at all (unlike the slightly more feeble gladioli, which do tend to flop over under the weight of their blooms, as do also the hollyhock).

The photo above shows the lily in the railway perennial flower bed. There is an ocean of orange flowering day lily running the middle length of the bed. After they finish flowering I plan to dig some of these day lily out to spread them further along the path towards the corner end – and also to make space for other plants. I may also move a few lilies into the middle meadow area. (I’ve already divided and moved some of the lucious purple bearded iris so that next spring there should be three patches of lovely iris spread along the length of the long perennial bed).

The originally planted multi-coloured gladioli growing to the side of the huge pink lily – which I’ve never dug up or disturbed for over 5 years – are now overcrowded and have divided to create new smaller plants. Which means they’re happy where they are! But they do need digging up, dividing and spreading out.

Some space needs to be created. Moving the day lilies around will help a bit – but yikes! From hard London clay and lots of gaps in the planting and mulching like crazy with straw and hay to keep the weeds down… well now I turn to find that we have almost NO open space in the flower beds. A welcome change but a new kind of challenge nonetheless.

Directly under the pergola are two bush roses – a yellow one and a pale creamy white rose which turns to pink as the bloom fades. These are presently finished flowering, but have been pruned back and may produce late summer blooms.

I may also divide and move closer to the asiatic lily some pink flowering Japanese anemone. I like the way the anemone flower heads dance and bob in the breeze lightly above the mound of foliage on long tall flower stalks and I think these would complement the lily and help fill the space towards the railing with a plant with foliage as a foil to the huge spike of the flowering spears. Hhhmmnn… Or so it seems to me today, as I write. But be warned: such are garden plans. Intentions but not promises. We’ll see if I get around to it – or whether some other planting scheme intervenes in the meantime. That’s gardening my style: part patience, part accident, part whimsy. Whatever goes. And in nature, what goes is usually pretty gorgeous, no matter how the scene conspired to come about.

On the other side of the pergola we have a large artemesia plant (aka wormwood) – silvery grey and a nice light foliage contrast to the other darker greens all around. In the photograph above, in distance along the railway bed you can just about see the pale purple hue of the huge flowering sea holly. Our second type of sea holly has not yet changed to an iridiscent blue – we can’t wait to see how that one comes one! The anemone and sea holly are also shown to advantage in the photograph below, which is taken at the other end of the long perennial flower bed.

Perennial bed facing towards the Asiatic lily, showing pink flowering Japanese anemonewith sea holly flowers in the lower right corner. Patches of red mark crocosmia, and the yellow is the yellow rose in bloom held in sea of orange day lily and red crocosmia.
Gladioli – a study in bloom progression. Orange day lily and red crocosmia in the blurred background. (end July 2021)

The gladioli bloom are particularly fascinating the way they emerge – like a natural version of an exquisite Georgia O’Keeffe painting! The flowers open from the bottom of the flower spear and open in succession all the way up, like steps of a ladder opening up. Magical!

What the bees see. Close up – Asiatic Lily (end July 2021)

So there you have it – despite the changeable weather and strange torrential rains we’ve had – with plenty of thunder and lightning too – all in all July’s been blooming glorious!

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Swanky Fox Set-Up

Our young foxes are wanting for nothing next door. They have a sofa to lounge on. A shed to sit up high upon. Pink flowering roses and hydrangea. A perfect little set-up!

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Sunday Mid-July Update

The flowers reach new peaks of splendour. Sky high blood red hollyhock reign supreme in the back patch meadow. In the past week I’ve worked hard – dripping sweat hard – to dig out some of the errant grass in the meadow area. Today I dead-headed some self-seeded poppy from the railway path and sprinkled the seedheads over the open ground. Green fingers crossed!

Crimson hollyhock, with growing echium in the foreground. (18 July 2021)

The Beast’s beloved sea holly have absolutely exploded into bloom this summer – finally after a long wet cool spring and early summer they are basking in the July summer heat. The sea holly flower brackets were so plentiful that I had to add a bamboo support stake last week to stop it from collapsing after heavy rain.

The photo below shows the sea holly’s purple blooms with a swathe of orange flowered day lily in the background behind.

Sea of sea holly on the railway path (18 July 2021)

Another super development is the appearance of flowers on the rescued root stump of pink hydrangea, planted under the large cherry tree. (Think: deep dry shade – one of the most daunting of growing conditions!). I admit I had limited to fatalistic “hopes” for this plant, but the Malink was determined to carry on watering it week after week…. and lo and behold! It’s finally showing some bloom! Go hydrangea go!

