What can I say? Lots of rain interspersed with the occasional days of blue skies and hot temperatures, guess this is summer. The plants love it, and if they have good soil with nutrients, then they’re onto a winner. If your soil is mostly clay, and the water is not draining away, then you need to do something about it for your plants – unless you’re growing bog plants, that is.
Try adding some rich organic matter in the form of well-rotted manure, grit home-grown or other compost, and dig over. If your soil is okay, then simply add some feed to get the most out of your plants. We have had a fair number of windy days, so keep checking those stakes and continue to tie up your plants before they snap in the next gale.
All the gardens are looking lovely now, the height of our summer. Some plants are over now but if cut to the base may flower a second time later in the year – plants such as aquilegia, Delphiniums and papavars. Other plants also need tidying up by simply cutting off the old top growth.
Some plants are flowering creating a wonderful display to accompany those lazy afternoons sitting out and taking in the summer rays. My favourites this month include the achillea in all its many colours, best of all is ‘Summer Pastels‘. Salvia (favourite is Cardonna), hemerocallis, crocosmia and kniphofia (not just the red hot pokers but also shades of yellows and in varying heights) are in their glory too. Lavender fundamentally reminds us of the Mediterranean and is an asset to the garden, not only for the lovely flowers but also the scent preferring the sunny free draining border (or in a pot by the door).
Summer is the best time for ornamental grasses that come into their own. There is a huge range to look at, from striped greens and yellows, to blues and reds and the shapes of flower – the bunny or foxtail are tactile too. I love Chionochloa rubra, my favourite, but Miscanthus zebranus makes a wonderful bold statement for the larger border or garden. Favourites (not mine) like the Cortaderia (pampas) can also be bought as smaller versions such as Sunningdale Silver, a better variety. Smaller grasses such as Festuca glauca and Elymus glaucus are easy to grow and give you blue tints to the beds. Carex varieties are also easy to grow but can spread given time.
The Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrical) is wonderful but not so hardy, perhaps treat it as an annual and if it survives winter, it will be a bonus. There are numerous ornamental grasses to choose from, the tallest Miscanthus giganteus, growing over 3.5m and the most delicate is Stipa tenuissima but they all sparkle in the sunlight and sway in the wind. They all flower too!
Privet is wonderful this month – its sweet scent fills the air alongside the exquisite wafts of the Philadelphus, the mock orange. An old favourite that is a useful addition to the shrub bed is the hydrangea – today there are many varieties including Limelight, lime green, a complete contrast to the traditional blue on acidic soils or the pink on alkaline soils. Hebe and Santolina are all time favourites, and the buddleja also attracts butterflies (otherwise known as the Butterfly bush needs space to grow and preferably in the direct sun.
And don’t forget, take the opportunity to walk in the countryside and enjoy our natural flowering beauties. Meadows and fields are filled with buttercup, willow herbs, scabious and foxgloves and are so important to our fauna too. Roadsides have been very colourful with lupins, foxgloves and ox-eye daisy and cow parsley (now available widely in pink) to name only a few.
Happy holidays – why not visit an open garden or two on your travels – I will be.