|Garden Diary August 2009
1st: A Prickly Problem
don't really like spraying our garden plants. Not just for wildlife
protection but also for reasons of cost (have you ever worked out how much
a single spray of insecticide costs?), and effectiveness. For example
green fly can be rubbed off of plants more effectively and easily than
spraying. However I do spray my Echinops in May. The tightly furled leaves
nearly always get infested with rose aphid and these distort the stems and
damage the flower buds. I draw the line at rubbing the pests off of the
prickly leaves and the ladybirds seem to share my aversion to the irritant
in August I do feel justified as the electric blue globe thistles open to
welcome hoards of bees and butterflies.
7th: Devilish Beauty
tupa is one of our star plants with its 8ft stems clothed in
bright red flowers from July to November. It comes from Peru where it
grows on sandy coastlines. It is hardy with us in a sheltered spot.
Lobelia it is quite toxic if eaten and in its native land it is called
"Devil's Tobacco" because the leaves are dried and smoked to
induce toxin-induced nightmare hallucinations - it is really quite nastily
toxin, so don't try it!
plants aren't something to shun provided you treat them with care. Many
popular garden plants are quite toxic, e.g. Daffodils and Aquilegia
(Granny's Bonnet). I always wash my hands well after handling plants and
cover cuts and scratches before gardening.
8th: Pretty as a Picture
garden isn't all "Hot! Hot! Hot!", we do love to use soft and
delicate colours as well. Today there is none more beautiful than Phlox
Maude Stella Dagley. Healthy and very fragrant Maud is beautiful addition
to the August border.
get a lot of questions about splitting (dividing) phlox. The best times to
divide are early spring or in the autumn (less successful but still
possible). For very large clumps you can cut sections from the edges using
a spade or bread knife. For smaller plants take more care and expose new
shoots carefully and detach from the parent plant before potting up. Plant
out once established. Phlox can be grown from cuttings taken in late
spring but they need to be grown on to produce a good rootstock to go
through the winter in pots.
cuttings are preferred to get lots of plants. Best done in winter when the
roots are most likely to make new shoot buds; although Carol Klein told us
on Gardener's World to do them in mid summer. Is this new research or just
another example of TV-induced impatience?
moving a phlox make a note of where it came from as plants will regrow
from any roots left behind.
Stella Dagley will be available by mail order for spring 2010.
14th: Wheels on Fire
a plant can often breathe new life into it. Helenium
Flammenrad (Fiery Wheel) is a point in case. In previous years
its been stuck in a too dry corner with little sun. This year I moved it
to a sunny spot and added lots and lots of garden compost. The result is
spectacular - flowers nearly twice as big and numerous and bright,
plant isn't performing its always a good idea to consider moving it to a
new spot - more sun or shade, more moisture or drier conditions can have a
dramatic effect. If moving plants now make sure you cut them back and
really drench them once replanted - and keep on repeating this drenching
respond well to being cut back almost to the ground. They sprout new
shoots from the root ball and these new shoots send out new root. Cutting
off the flowers only will only make them produce more flower.
|August 16th: Wildlife
Amazed today to watch a Hobby
swooping to try and catch House Martins on the wing above the garden.
These small birds of prey look like overlarge Swifts in silhouette but a
closer view reveals beautifully marked plumage. The House Martins first
scatter then rally to mob their attacker: often the first hint that a
Hobby is present is the sudden screaming calls of the House Martins. Other
birds of prey present in the skies and trees around us at the moment
include Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Tawny Owl and the occasional
We have a good number of butterflies
at the moment, probably in part due to the stinging nettles growing around
some of our boundaries. Currently we are enjoying Peacock, Red Admiral,
Painted Lady, Small and Large White, Small Copper and Small Tortoiseshell.
Most poplar butterfly feeding plants are Rudbeckia, Helenium, Echinacea,
Verbena bonariensis and Liatris (Gay Feather),
24th: Perfect Partners
you plant two plants together in winter or spring with an idea in your mind's eye
that they will look good together, having never seen them together
Its always a bit of gamble but I find it is possible to visualise
plants together. Aster
x.frikartii Mönch and Succisella
inflexa "felt" right together when I was planting last
winter - large daisy flowers slightly above dainty balls both in pale
lavender. Thankfully the combination works on a visual level. It also
works on a practical level - both like sun and grow fairly well in a
dryish, not too rich soil. Both also flower from late July.
don't always get it right, but unlike other art forms with gardens you
always get another chance to get it right next year.
27th: Meadow plants
never attempted planting a wildflower meadow as we've never had sufficient
room to do it justice. However it is always worth looking out for meadow
plants to use in the garden. Whilst some require very specialist
conditions (e.g. hardy orchids) others like the Knapweeds (Centaurea) are
easy to please and put up with dry, fairly poor soils and strong completion
from other plants making them ideal for the garden. They have the added
benefit of attracting butterflies and bees. Centaurea
scabiosa (right) is one of my favourites.
our garden open many visitors are surprised and thrilled to see so many
butterflies. Our late flowering borders seem like the ideal haven for
butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Painted Lady Butterflies (pictured here
on Helenium Meranti) are a
fairly recent addition to our garden: just a few years ago they were a
rare visitor in the very warmest summer, now they are present from late
May onwards. There's a lot of advice about growing only native plants to
attract wildlife. Whilst butterfly and moth caterpillars are often
specialised in their food plants, the adults feed just as happily on
plants from across the world. If you watch bees visiting flowers with long
narrow tubes, perhaps pollinated by hummingbirds they will ignore the
entrance and make a hole in the back of the flowers to extract
Plants to Find Homes For.
back from the Plant Hunters' Fair at The Dorothy Clive Garden (which we
organise for the garden). It was great to meet with and talk plants to so
many enthusiastic gardeners. We also bagged some new additions to our
garden. Miscanthus nepalensis with very silky tassels looks stunning but
is a touch tender so I'll probably keep it in our cold greenhouse this
winter and plant out in May. Rudbeckia paniculata looks stunning (must
think of another descriptive word, I can see my old English teacher
getting his red pen out!) with
green-conned lemon flowers a bit smaller than "Herbstsonne" and
very rough pale green leaves. Persicaria Compton's Form has a bold
Corporals Stripe on the leaves and Persicaria neofiliformis has bold
maroon blotches and red stems. The great thing about a real specialist
plant fair is you can not only find unusual plants (as well as old
favourites) but the growers actually know a lot about them and are happy
to give advice. This is the main reason we set up Plant
Hunters Fairs with a couple of nursery friends. We really hated being
at events listening to so-called nurseries telling fibs to make a sale or
seeing row upon row of factory produced plants that had never seen the
light of day or stood up to the keen bite of the wind. We also realised we
were going to plant fairs and coming away without having bought anything
ourselves and we felt that other plant lovers must feel the same. So we
organise events that we would want to go to ourselves - no market traders,
no knick-knacks, no hog roasts; but a select number of nurseries each with
their own specialist lines so there is something different to see on each
stall, some big, some (like us) small but each with something unique to
offer and each sharing our passion for plants and gardens.
we have some new additions to find homes for in our already packed garden.
Most hardy plants can be safely planted now (in our garden anyway) but I
must be more disciplined and water them every day or so even if it rains.
I do advise not planting plants that are on the margins of hardiness until
May - keep them in a cold greenhouse (once the cold weather arrives),
perhaps pot on and don't forget to water them!