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.
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.
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.
The latter is what we do here, with the exception of delphiniums. In the beginning people are constantly propping up plants with the most hideous stakes. Really you should try to make your garden look natural, which on a breezy day like today I am really enjoying my grasses blowing in the wind. Stipa tenuissima, which seeds mildly, easy to pull out, and all the Calamagrostis. Avalanche, green and white, acutiflora Overdam, same but with a pink tinge, El Dorado, green and yellow striped, and the most famous, Calamagrostis Karl Foerster. They come up the first, and can be used like punctuation marks through your borders. The latter is taller than the others, but not too tall, maybe to my shoulder. I like best metal stakes, or rusted iron, luckily I got some very good ones from a friends grandson, who was making them while at university. I dont really like wooden stands or pergolas as I feel they could have come from Colefax and Fowler if there are lots of them.
I have a very promising new Sanguisorba, from Avondale Nursery who has got the national collection, called Stand up Comedian, strong red stems, and white tassels later on, also with a very special leaf. The lawn is going brown, and Polly tells me not to worry as it will come back. The garden is a haze of blue, my eryngiums who love these conditions, and have bulked up a lot, a Polly expression. The tops of the walls need watering, as some things would die without. Yesterday I went to Burford Garden Centre, quite a long way for me, to get some plants for the two large blue pots either side of the blue bench. We have two large photographs by Clive on a sort of metal tin, to go in our new gents loo. They will blow everyone away. I am going to put some photos on of the autumn border, which I am really pleased with. The achillea Gold Plate, which has a good leaf, and will grow to 6ft, it is about 5ft this year. I saw it last year in the huge new border at Kew, really worth going to.
We have had no rain for a very long time, and after the Dutch had left at about 5 o’clock we have started to turn the sprinkler on various sections of the left hand side border. Today was the hottest day of the year, and all of us were flagging slightly. I have taken a photo of the Klimt border, which has three delphiniums in, going from left to right, Tiddles, (daughter of the owner of Blackmore and Langdon, Alice Artindale which is a species and meant to be difficult, she is amazing at about 7 feet, and Gillian Dallas. Delphiniums have a reputation for being tricky, but get them past the stage of being eaten by slugs and you are alright. All the dahlias have emerged from the ground, and are looking good. I am pleased with the Autumn border, with the roses out, and two white persicarias in. Finally my neighbour’s field has been cut, and it looks lovely, with James having poisoned the nettles all along the side. The rabbit is lurking still, and Nicholas, my grandson, was very keen to see it. Thomas took a photo of it on his i phone, as a pale grey blob. Apparently we have two now, which is mortifying, as we dont know where they are getting in, and a slightly rotund Tensing is weaving his way in and out of the borders trying to find it, as is Temba. A chunk of the retaining wall where we have the soldiers running down to the garage, has fallen down, but luckily the soldiers have stayed in place. The soldiers are our yew cones, which have been in ten years. All of our roses are flowering, and I tell people who come round the garden that I dont really like roses, and they all look completely horrified.