Extremes of weather.
This month has brought more extremes of weather – heavy downpours where it feels like weeks of accumulated rain fall in just a few hours, and then a long stretch of hot balmy days – clear blue skies and blissful warm air. Both though bring disruption and problems – too much water, too little, new growth racing ahead then battered down. And all the while the garden shifts and changes in the light.
Yellow flag iris sends up its flowery spikes around the lochan which is then followed by meadowsweet in profusion. The wildflower area by the sluice and along the perimeter path is a suffusion of colour.
Pink and white astrantia and astilbe start to fill out in the Front and Temple gardens and all of the annuals along with the roses here are bursting into flower.
The goat’s beard in particular seems to be revelling in conditions – creating a massed display of light creamy coloured fronds. These illuminate and sway in dark corners – and attract in turn hordes of foraging bumble bees – to make a sequence of moving buzzing clouds.
Of course these conditions are also ideal for our less welcome visitors – willow herb and nettles – on the hillside, by the far end of the lochan, and the slope down from Nuclear Sail are all cleared of these, leaving more room for heather and foxglove to thrive – and so that we do not become entirely subsumed by bright purple or stinging invaders. Where sections have been cleared already they start to grow back – a constant battle to keep everything in check.
All of the topiary box hedging is given a very light trim, along with the other bits of semi-formal native hedging – just enough to keep it in shape.
Paths around the lochan and hillside are cleared of overhanging branches, gorse and heather creeping out to snatch or trip up the unsuspecting passer-by. There are areas too in the wild garden where the rosa rugosa seems to have been starved of light and so there are a few bare patches where it has not filled out this year – especially by The Path of Language. The surrounding trees are cut back into shape to allow more light to filter through – especially the lower branches from nearby pendulous beech which form an almost impenetrable curtain to its lower neighbours.
In the Allotment the brick paths and picket fence are tidied from overhanging growth to maintain the formal layout and appearance, and much work goes into rotating and topping up the compost heaps. The Kailyard looks particularly bonnie this season – both decorative and productive – crumpled crimson poppy petals float in amongst the feathery fronds of fennel, the rainbow colours of chard and calendula, runner beans and cornflower jostle side by side.
The Middle pond and Temple pool are cleared again, there are unresolved water supply issues to the lower pond in the Parkland.
In the Top pond elodea (Canadian pondweed) has formed a spongy mass beneath the water level and needs raked out – while in Lochan Eck Potamogeton natans (its broad-leaved counterpart) dominates – clogging up the water surface with its leathery leaf pads – it is a long job to remove by hand, but a not unpleasant task on a hot day.
Dead-heading and weeding continues in all the formal beds, including along the top of the front wall of the Hortus, here too some overhanging branches are cut away, the roses coming on in the parterre sections below needing every encouragement.
There are repairs completed to the metamorphic trellis in the Wild garden, and the little wooden arch bridge which crosses to the sweet harmony grove on the moorland has been removed pending renewal, as it was in danger of collapse.
Some long-standing conservation works have begun – to the fallen Arcadia column, the arch (an Architectural term) bridge, and crumbled limestone base section of one of the front gate piers. Other pieces have been taken away to be fixed: the split Gates milestone and the granite bollard Silver Seas whose inscription is to be re-gilded – and yet still more to be done.
A lot of activity, but this is the time also to take stock – to stand back and be rewarded by what the garden gives us. In their settings now as they were meant to be seen, all of the artworks extend their meaning and purpose, every composition is complete.