Early June and gardens are approaching their peak and if you have chosen the proper tress and shrubs for leaf colour now is their time !
Even though it is mid summer you still have time to plant for autumn colour with either wild flower seeds of cosmos or nigella both of which if sown directly into the soil now will give god flowers from September to November and you can also inject some instant leaf colour into your borders by buying in some pots of cannas or even the exotic Ethiopian banana and placing them in between established plants as I have done here with some purple canna and banana which I hid among clumps of alchemis molis commonly known as Lady’s Mantle which are just about to flower and the purple gives a nice contrast peering from behind the glaucus green of the alchemis Molis ….. the late Christopher Llyod regarded alchemis molis as a right thug as it self seeds everywhere but he always loved the plant as I do .
During the recent path construction project here Peter mentioned that he doesn’t like to plant as close to paths as I do and over the past few years quite a few visitors have also commented as I like the plants and trees to crowd onto the paths and I like the informality , some say the untidiness and wild look that follows this .
I also like the tactile feel of foliage as I brush past …. not thorns I hasten to add as I draw the line at scratches so I keep the roses and brambles off the paths ….. but basically I like a jungle feel in the foliage .
Snezana has not been best pleased with the path project going ahead with less than minimal input from her and a few of her printable and less abusive comments are “ higgledy piggeldy ” lego land ” … well she is part Danish !!
I am delighted with the way the path project in the top field has worked out and in a few years the new trees and shrubs will have matured and already the design has changed the lay out and of course the new small water feature is an added bonus . I have added some caltha palustris , the marsh marigold , from divisions I took from established clumps along the stream and you can do this after flowering in early May …in fact as caltha thrives as a marginal water plant you can divide it with confidence at any time of year really as you will be planting the divisions back into shallow water .
We dumped the excavated earth from the new paths onto the wild meadow bed and this has given a raised appearance to it as well as making it drier so I will be able to plant it with dogwoods which I will keep pollarded each spring to keep the height manageable .
I was in Croatia recently , Central Dalmatia to be more precise , my favourite part of Croatia , which is the strip of coastal land along the Adriatic south of Split , around Makarska and Podgora and seeing the lavender , santolina and gorse in full bloom in it’s natural Mediterranean home made me realise that in the UK and Ireland we really are only playing at mediterranean style gardening as the climate is not hot enough and the soil too wet as all these plants thrive in sun baked conditions .
Take gorse for example , genitsia spartium ( Spanish gorse ) which is the main gorse grown along the Adriatic and not to be confused with the thorny Irish gorse which grows well here on ditches , so well that we tend to regard it as a pest and regularly burn it to get rid of it . But gorse in the Mediterranean is just spectacular and entire hill sides are full of it in May / June with small tight upright bushes bursting with yellow flowers ….. the gorse grown in Croatia and Montenegro is a Balkan variety called genitsium Lydia which self seeds vigorously and is more compact than spanish gorse …. and the smell is everywhere ….. the memory I take most from Dalmatia at this time of year is gorse , lavender and olive trees .. what more could a gardener want ?
The Makarska Riviera in Central Dalmatia along the Adriatic …. my favourite place in the world … apart from Ireland !
Dalmatian Tourism 1500 BC !
While I was away recently it rained heavily in Ireland and on two levels I was pleased … selfishly that I wasen’t missing a good spell and that the plants in containers would not suffer a drought so I was quite surprised to find that the four pots of hostas elegans and lamium Chablis in the front garden were looking a bit peaky and yes they drastically needed watering … what I had forgotten is that fully grown hosta leaves hang over the pot and act like an umbrella for the rain with the result that the base of the pots get little or no water .
Pots planted like these can take a bit of neglect but not a few weeks so I gave each a good soaking and foliar feed and they will recover over the next few days ….. my own fault really as these pots are in full sun wheras hostas prefer some shade throughout the day and normally I water and feed them daily .. spoiled rotten they are but what a return they give for a little bit of TLC !
Visitors to the garden often ask what is the secret to having hostas grow to this size and of course you start off with a good variety which in this case is the largest hosta , sieboldiana variety Elegans …. there are other large hostas such as Empress Wu but the leaves are fairly sparse and not as luxuriant as Elegans and of course there is the variety Francis Williams which has a variegated leaf …but none match Elegans the variety shown here for size and density .
The secret ……. daily watering and I feed also every day with a foliar tomato feed AND I remove the flowers as they appear which I know is heresy but allowing the big leaved hostas to flower takes away from the vigour of the plant ….. so now you know !
The deer reckon I run a take away here for them and I took this photo from the house June 21st 2015 .
Dan Pearson , my own personal favourite garden designer and gardening writer , won a gold medal and the prestigious Best in Show award at the Chelsea Flower Show in May with a wild garden designed to be built at Chatsworth , the Duke of Devonshire’s estate in England . Dan hasen’t built a Chelsea garden for the past eleven years as he had only been awarded a silver gilt at his last show in 2004 and basically showed the very human trait of sulking ever since ….. a beautiful garden this time on a huge scale , money no object given his patron who is the wealthiest landowner in Britain and where the garden has been commissioned to end up at .
