is a time of pause in the garden, freewheeling gently
down the hill it's spent the year so far climbing
up. There's still growth a-plenty happening
everywhere, but it's less noticeable on most
plants as they're bigger now and a few extra
leaves or inches in height is less obvious than
in the spring or early summer. Many of the flowering
perennials are either taking a well deserved rest
after shooting up from ground level and producing
a wonderful show of flowers or still have their
thing to do which won't happen until the end
of the month or September.
The effects of
pests and maybe a period of drought are also showing
with some yellow or browned and pitted leaves. The
lawn has slowed to a stop in the heat and the rich
unbroken greensward that it was a couple of months
ago seems like a distant memory now. The gardening
year is approaching the maturity of September.
My plant of the moment at this time of
the year is Lilium regale.
Wonderfully huge scented white flowers,
half a dozen or more on a single stem that reaches
to 3 or 4ft tall. Individual flowers can get up
to 12 inches across.
The secret with
these bulbs is to look after them and keep them
going from year to year. The first year, they'll
be good, but it's from the second onwards where
they really excel. As soon as the flowers are over,
snap off the remains leaving ALL the leaves intact
so that they don't put their energy into seed.
Look after them watering and feeding as you would
normally for a valued plant. This way the leaves
will start to channel energy into the bulb for next
placed where there is some protection from the wind
and weather, containers on a sheltered patio are
good. I've had stems snap off as the fully opened
flowers are weighted down by rain and then broken
by the wind. If this happens to yours however all
is far from lost as the single stem of flowers can
make a display all on its own in a simple vase and
will fill a room with scent for days on end.
is the main time that people go on holiday of course
and so with the garden more needy of regular attention
than at any other time of year - it gets abandoned,
what to do?
The obvious solution
is to get a friend, relative or neighbour to come
round and keep all of your containers and recently
planted trees and shrubs watered so they don't
succumb to the summer heat. The reality of this
approach is not always as you would like, but you
can take a few steps to help your plants survive
and make them easier for your "volunteer"
to look after
- Give trees
and shrubs that have been planted
in the soil a really thorough watering
before you go, about a bucketful
each. Let the water gradually soak
in, don't pour it all at once
so half of it runs out of range.
Then give them a heavy mulch 3-4"
(7-10cm) of garden compost or manure,
almost anything will do in fact
as long as it keeps the moisture
- Place all
of your containers in a shaded area
of the garden, the more shady
the better, it will slow growth
down and cut water loss dramatically.
Remove all flowers from container
plants. Even large buds too,
depending on how long you're
away for. No-one will see them and
it will encourage the plants to
provide new flowers ready for your
return, also prevents them from
running to seed if they're not
If you have crops that will be
ready while you're away, tell
your garden-minder they can have
any that ripen, gives an extra
reason to look after the plants
properly and keeps them cropping
well for your return.
Don't ask that the garden
as a whole is watered, pick out
a few particularly sensitive plants
for special treatment, better
a few get what they need while the
rest can get by than they suffer.
Don't leave instructions by
name, tie a small piece of ribbon
around the chosen ones.
Cut the lawn before you leave.
It won't hurt if it doesn't
get cut for a couple of weeks or
so as grass doesn't like high
temperatures much and growth slows
down now anyhow. If it has grown
noticeably (more than usual when
your cut it) by your return, give
it a first cut with the blades set
higher than normal, particularly
if it's been very hot and dry
and then cut it as normal a few
all flowering plants.
If you leave them, they start to put all of their
energy into seed production and the flowers come
to a halt. What starts off early in the season as
a pleasant novelty becomes a chore at this time
of year, but it's the only way to keep the flowers
Prop heavily laden
branches of fruit trees, particularly plums,
to support the weight
and prevent damage. Make a note, mental or written
as to which tree/s and branch/es need to be pruned
to help the problem. Apple trees in particular can
grow their branches further and further from the
trunk with apples only produced at the ends.
Feed bedding plants
in the ground or in containers,
and the same for crops such as tomatoes
in grow-bags, use a soluble fertiliser as these
get to the plant quickest. Once a week at least
now especially in containers as most composts contain
only a little nutrient and this will now be virtually
used up. I noticed my Surfinia Petunias getting
a few pale and yellowish blotched leaves recently
meaning I need to increase the dose.
Set the mower a
little higher than normal in hot dry weather.
Though this year has been
blessed with lots of rain so far and lawns in general
are still looking very green, we can't assume
this will continue. Best to mow little and often.
An effective way
to reduce a whitefly infestation is by vacuuming.
