Gardening Tips

Primping your evergreens: Grow-how tips for August


Many of our gardens have certainly appreciated the very changeable weather so far this summer. Even if it has meant that accurate planning for social events has been largely thrown out of the window!

With water-butts full, and lush green growth even in August, we can get on with other summer jobs like pruning some evergreens and dealing with earwigs on the dahlias…

Evergreen shrubs

You may well be embracing the whole re-wilding/wildlife comes first/no mow approach which is such a hot topic at the moment (see our blog last week for more about that!).  Fine, but I do feel that the ‘woolly’ appearance of this laissez-faire approach can be hugely improved by the addition of structure. 

Evergreen shrubs and hedges that are well-tended can be a big asset to the look of a garden, however ‘re-wilded’ it is, and now is the time to trim them to shape.

Hedge trimming
Neaten up the ‘living furniture’ in your garden

Clip any holly or bay topiary bushes to the form you want – use secateurs or hand-clippers for this if you can, because the leaves that have been half-cut by a hedge-trimmer will turn brown, and may spoil the look of the plant.  And you don’t want that to happen to your topiarised poodles, now do you? Also trim up an Eleagnus hedge now.

Holly can take some SERIOUS pruning and this can be a good time to do it…….

Larger, less formal bay and holly bushes should have all their new growth cut back by at least half, or you risk the weight of the new stems pulling the shrub completely out of shape.  Treat evergreen shrubs like Aucuba, Euonymus and Viburnum tinus in exactly the same way.

Euonymus shrubs will benefit from a good tidy-up now

August is the best time to prune a yew hedge too.  If you do it earlier in the year, the shoots all start growing and ruining the outline again! By the way, we 3Growbags wrote a piece a few years ago about hedges which includes Laura’s triceratops…..curious? Click on the link at the end.

So get out there, have a good long look at the evergreen bushes in your garden, and set about pruning and shaping them to achieve healthy, compact and attractive ‘furniture’ out there for the rest of the year.

Taking note

Here we are at the very height of the summer, and everything in the garden is lovely!  Or is it? Are there plants, paths, pots, ponds or paving (no idea why I went all alliterative there) that aren’t QUITE what you wanted/expected them to be when you planned it all in January?  Same here. August is the month for my annual plea to you to go out there – whether it’s a balcony or stately home – with a sturdy notebook and a pencil and WRITE DOWN some thoughts about how you could make your outdoor space even better next year.  

Make your garden notes NOW while your mistakes are right in front of you!

Could you improve on colour combinations? Is a plant being overwhelmed by another? Do you need another shrub there to fill a gap, etc? Take a few photos to match your notes.  

You think that you will remember these things later on when you can get to work on such tasks, but you won’t.  And don’t forget to note down all the things that are FABULOUS in your garden too – they are such a comfort to read about in the depths of winter!

Gardening shorts

  • Water camellias and rhodos in dry weather – I know it seems a bit mad to be worrying about them in August, but this is the time that they set their flower buds for next year. If they run short of water now, you may well find that those buds fall off before flowering.
Encourage camellias and rhododendrons to keep their flower-buds by making sure they are not short of water now
  • Are earwigs eating your dahlias, chrysanthemums or clematis?  Yes, it’s a pain, but the thing is that earwigs are actually omnivores so they eat plants AND other insects, so they can really help in your fight against pests like aphids.  Rather than zapping them with chemical controls, try trapping them. Put upturned plant pots stuffed with straw on canes next to the plants you are trying to protect.  The earwigs will go inside during the day (they feed at night), then you can release them elsewhere in the garden.  
Construct a little earwig trap for your dahlias and clematis

Still on the subject of dahlias, it can be hard to spot which are buds and which are spent flower-heads – if they’re rounded, they’re buds, if they’re pointy (and drip a little if squeezed) then they’re spent flowerheads and should be removed, to encourage more flowers to form.

Leave the rounded buds of dahlias, and chop off the pointy ones!
  • Harvest onions and shallots, and make sure that you dry them well before storing them. I like to spend a relaxing hour or two stringing them on to twine. The string can then be hung in a dry airy place within handy reach of the kitchen.
Tying onions and shallots on to a strong string – then keep them handy for the kitchen
  • I road-tested a new type of wheelbarrow recently, called a BucketBarrow.  It’s a cleverly-thought-out version of a conventional barrow, and I think I shall be using it a lot! Read my review of it here.
I have been road-testing a new type of wheelbarrow – and I like it!

NB This is our piece called Hedge-trimming, anyone? which we published a while ago and seemed to tickle a few folk….

We were very pleased to give an interview to Horticulture Magazine, a very popular online magazine about all kinds of gardening. This is the article about us which was published this week.

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

Tidying up, cutting back, dividing perennials, yes it’s all coming up in our busy gardening year. It’s so much easier if you have the right, high-quality tools. Above, our perennial spadeherbaceous sickle and razor hoe are all invaluable when to comes to high summer gardening

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

4 replies on “Primping your evergreens: Grow-how tips for August”

Thank you all for your helpful, knowledgeable and funny blog, I look forward to it on a Saturday. This week, Elaine mentions that now is the time to trim an Eleagnus hedge. I have a stand alone Eleagnus shrub, and I’m never sure when to trim it as I really do love the smell of the late flowers. Any advice would be very welcome.
Kindest regards and thanks

Hi Stephanie, Elaine here. So glad you like our blog – as you can imagine, we enjoy writing it, but it’s always lovely to get friendly feedback! A free-standing Eleagnus doesn’t really need much trimming usually; in my piece I was really only referring to semi-formal Eleagnus hedges which can be tidied up now. Just enjoy those gorgeously-scented flowers, and neaten up the shrub after flowering has finished if you need to. You can also prune away any wayward branches in late spring before it kicks into full growth again. Happy gardening!

It’s so lovely and reassuring to read all your articles – gardening with a sense of humour, thank God! Now that I’ve (nearly) retired, I’m turning my sights to the garden and am in serious need of help as I’m quite overwhelmed by how much there is to do. Any hints on formal garden design in the pipeline?
I remember you all so well from the school bus – Elaine, we were in the same class in the first year at Horsham High School – and you haven’t changed one little bit! Look out Gardening World….or better still, perhaps your own TV programme?

Hi Carla, thank you so much for writing in! I remember you too, and our lovely friend Lin tells me your news occasionally! Glad you like our ramblings. Yes, you’re right, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and the only advice I can give there, is to just do a little area at a time. Go slowly, and give yourself a chance to enjoy the process. We did write a piece about formality in the garden back in February 2020, which might be of interest Above all, have a fabulous retirement – speaking for myself (and even though I loved my job) I have never looked back!

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