Garden Journal 1.8.20

Looking to other work tasks – due to a private booking, mowing was mostly off the agenda until later in week. Fortunately though, the postponed mowing created a vacuum in my work programme that was quickly filled with some much needed attention to the sweet peas and dahlias; and crikey hadn’t they grown! This quickly became the dominant task of the week.

View along a  billowing mixed dahlia border
Blooming marvellous dahlias at Broadwell

Every Which Way
The sweet pea work was vital as recent growth had pushed the stems every which way – but not up the supports! They needed a good deal of delicate unravelling, tendril removal and tying-in, but at least we were ahead in the dead-heading stakes thanks to some volunteer help last week. The dahlias were much less challenging as many of the plants are already staked and supported, and were knitting together very nicely.

Close up photograph of a white and pink splashed sweet pea flower
Unknown sweet pea variety but no less enjoyable

Two and a half days in total were devoted to the border and by the time I reached the last plant, I might well have woven my way back through the teepee village to start all over again, such is the growth rate at the moment. It was good though to finally get all back in order, and not a moment too soon. One take away from the sweet pea work – it’s surprising how the consistent focus on working with your hands does take you to a different place, so much so that at one point, Woodapuss suddenly appeared through some dahlia foliage and frightened me half to death – you should have seen me jump!

All In Good Time
Moving on, following a focussed mowing catch-up day, it was back to the pond maintenance on Friday with some much appreciated help from team Mary and Alex. We’ve removed a good deal of the blanket weed now, although unfortunately I failed to get an end of day photo. I believe we have maybe one or two more sessions left before we can step away from the pond and let it settle.

A large pond with a small algae problem
Team Alex & Mary successfully fishing for pond weed

I’ve had some great suggestions about the use of barley straw to help with the blanket weed, and on-site our retrieving system has evolved to the point of being really efficient, slowed only by the barrowing of material to a nearby compost heap. All in all, I think we’re in a good place with this particular pond both now and going forward. Yes, there may be some much bigger clearance work to the narrower end of the pond, but all in good time, as people say.

Before I move onto my final thought for this week, here’s my key gardening moments from last week:
Monday – Visit to garden at Canons Ashby.
Tuesday – Watering & feeding – cordon fruit, new shrubs, kitchen garden; Aphid control; Sweet peas & dahlias.
Wednesday – Watering in kitchen garden; Sweet peas & dahlias.
Thursday – Sweet peas & dahlias; Mole hills; Kitchen garden watering; Mowing.
Friday – Watering; Pond maintenance; no sweet peas or dahlias.

An English country pond and Cotswold countryside  scene, with reflective pond and trees channeling a view to farmed fields beyond
Cool & much clearer water at Broadwell

Sharp Pencils and Inspiration
I was asked recently, based on a little design training I received many, many moons ago, to draw a flower for a little project. I could choose a flower that I liked, and was drawn to a Larkspur initially. I can’t tell you how long it took me to build up the courage to even select an image to draw, let alone put legible lines on paper.

No one was more surprised than me when that first image turned out well, at least – you could tell it was a larkspur. However, a second image request quickly followed. Again I tuned in, having enjoyed the process that led to the first drawing, but again, not before procrastinating for fear of the image not working out. Why so much pressure?!

I remembered listening to an RHS podcast interview with Dr Chris Thorogood about botanical illustration, and although talking mostly about drawing and watercolour painting, the recommendation was to just try – and to not be daunted. This, along with more ‘your art – is your art’ confidence gleaned from the fascinating series that was Grayson’s Art Club, recently on All 4, and I was all for getting started.

An amateur pencil drawing of a Rudbeckia flower
Rudbeckia illustration almost complete…

Well, yet again I think it worked, in fact, I’m more than pleased with the outcome. I realise it’s open for critique, but drawing quality aside, I’ve been mostly pleased with the actual process of drawing and its all consuming aspect that, as with tending to the sweet peas, brought a consistent and relaxing focus. I’m also relieved that, after so many years, I’ve finally sharpened those pencils and had a go. It feels good – I don’t mind saying, and I really hope it isn’t so long before my next sketch session.

Until next week…

Check out the RHS Podcast (Including Fiona Davison’s introduction to botanical illustration collection at RHS Library)

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