An Unexpected Downpour

The heatwave may have ended a good number of days ago but the dry weather hasn’t and the gardens are desparate for water. Digging down to plant some large shrubs the other day, there was no sign of moisture in the soil, nor earthworms for that matter, no matter how deep I dug. It is tedious to water with a hosepipe and, for some inexplicable reason, (perhaps it’s the chemicals in tap water), plants react so much better to a drop of rain.
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Today the skies were grey but, as none had been forecast, it came as a surprise when I thought I could smell rain in the air. And was that a distant roll of thunder or was it just wishful thinking? With no further warning, the heavens opened, the rain bouncing off the surface of the lane and the leaves of the plants. By the time I had reached my camera, it was already beginning to ease.
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They must have had more rain than us, further up the secret valley, for water continued to rush down the lane in its haste to reach the river. Just past the bend its route took a sharp right turn to tumble down the steep banks to enter the meanders – the ones that feature on the header of this blog – just above the road bridge.

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It’s a novelty to see puddles once again!
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I couldn’t resist catching these images of the herbs cloaked in moisture. The French Tarragon seems to be greedier than most and holds water all over the surface of its leaves. The bronze Fennel, however, holds its drops in a very much more refined way as befits such a graceful plant.
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Cotinus – this is the variety called ‘Grace’ – appeared splattered with rain, as if it had been flicked with paintbrushes. It held its drops in different sizes, some so large I wondered how they could remain in place and keep separate from the smaller sized ones alongside.
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The old fountain head of a cherub and dolphin sits at the top of a flight of steps leading to the garden, for many years no longer used for its original purpose. Did the rain bring a slight smile to its lips and was that a tear that rolled down its cheek to its chin as it recalled its real purpose in life?
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If above is the picture of innocence, what is this next one? A single raindrop on each barb transforms the fence but it can only partially disguise its wickededness. We are not that easily fooled …
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Thirty minutes after the rain stopped the secret valley was shrouded in mist as the cooled air reacted with the warm earth. A short battle for supremacy ensued but, along with a slash of blue sky came a winning dart of sunlight and the mist fell to the ground, disappearing as quickly as the rain.
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No Time For Growing? A Recipe For Guaranteed Success

We all lead busy lives these days and often don’t have time to sow seeds, despite our best intentions. I garden for my living and, in the tradition of cobbler’s children, my own garden is, more often than not, far from text book perfect. I simply do not have the time for all that seed sowing and pricking out even though I spend all day encouraging others to do it!

Raised beds are often described as labour and space saving and, indeed, they are. They are hugely productive and can look lovely, as the many posts and photographs by fellow Bloggers prove. But what if you don’t have the time even for that?

Here is my recipe for growing summer suppers…..

1. Purchase a box of lettuce. No, not joking! Supermarkets sell a wide range of salad ingredients including growing pots of near full grown lettuce. Recently they have started to sell mixed leaves as seedlings, the idea being to keep them fresh for a few extra days.


2. Carefully remove all wrappers and tip out of their packaging. There is quite a good root system already started.


3. Divide carefully and, just by using your fingers, plant direct into your soil or compost. Water well. In the photo below, for even more speed, I just pinched a few plants out of the growing medium and planted together in one hole. I ended up with about twenty groups – planted separately I would probably have had nearer a hundred. Note the herbs behind the lettuce, all grown the same way.


4. The lettuce in the photo above may have looked a little sad but within a day, the seedlings perked up. Ten days later here are some of them again below. Enjoy!

Recently I have been taking the idea of raised beds a stage further and creating much higher raised beds that avoid the hardship of bending. I use them as ‘walls’ to separate different levels of a garden, I use them on the flat and I use them where the client is elderly or has a disability.

Made from chunky timber so they won’t rot for years, I also make them bottomless as that is always the first place to go. They require less watering that way too. Lining them with black plastic prevents water seeping through and disfiguring the boards which is important if they have been painted or stained. And the boxes just seem to be getting ever bigger!

This box separates the lower dining terrace from the house level and creates a sense of enclosure when seated below. As it is situated close to the kitchen door, the box is planted with a mix of herbs as well as garden flowers. The twisted stemmed bay gives a degree of formality as well as height.

Exotic planting works well in this square box. A hardy palm is underplanted with coleus, the magenta splashes of the leaves are emphasised by the identical colour of the petunias and of this favourite plant of mine, Lythrum. Lythrum is native to the British Isles and grows besides streams and in boggy places. This variety, ‘Robert’, is identical in every way except for its shorter height and is a great garden plant. I’ve found that it grows in quite ordinary soil in the border and it certainly thrived here in these conditions.

 

PS I’ve just remembered! Spring Onions (Scallions) bought as bunches from the supermarket: when planted out early in the year, grow to become reasonable sized onions. They don’t store well but help to bridge the gap that occurs before those grown from sets are ready for harvest. Try some in your boxes!

Watercress works as well: eat most of the stems you buy and plant just the last 2 – 3 inches in ordinary compost. Keep moist and it will provide food up until the first frosts.

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