Surely, surely by now we are owed a decently long spell of warm weather – what a treat it will be to potter in the garden without needing my fleece! While we are patiently waiting for that to happen, let’s get on with some tasks like primping the flower borders, giving the lawn some TLC and thinning raspberry canes…………………
My Eastbourne courtyard garden will be open for the National Garden Scheme again this weekend, and should already have been full of riotous rose blooms. Huh! (To be said in a mockingly scornful tone). This terribly cold spring has set everything back by at least 3 weeks. Our visitors will just have to admire a million rosebuds and console themselves with cake instead.
Nevertheless, there are things I can do to make my mixed garden borders more appealing, especially among the herbaceous perennials that are growing strongly now. Some care taken among our flower beds now can help hugely to keep them in good order to summer’s end,,,,,,,,,
- Dead-head spring flowering perennials like bergenias, pulmonarias etc, so that they are persuaded to divert their energy into leaf growth instead. The aim now is to build up the plants for next year’s show.
2. Check through the borders to make sure that anything that needs support is given some. recent strong winds caught a few taller things here, I’m afraid. And there was me thinking that I’d covered all the bases. What a great leveller horticulture is!
3. Giving your plants a feed works well now. Use a good organic product like fish, blood and bone, or maybe pelleted chicken manure.
4. Try to stay vigilant about tying in fast climbers, so that they cover the surface you have chosen for them evenly.
There are a few more tips on how to keep a flower-border looking at its best, in an earlier Growhow column written a while back – there’s a link to it at the end.
Getting grassed up
Many of you may know that I am lucky enough to have a garden in Normandy as well as in Eastbourne. It is such a privilege to be able to tend two such different spaces, but the fact is that the pandemic has prevented us from being in France for over 8 months now and counting. A friend has been sending me alarming photos of the greenhouse disappearing behind metre-high grass, collapsed ironmongery under jungles of bindweed, garden paths composed entirely of creeping buttercup and milk thistle, and wildebeest roaming the waving prairie of ‘lawn’. Okay, I might have made the last one up. ‘Challenging’ is the word that springs to mind, but I’ve got to feel philosophical about it because it’s the only way.
Repair bare patches in your lawn using lawn-seed of a suitable type for your patch – keep the seed well-watered and, if possible, protected from birds until it has germinated. One danger area is alongside flower borders – the perennials can flop over and kill the grass beneath, or get chopped off by the mower. Either consequence is a bit rubbish. One smart and effective solution is to lay small paving slabs along the front edge of the border, and then your lovely summer plants can do all the lolling they like without risk of very public decapitation.
If you are planning a new area of lawn, do consider how to make the mowing of it as straightforward as possible. Slopes can be tricky, so keep them as gentle as you can if you really want grass on them. Mowers can really scuff up the grass on anything steeper.
If they have a lawn, I’m guessing that most folk are mowing it weekly by now, and with the recent wet weather, it should all be pretty bright green and growing strongly. This is a good time to use a granular lawn fertiliser to make the grass stronger and healthier. It will supply a mix of nutrients over several weeks and may include a weed- or moss-killer as well. Repeat the application 6 weeks later for a summer-long effect.
I’ve a strong feeling that we won’t be worrying about such counsels of perfection when we finally get to La Belle France. We’ll cut down our grass as best we can, it will all go brown for a bit, and we’ll survey the scene with Zen-like calm, knowing that the pollinating insects, at least, have had a literal Field-Day.
Raspberries are keen customers and they can throw up new canes with wild abandon. Pull or cut some of them out now or you’ll find yourself with a dense thicket of canes which the sun and air (not the ‘son and heir’ which is a different proposition altogether………..!) can’t penetrate – the fruit may be smaller or more prone to disease as a result.
My wallflowers are still giving very good service, like the Erysimum ‘Winter Passion’ in the feature pic today, but now’s the time to sow the seed of these and other biennials like foxgloves. Sow the seed into shallow drills in raked soil. They should grow into decent-sized plants over the summer, ready to be put into position and then flower gloriously next year.
Cheer up the plants that you grow permanently in pots. Freshen up the top 5cm of compost, mixing in a handful of slow-release fertiliser granules. Spiking the rootball of the plant can help to ensure that water and nutrients run down into the centre, rather than trickle down the edges of the pot. A finishing mulch of crushed stone or pebbles looks nice and will hold in moisture in hot weather.
The link to the earlier blog I referred to is here.
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