This morning a friend came up for a coffee. In February we made a big seed order together and split our packets so we could have more variety and grow more interesting things. You might not believe this if you looked at my garden and saw the amount of curly kale growing there but at the time that was the plan.
Wandering around your garden with another gardener is always interesting. If you are looking at theirs you are busy noticing what is growing well for them that failed for you. If they are looking at yours they will invariably, because gardeners are nice people, exclaim over your successes and make you aware of what has worked well and, just for a fleeting second, allow you to see your garden through another's eyes.
I am always aware of what I haven't done: the parsnips which failed to germinate, the succession sowing of salad stuff fallen by the way side, the beetroot left to get too large, the dratted bindweed twining meanly amongst the beans. My friend however exclaimed over the size of the red onions, admired the artichokes, inspected the swelling squash and the flourishing spinach and left me feeling that it wasn't too bad after all.
The real triumph of the year for me this year however is the cutting garden. Last autumn we covered a rectangle of tussocky grass in the field with old carpet. In the spring it was dug over (notice I don't say I dug it) and it looked a bit lost and pointless, just a big square of earth in the middle of an overgrown field. Ian put up some posts for sweetpeas so then it looked like a square of earth with posts in it and I nurtured all sorts of stuff in the greenhouse.
As the weather warmed it was planted out in stripes: a stripe of sweetpeas, an alternating pink phlox and purple iris stripe, a stripe of lilac gladioli, a stripe of cerinthe purpurescens grown from seed, a stripe of dark pink echinacea, a stripe of vivid pink cosmos, a stripe of deep purply red pinks, a stripe of mixed lavender and scabious and another stripe of sweetpeas. Beyond that were five rows of pink fir apple potatoes, following an inadvertent double seed potato order after which I had given away so many seed potatoes that people began to hide in doorways when they saw me coming. So that was a little overflow, not very planned.
It all looked rather sad. When Kitty was here in May I felt vaguely apologetic about it. It sounds so Sarah Raven, a cutting garden, but it did not look like Perch Hill, all flowers and form and lush luxuriant colour. It looked empty and forlorn and I felt like the mad old woman boasting about her son the businessman when everyone can see her son is a slightly seedy salesman with a worn shirt collar.
But now it is glorious. I have been picking three or four jugs of mixed sweet peas a week for about a month now. The stems are long and true and the scent of them fills a room with its subtle cool sweetness. The phlox is vividly in flower and the gladioli are huge and overblown, palest lilac with a deeper lilac edge to the blossoms. My nana would be overjoyed and cry and blow her nose noisily. They were her favourite flower. The cerinthe isn't up to much but the echinacea are beautiful, making it clear why they are a coming thing (or possibly a come thing, my feel for fashionable flowers is unlikely to be up to the minute). The cosmos are just fantastic, all perfect feathery green foilage with flowers of deepest or of clear pale pink. The oldfashioned pinks are flowering quietly, somewhat overshadowed by the glories of the cosmos, and the scabious, which I nearly threw out of the greenhouse a couple of times on the grounds that it was nearly dead, has just filled out and thrown up wiry stems loaded down with blossom.
It could maybe do to be more enclosed, more of a hortus conclusus, but it looks intentional now, sitting beyond the new fruit trees, a grass path mown round the outside. I love it. Next year we should have a mixed hawthorn hedge around it and another bed, somewhere to walk to, somewhere to sit and watch the bees drunk with delight stumbling from flower to flower.
I do love gardening.