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The longest day approaches

The 21 of this month marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and a day celebrated around Stonehenge in England with music and dancing.

The 21 of this month marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and a day celebrated around Stonehenge in England with music and dancing. I could never understand their joy at the longest day of the year, mostly because (to me) it marks the beginning of shorter days and longer nights, and the first thing you know it’s winter again!.

Meanwhile the days are getting so long, I find it is still light when I’m getting ready for bed. And it is suddenly hot.

Gardeners are now worrying about keeping plants watered. Gardening can be a concern, but oh so gratifying. I used to drive my darling Himself nearly mad when I’d start to fuss about “the garden needing water” when we had been away from home for a mere two days. Things do dry out quickly when it gets really hot, especially if the heat is accompanied by any wind, so, if you are lucky enough to be going away for a few days do make a few plans. I’ve already mentioned moving plants in containers into the shade, and setting others in cake tins full of water (also in the shade). Maybe you can hire a young student to come in every two days and water the rest of the garden, but do show him/her how long to spend doing it, so that the water actually sinks down to the plant roots instead of simply darkening the surface of the soil. Make his/her wage part of the cost of the holiday to satisfy the non-gardener with your plan. Threaten divorce if there is any argument, (but be cautious unless you are a very good cook and would be sorely missed).

I hope you are noticing the new growth on evergreen shrubs and trees. It is a delightfully soft, pale green, giving the shrub or tree a completely fresh new look. Perhaps a reminder here would be in order. Very carefully pinch out the faded blooms on rhododendrons, while not disturbing the new growth alongside the faded flower. A coating of vaseline on your hands will help avoid the stickiness. Unfortunately, wearing gloves would prove too clumsy to do this job successfully.

Since June is traditionally rose month, may I suggest that when you bring blossoms indoors you re-cut the stems under water. This prevents an air bubble on the cut end, which would otherwise cut off the supply of water to the bloom.

This reminds me that Jean J. brought me three glorious open blooms of a gorgeous soft orange coloured rose, the orange fading to yellow as it approaches the centre. I think it is either Just Joey or All that Jazz and its perfume is wonderful. Jean took me with her yesterday to a manificent garden. The owner had opened it to friends, and their friends. In it were some species I’d never seen before, plus lovely walkways made up of artistically carved pavers throughout large areas of plantings plus large trees, and a swimming pool. A bit shattering to come home to my paltry balcony garden … too small to be called a garden really … a plot, maybe? No, even that sounds too grand! It’s an attempt, really, to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear to quote my father.

But even if it’s small, it’s both pretty and productive. I planted shallots yesterday and the spinach is up, and the tomato plants are rather magnificent, even if there are only two of them. And there is a beautiful peach coloured tuberous begonia sitting looking lovely on the floor,  plus two more with large buds still to come.

It may be small but it’s coming  along nicely, and it makes me happy. Who can ask for more?

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.