We love to encourage wildlife into the garden but there has been a definite whiff of midsummer animal madness around the place this week. We have had to hang a small mirror on the outside of the house to stop a narcissistic blue tit from constantly hammering on the windows and car mirrors from first light. I nearly trod on a snake trying to wrestle a midwife toad into a hole (I’m not talking sausage and batter here); interestingly, the toad somehow came off best. He has now resumed his all-night call that sounds like a very loud electronic beep and has me wondering which smoke alarm battery is running low. We discovered two feral kittens that had been craftily birthed behind the freezer in our underhouse barn and have needed to shut the windows to keep out a persistent pair of swallows who seem hellbent on nesting with us inside the house. The raucous jays have started to gather in an attempt to beat us to the (as yet unripe) figs, pausing only to scream at the polecats hunting up and down the hedges and fence lines. Time to return to the relative sanity of the plant kingdom . . . here are my six for this week!
Did I really say sanity? I’m starting with the kiwi this week and trust me, by its very nature, it would push itself to the front of the queue anyway. I have never seen anything that grows so quickly and voraciously. Less than a month ago it was a network of bare branches; now it has smothered the pergola, climbed into and over the barn and is involving itself unnecessarily with the nearby fig and pear trees. What you can see in the photo above is a mere fraction of the whole beast. We have to lop it several times a year which I suspect just encourages its rampant thuggism but still every time I hang out the washing, I live in fear of being sucked up into a triffidesque vortex. You’d think we’d be grateful for that leafy, shady canopy in the summer heat but the foliage stinks to high heaven – especially in hot weather – and it is not a place to linger. However . . . the first flowers have opened this week and I’ve remembered how pretty they are, how sweetly scented and totally irresistible to honey bees. We will start picking fruit in November and they will stay firm on the vine right through winter; no need to harvest and store, there will be five months’ worth of fresh fruit to pick as we need. Last year, the harvest ran into thousands. Time to stop grumbling.
All our roses took a real bashing in the recent heavy rains so there has been much sorting out and deadheading to be done this week. Happy to see some sunshine at long last (me too!), the stronger characters have lifted their heads again this week and carried on where they left off. The only variety I can name for certain is the one we brought with us so everything else is a bit of a mystery. This is my favourite of the week, not as showy as the others but very busy climbing through them and making a bright little statement of its own. ‘American Pillar,’ maybe?
When we first arrived in May two years ago, there was barely what you would call a garden here, yet alone anywhere to scatter seeds. Feeling the need for a little bit of cottagey bling, I sprinkled the tiniest pinch of Californian poppy (eschscholzia) seed close to the house. No exaggeration now to say they are growing absolutely everywhere, thanks in a large part to the homemade compost I spread around as a mulch. On the terraces they’ve gone berserk and it’s a case of playing ‘hunt the squash.’ On the strength of their enthusiasm, this year I’ve planted the ‘Mission Bells’ variety, too, but sad to say they’re not doing a lot yet. Still, the bees aren’t complaining.
One of our winter jobs was to relocate a huge comfrey plant which had been in the ground for a year and had grown five times faster than expected (we’re still adjusting to the climate here) and was seriously encroaching on the asparagus bed. Naturally, it had sent roots down a zillion miles so no surprise to find that we’d missed a bit. I’d allowed the escapee to grow back until the asparagus was looking nervous again this week then decided it was time to cut the lot for fertiliser. What a worryingly satisfying job all that leaf chopping was and what a lovely fresh cucumber / borage / melon scent they released. Mind you, that won’t last long now they are festering away in a bucket!
I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of hydrangeas but they are immensely popular here and seeing them grow in huge sweeps of bright jewel colours from deepest blues and purples to bright magenta I have been swayed a little. Most of the ones already in the garden were either planted in a daft place or a very insipid washed-out whitey-blue so this week we decided to address that and introduce a splash of stronger colour with hydrangea macrophylla ‘Red Beauty’ and hydrangea macrophylla ‘Early Blue.’ Need to find the best spot for them now . . . oh, and I definitely have plans for those lime green pots once vacated.
Finally, broad beans might be the main ingredient in the classic Spanish tapas dish habas con jamón but here in Asturias it is the white ‘fabes’ (dried climbing beans of the ‘phaseolus vulgaris’ variety) which reign supreme. They are much prized, commanding a high price and many are grown commercially in the valley but we seem to be the only gardeners hereabouts that bother with broad beans. Our neighbours call them ‘May’ beans but as with everything this year they are have been little tardy. Now at last they are cropping like crazy; these are ‘Imperial Green Longpod’ that were planted in the autumn, this lot destined to be lightly steamed and turned into a salad. Next will come broad bean hummus, food of the gods. Delicious.
Time now to pop across to The Propagator and see what other Six on Saturday gardeners have been up to this week. Happy gardening, all! 🙂