Wow, what a July we had! Luckily we’ve had a little bit of much needed rain in the last few days. I don’t know – we complain when it’s too hot, we complain when it rains ….!
Floral & Hardy’s top ten flowering plants for August:
Monkshood – an old cottage garden favourite, but just as good in a contemporary scheme, this perennial has attractive deeply cut foliage and curiously hooded blue or white flowers on tall spikes, from a distance resembling Delphiniums. Good if you have a shady spot to fill at the back of the border, but not recommended for gardens with children, as all parts of the plant are poisonous!
Valerian – another easy to grow cottage garden perennial, this time for a sunny position, with clusters of pink or white flowers over a very long flowering season.
Hardy Plumbago – a really good source of deep blue in the late summer border, this little shrub can die right back after a hard winter but will bounce back again in spring, producing new growth from the base. The leaves also give good red autumn colour.
This late flowering climber comes in many different varieties and colours, the main advantage over other types being their greater resistance to the dreaded clematis wilt! Easy to prune early in spring by cutting all the stems back to pairs of plump buds about 30cms from the ground.
Sea Holly – as the name suggests, if you’re planning a beach themed garden, this one’s for you! It has silvery thistle-like leaves, blue stems and blue, thimble-shaped flower heads.
Sneezewort – an indispensible source of colour in the late summer borders, this plant has large daisy-like, yellow, orange or red flowers with a prominent central disc. Excellent for cutting for indoors.
A very popular garden shrub, and justifiably so, as nothing gives more ‘bang for your buck’ at this time of year, with large heads of either mop-head or lace-cap type flowers of white, pink or blue. The colour of the flower gives a good indication of the soil-type in your garden by the way, as blue flowers indicate an acid soil and pink, an alkaline. So if your hydrangea has changed colour, that’s probably why!
Another daisy-like flower, but not very often seen in gardens, this tall perennial has more finely-rayed yellow flowers. Good in a slightly shaded position, unlike many other daisy types.
Pheasant Berry – an unusual shrub and not much grown, although it’s very easy, which bears long, tassel-like, wine-coloured flowers followed by purple berries, much loved by birds.
Don’t grow this one unless you have a moisture retentive soil and a little shade, but if you do it will be well worth it. Large heart-shaped leaves, dramatically purple in some varieties, are topped by spreading heads of large orange or yellow daisies.
AUGUST TIPS AND ADVICE
1. It’s easy at this time of year for everything to start looking a bit tired so continue with watering, feeding, weeding and dead-heading to keep everything looking good.
2. As for previous months, top up ponds and water features as evaporation occurs – although with the rain we’ve been having we may not need to do that too often!
3. Continue to check your roses (and other plants) for pests and diseases and treat promptly if you find anything.
4. Check your climbers to make sure ties are not constricting growth or cutting in to stems. Do the same for young trees.
5. If you are lucky enough to have tree ferns and we do get dry weather – don’t forget to spray their trunks and crowns so that they don’t dry out.
6. If you have bearded Irises that need dividing because they are overcrowded, do it now, lifting the whole clump and pulling away the new rhizomes and discarding the old bits. Re-plant the new rhizomes firmly, leaving half exposed above ground level as they like to bake in the sun. Don’t forget to water though!
7. Cuttings may still be taken now of Fuchsias and Pelargoniums to provide plants for next year. You can also take cuttings of Rosemary and Thyme. Try not to let other herbs flower and go to seed, by cutting and using regularly – fresh herbs are such a valuable source of vitamins, we should all try to grow at least a few.
8. August is also a good time to prune fruit trees that have become overgrown and unproductive. It will open them up and encouraging fruiting next year. Espalier and fan-trained fruit trees should be pruned late in the month too.
9. Autumn and winter flowering bulbs such as Crocus and Muscari can be planted now, as can Cyclamen. You may also like to look ahead at bulb and seed catalogues for next year!
10. Give your lawn its final summer feed this month. Don’t do it any later as autumn applications will just encourage lush growth, leaving the grass more susceptible to disease in the cooler, wetter autumn weather.
Finally, if you are going away on holiday, don’t forget to ask a kindly neighbour to water your pots and hanging baskets while you’re away. There’s nothing worse after all your hard work earlier in the year, than coming back to a load of dead plants!
By Helen Ellison