The Priory In June

I will be leaving Sussex and The Priory very soon.  And if I’m excited about my future life in a different part of England, my lower lip trembles sometimes at the thought of leaving this garden; a garden in which I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of my days.  (By a rough calculation, more than 1500).

I’ve been so busy selling a house here and buying a house in Gloucestershire, that I’ve neglected to show you The Priory during her best time: May and June. But then, as I was walking about the grounds last week, I noticed so many pretty things, so much darn flower that I paused, slapped my forehead and ran for my dusty camera. Here’s a little – mostly rose and clematis – of that Priory June colour.

Rosa ‘New Dawn_

This Rosa ‘New Dawn’ was growing by the front door on the day I started work in 2008.  I haven’t done much to it other than train it upwards and along the flat leaded porch roof.  I don’t even feed it but, despite neglectful care, it flowers heartily and gives a warm welcome – to non-existent visitors.

Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carrière'

Whereas, Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ I did plant. It grows above the kitchen door and window in almost perpetual shade, barely suffers from rust nor black spot and bears heavy, fragrant, repeat blooms. My kind of rose and perfect for this north facing wall.

Rosa ‘Sander_s White_ (1)

On the rose tunnel, R. ‘Sander’s White‘ is a big fat show off.

Rosa ‘Sander_s White_

This is not an understated rose. It has a superabundance of blooms with a scent that punches you in the nose – in a playfull way. For a few days in June, it flowers quite delightfully, quite madly.

Rosa ‘Sander_s White_ (2)

As you probably know – if you’ve been reading my record of a Sussex garden for a while – I grow several different clematis in amongst the roses on the tunnel.  The Sander’s White is a short-lived phenomenon after all.

Clematis ‘Warsawska Nike_ (2)

The large flat plates of Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’ is one of fifteen varieties of clematis here.

Clematis ‘Warsawska Nike_ (1)

Conventional wisdom would have me prune this pruning group 3 clematis* each spring to 6-8 inches above ground level but I’ve learnt that doing so presents beak-level, tender new shoots to hungry pheasant. So, I don’t do that. No. I cut back to a pair of shoots at about 3 or 4 feet – out of reach of pheasant and also beyond concerted slug attack. The clematis grows taller too … with its flowers intertwining amongst the roses rather than staring at my navel.

Clematis ‘Etoile Violette_

Nearby is Clematis ‘Étoile Violette’ – also pruning group 3. Again, I leave several feet of stem when pruning in spring. If I thwart the attention of pheasant, I provide handy nose-level morsels to deer. Win some …

Clematis ‘Etoile Violette_ (2)

Étoile Violette bears lots of deep, purple flower and eventually scrambles far above the regular attention of deer. This year, the deer damage to trees, shrubs and er, most things actually, has been particularly bad.

Clematis 'Princess Diana'

On a shadier tunnel post, is C. ‘Princess Diana’.

Clematis 'Princess Diana' (2)

She’s a gaudy pink but I forgive her that – given the beautiful tulip shaped flower. No deer attack on this one yet.

Clematis 'Empress Amy Lai'

A fairly recent addition is C. ‘Empress Amy Lai’ – another purple,

Clematis 'Empress Amy Lai' (2)

filling the bare stems of climbing roses overhead. C. ‘Empress Amy Lai’ is pruning group 2.

Clematis 'Crimson King' (2)

I moved C. ‘Crimson King’ from elsewhere in the garden. It struggled in the long border with competition from so many herbaceous plants and is much happier here. But it ain’t crimson. Group 2.

Clematis ‘Betty Corning_ (2)

C. ‘Betty Corning’ is a favourite – after seeing it in my mother-in-law’s garden – here growing amongst honeysuckle

Clematis ‘Betty Corning_ (1)

and deftly hiding an old, ugly chain link fence near the house. Also group 3.

Clematis 'Roko-Kolla'

I really like another newbie – Clematis ‘Roko-Kolla’ .  It bears large white flowers with subtle green stripes. Another group 3 but you know by now my feelings about pruning back hard.

Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchard_s Variety (1)

Over in the kidney beds is Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’ taking over nicely

Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchard_s Variety (2)

as foxgloves fade away. This is a splendid, large plant with several impressive flower spikes, forming an excellent centrepiece for a June border. At least, that’s what I think.

Clematis Jackmanii (3)

On the east wall of the house is another clematis, Clematis Jackmanii.  Growing through a rose (variety unknown), this is the only Priory clematis I didn’t plant.

Clematis Jackmanii (2)

I keep its roots well shaded (clematis don’t like their roots sun baked) and tuck in shoots that otherwise wave around in the air.

Clematis Jackmanii (1)

A vigorous plant with a good bold colour too.  Pruning group 3.

Verbena bonariensis (1)

My two twelve metre Verbena bonariensis borders are just coming into flower.

Verbena bonariensis (2)

I don’t normally water them but June and July 2018 have been shockingly dry and I’ve relented.  I should hate to see this spectacle shrivel and turn yellow before I leave.

It’s a funny job mine. I tend a big garden which hardly anyone ever sees. What’s that about?  A week can easily pass without a visitor and now that the house is empty, the owner won’t be coming back.  Plants flourish (or don’t), flower (or don’t), and fade away, with only me as witness … with sometimes you too, of course.

