Since my last post, wherein I bemoaned the lack of sunshine, the sun has in fact made a few appearances. This was bound to happen. Why didn't I think of it before?
The honeysuckle which overflows from the courtyard to the stockyard has been flowering profusely for weeks, scenting the whole pottery; unlike me it loved the rainy weather. But how much better it looks when the sun shines!
Just as the weather improved I had to take a few days off sick (no, I wasn't sunbathing at home...). The change in the plantings when I returned was startling. Foliage was beginning to be balanced by some flower colour and in the stockyard it was at last possible to discern a red/white/blue theme, just in time for the Olympics.
My annuals are finally beginning to get going - I had been a bit worried that they might have proved to be a false economy this year.
Bees and customers have been enjoying the Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' at the entrance to the stockyard in their own ways, but soon the sun will ripen its seed and the plants will start to shrivel.
Here at last my Cosmos 'Double Click Snow Puff' (from Kings Seeds) have really started to flower, they had made lovely vigorous GREEN plants ages ago but now are starting to live up to their name.
Reds or pinkos?
Ipomoea 'Crimson Rambler' (from Suttons) has turned out considerably pinker than the picture on its packet but is still worth having. I have learned over the years that not being too fastidious about matching, say, certain shades of red, actually leads to a livelier look in the plantings and can enhance the depths of the colours used. I also have a soft spot for Morning Glories of any hue so I was quite relaxed about its tendency to be puce rather than crimson. The other red flowers I had chosen for this area are a warm, pinkish red rather than an orangey one, so there don't seem to be any violent clashes.
The morning glory in this group of pots has no official support, I have just left it to live up to the rambling part of its name. I did give Lathyrus grandiflorus 'America' (a heritage variety from Pennard) a willow support in the same group but it has branched out to other plants in the arrangement, which is fine by me. I'm often suspicious of streaky flowers but I like this one, it is quite dainty.
Here's a closer look at L. 'America':
Painted Lady full of beans
Meanwhile at the far end of the stockyard I have started being able to harvest beans from the large Sissinghurst pot full of Runner Bean 'Painted Lady'. Her red and white flowers are still being produced, so I am hoping that the total crop will be pretty decent. I have planted more white cosmos, some Verbena bonariensis and some petunias around her feet.
The red and white flowers in the lower pots are Nemesia 'St George'.
What's that yellow thing in the sky?
I wanted blue skies not just because of higher temperatures but also because I had planned (yes I know the garden looks a bit random but I do plan the plantings!), PLANNED, I tell you, to be able to look up at the yellow flowers of Abutilon 'Canary Bird' in the big pot on the well, against a blue sky.
It's planted amongst yellow Argyranthemum and trailing Antirrhinum F1 'Pola Mixed' (from Dobies).
All through June and most of July the sky stayed resolutely grey and then, HOORAY!
The huge pot on the well can be hard to plant because there are surprisingly few flowers which look just as good from below as from other angles, but Abutilon are perfect for this. Slightly disappointingly, the antirrhinums haven't really showed signs of trailing, but they have moulded themselves nicely to the rim of the pot.
Sunshine has also meant that my strawberries have at last been ripening. Oddly enough, I had never actually tried growing strawberries in one of our strawberry barrels until this year: I have used them for herbs, bedding plants and succulents but not strawberries.
While browsing for interesting seeds and bedding plants I found Strawberry 'Malwina' in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue and decided I should give it a go. Lovely healthy plants duly arrived and they have thrived and flowered well.
I cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and embedded it, inverted, in the centre of the pot as I planted it up, so that it is possible to fill the bottle with water and ensure that lower plants get just as much irrigation as higher ones. The barrel is on one of the plinths in the garden now - partly to show it off, and partly to keep the fruit away from marauding dogs. The fruit is beautiful AND tasty, doubly satisfying.
I am now grudgingly allowing my colleagues to start picking and eating the fruit - now that I have taken a few photos as proof that our barrels really work!
Time to go! But first I must introduce you to a colleague of mine:
I think Mrs Toad won't mind me saying that she is one of the fattest toads I have ever seen. She was perfectly relaxed when I lay in front of her taking photos and just sat there smiling faintly and slurping up woodlice. I think our healthy toad population may be connected to the fact that we don't generally have much of a vine weevil problem, although I have never actually seen a toad eat one of the little blighters.
So make sure you cherish your colleagues and keep them well fed!