Triffids, sculpture and wildlflower meadows

Garden weeds

bindweed and roses
Bindweed is causing a headache for Jean. Image: Jean Vernon.

The warm, wet weather has seen the garden explode into a mass of junglesque extravagance. I can’t be the only person battling with bindweed that threatens to envelop pretty much everything growing in the garden. It’s one of the few weeds that I admire and hate with a vengeance. First it’s so vigorous and successful, you can’t help but admire its amazing aptitude for not just survival but for proliferation too. The roots grow down for what seems like miles and the tiniest fragment that breaks off just grows back making more plants. It’s quite ingenious, what a shame runner beans don’t grow in the same way.

The bindweed flowers are fabulous and the bees and pollinators seem to love them, helping this true garden triffid create dozens of seeds to spread this garden plague around the garden even more. Shame it’s not an edible weed, as that might be a good control method. I’ve even used the prolific, twirling stems as improvised plant ties, not with the greatest success, but a useful emergency solution. I won’t be using Glyphosate or any other chemical weedkillers so that means I’ve got to manually get to grips with it. If it didn’t drag the roses to the floor and smother everything else it wouldn’t be such a pain.

Easy meadows

meadow mat
‘Meadow Mat’ ready for shipping. Image: Jean Vernon

On a recent trip to the east of England in June, I popped into to the growing fields of Meadow Mat to see the wildflower turf being grown. It’s field grown in Norfolk and packed full of 34 species of native wildflowers and grasses. It’s a really quick and easy way to establish a garden meadow, small or large.

I’ve got a patch in my garden and it’s ablaze with insects and flowers, just a few weeks after planting. You simply prepare the ground, prior to laying. It needs to be nutrient poor soil, weed free and level, and then you unroll the turves and lay it out. It needs watering well until it’s established, but with the usual rainstorms of the British summer, my meadow is lush, green and growing well. What’s more it is a great living carpet transforming an area of the garden that was often a weed patch and is now a fabulous, low maintenance mass of flowers, rich in pollen and nectar for pollinating insects and other wildlife.

Barbara Hepworth

Hepworth inspired garden
Hepworth-inspired garden on the lawn of the Tate. Image: Jean Vernon

Gardens are a wonderful place to exhibit works of art and truly anything goes. Whether you have a preference for gnomes and fairies, or a partiality for the finer qualities of art there is something for every taste, budget and garden.

This week I was privileged to visit the Tate Britain exhibition of Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World. It’s the first exhibition of her work in London for almost 50 years and includes not only sculpture and artwork from this eminent artist, but also from some of her contemporaries too. It’s a celebration of form; the form of every tool worn piece, carved with love from stone and wood or recreated in bronze. Form and function are perfect partners and here the function is simply to impart pleasure, enjoyment and interest, which each piece has for decades, a great legacy for the landscape, our gardens and our lives.

Alongside the exhibition is a secret garden; the delightful Hepworth-inspired garden on the lawn of the Tate Gallery. The very first garden installation at the nation’s art gallery, it’s a zingy creation melding the exotic form of vibrant flowers and foliage with functional cast limestone structure that acts as contemporary raised beds, impromptu seating and meditation zone. Well worth a visit and the perfect place for an alfresco lunch if you need a restful place to stop awhile.

Insects need water

Wandering up the garden this week in the hot weather, my attention was drawn to a few modules of broad bean seedlings soaking up vital moisture from a garden trough. The compost was simply covered with honeybees supping the moisture from the sponge-like-compost that the seedlings were growing in. It’s a timely reminder to ensure that there are shallow pools of water in the garden for wildlife. Every living creature, even insects, need water to survive. Bees use water to cool the hive on hot days, by evaporating the moisture. They also need water to drink and to dissolve crystallised honey stored in the hive. So remember to put out a saucer or two of the wet stuff to keep your garden friends hydrated.

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