By George, we’ve had some interesting weather in June, haven’t we! Certainly it’s been too hot between 11 and 5 to do anything much in the garden beyond some gentle weeding under a broad-brimmed hat, followed by rain so torrential that Noah would have been very impressed. Nevertheless, there are lots of jobs to do when the weather allows, such as tending the roses, summer-pruning fruit and tidying up ornamental trees……..
Rallying the roses
I might have mentioned before that I grow quite a few roses (!), and after a long period of cold this spring, they all burst into magnificent flower with the advent of the recent very warm weather. It was all glorious until several hours of pounding thundery rain beat down their proud heads of blossom, and left many of us acknowledging (yet again) the fickleness of our climate.
Never mind. We will pick ourselves up, get out there and cheer our roses up as much as we can.
The roses with the big cabbage-y flowers like R. ‘Empress Josephine’, ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’, or modern hybrids like ‘The Pilgrim’ or ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ as in the feature pic, suffer the most in a deluge of rain, and it is frankly a pleasure to relieve them of the great soggy masses of brown sodden flowers. I would counsel you not to be too precious about this – a bloom might not be actually ‘over’ but if it looks a mess on the plant, take it off anyway.
If it’s a ‘clump’ of flowers, prune off the whole twig that they are on, back to a strong leaf bud on the main stem. Your two-fold aim in all of this is:
1. Make your rose bush look better
2. Prompt it to get on with forming new buds and flowers if it is a repeater.
Don’t forget to keep picking roses for the house as well – it’s just a form of ‘live-heading’ really, and just as effective at encouraging the formation of later flowers as deadheading.
A couple of other things about roses:
If you see tightly rolled leaves on your rose bush, a rose sawfly has been at work – the female is cleverly able to inject chemicals into the leaf as she is laying her eggs on it which causes it to roll up to protect the grubs. Remove the leaves affected and dispose of them, but don’t take hundreds of leaves off if it’s a very heavy infestation – that would weaken the plant more than the sawfly grubs would.
If you see shoots with different leaves coming up from the ground near the base of your rose, these are from the rootstock and will quickly take over your choice blooms unless you snap or cut them off as low as you can promptly.
A well-organised ornamental tree is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, I reckon, whether it’s grown for lovely bark, foliage effects or gorgeous flowers. But left to their devices, they can develop in rather odd and unhelpful ways, so this is a good time to guide them a little. Pruning cuts will heal quickly now we are definitely into the active growing season.
Young trees do need their side branches in order for the main trunk to thicken up properly, so let them grow for a couple of years before removing them. Then, unless you are going for a multi-stemmed effect, use loppers to take off the lowest branches so that you can walk under the tree (‘raising the crown’). Cut back to just beyond the slight ridge at the base of the branch where it joins the main trunk. Trim back young leafy side shoots coming from the trunk to three or four leaves from their base, and cut them off completely next summer. While you are there, just check that the main centre of your tree is developing as you want it to, and take out any crossing branches before they start to rub and become a problem later.
I expect you will think I definitely need to ‘get a life’, but I also like to give any ornamental trees which have lovely bark, a bit of a wash and brush-up round about now as well………………
What satisfying vertical points foxgloves make at this time of year, whether in the wild or among garden flowers! Most are biennial – seed sown one year, flower and die the following year – so you will find that a clump of the common ones in purple or white (Digitalis purpurea), will sort of ‘move about’ from year to year, which can be tricky to deal with in any garden except a wildish, cottagey one (my favourite sort, most of the time!). They are wonderfully generous with their seeds, which should be sown now in a shallow drill, watered and left to develop into seedlings. After thinning out the seedlings, they will be strong and large enough to put into their final flowering positions in autumn.
Some very choice foxgloves are perennial (come up in the same place every year) : D. ambigua, D. ferruginea and D. parviflora to name a few, all of which have the characteristic spire shape along with intriguing and attractive flowers. I am particularly partial to D. lutea, which some might find too dull compared with other foxgloves, but I love its unusually glossy leaves and spikes of small greenish-yellow flowers, which I think are very telling in shady spots. Don’t always ignore quiet charmers like these in favour of the prima donnas – make room for both, if you can.
- Summer-prune gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants now, by cutting this year’s new lateral shoots to five leaves. Having said that, do leave any laterals untouched that you want to become main branches next year. This summer-pruning can often help encourage the fruit to swell on the older branches – a welcome side-effect.
- A little daily wander past broad bean plants, Cosmos, Ammi major etc. will mean that you are on hand to wipe off blackfly infestations before they can do much damage. I do the same with woolly aphids on some espaliered apple trees – these are the patches that look like tufts of cotton wool which are actually the waxy protective coating for the bugs hiding inside. An interesting fact for you: it’s actually only the females that feed on plant sap, the males don’t eat at all and they don’t live long either – these two facts are possibly related! Painting the patches with a brush dipped in methylated spirit will work too – and so will ladybirds!
- You should now be feeding tomatoes with a high potassium fertiliser like Tomorite weekly, and pinching out any shoots that develop in the ‘V’ between each leaf and the main stem, on cordon types.
- This is a good time to take cuttings of your favourite clematis – I explain how to do this in an earlier blog (as well as how to layer a clematis), which you can find here.
By the way, Suttons have got another big seed giveaway running – to win some free flower seeds, check it out here. Remember to enter by 1 July, though! We were pleased to be included this week in Suttons round-up of good advice on sowing flower-seeds
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