June, midsummer.

There is a saying that if your garden does not look wonderful in June, it never will. The funny thing is that I prefer it at the end of May, because it is so lush and green. and in the Autumn when the grasses are flowering and the Autumn border is at its best. Spring, because we have a lot of bulbs, hence the name Botticelli meadow, and tulips, but not too many, in most of the borders. I wish more people came and saw us in May and September/October as even though we are relatively a small garden they might get plenty of ideas from us. Finally the dahlias are growing, as one man said to me, ‘You certainly have a slug problem here’. Too true. Never mind. These things are sent to try us – and they have this year.

However, not all is doom and gloom: the Kniphifia thompsonii var. thompsonii is going great guns. This time last year, after the cold spring, we had a few leaves but no flowers. A few turned up later in the summer but it was obviously sulking. This year, we already have 8 spikes and is much taller than ever before. It is a supremely elegant red hot poker with loosely spaced drooping tubes in a brick orange/red colour. It moves around in its patch of bed as it is stoloniferous weaving between clumps of Pennisetum macrourum, a 6′ tall grass with long bottle brush flowers in August. Both plants would be considered slightly tender in our exposed, north facing Midland garden but they are planted on the very top of a 45 degree angled slope so any moisture drains instantly away. We used to have another clump of the kniphofia in the middle of a bed, more sheltered but without the drainage – this clump succumbed a few winters ago along with an Eryngium yuccifolium and 2 pittosporums.

Now all the roses are flowering, and as usual everyone wants to know the name of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, which I first saw flowering at Worcester College, Oxford. It is not a climber, but we treat it as such, on a not very tall wall at the back of the garage. They not only want to know the name, but they all go and order it. We had a charming French group here last weekend, and they knew all my roses, particularily ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’.

The high spot of June was four of us going to Great Dixter, and having lunch with Fergus Garrett, and a two hour tour round the garden afterwards. All of us were bowled over by his enthusiasm and his ideas. His attention to detail, even with the two sections of pots all grouped together, made me come back here and start fiddling with mine. My thank you letter must have made him laugh, as I went on and on how incredible it all was. I thought of this trip a year ago, and we still had trouble getting into a B and B.

Polly has clipped almost everything in the par terre, except the four Michael Heseltine variegated box. The sarcoccoca has had a big chop, as has the Daphne tangutica. I do not think we ever dreamt that the Daphne tangutica would ever get so huge. We have opened up the view by taking two lower branches of the Betula ermanii, and in a book I had in London it described Betula ermanii as large. It does seem to be getting bigger and bigger.


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