The great Platinum Jubilee is here at last! I’ve the added excitement/stress of opening the garden for the National Garden Scheme this weekend as well, so it’s going to be…….busy round here.
If you think you need a break from four days of partying under the bunting, here are a few ideas for gardening tasks like attending to roses, making nettle fertiliser and choosing some textural plants…………
A friend of mine bought a big climbing rose at the Chelsea Flower Show sell-off last week (it was jolly good fun, if a little painful, getting that back on the train to Eastbourne, I can tell you!). She asked me about tying in the stems and I thought it might be a timely moment to mention a bit about rose-training here.
If you train the upright new shoots of climbing or rambling roses down to a horizontal position, each one will sprout lots of side shoots along the top of it and each one will carry flowers. So loads more bloom for your buck! Tie twine around the stems to attach them to the wires or supports. Try winding climbing roses around in a spiral if they’re growing on a post, and free-standing rambling roses can have their shoot-tips arched down and tied to the base of the shrub for a flowery waterfall effect. Lovely!
A couple of other rose-tips:
Some roses especially the ones with the big cabbage-y flowers like R. ‘Empress Josephine’, ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’, or modern hybrids like ‘The Pilgrim’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (in the feature pic this week) 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.
And lastly, if you actually want a few really big rose blooms rather than a mass of small ones, just take off all the little flower-buds behind the leading one, like you might with a chrysanthemum. The flower that’s left will be much larger than if you had left the others on.
I’ve just acquired a lovely soft Senecio called ‘Angel Wings’ and I can’t stop stroking it! There are lots of other plants that are wonderful to touch, or which add glorious texture to a garden-scape. Here are a few of my favourites:
Grasses of all kinds, including fescue, Pennisetum, Stipa and Briza; lamb’s ears, Stachys ‘Silver Carpet’, mullein, pussy willow, Santolina, Fennel, poppies, thyme, Sanguisorba, Salvia argentea…
You can add depth and character to a garden by combining these soft things with plants that have a stronger or glossier outline like cardoons, Melianthus, or Fatsia japonica, for instance.
There are loads more plants like this – I bet you could add a few to the list! Combining textures gives more interest to the smallest garden or outdoor space. One quite neat tip is to photograph your garden and then turn the snap to black and white, which allows you to focus on where more textural difference would enhance the scene.
- Save money on fertiliser: wearing thick gloves (!) cut and chop up nettle and comfrey leaves, put them in an old bucket and weigh them down with a brick. Fill the bucket with water and leave it in a shady spot for a fortnight. Holding your nose because it smells vile, pour off the liquid into an old plastic bottle and use it in the ratio of 1:20 with water as a fabulous feed containing nitrogen as well as potassium for all your plants.
- Greenhouse crops are shooting away quickly now and you want to keep them feeling fine, so a dose of liquid feed added to the watering can is what’s required. Seaweed tonics help the uptake of nutrients, and slow-release fertiliser granules added to the soil- surface will keep your crops happy and healthy.
- Dozens of herbaceous perennials are putting on masses of growth now which often causes them to flop once they are laden with flowers, especially in a windy spot. Here’s a great variation of the ‘Chelsea Chop’ to give you flowers ALL SUMMER LONG. Cut back about a third of this season’s shoots by half. In a fortnight’s time, do the same to another third of the shoots you’d left untouched before. Leave the last third unpruned – they will flower first. Then the first lot you cut back will come into flower, a little lower and sturdier. And then the last lot. Try it with Phlox, Echinacea, Rudbeckia fulgida, Helenium, Anthemis, Nepeta (catmint), and lots of others. I shall be doing this with lots of my HPs this year, for sure.
Here is a little more detail about Elaine’s garden open for the NGS this weekend.
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