So much dry weather and, over the last few days, so much wind. With our stony free draining soil my garden is desperate for rain. Today we will do things in order. Come out of the kitchen door with me and turn left into the side garden. Ignore, if you can, the lengths of cast iron guttering piled on the rotting table, waiting to be painted and giving a gentle air of Steptoe and Son to the area by the door.
Here is the side garden, oddly quiet and green just now. The hellebores are still holding on to their flowers in the foreground but the daffodils and tulips have all gone over and the peonies and the oriental poppies which will be the next overflowing of colour have not yet started.
So most of what is happening is foliage: fennel and hellebore and dicentra here. For the first time that I can remember it was obvious today that the hellebores and peonies were wilting in the searing wind, after weeks of dry weather. I always mulch in here in spring and that is usually enough but I watered today for the first time in the face of flagging foliage. The peony buds are fat and full of promise. I can't bear to see the plants struggling for water.
Come through the gate and into the field. The apple trees are in bloom in the little orchard. I have cut a path through the grass so that you can walk in among the wild flowers, or at least you could if there were any! The native daffodils have finished now and the tiny naturalised tulips are going over too. There will be ox eye daisies in here, some foxgloves, sweet rocket, fox and cubs and all the range of grasses. All the wildflower plugs that I grew from seed last year are flourishing but the numbers were just swallowed up by the area and by the grass. There are never enough. I have bought some yellow rattle which is parasitic on grass so should weaken the competition and I have also treated myself to some more tiny plug plants from Jan Miller at Saith Ffynnon Plants (Seven Wells). Jan specialises in plants which encourage butterflies. I am trying to establish a perennial meadow, not a cornfield full of cornflowers and poppies which would not be easy to grow up here on the hill. The hedges and verges are full of stitchwort and bluebells and will soon be frothing with cow parsley. Every time I have found any native wildflower growing in the onion beds or anywhere else that I try to keep well weeded, I have transplanted it to here. We will see what the meadow's second summer will bring.
Come down the path between the apple tree and the tiny mulberries and turn left towards the cutting garden.
There is not much to see here either (do you see a theme developing?). The tulips which have been the staple flower for spring have finished and the annuals which are waiting in the cold frames have not yet gone out. On the netting, tiny sweetpea plants are struggling to stay alive in the driest spring for decades. I have sunk 3 inch pots next to each pair of plants in the hopes of helping them to take water down at the roots. Watered from above, the water vanishes in a second, leaving the baked ground looking as dry as before.
Come and have a look at the native tree walk. You can see the cornuses and the bigger trees which have been in for three years. The new shrubs for this year, witch hazel, daphne, viburnum farreri and viburnum opulus, osmanthus and all the ground cover geraniums and violas are all just clinging on here. Why did I not know how dry it would be when I started putting these in during March? You can see the wind in the picture, whipping the new growth on the cornus. More watering required.
Come back out of the field, past the end of the cottage garden and out onto the sunny bank. From a distance you cannot see how beautiful the irises are. They love it here, baking in the sun. Alongside, the pinks are full of buds and the valerian is ready to burst into flower. No need for watering then.
In the kitchen garden only onions and broad beans are out in the beds but the hellebore argutifolius is in glorious flower, there are the first of the peonies, alliums and the heady smell of sweet cicely. The new mint bed with its edging of chives and pinks is hanging on. Watering needed here too.
Would you mind too much if I asked for a day or two or gentle but relentless rain?