Dry July

Apart from last week’s 4mm of rain June and July have been very dry, very hot. Dramatic cracks have appeared in patches of bare earth; evidence of the underlying clay drying out. The well-established trees are doing fine in the dry heat, but rowan and hawthorn berries are ripening already – at least a month ahead of schedule. Even blackberries – usually a September treat – are already ripe. Early autumn flowering perennials like asters and anemones are in full bloom. Bees avoid the heat of the day, coming out in the morning and evening. Who can blame them; temperatures have been in the mid-thirties for over 10 days now, it has been up to 49 degrees in the poly tunnel. A very hot summer.IMG_0886.jpgExtreme weather; the winter freeze, the dry summer heat.  There’s a lot of talk about this becoming the ‘new normal’. A direct impact of changing climate. Is it too late to prevent catastrophe? Will we be able to adapt to our changing planet? How long before the adaptations become impractical? Against a significant noise of denial, it’s really good to hear these questions being asked.IMG_0889.jpgAt a local level I’m taking a lot of interest in plants that have survived the extremes. We need to change our approach to gardening and horticulture in the UK, and this includes cultivating plants that are more resistant to extreme weather. This change of approach has been achieved with great results in Las Vegas where, for example, xeriscaping has replaced many public lawns with sustainable materials and native plants. This seems a very practical way to approach the ‘new normal’. And it beats waiting for rain.


Colour after rain

Rain today, only 4mm but a real treat to see the rain barrels filling up after so long. Almost immediately patches of grass have gone green. Swallows have been swooping the length of the field filling up with insects that emerged after the rain. Freshly washed colours seem brighter in the low evening light.

This is Inula magnifica and some Eringium alpiniumIMG_0906 (1)

Geranium ‘Orion’ climbing through ghost bramble Rubus cockburnianus IMG_4256

The purple of Lythrum salicaria with some RudbeckiaIMG_4292

Drumstick allium Allium sphaerocephalon with red acerIMG_4258

Agastache rugosa and Gaura lindheimeri (now known as Oenothera lindheimeri)IMG_4253

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’IMG_0900

Sanguisorba menziesii and stipaIMG_4353

Sanguisorba obtusa and hollyhocksIMG_4285

Scabious ‘Black night’ with cornflowers and a strawflowerIMG_4294

Echinacea pallidaIMG_4313

Hopefully there was enough rain to permeate the dry earth – we are forecast to have another very hot week.


A seemingly endless progression of sunny hot days – quite unusual: very dry and very warm. The flocks of house sparrows are up at dawn, later to sleep at 7:00pm precisely. After that the quiet is only broken by blackbirds, the occasional overhead flight or train, and the very distant sound of the A-road.

Photography light in July is best in the evenings when it sinks behind trees and lights up the borders from the side. These are Crocosmia and Persicaria.IMG_0902Agastache and Deschampsia; great companions.IMG_0851Blues and silvers of Catananche caerulea.IMG_0869Golden RudbeckiaIMG_0863The giant oat grass Stipa gigantiaIMG_0892Steel blues of sea holly Eringium aplinumIMG_0843And in the white border some white Echinacea purpurea IMG_0828

July is when the season starts to change, very slightly at first. Things like Asters and Japanese anemones start to appear – not flowering yet but soon. Berries, apples and pears are ripening, the few remaining cherries are a feast for wasps and brave birds. We are very happy to see the Indian Bean tree flowering more prolifically than ever.IMG_0868

Making hay

We’ve now had about 6 weeks without rain, days above 20 degrees and lots of sun. Perfect summer. The hedgerow and new trees are really starting to feel the heat, with a few shrivelling and dropping all of their leaves. I’m hoping this is just a ‘resting response’. We’ve developed a plan to do some watering at the weekend – more on that if it happens. I got an email for the Woodland Trust reminding about the importance of removing weeds and grass from around the newly-planted trees, so I guess this should be a primary objective.

The field grass has been spectacular this year. Rain fell at the perfect time in spring and early summer, resulting in lush growth that is thick at the bottom and not so tall that it falls over in the wind. The sun has baked it a beautiful golden colour, and alongside the surrounding wheat fields the whole area has turned gold.IMG_4347

Tracks made in the (then very muddy) field earlier in the year are nearly gone.IMG_0865

July is time to harvest the field grass to make hay. I’m always reluctant at this time. I like the long grass, the movement in the wind, the warm colours especially in the evening, and the abundance of life within it. But still, cutting is essential maintenance and without it the field would soon become a wilderness of thistle and nettle – which would be great for wildlife but not very useful to humans. And if we are to plant more trees we need to keep the weeds away for now.

Sean arrived last night on his massive tractor, making very quick work of the field which was all cut in about an hour. IMG_0880

The hay will lie for a day or so (very quick in this heat) after which it will be baled and then taken away – sometimes as far as Wales – for livestock feed.

