Broad beans. This might be an unusual way to start a sentence but I thought I would mention how well my early sowings had done. They have come to an end now but we have enjoyed them. Because they are such mainstays of the vegetable patch and I have been patiently expecting them since they were sown last winter it is like saying goodbye to old friends. I prefer to pick them when the pods are small and the beans only about the size of a 5p coin. They can be used raw as an addition to salads or put straight into a risotto and allowed to cook with the rice. My absolute favourite has to be broad beans liver and bacon with the liver floured, fried gently and only just done. The gravy is to die for though it’s hard to find companions who will eat offal so it is often a solitary pleasure.
I have heard many tales of woe from growers of runner beans and peas this year who planted and were caught out by a dry spell. I have to confess to a some disappointment myself. A family holiday meant that the pigeons enjoyed the peas before I did and my next batch of peas and beans have needed a lot of water to get away at all.
I have had more success in the herbaceous border and with my containers. The regale lily bulbs (Lilium regale) have put on a magnificent show. The large trumpet flowers white inside with a yellow throat and a pink back are filling the warm air with scent. It is a thick heavy scent and you feel that you have to wade through it once it has you in its grasp. Of all the bulbs that I take from containers and plant in the garden these lilies are some of the most successful. They like plenty of sun and good drainage. I always put a handful of gravel underneath them when planting. I usually plant in groups digging a hole big enough to lift them straight from the container into the ground without breaking them apart.
Another scented favourite are the Philadelphus also called mock orange. They are members of the same family as hydrangea and are really indispensable garden shrubs. They give a good display even on poor or chalky soils. Most have white fragrant flowers borne in June or July. The old flowered wood should be cut out after flowering leaving wood produced this season to take its place. They can become large shrubs over time though if this happens the whole thing can be cut to ground level from where new growth will spring. The most commonly encountered is Philadelphus coronarius which is a strong upright growing species even in dry ground. The cultivar ‘Virginal’ is still perhaps the best double.
Danger does lurk deep within the border in the hooded flowers of monkshood or aconitum. Though highly poisonous they are worth having for bed use as they are so amenable as to soil and aspect. A. x bicolor, A. carmichaelii and A. napellus are all good to have and will spread the flowering season from early summer to Autumn.
Aconitum vulparia also known as A. lycoctonum is also worth growing. It gets its common name ‘Wolf’s Bane’ because it was used as a poisonous bait for wolves in olden days. Like its blue relatives it has dark divided green leaves though the hooded flower is white or parchment colour and quite tall.
From edible beginnings to poisonous ends the garden has everything to offer.