Looking back to May last year was the first sign of the summer to follow. Most of the month was dry and warm for the time of year. Plants were forward in their growth, pears, plum and damson blossom well out in the first week of the month so we were keeping our fingers crossed that there wouldn’t be a late sharp frost. However, May progressed with no sign of frost, foliage romped into growth, hanging baskets went out early and we had to start watering the potted plants every evening. The daff tops were all cut off by the end of the month, and all the beds had been weeded and forked over at least once.
June was mainly wet windy and cool, holding back some of the plants – notably our Alliums – but others, including the roses that ramble up the oak tree, were flowering well. Everything seemed to have benefitted from the early warmth in May, followed by the rainfall in June, and the amount of foliage growth was amazing……inevitably to be followed in the autumn by more pruning back than usual!
At the end of the month the garden was shortlisted as a finalist and then judged for the Kent Life Magazine Amateur garden of the Year Competition which we had been persuaded to enter, the judges were Roger Platt (garden designer and Chelsea Gold Medallist), Sarah Sturt (Editor, Kent Life Magazine), Andy Garland (Radio Kent) and Leigh Clapp (Photographer)
Our 2 Open Garden days were at the end of June and beginning of July. Both days were fine and warm which encouraged a good number of visitors to come and see our garden and the other gardens that opened with us. Over £900 was raised for charity on each day, and much cake was baked and enjoyed.
Throughout July and August the garden flourished and flowered, produced a good crop of plums and damsons and we have been kept busy weeding, mowing, deadheading etc. It was enjoyed by visiting private groups as well as ourselves. Weather-wise it was mainly dry, a few showery days and generally warm, a few brief hot spells but no long heatwave.
The Award ceremony for the previously mentioned competition was in September, and held at Broadview gardens, Hadlow College. We were delighted when it was announced that we were runners up to a very worthy winner – ‘Thatched Cottage’ at Hever. The prize was a Coolings garden Centre token and a framed and signed personalised certificate, and we all went home with a ‘goodie bag’! It was an enjoyable afternoon which included a delicious afternoon tea.
September continued dry sunny and warm, meaning we had a lot of watering to do as all the pots, baskets and troughs by then had heavy foliage and flowers to support. Our small potted fig tree gave us a good crop this year.
Come October, while we still having warm days, the nights began to cool. Whilst there was still plenty of colour in the garden, much of the foliage was getting untidy and needed cutting back – the autumn tidy up had begun! We picked a very good crop of apples and pears - the apples, both cooking and eating, were particularly large this year – and delicious! We realised towards the end of the month that our big pink flowered Camellia in the lower garden had decided to come to the end of its life – we think it was suffering from a lack of water due to the dry summer. It was a bit sad as it had come from our previous garden 15 years ago. Never mind, one plant loss is another planting opportunity. Actually, it gave us the chance to thoroughly dig over, clear out, and improve the soil in the part of the bed where it had been growing. We have now planted another camellia to take its place.
November also continued to be fairly dry for the time of year, enabling us to get on with putting the garden to bed for the winter, which was largely then finished by the end of the month. The tree ferns were wrapped up a bit early as frosty nights were forecast end Nov/beginning Dec.
At the beginning of December, the lawn had its last mow of the year but we continued to rake up leaves – needless to say after all the early foliage growth we now have a full leaf mould bin. There were so many leaves that we ended up having to fill our council brown bins as well! We had a very good clearing session in the front garden, giving the Rhododendrons a good pruning (there won’t be many flowers on them in 2017) removed the old Euphorbia’s and tidied up the ground cover on one side. On the other side, the maple and other shrubs were pruned and again the ground cover tidied up.
And so, here we are, in January 2017. We have just cleared part of the pebbled bed below the terrace as work will begin at the beginning of February on building a new boundary – a low wall with brick piers between which there will be ‘hit and miss’ fencing. The existing fence was damaged in high winds in the autumn and needed replacing, so we are taking the opportunity to do a bit of re- designing. The terrace will be extended to the boundary, the slope down to the lawn replaced with steps and a new small sitting area created on the cleared part of the pebbled bed. The old sleeper edging of the pebbled bed will be replaced by bricks.