I don’t ask a lot from my garden, just an exquisite burst of radiance at the height of the summer, together with something of interest at all times of the year. The seasonal bed is a case in point; it has to start with annual Atriplex hortensis (red orach), which forms a velvety purple coverlet from self sown seed. This is subsequently studded with Papaver somniferum (opium poppy), whose seeds have over wintered and seedlings spread, ready to explode into exuberant growth. As the pods full of next year’s bounty start to swell on the stems, the lily buds rise in a stately manner to bulge like beer bellies, then burst into blousy bloom.
The final act is the Dahlias. I retrieve the tubers from the garage in spring and settle them with homemade compost and fish, blood and bone meal fertiliser in their dedicated patch. This enables me to put them in, dig them up and generally furtle about, without disturbing the roots of more permanent plantings. The lilies don’t seem to sulk, being fairly patient with my fumbling and the annuals are plentiful enough to spare a few casualties. This week, I gave haircuts to the other residents, who have given their all. I removed the seed heads from the Lilium, to reserve their energy for bulking up their bulbs for next year’s show. The orach had grown taller than me on the rich mix of soil. Since they were hogging the light or flopping over other inhabitants, I cut them down to the ground without mercy. In doing so, I stirred up the plentiful seed, which fluttered about my ears in a dusty brown gale. There will be pink seedlings to come, sprouting from one end of the garden to the other.
Dahlia “Kelvin Floodlight” & Atriplex hortensis (red orach)
The Dahlias have now been given some room to do their thing, unimpeded by the ambitions of others. Old favourites are already looming large, having made sturdy clumps of leaves with intense balls of petals glowing brightly. I’ve tried to curtail the colour palette, towards the plum, pink and white side of the spectrum but I am unable to resist some of the oranges, yellows and scarlets. Every spring I swear that I need no more, then I find myself in some purveyor of planty delights, by accident. I always end up with a selection of packets of grubby roots clutched to my chest. The vivid photographs catch my eye and my imagination until I am as dazzled as any magpie.
Across the Dahlia bed
The sunshine and rain have been good for the crop. “Babette” is a wonderful magenta shade with a long flowering period. Plentiful, sculpted ball blossoms gleam out and makes a loud statement. “Nuit d’Ete” (syn. “Summer Night”) is a medium cactus type, so dark as to disappear from a distance but in close proximity, is incomparable. “Tsuki yori no shisha” is a white, semi cactus dinner plate specimen which despite its tarty tendencies, remains one of my favourites for texture. Despite the hardships of lugging compost and boxes, through which I put my spouse, this is the moment when all of his hard work comes to fruition, in a crescendo of colour. How can I resist? How can you?