Portable car vacuums are
reckoned to be ideal way of doing this, the domestic
vacuum may just eat all of your tomato plants at
the same time if you're not careful.
If any perennials
are particularly badly affected by pests, cutting
them back to the ground can be an effective way
of revitalizing them.
I cut my Delphiniums back last week for instance
as they were looking rather tatty and the older
leaves were succumbing to fungal infections.
I'll be buying some named varieties
soon when I been and come back from my holidays
to replace the fairly ordinary versions that I have
in my garden at the moment.
Trim hedges, particularly
Start to plan spring
flowering bulbs for next year.
Spring flowering bulbs and shrubs
Still to do from last months list
Sow seeds of winter flowering pansies and violas.
These are one of the easiest plants to grow from
seed and if started off now will be good strong
plants by the autumn and so able to flower throughout
the winter period finishing off with a final flourish
in the spring. Pansies are strictly speaking perennials
and can be kept going, but they are never again
as good as they were in the first year, so are best
discarded and replaced. One of the main reasons
I grow from seed rather than buying them as plants
(as well as the satisfaction of growing from seed)
is that you can get a bed or group of all your favourite
shades and colours.
A good time to take cuttings of shrubs. Cut
a piece of new stem about 6 inches long and remove
all flower buds and all but the end 3 or 4 leaves.
Place several of these around the rim of a small
plant pot filled with a mixture of sand and compost.
Water and place in a shaded place, don't allow
to dry out. Check the bottom of the pot after a
month or so and pot up individual cuttings when
you see roots sticking through the drainage holes.
It's worth trying with almost anything, maybe
I shouldn't say that but even when I read up
how to propagate a plant I usually try this method
as well anyway as it's so simple and will work
with lots of plants for most people.
watering containers regularly. If you
don't need to water them daily, they should
be checked daily as a hot day, particularly if there's
a drying wind can suck all of the water out of a
container. When planting up any containers, then
always go for the largest you can afford so they
don't dry out so quickly. Water, feed and dead-head
regularly for the best show.
Water autumn and
spring planted trees and shrubs during hot dry spells.
Look for "suckers"
on roses or grafted trees.
These are shoots of the wild-type
rootstock that the ornamental foliage is grafted
onto and will emerge below the graft union which
should be fairly obvious as a knobbly irregular
region at the bottom of the stem or trunk. If left,
then the rootstock being more vigorous (hence its
use as rootstock) will take over the ornamental
part of the plant.
editorials are added every month, back again on
the first of September
Archive - selected parts of previous year's
newsletters from this month
The heat has taken
quite a toll this year - and all those hours of
sunshine. July 2006 was the warmest month ever in
Britain! There was 50%
more sunshine than the average and only 73% of the
average rainfall - most of which fell towards the
end of the month in much of the country. Many local
weather records for temperature and sunshine were
Lawns have taken
quite a battering, though mine are pleasingly greening
up again after the rain of the last week. I've
noticed a lot of brown dead and dying trees in the
hedgerows, parks and along roads, some completely
so and others obviously suffering badly. In the
garden it's my perennials that have suffered
the most with trees and shrubs surviving pretty
well. I've only watered containers and any plants
that have been put in the garden since the winter,
so the perennials have been left to their own devices.
several emails from people describing damage to
their plants that in many cases sounds like the
effects of the heat and sunshine. If you have
any plants that are looking the worse for wear with
yellowing or brown leaves with no obvious explanation,
then it's most likely to be the weather. Often
new young growth is fine, with the older spring
grown leaves suffering. You could help them by giving
them a bit of a tonic to try and build them up a
bit, give them a good long drink with a soluble
fertiliser and apply a good deep mulch around the
base of the trunk.
One rather odd
effect is that a couple of purple leaved plants
I have - a Phormium and a Japanese Maple have started
to revert to being green rather than purple - not
from new growth, but by the purple pigment being
less prevalent in the leaves "unmasking"
the green that's also there.
This year seems
to have become the year of the fungus.
I've noticed it on all kinds
of plants that have contracted some vague illness
that can't quite be pinpointed. Discoloured
leaves that are brown at the edges, maybe tending
to black, but still alive rather than dry and crispy.
question has been regarding a "sooty"
deposit on plants, this is almost certainly "sooty
mould" that is not growing on the plant as
such, but on the sticky honeydew exuded by aphids
higher up in the leaves. The sooty mould is a fungus
that feeds on the sugary excretions, in itself it
will not directly harm the plant, but it will cause
discolouration and block light. The honeydew itself
will also make it easier for other infections to
take a foothold.