Combine harvesters will soon work their way through the adjacent fields. In the meanwhile it is good to enjoy the evenings when everything turns gold.IMG_0892


Summer heat

This summer. Days of sun, we’ve had.  It cools down rapidly at night in this part of Kent, perhaps the proximity to the coast. Mornings are generally cool and cloudy until about 11 when the sun returns. Perfect growing weather – although I’m considering the merits of a shadehouse.

The dieramas have done very well this year. I forget that they’re there until the flowers emerge and I want more of them.

IMG_0777Eremerus, the foxtail lilly – specialist in catching all of the sun.

IMG_0796Giant oat grass, agastache and gaura have taken over in this wild bed.

IMG_0792Berberis emerges from a mist of stipa.

IMG_0798A long view of the grasses bed with the stables in the background.

IMG_0769Colours: clash or compliment.

IMG_0816Catching as much sun as possible.

IMG_0812The field grass is starting to turn gold.

IMG_0805Long shadows in the evening light.

IMG_0755Morello cherries: delicious sourness.

IMG_4220More raspberries than we can eat.  Summertime; blissful abundance.


Category is: Roses

I have to admit that I have only come to really admire roses since moving to Snakesbury. Maybe it is because they grow so well here, requiring very little in the way of care but well deserving of the attention they get – especially when in flower. Most of the roses here have been gifts from our dear friend Nick who is something of an expert on the Rosa family. More on these in a bit.

Some roses were already here, for example this little yellow rose which used to struggle away underneath the bay tree. Since that tree was removed the little yellow rose is no longer little – in fact suckers have appeared up to 2 metres away, emerging through the grass. Sometimes known as ‘Prince Charlie’s Rose’ (I think) this is a wild Scottish rose.IMG_4142Rosa Spinosa ‘Williams’ Double Yellow’

This shrub rose was purchased about 8 years ago from a nursery in Dunmow, Essex. The simple red flowers are followed by amazing long hips – really interesting in the autumn.IMG_4109Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’

This is one of my favourites. Propagated at Angel Cottage, Wiltshire by Kate, it also produces great hips in the autumn and has a classic simple wild rose flower.IMG_4112Rosa glauca

Another wonderful and extremely tough rose with intense colour is Rosa rugosa.IMG_4114Rosa rugosa

I haven’t been able to identify this classic, very fragrant rose. This one was propagated from a rose that was in our London garden 18 years ago – we call it ‘Mrs Jones’ after the previous owner who loved her garden.IMG_4217

This shrub rose with intense orange-red flowers is also un-named, a gift from my friend Desilver. IMG_4194

The following two rambling roses are from the nursery at Sissinghurst. This one is happily rambling through the new trellis.IMG_4188Rosa ‘Bobbie James’

This one was really knocked back by the ‘beast from the east’ earlier in the year, but is now starting to grow well and will soon cover the pergola. IMG_4200Rosa ‘Mulliganii’

Moving on to Nick’s roses – this is a wonderful shrub rose with big flowers and good fragrance. I’m not sure of it’s name.IMG_4216

I’m pretty sure this shrub rose is called ‘Peace’, the colours are amazing.IMG_4219

This shrub rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is surely one of the best for fragrance and vigour, with flowers that last well indoors and keep on coming throughout summer.IMG_4181Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’

Another wonderful shrub rose that is also vigorous and strong is ‘Nevada’.IMG_4116Rosa ‘Nevada’

And this is a highly fragrant floribunda rose called ‘Margaret Merril’.IMG_4118Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’

This rambling rose is just starting to climb into the horse chestnut tree. Great name.IMG_4185Rosa ‘Rambling Rector’

And finally, one that was already here at Snakesbury is this unidentified rambling rose. It covers the fence and fills the entire area with the most wonderful fragrance; the essence of summer.IMG_4184


Midsummer and the living is easy. Confident light, flowering plants, lazy afternoons. Apart from vegetable maintenance, a bit of weeding, watering and mowing there’s not much that needs to be done – time to enjoy the long days and the feeling of lawn under bare feet.IMG_4159 (1)

The promise of cherries was dashed, spoiled by a late frost. Thankfully the Indian bean tree has come back – it seemed very tentative for a while.IMG_4163

In the fields wheat is going to seed, turning a lighter green and finally a straw colour. If only the farmer would stop spraying the glyphosate..IMG_4177

Evening light catches the blue flowers creating vibrating shimmering shades.IMG_4169

This is the time of the roses, the air is rose-perfumed – especially around this one.IMG_4179

More on roses soon – they are deserving of their own category. Meanwhile a ginger beer in the shade of the Indian bean tree seems the best way forward. June.