Sylvia Clare’s Column – July 2013

Another day in the Garden – 14th July 2013

Well a month ago I was writing about the relief that is was finally warming up and now I am sitting inside hiding from the heat until it is cooler for getting some jobs done out there – mostly cutting back that which is over to make way for that which springs ever upwards. I do mark some seed heads with little strands of coloured wool so that I can collect seed later on from them, I especially want to try out some of the more unusual Iris Siberica as they do surprisingly well in my hillside drained garden, even in hot weather, perhaps because they flower before it really dries out and can then die back and go more or less dormant until next spring. Also many Pratense varieties of hardy geranium are ready for their first chop so that hopefully they will come back for a second flush later on in the year. Peonies, Oriental poppies and roses also need deadheading as do Knautia varieties and the first Dahlia flowers to go over. These latter I keep in pots to over winter in the greenhouse and brighten our courtyard for our summer visitors.

Courtyard garden with all variety of plants in pots for rentals staying in our coach house

Details of some pots with dahlias, stachys, fuchsias, phormiun, salvias and others

Orange alstromeria with wandering golden euphorbia (names unknown), with yellow verbascums in the orange yellow border

Red hot border with forest pansy in the background and poppies, Monarda ‘Cambridge scarlet' and in the foreground


I cannot believe how much has sprung up in such a few weeks and for everything to be so different. I have found it interesting to start noting dates as a result of writing this regular diary piece: I have always wanted to be someone who kept records and diaries of what they had planted and what was in flower when and what did well that year and so on. How wonderful to be able to look back over those records and make comparisons. I have started several times but I am just not that kind of person, not orderly and routine but rather just bursting with enthusiasm and energy, just mucking along with everything and more or less gardening from lists of what I see at the end of a day that could be done next. I do need my lists or I forget things and get distracted so they are inevitably written on the backs of envelopes and perform a very good motivating and positive feedback loop for me as I tick each job off the list before starting to make a new agenda. Sometimes I can only achieve a little in one day so a few shorter jobs still make me feel really productive instead of frustrated with lack of time or energy. Today it is heat that stops me working out there all afternoon but I shall enjoy working into the evening as it is till so light until nearly 10 o'clock, and I love the grey light of dusk at this time of year when it seems that the days do not end really until I am done in and ready to drop, although we are far from the midnight sun and a 24 hour working day.

Berberis Helmond pillar with un named rose and Geranium ‘Anne Folkard' climbing through it

‘Pagoda' and Etoile violette with Rosa rubrifolia to the right behind

Cool greens with white contrasts Philadelphus virginal and white variegated berberis

So what is being redesigned and what is going well and what is waiting in the wings?

For some reason several of the earliest sections of the garden that I planted up 12-13 years ago have really deteriorated recently and this year I have had a little help from a friend of our son who is lodging with us and as he is a tree surgeon by trade we are taking help in lieu of any payment. This arrangement suits us both well and it has allowed us to tackle some unkempt and over grown areas with gusto. One section is right in front of the house and that has taken a bashing where my husband is replacing rotten old Georgian wooden windowsills and is thus standing on ladders and scaffold towers right amongst the overgrowth there. The main dominant plant was a passion flower which not only climbed up the trellis but also sprawled over the other plants in front of it. So I have decided enough is enough and that got hacked down. The disaster area will be addressed in autumn but the Japanese anemones are struggling through and they will be replanted along with the Gladiolus ‘Byzantium' which self seed in our garden – prolifically! I have some more sedate roses and various clematis in mind to replace the vertical. I plan to edge the border with Geranium ‘Rozanne' for a long term blue edging to come in after all the bulbs die back, and a few other hardy perennials yet to be decided upon but probably based on what is available between now and then at hardy plant sales and swops – the true and wonderful thing about being am member of this society. Gems and wondrous things are found and swopped and propagated and shared amongst us all. I also tend to like plants that wander on their own and pop up along the way somewhere there is a small space for it. The other main area being tackled was a rockery around and underneath a huge bay tree. We got the tree cut down a few years back but killing the thing is proving nigh impossible and I have now taken to spraying it with Resolva which seems to be working on the new growth at least. All the lovely alpines I once planted have been lost and thuggish plants that self seed took over. They were handy for a while if frustrating but I was busy developing the rest of our wilderness and just thankful for some colourful ground cover – but again enough is enough and I want to make this area a little more interesting. So with various forms of glyphosphate to the rescue, the area is now looking rather brown with a few green clumps resistant to death but about to get re-zapped. We need to get the huge bay stump out first before we can do anything else to it and so apart from the lovely Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac wonder' which have retreated underground now there is another more or less blank canvass to paint on. I think I will go for iris and tulips as the main programme as it is in full sun and sharply drained with not very good soil, but what else, salvias I think too, I have some cuttings coming on at present that would like it up there. Again I will mostly wait until autumn and live with the killing field for now until I can properly clear the area and dig in some much needed soil nutrient. The bay took everything and more; they are real weed trees on the Isle of Wight
My large central sort of colour-wheel garden is mostly in full flower all around the distinct colour sections and in the central circle planted around a circular seating area too. We are planning on bending the Tibetan cherries over a framework this autumn to make a green pergola from them so that there is more shade to sit and eat in on the hottest days like today. I am especially pleased with the Cerinthe pupurescens against the blue spires of Salvia Mainacht and small blue field Scabious but also in the yellow corner with Rosa ‘Stuart Graham Thomas' behind other yellows of hemerocallis, potentillas, marigolds and others. Over in the red corner we have wonderful bergamots with against magenta and bright red Lychnis chalcedonica and in the green corner we have frothing Alchemillas with green and white variegated Berberis against Philadelphus virginal which marks the entrance to our green tunnel with its heavenly scent. Even on the hottest days recently I go and stand in my dark over-grown green tunnel and it is truly cool under there, mimicking the lanes on the island where the trees meet overhead and give one endless possibilities of flights of fancy into Tolkien based lands. Finally in the central circles we have a Berberis helmond pillar with a lovely salmon pink rose growing through it alongside Geranium ‘Anne Folkard'. A striking yet harmonious clash along the lines C. Lloyd I think, or perhaps not bold enough. Elsewhere the clematis are out in force, clambering over trees and walls and through pergolas. Some more newly planted ones are already over – it all came in such a rush this year, but the more established ones have more to say for themselves and our Texensis ‘Pagoda' mingled with Etoile violette is still singing gently to us as we walk through every day. Black Knight is budding up nicely, again a two year old planting but I don't really expect clematis to do that much until year three or four then they really get their feet down into the soil and have been mulched at least twice as well, then they flower their socks off.

Hot sunny bank, full drought and poor soil with self sown dianthus plus geranium Bill Wallis, sedum purple emporer

Penstemmon raven

Salvia mainacht and Cerinthe purpurescens

Yellows merging palely into green section with alchemilla, verbascums and hemerocallis in front of philadelphus



I could go on, there is so much to share in these months and the veg and fruit gardens are splendidly productive too, and so much to keep on top of in spite of the heat. So I am off to follow the shade around and do what I can.

Cotinus ‘Grace' which is hard coppiced every autumn after leaf drop to create this colourful mound each summer

Euphorbia martini and stachys and plenty of asters waiting to come into flower at the back

Forest pansy with white hebe as ground cover and contrast next to a small regularly coppiced Pawlonia tormentosa

Sylvia Clare

Text and photographs by Sylvia Clare, who has been an HPS member for more than 10 years.