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August 2012
1st August: Despite the rain...

Some plants have enjoyed the rain this year, others have struggled; like my later flowering heleniums probably because of the low temperatures and lack of sunlight. Some that I expected to struggled have done really well, like Catananche caerulea here. They've probably succeeded because we have really good drainage where they are planted; in wet soils they would rot off. 

Eupatoriums are loving the moisture as are the tall Asters. Phlox are flowering well and are mildew free except my Mount Fuji and White Admiral. These are both very dense clumps growing in semi-shade, so I blame poor air circulation for this problem: looks like I'll have to move them in the autumn.

As I mentioned above, Phlox have been really good this year. The cooler days have suited them and the flowers have lasted a long time; last year they were over in a flash.

Elizabeth Arden (right) has had particularly large flowers.

Early-flowering Heleniums like Pumilum Magnificum (right) have done very well, flowering well and early with the plants about 25% taller than normal. However the later varieties have struggled probably due to the low late spring / early summer temperatures. They are going to be very late flower and shorter than normal.
2nd August: Hoping for a great late show

Our late flowering perennials are starting to get their acts together. Helianthus are starting to bloom, Angelica gigas has just opening its claret-red heads and the flower stem of Actaea Pink Spike (eight) are stretching and uncurling ready for their late August show.

These are members of the buttercup family that love moist soils but I've found will do quite well in dry soils. They are quite slow to bulk up but are best if regularly divided otherwise the clumps become impossible to break up. 


Grasses like Miscanthus Pünktchen (right) are stars of our late show. We have a lots of different Miscanthus, Molinia and Pennisetum in our beds and borders. A task for next spring is to divide the clumps of Miscanthus which have lot rather large. Being "warm season" grasses they only grow roots in late spring and summer.
3rd August: Feeding time

Our garden Robin has just fledged one youngster and she brought it to us for some help with feeding its insatiable appetite. The current favourite is earwigs. At first mum had to stun the insects before junior could eat it, but after a while junior was able to catch, subdue and swallow all on its own.

Young Robins don't have the red breast otherwise their parents would attack them.


Perfect Partners: This lovely grouping is in our front garden in a part-sunny to shaded spot. Crocosmia pottsii Tall Form is in front of Persicaria amplexicaulis Dikke Floskes which in turn is in of Actaea Pink Spike.
Another Perfect Partnership at the moment is Persicaria amplexicaulis Rosea with Monarda Gewitterwolke (Thundercloud). In the background you can see a Leucanthemum seedling we are trialing and Phlox Windsor.
Making its own partnership at the moment is Hydrangea Annabelle with its lime-green buds and greenish white mature flowers.

The heavy rain showers we've been having can tend to weigh down the flowers so some judicial staking may be advisable.

Hoverflies, like this Sunfly are loving all the summer flowering perennials. If you look closely you will find lots of different species in your garden: think of it as bird-spotting in miniature. 
4th August: Not for the faint hearted

This combination of orange Dahlia David Howard, purple Lythrum Feuerkerze and pale purple Hosta is not for the faint hearted but sometimes a clash of colours is needed in a planting scheme - a bit like the orchestra needs the clash of symbols to add drama. It didn't get any complaints from our garden visitors today so perhaps I got away with it!


Helenium Wesergold has been one of the visitors' favourites today. Our early Heleniums have been very good this year, whereas the taller, later ones are running late - 2-3 weeks behind schedule. 

Behind the Helenium (in fact in a separate bed) is the tall Lilium henryii its Turk's cap flowers just starting to open. I did find a few red lily beetles on it earlier in the year but it seems to be clean now.

Our Tiger Lilies (Lilium tigrum) have been affected more, probably because they are at the back of a large border and harder to get to to monitor regularly. 

Watch out for the grubs of Lily Beetle at the moment. These are pinkish maggoty things that cover themselves in their own excrement (lovely!) as camouflage and look like small blobs of bird droppings. These do as much or more damage than the adults. Wear gloves and squash 'em! 

5th August: Love Your Bugs

This is Janet being very brave and playing host to a Red-Legged Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) which is thankfully harmless. Fairly common in gardens from July into the autumn.

Thanks to British Bugs for the identification.

Brilliant for bees and woe for wasps

Our Angelicas are proving to be heaven for bees now and i just noticed the complete lack of wasps. Last year the wasps on the Angelica gigas completely outnumbered the bees but this year, it strikes me now, I've hardly seen a wasp. Some may say "great news" but actually wasps perform a really useful pest control function in the garden so their absence may not be good news at all.

6th August: Midnight Magic

Helenium Midnight is in its second year of trail and is looking promising. It is flowering at about 1ft 6in this year but I think it will need another year to determine its actual flowering height as it was divided into individual rosettes in spring.  It still promises to be the darkest red Helenium yet.

