Things may have got off to a slow start, but suddenly the vegetable plot is delivering faster than we can eat. All that wet early on also means that everything has grown super-large. The (blight resistant) outdoor tomatoes from organicplants.com are over 7 feet high and starting to ripen, the gem squash are romping through the surrounding trees, and picking the yellow climbing beans requires a step ladder. In the greenhouse, the brandywine, black krim and sungold tomatoes are in full production and for once I’ve kept up with the successional planting of herbs. I thought I had sowed butternut squash, but the torpedoes I’ve picked look the the love child of a marrow and a squash. They will ripen in the greenhouse and it remains to be seen whether they will taste any good.
This morning’s harvest Chillis and padron peppers
Outdoor tomatoes are ripening fast
Gem squash romping through the trees courtesy of their telephone wire tendrils
Successional sowing of herbs and salads
Fewer tomato plants and bigger crops this year – I’ve finally learnt that lesson!
Rip City, my favourite dahlia, was obliterated in the border by the slugs, so it has been dug up and potted up into several pots where the rescued tubers are putting on healthy leaf. I will cosset them through the autumn and keep them undercover for the winter so that I don’t have to do without them next year.
Meanwhile, a visit to Sarah Raven’s garden, Perch Hill (open in aid of our local hospice) was awash with glorious dahlias. It did make me wonder if I was wasting my time growing them in my generally too shady garden, but I suspect that optimism will prevail and I will have another go.
Back in the 17th century, canals became a must-have addition to the fashionable gardens of the day. There’s some discussion amongst garden historians about whether they were inspired by Dutch canals, but as the century included the reign of William of Orange this seems quite likely. Smaller gardens – without space for something so grand – would often include what was called a Dutch Garden. This would feature a formal pond surrounded by beds of spring bulbs, or sometimes irises.
I bring you this historical nugget because we have just returned from visiting friends who have just such a canal in their garden. The grand house that accompanied it has long gone, but this impressive feature is the centrepiece of a garden that is redolent with history. When they first arrived the canal was a carpet of waterlilies with no water to be seen – now it is restored to close to its former glory.
In the course of my work I get sent many garden books to review – some I keep for reference, some I give to friends or good causes, but just occasionally one is so good that I keep it for myself and then buy further copies as presents. Wonderful Weeds is just such a book, written by botanist Madeleine Harley. Its great strength is that the photography shows each weed in its various stages of development from seedling to seedhead, helping gardeners enormously in the identification of problem plants. The text is clear and concise, offers advice on control and on regeneration (for the more desirable weeds e.g. campion) and also touches on its herbal and culinary uses as well as its folklore. It would make a perfect gift for any gardener.