I am putting a picture of Delphinium Tiddles in the Klimt border, and behind it is Delphinium Alice Artindale which is meant to be difficult to grow and is at least 6ft.
I am trying to get up early like my friends Clive and Eric, but so far the conditions have never been right. What a difference the early morning makes, the light is so beautiful, and it turns photography into a real pleasure. It is a good way of seeing what is wrong or right in the garden, and maybe a lot of you should join the workshop for Clive Nichols here on September 18th.
I have a particularly good Campanula in the garden called Crystal, which is bred from Burghalti, but is much stronger and flowers longer. There is a photo of it underneath the rusted iron poles, with Clematis Arabella climbing above it. The autumn border is different this year, the roses have been taken out, and it has been made wider. Already it is looking interesting, mostly green with splashes of white, two persicarias in full bloom, both quite big. Persicaria polymorpha which I have never grown before, and is looking promising. It says that it goes on flowering until September, which is four months. Polly is clipping the Phillyreas in the par terre and they look much better for it, as the par terre is a garden in a garden.
The delphiniums are starting to flower, first to flower is Tiddles, a tiny rooted cutting from Blackmore and Langdon last year, and seen first of all in Sybille’s garden. What a colour, that is the reason that I persevere with delphiniums. They are mostly in the Klimt border, and have to be staked. There are attractive stakes to be found at Harrods and Leander. You have to pay up, but they will last for ever as they are rusted steel. When my delphiniums are all flowering I will put some photos on.
A mistake a lot of us make is ordering roses from a glossy catalogue instead of bothering to go and see them actually growing in the ground. I still think that we should not have too many roses in the garden. When they are flowering what are we looking at but a huge amount of large blobs. For example David Austin, Gentle Hermione, if I had realised that it turned from pale pink to white I would not have chosen it. Now we are three years on, it is huge and I have not got the energy to change it. On the other hand Desdemona in the Oil Tank border, is better than I thought it would be. But it has won awards, and if we can get it into a good shape I will be pleased. You don’t win with everything.
A famous gardener called John Coke, told me a long time ago that I should not bother with Campanulas. I now feel that he is wrong, where else would you find such amazing colours, and they are flowering now. So beautiful, he thinks they die badly, but so do a lot of things, and you can just cut them down if they are offending you.
I have made another mistake by planting two huge Miscanthus Cosmopolitan in two small borders. They have just been taken out, and Calamagrostis Overdam gone in instead. The Miscanthus would soon be 5ft by 5ft and push everything else out, it has already happened to me several times, you would think I would have learnt my lesson.
Morale has lifted as I am starting to walk better, but no gardening until I get back from Corfu.
I am on my own here as James went on Friday to Hong Kong for a week. Not really on my own as Tensing and Temba are here with me, enjoying themselves every day in pursuit of the trapped rabbit, weaving in and out of the beds, getting pretty wet and dirty. Today started off grey and finished being a perfect summers day. In the Reine des Violettes border Allium Firmanent has appeared, a bit shorter than Purple Sensation, and a duller purple, quite useful for the time of year. I am pulling out allium purple sensation, as when it goes over it is a bit funereal. My Amsonia are flowering, I would not be without them, a soft slatey blue. We had a delightful group of Canadians, interesting for me as they grow the same sort of things as us. In a way a group of 10 or 12 is perfect for me and Polly as you can really discuss plants and ideas with them. The day before they had been to Roy Strong and the Veddw, a real contrast. The roses are just beginning to flower which is always exciting, some of my new David Austin roses, like two, I am finding very difficult to get into a good shape. Polly and I feel like cutting them right to the ground.
My Greek surgeon has told me to walk without a crutch anymore, and I cannot pretend that it is not difficult. Sitting in the kitchen writing this I look out to my left and gaze at James’ triumphal arch. We are going to get some more of the asters ‘Glow in the Dark’. In the main border we have some gaps, until you grow plants you really do not know how they are going to behave in the ground. The painted lady kniphofia has such a heavy head that she snaps off, which is no good. Normally I would not like to plant things as late as this, but it is perfect growing weather.
We are having thunderstorms and showers at the moment. This last week we had two groups of Americans, on Monday and Saturday, both delightful and really interested. The second group from California, nicknamed James Mr. Charming, as he arrived from London about an hour into their rather wet visit. Led by Laurie Calloway, this was her fifth time, and a lot of fun was had by all. Everything is looking delightfully green, and the dahlias in the par terre have only just started to be planted out. James and I have had a very relaxing time, and I have persuaded him into doing some wiring for a new clematis. It was amazing how long it took him.
On Sunday we had 87 year old Sybylle Kreutzberger to lunch, who was one of the two gardeners for Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst. We walked slowly round the garden after lunch, and she pointed out several things that needed attending to. She just knows so much, I am always in awe. I think that is why I used to be frightened of her to start with, but I need not have been, as she always leaves me saying ‘don’t forget it is your garden Gina’ She did not like my new intersectional peonies at all. I had a feeling that she would not as I think they were all too blowsy and in your face for her. She spotted a seedhead of a pulsatilla that she was sure was white, I think it was, but I dont always notice everything enough, as things are opening out and going over at the rate of knots. I am always telling Harriet to use her eyes in the garden. Incidentally her garden is looking good at the moment, though her Cotinus Flame has turned its toes up after I had told her to prune it, so I feel slightly responsible. Syblle said that a few of my plants needed Epsom Salts, because of the colour of the leaf.
