We all know that in the North summer showed up for two weeks in May and then packed it's bags and buggered off down South, caught a ferry at Dover and is at present sending rude text messages from Ibiza where it is living it large and dancing its socks off. However, among the misery of blight and the successes of cucumbers we have been working to bring to life a herb garden. All grown from seed (seed kindly provided by Kings Seeds, UK) it has shown what can be done in a small space over one season from seed or division. So, let's take a walk through our tiny front garden and we will talk about what is planted here and there, and what never came up due to the cold.
This old fashioned sweetpea (not from King's but lurking in our seed drawer) is a perfect example of the kind of weather we have had. These flowers often in abundance by now have put on plenty of foliage, as have Carol's Dad's sweetpeas down in the valley, but in both cases they have only just started to flower in the last week, and though they are welcome it is doubtful many of them will make it before the first frosts hit. We know. Let's face facts we're not that far off those cold snaps and there is a distinct smell of autumn in the air. However, even these few flowers, along with the chives, have given life to many bees and butterflies that have passed through this new garden this summer.
Towards the house and by the gas meter box (in all the text we will talk about the photo above), between us and next door we have planted for maximum impact and height in later years. This masks the meter box but still allows easy access and gives privacy between us and next door. The planting from back to front is a geranium (unknown); the geranium was already in the garden when we got here and was rather sad, overgrown and congested, so we divided it and it is now happy as Larry, Bob and Dick. In front is Hollyhock Black (Althea rosea nigra); hollyhocks do well by walls as traditionally they were used before damp proof courses (we're not kidding, that's why you always see them in those twee cottage garden pictures of rural life in the nineteenth century, think Lark Rise to Candleford on a biscuit tin), then we have two fennels: Herb Fennel Common and Herb Fennel Bronze Perennial, we wanted that grass effect but we wanted something that was useful and wouldn't choke out all the light and be a contrast to the hollyhock. Fennel is great not just for it's foliage, but as a herb for meat and fish, and the seed heads are beautiful, and the seeds are great too for Indian and Chinese dishes - it's one of things in Chinese five spice. Then beneath we have Herb Hyssop Perennial, Herb Marjoram Pot Perennial, we did sow some Greek Oregano but were rightly warned that like Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) they needed a warm summer to get going - and they didn't get going - oh well. You can see a Kale lurking there given to us by the good people at Acorn Close Allotments. Then there's Bull's Blood Beet (King's sent us this to try out and it's very tasty), Chives divided from our back garden, several Oriental Poppies grown from seed and Mara des Bois strawberries taken as runner last year which are on their second fruiting.
As we move around to the compost bin and the self seeded fern that we couldn't bring ourselves to pull out because it makes the compost bin look like a Dalek lost in a prehistoric jungle, we find from back to front: geranium from Drovers (this is everywhere now and thankfully from one pot we have around 2 dozen patches now), Safflower, False Saffron (Carthamus tinctorius) which is on the verge of flowering (we'll show what they look on our Facebook Page because a single flower doesn't make much of a blog post, if it did we'd be constantly blogging: 'Oooh, flower, oooh, another flower, oooh, look at that...flower'. We like flowers, you like flowers but you don't want to see them on here everyday...oooh, flowers), some more Herb Marjoram Pot Perennial because frankly it grew so well and so easily, we gave some to friends, family and even ramblers got lucky. There's Salad Burnet, Chives and Mara des Bois strawberries. You can see the planting plan as envisaged here and compare with the final outcome.
Finally, we move past the new pond into some new additions, and some monumental struggles. The chard didn't grow...boo. The Scabious Devil's Bit (Succisa pratensis) seems patchy here and there but nothing that will make it through now. Likewise, one of our greatest nemesis, Valerian Red (Centranthus ruber) stuck two fingers up at us and has never been seen since. Nigella (Nigella damascena) has grown for the first time ever! We are over the moon about this but it won't flower before the sun starts to give up for the year. At least we had some seedlings and that means we are going to try again next year and hope for a hotter season because that's what it craves. Our new additions therefore, from back to front are Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare); we have grown loads of this and it is earmarked for the orchard too along with Herb Bergamot Perennial, Herb Hyssop Perennial (because it is good to do some repeat planting around a small garden, don't ever try to cram every plant under the sun into it, have some stalwarts that repeat, here we are using this plant and marjoram, and as you will see, we are also repeating fennel, false saffron and salad burnet), Peony (unknown, we have no idea where this has come from, it wasn't there last year but then last year this garden was a rubble pile. It will be dug out and placed in the cottage garden), that stalwart repeater, Salad Burnet, Rocket Artemis, Chives and Mara des Bois strawberries.
Finally, as we wend our way to the gate we come to the final part of the open ground bed and the pots. We have from back to front, Wedding Present rose (we gave these to both sets of parents on our wedding day, a decade ago, and both plants have come back to us over the years with different excuses from unwieldy, to it 'attacked us' - it is both of those things but so worth it for those flowers), then comes that repeater Safflower, False Saffron (Carthamus tinctorius), Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Herb Bergamot Perennial, Rocket Artermis, Herb Fennel Common, Herb Fennel Bronze Perennial Salad Burnet, Chives and Mara des Bois strawberries. That's it in open beds but the pots, sown and grown by Little D are having the time of their lives.
Back to front before the door are Coriander which has been used time after time this summer, a new planting of Lavender, Dahlia just poking into the photo and struggling in this location, so we will move it next year, Italian Giant Parsley which is actually the smallest of the growth here! You have to laugh but it tastes great and finally, Dill, which has also struggled with dampening off and poor weather.
However, it is on the other side of the porch that you can really appreciate the effect of walls as heat sumps. Though it has been cold and wet most days, these walls have soaked in whatever little heat there has been and released it at night to gives us abundant growth. Running left to right we have Mint which has suddenly started to struggle, we suspect vine weevil so will knock it out of the pot and take a look, Atar of Roses Pelargonium brought many years ago and we have taken cutting after cutting from them; they're great in jams but just wonderful to brush past. Bishop's Children Dahlias, sown in early March of this year and they have made huge plants and are flowering their socks off in pots we found in a skip! Then there is Rosemary, an Old fashioned Sweetpea wigwam and finally by the wall Courgette Rugosa Friulana. They're odd looking fruit that look like this:
Yet, they have been the first courgette we have grown successfully, and in a poor year too! What will they do in a good year? Hidden in the corner beside them are more hollyhocks and fennel planted straight into the gravel and the hollyhocks are loving it. You can find our herb garden adventure here, and we hope you have enjoyed it. You can find all the photos of the garden here too, from rubble to final growth of the season. There's more to come over the next few weeks and we will truly see how well it has taken come next spring.
We'd like to thank King's Seeds for the support of this project and the advice given.