Summer gardening’s most pleasing moments
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Summer gardening’s most pleasing moments

ADVICE on gardening should be like a gentle fall of snow, and not like a driving storm of hail.

It should descend softly and not be uttered hastily.

It should inform without over-stating and be of interest to the newcomer and horny-handed alike.

If it comes as a hands-on experience from man or woman who gained their knowledge from working with plants rather than from books, then all the better.

Just now, the pleasing moments at Villa Marie continue with the arrival of June, and flowers now start to come and go in great succession.

I never mind this constant change; the 'here this week, gone the next' for it marks the time and the seasons better than any calendar or man-made timepiece.

It's not all change of course.

I still have permanent shapes and what I like to call 'imposing structure' so the garden also contains a varied cast of reliable shrubs and sword-shaped ornamentals which help maintain an air of permanence and solidity to the collective scene.

Believe it or not, the real pleasure in summer gardening comes from stolen moments in the very early morning long before the rest of the family even consider rising, for then, plants which have worked up your anticipation over a number of weeks are liable to suddenly ambush you with their youthful look, all fresh-leaved and innocent.

Last week this happened with some English irises (they are not in the least English however), showy bulbous plants with lavender blooms spotted yellow atop blue-green foliage of a modest nature.

These come and go in under three weeks, but their fleeting beauty only makes my desire to see them again more intense.

Walking about in the early morning light brought to my mind a forgotten spreading wonder we all seem to have totally ignored in recent decades.

Whatever happened to aubrieta?

It enjoyed a fifty-year reign from pre-war days until the late 1980’s then suddenly it vanished (almost) swamped by a tide of petunias, nemesias, busy lizzies, diascia and lobelia.

How fickle our loyalty in letting such an imposing, reliable, and totally hardy plant slip almost into oblivion.

Aubrieta was named after a French artist, Claude Aubriet, who died in 1743, so it has survived various swings in fashion down the years.

The garden forms are hybrids of one species, Aubrieta deltoides, but today there are many new named varieties which range in colour from pale lilac to wine red.

Cobalt Violet is a rich purple, and Carnival a strong pink, to mention two worth sourcing.

Try a packet of seed this month and delight in the return.

Growers can expect excellent forms in a matter of weeks for they are cheap to source, germinate readily, and make fine plants in a fairly short period.

All varieties like full sun so choose open positions which are warm, well-drained, and spacious, for the plants will spread rapidly and cover anything from a square yard upwards.

When restrictions on spread become obvious, cut back hard with shears or secateurs.

The plants will delight in such treatment and go on to produce new, fresh growth, full of flowering potential.