One of my favourite Ladybird books when I was a child was The Magic Porridge Pot. It is a story of a starving girl who is given a magic porridge pot by a wise woman/witch. All she has to do when she is hungry is to say ‘Cook little pot, cook!’ and the pot will cook a perfect little bowl of porridge. Then she has to say ‘stop little pot, stop’ and it will stop.
One day the girl entrusts the pot with her mother, giving her instructions before she goes. The mother gets a bit peckish and says ‘Cook little pot, cook!’ Only she forgets the second bit, and soon the porridge pot is overflowing, all over the table, onto the kitchen floor, out of the door and down the street!
All the mother had to remember was ‘stop little pot, stop!’ but for some reason this simple thing eludes her! An allegory on maternity brain? The hazards of multi-tasking? But not to worry, the daughter returns, commands the pot to stop, and whilst the town is swimming in porridge, no one is hungry! Everyone gets to share the porridge, including some adorable little mice that appear in every illustration with little bowls and spoons at the ready. Can you spot the mouse in the picture below?
So what, you may ask, does this have to do with gardening. Well, this:
Now I’ve started it, I just can’t stop it! I’ve forgotten the words!
‘Sto-… No. I just can’t remember. It will just have to keep on coming.
I already had to cart the Borage off to the compost heap as it had got to 7 feet tall and was encroaching upon its neighbours. Now the Nicotiana is threatening to do the same.
But really, I am not complaining. I love it.
And the Scabious has finally joined in! ‘Cook little pot, cook!’
I love how the flowers open out from the outside first. Spilling over onto the floor.
Until it is fully frothy.
Is it just me, or does anyone else sometimes get the urge not to turn the gas down when your pot of pasta is just starting to boil over? Or to squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste out? Just the once? I am a quiet anarchist. I trace it back to ‘The Magic Porridge Pot’.
There is something deliciously evil about this Dahlia ‘Ripples’. I think it may be a witch/wise woman. The flies seem peculiarly attracted to her. I think they are her minions and she sends them out on missions.
Sometimes they cower a little, when she is cross.
The middle raised bed is a triumph, even if I do say so myself.
My favourite combo is Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’, ‘Vino’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
I utterly love ‘Waltzing Matilda’. It opens deep watermelon, and then fades beautifully. This might actually beat ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which was my previous favourite single Dahlia.
This combination morphs into Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixed’…
and into Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’.
And what bonnets they are.
In my daughters’ school they have a ritual humiliation of the Year 7s, who each year have to make Easter bonnets and parade in front of the rest of the school. It has become one of these traditions that the later generations refuse to give up because they had to suffer it, and ‘it never did them any harm’. It did. How could it not? They have to construct ever more elaborate structures from loo rolls and egg boxes and paper flowers and feathers and put it on their head. If only a single scabious flower would do.
This is the slightly freakish quadruple flower that featured as a bud in Oasis. Now it is wearing its bonnet at a jaunty angle.
The bees and butterflies love Scabious. Here is a hoverfly enjoying the spill.
Hoverflies are impossibly handsome. The combination of Scabious and Hoverfly is like Brangelina, but we know how that ends.
In case you think it is all just impossibly lovely (nature’s doing, not mine), just settle your eye for a moment on this slightly scratty corner. This is Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’ with Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’. I have come to the conclusion that the soil in this bed needs some work. The dahlias at either end were a bit rubbish last year, and I thought it might be some sort of replant disease. This year the annuals have done just as badly. I think the clay is compacted and I need to mix in a good dose of manure in the winter. It doesn’t help that I haven’t deadheaded the Cosmos behind in this picture, but I thought we needed an antidote to the eye candy.
This is the good bit of the top bed.
The number of bees on the single dahlias this year makes me reluctant to choose double varieties, impressive as they are. In double flowers, the nectaries and pollen-producing anthers have been replaced by an extra few layers of petals. This must be very confusing for the poor bees. Whereas Dahlia ‘Juliet’ below is a single, so has her nectaries in tact.
Look at how slarted up (Yorkshire term) this bee is, with pollen! What a mullock!
The single dahlias also attract the butterflies. Here is ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with a Gatekeeper butterfly.
If you look more closely, they are both a little raggedy around the edges. They have lived a little.
Here is Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’. Now it is lovely, but blue it is not. It reminds me of a Queen Mother’s hat.
It is easy to take the ever-reliable Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’ for granted. It does deserve a little shout-out.
And is perhaps best viewed from below. The mouse-eye view.
‘Cook little pot, cook!’
Anyone who happens to be passing, please come and cut some blooms, or we will be drowning by next weekend!
Which annuals are your top performers this year? Have any disappointed? Which are the best for attracting the bees and butterflies?