Don't get jaded in July with Chris Beardshaw
PUBLISHED: 14:52 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 February 2013
take inspiration from the plants on show in many of the open gardens.
July can often be a month when the garden can look a little jaded - many of the spring flowering plants have either flowered and are going to seed or the late summer and autumn performers are yet to blossom. So if you have gaps in your garden during this month take inspiration from the plants on show at the many of the open gardens in the Cotswolds. Also visit nurseries and specialist plant growers for this season's hottest horticultural accessories; of particular interest are the hardy border Agapanthus; smouldering Heleniums, explosive Crocosmia, and moody Pentsemons.
· Start Collecting Free Seeds
As the blooms of flowering plants fade it is good practice to pinch out the tired blooms to encourage the plant to concentrate energies into producing further flowers this season. However, I always leave a few flower heads, allowing seeds to develop. Plants such as the crimson thistle like Cirsium, the misty blue Nigella, and blousy pink Papaver orientale are all give an opportunity to set seeds. To collect, place a paper envelope over the dry seed head, snip off the head and seal the package. Label the seeds and place them somewhere warm and dry for a few days to remove excess moisture. Then dispose of any chaff and reseal the envelope for later sowing.
During summer growth spurts many plants produce suckers, long vigorous shoots from low in the plant, or even from below ground. These can not only cause congestion and mis-shape the plant but can result in the loss of your choice specimen. Suckers are particularly evident on grafted and budded plants such as many roses, fruit trees and Wisteria, where the tough roots of one plant have been fused with the cultivated tip of another in the nursery to produce a strong, garden worthy specimen. Suckers reveal their identity by exhibiting either extra vigorous growth or foliage differences from the garden plant. Remove any unwanted growth by tracing back to the origin of the shoot, then, cut it away by slicing into the main stem or root to remove dormant buds. Treat the wound with fungicide to avoid infection.
Gardeners venturing out at dusk will probably be unaware of a frequent visitor that is on the wing during dusk. Bats are rarely seen close up and their nocturnal habits, not to mention their appearance in vampire stories has given them a bad name. However, few gardeners appreciate the sterling work they do in catching thousands of insects in a balletic aerial display every evening. Far from being menacing rodents these mammals are sociable, hygienic and a welcome addition to the garden. Help them out by providing a roost, a little like a bird nest box, in a tree or on a building, available from the Bat Conservation Trust (www.bats.org.uk).
· Butterflies & Bees
There is a saying that 'The Butterfly is a flying flower, the flower a tethered butterfly.' This is a key time of the year for butterflies and other threatened insects such as bees as both urgently search for energy providing nectar. Bumble Bees will be seeking large fluted flowers like Penstemons, Foxgloves and Figwort whilst solitary and honey bees will crave members of the daisy family. These are the composite plants where dozens of flowers are clustered in a single bloom for rich reward and include Asters, Coreopsis, and Rudbekia. Butterflies and Moths with their longer tongue can probe into deep throated tubular flowers like Honeysuckle, Verbena bonariensis and Jasmine. So if your garden isn't already stocked with a range of all these flowering plants for these beautiful and essential pollinating insects then fill gaps in your borders or to fill pots. Don't worry about attracting unwanted guests like wasps with your extra flowers as at this time of the year these bad tempered visitors are more interested in rotting fruits and berries.
· Harvest early garlic and dry
The foliage of early crops of early garlic and Japanese onions are starting to turn flaccid and lie on the ground - once this happens prize the plants out of the ground with a fork and leave to dry on the surface of the soil. After a few days brush off excess soil and lay bulbs out on open slatted shelves or a net of chicken wire to allow air to circulate and prevent rot. Dont be tempted to remove the dry scales that surround these bulbs as it performs an essential protective function. All are best stored in a cool dry shed or cool corner of a cool glasshouse.
· Autumn flowering bulbs
It's still not too late to plant a few autumn flowering bulbs, although this might be your last chance to ensure good flowering. Amongst the easiest of species to grow are the Crocus and while more commonly recognised as a spring flower there are several species that bloom in autumn. Crocus speciosus is great for naturalising in borders and short grass where it produces long vase shaped 9cm tall blooms in shades of violet blue; the lilac pink C. kotschyanus from Turkey thrives in full sun and on well drained soil, while C. sativus produces a similar bloom but with a bright red style (a part of the female reproductive structure) from which the highly prized food colouring Saffron is obtained.
July continues to be a busy month and kicks off on 2nd July with the official opening of my wildlife garden for the new RSPB Saltholme reserve near Middlesborough. I will also be unveiling the new Desmond Tutu Peace Garden later in the month and building a show garden up at the RHS Tatton Flower Show, which opens 22nd July. Plus I make my 5th appearance at the Sandringham Flower Show on 29th. Look out for further details on all these projects on www.chrisbeardshaw.com. If you want to ask gardening questions then log onto www.gardenersclick.com