With the growing season in full swing Richard Orton describes the drastic action required when the ecological balance in the garden is disturbed. He highlights some choice plants at this time of year and suggests some jobs for this busy month.

What with one thing an another we’ve been a little behind this year on the garden and so, in readiness for our first open garden weekend we were rushing around trying hard to get as much done as possible. By the time we reached the bottom of the garden it was almost too late - we were confronted with marshland in the space that had been once been a pond. To be honest we’ve only had time to stop by the pond once or twice this year and I swear the pond weed wasn’t too bad!

No Ducks to eat the duck weed

So many visitors comment on how lush our Hostas look and how little they suffer from the usual slug and snail damage and the answer is very simple; keep the ecological balance right and nature will look after the Hostas for you. It’s a lesson learnt from a visit to Highgrove many years ago. For years we’ve had families of ducks on the pond until very recently when overnight we lost all 13. After that we decided to let nature take its course and if wild ducks took up residency so much the better. Well, they didn’t and because of that the pond (duck) weed that the ducks feasted upon daily has rather overtaken the whole surface of the pond, hence the marsh land we found ourselves with. Devoid of ducks there was only one solution, someone had to go in armed with a pair of trusty waders and some rubber gloves.

It’s a laborious and thankless task, pulling out the duck weed with your hands and hauling it to the sides of the pond to drain but well worth it. Leaving the weed to dry on the banks of the pond achieves two things – it allows any pond life trapped in the weed to find its way back to the pond and once dry the weed itself makes for a wonderful organic green mulch for the borders nearby. Once we have harvested this year’s growth we need to look for a better solution than spending a day up to our thighs in waders so maybe it’s time for the ducks (or geese) to make a comeback?

Leaving the weed to dry on the side of the pond

I thought perhaps to try something a little different each month by highlighting a singular plant on sale in the nursery that is at its very best right now. This month I’ve chosen a Foxglove, Digitalis Lutea which as you’ve probably guessed has yellow flowers rather than the traditional purple/pink. A short variety at only 2ft in height, Dig.lutea is nonetheless a vigorous foxglove sending up spikes of delicate primrose yellow flowers in early summer. A lover of both sun or part shade, it will happily naturalise where other plants struggle.

Primrose yellow Digitalis Lutea

Although classed as a short-lived perennial we have plants in the garden here that are easily over a decade old and still flower well each year. Although many gardeners shy away from yellow flowering plants, the soft colour of this foxglove’s flowers work perfectly in a bed of pastel shades where an extra depth of colour would be useful. Plants are available from the nursery and can be ordered online here https://lewiscottageplants.co.uk/index.php/product/digitalis-lutea/

One of the great joys of opening the garden for the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) is the chance to take notice of plants that are with us but fleetingly, that burst into bloom with such fanfare and yet within a matter of days sometimes are gone until next year. This year particularly it seems that everything is early to bloom and yet over so quickly, but is that just me? One of my favourite views at this time of year is that of the Red Chestnut tree with the Camassia cricket pitch behind.

Red Chestnut with Camassia behind

The blue of the Camassias works perfectly with the Red/pink flowers with the orange “eye” of the Chestnut. To the right of these lies the bed of Bearded Iris, a plant we have struggled with for years until we found this well drained spot at the top of the garden. The Iris are a collection donated by friends and consist mostly of I.Jane Philips but I seem to recall a random I.Carnival Time and a rather lovely pink variety whose name escapes me, we shall see whether either of them bloom this year. Adding a selection of Alliums has worked well too, filling in the gaps that are inevitably required when planting Bearded Iris en masse.

Bearded Iris with Allium

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone who turned out the last weekend of May to support the first of this year’s open garden weekends. It was of course a weekend filled with copious cups of tea, slices of cake and pieces of quiche. Lots of plants from the nursery were bought and car boots filled, and we look forward to doing it all over again at the end of June.

Until next time…….

Gardens open for the NGS in the next month

11th June Haldon Grange – Exeter

11th / 12th June – Goren Farm

24th June Greatcombe – Newton Abbot

2nd July Springfield House – Colyford

3rd July Foxhole Community Garden – Dartington, Totnes

9th July Samlingstead – Woolacombe

Jobs for the month ahead

  • Annuals such as sweet peas, cornflowers and cosmos benefit from picking. The more you pick the more blooms they’ll produce.
  • Keep a beady eye open for aphids on your runner beans and wipe them off as soon as you see them. Try not to use pesticides if you can as they can harm bees.
  • Make sure to keep your greenhouses and polytunnels well ventilated, temperatures can rocket within an hour or so of sunrise.
  • Water, water, water your hanging baskets and seasonal pots, they can dry out so very quickly and try to do so in the early morning or evening.
  • If your friendly neighbourhood Roe deer hasn’t eaten your roses for breakfast (as they have done mine) remember to deadhead them, particularly the repeat flowering varieties.
  • If you grow Dahlias, don’t forget to give them a high potash feed fortnightly to ensure a really good show of blooms later on.
  • If you’re not a marrow lover make sure you pick your courgettes regularly!!
  • Keep on top of pinching out the side shoots of your tomatoes and feed every two weeks
  • Rhubarb season is over! Stop picking it so that the plants can store up their reserves for next year.
  • Just as with Sweet Peas, keep picking your Runner Beans to encourage plants to produce more.

Further information about the garden at Lewis Cottage can be found using this link https://lewiscottageplants.co.uk

Jun 7, 2022

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