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July 2013 Newsletter

At long last it feels like summer, true there are likely to be downpours as well as sunshine but for gardeners that is good news, less time lugging the hosepipe and filling watering cans!
 
Lots of gardens open their doors to visitors this month plus two of our favourite garden shows: (RHS Hampton Court Palace Show and The Royal Welsh Show) are about to start.
Visiting shows and open gardens is a great way to get gardening tips and there are always lots of ideas we can take away and use in our own gardens.
We’ll be having a sneak preview of the Hampton Court show and reporting back on what caught our eye and what was new and exciting.

In our own gardens it’s the perfect month to tidy up and do a bit of ‘showing off’ to family and friends. Whether it’s a simple back garden barbecue or an important family event, admiring complements about the garden are always welcome.

Enjoy your garden to the full this July.

Flower power
With the right choice of plants it’s possible to have seamless colour in the garden from spring to summer and right through to autumn. Hardworking plants such as pansies and species geraniums can be in flower for most of the year and clematis are also brilliant seasonal plants, with early and late varieties for a long display. .
Perennial plants are the mainstay of most gardens, often called herbaceous perennials these are the showy plants of summer including penstemon, salvias and campanulas or the tall daisy flowers of leucanthemum.
While all these herbaceous plants are bursting into flower now don’t ignore the flower power of flowering shrubs such as hardy fuchsias, weigela, hydrangeas and philadelphus. They’ll add all-year substance as well as summer blooms to a flower border.

 

Show off
July can be a very sociable month, the long, light evenings are still with us and it’s always good to have an excuse for an alfresco get together!  The garden at home is often an ideal venue for important family events such as weddings and christenings as well as somewhere to invite friends to chill out on a warm summer evening.
Whatever the occasion putting your garden on show can be a bit nerve wracking - It certainly makes you look at the garden with fresh eyes! But it’s also the perfect excuse for a bit of horticultural ‘retail therapy’.
If you’re a keen gardener you may only need to pull up the odd weed, edge the lawn, sweep the paths and mow the lawn, but if the garden needs more sparkle add extra impact with some large plants such as standard bay trees or large shrubs. Plant up some patio pots, decorate walls and pergolas with hanging baskets or put up some plant-filled wall pockets to complete the transformation.

 

Conservatory plants really come into their own this month. Some of the best conservatory plants have an unmistakeably Mediterranean appeal; olives, citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and limes all conjure up the sunny feel of a holiday destination.
Palms always look magnificent in conservatories, they evoke a grand Victorian orangery, even in a small conservatory they’ll look the part.
Many of these plants will also enjoy a spell outside on the patio, like us they appreciate a breath of fresh air when the weather is warm. Then, on a sunny day, you can relax under your own palm tree and pick a lemon off your very own tree - it will feel like you’ve stepped into another world!

Fill the gaps
Once the early flowering plants have finished you may find a few ‘gaps’ appearing in the borders. These are not like the bare expanses of soil you might see in spring or autumn before the bedding goes in, it’s more just a lack of colour and interest.
Luckily there are plenty of ways to disguise these seasonal gaps.
Large containers of summer flowers provide plenty of colour and they’ll do a fine job of disguising any bare patches if you position them within the border as well as on the patio. Fill them with trailing plants in pale colours to light up borders as dusk falls and to keep borders as fresh as a daisy during the day.
Or try a pot of gladioli or long stemmed lilies so the flower heads rise above the other plants in the border. Nicotianas are some of the best plants for filling gaps in shady borders, their pastel colours also shine in evening light and they smell strongest at twilight in a bid to attract pollinating moths to the flowers.
If you can raise a container off the ground in some way the flowers in it will be at eye level. This helps to give the illusion that the plants inside are growing at the back of the border. Buy some purpose-made pot stands or you could make your own: look for sturdy stools or old stepladders at car boot sales and do a spot of recycling!

 

Picking fruit from your own garden is one of the joys of summer! A sweet gooseberry still warm from the sun and picked straight from the bush; or a bowl of ripe currants or blueberries... what could be better? I
You don’t need a huge vegetable plot or fruit garden to grow your own; lots of fruit is happy in a container. Cranberries and blueberries are ideal for a patio pot, they need acid soil so if your garden has neutral or limey soil it’s the perfect way to grow them.
Even in a fairly small domestic garden you can grow raspberries and blackberries up a fence or a wigwam of canes. Blackcurrants make excellent shrubs for a sunny west or south facing border and gooseberries can be easily trained as standards in a large container or in open ground.  If you choose established, potted fruit bushes they’ll look good straight away and they can be planted all year round. You’ll even get a small crop this year and a bumper crop next!

