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August 2015 Newsletter

The weather can be pretty variable in late summer, and while one day it’s dry and sunny, the next it’s raining in earnest. One of the consequences of this is fast growth – which is a bonus for your annual bedding and perennials.

Alas, weeds take advantage of this pattern of rain and sun too and grow almost exponentially. You may notice this when you have to give weeding a miss for one day, and come back the following day. Be sure to hoe off the annual weeds like chickweed and bittercress, and fork out the more awkward perennial weeds like dandelions and couch grass getting as much taproot and rhizomes (underground spreading roots) out of the ground as possible.

Most importantly, get out into your garden during the sunny spells and enjoy the fruits (and flowers) of your labour!

 

Jobs to do

Sow seeds now for ornamentals next year

Take advantage of planning ahead and get some really strong, robust and hardy annuals and perennials flowering in your garden next year.

You can still sow now, and if you do small leafy plants will emerge this autumn. They’ll then put down a good network of healthy roots over winter so that in spring next year they’ll be primed to develop and flower, firing on all cylinders.

Annuals to sow now include;

Brompton stocks, wallflowers, pansies, teasels and ornamental kale.

Perennials to sow now include;

Agastache, aquilegia, candytuft, delphinium, eryngium, gaillardia, lupins, everlasting sweet pea and ox-eye daisies.

 

Prune early summer flowering shrubs  

Now’s a great time to prune summer-flowering shrubs like weigela, deutzia and mock orange (Philadelphus). Now that the flowers have finished their summer display, prune them to keep the plant well-aired and elegant-looking.

Prune flowering branches back to healthy young leafy stems. Once you’ve removed all the flowering branches, prune any other stems to create a balanced framework. All the leafy stems will mature for the rest of this year to produce next year’s flowers. Use anvil secateurs for woody stems and bypass secateurs for softer, green stems.

Water and add some bulky compost or manure equivalent to the soil around the plant to top up nutrients. 

 

Create bouquets from your garden flowers

There are few things more satisfying than bringing flowers grown in your garden to add colour, fragrance and texture into the house.

Cut flowers with your pruning snippers for vases indoors, making sure the snippers are clean and sharp. Perennials and summer bulbs that make great cut flowers include; Lilies, Rudbeckias, Sea hollies, Achillea, Nicotiana, and Salvia.

In separate vases, cut stems of sweet peas; the fragrance is sublime and they look charming in vases.

By cutting some of the flowers in your garden, you’ll be encouraging plants to produce more blooms in the garden, for the rest of the summer and sometimes well into autumn.

Mow and feed lawns regularly

You may have noticed that your lawn has succumbed to long-term drought. Despite the frequent showers, much of the rainwater doesn’t get deep into the soil, as it evaporates when the sun comes out again.

Fear not, grass is relatively resilient and with a bit of a helping hand you can keep your lawn lush in the long run.

Mow regularly, but if you can, adjust the setting of the lawnmower so that it trims the grass rather than cuts it short to the ground. This will lessen the stress put onto the leaf blades.

Feed the grass in summer with a feed high in nitrogen so that you encourage fresh new green growth.

Treat the lawn to a dual feed and weedkiller; the less weeds there are in the lawn, the less the surrounding grass has to compete for food and water.

 

Check your pond, especially during hot periods

You may have noticed that during high summer your pond needs filling up. Fill the pond up in the evening and check to see how much the water-level falls, the following morning.

If it has fallen significantly, you may have a leak. If your pond is lined (rather than a mould) have a look around the edges for punctures or holes (look for air bubbles, especially at the surface.)

Now is a great time for applying a biological treatment, for an on-going clear pond. Prevention is better than cure. So add Eco-Sure Pond-clear, now while the water is warm from summer. This will build up a bank of beneficial bacteria that will act to prevent algae from building up in the long-term.

Clearing ponds not only improves the overall look, it helps create a healthier more oxygen-rich environment for fish and other pond life.

 

Stormy weather –protect against winds (staking)

August is the time of year we often see some dramatic storms, especially after periods of high temperature. These can sometimes be hailstorms and, with added gales, can really damage the stems of your tall perennials and summer bulbs like lilies and heleniums.

Often perennials will right themselves after a battering from summer storms, but you might want to assist them with some staking to get them back on the path of recovery quicker.

 

Cut back delphiniums

You can cut back the tall stems of delphiniums once they have flowered and they may put up a second spike of flowers again this year. Plants that do this are know as ‘remontant’, and these plants are great to have in your garden for flower power throughout the year. 

