OK, so I’m a bit of a failure when it comes to blogging! Yet again I haven’t written anything for months. I had a good excuse for June… I did no gardening. I was on holiday with Sam for the first couple of weeks, in the south of France. We got the train down to Carcassonne, which is beautiful. The train journey down was great, but the train journey home was a bit harder work. Whilst travelling from Paris to London on Eurostar, there was a passenger behind us who kept coughing. She announced to everyone that it wasn’t COVID. Lo and behold, three days later I started to feel unwell; tired, feverish, a bit of a cough and generally lousy. I had finally succumbed to the coronavirus and had to take the next two weeks off work. So no gardening in June, and no blog.
After June there were no excuses, other than being very busy and tired. In July we were inspected by NW in Bloom. The day of the inspection was the hottest day of the very hot summer. Due to the dry weather, the council hadn’t been for a couple of weeks to cut the grass. It was looking a bit tatty, so I decided to cut the lawns near the patients rooms prior to the judges visit. By the time they arrived I was very hot and sweaty! The awards ceremony was held in October and for the fourth year in a row we have received the highest award – ‘Outstanding’. I felt very chuffed to be a part of the team who look after the gardens and am extremely grateful to all my volunteers, who have been slowly growing in number. I even have a fellow man in the team now!
We also opened our gardens for the National Garden Scheme in July. We were lucky with the weather and the predicted rain didn’t arrive until mid afternoon, although this did affect our numbers a bit. Those that came seemed to enjoy themselves. Again, the heatwave and dry weather in the run up to the day made it quite challenging. But we did our best and the gardens remained full of colour.
The weather seems to have affected the plants in several ways. Some of our trees dropped many of their leaves in July in an attempt to preserve water. Now that it is so mild in mid November, other trees are still holding onto their leaves. I am still going in having to pick up the next batch that have fallen off. A few weeks ago I noticed that many of the beech leaves had a strange and very hard growth on them. I googled to see what was causing them. It turns out that they are beech leaf galls in which the larva of a midge lives. It doesn’t seem to affect the leaves too badly. The gall falls off in autumn and pupation then takes place within the gall. The midge will emerge next spring and the life cycle starts again.
Other plants are flowering out of season or well beyond the regular season. There is a poppy flowering in November, alongside a blooming achillea and the verbena bonariensis, which just seems to be going on and on this year.
The sunflowers came out very late, but again went on and on. We have only finally taken down the last ones this week. They have been very beautiful and very tall.
The bed in the photo above has been a great success. This time last year it had three hideous pampas grasses in it which I dug out back in February. Now when you drive into the carpark you are greeted with a bed full of colour.
There has been plenty of wildlife this year, but not so many butterflies. I did photography a some back in October, a rather tatty red admiral and a gorgeous comma, both feeding on the verbena.
There have been lots of other insects too.
The greater knapweed did really well in the wildflower garden this year.
Normally I am not so keen on slugs and snails, but this one took my fancy. It’s a white lipped snail travelling up a phormium leaf.
There have also been wild mammals in the garden. There was this litle cutie hanging out in a bag full of leaf mold with it’s sibblings, who had already scarpered by the time my phone was at the ready.
We’ve also had a roe deer in the gardens. I am presuming that it can jump over the fence, but often seems to struggle to get out. Finally, we did see it leap out, but it was back in a couple of weeks later.
This autumn there have been lots of different mushrooms growing in the gardens. Here are a selection.
I enjoy watching the seasons move from one to the next. We are almost in winter, but not quite. I continue picking up the leaves (nearly all done) and I have just finished putting up 87 Christmas trees in the grounds for the patients to look at over Christmas. Once they are lit I will try to pust some photos.
Until next time, take care.
Jim, The Hospice Gardener X