There’s a second hydrangea under the cherry boughs – this one is doing a little better (is closer to the edge of the tree’s canopy), and sports a high bright white bloom. Another one of the flower guy’s big successes.

White hydrangea in bloom in dappled shade under the cherry tree. (18 July 2021)

And farther afield, at the allotment, all is well. We’d left if for a week but everything is growing well. The raspberries are coming to the end (and loganberries are done and dusted), but we have blueberry just coming into fruit – a lovely treat! We harvested enough for a light summery treat with delicious greek yoghurt.

The very first blackberry are starting to show so we should have the first harvests in a week’s time. And truth be told – the yellow raspberries are coming into their own and do appear to be doing very well this year with large juicy fruits. Yum!

Jersey Blue Blueberry bush (18 July 2021).

The rose of sharon bush at the allotment has come into bloom. It’s all a bit leggy and too tall, but I’ve been waiting for the flowers before a big hack back. In the meantime the flowers are pretty awesome – like little mini flower fireworks – and the pollinators are enjoying them too.

Rose of Sharon bush in bloom, with pollinator. (18 July 2021)

The Beast’s “field of dreams” (aka patch of popcorn corn plants) is doing well and the plants are growing taller. That patch is a new grow area and is sorely in need of a serious weed and also some nourishing mulch. We’ll drench the bed in manure this autumn, but that’s no help to the corn. Tomorrow I’ll have a go at weeding and digging out the grass at the end of the bed. Phewf! It’s hard work…

Popcorn Corn Patch (18 July 2021)

So all is well and thriving on the plots. Upcoming projects including completing dividing the bearded purple iris to spread out the early spring bloom down the railway path, as well as digging out and transplanting some orange flowering day lily once they’ve finished blooming. I love the lilies – they are so cheerful and easy to take care of – but they’re overcrowding the roses under the first pergola, so I need to move some out and spread the lily joy around the place. Another division project will be to dig up and space out the gladioli bulbs – but I’ll wait until they flower and show themselves, that way I can be organised about colours when I replant. I’ll need to dig out and move from the railway path the patches of crocosmia to make room for all this gladioli re-planting! Things sure are different from the days when there were more bare patches than plants, and that was only a few years ago.

I also need to prune the black and red currant bushes, but I checked the RHS guide and they recommend doing this in the winter period – so I will have to be patient! In the meantime there’s plenty of other things to keep us busy – including our plan to dig out and divide and rationalise the raspberry bed at the allotment – the final area of the allotment that we’ve not really dug into since taking over the plot.

But all that (and more!) is for some other day.

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Fox Watch

We’ve been enjoying watching the antics of the young fox family living in our neighbourhood. They love the back flower garden, which is gated and locked and thus kept safely a dog-free zone. Oh the vulpine bliss!

Fox jumping the fence (late June 2021)

This year the young family have two young cubs, who have yet to grow into their big ears and long legs. Asleep with limbs stretched out on the grass of the downstairs neighbour’s yard, the young fox cubs look a little like miniature kangaroos.

The adults this year are very very vocal. There are verbal fox fights most nights.

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The Pepper Patch

Despite a poor year more or less with soft fruit because of all the rain this summer (such a change from previous summers in London which suffered with drought and high heat!), we have high hopes for the pepper patch – which last weekend we potted out into the patch cleared of winter grown garlic.

Pepper patch – mixed sweet & spicy! Early July 2021

And actually, to be totally honest, not all soft fruit has been a wash out. The black currant bush in the back patch which grows along the railway path was a wonder this year and produced almost 3 kilos of fruit!! I’m going to take hard wood cuttings in the winter to propagate a few more bushes of this monster-producer!

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Early July Blossom

July has been much the same as June – mainly wet and fairly cool for summertime. The plants need heat!! Our strawberries were soaked out, the raspberries grew well but were blown to ground by high winds and very heavy rains. We barely got a look-in at the loganberries this year. So very wet and unseasonably cool. Boo!

At least the blooms have been spectacular, with many plants which normally fade in the summer have remained in full and robust growth.

Acanthus in glory in the Woods (4 July 2021)
Glorious Pulmonaria (aka Lungwort) (4 July 2021)
Australian Bottlebrush blossom (4 July 2021)
White hollyhock in main woods patch (4 July 2021)
Crimson hollyhock (Bordeau) in bloom in back patch (4 July 2021) – first flowering since starting the seeds a few years ago.
Pink hollyhock in woods patch near the birch trees (4 July 2021). This one stands over 7 feet tall and is self-supporting as a large stand with several tall flower spears. Awesome!
The Acanthus patch in the front meadow bed of the woods. (July 2021)

And the flowers at the allotment are also coming on well. Especially the big guy’s beloved sea holly!

