Beauty And A Beast

The gardens are generally looking fine.


Kidney Beds 6th June

Though frankly if they didn’t during June, I might as well give up and get a proper job.


Kidney Beds 26th June

But the Kidney Beds are in dire need of a major revamp.  They were cobbled together five years ago with a few sitting tenants, some plants from my garden, gifts from friends and impulse buys.  I’ve added all sorts of ‘stuff’ since then.


Kidney Beds 20th June

And I have been fairly pleased with how they’ve performed whilst I concentrated on other parts of the garden.  But (and yes, I say it every year) their time has come: in the autumn I am going to strip them out, simplify and replant.


And the same goes for you, Long Borders.  I now have enough mature, bulky plants to make a bolder, less bitty design and give space to swamped, under-performers.  In the early days, my main concern was filling bare soil but now I’m looking forward to a full frontal assault on all four borders with digging-fork, spade, mattock, bow-saw and grin.


During June the Tropical Border gets under way.  And this is a border which I did plan and plant from scratch – and that I really enjoyed.  I’ll do a post later in the summer on how it has developed this year; which plants I’ve added … and which I’ve deleted.


6th June

Some plants in the garden don’t need much attention; the Hydrangea petiolaris on the front wall of the house for example.  I deadhead it (a little), cut growth creeping over windows and into the roof but otherwise leave it to its own slow devices.


Some plants left unwatched will mis-behave.  This black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) was about two foot tall and a foot across (and mostly dead) when I rescued it from a garden centre bargain basement.  I homed it in a quiet, mostly unvisited, unseen corner of the garden five or six years ago.  It has a clearly defined planting pocket but has chosen to throw out three new canes into the surrounding grass.  I didn’t really have time to enlarge the ‘pocket with an edging iron but had to save those three large new shoots.  Then, on hands and knees, I lifted away the turf.  And goodness but didn’t half jump when I uncovered this:


I have no idea what it is – looks rather like something Quatermass would have unearthed: an inspiration for H R Giger’s Alien.


I was fascinated and especially so by the larva leaping about like a Mexican jumping bean.


I hastily re-buried it and wondered what it would pupate into and what would eventually emerge from deep within the bamboo.  And whether it’ll bear a grudge.**


I fed and re-mulched the bamboo and happily counted 20 new canes – normally it produces a dozen.  (The new canes are green but gradually darken to black over the course of a year).  I remove thinner, older canes as new, thicker ones grow and strip off the lower leaves to show-off the black.


I haven’t seen grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) on the meadow since 2011 –  though I look every year.  In early June it was back in several large-ish patches.  I think it perfect.


And it does grow from what looks like grass, rather than the usual pea-like vetch leaves – hence its name.


And does anyone know what this is?  I’ve tried and failed to identify it.  It appeared in un-mown grass by the greenhouses.


I think it is an allium but where has it come from?  It isn’t anything I’ve introduced.  Pretty though. *


Grass grows so very quickly during May and June that mowing seems endless.  Actually, no mowing is endless.  But Hallelujah!  The recent lack of rain has finally put a stop to that inch of  new growth every few days.  Mowing is hard, hot and pretty boring work – my method of emptying the trailer into the compost bins doesn’t make it any easier.


That full trailer is very heavy to tip over and I can have five or six to empty a day.  (I save a pretty penny on gym fees).  Mowing operations are slowed and interrupted by languid bumbles and distracted honey bees.  (I can’t mow a bee; call me old-fashioned).  I stop and nudge them gently with the front of the mower, so entranced are they by flowering clover.


But what has truly slowed grass-cutting down this year are froglets.  Dozens upon dozens of them – and they’re just the ones I notice.  I reckon there must be thousands, especially in the meadow and along the pond fringes and ditches where the grass is damper.  As I mow, or even just walk about, they hop about my approaching feet or wheels – like miniature firecrackers.  But often they don’t actually get out of my way and again I stop the mower, gather them up or shoo them them safely to one side.  (I can’t mow a frog: call me old-fashioned).   DSM_6481

Here’s a small gang I disturbed when lawn-edging.

I’ve started harvesting new potatoes, cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, salad leaves and radishes.  But the Priory’s bumper crop this year is froglets.