Dan Pearson is probably the most famous garden designer in the world today however I was a bit disappointed in the garden itself in what was really a massive building project and not in the least bit intimate which has always been a hallmark of a Dan Pearson garden who is known for his other worldly sensitivity which sometimes comes across as almost aloofness however I suppose this time around he was not going to set himself up for another Chelsea rejection and let’s face it Dan Pearson doesen’t need Chelsea , the other way round in fact .
I was delighted that Dan Pearson won as he has ticked that box of a best in show at Chelsea but tellingly he said afterwards that he will not show at Chelsea again . There was a huge sameness about this year’s Chelsea as designers have picked up on the fact that the Chelsea judges pick attention to detail over design and even planting so the uniqueness just wasen’t there this year nor indeed did any of the show gardens give me that WOW factor which was disappointing as the Chelsea Flower Show is the cutting edge of world gardening .
I have never felt the urge to actually attend and battle the huge crowds at the Chelsea Flower Show as you can only look at the show gardens from a distance and are not allowed wander around and get close to the planting detail and hard landscaping while the cut flowers and plants in the great pavilion like all such indoor events have no attraction for me … but I do watch every minute of the over twenty hour coverage given by the BBC . I mentioned the sameness of the show gardens and over the last five years I see an eagerness to satisfy the judges and an increasing reluctance by the top designers to take risks and there is no originality anymore as only a gold medal will do it for the main sponsors such as Laurent Perrier and the Daily Telegraph gardens so the designers no longer are cutting edge as a silver medal is regarded as a failure with the result that you only get the knock out show gardens from the maverick or first time entrants who just go for it … then their next year at Chelsea they also get the fear of failure and we are back to the same old mediocrity again .
Of course the gardening media all suck up to Chelsea and rarely if ever do you read criticism of the Chelsea Flower Show from gardening journalists as it is their bread and butter so negative vibes are unacceptable to the Royal Horticultural Society who will quickly close ranks against the offending journo who will probably then find doors closing to him/ her as Chelsea is a juggernaut .
Dan Pearson has the right attitude , get a wealthy sponsor , money no object and stick it up to the judges to dare reject all the media momentum that follows Pearson … win best in show and NEVER do it again so there is no compromise to the garden establishment that is the Chelea Flower Show !
Before we leave Dan Pearson if you want to explore his work then I recommend his book Spirit which details a lot of his work throughout the world but for a more intimate account of how he approached the design and planting of his garden in London then I can recommend his book “Home Ground sanctuary in the City ”which is terrific.
While on the subject of gardening books I had assumed that the internet had become the go to place for people’s gardening queries … not so it seems as a recent article in the UK Telegraph about gardening searches on Google suggests that internet searches have been on the decline since 2004 and that on a top scale of 100 the garden design, lawns , flower and vegetable for now is at 30 although there is a spike in interest each May while surprisingly organic gardening queries are down to a miserable 21 ! Also a surprise is how well searches for wildlife gardening do in the UK standing at 100 while in the US it is a low 12 and nowhere else in the world seems to attract any searches on Google for wildlife gardening and the concluding comment of the article sums it up “ while it is nice to discover that UK gardeners are at the vanguard of wildlife gardening can it be true that apart from a few eccentric americans the rest of the English speaking world has no interest in wildlife gardening ? ” .
And on the subject of wild life the water hens along the stream here have already raised one family in April and are now sitting on a second clutch of four eggs ….. they make their nest by selecting a spot well hidden by existing foliage and then plait the leaves of water plants into a platform …. extremely shy creatures but the ones here have got used to me and my camera !
June and the garden visiting season is in full swing and this week we had the Clonmel High School 50th Anniversary Leaving Certificate Class on a Sunday morning visit and what made it more enjoyable for me was this was my class and these were my class mates of fifty years ago .
I must point out that I am NOT as old as these guys in the photos as I was a six year old prodigy in that Class of ‘ 65 … OK OK I am THE oldest by two months ! Great to see the lads all together and in most cases for the first time since the 25th Reunion in 1990 and as one of them pointed out we have no egos or points to prove when we get together as we saw each other emotionally bruised regularly back in the good old days !
On Tuesday June 15th the Royal Horticulture Society rolled up from Dublin and every corner of the garden was examined from top to bottom by over thirty members of the oldest garden society in Ireland ……. a very enjoyable visit by some of the top amateur gardeners in Ireland .
Next weekend over Saturday and Sunday June 27th / 28th Petrovska Garden will be open to the public for the Clonmel Lion’s Club charity … a worthy cause as I know that every penny collected goes to providing food and necessities to local people who need a helping hand so come along and support the Lion’s Club !