I dug out some more Acanthus roots and planted a couple more pots of the 'White Triumphator' tulips at the bottom of the shrub rose bed, and then I had to give up working down there because it was too wet. The soil of the rose bed came up in sticky lumps of glistening clay when I probed through it with my fork, the lumps refused to fall back down to fill the tulips' planting holes, and the lawn squelched audibly when I walked on it.
I retreated further up the slope to where the soil is lighter, and began to tidy among the roses and along the edge of the bed, picking up leaves, pulling out the odd tuft of annual grass or bittercress, and rooting out seedling goosegrass and young plants of burdock and common hogweed. A giant burdock managed to flower last year, tucked away in the middle of the bed, and I do not want its progeny. It's not that burdock isn't a handsome plant. It is. I admired one yesterday deployed to great effect in the foreground of one of the Italian Renaissance paintings in the Royal Academy's exhibition, complete with seedheads. It's just that in real life they make massive plants, out of scale for use as ground cover in a rose bed, and the seeds stick to Mr Fluffy like the very devil and are quite impossible to remove without pulling out a lot of fur during the process. Burdock is not a good thing to have in your garden if you have a long haired cat.
I put up with some hogweed. I was talking about it this morning with a friend who is badly allergic to it. Accidental contact with the sap was enough to bring her arm up in blisters at once, and her skin remained photosensitive for the next three years where the hogweed had burnt it. And she has young grandchildren. I don't seem to be that badly affected, and in any case I always garden in long sleeves, even in summer, so I don't mind having some tucked away in the borders. It is an architectural plant, in a coarse way, usefully tall, tough, able to muscle its way up through lower layers of planting and the overshadowing roses, and it is perennial. I grow angelica as well, which looks splendid in the first part of the summer, but dies disgracefully thereafter and then you have to manage where it puts its babies if you want any more next year.
It started to drizzle before noon, and while I managed to ignore it for a while, it had turned to proper rain that could not be ignored before half past twelve. The rain radar confirmed what the Met Office had forecast, that once rain started it would be with us for the rest of the day, a huge slab of it sitting over the whole of Kent and the Thames estuary and moving steadily towards East Anglia. Sure enough, it has rained ever since. I read some of my stash of gardening magazines, but I would much rather have been outside. The window for applying mulch is narrowing steadily, before the emerging leaves of the herbaceous plants are too big and too much in the way to work round them, and quite a lot of the existing mulch has reached the point of thinness where if it isn't topped up weeds are going to be able to germinate through it this season. It is not supposed to rain tomorrow, but the soil will be wetter than ever.