Looking back on my photographs for August I can see that it rained. A lot. This makes me happy for two reasons – photographing rain drops on leaves and petals is wonderful and secondly the success of watering the garden is vastly improved if most of the water is falling out of the sky and not out of a tap. It did mean that my usual weather forecast obsession (I have three separate weather apps on my phone) increased as I weighed up the needs of watering against the potential downpours that seemed to only ever be twelve hours away.
This irregular watering was a little stressful – I agonised over plants that looked like they desperately needed watering whilst staring up at grey clouds that promised and sometimes didn’t deliver large quantities of rainfall. This meant several late night waterings at dusk when I’d given the clouds long enough to do my job for me but couldn’t face leaving my beloved charges with no water till the next day. I was often woken up by large downpours at 2am, mocking my impatience.
August is a wonderful month in the garden. It feels like all the hard work of earlier months pays its largest dividends in August. Everything was in full bloom, I had so many sweet peas and cosmos that I actually didn’t feel bad about cutting some to have indoors. I was adamant at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t growing anything to have cut flowers, flowers belong outside, but my sweet peas were crying out to be snipped and so I had handfuls every couple of days which I livened up with the odd cosmos. The sweet peas are flighty, ethereal little things and I felt like they needed the bold brashness of the cosmos as a counter point. They sit next to each other outside so it made sense to have them together inside too.
The vegetable patch threatened to engulf the house and we were still cutting spinach as fast as it could grow. Little red flowers emerged on the runner beans and the tomatoes finally appeared. I bought a couple of tomato plants from the “please rescue us” shelf at the garden centre and put them in a huge pot with some basil, some mint and a couple of carrots. I’d read about companion planting and decided to give it a try. Within a few weeks these tomato plants were bigger than the ones I’d had in a grow bag since May. The growth was astonishing. There was clearly some kind of race going on in the pot between the mint and the tomato plants – both were growing at a ridiculous pace, I swear I could have seen the tomato plants growing if I’d sat there for long enough.
We harvested our carrots too – I pulled one up by mistake and realised I’d made a fundamental error when I planted them so it didn’t seem worth leaving them any longer. Thinning out really is important. Lesson learnt!
It was a lot less windy in August so the sunflowers didn’t take as much of a battering and they continued to be amazing. The different shapes of petals, variety of colours, heights and leaves is fascinating. So much variety from one packet of seeds. The thing they all have in common is their seeming desperation to be facing the sun. They’re like those sun worshipping people who inch their sun-beds round to follow every last ray of sun. A couple even managed to alter the course of their stems, growing round and out and up, just to get closer to the sun. One time a flower that had fallen over maybe at 8am that I didn’t get a chance to pick up straight away had turned its face around in just a few hours as the sun hit the garden.
August was a great month. The garden continued to be a source of peace and wonder but we also started to venture out into the world a little bit too. Again the garden was a guiding influence. We visited several gardens in August including Ness Gardens and Abbeywood. It was lovely to visit other gardens, to see other plants and be out in a wider version of nature. I was still very apprehensive about being “out there” but both gardens had great procedures in place and I felt very safe. We even sat and had tea and cake at Abbeywood. I felt as safe amongst flowers and shrubs and trees there as I did at home. I felt calm and brave. For someone who at the beginning of the pandemic had decided to never leave the house again, it was hugely comforting to be able to return the world in a small way, surrounded by the very things that had got me through the previous six months.