Suddenly it's summer and you've got a riot on your hands

Clematis is roaring up the pergola, hostas are as big as Savoy cabbages. It's time to reassess the garden

The garden has exploded. Roses that were still hanging around in mid May wondering whether it was going to be worth while to leaf up are now in bloom. The hostas are as big as Savoy cabbages (but not quite as beautiful). Viticella clematis are roaring up the poles of the pergola. Nought to 90 in a week. That might not be a unique selling point in a BMW but it is an extraordinary performance for a garden.

Gardeners are always telling each other what a weird season it has been. The thing is that each year the weirdness takes a different form. Last summer there was the drought. We remember the downside of that. But there have been benefits, too. The blossom on fruit trees, wisterias, ceanothus and other flowering shrubs this spring has been brilliant. That must have something to do with the way the wood was ripened in last summer's heat.

Long, cold, slow starts to the flowering year, as we have had this year, make a nonsense of the rulebook. New gardeners desperately want rules to help them make sense of what they need to do in the garden. But rules aren't as important as principles. If you understand the principle of why you shouldn't set out tomato plants or bedding plants too early in the year, then you know when you need to bend the general rule that they go out at the end of May.

This year they didn't. I am still planting petunias and lobelias and potting up geraniums to stand outside the back door and this is in the south west, where I generally expect to be a month ahead of the rest of the country. Most years, tomato plants and other tender material are out in the garden by the beginning of May. Now we have to hope that we get an extra month of warmth tagged on at the end of summer to make up for the month we have missed in front.

The speed of growth over the last two weeks has meant that the gaps I thought I had for plants that have been waiting in the wings have suddenly closed up. I have wasted a good deal of time when I could have been attacking bindweed, mooning about with various pots - an extra peony, a romneya, a very pretty variegated myrtle - trying to find space for them.

This is not the recommended way to go about things, but mooning can be oddly productive. You suddenly get fresh ideas about ways of combining plants. Or you suddenly realise, as I realised this morning, that it is time for something to go. In my case it is a Ceanothus 'Autumnal Blue'. It is one of the evergreen kinds, generally less hardy than the deciduous ones.

It has got so big that its head pokes well above the parapet of sheltering shrubs that stand between it and the northeast wind. It suffered badly during the winter and is being very slow to reclothe itself. It is, anyway, now out of scale with its surroundings. I should have pruned it harder. Late flowering ceanothus such as this (it flowers in July, August and September) respond well to hard pruning in April. The spring flowering evergreen ceanothus such as 'Blue Mound', C. veitchianus and 'Puget's Blue' should be pruned when they have finished flowering.

The little myrtle, which I'm going to go on calling myrtle even though the botanists have now shifted it to another family (they call it Luma apiculata rather than Myrtus apiculata) is a variegated one called 'Glanleam Gold', which was found off the west coast of Ireland, on Valentia Island, just south of Dingle Bay.

'Glanleam Gold' is an evergreen and each of its tiny leaves is edged with an irregular creamy margin. At the moment it is dense and bushy and I hope to keep it that way, by some judicious pruning in March and April. It starts to flower in September and continues through until October. The flowers seem mostly to be bosses of white stamens, rather than petals. They have a spicy smell. Unfortunately, this species is slightly more tender than the common myrtle, Myrtus communis. I shall keep my fingers crossed that we don't immediately get another winter as savage as the last.

Gambling, though, is part of the fun of gardening. If winters were always harsh, as they might be further up country, then I would be a fool to fall for myrtle. But I am not sufficiently dismayed by the losses of last winter, which were considerable, to stick to planting only safe bets. You learn a great deal from winters such as the one we have just had. All my hebes perished, but the huge spurge, Euphorbia mellifera, said to be tender, waltzed through without a hiccup.

The myrtle is part of a drive (if I'm honest, more of a drift) towards strengthening the performance of the garden in late summer. My obsession with tulips and a growing, extremely dangerous, interest in columbines, means that there is far too much happening in May and June and not enough in August and September.

The romneya is also supposed to help prop up the garden in late summer. (I've tried it four times before in different positions and each time, have lost it. Normally, after that number of losses, I would give up, but romneya, the Californian tree poppy, is such a fabulous thing, with its huge, white papery flowers and beautifully cut glaucous leaves, I'm having another go.

Part of the problem here is finding a place that is sufficiently light and well-drained. Romneya likes masses of sun and the potential of plenty of space. If well suited, it is a runner. I've never had that luck. Oh, to be able to curse your romneya for running. Because it gets tall (6- 8ft), it can't go too far forward in a planting. It also hates being disturbed, so this is not a plant you can afford to make a mistake with, in terms of its position in the garden.

What will go with the romneya, while it is deciding whether to die? I fancy the dark-leaved cow parsley, Anthriscus syvlvestris 'Ravenswing'. This might seem an odd choice when the lanes all around (and swathes of the garden) are already covered in cow parsley. But 'Ravenswing' has foliage that early in the season is dark and sumptuous. Then it collapses, like its wild relative. With it, perhaps another cow parsleyish thing, actually a type of chervil, Chaerophyllum hirsutum roseum, with lilac-mauve flowers.

In the foreground, perhaps some Jacob's ladder. Again, it is the foliage that draws me towards this plant. Bright, juicy, vivid, the ferny leaves are made up of small leaflets neatly paired along the stem. The one I have is the wild Polemonium caeruleum but there are excellent fancy forms such as 'Sonia's Bluebell' sold at Glebe Cottage Plants. This has paler blue flowers and darker, more bronzed foliage than mine.

To contrast with the Jacob's ladder in the foreground, I would bring in more sisyrinchium, which gives you upright sword-shaped iris leaves, in places where irises wouldn't be happy. I am very fond of the small cream-striped sisyrinchium called S. striatum 'Aunt May'. Clever Aunt May to have spotted it and sent it round her friends. It is just coming into flower now, pale creamy flowers on top of stiff, fan-like foliage, no more than a foot high.

Carol Klein's nursery, Glebe Cottage Plants is at Pixie Lane, Warkleigh, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9DH (01769 540554). The garden will be open for the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday 28 July (2-5pm). Admission pounds 1.50. Plants can be sent mail order. Send pounds 1.50 for a catalogue

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

    £64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

    Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam