I have been AWL from the blogging world. My sunflower header perhaps gives a clue to where I’ve been. We have been cycling in La Belle France. First a magical island, L’Ile d’Oleron and then Burgundy.
Whilst we were away the garden has grown a bit wild and woolly. But I always fall a bit out of love with it in late July, it seems to be suffering from middle- age spread and all the freshness has gone out of it. It just needs a bit of a tidy up and lots of dead heading and all will be well. And there are lots of lovely blooms to choose from. Dahlias are my number one but they will have their own post.
My first three are all deliciously fragrant. Coming in at number one is the lily. The first two lilies are finished now, they are early July bloomers. The first to bloom in my garden is the glorious Lilium candidum, the Madonna Lily with spikes of silky white trumpets. She is a pernickety lady. After flowering this plant goes dormant and then the rosettes of apple-green leaves grow in the winter. I read that at one time you could see huge beds of this lily growing in cottage gardens but that it is a rare sight now. It is very susceptible to disease. I keep my clump growing with lots of tender care, but only just.
Lilium regale blooms a bit later and has white trumpets backed with pink. It looks lovely with roses but it also grows well in a pot. It is the easiest and quickest to grow from seed and will bloom in two or three years, so you need never be without it.
The next into bloom here is the dark and sultry ‘Night Rider’. It is almost black and incredibly exotic.
I have several lilies in my secret garden. The first to flower is the lovely white and yellow ‘Lady Alice’. This lily just gets better and better with age. She needs staking though.
Of course, growing lilies means a constant battle with lily beetle and a daily disgusting squishing job. I don’t use chemicals so I have to rely on the finger and thumb. But I can’t and won’t have a lilyless garden.
Fragrance is an essential element of the summer garden and the Trachelospermum jasminoides growing on the wall by the French window is wonderful on a summer evening. I have a pink one too called ‘Pink Showers’ but it is not very big yet. Next to the trachelospermum on the table is a pot of fragrant Helioptropium arborescens which the Victorians called ‘Cherry Pie’ because of its delicious scent.
I also have several jasmines for fragrance but my favourite is the creamy-flowered Jasmimum officinale ‘Clotted Cream’. It has larger flowers and is more strongly scented and floriferous than any of the others.
For evening fragrance the annual Zaluzianskia capensis ‘Midnight Candy’ is unbeatable. I grow it in pots and move it into the house in the evening if we are sitting inside. It fills the whole house with fragrance. It has top notes of honey with maybe vanilla and a little citrus and perhaps a touch of coconut. The pretty star-like flowers close up during the day but the buds are round and pink.
If the July garden looks a bit flat then clematis can be relied on for an injection of colour. Cathy at Rambling in the Garden has forty varieties so her garden must be a wonderful sight in July. I particularly like the small flowered viticella and texensis bybrids and they are particularly useful as they can be cut right down in late winter. Here are a few of my favourite July clematis.
Annual diascias come in a wonderful range of colours and I love them for pots. But best of all is the perennial Diascia personata. It comes from South Africa and is supposed to be a bit tender but I have never lost it to frost. Anyway it is incredibly easy from cuttings. It grows to a height of 3 feet and so it makes quite a statement.
It has just occurred to me that it would look lovely with grasses. I grow it in my gravel garden and unless it is staked it flops. Never mine it looks nice flopping into the Geranium ‘Azure Rush’.
Angel’s Fishing Rod, Dierama pulcherimum come in various sizes but I like the tall one as it makes a real statement. It is easy from seed and if it likes you it will seed around. It is a lovely sight swaying in the breeze. This is another plant from South Africa and it loves full sun.
I have mentioned before how much I love the little bells of campanulas and one of my favourites has to be one that is in bloom now. Campanula cochlearifoila ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ grows in my gravel garden where it makes mats covered in tiny double flowers in powder blue. It seeds around too so you can have more for pots.
Readers of my blog will know that I adore orchids. This year I bought a new hardy orchid which is a gorgeous new hybrid. It is called Calanthe takane and it likes a woodland position so it looks good with ferns. It like rich organic matter and a winter mulch.
It is always a joy when unexpected beauties turn up in the garden but to have an orchid hitching a ride on an unusual pine tree which I bought a few years ago is a particular treat. The seed must have been sitting there all this time. I think it is an Epipactis helleborine.
So there are my ten for this month. If you have time to pick out some of your July favourites to share it would be lovely. Now I think it is time to pour out a couple of glasses of wine and find my hammock, the Pianist is already out there. It’s time for our competitive crosswords and then when it is cooler a game of croquet.
‘Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me these have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language‘ .This quote comes from Henry James; amazing that he confined himself to just two words; he is not known for using one word where several hundred will do . But I do agree with him. Summer evenings are magic too. I hope you are enjoying the heatwave. You really need a hammock and a shady tree to get the best out of it.