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By kowhai


Today is 1st June and the sunny spell that we’ve been enjoying seems to have come to an end. Well, it is a bank holiday weekend after all!

The garden in May has suddenly filled out. Ours is a modest suburban plot in what was the grounds of a big Georgian house a few hundred yards up hill from the centre of Henley-on-Thames. The substantial, mature trees were retained and although they are to some extent a problem for anyone wanting to maintain a garden (shade and dryness being two problems), they do give a maturity and perspective to the garden which other estates, built on farmland at around the same time, lack.

This photo gives an idea of what it looks like. My garden is the nearest. Next door, the new neighbour has replaced the paving with lawn. He’s been fortunate, as the wet late spring was ideal for bedding in new turf.

In our garden, the spring flowers (tulips, daffs and such) are now being succeeded by summer flowers, starting with the wild rose. Begininng with one shy bloom, it’s now covered in flowers, and although it isn’t really a garden flower, we like to be reminded of the roses growing in the hedgerows.

Thanks to the wet spring and the following spell of warm weather, this seem to be the Year of the the Aquilegia. It’s almost a puzzle as to where they all came from, as there are over 30 plants scattered around the garden. I know that quite a few I have planted out from seedlings, and a few will have been bought as plants. Even so, they are puzzlingly abundant and present in quite a variety.

Some, such as this blue one, aren’t even in the ‘traditional’ aquilegia form, although there are, as a search of this web site will show, a number of distinct types of aquilegia.

Last year, I successfully raised a lot of seedlings of what the packet assured me was ‘William Guiness’, looking rather like this one.

I planted out about a dozen of the seedlings in a bed, as well as giving lots away. Well, instead of flowering as depicted on the packet (and looking like one above), they’ve come out pink!!! Very pretty, but not what I had taken a lot of effort to achieve.

There’s also another dark one which doesn’t really look like an aquilegia at all and is easily mistaken at a glance for a nearby hardy geranium.

My hostas, having survived the winter, have come up trumps, and there are seven large pots of them in different parts of the garden. I love the way their leaves catch the sun, and how different they look according to the angle of the light.

The shifting sunlight also catches different flowers in the borders, and for a brief moment they take centre stage in the spot light.

The allium have come out again. There are two kinds, including a small white allium which we obtained as end of season specials and which have quietly self propagated around the south facing border over the years. I must plant new allium this autumn to give some variety and interest to the border next spring.

The ‘false thistle’ has also done well this year, and its bright flowers complement the pink of the allium. They are also very popular with the bees.

Among the plants we inherited were poppies: yellow and orange. Apparently the latter are the preferred colour, but both are scattered about the garden and they really do catch the sunshine and punctuate the border with their bright colours. They also self seed, so there’s no telling where they are going to come up.

In the shady north facing border, the bamboo, ferns and solomons seal catch the sunshine very fleetingly.

Thanks to the effect of the mature trees, our garden doesn’t receive a full ration of sunshine, so our roses are always behind everyone else’s. (In fact, this looks like being a bumper year for roses to judge from the abundant blooms everywhere.) Our Kiftsgate is ‘budding up’ for a display in June. It’s really a climber, but has been forced to grow along the fence, which it does rather reluctantly. It would really prefer to climb up the overhanging copper beech tree!

One of the delights, weather permitting, is to sit in the garden and to enjoy not only the flowers but the foliage in the bushes and trees which we have planted, as well as in the mature copper beech and pink chestnut in the neighbours’ gardens. They look wonderful against a clear blue sky.

We can also sit on the patio where the herbs are doing well, and look down the garden which is looking really abundant this year. I don’t like to have bare soil in a garden so I’ve covered as much of the space as possible with planting.

Finally, there’s the front of the house where we share two wisteria. In fact, it’s now the end of their flowering season, and despite the rigorous winter and a touch of frost in the spring, they seem to have done really well this year. The only problem is that when the flowers start to fade, the petals are scattered everywhere, like confetti and as they grow over the front door, keeping the hall clear of confetti is a continuous task!

The hardy salvia survived the winter and I’ve put several pots of them at the front of the house, where they receive all the afternoon sun, which they like. This is ‘hot lips’ who, so far, has produced only solid red flowers and no hot lips.

No doubt her hot lips will come later, together with the other flowers which have yet to bloom. Fortunately, there’s still a lot to look forward to, and with luck, we’ll have hardy geraniums in flower until the autumn, while the white cosmos that I’ve just planted out should also keep going until the first autumn frosts. Meanwhile, as we move from May to June we enter another colourful phase in the gardening season.

More blog posts by kowhai

Previous post: Coffee Grounds

Next post: Roses, Landscapes & Borders



some lovely plants, i like that little blue aquilegea and i love that photo of the hosta with the light coming through.

1 Jun, 2012


I have just moved and inherited some v large trees. They have produced a lot of shade in some parts of the garden! I have the orange and yellow welsh poppies everywhere. They don't seem fussy as to sun or shade but they are lovely and cheerful - their heads nodding in the breeze. Thank you for taking the time to write and add all those lovely photos :-)

1 Jun, 2012


Hi kowhai, I always enjoy the pics of your garden love the way you plant, particularly like the pic of the copper beech against the perfect blue sky... :0)

1 Jun, 2012


welcome to GoY Beba, i have large trees surrounding my garden and i have the yellow welsh poppies, which i love!

1 Jun, 2012


Your garden is looking lovely Kowhai, I like your style of gardening, it all looks so natural and full, I agree the Aquilegia is coming up all around this year and I also have lots of new shades instead of all blue, its exciting awaiting a new plant and hoping also for a different colour.
Lovely photo`s..

1 Jun, 2012


I'm glad to see that there are other poppy and aquilegia enthusiasts around! I always enjoy the anticipation of seeing what colour the flowers will be on a new aquilegia plant -- that's part of the gamble of gardening. As to trees and shade, I see I'm not alone. My next door neighbour in whose garden the copper beech is growing really has the worst of it, as there are lots of things which I can (just) manage to grow which she can't because of the total shade in her much larger garden. The plant that does thrive in my shady border is the hellebore, although the price for having early spring flowering is foliage for the rest of the year. However, if, like me,you like leaves and are grateful to find something that, like ferns, thrives in shade, this is a price worth paying, and they do combine well with ferns.

2 Jun, 2012


I have plenty of hellebores here, ferns too, both thrive, I love them.

2 Jun, 2012


a bit late, i dont know how i missed this blog.
i love your aquilegias especially the very dark and the dble ones.
it must be so nice having mature trees in your garden and being able to grow shade plants as well as the sun lovers.
are your roses still doing well? mine showed a lot of promise so many buds on all of them but virtually en masse they decided to ball and i lost the lot, however the second flush is coming up and hopeful no rains just at the critical moment this time.
i do like your style of planting, covering every inch of soil. beautiful photos, thanks

24 Jun, 2012

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