Common Ground – August 2022

“I am His Highness’ dog at Kew;

Pray tell me sir, whose dog are you?”

(Engraved on the Collar of a dog which

I gave to His Royal Highness)

Alexander Pope

Victoria Amazonica Water Lily – courtesy of Wikipedia

I was thinking about Kew recently when I read that those amazing wonders of nature, Amazonian water lilies, have been reclassified. I will not go into the taxonomy of water lilies here. To me it doesn’t really matter what they‘re called. (And that is heresy when you come from a family of botanists.) These are the ultimate go big or go home plants. The ones I saw at Kew many years ago were eight or ten feet across and perfectly round. The Victorians loved them and I have seen pictures of Victorian ladies reclining comfortably on one of them with space to spare. There are air chambers on the underside of the leaves and they easily support the weight of anyone wanting to pose on one.

Closer to home, the late summer garden is at its peak. All the hard work has been done and there is little to do but water and enjoy the vegetables which are finally producing. Garlic has been harvested and is curing in the woodshed.

Looking at my garden journal, I was reminded that last year we had a frost at the end of May. Tomatoes and peppers had to be replanted. No such drama this year fortunately.

I had no problem cutting off the snow pea vines in early July (cutting and not pulling since the roots are nitrogen fixers). This spring produced the biggest snow pea vines I have ever seen and I couldn’t really face another snow pea by the time they stopped producing.

There’s still a few Shirley poppies blooming in the vegetable garden. Most of these go to seed and turn brown by the end of July and I pull out the whole plant. But a few seem to stay green and want to keep going all summer. I cut these ones back and enjoy their bright red flowers until frost.

One corner of the vegetable garden is reserved for morning glories on a trio of cedar poles. Some of the morning glories self seed and some are planted. The self seeders are an early variety which has both pink and dark blue flowers. When I remember to order the seeds, I add Split Second Double, a wonderful over the top double pink variety. This is one of my favourite cottage garden flowers.

When it’s really hot as it has been lately, it’s a real treat to see the morning glories in the early morning while I’m watering.

I’m relieved that there hasn’t been a single gypsy moth caterpillar sighted here this year. I’m glad the experts were wrong when they said we would get a second infestation that was smaller than the first one. I lost two apple trees as a result so one infestation was quite enough thank you very much.

In the Cavan Monaghan version of Hinterland Who’s Who, a Great Spotted Plant Stealer was seen on County Rd 10 south of Millbrook. Sometimes I really don’t like my fellow man very much. There is a beautiful stretch of single hollyhocks along a fence line and now a sign exhorting people not to cut them and to take pictures only. Who needs to be told not to steal someone else’s flowers I ask you? I thought we were better than that but obviously not.

And finally to end on a positive note, I’m enjoying the fragrance of my disappearing lilies. It’s strong but not overpowering. I planted these last spring and they disappeared after the frost in May. Then they reappeared this spring after taking a year’s rest. They look nothing like the picture in the catalogue of course. They’re not the size of a small child as promised. But I’m not disappointed just happy that they chose to reappear.

By Jill Williams

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