Garden Journal 23.5.20

A week in my garden spaces. From flag iris at Broadwell to the first ‘Boscobel’ rose in my garden at home.

Hello and welcome to my garden journal covering the past week, where I trust that you, like me have taken more than a few moments to appreciate plants, to stroll in the fresh air, to sow some seeds or plant something?!

It’s been incredibly challenging for gardeners on the weather front recently. Following weeks of very little rainfall and warm temps, late frosts popped up to surprise a few who might not have caught the forecasts. How many times have we heard “there can always be a late frost in May;” well this year there was one…

Young plants that might have been hardening off were at real risk of damage and sure enough – many pictures on social media showed harsh proof of frost damage – tomatoes to beech leaves were frustratingly displayed showing the effects of weather. As if this were not enough, temperatures shot up this week to the upper 20s and again; establishing plants with their delicate leaves were at real risk of damage. And there’s more – now we have blustery, leaf desiccating and stem breaking winds coming at us that can be really damaging.

I only hope that you’ve kept your plants covered when it turned cold, shaded when things turned hot, and kept your pots well watered to bolster their strength and turgidity when the gales arrived.

Sneeboer spade
Digging-In’ a border at Broadwell. The spades are made by Sneeboer, I’m not getting any freebies for the mention, but I can honestly say they’re beautiful digging companions! (Tell them I sent you! 😉 )

On a personal front, it’s been a tough one for me as my key task was digging and planting along a rather warm south facing border. It was kind of time pressured because most of the 100+ pots of dahlias were beginning to struggle in their plastic pots which are quick to heat up and dry out. Therefore, when starting the week with a good few metres of soil to prepare and plant, and with temperatures predicted to rise, it was a head down and get stuck in week from the get-go on Monday.

By close of play Thursday, I was relieved to have puddled-in the very last dahlia, and to have tied in the lowest strings around 12 rather large wigwams – for the growing of sweet peas. On Friday I naively thought that the overdue mowing on a ride-on would at least give me a chance to take the weight off – although I hadn’t bargained for the bone shaking ride over concrete-like paddocks!

Flag Iris growing alongside the pond at Broadwell. Suffice to say, they’re very well established!

On the work summary front, : Monday – Watering. Digging. Tuesday – Divided & potted hellebores. Erected half of the wigwams for sweet peas. Wednesday – Cut fresh rods & erected remaining wigwams. Thursday – Planted dahlias. Mowing. Produced AMAZING TikTok video! (Check link at bottom of article!) Friday – Watering. Mowing. Received topsoil delivery. (It doesn’t sound like a busy week, but it was I can assure you!)

My final words this week pick up on the NoMowMay thread that is receiving lots of credit and support just now, and rightfully so. I’ve been a long term convert to the reduction of intensively managed grass, and to the embracing of all the wonderful plants and creatures that arrive when a patch of lawn is left to re-wild itself. However, as always when you begin to gain some knowledge about a subject; you quickly learn there is so much more to know – if only ‘no-mow’ were that easy!

If you’ve space to experiment, you can try out different mowing heights & frequencies to create varied habitats. I’d expect to find voles, frogs & grass snakes in that patch beyond the reeds, along with buttercups & cuckoo flowers.

I’ve been playing with mowing regimes for two decades now, and might write a more focussed article about it at some stage. For now though I can wholeheartedly agree that looking carefully at our traditional and regular mowing regimes is exactly what we should be doing at this point in time, and for so many positive reasons.

First and foremost, I do support the NoMowMay initiative, but… If the results don’t turn out as hoped for, what to do next? There are so many questions that can arise, such as: How can that hoped for wild flower patch be manipulated and improved? When is best to mow that long grass? When the grass has grown thick and lush and collapsed on itself, how can I cut it? How can I balance the wild look with the desire to keep things tidy? Why aren’t there many flowers? Is a dock or nettle allowed to stay? So many questions…!

Common knapweed I believe, getting stronger in this ‘no-mow’ patch (Centaurea nigra).

I can’t answer all these questions in this journal, but I will say that if those questions are seen as barriers, then push them aside, get the answer, and get your wild flower patch moving – you won’t look back, and here’s why:

I’m convinced that a wild flower patch can be every bit as interesting and plant-packed as a typical herbaceous border. On a windy day like today, in the second half of May, your patch could be studded with countless golden buttercups, daisies, or the prettiest of blue speedwell flowers. Taller grass stalks could register every wind blow like a choppy sea, and cow parsley might tempt you to walk through with your hands out stretched. Who knows, maybe next year an all important orchid may choose to appear, or a solitary bee or butterfly might stop by to say thanks.

Many wild flowers (buttercup shown here) will still find a way to flower, even with a reduced mowing frequency – area to left un-mown this season, area to right mown ten days previously. Note – watch out for bumblebees if you do mow – they’re slow to react & take off!

If you’re able to, and haven’t as yet created a little pocket of wild flower heaven, I’d urge you to give it a go – either by the first step of joining in the NoMowMay initiative, or by taking a little advice and actively managing a patch to encourage wild flowers*. I can definitely suggest looking at this Plantlife initiative for advice and guidance.

Until next week,
Regards, Gary

Check out that TikTok: https://vm.tiktok.com/wu5WEe/

*If you don’t have a patch of lawn, follow the great example of my friend Anne, and sow a packet of wild flower seeds into a container. It’s compact, easy to manage, and will be a perfect draw for pollinators! (There’s really no getting out of this – you’re committed now!)

2 thoughts on “Garden Journal 23.5.20

  1. Thanks for the mini-meadow pot mention.😊

    ..and, what I learned from you in this blog was divide and repot hellebores. I have 2 congested pots and was just going to repot to bigger pots, but this advice seems far better , and more productive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Anne, you’re welcome! I would ideally have done the hellebores earlier, although I had to lift three clumps that were in the way, from a border. That said, they divided easily with two garden forks, & I potted up a good few in good compost, just trimming back the larger leaves. 💚

      Like

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