Aug 10 – ‘Keeping Your Garden Going’

August 2010 Article – Herts & Observer


‘Keeping Your Garden Going’


WELL, August already, where does the time go. Although a lot of our garden favourites have finished flowering there’s still plenty of life left in our borders and our gardens can still look spectacular for a few months yet.


This year the summer has been terrific but the lack of rain in this part of the country has been particularly challenging. The lawns and grass verges have suffered the most but they should green up when we do get rain. What is worrying though is the amount of trees, especially silver birches that are looking sick due to the drought. With any luck they should bounce back.


To keep your garden going why not pop down to the garden centre and invest in some late flowering perennials. Top of my list for style and substance is Verbena bonarienis which has great elegant stems with long lasting purple flowers on top. Perovskia or Russian sage is also striking and copes well in dry sunny conditions once it’s established. Star gazer lilies are looking and smelling fabulous at the moment and crocosmia, dahlias, gladioli and chrysanthemums are tops for colour.


Delicious dahlias


As for late flowering shrub colour, try abelia, potentilla, hydrangea and hebes, they’re all flowering their socks off now.


Colourful Crocosmia


You could try something a bit more unusual like angelica or Actea simplex which has lovely spires of white flowers.  A lot of ornamental grasses are also at their best now and add a prairie feel to the garden.


If you do have the odd troublesome gap in your border, why not think about plugging it with a houseplant for the summer. A lot of DIY stores have great deals on them at the moment and they can give the garden a  boost by giving a touch of the exotic. Plunge them straight into the gap in the pots that they come in and then lift them in late September / early October and take back inside. If you have orchids or yuccas inside try bringing them outside for a couple of months for a holiday.


Ensure your bedding plants look great for as long as possible by regular dead heading. If your petunias are looking a bit sad and leggy don’t be afraid to trim them back by half. Within a week or so they’ll come back even better. This also works with nemesia, diascia and nicotianas.


Keep an eye out for pests as they can still do damage and make your plants look unsightly. Watch out for earwigs on dahlias and if you see any leaf miners on your chrysanths pick off the leaves immediately and dispose of. Whilst we are on the subject of pests make a note of any problems you had this year. Fore warned is fore armed; you may have to take out susceptible plants or start a spray regime earlier next year.


Keep on with the watering, don’t let dahlias or rhododendrons dry out and don’t forget your baskets and bedding. Continue to feed plants but reduce high nitrogen feed at the end of the month as this can produce soft growth that might be susceptible to frost.


It’s a good time of year to be thinking about spring flowering bulbs. Believe it or not they will soon be in all the garden centres. Don’t be tempted to buy them too soon. You can still get good deals later on in the season and the majority of them you can plant right up until Christmas. They should feel firm and not soft and spongy and shouldn’t smell musty or mildewy.


You can mark out their planting position now. Poke a bamboo cane in the soil to mark where you want to be planted. Mid way between perennials is a good idea so that when they die down after flowering, unsightly foliage is hidden by the newly emerging growth from the plants around them.


In the veg garden, lift potatoes as and when you need them and lift onions when the foliage turns yellow and flops over. Leave for a couple of days to dry out before storage.


Runner beans are at their best, but they do need to be picked small so that they are tender and tasty and not old and dry. My old dad used to say that there’s nothing worse than a stringy bean! They are great raw, especially when shredded or sliced in salads. One thing with beans is that they must be kept moist and you must keep picking to ensure they keep cropping even if you have to pick off the odd manky ones and throw them away.


If you want to propagate your own plants for next year now is a good time to collect seed from poppies, alcemilla, aquilegia and lychnis and it’s the ideal time to take semi-ripe cuttings of wiegelia, spireas, deutzias.


If you are growing on amaryllis bulbs that you got last Christmas, keep them watered until the end of the month and then let them dry out and go dormant to ensure they come up again and give you another show.


As a final thing don’t forget your ponds. Keep them topped up and if you do have algae problems consider investing in more aquatic plants. These will act to shade out excess light levels that cause the algae to thrive.


 It’s not easy to keep the garden looking beautiful in August as it is in May and June but with a little bit of imagination it’s certainly possible.


Saying of the Month: ‘Gardens aren’t made by sitting in the shade’


Did you know: Oak trees don’t make acorns until they are at least 50 years old.