‘Those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer’ Really? Nat King Cole clearly hadn’t experienced a Scottish July. Depressing, particularly for anyone depending on good weather for a special event. Earlier this month gardeners in nearby Gifford unwittingly scheduled their Scotland’s Gardens open day for an afternoon of hopelessly wintery squalls AND Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph. A forehand volley of bad luck.
My own modest ambitions to have our garden looking half decent for our wedding at the end of August, are going the same way as some of my star plants – horizontal.
I had imagined the lawn might host the odd strolling peacock and walls groan with scented floribunda roses. But it’s only the hoary campaigners such as Rosa rugosa, the hebes, eleagnus and the Salix lanata – woolly willow – that have enjoyed July so far. The latter being indigenous to the Faroes and Siberia is frankly helpful. (It maintains its shape despite dreadfully persistent onslaughts, does interesting things winter and summer and, kept clipped, can be positively sculptural – recommended).
I remain, however, optimistic for August. In one of those moments when colleagues assume I’m completing the risk register or performance scorecard whereas I’m actually looking up Easyjet flights, I did have a look at the RHS suggestions for wedding plants. One of their four recommendations was Rosa ‘Wedding Day’ but, described as ‘turning white with age’ and a ‘vigorous rambler’, I felt there could be something which augured more positively for my blissful union.
A dilemma partly solved by the arrival of Growbag #2, Laura on Friday and a humanitarian dash to Binny Plants in West Lothian. Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Pink Elephant’ (perfect among the grasses); Achillea ‘Walther Funke’ (very sexy reddy/orange); Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’ (great blue – cut back to flower again in August), were secured and rather a lot besides but it still didn’t make too big a hole in the wedding budget.
We also squeezed in a visit to the Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party in the Royal Edinburgh Botanical Garden, and sat in on two recorded sessions of the show. You’re encouraged to jot down a question as you go in which the panel quickly review and decide on 11 they’d like to answer before they come on. Being on my home turf I took control and instructed Laura to make her question related to SCOTLAND and felt my own, concerning the effects of the North Sea, was highly relevant.
How annoying then, to discover she’d ignored my advice and asked why she can’t grow meconopsis in Sussex (when actually she can and does in any case), and even more infuriating when they shouted out her name, not mine. All of a sudden she was elevated to the front row getting Matthew Wilson’s undivided attention focused on her feeble query.
Surely it can’t have made it through the edit. We’ll find out tomorrow (July 22) when GQT airs at 3pm.
When you’re a winner, you just can’t stop winning Caroline. However, my experience of growing your own flowers for a family wedding has been a lesson in why wedding florists are worth every penny of their often exorbitant fees.
A couple of years ago Senior Growbag #Elaine announced that her daughter Camilla was getting married that summer and that ‘we’ (a term which I later found out included a fair proportion of her home town of Eastbourne) were going to supply all the flowers for the wedding. She’d been on a course, she said, and it was all quite straightforward. All we had to do provide the raw material in the form of WHITE and CREAM flowers.
I imagined great spires of white Campanula pyramidalis flanking entrances, sprays of the perennial white stock Matthiola incana wafting their delicious scent around the marquee and artfully draped garlands of the pale yellow honeysuckle Lonicera ‘Graham Thomas’ adding the final romantic embellishment.
To say that there a yawning chasm between expectation and reality would have been an understatement.
The campanulas looked promising and obligingly threw up their trademark flowering spikes in good time but when the first bud opened I knew I was in trouble. It was blue.
The stocks refused to flower altogether, I had looked after them too well and they had simply grown luscious amounts of glaucous grey foliage and sensing no imminent end to their blissful existence decided there was no need to bother with all the effort of producing flowers just yet.
Never mind, there was always the honeysuckle, which had been pumping out flowers for several weeks. True, it still had flowers but the foliage had succumbed in the warm weather and was now smothered in an unattractive coating of mildew.
I needed a miracle.
Step in ‘friend of the Growbags’ (and now author of our Simply Terrific this Month feature) Louise. A trip around her stunning garden yielded armfuls of meadow daisies Matricaria Inodora with that sharp tangy scent of late summer. Placed simply in florists buckets either side of the head of the marquee they looked perfect….
No question, Laura, it was a scary and tense business doing my daughter’s wedding flowers.
Her favorite flowers? Sweet peas – no probs. I ordered industrial amounts of seed off the internet, germinated dozens of pots of them and took them round to everyone I could think of, with a sheet of instructions and a firm warning that, on the morning before THE BIG DAY, we would be round to collect all their armfuls of fragrant white sweet peas.
Meantime, I did indeed go on a day-long How To Do Wedding Flowers course at Sarah Raven in Perch Hill – most enlightening, though there were some pitying looks at my efforts with florists wire which stuck up rather unexpectedly through the blooms. I also used someone’s brilliant tip of asking Morrisons Supermarket to supply the sheaves of white roses etc. that we would also need – they were fantastically helpful, reliable and a fraction of the price of a ‘proper’ florist.
Just as well. Sweet pea Collection Day proved eventful. There were (rare) bigger bunches, and (frequent) vanishingly small ones, and then there were the ones, handed over with a flourish by a dear friend, that were clearly the wrong colour. Skulduggery exposed by lavender sweet peas – your sins will always find you out.
Preparing your garden for opening doesn’t usually require the same level of intensity – you can hide away a tatty specimen behind something else that is looking altogether merrier or more alluring, and distract the eye from weed-pockets in one direction, by having plants that DEMAND attention in another. Or am I just fooling myself?
I was showing some French people round my Normandy garden yesterday, and they pointed at my cheerful marguerites (or whatever they’re called, these days). Sensing a rare opportunity for my appalling French to accurately describe something, I began echoing what I thought was their appreciation for my jolly daisies, just before I’d managed to translate their view of them as a menacing weed. Brexit left, and press on.