Who said that one swallow doesn’t make a summer? Clearly they didn’t live in Britain. When they were here on their holidays, the Romans called this the land of permanent mist. They were obviously used to a more gentle climate at home; witness their wardrobe, being wearers of togas, short tunics and hob-nailed sandals. After a few months on the Scottish border building Hadrian’s Wall, I imagine that they accessorised with some sturdy underwear. Probably the most cruel and psychotic of all of their emperors was Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. His nickname, Caligula, translates as Bootykins after the tiny shoes (caligae) he wore as a kid. This made me smirk. You need a sense of humour when living under endlessly gloomy skies. Englishmen invented galoshes and Wellington boots, from sheer necessity, no doubt. Everyone else sniggers at us, for our obsession with umbrellas and robust waterproof coats.
Rosa “Sally Holmes”
This week we have been told to expect the best Perseid meteor shower of the decade, owing to clumps of celestial scrot being thrown off comet Tempel-Tuttle. Due to heavy banks of cloud, I’ve not seen a single sparkle. Most of the planets are currently strung across the night sky like a rope of beads. The dense overcast refuses to part for this stargazer. That lying bunch of beasts who call themselves meteorologists have been promising us a Spanish plume of Mediterranean heat for months. It’s always going to arrive next week, so clearly they are proponents of “jam tomorrow”. I have been dodging the drizzle, showers and torrential rain to stake plants suffering from the wind. Bamboo sticks can be dangerous, so I protect eyeballs in the vicinity with terracotta spheres glued on top of the canes. Unfortunately these can deliver a considerable rap to the skull of an incautious weeder. This leads to occasional apologies called out to my neighbours who may be sprawled on loungers, soaking up any brief moment of sunshine along with my dirty language.
Passiflora “White Lightning” in the conservatory
I use myself as a mobile string dispenser by stuffing the cob of twine down my t-shirt and doling out through the neck. Note that this is not around the throat, or progress may be halted with a noise like a throttling goat and in extreme cases, may end in a blow to the epiglottis from the emerging tightly wound, solidly packed cord. Beware of trailing string or loose clothing which may catch in fence posts, gate latches or carelessly discarded gardening tools. I’ve tried all of them and wouldn’t care to choose my favourite. I have been deadheading like a demon. Everything benefits from the removal of spent blooms, unless you are shooting for fruit, seeds or decorative seedheads. Dahlias and roses profit from being cut back to a junction, which will encourage more flowers.
Dahlia “Tsuki Yori No Shisha”
If you have the time, wander around the garden most days, snipping tired blossom and weather damaged stems. Truss up anything that will suffer in the next gale or downpour. Pay close attention and see what really needs a little care. After your inspection and hopefully injury free intervention put the scissors away, shut the shed door and walk around again. It looks beautiful, well done.