Garden Journal 14.6.20

Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journey – a journal entry for the week leading up to June 14 2020. This week it’s a tale of three very different garden situations: my work garden at Broadwell, home garden in Warwickshire, & a first post-lockdown garden visit to the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle – and what an experience that was!

At the beginning of the week it still very much felt as though irrigation was the order of the week both at home and work, as forecasted rain hadn’t materialised in any decent quantity previously – it turns out I have no influence upstairs after all…

Furthermore, rain was still expected but couldn’t be relied upon and so – off to water I did go. In the midst of this I rediscovered an old favourite plant of mine called Knautia macedonica, otherwise known as scabious.

It took but a few seconds to witness and remember how good these flowers are at attracting pollinators, for every flower had at least one, and more often two bees on it. It’s no coincidence that it gets the RHS’s ‘Plants For Pollinators’ badge of honour! As you can see from the image below, the intensity of the flower colour alone is reason enough for growing a scabious like this, let alone its attraction to bees… A top herbaceous plant for sure.

Macedonian Scabious (Knautia macedonica).

Moving onto other tasks, the working week looked a little like this: Monday – Watering. Strimming to edge-up or reduce long grass areas. Planted sweet peas. Tuesday – Collected Monday’s debris. Trimmed Pyracantha hedge. Fed sweet peas & weeded herbaceous border. Potted up seedlings. Wednesday – Compost bin emptying & border mulching. Thursday – Watering. Feeding kitchen garden plants. Auriculas. Composting. Mowing. Friday – Day off! No gardening at all – well just a little bit at home…

Compost clear out!

The image above shows one of four bins that I emptied on Wednesday. This was quite a task without the tractor and bucket I’m more used to, but a steady dig away was achievable and revealed some lovely, crumbly material that spread beautifully as a mulch around the recently planted dahlias.

Some material had become compressed at the bottom of the very full stack with the result that it hadn’t decayed completely, but this was easily worked into the remaining material when spreading, and the border worms will make short work of it I’m sure. I may not have started this compost heap, but I was glad to get it emptied and to finally see it begin to work its magic out in the border.

Sowing some beetroot…

In my garden at home, my ‘grow your own’ spirit has eased just a little because the space available has progressively reduced over recent weeks, yet my focus on all the plants hasn’t eased up at all – quite the opposite. As larger containers have emptied following spring bulb displays, options have opened up for planting out baby veg’ plants and for sowing a few more seeds, and it won’t be long before I’m emptying large (ish) pots of 1st early potatoes – and their pots will also be put straight into use. It seems like every pot and corner is important, and I’m loving the challenge!

The image above shows a new sowing of ‘Boltardy’ beetroot in a nicely formed tin container with room enough, after thinning, for a reasonable hoard. Beetroot can be sown in succession until July, and I’ll hopefully be sowing a few more in due course – as soon as I empty another pot that is!

Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata)

Above is another of my all time favourites, the yellow or dotted loosestrife. I’ve always admired the toughness of this plant, although I haven’t often seen it for sale. I begged a piece from my parents garden some while ago and as they’ve since moved house and left theirs behind, I’ll soon be well placed to offer them some back – unless they moved house just to be rid of the stuff of course!

The image below, taken on Saturday 13th of June marks the first ‘proper’ outing and visit since lockdown began. Knowing the venue well, and understanding that risks were mitigated as far as could be reasonably expected, we were relieved to take the opportunity to pre-book and visit Kenilworth Castle.

The Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle.

Believe me, it was with some trepidation that we ventured out, indeed it was the first time I’d taken my car off the now established work-home-supermarket-home routes. It was good though to be waved through the gate once the appropriate QR codes had been scanned, at a distance of course, and to head into a favourite heritage venue of ours.

There was a one way route in operation that flowed easily, and with enough space to social distance for those who chose to, which was most people, and we slowly glided along the inside of the curtain wall of the south court.

A fragrant ‘Gillyflower’ or Dianthus.

It felt weird, I have to say, but there was reassurance in being out amongst folk at a safe distance, and especially to walk amongst scented roses and pinks – the ‘gillyflowers’ of the sheltered Elizabethan garden.

Bright blue skies, fluffy clouds and sunshine looked kindly on our day. Our children were stretching their legs in an old haunt that possessed a new atmosphere, and along with us so called grown ups, were breathing fresh air deeply and smelling the flowers that seemed stronger than ever.

It must have been a big day for the staff as well as they adapted to that ‘new normal’ we keep hearing about; as if anything can be called normal. They collectively handled the visit efficiently, if tentatively, and our first step out on a reignited 2020 season was really enjoyable – it was an absolute treat and very much needed.

Plant vacation!

Last thing I want to cover is the break in weather that happened this weekend. Fortunately for us it was after our day out on Saturday and came mid-evening, giving me chance to set out some of the houseplants that would benefit from a good rain soaking – I trust.

Real, heavy, soak-you-through raindrops were dropping as I stowed away the garden chairs and moved plant pots into the open to take full advantage. The air felt charged and the thunder rolled which, although half hearted, added to the atmosphere that filled the garden. As I understand ‘petrichor’ is the smell of rain falling on dry ground, and I’d put a nugget on that being the scent present, and wasn’t it a delight. As long as foliage isn’t being battered to the ground or having flowering stems snapped, many plants thrive in that atmosphere, and I was very happy to see them enjoying the moment – it’s been a long time coming.

It’s been a late journal entry this week due to a lovely family weekend, so I hope the post knitted together well from your perspective. Until next time – enjoy your gardening and do get out and about if you can.

Kind regards, Gary Webb

Link to explore your visit to Kenilworth Castle & Elizabethan Garden

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