The part of the garden that I slightly grandiosely think of as the woodland area has become increasingly gloomy over the past year. All the rain in early summer promoted lots of leafy growth which meant the canopy closed overhead. I knew it was time for action when even the Japanese anemones struggled to flower despite being a plant that verges on being a weed in this garden. So, I’ve thinned out the amelanchier and cut back much of the Viburnum opulus and the Stachyrus praecox – both looked beautiful last spring, but that was at the expense of everything else – the surviving branches will provide some flowers next year, while those that were pruned will start to put on new growth.
The existing hellebores, lily of the valley, and Japanese anemones will be much happier (and more visible) now and after a top dressing with leafmould and compost and some decent rain, I am adding more plants. There include cyclamen coum, a number of ferns (mainly evergreen), hardy begonia grandis evanisiana, persicaria virginiana ‘Lance Corporal, a couple of epimedium and some homegrown foxgloves and sweet rocket. All of these plants already grow happily (and sometimes self seed) in the garden, so I’m confident they will establish well.
Begonia grandis evansiana
Persicaria virginiana ‘Lance Corporal’
As I’ve planted, I have upended pots over each plant before adding a good mulch of bark chippings. The pots stop the plants from being buried in mulch and once they are removed everything looks happily settled in their new surroundings.
The curly yellow climbing beans called Anellino giallo (I’m not being pretentious, they are Italian and don’t have an English name) have done very well this year, cropping heavily and climbing to great heights. As a result we haven’t kept up with picking and eating them as fast as we should and, since the pods have reached the inedible stage, I thought I might treat them like borlotti, shell them and eat them fresh. What a surprise to discover that the beans are a beautiful royal blue. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t remain that colour when cooked and sure enough after 40 minutes with a shallot and bay leaf, they were an interesting shade of pewter grey. I mixed them with steamed runner beans and stirred in some home made pesto – delicious.
As the courgettes and squashes that I planted in the straw bale bed start to die back, I’ve made an unexpected discovery. In my enthusiasm to get a good layer of logs and prunings as the base of the bed, I must have included some freshly cut branches from the fig tree which appear to have rooted and are now sending up a grove of young trees. Whether they survive disinterment remains to be seen, but if you are planning your own straw bale garden, it may be best to make sure that the logs you use are well and truly dead. On the other hand it may be an interesting new propagation technique – I also found a thicket of young fuschsias.
Sadly, some of my blight tolerant outdoor tomatoes have now succumbed. I have removed the worst affected plants but am waiting to see what happens with the others before cutting them down, but I suspect they will all have to go. I was probably pushing things by planting them next to my potatoes, but I knew if they survived there they would survive anywhere. Fortunately the greenhouse tomatoes remain hale and hearty and I have had some good pickings from the outdoor plants before they started to blacken and collapse. Next year I will be more circumspect about I plant them in the hope that they will do as well as last year’s batch and remain blight-free throughout.