We had people over to tea today, meaning that we now have a relatively clean and tidy house, and half a cake. I don't generally invite people specifically to see the garden, since those who don't care for gardens would not be interested while anyone who worries about neatness and tidiness is horrified by the weeds. The most discouraging reaction ever came from somebody who, on seeing the view down the garden from the veranda for the first time screamed faintly Oh! How will you ever sell your house? Fellow gardeners are apt to suck their teeth and remark that it is a lot of work, and I don't enjoy having having the outstanding pruning pointed out to me or people commenting that the roses must have been much better two weeks ago. The garden therefore generally remains the background to the rest of my life, something I enjoy doing, not a creation to be shown off.
I make an exception for today's visitor because she seems to like the garden so wholeheartedly. She doesn't particularly enjoy gardening herself, and I am inclined to believe her when she says she can't see the weeds. Instead she enjoys the romantic and faintly ramshackle atmosphere and whatever flowers are out at the time. I feel bad that I didn't manage to invite her over while 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' was doing its annual thing up the wild cherry, but today we had Romneya coulteri, which is turning into a magnificent specimen, and hydrangeas, and Crocosmia 'Lucifer', and the gravel planting is doing its best impersonation of a Chelsea Flower Show unkempt Mediterranean landscape (with South African overtones), while the pots of dahlias and cosmos are starting to get into their stride.
Walking around did reveal several areas of planting in the back garden that were starting to collapse, and so after the visitors had gone I spent two hours with the hose. The leaves of the bricky red, early flowering Pulmonaria had wilted badly. I watered the patch, but am not too concerned about it since it shrivels easily in response to drought but perks up readily given water, and it has finished flowering for this year so there is no worry about buds aborting. I watered the two hydrangeas next to it, just to be on the safe side, though neither of them were visibly flagging, and hydrangeas will make it very obvious when they want a drink. They have just started to flower, and it would be a shame to spoil the display for want of a few gallons of water.
I watered the recently planted shade lovers in the corner, noting that the small seedling Iris foetidissima I moved from places where they were on top of other plants were still alive. It wasn't a given that they would consent to be transplanted in summer in this heat, and I watered them in gratitude. The small yews I moved in the spring were still going, with enough modest signs of new growth to make me think they might be settling down.
The big leaves of the chestnut leaved Rodgersia were badly browned round the edges from lack of water. Alas, I should have watered them more before, but there is a limit to now much watering one can do. The Ligularia were just starting to wilt, but will bounce back overnight. I hunted around in some panic for my new purple flowered Plant Heritage Lychnis (or was it a Silene?) before finding it hiding under a foxglove leaf looking shrunken with drought. I watered it copiously, and will have to hope it forgives me. At the top of the slope the Kalimeris incisa planted earlier this year were clinging to life, alongside a rare aster, while the Digitalis stewartii which is supposed to be the tallest of the foxgloves was flowering charmingly at knee height, except for the plant I allowed to set seed last year which was too exhausted to flower at all.
Tomorrow had better be another day of watering, and weeding. I think my friend, who cheerfully admits she feels under no compunction to do anything in particular, probably enjoys the hot weather more than I do.