 

 

 

Monitor your watering

You may be experiencing a lot of rain in your part of the country - there was certainly a fair bit in July! Even so, this rain may not be getting right down to the roots.

Choose a small patch of soil, take a spade and dig to about 20cm (8in). If the soil is dry towards the bottom, you’ll want to keep up with daily watering. If it’s moist all the way down, the flowers will be getting enough water from the rain.    

Plants are much more receptive to watering if it is consistent. Watering in the mornings and evenings for your container plants and baskets. This means that more water gets to the roots instead of the water evaporating in the midday sun.

Water your flower beds either morning or evening, whichever suits – but try to keep to this routine. These plants can access soil water easier than container plants so a good watering once a day will be sufficient.

 

Plant of the month

Agrostemma - corn cockle

Corncockle is lovely dainty cottage-garden annual, that grows to an impressive 75cm (2 ½ ft), attracts a host of beneficial pollinating insects to your garden and adds colour and form to your flowerbed.

What’s more, the flowers produce lots of seeds, which germinate the following year. So you get more flowers the following year, producing a year-on-year impressive display.

Sow seeds outdoors in August to October. Broadcast them around the flowerbed randomly for a natural effect, or in one area for a more formal display. The small seedlings will appear in the autumn and overwinter as small plants putting down roots. In spring, you’ll notice lovely slivery stems, flowering from mid to late-summer.

 

Pest and disease/ problems – drought

One of the biggest issues for gardeners in summer is drought- even when we are seeing a lot of showers and the odd storm, not enough of the rainwater is getting into the soil, before it is lost to the plant, evaporating in the sun.

There are a number of indicators that highlight the issues of drought. The most obvious is the overall landscape of yellowing grass on roadside verges and lawns. Wilting flowers is a sure sign too.

Drought can cause a number of other issues; namely the increase of drought-tolerant weeds like groundsel and dandelions, which it pays to keep on top of before they go to seed and produce their ‘dandelion clocks’.

Drought also brings about the disease powdery mildew, which is fungal and affects flowers like sweet peas, delphiniums, honeysuckle, asters and roses. You’ll notice a white dusty film covering the surface of leaves and stems. This weakens the plants affected and then they become more susceptible to pest attack.

The best way to control the incidence of powdery mildew is mulching plants and consistent watering to reduce water stress on plants. Apply a dose of Bio Gro Black Gold Invigorator, a concentrated fertiliser based on seaweed which boosts plant health.

 

Design of the month – Topiary

Topiary is the art of creating clipped-hedging and trees into neatly shaped-plants. This ranges from tidy and geometric hedging to bay-trees clipped into 3-D shape or even animals.

You’ll find fantastic examples of topiary at celebrated gardens around the country like Hidcote in Gloucestershire or Powys Castle in Wales.

In your garden you can create your own version of topiary with evergreen hedges and ornamental container trees which offset your perennial and annual beds beautifully.

Keep your border hedges or ornamental bay trees well-clipped with clean, sharp snips and you’ll encourage bushy compact growth which is easy to shape. Clipping plants is therapeutic too, a great job to do on a sunny day.

 

News

Unwins New Bulb Range 2015-2016

We’ve got fantastic new spring-flowering bulbs for you to choose and order online for planting this autumn - just look out for the ‘NEW’ tag.    

Start spring 2016 with a dazzling display of tulips and daffodils, great in flowerbeds, naturalised in the lawn or in containers. Why not try confident Narcissus ‘Nosie Posie’ with fiery Tulip ‘Joint Division’ together for a strong introduction to the gardening year! 

For that shaded area in your garden, try our charming woodland bulbs – they’re beautiful and will thrive under trees in full and semi-shade.

For pots try our no-fuss bulb pads (hyperlink to come by end of week); simply place pads full of blooms in layers in pots and watch the spectacular display of bulbs in the spring. Add some autumn and winter flowering violas for an even longer display from autumn to mid-spring.

We’ve got the perfect bulb accessories too, for easy planting and impressive floral displays. Use our bulb planting baskets for easy planting, great flowering and easy removing once the blooms are done.

30 July – 2 August - RHS Hyde Hall Flower Show

The East-Anglia based RHS Garden is hosting its annual Flower Show to continue the summer-show season. There’ll be a wealth of specialist nurseries and loads of late-summer flowers, with some for sale.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall staff are on hand to offer expert gardening advice, along with the exhibiting nurseries. Mini show gardens will offer you inspiring ideas to take home and there’ll be food and drink for you to refresh throughout the day. 

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