Helenium Blanche Royale is performing well again this year. Surprisingly the early flowers have lots of brilliant red in them: normally Heleniums develop better red tones in times of good sunlight, something in short supply this summer. 
We don't normally go in for annuals or half-hardy perennials but this year janet sowed some Nicotiana seeds to grow some "fill in" plants for any gaps that might appear in the borders. Sometimes a newly planted specimen might not fill in its allotted space and I don't want to plant another perennial only to have to move it in the autumn as the space gets filled. We find green-tinged Nicotianas like langsdorfii here and also the tall greenish white sylvestris or perhaps the cultivated variety Domino Lime Green. 

Since green is a good mixers we can pop them in between almost any other colours without hurting the eye too much.

8th August: Butterfly bonanza

Butterflies have arrived in abundance with the warmer, sunnier weather and we have clouds of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Large and Small Whites plus a sprinkling of Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Holly Blue.

These Small Whites were certainly enjoying the good weather and the pure white of the this Leucanthemum is certainly fitting for their nuptials. 

Attracting butterflies is a two-fold task. Providing food plants for caterpillars is a specialised thing with each type needing specific plants. I think we all know that some of our brightest coloured butterflies need a patch of nettles.

Attracting adults is more simple - lots of daisy family (Asteraceae) plants. 

Gatekeepers are probably the most abundant butterfly in our garden at the moment. They are generally smaller than Meadow Browns and the black eye spots have two white dots in them.
12th August: Success with Succisella

I've been admiring the dainty lilac balls of Succisella inflexa in our back garden today and more so when adorned with this beautiful Sunfly.

Succisella like moist soils but do fine in bone dry sand. They have tough evergreen leaves and they spread to form a sizable clump if left undivided for a few years. 

16th August: Keeping Phlox Fabulous

The later blooming Phlox are looking great now. just like Starfire here. 

The earlier ones are starting to go over now and I'm dead heading now. Cutting off the main head and flowered side shoots can induce lower side shoots to bloom.


18th August: Parade of Peacocks

We've noticed a lack of the larger brighter butterflies in the garden this year. We've had plenty of browns, whites and blues but just this week the Peacocks have arrived to brighten the garden.

19th August: Better late than never

Last weekend was our Helenium open weekend and unfortunately many of the later blooming ones hadn't really got going. But its amazing what a few days of warm, humid weather will do and now more and more are opening. 

Flowering times and heights of most herbaceous plants are always difficult to predict with accuracy and this year has been no exception.

20th August: Staking made simple 

Heleniums are adding heat to our beds and borders from fiery reds to the more refreshing, zingy heat of Oldenburg here.

Staking may necessary for taller varieties in the current windy weather. I've bought myself a tape-tying machine that dispenses and stables are length of tape around the cane and stems. Gone are the days of hunting for a knife whilst holding twine around the plants!

For larger clumps 3 or 4 canes and a circle of string are still needed unless you want to invest in manufactured systems.

I've also started weaving mini-wickets from hazel stems to hold up plants floppy across paths and lawns. 

21st August: Close up on flowers

The wonders of digital photography never cease to amaze and amuse me. I've been getting right up to close to some everyday flowers to find their hidden beauty.

Geranium discolor has intricately veined petals but I'd never noticed the green throat and blue anthers before, and also that the immature anthers are blue-striped. 

Heleniums are composite flowers with the cones formed of hundreds of closely packed individual florets. 

In close up its easier to see how the florets open from the edge inwards. The outermost are dispensing pollen, the next inward ones have their pistils extended, whilst the inner most ones have yet to open.

22nd August: Elephants in the garden

After spotting an adult Elephant Hawk Moth in July I was really pleased to see this wonderful beastie today - the caterpillar of the same moth. Its about 3 1/2 in long and it can withdraw its head into its body making it look even more elephant-like.

These caterpillars mainly feed on Rosebay Willow Herb - hurray!

23rd August: Perfect Partners

Helenium Sahin's Early Flowerer looked great today set off by the stripy grass Miscanthus Hinjo.

24th August: Late Bloomers

At this time of year plants just coming into flower are very welcome. Actaea Pink Spike has been looking good all summer with its elegant purple foliage and for a month or more the almost black buds have added an even more exotic look to the clump.  Now the scented pink-centred white flowers have opened to complete the picture

25th August: New Flavour

Helenium Oldenburg always catches my eye as it is a new and very zingy flavour of Helenium. The colour is most definitely oranges and lemons and the unique selling point is that its has yellow cones. All other yellow-coned Heleniums have pure yellow petals with at most a streak or two of red on their reverse.

28th August: Always something to learn

I always learn something new when I visit someone else's garden. Take Selinum wallichianum for example. I've always grown it in full sun but when we visited a garden open for the NGS in north Cheshire recently we saw it growing in shade under the canopy of a large tree and looking really healthy and happy. Something new for us to try next year.

30th August: Cut and Come Again

Geraniums are great examples of cut and come again plants. After cutting back the leaves last month and giving them a good feed many, like G. phaeum Variegatum now have lots of fresh, beautifully coloured leaves to enjoy.

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