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My Garden Journal 2018 – July

Here is my garden journal entries for the month of July, a month when the garden continued to suffer the effects of the drought.

My opening words were, “July begins as June ended, in a heatwave with temperatures in the upper twenties. And sadly for the garden, still no rain. Rainless time has now lasted for a month and very little for the previous month.”

I featured a set of photos of our Passion flower which grows in our greenhouse.

“We grow our passion-flowers in the greenhouse as we are too cold here for them to survive outside. We train them along the side of the greenhouse  where they can shade our tomato plants. Natural shading!”

On the opposite page I moved on to look at the digitalis we grow here in our Avocet garden.

“We grow so many different foxgloves in our patch, with several grown from seed by Jude. Our native Digitalis purpurea in both its forms of purple and white, enjoying spreading themselves around our borders, deciding for themselves where to settle down. Dan Pearson writes of Digitalis in “National Selection”,

“I like the way vertical lines of foxgloves draw the eye like an exclamation mark. They are delicate, using only as much ground as they need, but providing plenty of bang for your buck with the upward motion.”

Turning over to the next double page spread, I featured photos of a selection of the moths we trapped in our live trap.

“Butterflies and moths have been in short supply so far this year, but both appeared as July arrived. Our first session of live-trapping moths showed how many we had in our garden and how varied they are. We always delight at getting close up to the surreal Elephant Hawk Moths.”

Elephant Hawk Moths


Master of Disguise

These tiny moths are equally fascinating.


A myriad of moths.


The next double page spread features Tulbaghias, Leucanthemum, Helenium and several different Hemerocallis.

“Tulbaghias seem to enjoy the weather, whatever it does. These look great in dappled shade beneath the outer limbs of a Quince tree.”

“Leucanthemum and Helenium catch the light so well. Their shaded petals add extra depth.”


I next featured a whole page of photos of Day Lilies, Hemerocallis.

“In the middle of the month we visited our friend Mark (Zennick) with his wonderfully colourful collection of Hemerocallis. As always we came away with a good selection from his nursery.”

Next we take a look at how the garden is being adversely effected by the dry hot weather, and then I share my paintings of Camassia seed heads.

I wrote, “Another quote from Dan Pearson, upon his return from a trip to the Hawaiian Islands ………”I returned to a wet English summer, where the smells were crisp and clean.” Anyone returning to England this July would be met by golden dried-up lawns, trees with wilting leaves and dead leaves on herbaceous perennials.”

Opposite I used water-based pencil crayons to record the different stages as the flowering stems of Camassias were drying out.

“As well as their beautiful spires of blue, cream or white  flowers, Camassias have lovely green pods which dry slowly to digestive biscuit colours.”

My final page for July in my Garden Journal 2018 show a few plants that seem to thrive in the dry conditions.

“July moved on still without rain and the garden continued to suffer. Flowers bloomed but lasted a very short time. The lawn simply remained brown and stopped growing. A few plants though performed really well.”


Agastache                              Scrophularia


Erigeron and Hebe                                    Clouds of Achilleas

Two deep purple Clematis

As I finished my journal entries for July there was still no sign of any appreciable rainfall, just occasional short-lived showers which hit the ground and evaporated immediately. August will hopefully be kinder to our Avocet garden and its resident plants.

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Are You Sitting Comfortably? Part 2 – the second in a very occasional series.

This is the second and “very long time coming” post in my series about garden seating in all its guises. Please just enjoy the photos and let your imagination get to work wondering what it would be like sitting on each and every seat. At the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show we found a good assortment.

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A chair can be somewhere to watch the rain watering the grass or somewhere to seek outat the end of a mosaic pathway.

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Jude the Undergardener prefers them to relax on and if possible have a cup of tea and a good chat with friends.

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Some seats simply look too elegant to be sat upon and prefer to be admired.

2014 07 20_1597 2014 07 20_1736 Others invite us to recline like this one hidden away in meadow planting. 2014 07 27_1941-1

Many garden seats are under arches or inside domes of trees. This one is on our allotments in our new “Garden of Contemplation” and the arch over it is created from old iron hurdles.

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Gardeners like to train trees over seats sometimes to give natural shade to the resting



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Wood is probably the commonest material we build our garden seating out of, sometimes these are good to look at but less comfortable to sit upon, others look good and are comfortable too.

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This carved stone seat is definitely better to look at than to sit on.

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Many gardens are keen recyclers too so their seats tend to blend happily into their natural surroundings.