* Thanks to Fraser – @insightofseed – and Frank at Bittster who both suggested triteleia and a quick on-line image search confirms that it is.  It’s also called Fool’s Onion – now then, who suggested it might be an allium?

**  And thanks also for your suggestions in helping to identify the larva (though actually I realise now it is a pupa).  I think it is a great diving beetle.  Unless you know different.

46 thoughts on “Beauty And A Beast

  1. Stunning hydrangea, one of my favourite climbers. I chuckled to see the froglet “harvest”, if they all return to their spawning ground you might need ear defenders next Spring! It must be hugely satisfying to have reached the point where you have bulked up enough plants to re-do those borders, look forward to seeing what you do with them. I am still attempting to smother bare soil and work out what plants I want to amass. I am now going to expose my ignorance – what is the plant with acid yellow flowers in the foreground of the first photo? Its on the tip of my tongue but seems happy to remain there. Nice rescue on the bamboo – and definitely Vaughn Williams, you need to be calm when wielding a mattock…


    • Ignore my question, turns out my first thought was correct, Ladies Mantle. Believe it or not it never grew big enough in my last garden to get the leaves growing up the stems like that. One glance at the yellow froth here and lo, leaves growing all the way up long stems, just like yours. But floppier. Consider me enlightened! No really, please…


    • Hello Janet, yes I think a little Lark Ascending will reign in any heady excess and calm the mad gleam in my eye. A bit. Mattocks aren’t exactly precision tools, are they? I wish I still had a plant stall outside my house – so many perfectly fine (and big) plants end up on the compost or bonfire because I no longer have a use for them or I’ve just fickly tired of them (yes, Nepeta Six Hills Giant – I mean you). Dave.


      • Consider yourself ignored, oh enlightened one. Alchemilla is something else that I’m always digging up and dumping. It is very lovely and I use it a lot but it does seed everywhere. D


  2. That has to be the biggest climbing hydrangea that I’ve ever seen. It’s a beauty too.
    I don’t envy your re-doing the beds. I have to do the same here and I’ve been putting it off for too long.
    That tropical border was an excellent idea. I think it looks great!


    • The hydrangea is big isn’t it (well actually ‘it’ is two)? I was going to tackle the beds last year but there never seemed to be enough time. I was going to do it again in the spring, but it was so very early this year I didn’t get the chance. No excuses next time. Dave


  3. Wow! That’s one ugly bug. Fascinating that it could be a great diving beetle. I have an image of you, maniacal smile and spade at the ready tackling all those borders. It’s good to give things a revamp. I’m at that stage with my garden. Just trying to work out whether we’re going to move or not. If we stay put I’ll be doing my own border redesigns but I have to admit the idea of starting somewhere else is very tempting. Lou


    • A fresh canvas is always appealing isn’t it? We move house quite regularly (though we are stuck in our current one, whilst we wade through a very lengthy and tortuous planning application) and I do like finding what treasures a new garden might hold. And what horrors! DAve


  4. Flamin’ Eck! It’s 23.57pm…I was just off to bed when I thought I ought to check out what you’ve been up to ….and now I’m gonna have nightmares about hideous white, ghostly critters eating me alive as I snooze. Thanks a bunch!


    • Hullo Mistress Tracy, how kind are you? What are you after? Lovely to see you on Sunday. I had to have a little sleep after that long walk (and to digest that awful pub food)! Dx


    • Hi Helen, it certainly is a pupa rather than a larva – as I wrongly said above. It could well be a summer chafer beetle. Thanks. I actually found a couple of photos of a great diving beetle pupa though and that seems a very good match – I found it just by water. But frankly I don’t really know. Chafer/Diver take your pick! Dave


  5. Beautiful photos and the gardens look great. I’d be wary of the beastie though, I’m sure she’s biding her time and recruiting her minions for a mid summer assault.
    The tropical border looks fantastic already, your compost works magic on those bananas. I bet this fall you’ll need three helpers to lug them in! The satellite dish is a nice touch.
    Could your mystery bulb be a tritelia? They usually have more blue though, so probably not.


