Take time to admire fruits of your labour

I love being in the garden at this time of year. The day length seems endless, encouraging breakfast alfresco and a late evening walk in a diffuse light that transforms the outline structure.

Sunday, 1st August 2021, 11:58 am
A colourful island bed. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

In between, there is no continuous hard slog and sense of urgency in completing key projects, they’re for autumn, winter and spring.

Having completed the trimming and disposal of clippings from hedges that surround this garden, we’ve just gone into essential maintenance, harvesting, and summer appreciation mode. Time should be allowed to celebrate the fruits of our labours.

Gone is the urgency to dig and plant, unless it’s the gentle lifting of a potato haulm for an evening meal ingredient or, the settling-in of an irresistible potted, ornamental specimen spotted on a plant stall. Harvesting fresh vegetables and picking fruit daily is not work, it’s a pleasure. Watering plants outdoors and under glass, easily slots into the daily schedule. Even the lawns have become more gardener-friendly, slowing growth and less demanding during the recent heatwave. So, there is time to stand and stare!

Delightful campanula carpatica.

My current favourite spot is on a west-facing patio next to a mixed island bed, fashioned to create interest in an otherwise plain lawned area.

A mature, Osmanthus burkwoodii in standard form, is central. There’s a variegated Weigela with cream-margined leaves and large pink blooms, some of which persist into August. Miss Jessopp’s Upright (rosemary) is there, the attractive pink hardy fuchsia Hawkshead too. Red and pink penstemons, residents of proven hardiness, permeate the bed, as a swathe of oregano blooms attract the bees. Herbaceous star of the moment sits front of border and stands a mere 30cm tall. It’s the delightful blue Campanula carpatica. Wallflowers in scarlet and gold were added for spring colour and rather than discard after flowering, we pruned them severely – and they responded. Now in their fourth summer, they’re offering stem cuttings and seed pods.

But what gives this favourite bed its current joie de vivre? It is the roses and old-fashioned pinks. As with all flowering plants, we are constantly removing fading blooms to encourage more, and they are responding positively. Their combined fragrance, from dawn to dusk, is a knockout.

ROSES CAN FLOWER UNTIL LATE AUTUMN

The garden pinks came as a group of five varieties in plug form from specialists www.allwoods.net in 2016. And, thanks to their vigorous growth, we’ve rooted stem cuttings each summer since.

Now we have much bigger group plantings and with constant dead-heading, they flower from June to late September.

Roses are a totally different proposition. We are probably all agreed they should have a presence in any summer garden, but to what extent? Charitable organisations such as The Alnwick Garden have large areas devoted to stunning displays of roses and the acreage to accommodate these as part of the year-round visitor offering.

Even in deepest winter, when their roses are pruned in wave-like form, they fit nicely into the bare-boned structure of the garden.

Given the right choice of cultivars and good management, roses are capable of flowering from late June until deepest autumn. However, there is a sizeable gap between leaf fall and spring bud burst, during which they’re not so attractive in smaller gardens. The answer for our quarter-acre site has been to slot them into the mixed flower borders. Subsequently, Chandos Beauty, Olivia Rose Austin, Gabriel Oak and Just Joey feature in the island bed previously mentioned. Climbing New Dawn stars on the east-facing house wall, and climbing Cecile Brunner shares a bed with the Lady of Shallot and Roseraei de L’Hay. The ancient crusader rose stands between buddleja Barnsley Baby and groups of salvia.

Sharp thorns confine the apple scented sweetbriar Lady Penzance to the centre of a border next to a tall cordyline. Two iconic roses, the fragrant white Boule de Neige and the apothecary’s gallica, grow up through privet and beech hedges. We enjoy their different settings.