July 2020: In the garden

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.

9 thoughts on “July 2020: In the garden

    • jannaschreier says:

      They are so cheerful, aren’t they? And come just after a bit of a lull for us. I do miss lots of plants that I used to be able to grow in Sydney though. Can’t have everything!

  1. Adriana says:

    Beautiful Janna! Here you are marvelling at late summer flowers and yesterday I was marvelling at how many late winter flowers we have and appreciating our little native yellow breasted robins and tiny honey eaters and other small birds native to here which are still visiting, even in the cold, although to be fair not that cold. I tried to take photos Janna, but they are just too fast. I can see spring springing here. I too love the plants suggested by Piet Oudolph in his books – haven’t done much about it though, unlike you! Your garden sounds and looks wonderful. The biodiversity ‘thing’ is definitely the go – I started wrting about this 15 or more years ago trying to persuade my students to take their mindsets away from the ‘magic and myths’ of companion planting and instead realise that it is biodiverse plantings that create healthy gardens – no magic, just science. You are winning!

    • jannaschreier says:

      I’m glad you still have lots of lovely feathered visitors, even in lockdown. Or are you not in lockdown in the hills? I too struggle to take nice bird photos; practice makes perfect I think – I definitely need much more! You were teaching me about biodiversity ELEVEN years ago. Can you believe it? In some ways feels a life time ago (we were living in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll remember), but in others, like yesterday. And in all that learning, there’s only ever been one thing I’ve slightly questioned you on. And that’s in the last month or two. After our dry spring, with our very very sandy soil, just nothing is growing this year. I don’t really want to mulch too much as I love self seeders but I’m just debating whether I am going to need to add some organic matter to the soil. Can I really find enough plants that love my existing conditions? Would love to know your thoughts!!

      • Adriana says:

        I have sent you a private message via FB Janna in regards to your sand – which certainly doesn’t sound like soil!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Oh, thanks Jan. I’m always very very very happy to hear positive things from YOU about my photos! Still much improvement needed to reach your level. Hope you are both very well.

  2. Louise says:

    Thanks for taking me into your garden for a while. Beautiful photos of your wonderful place. Hope you’re keeping well over there.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks Louise, we are very much enjoying summer over here, somewhat apprehensive about what a colder winter might bring. Hope you are enjoying all those bright blue winter skies that I remember so well.

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