There have also been
a whole host of emails about dying hedges and conifers.
Brown patches that have been growing slowly for
some time, that have suddenly become much larger
and killed more of the hedge or tree. There are
a number of possible causes of this - all fungal.
What is probably happening is that the hedge or
tree has been poorly for a while, but this warm
damp summer came along and it became party time
for the fungus. What can be done about it? Not a
lot really once it's started to happen. It's
more a case of removing dead or dying growth that
may spread within the plants and then in the future
carrying out basic hygiene. Dead leaves for instance
from diseased plants should leave the garden in
the wheelie-bin, down the tip or up in smoke,
they shouldn't go on the compost heap or the
infection will continue.
Spraying your plants
with a general fungicide will help to reduce the
effect or extent of the infection, but not completely
eliminate it. Remember a garden is simply a collection
of novel exotic food for all the local pests and
diseases to have a go at!
Speaking of pests,
whitefly in particular have been very prominent
this year, especially so it seems on beeches, both
trees and hedges. Why
this should be is down to a series of factors building
up over the last couple of years of weather and
of predator population sizes that means that plenty
of whitefly survived the winter and the predators
weren't ready come the spring.
Every year there's
some plant / pest / disease that does particularly
well due the nature of simultaneous overlapping
cycles of nature that happen to come up in favour
of one and the detriment of another. My Fuchsias
are superb this year, better than they've ever
been, but the sweet peas just haven't really
made it properly wherever they've been planted.
a more benign note, we're experiencing a huge
population growth of hover flies in East Anglia,
especially on the coast, where home-grown flies
are being added to by continental cousins flying
/ blown over from mainland Europe. Despite looking
like bees or wasps, hoverflies are completely harmless
if irritating in their rather rude manners of landing
on you. Whereas normal flies are a bit circumspect
and buzz around for a bit - at least they seem to
realise they're unwanted and act like it - hoverflies
treat you like any other shrub or tree and just
land when they want to.
The adults feed on
pollen but the larvae, bless their little cotton
socks, feed on a variety of food - in particular
aphids. Hoverflies are economically very important
in the role that they play in reducing this pest
on crops and in gardens too. The adults have had
a surprisingly useful purpose on my lilies. Lily
flowers have great big wobbly hanging stamens that
are covered in a bright orange pollen that I always
manage to get on some clothing that is light in
colour so consigning it to an early wash. At the
moment, as soon as the tip of the lily flower opens,
there's hoverflies trying to get in and very
soon after it is open the stamens are completely
naked of pollen - something I've never seen
before. At least it'll keep my clothes clean
you have a
water butt? This is
one of my pet subjects as I'm constantly reminded
how useful they are and plants prefer rainwater
too. I've one large one that gets filled from
the garage roof at the top of the garden, and another
couple of plastic barrels at the bottom of the garden
that fill from small shed roofs. I rarely have to
use any mains water on my assorted containers, containerized
plants, and establishing shrubs and perennials.
The butts/barrels fill up when it rains and the
plants are naturally watered, and then during the
next dry spell, the butt/barrel empties. It usually
works out that it rains again just in time as my
rainwater supply runs out.
- Don't use the rainwater
for seedlings or cuttings. There is invariably
some contamination in the butt even though lids
keep most of it out and you may well introduce
spores of fungi or bacteria that while older
plants can easily shrug them off, younger ones
may get ill.
The ones at the
bottom of the garden are especially useful as I
don't have to carry water any more than necessary
- and I can never be bothered with a hose, too much
trouble if put away, or too in your face if conveniently
attached to the side of the house.
If you do install
one, I'd recommend using run-off from an out
building or shed as I do. Down-pipe diverters from
the house never seem to work well for long (maybe
I've seen the wrong type). Avoid the classic
mistake of the tilting water butt by making sure
there is an overflow and that it doesn't just
fall next to the butt. My overflows are led down
to ground level by a pipe and then a short 3-4 foot
piece of drainpipe (black, and hidden in the undergrowth)
takes the water away from under the foundations
of the butt. At a previous house I was even more
organized and the overflow led into the sunken plastic
liner of a bog-garden, so making sure it received
more than its fair share of water - it all helps!
I was going to take a picture of the hanging basket
I've dangling from an old apple tree outside
the kitchen window and use it on this months index
page. It's full of Surfinia Petunias
and a couple of fabulous Fuchsias that love
the position, bright, but shaded from the harshest
of the sun by the apples leaves.
