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On a Chalk Hillside May 2022

One thing leads to another –  The development of the new hedge 
May is the time of year I am excitedly dashing out to the hotbed in the greenhouse each day watching the HPS seeds I sowed in April for signs of germination and growth.  At least two pots started showing green within a few days.   Here’s the progress of some of them on 28 April:-

One packet of seeds (a bought one) was of Alstroemeria ligtu hybrids.  Only when I read the instructions did I discover the following “Sow indoors Feb-April temperature 20C.  Lower to 15C after 3 weeks, place in polythene bag at bottom of fridge for 2-3 weeks then return to 20C.”  (Optimistically I feel it then says “prick out when large enough to handle!!”)  OMG that’s convoluted.  I think the pot will have to cope with being 18C all the time (to accommodate the requirement of all the other seeds I’ve sown), and then going in the fridge so we shall see if anything happens.  Alternatively I could leave it outside for the winter and see if anything pops up next year, though these days we don’t really get a cold enough winter to break the dormancy on some seeds.  
Here’s a slightly surprising choice of photo for a star plant for May in that at least one of these plants is a weed!  From 23 May 21, some Granny’s Bonnets – Aquilegia vulgaris – amid a sea of cheerful yellow creeping buttercup flowers in our orchard.  Originally these buttercups were in our neighbours’ garden.  Hmmmn.  They certainly live up to their name - Ranunculus repens.  I tell myself if I keep them mowed before they set seed their leaves stay considerably greener than the grass in the orchard in the usual drought of summer.  There are lots of aquilegia in the garden in May, and I leave THEIR seedheads so they can self-seed and hybridize, just removing the dirty pale pink ones that are sometimes thrown up, trying to keep the darker ones only.  

I had been going to follow the plan chronologically when I started telling you how one thing led to another, but I think it might be easier to follow the progress of the evergreen hedge I described creating last month rather than jump back to it several articles later.    You may recall it had runs of  Wilson’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera ligustrina var. yunnanensis); Box (Buxus sempervirens); native holly (Ilex aquifolium); Yew (Taxus bacata); Hebe ‘Great Orme’ and a burgundy leaved Hebe, which I think is Hebe ‘Midnight Sky’; together with climbing honeysuckles Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ and Lonicera periclymenum ‘High Scentsation’, all planted up in late February 2019.  So, the spring of 2019 was dry, in fact we officially had a drought – and whilst himself watered his hedge a bit, as other work happened, deadlines needed to be met etc etc the watering got more and more patchy, and certainly by the summer stopped altogether as the veg needed all the attention.  I expect you can guess from this that certain transplanted plants (yews and hollies in particular) did not take well to this, and died.  More surprisingly to me some of the honeysuckles also died – perhaps as much because they were in full baking sun right to their roots all the time.   I say this as the enormous honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’) I showed you last month transplanted into the new hospital bed which never got watered at all did survive, perhaps because other foliage was shading it a bit at the roots.  The Hebe’s did grow well (if gangly), and here they are flowering at the end of June 2020:-

A more unexpected turn of events was that though there was an entrance through the hedge on the right hand side of the veg garden, we kept jumping over the hollies as they were in a straight line with the original paths that were still there in the veg garden.  As you all know, if we can, we humans take the shortest path from A – B which is why our utility path goes straight down the garden, whilst the “pretty” path through the decorative garden wiggles here and there.  (‘Wiggling’ being a technical designer term – not!  Perhaps I mean “meanders”…)   I don’t think I used the “proper” entrance at all that spring and summer to get to the vegetable garden.  I told myself that was because we hadn’t actually built the new veg beds or paths yet, but in the new plan the bulk of the veg garden would still be over towards the middle and left of the area so having the only entrance way over to the right wasn’t going to work….  
Add to this, for the first time since we moved here we had a holiday away In June that year (rather than April to fit in with the veg growing).  We went to Norfolk and were inspired by so many things in so many fabulous gardens there.  One thing we saw at Mannington Gardens was a very old rambling rector rose cut down hard to be a hedge edging to their orchard/veg gardens.  It was in full flower when we visited:-

The scent was out of this world.  This was one rose we had hankered after for years, but it is (as you can see) a very energetic rambler, and we had not yet found a location in the garden for it.   I am not now sure if his wish to get a rambling rector caused him to accept the need for a second entrance into the veg garden, or whether it was my excellent reasoning of the need for one, but a new plan was hatched.  (The fact I said he could also chose a new clematis might have swayed him too.)
Talking about climbing or rambling roses always brings to mind the fabulous arches at Mottisfont Abbey covered in different rambling roses – we have always wanted to emulate this in our garden and now, he had just the spot!!  Here from our visit in June 2019, the first showing his other favourite rambler – Rosa 'Veilchenblau', the second showing him sizing things up:-

As quickly as the 1st August, we had started on the entrance/arch building:-


The gate is one we had bought for a different project in 2008, but once it was no longer needed, had been stored, and now was going to come in handy (which is why it was already painted green!)  The arch project moved fast to begin with – by 11 August the arch was complete and as you can see the Rosa ‘Rambling Rector ‘was planted one side, and his choice of Clematis – C. ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ the other:-

However, whilst the ARCH was completed quickly the gate and posts languished as “not urgent” for another year, and were cemented in in April 20.

Both the Rambling Rector and the Clematis – C. ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ have thrived.  Here to show you how high the rose had got by mid-June 21:-

And a closer up shot of Rambling Rector on 17June21:-

On the same day Clematis – C. ‘Madame Julia Correvon’:-

And by the end of June 21 to show you Clematis – C. ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ with its characteristic twist to the flower petals as the flowers age:-

Having mentioned that the green gate in this arch did not get put in place til April 20, whilst I showed you the wrought iron gates propped in place as the original entrance to the Productive Garden through the evergreen hedge in the article last month, these too did not get cemented in until the end of March 20:-

The plan was to put another five bar gate to the right of this gate to meet up with the blackberry structure you can see on the far right, so that blackberries can be trained round in a bend.

Next month I am going to talk about creating the soft fruit tunnel which you can see behind the gate as a series of hoops going down the hill.  

Sheila May

Posted by Sheila May

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