Taking a week’s holiday at the end of April really focuses the mind of a gardener.

You have to be up to speed before you go, leave the garden in a state that requires minimum attention whilst you’re away, and pray for rain so that all the plants you have sitting in pots awaiting your return to be planted out don’t need watering twice daily. No hosepipes or sprinklers here – extensive rainwater harvesting systems, dipping tanks and galvanised watering cans are the preferred method for keeping plants alive in prolonged dry spells.

I pretty much got away with it but haven’t stopped for breath since I got back! Much-needed rain today means being driven indoors and an opportunity to share some photos of the garden over the last month.

My highly dynamic but also high maintenance approach to allowing self-seeding throughout the garden has produced a lovely show this month in the Potager. Honesty and forget-me-nots, which have been left to over-winter, have been a joy.

Honesty and forget-me-nots in the Potager

And the show in the Potager continues with sweet rocket, aquilegias and alliums taking over.

Alliums, Sweet Rocket and Aquilegia

Sweet peas were successfully Autumn-sown, over-wintered in cold frames and planted out and are showing the first flowers. We make new hazel domes for them every year from our own coppiced hazel rods.

The over-wintered field beans have produced masses of flowers, Heritage variety Crimson flowered broad beans and Aquadulce Claudia have been planted out from an indoor Spring sowing and are also flowering well.

Field Beans

Peas (Early Onward, heritage variety Robinson, Ezethas Krombek Blau (a purple flowered, purple podded variety) and Greenshaft and Sugar Ann sugar snap were all started in guttering and then planted out. All are looking great. I’m particularly pleased with the combination of the flowering peas and over-wintered Phacelia – a brilliant bee plant which I planted as winter ground cover and then moved plants around in the bed to allow for the rows of peas to be slipped in from the guttering. Hoping for a good crop of peas.

Phacelia and heritage Pea Robinson flowers

The runner bean tunnel made from hazel last year has been repaired and beans planted out at the end of May. We had an excellent crop last year and saved our own seed – Scarlet Emperor, Czar (a climbing selling bean) and heritage variety Black Pod.

We have just eaten the last of the over-wintered, and aptly named, Maystar cauliflowers!

Cauliflower Maystar

Onions have been planted. I’ve made the first batch of liquid comfrey manure this year. Compost heaps have been turned. Squashes, pumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers have been sown in the propagator.

Onion beds

The tulips in pots have finished flowering now and have been replaced with (grown from mostly saved seed) Hare’s tails and Giant Quaking grasses, Californian poppies, cosmos, dianthus, tobacco plants, etc. Some pots had bugle and Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing planted amongst the tulips and those have stayed with the new summer plantings.

Glorious Welsh poppies continue to pop up all over the place and look so cheerful adding a splash of orange or yellow where often you wouldn’t have thought to put it. And somehow it never looks wrong – to my eye anyway.

Welsh poppies

The cotton grass planted in the regeneration zone of the swimming pond last year has flowered for the first time and we have enjoyed our first swim of the year (well Ian has).

Sailing with cotton grass

Salvias, agapanthus, lavenders and dahlias have all been moved out of the greenhouses for the summer. The dahlias which were left in the ground to over-winter have been rescued from under their bracken mulch. Each year most survive but they are always slower to get away that the new ones which have been in pots in the greenhouse. I pretend that it’s a deliberate successional planting…

Whilst we await for all these to flower, we are enjoying these irises and the oriental poppies which are just coming into flower – along with the ground elder!.

Irises

Poppy (with ground elder)

This time of the gardening year can sometimes feel overwhelming. Relaxing for a while and watching the busy bees at work is useful therapy and reminds me who is actually in charge in this garden…

Bee on chive flowers

Bee on Allium