My garden this weekend – 21st July 2013


It continued hot and dry during the week and I and the plants were struggling. However, on Saturday the temperature dropped to around 24C and we had good cloud cover and a steady breeze which made life much happier.  Its amazing the difference a slightly lower temperature can make to your enthusiasm for gardening.  I weeded the border opposite the Big Border which hasn’t been given a name.  Despite being on the edge of the bog garden even last year when we had a lot of rain it wasn’t particularly wet and this year it really is dry.  However, I was pleased to discover that the phlox and monardas I planted late last year were doing well.  I had seen a lovely border of phlox and monardas at Stone House Cottage and wanted to create something similar. This is a start and I need to add to it. 2013_07210018logo

There is a growing orange hue in the Big Border from the Emilia javanica (Irish Poet) plants. They are half hardy annuals which I bought seed of from Sarah Raven late one night – I must stop this late night seed shopping as it really is distracting me from my main interests.  Saying that the Emilia is rather pretty and is adding colour low down amongst the dahlias.


The dahlias in the Big Border have started to flower and they couldn’t be more different to last year, so many flowers and lush growth.  I am really pleased.  However, if I was to show you a photograph of the far side of the Big Border, where the original cottage garden border was, you would see a different view altogether.  Here I have cut back all the Delphinium and other early flowering perennials and it has left the border looking very bare with large spaces revealed.  In the autumn I need to rearrange the plants across the whole of the new border to create a better effect.  In the meantime I am hoping that the rain we have forecast will come and moisten the soil and then I can plant some more annuals that I have been holding back.


I had forgotten that I had grown some Mina lobata from seed and planted them against the obelisk so it was a lovely surprise to spot these brightly coloured flowers although they don’t really complement the pink rose also growing there!

Today, Sunday, I woke to discover it had rained overnight.  The air was fresh and clean and although there hadn’t been enough rain to soak the soil the plants looked a little happier.  The rain had brought the Nigella hispanica ‘African Bride'(top photo) into flower.  I bought these from Chilterns, suckered in by the photograph on the seed catalogue and I am pleased that they have lived up to my expectations.  I have decided, almost, not to grow any annuals next year as I want to focus on other plants and they take up too much time and space before they are planted out.  However, I think I will let some of the annuals set seed and seed themselves around.


The hot weather has meant that I have been doing a lot of reading rather than gardening and I have been researching alpine houses, plunge beds, bulb frames etc which has to be honest left me a little confused but I think I have a plan now for next year.  I did spend some time sorting out the greenhouse and tied up the cucumber plants which had got a little out of hand over the last week.  I also spent a happy hour pricking out various South African seedlings which are now the only things, apart from the cucumbers, in the greenhouse.

I may not have done much gardening this week but I am getting a clearer idea of what I want to do in the garden in the next year and also more importantly the direction I want to go in which is quite exciting.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. jane scorer says:

    It is often the thinking rather than the actual gardening which is more productive. It is a lovely process because, unlike work planning, you only have to please yourself !
    I was interested in your comment about gaps in the border after things have finished and been cut back. I have real problems with this, and have huge holes where lupins, perennial poppies and Dicentra have been. Monty (the font of all gardening knowledge !) always has shedloads of stuff in his greenhouse which he uses to fill in, but I find this hard, because my lupins are still using the same space up as they were before, so there isn’t really room for fresh planting !

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jane
      I frowned at Monty’s comment since whilst he has made space cutting back geraniums and delphiniums he also said they would regrow and flower again and then went on to say he would plant in the gaps he had created – this seemed strange to me too. I really don’t think my delphiniums will flower again this year, experience has taught me it is unlikely so I have a few tall narrow (!) annuals to go in the gaps but I suspect that time and energy will mean that the gaps will remain until I reorganise next year

  2. Cathy says:

    Rain?! We have had a lovely moderating breeze since Friday night, but a mere hint of rain only very briefly today, so not the real stuff yet – nevertheless I am hopeful! I am pleased your phlox and monarda are doing well as those Stone House borders were lovely, although I have not seen evidence here yet of the monarda I put in last year 😦 Some stunning scarlet monarda at the garden I visited today – grrr! Your dahlias are looking good – it is my first year with them this year so it is a learning experience for me.

