The long warm days of July are a joy, bringing with them a slow laziness. Even the bees seem to buzz more slowly, drunk on the heady nectar of the honeysuckle which completely covers the trunks of the sycamore trees at this time of year.
The neighbour’s cat snoozes in the sun on the roof of the shed, watching me with one eye as I tend to my vegetable beds and dead head the roses. His tail languidly flicks in half-hearted anger as a squirrel scrabbles up a nearby tree, but his lethargy gets the better of him and he doesn’t go after the chase.
I pick mixed leaves, herbs and spinach for an instant meal of flavoursome salad; generously drizzled in olive oil and a dash of thick, syrupy balsamic. Strawberries are scattered in pots around the garden, and I race the snails and the birds to pick them just as they ripen. I unearth the garlic I planted in the winter, its pungent aroma delightful as I dig it out of the warm earth. I plait together the dry brown stems and hang the bulbs in an airy spot by the window to dry. Potatoes are also unearthed, an extraordinary number coming from each bag!
Tiny courgettes and cucumbers have appeared, late this year after a cold and wet May and June, and not quite ready to start picking although we enjoy a few courgette flowers – such a delicacy stuffed with ricotta and lightly fried. The broad bean pods are beginning to swell and the tomato plants are covered in small green fruits, the first blush of red just starting to appear on a few.
In the flower beds, hydrangeas are in full bloom, the abundant flowers like clusters of pink butterflies ready for take-off. The roses still cover the rose arch and a multitude of colourful perennials peep out from among the larger, more established plants. I always forget what I plant each year and you never know what is going to return successfully, but after eight summers of varied planting, the overall effect is a vibrant delight!
In the cool of the evenings, I water generously, enjoying the processes of wandering slowly round the garden with time to admire each plant and flower before they close their petals for the night.