Sea Holly by the Damask Rose at the allotment. (July 2021)

So it’s not all been a wash-out…..

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Flower Power

The flowers at the allotment continue to amaze. When we arrive the first vision is that of a field of poppies, growing in a neighbour’s lower allotment plot.

Field of self-seeded poppies at lower level. 2 July 2021.

We were treated to flowers appearing on the Christmas cactus that we saved from the the side of the road. The plant I left outside all winter is now in flower. The cossetted plant that I kept indoors at the flat is doing well but isn’t in flower. Hhhmmnnnn….

The red rose arbour is – once again – absolutely dripping in flowers.

The damask rose is also doing well but we need to continue to treat it for black spot.

And most exciting of all, the sea holly has finally – after three long years – finally come into flower! How spectacular!

Sea Holly in flower (2 July 2021)

It’s all looking rather magical.

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The Woods

The local Community Woods group kept up our work parties through most of the worst of all this pandemic malarkey. After all, it’s all outdoors. And we keep well apart one from the other. So except for the first six weeks from late March 2020 we’ve been meeting and doing short stints in the open woods park area.

California poppy (already flowered and showing seed heads), lungwort and feverfew in flower.

The cool wet spring has kept plants at their best when usually these parts of the woods dry out under light shade. The lungwort have benefitted from the cool wet, and the feverfew seems to stay in flower for weeks and weeks!

The Echium in the old leaf compost area is thriving and starting to stand tall amidst the lower growing edible calendula. We also have hollyhock seeded in this patch.

The acanthus we planted into the middle of the woods bed last summer have settled in and set flower this year.

A month ago a local resident and sometimes woods volunteer gifted us a selection of potted plants, including a large potted Australian bottle brush. I’d not had much to do with this plant but said ‘yes!!’ anyway.

The bottle brush plant looked gangly and pretty hopeless, but it has repaid the kindness we paid it to remove it from the constriction of years in a plastic pot to put it into the cool moist earth, because it has exploded into wonderful red pom-poms of bloom. Behind the bottle brush you can see the tall flower stalks of the acanthus patch – all of which set against the background of dense branches of bird cherry.

And yes, that’s a healthy patch of nettles in the front – left to promote the life cycle of butterflies and other friendly bug life. We also leave lots of leaves and twigs on the ground for the other woodland inhabitants. At the allotment snails and slugs are the enemy, but in the woods they are part of the tapestry and mainly tolerated.

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June’s been hot & cold

June 2021 has been hot but mostly cold. Growth seems about a month behind. So last year’s May strawberries were a feast of the month of June in 2021. Despite not bothering with putting up bird netting we had a good harvest of strawberries this year – with a three kilo harvest at one point which culminated in some jam making.

Jam making in June.

The clematis planted at the back of our seating area (at the top near the path to the pond) has done well and is in glorious flower. Malink is delighted.

Clematis in bloom 21 June 2021.

By the third week of June we were able to harvest one of our plots of garlic. After digging up it needs to sit in the open air to ‘cure’ the outer skin. There are still two small plots of garlic at the allotment which have to be dug up, but since harvesting this first batch the weather has been cold, wet and rainy. We’ll have to wait for fair weather and the ground to dry again a little before we can lift the rest of our garlic crop. What a year!!!

But despite the poor summer weather, we were able to squeeze in a nice picnic dinner on the allotment one night after work. Smoked salmon, salad, crisps and wine. Yum!

Other good news includes the appearance – after 3 long years of patient growth – of flower heads on the beast’s beloved sea holly. There are fourteen flower heads all bursting into blossom…

Sea Holly (June 2021)
Self-seeded poppy with Gertrude Jekyll pink roses behind. (June 2021)
Hot chili pepper in flower and setting fruit (21 June 2021)
Damsel fly (June 2021)

Yeah, we’ve been up at the allotment a lot less this year than last – and though we’re happy there’s no more furlough, and a lessening of the global pandemic, we do miss being up there every day! But it’s all thriving and growing and blooming and fruiting and all that jazz. Even the foxes are happy!

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Cold slow spring at the allotment

It’s been a cold slow spring. Windy. Wet. Fairly yucky all told. The plot grows on, but in a slow steady kind of way. This time last year we were gorging on strawberries. This year they’re forming more slowly and with the exception of one large fruit turning pale pink most are dark hard green nubs – far from the table for now!

Strawberries (23 May 2021)

Malink has his selection of hot and sweet peppers safely ensconced in the shed.

Bees just love Jekka’s White flowering borage. (23 May 2021)
Our front allotment neighbour’s plot which borders the communal stairs. (23 May 2021)
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