WP_20160629_18_44_36_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I’m feeling pleased. After some despondency at how the ‘garden has got away from me’ this year, I’m finally getting a grip of things…I think. I guess you’ve had lots of rain and not very high temperatures in June, like us? Well the rain has certainly led to luscious growth just about everywhere.

I think my more positive outlook is partly down to being a little creative in Old School Garden. In my new Pond Garden – where the planting is starting to take hold very nicely- I’ve added some touches of ‘artwork’ which I hope add to the rustic, slightly oriental feel of this sunken space, and have also added more planting- e.g. some clumps of Camomile in between the flag stones (added to the Thyme I put in last month) , plus some plants I purchased down in Devon at the Tavistock Garden Festival (more on that experience in a later post).

The artwork consists of some red-painted items, plus a ‘sheaf’ of Cornus stalks, which were red when cut (the variety is ‘Sibirica’), but have turned jet black as they dry out. I hope these new additions will pick up the red paint on the bench and will also link to some red and black planting in one corner. The red items are all recycled; an old metal bed head (found in the garden) similar to those I’ve painted black and placed above the entrances to the Courtyard, a broken metal wheel that looks like it might have come off of a hen house (also found in the garden), and some curtain poles and finials which I’ve collected from various places over the years. Here they are- what do you think?

Elsewhere in the other ornamental parts of the garden I’ve resorted to some more ‘speed weeding’ along with cutting the edges fo the lawns- it’s always surprising how much better the borders look after this treatment. Fortunately I’ve been able to catch major weeds before they flower and set seed. On a more positive note the Philadelphus (‘Belle Etoile’) I grew from a cutting I took at Peckover House in Wisbech when I was working there has produced a lovely shower of white flowers.

Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile'

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

The main borders have also filled out and crowded out many, if not all of the weeds. I’ve also put out my hanging baskets on the front porch (a red, white and black colour theme), and these are looking good. In the same area, you remember I reported our plan to have the old paint removed from the two storey end of the house? Well it’s been done and the result is excellent, tying the old flintwork once more into the rest of the house. Below there’s a picture of the company during the work, which involved using a fine glass to blast off the paint. Some of the mortar has come away, but it should be possible to repair this with an appropriate mixture of lime and sand…though matching in the colour of the new with the old mortar will be tricky. I’ve started to set out the border in front of this wall, albeit ona temporary basis for now-a mixture of marigolds and Echeveria will provide some summer interest, whilst some English Lavender I recently bought and have potted on, will provide the long-term planting here; hopefully we’ll have a bushy, fragrant low hedge right under the bedroom windows!

I’ve also been creative in the Kitchen Garden where having reorientated the compost area, I’ve now refurbished the bins so that I have removable slats on the fronts, which should make turning and removal a lot easier. I’ve also begun to put in some proper steps to give access to the Fruit Screen to the rear of the garden, where, incidentally, the Sweet Williams I sowed en masse last year are starting to put on a glorious show- as are those plants I left in from last year! These steps will lead up toa new path which I think will be pea shingle on a landscape membrane. I may try out using the large supply of old roofing tiles I have available as edging to this.

We’ve had our first New Potatoes- the variety ‘Rocket’. Though delicious I’ve been a little disappointed with the productivity so far, possibly down to later than usual planting and not wonderfully warm weather. I’ve also been enjoying some broad beans. Though Wimbledon is traditionally the time for strawberries, the crop to date is disappointing in fact I haven’t yet picked one! As I mentioned in an earlier letter, the Deer have been in and nibbled off the tender new growth, which seems to have reduced drastically the number of flowers, and again the weather hasn’t been our side either. The first raspberries are ready to pick and I plan to use these in a dessert on Friday, when we have some friends over for dinner.

Tomatoes are also just about coming forward, though we could do with some heat to ripen these off, the peppers and cucumber have also finally gone into the greenhouse and I can see some cucumbers starting to form.

Good sized tomatoes...come on, ripen!

Good sized tomatoes…come on, ripen!

Other things well on the way include Calabrese, Cauliflower, Garlic, Onions, Shallots and of course the rest of the early potatoes (‘Charlotte’ my favourite will follow on from the first earlies) . I’ve put in a few squashes, having cleared away the Purple Sprouting Broccoli from last year’s sowing, and also four courgettes, a range of different runner beans and some carrots, parsnips and beetroot. I have some leeks on the way for planting out in a couple of weeks and some red cabbages too.

The other areas where I’ve put in some time are the Terrace and courtyard and connecting pathways, where the pointing was in a serious state of disrepair. I’m pleased with the repointing, though all the wet weather we’ve had finally took its toll on two wooden planters I’d made out of decking and other wood. The wood finally collapsed, rotten and I’ve therefore had a rearrangement of the layout in the courtyard, still trying to retain a sense of enclosure around the table and chairs the Hostas are into their stride here and make a wonderful display- what do you think of the new layout?

On the propagation front I’m pleased with the results of my seed sowing so far, including an interesting mix of marginal plants sourced from the RHS and other places; I’m looking forward to a super display of Candelabra Primula, amongst others, in due course.

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So, hopefully you can see I’ve been busy! Today I’ll be cutting the grass (on a dryish day). Oh and that’s something else I’ve done- used our inherited Scarifier to rake out dead material and moss from the more formal lawn areas and afterwards fed the grass. This is starting to look lusher that it has for a long time- witness the pictures below. Well, old friend, time to be off to begin the day’s work…hopefully we’ll see you and Ferdy Lise soon!

Old School Gardener