Saturday 31 May 2008

May blossom fading

Already it's the last day of May, and I see that I haven't blogged the garden since early April - the May blossom is fading and my clout has been cast! The excuse is that Susanna and I have been away, despite last year's oath that never again would we desert our garden in April or May.

In early April I rushed to rotivate the vegetable beds, before we left for France - a tough job since they lay fallow last year. Charlotte and Pink Fir Apple potatoes went in, with broad beans and old reliable Kelvedon Wonder peas.

We took the car on the Celtic Link ferry to Cherbourg and joined the Irish Tree Society in their visit to the Paris area. Guided expertly and charmingly by Mme. Maïté Delmas from the Jardin des Plantes, we saw many grand gardens and fine trees, but to my mind none finer than the Domaine de Segrez in the enthusiastic company of the owner and eminent botanist M. Franklin Picard, who had added many rare species collected on his travels to a mid C19th arboretum. From there we took off by ourselves, visiting friends and reaching as far South as Limoux. The poor little car was groaning with cases of wine when we got back, including Monbazillac, Cahors and Blanquette de Limoux!

On our return three weeks later, the potatoes were just poking their noses out, and the broad beans were doing well; I was disappointed that the pea germination was sporadic - mice I suspect - but planted some more. I cultivated a third of Susanna's raised beds and she planted more peas, dwarf French beans, shallots, onions, garlic and beet - the other two thirds remains to be tilled. And I planted out a row of climbing French bean Blue Lake grown in peat pots by Susanna - incomparable flavour - and two rows of potatoes bought in France, Belle de Fontanay.

Then we left again for Germany, Leipzig, for Susanna's PhD Viva: the only place the external and internal examiners could get together was in the margins of a Conference there. My clever pearl beyond price sailed through of course, and will shortly be Doctor Susanna! Afterwards I took her on a long weekend in Berlin, so changed since we were last there shortly after the wall fell.
On the Sunday I worshipped in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche on the Ku'Dam. The original neo-gothic church was destroyed by allied bombs in 1942. Alongside the shattered tower which has been left as a memorial, a modern church has been built; in it a beautiful golden statue of Christ hovers in front of blue stained-glass windows. The moving service was a Confirmation, administered by a woman pastor Dr Cornelia Kulawik.

The Blue Lake peas were eaten to the ground when we got back, and I think I know the culprits - the hares! They are still in the garden, and there are leverets too, though I can hardly believe the latter are the result of the tryst Susanna and I witnessed in early April as they are too big. One was hiding in the long grass of the wild-flower meadow, body to the ground and ears pressed flat, completely still even when we walked only feet away from it - very sensible, since I have also seen the Kestrel hovering in the vicinity.

Everything of course is bursting out now. The limes in the Alley are all in leaf, even the very late one which I think is Tilia cordata - and not T. platyphyllos as the others are. The young oaks grown from acorns harvested in the botanical gardens are reaching for the skies - they are all peculiar hybrids, and planted too close to each other and to other trees, but we need their shelter. I have at last planted out the young long-needle pine Pinus x holfordiana which we bought last autumn at Westonbirt, where the hybrid was first raised around 1904.

The wildflower meadow is in full blow, and I am delighted with it. The meadow buttercups are spreading well, the yellow rattle seeded from Carney Commons is putting manners on the coarse grasses, the birds-foot trefoil, vetches and red and yellow clover are putting on a show, and the Ox-eye daisies are just begining, though fewer than in previous years. It is showing its value for bio-diversity, as there are several different bumble and solitary bees working the flowers assiduously.

It looks too as if it will be a good year for butterflies. There were plenty of Orange Tips, and I have seen Greenveined, Small and Large Whites, as well as a few tatty Speckled Woods and Small Tortoiseshells. There seem to be more Holly Blues than usual which is nice - the caterpillars of this spring brood feed on the flower buds of Holly, but those of the 2nd autumn brood on the flower buds of Ivy - I must check our young hollies for them.

And Susanna's labyrinth garden is a picture, already full of colour and interest. One of the standard Wysterias flowered for the first time this spring - a beautiful scent - and the green-yellow-and-red Parrot tulips I gave her for her birthday made a particularly exotic splash. The David Austin roses are just starting, beautifully set off by the lavender, and the Russell lupins are giving vertical accents. Interestingly, the Magnolia stellata is showing a second flush of flowers on two lower stems, which have a pink flush and wider petals than the earlier flowers: I wonder if the plant is grafted, but if so, we are getting two for the price of one!

Oh may the Lord be praised for the beautiful place we live and for the glorious variety of his creation!


Glo.Ball.Beats said...

It's a wonder you managed to do any gardening with all that jet setting. Your garden in summer sounds idillic.
Summer seems a long time back now doesn't it!

Joc Sanders said...

Yes, the garden was idylic in the early summer, but rather went down hill from there, what with all the rain! But to me it is lovely in every season, a great blessing indeed.

Thanks for your comment Amy

Love from Dad