We are nearing the final days of summer and what a disappointment it has been. I will be very surprised if my large bed of sunflowers ever develop any flower heads- what sun will they worship? My sweet peas that usually enjoy a good shower of rain are equally disillusioned: all flowers need sunshine! It is wise practice to liquid feed sweet peas generously on a weekly basis and keep cutting them – at least I can enjoy their fragrance in my home as my summer dalliance days outside are sadly non-existent.
Pots of both sweet and Greek bush basil are performing surprisingly well in the polytunnel. Careful watering is crucial in these humid conditions; avoid wetting the foliage as rot will quickly set in. When harvesting always pluck the tops as this encourages bushiness. Foliage plants such as willow, holly and our beloved fuchsia are thriving in this rain soaked land however blossoms are getting destroyed on many flowering perennials and bedding.
The new purple pod mangetout pea ‘Shiraz’ is a great success and adds superb colour to salads. Swiss chard and Russian kale are both abundant so I must count as blessings some of the offerings nature produces despite the weather! The only pest infestation I encountered were aphids on my young fennel plants and scented geraniums. I purchased an organic spray to combat these. I am very lucky as I rarely have any pest problems. Herbs are resilient and many contain volatile oils which omit powerful aromas. This often creates a dual effect deterring certain pests such as aphids while attracting other beneficial insects such as hoverflies.
At the end of summer I like to reflect on the growing season which has passed. Nostalgia sets in as I observe the canvas of nature fading to sombre colours. But already I have begun a list of new varieties for next year! I look forward to growing Santolina ‘lemon Fizz’ and the ‘Ladybird’ poppy variety which I spotted at Bloom – Although I am told it’s been around for years it’s new to me – evidently developed using a species from Russia in the 1870’s. Plants have wonderful stories to tell!
I am taking several trips abroad this winter so who knows what I will discover! I hope to visit the renowned garden ‘La Mortella’ on the Isle of Ischia in the bay of Naples. This garden was created by the English composer, William Walton and his Argentinean wife who believed there was a connection between music and gardening. He loved the isolation and composed there for 35 years. A return visit to the Botanic Gardens in Malaga is also on my itinerary. I enjoyed a guided tour there almost ten years ago when they were doing major rejuvenation and landscape work. It has one of the best palm collections in the world. Sometimes I dream of another place another time when I was one of those eccentric plant hunters of the last century! But for me today if I come back with a handful of collected seed from some exotic or unusual plants then my adventure will have been in vain. A gardener’s passion is all about finding another plant with which to enjoy the next love affair!’