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For the final garden seat in this second selection we shall stay with the theme of recycling. How about a sunken garden where you can sit down and feel the coolness of the earth. You can see how much the creator enjoyed making this unusual piece of garden furniture.

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So there we have it, my second set of photos of garden seats, some cheap some expensive, some expensive and some home made and recycled. I shall be off now to find more seats to sit on in the gardens we visit, in readiness for the next garden seats post.You can never tell with this series you may have to wait months again or it may just be next week – who can tell?

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Our Wise Watering Campaign

On our allotment site this year the management committee are running a Wise Watering Campaign, with the aim of reducing the amount of water used by plot holders. We were ashamed to hear that our site uses more water than any other in Shrewsbury. When we looked into the situation we were amazed that only 18 of the 68 plots had guttering and water butts attached to their sheds to catch rainwater run-off. Many plot holders turned to their hose pipes too readily to water their crops. Something had to be done.

We had already fixed guttering, downpipes and butts to our communal buildings and we use this captured rain to water our communal gardens, so we began our campaign by encouraging members to follow that example. Jude, Mrs Greenbench aka the Undergardener, in her role as secretary to the committee has been trying to source grant money to help purchase more water butts. Amazingly our local water board did not even bother replying, but there are still a few irons in the fire.

I was asked to write an article for our newsletter, “Dig It!”, giving advice on how to water efficiently and a summary was sent to all plot holders. I wrote a much extended more detailed article which I posted on the allotments’ website. (see and click on “Wise Watering”)

Our initial emphasis has been on using watering cans instead of hoses and encouraging members to add guttering and water butts to their sheds.

I thought I would give a few ideas here too, for your interest and wondered if anyone had any further ideas that we could use.

I emphasised the importance of improving soil quality and adding humus and fibrous material, which would help moisture retention after rain or watering, and allow the plants to take up moisture efficiently. We sell municipal compost and farmyard manure on site.

The best time to add manure is in late autumn or early winter and for compost early spring. I suggested also that compost should be used as a mulch after periods of rain to hold this natural moisture in.

Mulching under fruit bushes is always useful as a lot of moisture is needed in the production of fruit. Old straw, hay or farmyard manure when added as a mulch will also slowly break down and feed the plants as well as improve soil texture.

Another important way of managing the watering of your plot is to ensure it is always free of weed material. Weeds will use up moisture that would otherwise be available to crops. Using a hoe regularly is the best method to employ as keeping the surface loose helps rainwater get below the surface.

Growing your fruit trees as cordons on the windward side of your plot cuts down on evaporation. Alternatives are flower borders or a row of root artichokes.

Strong, healthy plants will survive dry periods better and newly planted quality plants will establish without regular bouts of watering. To ensure plants are as healthy as possible feed them with natural, organic feeds rather than chemical based fertilisers. Growing your own fertilisers is even possible. Comfrey can be grown and regularly cut, soaking the leaves and stems in water for a few weeks produces a free and effective feed when watered down to the colour of weak tea. The leaves can also be utilised as a mulch placed directly below fruit trees and bushes.

The way the plants are watered is also an important factor in determining how much water is used. Watering with a hose all around rows of plants is wasteful as most of the water lands on the bare soil and not where plants can use it. To ensure that plants can take up and use as much water as possible, it is best to water from a can without a rose and direct the flow of water towards the base of the plants.

When your potatoes need earthing up, add a layer of fresh grass cuttings before the soil as this will help retain moisture as the potatoes are forming.

I tried to work out the most water-efficient way of planting out our vegetable plants and used runner beans as an example. The first point is to ensure your plants are strong and healthy.

Take out your planting hole and fill with water from a watering can – I also add some comfrey feed to this. Let the water drain away and repeat the process.

Place the plant in the hole and water yet again after firming soil back in around it.

Add a good layer (at least 2 inches deep) of compost to keep the moisture in as the plant establishes. This helps the plants settle in as it is getting its roots down.

Form a trench alongside the row of plants to collect any rainfall and direct it towards the plants.

Before you decide to water your plants take out a trowel depth of soil close to your plants and see if it is moist below the surface. If it is then do not water. This water in the soil down to about 6 inches is the moisture that plants will be using. Conversely if you water the surface it will just attract roots upwards to search for it. Remember then that watering over the soil surface with a hose will make plants shallow rooting.

There are lots more ideas on the website. In this year of drought following last year’s almost desert levels of rain, our water table in this part of Shropshire around the allotments is about 2 feet lower than it should be so however much rain there appears to be falling we need lots more.

I would love to hear of more ideas that I can share with our allotmenteers!