  3. djdfr says:

    “I must stop this late night seed shopping” There are worse vices. 🙂

  4. bridget says:

    Lucky you to have had rain. Here everything is bone dry and the ground is cracking. Hopefully the rain will come soon.

  5. ginnytalbert says:

    Hi Helen, I’m new to blogging & just discovered yours today! I’m going to enjoy following your gardening adventures. I’m growing my first ever dahlias this year (got them free with an online plant order). I’m anxious to see how they do, but am not enchanted with the idea of having to dig them up and store them over the winter. We’ll see… Glad you got a bit of rain. We did, too, in Maryland over the last several days. What a relief from hazy, hot, and humid in the 90s!

  6. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Looking great and summery – you probably didn’t need to have your cucs in the geenhouse as such a warm summer for you. I have had to water some pots as been lovely blu blu days – tho’ today fog – and no rain for a couple of weeks. My cyclamens (little) were quite droopy. My clivia seeds are just starting to sprout. Special ones from NZ top breeders, not the common original one with more apricot flowers. Cherry my landlady will be pleased when she gets back from her Fijian holiday with her family. All I have to do then is pot them, then repot when a bit bigger then wait 4 years for them to flower. Just as well my Dr gave me a 94% chance of nothing bad likely to happen to me in the next few years! I just need to keep praying to God that ‘she’ will let me stay in this lovely property!!!

  7. hillwards says:

    Ah rain, we’ve not had a drop here yet for weeks.
    I’ve grown that same Emilia this year for the second time – I was disappointed with it last year, expecting a darker orange from the photo when I bought the seed! This year I made sure to grow and put out more plants so they have greater impact, and the colour was not a surprise this time, but they still seem a little disappointing in our garden… Yours look to have more presence than ours!
    We have a few gaps where I cut back many geraniums and alchemilla that were flopping, I’ve hoicked self-sown nasturtiums from the veg patch to fill the gaps as I didn’t grow anything else specifically for these spaces. Pondering some late summer annuals for next year…

  8. Ricki Grady says:

    Wandering around and taking stock of the successes and failures is a great way to spend these summer days. I have to make copious notes to myself or all will be forgotten in the rush of spring. How about you?

  9. Love the nigella and the Mina lobata, Helen. Agree with you about the delphinium flowers, but it’s good for the plants to cut them back, all the same. I’ve more failures than successes at the moment! Well done you …

  10. bittster says:

    I might also have done a few too many annuals this year. Between them and the numerous vegetable seedlings it has been a little more nurturing and transplanting than I care to take on evey year. So I’ll see this winter if I’ve learned my lesson or not!
    The dahlias look so nice and fresh coming into bloom this time of year.

  11. Your cuke reminds me I must tie up mine a bit too.

  12. igardendaily says:

    Wow! Love the Emilia javanica plant. I wonder if I could get those seeds? I also have Mina lobata from seed this year. It’s such a beauty! Love your choices….

  13. lkrivitz says:


    I am a volunteer working on this year’s Friends’ School Plant Sale in St. Paul, MN. This sale has grown to be the largest annual plant sale in Minnesota; it raises a good deal of scholarship money for the school and has for over 20 years. We have a wonderful print catalog each year, but it can only accommodate photos of a small percentage of the plants we offer. Our goal is to have a picture of each plant offered on the website. I am a volunteer tasked with finding the pictures for new plants and I am have a difficult time finding good photos of the Emilia javanica (Irish Poet.) You have a beautiful picture on your blog.
    Might we use it? Proper attribution would be given.

    If we find others that we need, might we use them as well?

    If you would like to know more about our plant sale, here is our website: or you can ask me!

    Please contact me if you have any questions,

    Laurie Krivitz

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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