I noticed something happened in July. The garden seems to have changed the continent. Not sure why I’ve never noticed it before, but it definitely moved home.
The garden was all about soft, muted British wildflowers during spring and early summer. Sweet little delicate things. Just like our softly spoken, gently tweeting birds.
But July is a completely different ball game. I am surrounded by the big and the bold, the bright and the bold, wherever I look. It’s a happy old time, but oh so different from before.
Even Paul’s vegetable garden joins in, potatoes spill over the paths, zucchini with dozens of bright yellow flower heads and beans run on every surface they can find.
We landed in America.
There is almost nothing left of the British countryside. Instead, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Monarda and Sunflowers fill the beds with their exuberant, bright colors. Everything has increased tenfold; We are now in the middle of the American prairie.
I think I’ve read a few too many Piet Oudolf books. I adore his perennial plantings and am very grateful to be able to choose from his lists of trustworthy doers to benefit from his decades of work putting hundreds of species and varieties to the test.
He tends to focus on the late summer / early fall bloom offerings and whip self-seeders like forget-me-nots that could choke a bed before the late developers wake up. And as I’ve planted more of his recommended favorites, the garden has got wider and wider roots as the year progresses.
Everything is bigger, wider, chunkier and brighter than before. Almost as if a switch had been pressed. Natives out, exotics on; everything since the beginning of the month.
Enormous fleshy buds have pushed up and open to reveal huge plump petals of red, orange, yellow, and cerise.
Despite this very happy new look, I’m very grateful that only the plants arrived, not the animals too. I’m happier with deer and rabbits than with bears and pumas. Although, my goodness, the deer have eaten a lot this year, especially all the small plants I planted last October.
I try a few distraction techniques that involve placing sticks around the most vulnerable growth, but I still can’t get too mad. We continue to love having Daryl, Darylena and the twins in our yard – they really are more of our pets than passing, annoying pests – and so magically watching Darylena reach down to kiss their new baby .
A few years later, I keep finding new species of wildlife. This week I noticed some very regularly dented wisteria leaves, followed closely by the wing flapping. In front of me was a leaf-cutting bee, nibbling perfect leaf circles before tucking them between its legs and flying them back to its nest. It was an amazing feat of equilibrium to do so while floating six feet in the air.
With every year we are here there seem to be more and more insects. And despite the very dry springtime, which controls the growth of each plant and is believed to subject it to some stress, it seems that there are fewer insect pests this year. The thimbles and roses are both aphid-free, even the Verbascum have most of the leaves intact this summer: a very definite first.
I love to imagine that it is all due to the ever-increasing biodiversity and natural balance that has evolved since we stopped using chemicals and removed the stifling nettle mono-droplet.
Towards the end of this month we had wonderfully deep rain. The pond seems to be sparkling again, the neighboring spring barley is filling up and we even had some early poison mushrooms that responded to the much-needed moisture.
The breezy English natives seem to have taken the rain as a sign that the summer vacation has begun: many are lounging horizontally over the place, half-naked in a sea of discarded, faded plums. Time to relax and recover so that others are in the spotlight first.
And while this rural location is a more obvious host to English wildflowers, I’m glad I don’t have to write the year off just yet to get more color and vibrant new growth.
2020 has been a strange year on so many fronts, but right now I’m just grateful that when I can’t explore the big wide world myself, the big wide world has come to me instead.
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