Friday, 19 July 2013

Summer fruits and flowers ...

Mid-July in Gibside's gardens and there's the sense that the growing season is reaching its peak. There are so many colours and scents, so many different moods and moments, so many fruits and flowers, that it's difficult to choose what's finest in all this grandeur. Here's just a taster of what's "hot" in our pleasure grounds this week.

The turf that was laid a few short weeks ago has had its first cut and it's difficult to believe this area was a muddy car park at the end of March. The weather is making things tricky though; scorching is affecting some areas and watering is still required to help combat this long dry spell. Nevertheless, we hope you agree, it's a huge improvement.
Elsewhere the vegetable plots in the walled garden are burgeoning with produce, some of which is already being harvested for use in our Potting Shed Cafe; rocket, mixed salad leaves, radish, and herbs are all picked on a daily basis to add that very local fresh touch to your lunch at Gibside.
The heat is quickly ripening soft fruits too: black and red currant, strawberry and raspberry plants are all full of fruit that is ready to be eaten. There are plenty of uses for all this bounty if you can resist eating it on the spot; from jams and jellies to pies, sauces and liqueurs. Why not come down and chat with our growers about what they're doing with theirs this year?

In our herbaceous border you'll find globe thistles just about to flower, their distinctive spherical heads are a mass of tiny blue stars that seem to fizz into life.
Many visistors are commenting on the bold red blooms of Lychnis chalcedonica too.
And a favourite that has been the source of many a conversation over the last few weeks has been the sweet william. Its sweet-shop scent takes me right back to my childhood, and it seems many visitors have been similarly transported. This allotment staple is a real old fashioned darling, the essence of nostalgia and due for a bit of a revival I hope.
Beyond the walled garden and roses are at last filling the shrubbery walk with their flowers and fragrance. Look out for the eternally popular Rosa mundi (aka Rosa gallica 'Versicolor') which appeared as a sport back around 1500 and has been beloved by gardeners ever since for its paint-splashed colouring and delicious perfume.
Further along, and much of the orangery planting is basking in this very un-British heat: diascias, mesembryanthemums, and osteospermums - all native to southern Africa - are showing off their vivid oranges and pinks. Adding to the display are the cooler, daintier blue-skied felicias, and the sun-yellow sharp-petalled gazanias.
Bees and butterflies are also loving the sunshine (see the small heath butterfly caught below enjoying the oregano), and who can blame them? There can be few better places to be on a summer's day than here in Gibside's gardens.

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