At the end of my July article I wished you all Happy Harvesting – and here we are now in full swing enjoying the fruits of our labours. Hopefully some of the produce will be making its way to the show benches of the Biddenham Show …
I have been reflecting on summer and remembering the lovely gardens I have visited. My mind went back to the last Sunday in June when a number of residents of Church End opened their gardens to visitors. What a lovely afternoon, ambling through other peoples’ gardens, chatting to the owners, looking at the lay out, the landscaping, what was being grown. However, the thing that struck me most was that, although residents were clearly looking after their plots with lots of flowers for the pollinators and tidy vegetable plots there were also the ‘untidy’ bits. The log stacks, the upturned pots – perfect environments for all sorts of insects and invertebrates. The stinging nettles – such an essential food source for moths and butterflies – the wild, un-mown grassy areas. As well as a mixture of plants – flowers, fruit and vegetables, plus trees and shrubs, creating diverse habitats in our gardens is, for me, an essential part of gardening. I noted with glee holes in fences for hedgehog ramblings. I read in the RHS Garden Magazine in May that urban gardens are providing positive safe havens for hedgehogs as recent data reveals that populations here are stabilising. Hedgehogs need to forage through multiple gardens so gaps in boundaries are essential. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society reports that urban hedgehogs travel around a mile each night in search of food. Most of the gardens I visited on that afternoon had areas of water so, all in all, sanctuaries for wild life. Well done to the residents of Church End and to everyone else in Biddenham who cares about our environment and is seeking to nurture, protect and provide habitat for our fellow creatures.
During the summer I spent a few days in Bath with my daughter and on the way we stopped off at Aston Pottery and Gardens near Witney – a wonderful place to eat and shop as well as admiring the stunning perennial borders. In July I had a short break with my sister at her house in Kenilworth, Warwickshire and we were able to visit the lovely gardens of mutual friends in the Cotswolds. I envied the lushness of their lawns and borders, although those who live in these places are sorely depressed by their lack of rain this year – they have no concept of how our gardens are faring in the dry East! Whilst there we visited Hidcote, Packwood and Baddesley Clinton Gardens. National Trust properties always excel in their “hot “ borders at this time of the year. The perennial beds with their kniphofia, echinacea and crocosmia really come into their own in July and August and the dahlia borders are a great delight. Like most garden enthusiasts I am always drawn to the plant stalls. It is good to see what is on offer and what can be added to ones’ own collection. Discipline is needed, but if one has been tempted, the new treasures are a reminder of happy days out with friends and family.
I have been contemplating changing the way I garden to cope with drought – like many other people I suspect. Investigating the plants that have adapted to these drier, more Mediterranean conditions. Observing the plants to see when they need water – giving them a really good soak very early in the morning – better than the evening as night time watering encourages the slugs and snails. We need to look at smarter ways of irrigating to ensure that our precious water is used as effectively as possible. A good amount of water infrequently is much more effective than little and often – this only encourages shallow root growth and the plants soon wither if watering is halted. It goes without saying, of course, that we should all be collecting our “grey” water – washing up water and the like – to irrigate our plants. Please also put out a shallow pan of water for the birds for drinking and washing. Mine is in constant use by robins and blue tits, although blackbirds prefer the pond. Whilst it is impossible to save everything I am trying to keep my hanging baskets and tubs ticking over with regular deadheading and a weekly feed of liquid seaweed. A question about watering regimes was asked on Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time on 7th August and the panel, including Christine Walkden, had some very useful suggestions – it is well worth listening to this episode. Many people in Biddenham will remember when Christine joined us to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Biddenham Gardeners’ Association. This year, to celebrate 30 years of the Association (plus an additional couple years – COVID got in the way!), we are welcoming Nick Bailey from BBC Gardeners’ World. Do join us if you can – visitors will be very welcome 18th October, 7.30 pm in the Village Hall.
By the time you read this article it may have rained – fingers crossed!
and some photo’s …