A June bouquet for July
Looking back over photos from the past month I realise that, despite our poor weather, June blossomed as it always does. This is the month when the irises flower, the long borders in the walled garden start to thicken out and the old roses have their brief moment of heady splendour. Here, for your pleasure I hope, is a mixed bouquet of some of the garden flowers that gave me pleasure in June.
Early June: in the walled garden there were wonderful drifts of irises in flower. My favourites were these cerulean blue ones.
I love them despite the fact that they inevitably remind me of Van Gogh’s blue irises, which have never much inspired me.
Similarly, I can’t help thinking of Georgia O’Keefe’s iris paintings (which I don’t like) when I look at this one in the garden; yet the flower itself is very striking. Not beautiful, exactly, to my mind, but fascinating in its detail and sumptuous colours.
In the kitchen garden, the humble chives were in bloom, to the delight of the bees. The raspberry canes were coming along well too in the background.
On a bank in the garden, in the first week of June, there were drifts of sunny golden wildflowers – not dandelions, but I don’t know what they are – lighting up the grass under some ancient yew trees.
There is one plant in the garden that I am really excited about. We have never had one before, and I have spent several years trying to persuade our hard-working gardener to try growing it. This year, she has. It is a Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis), and it is absolutely flourishing in a shady, south-facing bed. Behold!
These ghostly blue poppies, natives of Tibet, have always seemed almost mythical to me. I am thrilled that they are here, and that they seem to like our garden. I hope they’ll stay.
All through the month, there were roses in bloom in one place or another. Relegated to the outside of the garden, a wild or dog rose has been flowering against the walls, its simple flowers and heart-shaped petals making this hedgerow plant surely amongst the prettiest of roses.
In the family graveyard, an old-fashioned ‘cabbage rose’ bloomed in the middle of the month. Where the appeal of the wild rose lies in its simplicity, the attraction of this one is in its sublime scent and its circle of tightly furled petals.
In the walled garden, meanwhile, the roses planted here a generation ago have been at their fleeting and fragrant best.
This white one is a favourite of mine. It grows in a great unruly, prickly mass and turns to soggy brown mush at the first hint of rain. But it has deep pink buds, pure white blooms and a sweet scent.
Then there’s a little dark crimson rose with petals like velvet,
and some almost-purple ones that I always think would have had the Elizabethans – or perhaps I should say Mary Queen of Scots – in raptures. (Regular readers will know that there’s no point asking me the names of any of them, I’m afraid.)
Last year, we had the local blacksmith make a sort of simple trellis along the back of a flower bed. Eventually we hope to have wisteria establish itself on it but, for the moment, the old apricot rambling rose is enjoying the novelty of some support. (If you look closely, you’ll see a little ‘green man’ smiling at you from this photo: my small son with his orange football, hiding behind the roses.)
More recent additions to the garden – compared to the roses, I mean – include some blowsy peonies. Being a romantic, I prefer the paler pink ones with petals like crumpled tissue paper, but these ones certainly add panache to the borders.
And at the end of the month, I found myself where I started: with irises. The blue ones were long gone, but there were some ethereal white ones taking their turn on the stage.
As we head into July, the beautiful flowers of early summer give way to the fruit season. Our strawberries and blackcurrants are ripe; the redcurrants will be next;
and the raspberries won’t be far behind. No more time to drift about the garden smelling roses: from now on, every spare moment must be spent in the kitchen stripping currants and making purees, puddings and jams. Every month brings its own blessings.