Wells Voice Article July 2023

Photo: Fennel 'Cedric Morris '  with  Rosa wintoniensis  

High summer is upon us and a memorable one too. Gardens are displaying an abundance of exuberant forms, textures and colours. And a bit of wear and tear as well. Any small, or even large failures have been offset by successes. Those of us who let our hair down and allowed the grass to grow are scratching our heads as to what to do next. A chap with a scythe perhaps?

Or leave it for the moment, all looking a bit wild but that was one of the objects.

The delight of the early summer stands of fescues, bents and crowfoot etc. compensate for the haymaking ahead.

The long grass remains long grass and I love it, despite the fact that this year there were fewer butterflies, fewer tits, fewer finches. But here in this garden we did give a helping hand to a resident blackbird who, along with many others around us seems to have regained those traditionally, loud mellifluous tones. The terrific performance started as dawn broke and continued to dusk from the top of a neighbouring tree and at last, after much practice, counteracted the noise of the traffic along Bath Road. He became part of the family together with the fledglings and his mate in the shrubbery. It's a curious thing that we take possession of the wild creatures which surround us and are conditioned by us to be continually fed and sustained. They are not quite domesticated like the packs of canines that have appeared on our pavements since lockdown. Wild creatures stay, basically, wild, like Delius' canary, Napoleon's parrot and Mozart's starling. Mozart, being Mozart, taught his starling to perform the opening bars of his Piano Concerto No.17 in G. He succeeded up to a point. The bird sang in G sharp instead of G. So, you can't have everything, and I suspect the starling did it deliberately; a blow in favour of wilding and remaining wild in a cage.

Flowers and vegetables follow the rules and stay put. Good gardeners know the rules and apply them. I tend to stick a plant in and expect it to deliver ignoring the advice about humus rich soil, sunny positions and winter care. A few years ago when Fergus Garret of Great Dixter came to talk to Henton Gardening Club I bought an appealing fennel viz. Ferula tingitana 'Cedric Morris '. Jenny, our treasurer, also bought one and stayed in touch with Fergus for a season or two. We planted our purchases and nothing happened. No spiking umbellifers five foot high. The wisdom received from Gt. Dixter was 'Don't cosset '. No rich soil, no feeding. Now this is the sort of advice I like. Poor dry soil it has, and the reward is just what it should be. And a handsome addition to a border which was looking decidedly wild. So… let's give a cheer for the virtues of fennels and other plants which thrive on neglect.

The club's season of talks ended on a high note with an excellent presentation by Dr Francis Burroughs on his father's reminiscences of being a gardener during Edwardian times and at the opening meeting of next year's season we will be welcoming horticulturalist and writer Sally Nex talking on greener and more sustainable ways to garden. That will be on Thursday 14th September. We shall be also visiting Houghton Lodge Gardens near Stockbridge in Hampshire on 20th July. For details Tel .672299. Pip.