13th September, back in England

Here we are, and tomorrow is James 70th birthday. The cats caught 2 mice and one rat in front of our eyes, even with the disadvantage of James feeding them under the table. I am always so pleased to get home..particularly with the effusive greeting of Tensing and Temba. So many of our best friends have their birthdays round this date. My next blog will be about plants not birthdays,

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Corfu

We have been two and a half weeks at Prosilio already. At first it was very hot, but the garden looked better than usual due to rain in June which had freshened it up, As usual the Cypresses had shot away. My son Thomas and Nicholas were staying and it was very exciting seeing Nicholas swim for the first time. I had to get Yiannis to change most of the pots as as I did not like them at all. He has insisted on putting in ABelia Grandiflora. Too big, dies badly and to be seen everywhere in England, He put not one but three in! Tecomaria capensis is showing flashes of orange , and podranea ricasoliana soft pink. Matching Tulbaghia shimmers in the breeze

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.

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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.