Butterfly Painted Lady (2)

But I do have guests of a sort.

Butterfly Painted Lady (3)

If butterflies, like this Painted Lady, and bees and a host of other insects are attracted to something that I plant, then … well, hell.

Butterfly Painted Lady (1)

I must be doing something right.  Attracting wildlife to The Priory has given me a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction over the years; so much so that this morning, I watched a doe standing in the shade of the rose tunnel.  Rather than frothing with rage at chomped roses and clematis, her lithe beauty filled me with awe.

Just about.


* Here’s that note on pruning groups, cribbed from an earlier post on Clematis

  • Group 1 – flowers on previous year’s growth and needs hardly any pruning. Tidy up as necessary and reduce in size if it gets too big. If it does need hard cutting back, do so right after flowering.
  • Group 2 – flowering stems produced from previous year growth. Cut back weak, damaged stems to a pair of strong buds in late winter. Tie in stems to form a framework in summer.
  • Group 3 – flowers on current year’s growth. Cut stems back to a pair of strong buds in early spring, a foot or so above ground level (if you’re pheasant proofed).

Slug Feeder

This cool, wet “summer” has been fabulous for our slug and snail chums.  And I’ve learnt that I’m really good at something.   (What a relief that is).  I’m simply brilliant at feeding slugs.

I can grow a constant supply of slug food;  my repeated sowings of radishes and salad leaves have been much appreciated …

… as have newly planted out sweet peas, runner beans, marigolds, heleniums, salvias …

… and cannas.  All have been nibbled, munched, shredded or have simply disappeared.  And, of course, …

… dahlias have proven particularly popular.

Though I skip about the gardens scattering (organic) pellets to my left and to my right, it makes little difference.   The following morning all the pellets will have disappeared and the devastation will have continued.

So no, this hasn’t been a great year for gardening; too little rain, too much rain; sloppy soil, baked-hard soil: buffeting winds and pro-longed periods of cold.  And those sluggy, snaily things.  One might even say it has been a rubbish gardening year.  So I shall.  It has been a rubbish gardening year.

Still, in the mostly slug-free greenhouse, …

… my four cucumber plants and eight tomatoes are coming along …

… and it won’t be long before we have our first cucumbers.

I’ve bought an irrigation system for these bed-grown plants and it seems to work fine; watering away over the weekends.

In the rock border, the foxgloves are showing off nicely.  Each year I dig up self-sown seedlings, pot them up and then dot them about, aiding their further colonisation of the gardens.  In addition, I grow white ones from seed.

Some dahlias did manage to survive successive slug mauling; this is Dahlia ‘Smarty.’  No two flowers …

…are the same and unlike some varieties I grow (‘Fire and Ice’ springs to mind) this is a  resilient, vigorous plant.  (Slugs often ‘go’ for weaker or poorly, less robust plants).

Also in the rock border, amongst the ferns,  I’ve discovered polemoniums.  Never seen it before; never grown it; never bought any seed.  Its seed must have lain dormant in the soil.  Waiting.  Just waiting.  Either that or there’s a  guerilla gardener about!


At the rock border’s far end, and increasing year on year, is a clump of yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata).  To the left of it is bergenia – which I moved here from another part of the garden.  Incidentally, I always cut off all the bergenia leaves in spring; this removes all the tatty, browned ones.

This was the bergenia de-frocked in April; looks a little startling but the new, fresh leaves soon emerge.

In one of the kidney beds, my Crambe cordifoila has flowered again.  Last year the stems collapsed, so this year I’ve given it a damn good staking – and it is holding up.  Oddly, the slugs don’t seem to bother it.

At the back of the kidney beds are Foxtail Lilies (Eremurus stenophyllus).  I’m hugely pleased with these  – the first I’ve ever grown.  But they were prone to slug attack too and from ten bulbs, only two or three have flowered.  Hopefully they will do better next year.

Also in one of the kidney beds is a lovely, understated plant: Gillenia trifoliata.  This pretty, little thing is one of the very few plants I took from my old garden when I moved house.  It doesn’t seem to be widely known or grown.  It ought to be both, I think.

On the west wall of the house is a marvellous (and huge) climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris).  Last year all the flower bud was lost to frost.  This photo, taken a bit too late, doesn’t do it justice – the display this year was a good one.

At the back of the house, a very old rose (possibly ‘New Dawn’) fills the confined space with scent …

… and in the car-park, four Rosa ‘Ferdinand Pichard’ are getting established.  Planted bare-rooted a couple of years ago, they also have a superb scent.

On the rose tunnel, and flowering for the first time, is Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium.’  No scent but a beautiful, simple flower which later form large brilliant orange, flagon-shaped hips.  (Thanks to Francie for introducing me to it).

And finally, another plant which I haven’t grown before (put in a pot to protect it from slug-dom); the exotic looking Peruvian Daffodil, the Spider Lily or Ismene (Hymenocallis x festalis).  Rather lovely, don’t you think?

So, despite the best efforts of all those blasted gastropod molluscs, there is some flower in the Priory gardens.  With, I hope, lots more to come.