Gardening Gardening 2009


Many of the gardening books will recommend that you take a break in August to enjoy your garden and appreciate all the hard work you have put in. I reckon that depends entirely on the weather (about which I am not saying another word) and what there is in your garden to appreciate.

So many Cornish gardens are understandably planted for spring and can look pretty tired by mid August. To my mind that is when the dahlias that have been constantly dead headed come into their own together with the cannas and late clematis. It’s also the time to consider putting pots in the bare spaces.

But don’t forget the spring wisteria. The book says August is the time to reduce side shoots to 3-5 leaves. Well that’s all very well if it’s a young wisteria, but with a mature specimen covering the whole house it is entirely impractical and will take forever, especially when the expert advice is to do it again in January or February.

Personally, I prune back big climbers when they need it and where they are growing out of place and now is when you notice it. If a wisteria isn’t flowering it is rarely to do with the pruning more likely it is the aspect or youth of the plant.

A couple of years ago I was offered a 12ft eucalyptus gunnii by my neighbour who was defeated in its support by the easterly wind. It was a sad specimen destined more appropriately to the shredder and in any event the best advice is always to plant eucalyptus when they are very young and small. I planted it in July (wrong), didn’t give it enough water (wrong) and frankly watched it struggle for survival until at mid August I chopped off its head to 4ft (wrong) and left the dwindling stick.

Uttering my favourite phrase, ’it has two chances’, I have been rewarded by its 50/50 choice with the most beautiful shrub of juvenile foliage. Moral, if it looks as if it needs attention, put the book down and apply common sense.

When you are weeding (yes, weeding still needs doing in August) keep a look out for small self set seedlings of perennial plants such as aquilegia, poppies, escholztia and hellebores.

Together with semi ripe cuttings taken now of hebe, box, fuchsia, lavender, to name a few for a little effort there are plants for free. The self set seedlings will often not come true to the parent plant but I find it very exciting to see what emerges and every year I assume I will find a new variety that will become commercially viable and make my fortune.

Whilst I am waiting, I will endeavour to complete the following tasks this month:

Plant Madonna lilies, colchicum (autumn crocus) and nerines now. They are best sourced by mail order
Dead head roses, baskets and tubs to stimulate more flowers.
Feed all annual plantings to prolong the flowering.
Prepare ground for new turf or seed and seed now if not too hot.
Make new strawberry beds and propagate runners from old plants
Cut down the spent raspberry canes from this year and tie in the new ones

Look out for plant of the month feature around the middle of each month on this site.I will be featuring some well known and some lesser known plants that look good at the appropriate time of year and some hints on planting and growing.

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