    • Hi Frank, ah yes. The satellite dish is a sore point. I have tried to omit it from most photos but it is so flaming huge it is almost impossible and to make matters worse there are two!! Sigh. Well done on the tritelia identification. Someone else suggested it and a quick image search was confirmation. Please take this gold star and wear it with pride. Dave


  6. The assault with “digging-fork, spade, mattock, bow-saw and grin” sounds like the stuff of epics. I hope you’ll have a soundtrack worthy of your efforts to go with it!

    Five years already — wow. The gardens look amazing. I remember when you started blogging, you were still trying to overcome the Years of Neglect and fill up those beds. Hard to believe now.


    • Hullo Stacy, Wagner do you think? But perhaps that would be a little OTT, a little too Apocalypse Now. Might just play a little gentle Vaughan Williams instead. I’ve been at the Priory six years now (almost to the day) so yep, it is time to start re-jigging quite a lot (though I haven’t really stopped). Perhaps overhauling is a better term than re-jigging. But I’ve realised saying that I’m going to ‘re-do’ ALL those beds is easily said. I shall be cursing myself later in the year, when I’m up to my armpits in mud and trying to id some perennial from just a few soggy, cut stems. D


  7. A gardener’s work is never done. But yours looks lovely and you take beautiful pictures. Glad I’m not the only one who wonders if the insect or his/her relatives will bear a grudge after I’ve bothered or even swatted them.


    • Hello Cynthia, thanks. Glad you like the garden. It is increasingly looking parched now – we have had virtually no rain in the last few weeks but still loads of wildlife, grudge-bearing or not. D.


    • Oh dear, you’re testing my non-existing knowledge again but I think dragonflys pupate straight from the water – or at least I’ve seen one emerge from it’s pupal case on a reed stem. Quite a sight. Dave


  8. cute little froggies, my garden is full of them as we have a pond but we have no grass to cut, I just have to watch where I go as I don’t want to kill them with my feet ! as for the beast, my first thought was : grashopper but I haven’t got a clue where they stay when they are not fully grown


    • Thanks for that but I think it a little big for a grasshopper but I’m hardly an expert (obviously). As I’ve said below I think it is a great diving beetle pupa. I think. Dave


    • Thanks for that website, Amelia. I did log into it and posted a photo or two but no luck. Looking at more online photos and comparing them to mine I think it might be a great diving beetle but I’m sure there are other possibilities. I’ve realised it’s a pupa and not the larval stage. The diving beetle larva lives in water then emerges on to dry land to pupate (were you interested)! Dave


  9. How exciting to be replanting a whole bed or 4! It looks good in your images already but I know exactly what you mean by simplifying the design. There are a couple of areas here I’d like to do the same, one being the area in front of the terrace I’ve been writing about. Can’t help with the beast although it might be a stag beetle. this might help. Christina


    • Thanks for the tip, Christina. I had a look at the website but I don’t think it is a stag beetle – it doesn’t seem to have the nascent mandibles. I actually now think it is a great diving beetle pupa – but hey, what do I know? Dave


  10. The thought of digging up all the plants sounds like jolly hard work, enough to bring on my palpitations. The borders are looking lovely though – even if they don’t come up to your high standards. The froglets are delightful – quite a handful.


    • Hi Elaine, hmmm. I was looking at the borders today and thinking that re-designing and re-planting all four might be a big ask but I will have a crack at them. Luckily it’s been so hot and dry that the young frogs are retreating further into longer grass so becoming less of a mowing problem. Dave


  11. Everywhere is looking wonderful to my eye, but that is the problem with being a gardener – we are never satisfied and just have to keep moving things around. Looks like you have a pretty hefty task ahead this autumn. Those baby frogs are adorable and really remind me of when I was a child and we used to have tadpoles in our garden pond. I get bigger frogs in our garden from a neighbours pond, but rarely see them that small any more.

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    • I’m very guilty of never being satisfied with the garden. But then sometimes I stop, look at a bed objectively and think, actually that isn’t half bad. But not very often! I’m very pleased that the garden is now a great haven for frogs. The meadow and all the ditches and other ‘wild’ areas were all mown and strimmed before I started. So it is nice to see something very beneficial come from just letting things be. Dave


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