I spent today tidying the rose bed at the top of the bank, pruning the roses, cutting back the bits of honeysuckle and rambling rose that didn't see why they should be confined to the bank and wanted to share the rose bed too, picking out the by now dry and brittle remains of Baptisia australis, and finally dosing the ground with a generous sprinkling of fish, blood and bone and a topping of Strulch. The emerging leaves of Camassia and Aconitum were already well advanced, making it a slightly fiddly job feeding the Strulch down around them, and I had to be careful where I trod.
The ground is very wet. In an ideal world I wouldn't be walking on it at all, but in an ideal world I'd have done all this about three weeks ago when the herbaceous understorey hadn't grown so much. But the world is not ideal, and three weeks ago the ground was even wetter. The far rose bed sits on a vein of evil clay, clay so sticky, yellow, and lacking in natural humus that I'm not even sure it was originally topsoil. The people who built the house had the slope of the back garden remodelled to give an approximately level area halfway down the back garden, but they weren't gardeners at all, and I'm not sure whether the digger driver took any notice of the soil.
I thought when I made the bed that roses liked clay, but there's clay and then there's clay. I am not sure they really like our sort, and some have dwindled to nothing over time. Unfortunately due to my lack of collector's instinct when it comes to names I'm not entirely sure about the identity of the survivors. I kept a planting list, so must make a real effort this summer when they're out to match names to faces, and hunt around to see what labels I can find. The Camassia, on the other hand, absolutely adore the conditions, and self seed lavishly in the years when the Strulch isn't so thick. The Baptisia has made huge clumps as well, though it hasn't flowered so well in the past couple of years. Rosy Hardy's advice when I asked her was to feed it a high potash fertiliser, but so far it has simply had blood, fish and bone along with everything else.
Clematis have for the most part struggled. There are a couple of survivors, and again I must look at my list of everything I've ever planted in that bed and try and work out which they are. On the other hand Viola cornuta is spreading rampantly. Hooray, let's hope the rabbits don't eat it all.
Our Ginger came out to keep me company for a while, or rather expected me to keep him company, squawking at me to stroke him and standing by the bucket of Stulch so that he ended up being lightly mulched. He spent some time staring into the rose bank, waiting for things to come out, but nothing did.