The Garden in Flower

My summer kicks off with the release of Margaret’s cows from the sheds.  I was on holiday on the big day, and for the first time in several years, I missed all the pent-up excitement, the expectation, the arging and barging, the galloping, the frenetic leaping into the air and bellows resounding across the valley.  And that was just Margaret – though the cows were pretty happy too.

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Now that the cattle are out to summer pasture they often wander over to check whether the grass truly is greener.

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A farm-hand (or one of her ‘boys’ as Margaret calls them – though one is over eighty) spent several days chugging past the Priory, carting manure to an outlying field.  The Priory seemed absurdly busy with the tractor coming and going with a loud, steady thrum, thrum, thrum (that’s the noise of a tractor engine, btw).

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The big Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ put on a huge amount of flower this spring.  After consulting a gardening chum, I didn’t prune it back last year.  I know I probably should have; I know that those long branches bend and might snap under all that weight.

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But I don’t care.

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The sheer number of flower-heads from those tall, overly long stems was worth the risk.

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In the long borders, alliums set the ball rolling with a promise of things to come.

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At least, I hope there are still things to come.  I’ve re-jigged and replanted these beds during the past few months – perhaps they are now at their peak and this is their best?

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Oh, dear there’s a thought.  Just as well I like alliums.

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The big wisteria has finished flowering now but here it is a couple of weeks ago.  There was more bloom than I was expecting given the cruelly harsh winds that shredded the flower buds.  But then a late frost often robs us of any flower at all.  Longer racemes would look better I think but as you know I’m not one to moan.

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Beyond the wisteria arbour is what I call the Rock Border (because it has rocks in it) with the second of our two V. opulus ‘Roseum.’  (The ugly bare conifer trunks mark where we lost a tree last year).

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This is a spring border and was a mound of bramble, ash, bindweed and nettle when I first saw it in 2008.  I’ve cleared all that stuff but still join fierce battle with ground elder – a battle I’ll be fighting until the day I leave, I fear.

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On the far side of the border, a path leads up to the greenhouses beside a small lawn left uncut until daffodil leaf dies down.

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A bumper crop of buttercups is a pleasant bonus.

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Silene fimbriata repeats several times throughout the Rock Border (from one small clump added in 2009).

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There are alliums here too

Polemonium caeruleum 'White Pearl'

and pretty Polemonium caeruleum ‘White Pearl’

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with various aquilegias.

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I prefer the darker colours and promise to pull up the pinks every year but – curiously – I never do.  Perhaps, deep inside I’m a pink lover after all.  Fancy.

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I like this border and find it as cool and inviting as a mint julep.  (N.B.  I don’t quite know what a mint julep is but it sounds cool and inviting).

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To one side are hostas which haven’t attracted slugs nor snails

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for which I’m grateful.

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And our mollusc pals didn’t bother my veg either this year.  I don’t grow an exciting range of vegetables: onions, garlic, a few potatoes, beans, courgettes, salad leaves, radishes.  That’s more than enough for us simple Sussex folk.

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Do I post a photo of the honeysuckles every year?  Probably … but they are rather lovely, nestling up against the house, with a heavy, sweet perfume and the constant drone of droning insects.  This one faces south

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and a larger one, west.  The latter was a top-heavy, bare stemmed, leggy beast when I started.  I have since cut its top back hard.

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Over several years, it has returned with renewed vigour and now fills the wall.  I’ve never fed either of them.  Maybe I should?

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So there you have it – the Priory over the past two or three weeks.  In addition: my newly built duck-boxes have produced no ducklings; the west pond is, for the first time, hosting a revolting green algae (and a dead crow); I’d like more rain; the amount of work is simply overwhelming; it’s sometimes been too hot for mowing; often too cold for growing (if not for weeds – they grow far faster than must be botanically possible);

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those cows are forever staring at me for no good reason; and pheasant nibble my clematis.  (No.  That’s not a euphemism).

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But I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

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49 thoughts on “The Garden in Flower

  1. Particularly gorgeous honeysuckle, Dave. Looks like summer has got off to a good start in Sussex.
    My favourite alliums, purple sensation, haven’t returned here
    here this year, sadly.

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    • Hullo Sara, summer did get off to a good start but I’ve now hurt my back and haven’t been at work for a few days. I might go in tomorrow, hobble about, do a little deadheading and take some photos of what I’ve been missing. D

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  2. I definitely need to prune my honeysuckle. It has been so poorly I was thinking of removing it but…you have convinced met try that. Weather has been lovely in Victoria and the Dallas are thriving. Must complete the deer netting before our holidays. Thanks for the gorgeous photos.

