In a brief interlude from weeding the garden railway and spreading gravel I deadheaded the dahlias and Cosmos, while thinking that that was the sort of ladylike gardening people are supposed to do in the middle of July. Why, I could even do it while floating about in a floral print dress and sandals, and a wide brimmed straw hat with a ribbon tied round the crown. I tried to imagine this delicate vision of horticultural loveliness in the face of the reality of patched elasticated waist trousers of a cut so unflattering that they got one star on the Cotton Traders website, a checked shirt of dubious vintage, a disintegrating Tilley hat, half length wellingtons and dirt under my finger nails, and gave up.
The medley of pink and purple dahlias, pink Cosmos, two sorts of Zinnia, and purple leaved Ricinus communis is working very well. I'm happy with that scheme. Good colour mix in the flowers, reasonable interest in the foliage with the feathery bright green of the Cosmos to enliven the dahlia leaves, which can be stodgy, and the Zinnia leaves holding up much better than last year. Zinnia have a reputation for being tricky, and I have been very careful this year to try not to over water them.
The orange corner is working fairly well too, with some reservations. This is the first year I have succeeded in growing Tithonia, at my second attempt. They have started to flower in a shade of orange so bright it is positively startling, and which I like, but the foliage is a bit rank. It remains to be seen if the ratio of flowers (good) to leaves (so-so) will end up in the Tithonia's favour. There again, I may not be growing them very well yet. This year's Zinnia have made much nicer plants than last year's ever did, so it doesn't always do to write things off at the first attempt.
In the ancestral pot by the front door the pink miniature petunias have not thrived at all, and I don't know why not. I've grown them in that pot before and they were fine, spilling down the sides of the pot and flowering for months. This lot have made little growth and few flowers. They are sharing the pot with pink trailing verbena, which is a combination I've used before, and the verbena were doing perfectly well until snails began to graze on them, and are managing to make new buds since I applied a sprinkling of blue slug pellets. This is a case where I really don't think a few pellets are going to harm the local wildlife, since I can't see the thrushes coming and picking snails out of a pot right next to the front door. The non-performance of the Calibrachoa is a disappointment, since I like them.
The Nicotiana mutablis are starting to flower on tall spikes, opening white and gradually darkening to pink. So far they have only got to shell pink, but from memories of seeing them on the Avon Bulbs stand at the Chelsea Flower Show they will eventually go quite dark, giving a multi-coloured effect on the plant as more buds open. The only problem is that the snails have been nibbling their leaves as well. The fuchsias are not making as much new growth as I'd hoped for, so that while they are flowering it is mostly on rather sparse bushes. I'm not too sure what to do about them either. They had a dose of Vitax Q4 when they came out of the greenhouse for the summer, and I have fed them again since, but am nervous about feeding them too often. Lack of food can leave plants stunted, but excess can be toxic.
If only it was as easy as wafting around in a nice frock snipping at dead heads and spraying everything with some kind of one-size-fits-all fertiliser that would make everything in the garden bloom wonderfully over immaculate foliage.