Summer in the garden – confoundingly warm, days spent working in the flowerbeds a kind of blur, a skin prickling, water swigging hot mess of a gardener. The dahlias soak it all in…Read more
It’s time to start potting up dahlia tubers. Another of those wonderful, mindful tasks you can get lost in for a few hours…Read more
Flamboyant, fabulous – on occasion demurely restrained – the dahlia is an exquisite conundrum that encapsulates the vibrant energy of the garden as high summer turns towards autumn. In her latest book, Naomi Slade explains her fascination with the flower, and introduces us to over 65 captivating varieties.Read more
The year is flying. We’re already weeks past midsummer, the days are beginning to draw in and early morning mists have arrived. June whisked by so fleetingly, Hampton Court was upon me before I knew it and I didn’t have time for a review of that month, so I hope you’ll excuse a double shot in this post. And before you ask, no, my yoga practice is still non-existent. Though I have been leant a kettlebell, which so far I have carried from the car to the front room. That should do it.Read more
May brought us sunshine and rain, burgeoning borders, a late frost and, of course, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s the month of the gardening calendar when everything goes a bit bonkers – in a wonderful, exuberant way. Always quite nice to reach the end with your sanity intact, and your body parts functioning, though by the final week I was being reminded of the need of a good stretch, and that its about time I really ought to be getting some serious yoga practice in.Read more
While the garden enjoys a drizzle of much needed rain after a glorious start to April, I’m taking a look back at March through my Instagram gallery.Read more
Spring has sprung, the air is thick with the sound of lawnmowers, and wherever you look in the garden something is calling for your attention. It’s easy to get lost in busyness, but whatever you do, don’t forget to make time for dahlias. You’ll thank yourself for it later in the year.Read more
A July heatwave, following a June washout. Having been caught dragging its feet, the year seems now to be charging full tilt towards high summer; baking heat, parched lawns and rock hard, bone juddering soil. We’re not quite there yet, though, and before the hot colours arrive en masse to dominate in the latter part of the month, I’m allowing myself a week or so to wallow in cool pastel shades.Read more
October, and while people who ought to know about these things argue over whether or not we were having an Indian Summer (we weren’t, apparently – just a late warm spell), there’s no denying we’ve all been given a late reprieve from autumnal maintenance tasks to enjoy being in our gardens a little longer. Even the supermarkets have been holding back on filling the shelves with Halloween paraphernalia in order to be able to cash in on an unseasonably late weekend of barbequing. It’s been great.
The temperatures having returned to something a little more recognisably Octoberish this week, I find myself engaged in my annual rage against the dying of the light, frantically deadheading everything I can in the vain hope that this will somehow manage to hold off the inevitable approach of winter gloom. Like pruning, deadheading provides a way in which we can influence how a plant grows by working with nature; in this case, a plant’s inbuilt desire to reproduce. Flowers appear, their finery intended not for us, but to attract pollinators (insects, or humming birds, for example – not seen many of these last in Kent), or formed to enable the wind to carry pollen from one flower to another, sometimes over great distances. Once pollinated, the plant sets seed to ensure its precious genetic legacy is maintained. A timely intervention from the gardener, snipping off a spent infloresence, has the effect of prolonging the flowering period as the plant concentrates its energy on creating sufficient seed to give rise to the next generation.
Once the seed is produced, plants tend to feel that their job is done, and either expire (in the case of annuals and biennials), or shut down, overwintering in a state of dormancy until spring (in the case of perennials). No more flowers; and when the asters and the dahlias, the Japanese anemones and the penstemons, and all the rest of the floral rearguard give up the ghost, it is probably time to retreat indoors, light the fire and settle down with a good book and a snifter of something medicinal for the winter.
As it is, I stand defiant among the late summer blooms, flanked by crinkling sunflower heads and the last of the cosmos, shaking my secateurs in impotent fury at the darkening sky.
A note: Apparently the phrase ‘Indian Summer’ has nothing to do with India, but is of transatlantic origin, and had something to do with Native Americans. I heard this on Radio 4’s Today programme, so it must be true.