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    • Hi Pamela, deer haven’t damaged the Priory gardens this year (though now that I have written those words…..). They did a lot of damage last year. Hopefully cutting back your honeysuckle will re-invigorate it. I remember I was considering removing the one above. Pleased I didn’t. Dave

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  3. A wonderful colourful tour of the garden David, you should be very pleased with the results from all your hard work. I think the Honeysuckle’s are fantastic. Do you prune them straight after flowering?

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  4. It all looks perfect, all credit to you. A garden as beautiful as this doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work. I can almost smell the honeysuckle, my favorite perfume in the garden I think.

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    • Hmm. I’m not sure I remember, Helen. I think they were pretty good from the outset – since when I’ve done nothing to them. I have some self-seeded A. christophii growing well in very, very poor soil so I can’t think why yours aren’t doing better. Generally I find new bulbs perform best in their first year (certainly with daffs and tulips) so I can only scratch my head. Sorry. D

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    • Hi Emily, I nearly put in a link to that post but decided it was a bit old hat. I’m pleased that you remember it fondly and I’ll try to cover the Big Day next year. I really was sad to have missed the 2015 big stampede. Dave

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    • Thanks Janna. I find that successful combinations are often just a bit of luck – a result of ‘happy accidents’. But I often transplant a plant or simply pull it up if it looks wrong and try something else. (And I’m very happy to use ideas I see in other gardens or other people’s recommendations). D

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    • Thanks. For the first time, Julie I’ve realised that my time at the Priory is limited. For various reasons I shall probably leave Sussex within the next three years or so. That knowledge has certainly changed how I view and plan the gardens. I’ve always had no time limit on my ideas for the grounds – sad that isn’t the case any more. But hey, I’m enjoying my time whilst I’m still there. D

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      • I hope things work out well for you, I have cared for gardens over a long time then moved on its a strange feeling. I have family from Seaford and a great grandfather who spent time there recuperating after the war.

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        • We’ve just sold our house and are looking for something else to buy – in Seaford. It’s a nice little town – perhaps a little too quiet but the Downs and the coast are superb. My partner’s Grandparents came here for their honeymoon in the 1920’s – we have some smashing photos. I’ve left a few gardens I’ve worked in but nowhere I was as emotionally attached to as the Priory. It will be tough! D

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    • Hello Pauline, thank you. I wish it were perfect but the algae in the west pond is a new, worrying and depressing development. It seems to be spreading by a number of feet every day. I’m trying to get hold of a bale of barley straw asap. D

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  5. Hi Dave – We’ve had a very strange year up here in the far North. Coldest May ever, lasting until the first week of June. Three days of heat at 22 degrees, and everything has all come out at once, together. So it’s a bit overwhelming. I might even do a blog past on it!

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    • Hullo Mr K, how very nice to hear from you. Yes, it has been horribly cold down here too and my tropical border – long under way by this time last year – is grumbling and casting me sideways, dirty glances. And for goodness sake – please do write something. It must be time for your annual post surely? GatE is/was one of my favourite blogs – and I rather miss it. D

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    • The honeysuckles’ scent is very strong first thing in the morning and (on the very rare occasions I’m there) in the evenings. There’s a third one too at the back of the house and, quite nicely timed, hasn’t yet flowered. D

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  6. Oh, so beautiful. (The photos, Dave, the photos.) I get a little paranoid when one of the neighbor’s cats sits and stares at me. I can imagine that having a herd of cows gazing at you very, very thoughtfully for hours on end would be a little unnerving. (Esp. if they were actually thoughtful.)

    I love the splash of vivid color in the bottom photo. I’m becoming more taken with that look all the time — simple backdrop + splash. One of the rooms in the ABQ Botanic Gardens does that really well, especially in hot weather (like now). For some reason it always strikes me as cooling, maybe because I find myself really noticing the sea of green.

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    • Being stared at by cats, or any predator for that matter, is even more unnerving than cattle, I think Stacy. I once watched a black jaguar pacing up and down in a zoo until a man and his very young daughter walked by. The jaguar immediately stopped stock still and stared straight at the little girl. You could almost hear it purr, “Lunch?” Your neighbour’s cat is probably just bemoaning your size. The cows certainly seem very thoughtful and I increasingly worry about what it is they know – and whether I ought to know it too. I should think a sea of green is something you notice far more than me (I’m generally swimming in it) but very happy to oblige. D

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