On a Chalk Hillside September 2021

Published: September 8, 2021

Posted on 08.09.2021 |
Added in Sheila May's Blog

Summer 21 Garden Update

This summer has been “mixed” weather-wise for us on our Chalk Hillside.  We had the hot dry early spring-time as during the first lockdown last year.  April into May we remembered the lessons from last year, and watered our rebought and replanted raspberry canes at least once a week during this time – and even had to water flower beds, and fill up the pond a couple of times.  Unlike last year, when the drought continued, and many plants and crops were affected, this year we then went on to have rain, a lot of rain from later May.  After hot April, we had cold May, and everything that had started into early growth/flower because of the heat paused.  Noticeably in this garden the Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird' started flowering as usual, but just carried on, and on and on.    
The hot weather earlier in the spring followed by the colder wetter weather made the Weigela  ‘Bristol Ruby' flower at the same time as the Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird', which doesn't often happen – but the Weigela went over earlier than usual, and was pruned back by mid-June.  Here they both are flowering, either side of the path, on 30 May:-

canary bird rose 70weigelia flowering early1 5

The Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird' even managed to be in flower when the White Rosa ‘Fruhlingsanfang'  was out – which certainly hardly ever happens, AND the Rosa ‘Pink Grootendorst' rose was out too – this is the best picture I managed of this on 7 June, which doesn't really show the impact of all those blooms:-

roses all flowering together 15

We did not have any late frosts, so the Rogersia aesculifolia in the bog garden kept their beautiful early foliage without being scorched by frost, AND put out lovely flower spikes.  Here on 2 June:-

rodgersia flower spike 43

It has been a very good rose year this year, with many beautiful blooms flowering later than usual because of the weather and lasting until the unseasonable heavy rain and wind smashed their petals from the flower heads.  Here is the bed of Rosa ‘Lavender Lassie' looking good  on 24 June before the heavy rain decimated their flower heads almost overnight:- 

lavenderlassie looking great 40

But rambler Rosa ‘Dorothy Perkins' on same day showing the brown balling of the flower bud that happened to a lot of the larger flowered roses, a side effect of the wet weather:-

dorothy perkins brownball 71

We flipflopped from rain/not very warm days to heatwave temperatures – eg 1 June was bakingly hot, but the ground when we went to the Devil's Punch Bowl in Hampshire that day was a quagmire after all the rain the week before.   This naturally led to an explosion of sappy growth in the garden – and as usual, not all from the plants you WANT to grow, but from the bindweed and ground elder.   Many plants and shrubs put on lots of growth,  eg the Vine Vitis vinifera ‘Schiava Grossa' had to be summer pruned earlier than usual on 24 June.  Though it has meant that the Cardoon () has grown to its tallest height ever – the flowering spikes taller than the pergola as you can see on 4 August:-

cardoon taller than pergola 26

The most exciting thing in the early summer was to discover that after all these years, the Common Spotted Orchid   in the grass on the chalk hillside had spread elsewhere in the patch of Mouse-eared Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella)  – look, look :-

orchids close 94

As soon as I saw more spotted leaves near to the single orchid lower down the hillside in May I cordoned off the area (think CSI Chalk Hillside and you wont be far wrong, though it was neon string rather than Crime Scene Tape) so that himself not only wouldn't mow them, he wouldn't walk on them or drag the hose over them to get to his clematis and rose arch.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.   The area has been kept cordoned off all summer to allow the seedpods to develop.  It has not been an especially ant-filled year, but I will keep my fingers crossed there is a red ant colony around there to spread the seed for me.  The humid thunder-laden air as I got the washing in on 1 August did make the red ant colony beside the washing line whirligig fly all over the towels and sheets…….
Another effect of the still, warm, humid air for much of late June/July, was that scent hung beautifully in the air.  The at the end of the pergola smelt beautiful during June, and the Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile' near the Mediterranean Courtyard starting flowering later – here on 29 June – and carried on for more than a month with its perfume wafting up the garden:-

philadelphus 7

By the time of the heat wave the week before school holidays it was honeysuckle and jasmine scenting the air as the doors and window were flung open all evening.   Here are the ‘Graham Thomas' (smaller yellow/white flowers) and Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina' (the bigger purple/yellow flowers) flowering in the heat wave on 16 July:-

honeysuckles in heatwave 3

The hot sun, so unlike last summer made the herbs more aromatic this year – we have been picking huge bunches of Golden Oregano ( ‘Aureum') and (Pot Marjoram), in the foreground below, and Mint from our enormous tubtrug pot of Mint at the back of the photo – here taken at the end of June when I first started harvesting, and still going strong in August:-

oregano and mint 25

I have left one clump of Pot Marjoram unharvested in the grass on the chalk hillside as it is a magnet for bees and butterflies – particularly gatekeeper butterflies.  I tried taking a shot in early August to show you – there were 4 different types of butterfly on the clump at the time, :-

4types of butterfly on marjoram close 5

Looking at them as if they were the corners of a square, top left Peacock Butterfly; top right Small tortoiseshell, bottom right Gatekeeper and bottom left, directly below the Peacock in the middle of the flower heads, a Chalk Hill Blue.  
At the beginning of July I was sorting out all the pots under the staging in my greenhouse now that the cucumbers were in situ above, and discovered that the magenta Rosa rugosa  seeds I had sown the autumn before had germinated:-

rosa rugosa seedlings tog 32

So I pricked them out and put them back under the staging to grow on:-

rosa rugosa seedlings potted on 38

I am very pleased with the success rate of germination – a combination of enough cold weather over winter for a change together with luck, as the pot of seeds, given the same conditions, and sat beside this pot the entire time has not germinated!
Since we took out one of the posts of the pergola last winter to allow easier access down the garden, that end of the pergola has opened up more to view, and a great combination that we can see from our sofa is the ground cover rose Hereford, teamed with a Dryopteris felix-mas fern.  This rose in particular this year has gone on and on flowering – here it is looking stunning on 8 July, though it was still stunning more than a month later, indeed having sprays of intense flowers into September, its small flowers escaping both the exigencies of the strong wind and lashing rain that the larger flowered roses have suffered with:-

rosa hereford and fern 39

As I said the vine Vitis vinifera ‘Schiava Grossa' was summer pruned earlier than usual on 24th June, as it was growing extra rampantly in the sudden hot weather/rain at the beginning of June – it has grown enough now to be trained to cover the rudimentary frame we put up to be a shelter from the sun on the Mediterranean courtyard.  Strong winds in late June caused it to collapse, but it was the frame not the vine that was damaged, so we were able to re-erect it.  Fortunately the grapes had not swelled by this time, taking til the end of July to suddenly swell into developed bunches.  The picture below is from 18 July – we MUCH appreciated being able to sit under it during the heatwave, almost as if we really were in the Med!!:-

vine shelter 64

From our vantage point under the vine we can look up the garden past the acers to see the which have flowered fantastically this year especially through the heatwave.  (It is aptly named Adams Needle, as the sharp leaves go through any amount of leg coverings if you are weeding nearby.  I have one near the herbs shown above, which makes picking the oregano a hazardous operation!)  Here is one of the blooms on 25 July with our vine shelter behind:-

aunt wins yuccas flowering fantastically in heatwave 257 13

Naturally, the school holidays caused the weather to become a lot cooler, wetter earlier in August, and then cooler, with a drying easterly/northerly wind for the second half of August, necessitating a lot of watering as the wind is very drying, even though it was more cloudy than sunny.    Us gardeners are never satisfied are we?  

Next month, talking about two stalwart hardy herbaceous perennials that love my garden – Bindweed and Ground Elder.

Sheila May

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