 

 

Tips for the garden...

The Chelsea Chop is so called because it’s a way of pruning that is normally carried out around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show. This year’s cool spring has meant the job has been put back a bit but there is still time to do it.
In essence you shear off some flowering stems of perennials such as helenium and delphiniums, to extend the flowering period.
It’s a job that used to be done on a huge scale in the herbaceous borders of country estates. In those days the aristocracy escaped to their country homes from July until September and October and they wanted their grand gardens to look wonderful while they were in residence. Those days have largely passed but we can still copy the idea in our domestic gardens, especially if we want the garden to stay looking good later in the year, maybe for a specific date.
Shear off the stems and foliage of early flowering plants such as pulmonaria (Lungwort), Opium poppies and hardy geraniums; it may seem drastic but they will soon send up new leaves and a second, later flush of flowers.
You can use a slightly different technique with the later flowering perennials, instead of cutting the entire plant try cutting out just a few stems on each plant. This works well with plants such as Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum) heleniums or delphiniums, the cut stems will flower at a different time to the uncut stems and give you a longer lasting display.

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Deadhead roses and other flowering plants
For a really long lasting show, roses need regular deadheading. You could just snap off the spent flower heads, but for the best display of flowers prune out the entire stem not just the dead bloom. Cut the stem just above a leaf node and a new flowering stem will grow from the place where the leaves join the main stem.
Roses such as white-flowered Iceberg or yellow Golden Celebration will flower well into autumn if treated this way.
But it’s not just roses that carry on blooming for months if they’re deadheaded; this technique also works for plants such as sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus).
Pansies and sweet peas benefit too; these plants are very quick to set seed and they can stop blooming if you allow seed pods to form.
Simply by cutting flowers for the house you can do some easy and quick deadheading.
When you cut your flowers for the house, choose blooms that are already in full flower, cut them with a long stem, just above a pair of leaves.
They’ll look great in a vase, while out in the garden you’ll soon have a new flowering stem to replace the one you’ve removed.

 


Start a new compost heap
There’s a lot of garden debris at this time of year; with the last of the late tulips’ foliage to clear, grass clippings about to reach mammoth proportions and spent compost from seed trays and spring containers to dispose of, it makes sense to start a new compost heap. Any heaps made at this time of year soon warm up quickly and the resulting compost is ideal for mulching or to add to multipurpose or loam-based composts in raised beds and containers to give a good humus-rich mix.
You can speed up the composting process by adding garden waste in layers; alternate a layer of carbon rich straw or brown spent stems with a layer of nitrogen-rich grass clippings and other soft sappy material. Another way to speed up the composting process is to add a handful of concentrated farmyard manure such as Organic Extra to the pile as you put in the layers.
Keep the compost heap warm and moist and you’ll soon have a supply of rich, crumbly homemade compost.

 



It’s not too late to sow seeds
It may seem as if the practical seed sowing months are behind us but if you love to grow from seed there are still plenty of seeds you can sow now.
Some such as annual clary, cosmos and ipomoea will germinate fast in the warmth of July and they’ll certainly flower this year.
Other seed raised plants such as forget-me-nots and foxgloves are biennial plants; that means they will germinate and grow on during the first year ready to flower early the next.
It’s not just flowers that will be successful from a July sowing. Quick and easy salads and herbs such as rocket and coriander will soon germinate given moist soil and hopefully, warm summer temperatures.
Vegetables such as courgettes and beans can also be pushing through the soil in a matter of days at this time of year.
Sow large seeds individually into small pots or cell trays of good quality seed compost or multipurpose compost.
Sow small seeds thinly on the surface of the compost in trays or modules.
Whichever seeds you sow keep them well watered (with the compost moist but not wet to avoid seeds damping off). Once your seeds have germinated shade the seedlings from strong sunshine and let them grow on. They can be planted out once they’ve made sturdy young plants with a good root system.
Keep the trays and benches free of debris such as fallen leaves or spent flowers, humid temperatures can encourage mould so if you see any signs of grey mould (botrytis) taking hold use a fungicide to control it.  

 

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