Late summer colour on the roof terrace

The last weeks of July. The light is dipping now. Summer growth gasping. Past time to nurture growth, to replenish some of the plants.

We have had to be away for much of the past year, looking in on a senior relative. A few weeks on, a few weeks off. Normal garden service had been suspended. We’ve been planting by speeded-up film. Growing like a guttering candle.

The usual rules no longer apply. Consistency and loyalty are in question. I pride myself on garden fidelity. I’m there; it’s who I am. Until now.

I can feel it on my return. The lag on results; everything at the plot a little more reluctant. I will always be there: my mantra. Until now. I have broken trust.

Of course, some of it is down to a difficult year. The awkward early weather. Soil baked hard; late rain running off. Predators abundant in the wilder surrounds.

But I am there now most early mornings, whispering encouragement, weeding the broadcasting bittercress. Sowing and watering when needed. Mourning the tagetes collapse.

It is easier on the roof terrace. Liam and Kala have been constant. But it is time there, too, for refreshment. The May tulip pots long empty. The lavender crying for more space. The call for more colour.

It can be slim pickings at garden centres at this time of year. Though still busy with people thronging around, filling car boots and shopping bags.

We went old-school in the end, with plants we’ve never bought before. A deeply purple-blue salvia, standing tall. We fell for a soft pink digitalis, a more refined meadow foxglove. We’ll pass it on later to Kala or I will rehome it by the plot. Lastly, a super-healthy echinacea – bushy, crimson, cheery, like a child’s first drawing of a flower.

With cranesbill, geums, lupin, hanging lobelia, geraniums and roses, the honeybee-strewn and happier lilac, we are set now for a late summer. Safe into September.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from

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