I was going
to photograph them - rather than have photographed
them - because now the Surfinias have
virtually no flowers on them. This variety
of Petunia don't like high temperatures
as we've had the last few days, it causes the
edges of the petals to go brown and discolour. Then
all of the rain we've had has taken its toll.
So instead of photographing them, I've just
been out removing all of the damaged flowers in
the hope that a bit more kindly weather will set
them back on course again. The darker colours have
fared worst in the heat, and double flowered varieties
have been particularly battered by the rain as all
those petals get weighed down by the water.
I hadn't intended
the picture to just be a showing -off (There are
lots of fabulous hanging baskets around at this
time of the year), but to show how baskets can be
used successfully in an informal setting. They don't
need to be hung on the side of a featureless wall
from a metal bracket like an over-gaudy button-hole.
Hang baskets from
the branches of trees and the effect is much more
natural and pleasing, you can even "hang"
them from a hedge with a suitable support. I've
used a supported post - like a gibbet - in the past,
pushed into the hedge, painted black (black paint
is a must in the garden for hiding all sorts of
things) and tied to the trunks of the hedging plants
so as not to fall sideways. The picture of Begonias
at the top of this page is a case in point, in that
case decorating a dull expanse of Lleylandii hedge.
Listening to the plants grow - I've heard
stories about this, but now I've actually witnessed
it for myself and in my own garden too. I've
two large pampas grass plants in a position in direct
sunlight. They've obviously been growing at
full speed as a couple of weeks ago I heard them
their great tall feathery spikes of flowers that
go up to about 8-9 feet at the moment. I was wandering
around the garden about 10.30am when I heard a gentle
sort of tapping sound, like when a large insect
like a dragon fly gets stuck in the greenhouse or
the like and bumps against the glass trying to get
out again. It was coming from the pampas grass and
I initially thought there was something flying around
but couldn't see anything.
After much looking
I realised that the sound was coming from the plants
themselves. Growth of plants has two components,
cell division (making new cells) and cell enlargement
(the new cells getting bigger). Cell division often
takes place around dawn (I remember this many years
ago trying to make a good microscope slide of dividing
onion cell roots - had to get up very early to do
it) followed by cell enlargement during the day.
What I was witnessing
was the filling out and enlargement of that mornings
cells pushing the nested sheaths of leaves past
each other. In other words, I was listening to the
plants grow. It slowed down by about midday and
they just grew quietly after that.
Homework - yes I know, but it's only once a
year and you can mark it yourselves. Get yourself
a small notebook (or large one if you'd prefer)
and go around the garden recording your successes
and failures for next year. Most plants that are
going to will have flowered by now and those that
haven't are about to, so it's the ideal
time to record what works in your garden and what
doesn't, not forgetting where it works
and where it doesn't.
Start with seasonal
and annual plants such as those in containers, hanging
baskets and the like. Look at your baskets and containers,
note what you put in them and did they work or not?
I had one that was (if I may say so) just about
perfect in the shade hanging from an apple tree
and another that looks quite spectacular, but that's
because it's been taken over by 2 Surfinia Petunias
I put in it. The Pelargoniums in it can hardly be
seen at all, so - don't mix them again next
year for a sunny position.
I had a particularly
spectacular success with morning glory "Heavenly
Blue". I planted about four plants either
side of the front door to grow over a framework
of wires put there for the much slower Clematis
and climbing rose coming one from each side. They've
shot up the sides, met in the middle and have now
covered a couple of rope "swags" I tied
to the wires and then to just below the bedroom
One side the morning
glory was in a large container, the other they were
in the (greatly improved) soil shared with the climbing
rose. The score? about 4:1 in favour of the container.
Others I planted further out in the garden have
been dismal. The doorway ones have given 70-100
flowers every day for weeks, getting a bit fed up
with deadheading every evening in fact.
My sweet peas
on the other hand have been a great disappointment.
I hope yours were far better - although of course
I don't really, I want it to have been the weather
- no it wasn't it was me. I normally put them
in a large container under planted with violas and
they do splendidly. This year I used Lobelia "Cambridge
Blue" instead and they were just too competitive
for the sweet peas which I pulled out weeks ago
Speaking of Lobelia,
they did really well in the semi-shade of an apple
tree in a hanging pot on their own, better than
in the sun. Another lot went into a large container
under a fishpole bamboo Phyllostachys aurea
which can more than look after itself.
It all seems so
clear and obvious now, but I know that unless I
write it down somewhere and refer to it at the appropriate
time next year I'll have forgotten it all together.
My "failures" were mainly the result of
experiment, so I'll know not to try again. There's
an old Chinese proverb "The path is known to
each man by his finding it", so true, so true.