I’ve realised something happens in July. The garden seems to have shifted continent. I’m not sure why I’ve never noticed it before, but it’s definitely moved home.
Throughout spring and early summer, the garden was all about soft, muted, British wildflowers. Sweet little delicate things. Just like our softly spoken, daintily tweeting birds.
But July is a whole different ball game. I’m surrounded by the big and the bold, the bright and the brash, everywhere I look. It’s a cheery old time, but oh so different to before.
Even Paul’s vegetable garden is joining in, with potatoes spilling out over the pathways, courgettes sporting dozens of glaring yellow flower heads, and beans running up every surface they find.
We’ve landed in America.
There’s almost nothing left of the British countryside. Instead, echinacea, rudbeckia, monarda and sunflowers fill the beds with their effusive, bright colourings. Everything has heated up tenfold; we’re now slap bang in the middle of the American prairie.
I think I might have been reading a few too many Piet Oudolf books. I adore his perennial plantings and am very grateful to be able to pick from his lists of reliable doers, gaining the benefit of his many decades of work putting hundreds of species and cultivars through the test of his exacting standards.
He tends to focus on the late summer/early autumn flowering offerings, whipping out self-seeders such as forget-me-nots that could smother a bed before the late developers awaken. And as I’ve planted more and more of his recommended favourites, the garden has grown roots wider and wider into the year.
Everything is now taller, broader, chunkier and brighter than before. Almost as if a switch has been pressed. Natives off, exotics on; all since the start of the month.
Enormous fleshy buds have pushed up and opened out, revealing huge plump petals of red, orange, yellow and cerise.
Despite this very happy new look, I’m quite grateful it’s just the plants that have arrived, not the animals too. I’m happier with deer and hares than bears and pumas. Although, gosh, the deer have eaten a lot this year, especially all the small plants I put in last October.
I’m trying a few distraction techniques, with canes placed around the most vulnerable growth, but I still can’t get too cross. We continue to find it such a joy to have Daryl, Darylena and the twins living in our garden – they really are our pets rather than passing, annoying pests – and so magical to watch Darylena reach down to kiss her new babe.
Some years on, I’m still finding new kinds of wildlife all the time. This week I noticed some very regularly indented wisteria leaves, closely following by the fluttering of wings. A leaf-cutting bee was there, in front of me, nibbling perfect circles of leaf before tucking them between her legs and flying them back to her nest. It was an astonishing feat of balance to do this whilst hovering two metres up in the air.
There seem to be more and more insects around with every year we are here. And despite the very dry spring checking every plant’s growth and presumably putting them under some stress, there appear to be fewer insect pests this year. The foxgloves and roses are both aphid free, even the verbascum still have most of their leaves intact this summer: a very definite first.
I love imagining it’s all down to the ever-expanding biodiversity and natural balance that’s developed since we stopped using chemicals and removed the smothering nettle monocrop.
Towards the end of this month we had some wonderfully deep soaking rain. The pond seems to sparkle again, the neighbouring spring barley is filling out and we’ve even had some early toadstools respond to the much needed moisture.
The airy English natives seem to have taken the rain as a sign that the summer holidays have begun: many lounging, horizontally, about the place, semi-naked in a sea of discarded, faded plumery. Time to relax and restore, to let others take the limelight for now.
And whilst this rural spot is a more obvious host to English wildflowers, I’m glad I don’t need to write off the year just yet to further colour and vibrant new growth.
2020 has been a strange year on so many fronts, but for now, I’m just grateful that if I can’t go out exploring the big wide world myself, the big wide world has instead come to me.