The promised afternoon of heavy rain did not materialise. Instead we got a heavy shower at teatime just as I was settled on the sofa with Our Ginger on my lap and Mr Cool nestled alongside, having left my tools and garden radio out in the garden. At least it meant that the Systems Administrator had time to put new felt on the pot shed roof where a large piece blew off in the last gale. It was the lower strip along the side facing the herb bed, and the SA managed to slide the replacement length in under the bottom edge of the upper strip by dint of lifting the latter with the blade of a hoe while we both pushed the new piece into place, very gently so that it would not buckle or rip. The whole roof has been reinforced with eight lengths of batten, which I painted with wood preservative last week, and with any luck it will last for a while.
I am pretty fed up with roofing felt, as however carefully you try to fasten it down the gales always seem to find their way in underneath at some point and rip it, and then you have to lay out on new felt and battens and spend half a day messing around with ladders repairing it. The roof is only made out of rough planks, patched with offcuts of composite board following some previous mishap, and is full of gaps and not at all airtight, so perhaps part of the problem is pressure building up inside the shed when there's a full gale blowing. That is not as daft as it sounds. I was chatting to a gardening friend a couple of Plant Heritage meetings ago, and she told me about somewhere she used to work where they had learnt to open the doors at both ends of the glasshouses when it was very windy. Counterintuitive, you would think, not to seek to protect their plants from the blast of the wind, but if the doors were left shut the gale forced air in through the cracks until the pressure burst the panes outwards.
I weeded the dahlia bed, where the remaining Strulch was doing a pretty good job against soft annual weeds, but quite a few tree seedlings had popped up. Then I fed it with fish, blood and bone, and began to water it as we have had so little rain, to encourage the dahlias into growth and wash their food down into the soil. Tomorrow I might add some 6X just to get the dahlias off to a good start, since my dawning realisation last year that the foliage really is supposed to be the shade of dark green shown in Monet's painting of his garden, and that I was not feeding mine nearly enough. The tulips that live among the dahlias are more than half over, and a dose of feed might help them keep up their strength so that they flower again next year.
I disturbed the Strulch in order to sow seeds of Calendula and Nasturtium. In the past I've tried starting them off in modules and planting them out, but it was all too much of a fiddle. I don't have time, and they didn't do well. Since I had lots of seeds, thanks partly to the packets that keep arriving with garden magazines, I thought I'd try direct sowing them instead, but as the Strulch is designed to stop germination this may not work any better. It needs topping up, though, so maybe I'll get some plants come up from the direct sowings, and I'll wait until things have grown before topping up the Strulch.
There is one success in the front garden, Gladiolus tristis, which is in flower for the first time. It is a lovely thing, the individual pale yellow flowers recognisably gladiolus shaped, but smaller and daintier than the modern hybrids, and well spaced along the stalks. I counted the stems and there were ten of them. Ten! Checking my records I see I bought one bulb from Avon Bulbs in 2014, which cost me five pounds. That felt like a great deal of money for one small bulb, which I potted up and kept in the greenhouse where I remember it sent up about one spindly leaf. G. tristis comes from South Africa and is only borderline hardy in the UK, and just to make things more difficult for itself and the gardener is a winter growing species, dormant in summer. At home it is adapted to winter rainfall. In my damp greenhouse in Essex I was terrified of it rotting. In July 2015 I planted it out in the gravel of the turning circle, where at least it would have guaranteed perfect drainage. It grew through the winter of 2015-16 and sent up three or four flower spikes, which failed to develop to maturity. Maybe there was a cold night at exactly the wrong stage of development. Finally I have a proper patch of it, and my five pounds seems well spent. The Pacific Bulb Society warns it can spread by bulblets and seed, but frankly if it chooses to spread more than it already has I shall be delighted.