Soggy season Posted on September 23, 2015

HoraceWalpole (I’m reading his letters on my Kindle: endless gossipy fun and backstairs history) said he loved gloom. Or rather the contrast between gloom and brilliance. He decorated his villa at Strawberry Hill accordingly. The entrance hall and stairs are gloomy grey (in the height of today’s fashion), leading up to the excessive bling of his Gallery lined with scarlet cloth and vaulted and decorated with white and gold.

Walpole might have loved the gallerias on the road down to Tuscany; blinding sunlight alternating with inspissated gloom. (A splendid word, no? Sam Johnson used it, and Milton in Paradise Lost, where I always thought it meant occasionally relieved with glimmers of light. But no: it means ‘thickening’).

He, Walpole that is, would presumably have loved the past few weeks. The garden has scarcely dried out; then comes a day of clear blue sky. The paving has remained fashionably dark grey and the plants green, their leaves luxuriating and their flowers not bothering to open. There have been a few indifferent to the weather. Clematis viticella is cheerfully red at the top of the wall, white phlox at the bottom, a hairy zonal pelargonium I don’t like but which still flowers in deep pink anyway. Surprisingly Salvia patens soldiers on, its intense blue extremely effective in the shade. Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ is struggling, agapanthus is slow but steady, Solanum jasminoides album outrageous. Luckily our neighbours seem to accept its invasion.

A lovely surprise: Acidanthera (five bulbs in a goody bag from the RHS at Chelsea) has opened eight spectacular white and purple and sweet-smelling stars high among its gladiolus leaves. And wonder of wonders; Meyer’s Lemon, now 30 years in its pot, on the north-facing verandah where no direct sunlight has reached it in three years, has ripened a dozen perfect lemons and is starting to flower again.

Perhaps less surprising, but worth recording: in the shady greenhouse Gardeners Delight, the sweetest of all tomatoes, is delivering a fair crop of its little scarlet fruit.

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