The splendid summer has gone its way and unsettled weather has moved in from the west. The sun still shines through between the downpours but the magic spell has been broken and one thinks less of barbecues and flip-flops and more of coats, boots and umbrellas.
Perhaps September will bring a reprise and one last jaunt to the beach to renew our love-affair with the sun. Meanwhile the dry summer has caused an early turn of colour amongst some trees and already the whitebeam is casting its leaves to the ground below.
Underneath the espaliered pears and magnolias that adorn a south-facing stone wall runs a narrow border, no more than one foot wide, that meets the gravel path. Here we grow anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’, a favourite of mine who flowers faithfully from July through to the first frosts.
It was way back in 1858 that a French horticulturist named M. Jobert spotted amongst a bed of anemone a natural mutation which bore single pure white flowers, with prominent yellow stamens. Realising its commercial potential he raised this plant, naming it after his daughter Honorine, and since then this flower has proved to be a darling favourite in our gardens. Oh, new varieties have been developed since then and quite good they are but the simplicity and elegance of the ‘Honorine Jobert’ has stood the test of time and will no doubt feature in the gardens of our grand-children too.
One rainy day last winter I wrote in more depth on anemones which can be seen on the page list to your right. I must mention Vita Sackville-West, the very best in garden writers as far as I am concerned, who commented that ‘August could be such a dull, heavy time when everything has lost its youth and is overgrown and mature but yet the delicate anemone brings a certain lightness to the garden’.
I meet grumpy George on his way to the allotments and we stop for a chat. George firmly believes that the apex of the motor industry came with the Morris Minor and that everything has been rolling downhill ever since. ‘The trouble with this world’ he says, waving his pipe at me in a rather threatening manner, ‘is that folk don’t stop and appreciate what they have, they are always chasing some new gadget or fashion’. I nod in silent agreement.
The very nature of man, and horticulturist, is to cultivate and improve his lot. Plant breeders work fervently behind the scenes to bring new varieties on the market. Their goal is to produce plants that are bigger or smaller, more crinkly or less wrinkly, the colour of the rainbow or just plain more resistant to disease. And they do love giving their new prodigies ever increasingly dramatic names such as petunia ‘hyper-explosive sun-rise’ or dahlia ‘super-duper ice-cream’.
Thank goodness that horticulture is not shackled by the cob-webs of tradition and is constantly pressing onwards and upwards. On the other hand though, what a joy that we still treasure our glorious heritage.
On an obelisk we grow rosa ‘Felicite-Perpetue which bears masses of small creamy white rosettes blushed with pink. M. Jacques, head gardener to the Duc d’Orleans, bred this rose in 1827. The story is told that his daughters, Felicite and Perpetue were running down the garden path, one dressed in white and the other in pink and he could not resist naming this rose after them.
Graham Stuart Thomas, the renowned authority on roses, mentions that Felicite-Perpetue thrives ‘in windswept Welsh and Scottish upland gardens and even in the shade of a north wall’. She flowers beautifully in June but we often have a late flowering which I look forward to. Grow this rose in your garden and not only do you have a great beauty but also a part of history and culture, the reminder of a golden horticultural age.
George finishes his ranting and heads off to the allotment to check his potatoes and tomatoes for blight. The dry summer has warded off this ghastly disease but with the rain comes the risk again. George will pick off any infected leaves and either burn them on the bonfire if it ever dries up again or bung them discretely in his next-door-neighbour’s council garden recycling bin.
This is a staid village where time moves slowly and the pace of the modern world has left many of its inhabitants bewildered and feeling left behind. The exception being Charlie and Bones who are dedicated fans of Lady Gaga and who have downloaded all her tracks onto their pods and wait fervently for her latest twitter tweet…