The big event of the week was the arrival of this pheasant hen with seven chicks. These are wild pheasants and have been part of our garden scene for many years. We used keep a few hens and the availability of easy food attracted the pheasants and several generations of them have been reared in or around our garden, arriving in the morning for their breakfast and in the late afternoon for dinner. They have become quite tame over the years; some will follow me into the garage to get the food or come up to me in the garden to beg for food. They are not bothered by us working in the garden and we don’t bother them – though Mary gets very annoyed by their dust baths in the flower beds! Having the pheasants lead to the sculpture above, “Running Pheasant” by Anna Campbell which we got last year and like very much.
Dahlias are at their very best at the moment. We have a sprinkle of dahlias in other places around the garden but a group of about forty together in this area of the garden. They involve a little work as we lift the tubers in late autumn, store them in the garage over the winter, pot them up in late January and bring them into growth in the glasshouse and then plant them out in May. This brings them into flower much earlier than if they were left in the ground and removes the danger of losing them to winter cold and wet. As you see, the bumble bees love them – in the gallop to “rewild” everywhere, the value of ornamental flowers for insects is often forgotten.
I lifted the last of the garlic this week. Some had been lifted almost a fortnight earlier as it was ready but it is all out of the ground now. We grow seven varieties: ‘Solent Wight’, ‘Solent Purple’, ‘Solent Iberian’ – these three from a garlic company on the Isle of Wight. I purchased bulbs at a flower show some years back. ‘Solent Wight’ seems to be the best of these here, grows well and has a good flavour. The two varieties shown hanging here came from a friend in Finland and are excellent growers, producing big bulbs with an excellent flavour and store well also. They are ‘Tartto’ which originated in Estonia and ‘Voronozh’ from Russia. We have a variety which we call “Riley’s Garlic” as we were given a few bulbs many years ago by gardening friends John and Iris Riley and have been growing them for about 25 years. Finally, we also have “Elephant Garlic”, renowned for its very large bulbs and attractive flowers, for it is one of the alliums, but it has a flavour which I find disagreeable – that flavour I associate with over-boiled green cabbage. We have left bulbs in the ground for the sake of the flowers but don’t harvest nor eat them any more.
Dieramas do very well for us here; our conditions seem to suit them. We grow them around a small pond which gives them a good open position without competition from other plants. We had a number of named varieties – ‘Guinivere’ and ‘Blackbird’, for example, and some species grown from seed received from South Africa, which are still there but have since been joined by a multiple of seedlings, crosses between those already present so that this planting is now a bit of a muddle – but, a muddle that I like very much. Nowadays, we are inclined to cut off the flowering stem when it has gone to seed so as to prevent further seedlings in the area. They are planted in gravel and this seems to be the perfect seedbed for them. Removing the old flower stems and old foliage can be a very tedious job, chasing down to the bottom of each one to cut it out. In frustration a few years ago, I took the hedge cutter and simply cut each plant to the very base, cut everything completely to the ground, and it worked perfectly. The plant regrew well and flowered as normal the following year so they are now less of a torment to deal with each year. Some seed does escape us and there are always a few new plants about.
This plant is in Mary’s White Garden – the one on which the White Garden at Sissinghurst was based! The large plant is Leucanthemum ‘Hazel’s Dream’, one I especially like. It is a semi-double and flutters and flits in the breeze in a very attractive way. It was an introduction of Kilmurry Nurseries in Co. Wexford and was named for Paul and Orla’s daughter, Hazel. Earlier this year, I put in what can only be described as a major bamboo structure as a support for the plant for it can be knocked down by summer wind and rain. My structure has worked perfectly and it has withstood downpour and wind and is still standing perfectly. The two plants in front of the Leucanthemum are Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’ and a semi-double white geranium, Geranium ‘Double Jewel’.
Feijoa sellowiana (now renamed, Acca sellowiana) known as the Pineapple guava – is just into flower. The flowers are edible as is the fruit though the flowering generally passes me without my tasting them and I seem to only ever notice the fruit when I see it lying on the ground. I must be more attentive and treat my taste buds to the sensation of some South American flavours – it is a native of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Columbia. Despite its warm-country origins it has been perfectly hardy here.
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