Richard's Thompson & Morgan experimental bi-colour runner beans.
GARDENING THE weird and not very wonderful summer — until this week — has proved challenging to most gardeners and nothing if not interesting to all.
Lawns grow lush and my oaks that would now have a tired look in most 'normal’ summers have been prompted into fresh leaf growth by the copious quantities of water the trees are sucking out of the ground.
Most vegetables have suffered to some degree from the lack of sun but there have been benefits too, not least in the planting out of leeks and brassica seedlings. With a dry spell in the offing, the slugs, which have been truly dreadful, might at least be deterred if the soil dries out a tad.
Gardening is as much about luck as preparation and I was blessed with a weather window of a moderately dry fortnight — by current standards, at least — in the spring and my Thompson & Morgan experimental bi-colour runner beans raced ahead and they have managed to set a few beans too. However, that has been problematic because pollinating insects have been unable to fly on many days — as any hard-pressed apiarist will tell you.
Beans planted just a fortnight later were ripped to shreds by slugs despite the usual precautions and the yield will be consequently reduced. Once they have lost their growing points, they most often become 'has beans’.
The wet weather has provided an opportunity to split some arum lilies.
At Sandlands, we have a produce 'sharing bench’ where gardeners leave their surpluses and I have benefited richly from that in the past.
One such was two large clumps of arum lilies, which can be cleaved with a spade. It is a plant which benefits greatly from splitting, and, although it is a couple of months later than recommended, the wet soil should allow them to recuperate.
Arum lilies make striking architectural plants with large, glossy foliage which, in late spring and early summer, is joined by large, white, hood-shaped flowers — popular with funereal flower arrangers.
The plants look best grown beside water, in shallow pond margins or a bog garden, where they associate well with other water plants.
They can also be grown in damp borders with other moisture lovers and at the moment they are residing in an allotment nursery area, awaiting a permanent, more suitable, patch.
They can also be grown in large pots of rich compost, where they can be kept moist with daily watering.
Some surprising results of the deluge have reached me from my regular Gurnard correspondent, Ian Campbell.
He was invited into the neighbouring garden of Ian and Rona Dow to be shown what looked suspiciously like a large spoonful of scrambled egg, which had impacted at high speed on the cane of a rose bush.
An internet search and a trawl through more conventional references failed to reveal anything close to it.
Ian asked: "Can any of the fungi fanatics among your readership identify it? Or are we really being bombarded with scrambled egg?"
He told me a day later: "The scrambled egg has now converted itself, possibly under the action of the very heavy rain, into cream cheese and is beginning to peel away from the canes, which appear to be unscathed. Very strange!
"All this wet weather is getting everybody wound up and it seems the plant world is no exception in this regard.
"The stem of my Valerian rhubarb, through its over verdant growth, has literally tied itself in knots — a round turn and two half hitches by the look of it — and the leaf of an acanthus mollis has manifested itself as a furled umbrella."
He also tells me my piece on common spotted orchids (dactylorhiza fuchsii) struck a real chord.
"Once I had one spotted orchid, which came in some potting compost, now I have hundreds.
"They have spread throughout the garden even in one self-sown clump.
"The individual one, which conveniently decided to grow in the middle of my lawn and appeared from nowhere, was almost four feet tall.
"It seems my lawn is a bit of a haven for orchids because I also have a collection of autumn lady’s tresses (spiranthes spiralis), a very diminutive orchid, growing in it.
"The house was built in 1976 and at that time most lawn turf was cut straight off the downs, and it is thought the tubers were imported then.
"But it took more than 30 years for them to manifest themselves when some 20 appeared simultaneously one August."
Lady’s tresses are one of those tiny little delights that need to be studied, chin in hands, at macro range to appreciate their full delight.