Many more rhododendrons are now in flower. Some mornings I sit on the patio with the dogs and try to rank them in order of blooming. Rhododendrons unnerve me just a little. Some flower so early, while others leave it until the first gasps of summer. And how do they decide when to stop growing? The big pinks in Middle Garden (their flowers are just starting to fade) are over three metres high. I don't remember this being written on their label...
I never ask the rhododendrons if they'd like more compost, or water, or a light spreading of horse manure. I have learnt (the hard way) that tipping loads of bonfire ash around their trunks is a no-no. But generally I work around them for most of the year, nip off a few dead-heads, trim them sparingly, and then ogle in puzzled amazement in spring. All those flowers? Just for me? Wow...
Saturday 19th October
Today I've had another brilliant day with the dogs. I've been shifting the hoses around to water dry parts of the garden. I've started pulling out the Alkanet, digging large pieces of the roots up when I can. It's impossible to eradicate, but is a wonderful early spring filler, providing early food for the bees.
Red Rhododendron in the Jelly-Bean Border
Actually, it's another of THOSE puzzles. I remember Alkanet growing in one place - just one - when I first arrived here twenty years ago. It was our first meeting, and for many years I didn't know its name. But now it's in so many of the other gardens. Seeds in the home-made compost? Ghost in the machine? Or in those naive early days did I carefully nurturing little Alkanet seedlings and transplant them? Hmm...
Aha! A rhododendron identification. The first-time flowering shrub in the Driveway Garden was planted in 2008 (eek!) and is a Loderi hybrid called Ilam Cream. Pink buds, opening cream, a big rhododendron. That's a long time to wait for a flower. Worth it? Always, always...
Rhododendron Ilam Cream
It's been such a busy day. I've been watering, ripping out more Alkanet, and spreading top-soil and compost. Along the hot-side of the house I've removed all the forget-me-nots. This wee garden needs a little more structure, and the Handel rose needs to be shifted. With all the rippling music that Handel wrote, 'his' rose only managing one or two flowers a year seems pretty poor.
Red Rhododendron in Dog-Path Garden
Back to those rhododendrons. The big red in the interior of the Dog-Path Garden is covered in flowers. Some months ago all its lower leaves turned brown and I feared the worst - total neglect leading through serious sulks to a slow end. But no. I gave up. It didn't! And all I did was to shovel in some compost and manure and water it madly for about a week.
Sunday 19th October
Today I am going to be the best garden worker ever. I am taking a number of short breaks, after which I will leap back into the next session of gardening with gusto, vigour, and a light head. I am not going to analyse anything. The ripping out of Alkanet is a fairly superficial task, and I have already darted here and there and carted off barrowfuls to my dumping place (next-door). It will be the simplest gardening day I've had for a while.
Non-Gardening Partner is here to help supervising Winnie the puppy. At the moment he's putting the final touches to the maintenance of the river pumps, so I'd better get back outside. I want to clean up the stream and pond before the pumps are re-floated in the water race and the stream starts flowing.
Winnie the puppy loves the long, slow walk around the orchard. Lilli-Puss (my grey cat who lives in the hay barn) is very accepting of the puppy. We (proud puppy owners) think Winnie is very sensitive to cats, anyway. She is the best puppy with the most delightful character and temperament.
Fluff-Fluff the Cat
After a trip to get more top-soil and compost (Winnie came happily in the car with us) I planted sweet-pea seedlings by the pergola roses, providing them with their own bamboo canes to climb up. I haven't worked out how to tie and train them, though. This needs to be done - carefully? I also planted the rose City of London on the pergola corner. By the house I've planted a patch of Meadowfoam next to some blue cornflowers. Instantly all the containers were re-used, as I pricked out more Omphalodes and white Cosmos. The glass-house is jam-packed with trays and pots of growing things.
Cleanliness after a big day is so rewarding. My feet are tingling, as if they've done a day's solid hiking. My hair is clean, and I've sloshed Earths Botanics Gardeners Nourishing Lotion all over my hands. Wow. I smell really nice! NGP and I are off for a cosy car trip and hamburgers. He's mowed all my lawns.
The Loveliest Weekend
It's just been the loveliest weekend, during which the loveliest gardener (me) has kept going from 9am until 5am each day without sulking or getting bored. And the loveliest thing of all - the lovely rhododendrons!