It’s two days short of August, I’ve taken a few days off to spend in the garden and finally I can see some love-in-a-mist.
Nigella Damascena is a simple-to-grow annual with sky-blue flowers that will brighten up any well-drained border. Which is handy because gardening in the Borders is very much more difficult than elsewhere in Britain – such as in West Sussex, where some of the most glorious racing has been radiating from Goodwood this week (culminating this Saturday with the Stewards’ Cup Sprint Handicap – in which our selection is the Jim Goldie trained Call Me Ginger).
I should know because a couple of decades ago I lived on site at Fontwell Park racecourse, just down the road from Goodwood, and tended the garden there over many a weekend and evening.
Surrounding the topiary on the Members’ lawn, we dug fresh flowerbeds where once racehorse trainer Alfred Day had laid out a (long-gone) labyrinth of box hedging close to his stable yard. We grew sweet peas and forget-me-nots, irises, roses, borage and lilies, campanula and calendula, gladioli and geraniums. The point is that, in West Sussex, the borders flowered for eleven months of the year – from February to December. Whereas my Borders borders barely bear any colour before May and will be botanically boring by September.
Looking back at my 1999 garden diary (I know, aren’t people full of surprises), the love-in-a-mist was flowering at Fontwell as early as June and continued all the way through July until August. Horticulture was just such an easy game to play. According to my notes, the fantastically rare wild orchids in the bottom half of the figure-of-eight track will have almost finished flowering by now and, in four weeks or so, the hedges in the back straight of the hurdle course will be bearing juicy red, yellow and green cherry-plums.
Despite the harsher winters and shorter growing season, I’ll not give up on gardening in the Scottish Borders just yet. Our award winning racecourse groundstaff have demonstrated, year-in-year-out, that they can present the turf in tip-top condition – so perhaps now is the time to turn our hand to flowers.
Maybe we’ll start by planting a few thousand Spring-flowering bulbs around the parade ring. And we’ll look for some shrubs to provide Winter interest too. In the best gardening tradition, we’re open to donations, so if you have anything that grows well in your garden, don’t hesitate to share by sending along some seed, a cutting or even a whole plant if you can spare it.
We’re open to sharing too – so if you’d like to use our lawn mower or any other garden tools, please feel free. As long as you don’t take them off the racecourse.