The flower arrangement James did for my lunch party

I have described these flowers in my last blog. The one really worth noting is Helenium Sahins early flowerer. It is the centre of it that is really special. The pineapple plant, Eucomis burgundy is at its best.


29th July, 2018, Plants that have fared well this summer

It has been a very tricky summer for gardeners, and rather depressing with the relentless sun beating down. I do not like looking at Veronicastrums with their leaves turned mournfully down, The main advantage of this garden is that it is north facing so everything takes its turn. If Polly had not been watering the newly planted dahlias I don’t think much would have been happening, certainly no flowers. Annoying, because after the tulip display we depend on the dahlias for interest and colour down in the par terre. Even one of my grasses I am probably going to get rid of it looks so brown and flimsy. It is Pennisetum black buttons. Hopeless! I would never get rid of Veronicastrums they play a prominent part in most of my borders. I suppose one of the stars are the Eryngiums, their intense blue makes it difficult for you to take your eyes off them. It is amazing the way the stem is so blue too. They last well in water. We had friends to lunch yesterday and James picked some flowers for the table. You sit looking at them eye level and you notice so many things about them, Achillea, Helenium with particularly the central boss which has like gold tracing on it; and the Crocosmia, with the unopened flower and the throat of the open flower. The Pennisetum which is succeeding is Karley Rose, which has already had a chunk chopped off because it was getting too big. I am not sure I want a summer like this next year.

23rd July, 2018

I never thought I would complain about the heat but I don’t like it any more. You cant water the whole garden but so many things look as if they are never going to recover. I went to a party at Coton Manor yesterday and everything looked very fresh and happy, it is really a very pretty garden with a huge Gingko tree tree over a pool. I am longing for my three Gingkos to get big, they are quite slow and one of them looks as if it wants to turn into a weeper, I remember Dianey Binneys sister, Betsy, saying ‘I dont like weepers’. I have never grown one, probably influenced by her. By the way Coton Manor has a watering system.

The dogs have gone to the hairdresser today, and I go tomorrow, following in their wake. I cant wait to see them cut short, it must kill them in this weather. Tensing might stop barking you never know. I have a maroon centaurea, whose central boss has turned into the most beautiful silver disc, probably the best seedhead I have ever seen. Amazingly enough the right hand borders, Reine des Violettes and Euphorbia Fern Cottage, they both look good even in the full glare of the day. Clive came over to see his two pics in the outside loos, and really liked them. I am quite surprised that no one has asked me how you get hold of them.

The plant I am really pleased with is in the Autumn Border and is called Achillea Gold Plate’. It is very tall with a pretty silvery foliage, and is a kind of mustard yellow. Next year it will be at least another six inches taller. Perennials take about three years to fulfil their promise, and I have never planted this Achillea before as I was a bit dubious about the colour. But it is fine. In fact it lifts the rest of the border, and I am going to plant it the other side.


The importance of flowers looking beautiful at all stages

At this time of year two flowers immediately come to mind. Agapanthus and Gladiolus papilio ruby are my favourites. . I am looking at the buds of Agapanthus Windsor Grey in the Burgundy border, and they are so chunky and interesting before they open out, with long stems reaching up above the leaves. When they start opening they are equally attractive and somehow this all prolongs the season of interest. Gladiolus papilio ruby is beautiful at every stage. The way the stem curves over and then gently opens up piece by piece. Both these plants flower roughly at the same time, and we are half way through July, so you have plenty of time to examine them. The garden looks beautiful, but if you are not a gardener you have no idea of the work that goes on behind the scenes. I am now talking about Polly, who has been dead heading, watering, the pots need watering almost every day, it is a 24 hour job. I have not been much help to her this year but I can get about a lot bettter now.

We had some charming Americans round the garden last Saturday. Why are Americans so charming – it is because they are appreciative and enthusiastic, with very good manners. Frankly they must have been exhausted as they had been three hours traipsing round Stowe. I also always find it a pity when people come round this garden in the middle of the day when the light is the most harsh. Sometimes I think about a garden that a lot depends on the light, and if it is soft you go away with completely different feelings.

8th July, 2018, the progress of the borders

The roses are on the way already to preparing for their second flowering, They need feeding and watering, I dont think they will get the latter. There are distinct advantages to the roses with single petals, of which we only have two. Mrs Oakley Fisher which is a hybrid tea, pale apricot, and grows at Sissinghurst. and rose Morning Mist, which is a David Austin. They die well which is more than you can say of most roses. We have got James’s neice staying, Charlotte, who is teaching me how to order some rather beautiful Indian clothes on line, made in Jaipur needless to say. This weather is continuing, and quite a few things are suffering. On saturday morning I woke up at 5 and my photographs are proof of this. Particularly the one of the autumn border, and the main excitement of the day was England beating Sweden in the World Cup.

In the borders, the grasses are flowering, day lilies are coming into flower, the hemerocallis, and if you are near them you deadhead them. The smaller ones it is not so vital to do. The leaf comes up very early, and I definitely think they are worth growing. I am feeling very determined about wanting to go back to India next year as it will be five years which I think is too long, I. want to go to Gujarat and Jaipur.

Quote from an e mail from Thomas, my youngest son

The Greek Alcibiades was entranced by the gardens of the Persian satrap, Chithrafarna.

And more surreal for Alcibiades even than the Persian hunt – and yet no less important – were the hours he spent with Chithrafarna in his garden. As provincial representatives of the great King, satraps were obliged to mirror imperial court life, so that its values might percolate into every corner of the land, and gardens, parks or paradises, were a key constituent of this life, another sign of the Great King’s power to tame and structure nature, to cause order in an otherwise chaotic world. To stock this miniature, if idealised, kingdom, teams of gardeners transported trees, and shrubs, and vines, from every corner of the Persian realm, carefully transplanting them, solicitiously tending them, expertly irrigating them to create formal landscapes of breathtaking beauty., Geometry and symmetry were paramount, and a clever use of sightlines, meant that, strolling through the paradise, new vistas opened unexpectedly, revealing now a throne, now a pillared pavilion at the end of a long avenue, some satraps, kings, and princes themselves gardened. And Chithrafarna had spent a fortune on his paradise and orchards with their bubbling streams and meadows, ‘laying them out lovingly and with the utmost artistry with plants and all that is conducive to luxury, and the peaceful contemplation of fine things”. As a special honour to his new found friend, in whose company he spent so many happy hours here, Chithrafarna renamed his garden “The Paradise of Alcibiades”. “It was a charming gesture”

I wanted to share this with you as I thought it was so delightful.