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July 2012

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Lettuce wipe-out, rose growing fashion and successful weaving

Our vegetable patch has been a real challenge this year. I started to sow lettuce seed in late March. Germination was good but all seedlings were eaten by slugs and pigeons. I then sowed the seed in the greenhouse and planted out sturdy plants some weeks later. Same story all eaten overnight. I had the same problem with the early courgettes. I never remember this happening before. I netted the next plantings and they were still eaten. I began to think maybe the netting prevented the birds from reducing the slug population.

June arrived and not a single full-grown lettuce or courgette graced the veg patch. I nearly gave up at that stage, but I made one last effort in mid June. I would love to report great success but in truth the results, even at this late stage, are rather patchy. I even resorted to some slug pellets with no great results. All in all, my worst year for lettuce growing in forty years. However some good news - potatoes and peas were the best ever, high yields and good quality. I suppose you can't win them all.

The Viburnum prunifolium that I planted ran into that cold April weather and looked really sad for a few weeks. However tender loving care and a fleece cover each night pulled it through and it looks good now. I keep reading that the good and the great in garden writing circles, Beth Chatto and the late Christopher Lloyd come to mind, would not have a rose bed anywhere in their garden. I like roses and I love a bed filled with one variety. We have a rose garden. I sit in it and take in the perfectly formed, scented blooms and find it very satisfying. I suppose like all garden fashions, some guru will re-introduce rose beds to Chelsea one year, and rose beds will become all the rage again.

I also like to see good shrub roses incorporated into the herbaceous garden, they give structure and drama to any border. Rose growers today have really taken most of the hard work out of rose-growing. They are producing good, disease-resistant, strong bushes. It is very hard to see a well-grown bed of ‘Just Joey' or ‘Silver Jubilee' and not be captivated. I will reserve judgement on my latest additions, ‘Miss Alice' and ‘Nobel Antony', until I have them a few years but they are looking good.

But I have to report that the weaving of nepeta or catmint through the last-mentioned roses has been a great success. I often have great plans for weaving plants together, not always with success. As often as not, one plant swamps the other, as happened when I tried to combine roses with hellebores. However the catmint roots are not too vigorous and as it flowers at the same time as ‘Miss Alice' and ‘Nobel Antony', the bed is full of drama. I love it. Two other weavings were wonderful too - Diascia ‘Lilac Queen' with Polygonatum curvistylum. The latter has purple stems and pink flowers and is a delight with the lilac diascia. I also combined diascia with Hemerocallis ‘Corky', another winner!





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