Peach and blue tones feature in my six this week. Dahlia David Howard is usually a much brighter colour than the flower shown above. But we’ve had sweltering temperatures the past few days and heat has faded some of the blooms I rather like this delicate hue. It’s been a sweltering 26C today, and 30C the day before. I’ve waited until dusk to take my photos. The dahlia bed is next to the orchard, and I can hear hedgehogs shuffling through the dry twigs and grass in the undergrowth. If I wait quietly, they will come out and feast on fallen plums. I never knew how much they loved plums until a few years back when we had a massive harvest and each night, five baby hedgehogs turned up. It was magical to watch them enjoying the ripe and juicy fruit. In the day, there’s butterflies sipping the juice, meadow browns and peacocks in abundance this year. Not so many painted lady butterflies as last year. I wonder why.
Here’s my second ‘peachy’ photo. Rosa Phyllis Bide. It’s a medium-size rambler with large sprays of semi-double flowers 6cm wide. I grow it because it is disease resistant and doesn’t need spraying with chemicals. All my roses have to be tough. If you choose carefully, there are many varieties less likely to suffer from fungal disease black spot. Phyllis Bide is easy and trouble-free, and repeat flowers from June to November. There are sometimes a few blooms in December, eagerly snapped up for Christmas table decorations. Flowers are gorgeous set amongst natural, cream beeswax candles. Bees also love the pollen, and catering for wildlife and pollinators is usually at the heart of everything I do. In my garden, Phyllis Bide grows up a post and into a lilac tree, adding interest when the lilac is out of flower. It’s about 2.5m tall by 1.5m wide.
Here’s the same rose, covered in snow on 11th December. Sunshine soon melted the ice, and the flower was still perfect. Isn’t it beautiful. A heart-sing moment, captured with an old i-phone camera.
My third photo is from my polytunnel. I’m growing pots of dwarf peach and nectarines . I think this one is called Prunus Nectarella. It grows to about 1.5m by 1m in a 60cm container. I’m also growing dwarf varieties Garden Lady and Bonanza. Growing in pots, they can be carried into the greenhouse or poly tunnel over winter, which helps protect early flowers from frost. They flower in February when there’s few pollinators about, so blossom has to be pollinated with a soft paintbrush. It’s a lovely calming occupation on a cold winter’s day, and gives hope that spring is not far away.
Peaches and nectarines suffer from a disease called peach leaf curl. It’s a fungus which infects leaves causing them to distort and blister. Resulting early leaf fall reduces vigour. Wet conditions are needed for the disease to thrive, so keeping them indoors over winter helps to protect them. All the effort of growing them is worth it. Eating a peach or nectarine that’s been allowed to ripen naturally on the tree and hasn’t been sprayed in chemicals is a delight. Shop-bought fruit just can’t compare.
I wrote about my peach crumble cake recipe here. Do try it – with any fruit you have, apples, pears, plums- or peaches, and let me know what you think. It’s become a family favourite.
Now for the ‘blue’ photos this week. I’ve chosen morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea. This is a seedling from a selection I’ve grown for years. Morning glory is an annual climber that will reach 4-5m given a warm sunny fence or wall. Mine grow up through my climbing beans, happily co-existing. I’m hoping the flowers will attract pollinators which will benefit my vegetables. You can see the so-called ‘nectar guides’ in this photo. Flowers have visible and UV guides or lines directing bees to the nectary. Sunshine has highlighted the lines. It’s almost mesmerising. I save all my seed each summer and store it in a cool, dark place over winter. I’ll start them off again in 3″ pots on the kitchen windowsill in February. Varieties to recommend are Star of Yelta, Grandpa Ott and Heavenly Blue. All easy to grow, and once you’ve bought a packet of seed, you’ll have morning glory for ever more. Such a lovely thought!
My second ‘blue’ photo is gladioli. Another summer treat. This one came in a blue-mix assortment from a bulb specialist. I plant them down the centre of my hazel rod sweet pea A-frame, where they grow quite happily without needing stakes. As soon as the heads pop out of the side of the frame, I harvest them for my cut flower posies. Gladioli can grow tall and floppy, and in the high winds we seem to be getting more and more, they often end up crashing to the ground. Grown with sweet peas, or though a climbing bean frame, they’ll get plenty of support. Corms are lifted in autumn when I pull up sweet peas. I leave the leaves on to die back naturally, and I take off the little offset corms which grow beneath the ‘mother’ corm. Some people just keep the baby corms and grow them on, but if the original corms are in a good condition, I keep mine and replant them next spring. If you have lovely, free draining soil you could leave the gladioli in over winter. But I have cold, heavy clay which seems to be flooded every winter now. Corms would rot in the wet. Links for bulb suppliers are at the end of this piece.
And finally, my sixth photo is geraniums, meadow cranesbill or Geranium pratense. Again, you can see the violet and silver ‘bee guides.’ So delicate, it reminds me of a butterfly wing.
I wrote about my wild geraniums here. https://bramblegarden.com/2017/06/28/wordlesswednesday-wild-geraniums-on-the-march/
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s floral voyage around my garden. My plot has kept me up-beat during the covid pandemic, giving me something cheerful to focus on. Thank you for all your kind messages. It’s lovely to hear so many of you have found, just for a few minutes, reading my blog and virtually walking around my plot with me, you’ve had a brief respite from worry. Keep in touch, and let me know what has helped you through this difficult time. Have you grown anything new, or found comfort in familiar things. Thanks, as ever, for reading. It’s much appreciated.
Dahlia David Howard. https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/dahlias
Rose Phyllis Bide: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/products/phyllis-bide
Peaches, apricots and nectarines: https://www.chrisbowers.co.uk/dwarf.php
Geranium pratense: https://www.naturescape.co.uk/product/meadow-cranesbill-plugs/
I am @kgimson on Twitter, karengimson1 on instagram and on BBC radio Leicester on Wednesdays, alternating with former Brooksby teacher Josie Hutchins, from 1pm. I also love writing for Garden News magazine.