Friday 1st July 2022

Well, please don’t think that just because it’s summer we’ve got time to lie about and smell the Roses. There’s no shortage of jobs to get on with – and we’re always looking ahead. Now is the moment to consider getting those late summer perennials in, if you haven’t done so already…

But first, as ever, it’s the Plant Ident.

Consolida ambigua

Larkspur is a joy to behold in gardens now. A hardy annual Delphinium which flowers longer and better than perennial forms, it has dense flower spikes which come in a range of colours from white to pink through to deep purple-blue. It makes an excellent cut flower and can last for over a week in a vase. Flowers from June to October. Ht 90 cms

Centaurea cyanus

The annual Cornflower, seen planted alongside Larkspur in the above photo, is an old faithful seen in every cottage garden. The vivid blue of the wild flower has been cultivated in the various forms now available, from ‘Blue Boy’ to ‘Blue Diadem’, but the range of colours has now been extended by breeders to include pinks, whites, reds and a deep maroon/black form called ‘Black Ball’. Loved by pollinators and florists alike; easy to grow. Ht 1.0 m

Eschscholzia californica

The delicate flowers of the California Poppy bring a vivid splash of colour to the summer garden. The feathery foliage is blue-green, and cultivars come in shades of orange, pink, red, coral, ivory and white. Grown as hardy annuals in the U.K., they are easy to grow from seed – especially in hot, dry areas where the soil is poor. Will self-seed – the curious looking seed pods are long and curved. Regular deadheading prolongs the flowering period. Rich in pollen, they attract bees and other pollinators. Ht. 30cms

Begonia

Mostly tender perennials, used in summer flower displays, pots and hanging baskets, they are loved by some, hated by others. Begonias have, by and large, lost their reputation for being all boringly-bedding-plant-like or overblown with ruffles and kerfuffles. Recent varieties have been bred to be much more refined and elegant in appearance. Foliage can be lanceolate or gently rounded, plain glossy green or tapestry-like – and there are a wide range of non-garish flower colours now available.

Best out of direct sun, they can add interest to shady spots in the garden. Imagine their cool elegance as they drape themselves effortlessly over the edges of a series of large hanging baskets in your garden.

The showiest leaves of all belong to Begonia rex, while Begonia luxurians, the Palm-Leaf Begonia, can reach 3 metres in height and add exoticism to a border planting for the summer months.

Jobs for the week

Remove Honesty, unless you want to keep some growing for self-seeding or to decorate the garden in late summer/autumn with its shining seed pods. Remove Poppies, unless you want to keep their seed heads to look decorative in the garden. You can always hang onto both Poppy and Honesty seed heads to use in your flamboyant vase arrangements indoors.

Plant Heleniums and perennial Sunflowers. These colourful plants will keep the summer season going through into autumn, together with things like Crocosmia, Echinacea, Asters, Anemones, Rudbeckia, Hylotelephium and Salvias. It’s all about continuity.

Plant up hanging baskets with Begonias

Plant Grasses, Nicotiana and Fuchsias

For waves of graceful waftiness

Love a bit of waftiness!

Take cuttings of Mints

Mint has a tendency to occupy all available space, hence it is usual to contain it. Whilst taking cuttings, it’s a good time to check on its vigorous root system and see whether any of your marvellous Mint collection has managed to make good an escape from the metal bucket you so carefully chose to restrain it in two years ago.

Take cuttings of about 8 cms long from the top growth of a Mint plant. Remove the lower leaves and cut through the stem just below a leaf node. Put the stems into a glass of water and keep in a light place; roots will develop on the stems within a couple of weeks. Pot the rooted cutting up into a small container filled with good, peat-free coompost. Once a good root system has developed, pot the stems up in a container with good quality, peat-free multipurpose compost. Firm in well and water.

Of course, you’ll know that it’s a pot of Mint – but what type? Pineapple? Apple? Blackcurrant? Spearmint? Peppermint? Morroccan MInt? So, for goodness sake, don’t forget the label, Mabel. Trim the top growth from the newly planted cuttings to reduce transpiration. Hey presto! New plants from old.

In winter and autumn, root cuttings of Mint plants can be taken and easily grown on. Once you have a selection, you can choose the many and various ways in which to enjoy them –

in tea

in a sustaining tisane

or maybe in a summer beverage

That last one sounds good!

Plant up a Rose meadow container

Finish planting up and staking Dahlias in pots

Confront the compost

They look pretty jolly, all things considered. And that compost is simply magnificent.

Composting isn’t normally so much fun –

But today, they’re really getting on top of it

Prick out Foxgloves

These beloved biennials put on root and foliage growth in their first year, then flower, set seed and die in their second. (Sorry about that spoiler.) Seedlings can be grown on now then planted out in the garden in the autumn, where they will overwinter. Next year, they will do the Foxglove floriferous flower formation thing. Like so –

Pot on various (innumerable) plants

Including Chillies. From mild to scorchio. The clue is often in their cultivar name. Aji Dulce? Mild. Dragon’s Breath? I guess pretty hot. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper? Naga Viper Pepper? Avoid at all costs!

And you really wouldn’t want to muddle up those labels, would you?

Not even for a joke

Take a little time for a spot of serenity

Good for the soul

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