I was really pleased as Mark Griffiths gave us a paragraph in Country Life saying that our Malus Transitoria avenue in the paddock was his favourite. I must try and get Mark and Yoko to stay a night or two here, he is my best choice to walk round the garden with.
It is six weeks since my hip operation, and life is improving. I am still not meant to bend down and that makes dead heading tulips impossible. I am longing to be able to do some gardening, but at least I can watch everything coming out. James is not able to come with me to Mustique as he has a case in Hong Kong, which is a shame. Goodness knows what clothes I will take as most of my summer things are in Corfu. Yesterday morning we had a group who had just got off a plane from the States, and they were a lot of fun. Americans are so enthusiastic, unlike the English who criticise our Spanish bluebells. Someone has e mailed about whether we would do a wedding, and the answer is No, though I have offered one to Dawn who works for me. She says her friends are too rough!
My Peonies are out in the paddock, and my huge three Julia Rose are flowering, with marvelous foliage and needing no support. They are a cross between a tree peony and an ordinary peony , and when I bought them were very expensive, £50 each, but flowered very quickly, in a couple of years. Their name is an Intersectional peony, or an Itoh peony. This week is Chelsea Flower Show week, but I cant go though I got tickets, never mind there is always next year. It is pretty good on the television, and Adam Frost is commentating a lot who came to see us on Gardeners World last year.
The one Lime tree that is left looks a lot better than the three that were there before. The Cornus Controversa has already got larger without having the lime trees swallowing it up. The two Sorbus Joseph Rock look a lot better than last year, bushier and plenty of flowers on. Sorbus Vilmorinii I cant enthuse about so much, too much dead wood. In the paddock Magnolia Sieboldii is covered in flowers, and grown quite a lot. Neil and Polly together are wiring the front of the house for our new wisterias, wisteria Brachybotrys Okayama, as we have put in two of them. I have only just remembered that monday is a Bank Holiday, and hopefully James will stay over.
We have bought a new clematis called Prince William from Taylors Clematis, and it has gone where the Azara Microphylla Variegata has been taken out. The removal of the ivy has let in such a lot of light that plants are going to thrive instead of looking terrible. The placing of the pots in the curve where you come in from the blue gates, is better. For years I have made the mistake of having too small a pots, and this time we have two beautiful Italian Terracotta pots, and a huge one, with small ones from Whichford in front of them, mustard yellow and green. Italian Terracotta are the best place for pots, at least Polly and I think that, though you must take them in the Winter. In one large one I have an Astelia, taken back from my friend Karen Abel Smith, and in the very large one 3 dahlias. The small ones have been planted up with Salvias, one of them Hannah which is pink and orange. Rather like Ferns, it has taken me ages to like Salvias though I prefer them in pots rather than in my borders. Having them in borders, I find their flowers are too small on the whole. At the moment I am cutting the stalks off the dead tulips, leaving on the leaves which is what Christopher Lloyd said to do. Yesterday was the wedding day of Prince Harry and Meghan, and the whole thing was pretty spectacular and moving. Polly and I went on Thursday to Avondale Nursery,
and bought a lot of plants. Goodness knows what I will do when he retires in a years time. We seem to have a lot of people coming next week, and I have asked Sybylle to lunch on next Sunday. I love her coming as she always makes such funny remarks, totally to the point. She then reminds me that it is my garden.
Last night I saw the rabbit sitting motionless in the middle of the lawn, and urged James to get his gun out. He refused. And said he was not a good shot anymore!
I tried to urge the dogs on to it, with total failure, I dont think they know what a rabbit is. I shall have to go back to Neil, who is usually totally dependable. I will watch out for it tonight.
I was up early this morning, and down in the paddock looking at the peonies. The magnolia Lilliflora Nigra is in full flower, and is now a very good shape with a lot of blossom on. The tulips are nearly over, and unfortunately there is a group coming to see the garden tomorrow hoping to see the tulips and there is not very many left. We. Have got the lovely weather back, though not so hot, and I hope Thomas is coming to see me tomorrow but he has just rung to say he has been burgled in Acton with the door kicked in. Everything has come into leaf, including the Cotinus Flame, and Camassias are all flowering, except the pale cream one, the best being Electra which is a very pale blue one. Yesterday Philip came to see me, and Caro d’Erlanger who had seen my same Greek doctor at the Lister, who told her that her pain control was not good enough. Polly is working hard on weeding the Autumn Border, which is looking a lot more exciting without the roses, and some more Monardas. These are my current favourites, along with peonies, which is also the favourite of Meghan. Everyone is talking about the wedding, and agog to see her wedding dress. One of the reasons for my love for monardas is the smell, and the colour.