If you’re off on holiday soon, it’s worth having a good old sort-out in the garden to avoid coming back to a wilderness.
Dead-head and feed (greedy) roses. The more they’re fed, the less likely they are to succumb to diseases such as mildew and blackspot
Prune Philadelphus, Deutzia, Weigela and other early-summer flowering shrubs and feed with a good general fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone.
With perennial plants, remove faded flowers to prevent them putting valuable energy into seed production rather than the parent plant. This year, I’m planning to ripen my lupin seed pods and scatter them in the wildflower meadow area.
Lupins seem to do well in the wild here and it seems to me a better option than all those fancy packs of wildflower seed that don’t work particularly well – so I’ll hang them up in a dry airy place and fling them about. They’ve got two choices………….but worth a try, especially when it costs nothing to experiment.
I’ll do the same with the foxgloves and Hesperis (the highly scented sweet rocket).
With the pretty damp weather, it’s worth giving the grass a low cut before leaving for holiday. When we’ve had so much rain, the grass is far less likely to go California gold – and it always recovers anyway! Don’t forget to ‘edge up’ the grass – to stop it creeping into borders and making the garden look untidy.
Hoe out weeds. Having had so much rain in June, the ground isn’t like concrete this year, so they should come out pretty easily. And in a dry spell, spray weeds on the driveway with a glyphosate-based weedkiller. You need 6 dry hours after treatment for the product to work efficiently, so watching the weather forecast is not a bad plan. Again, I’ve been experimenting. I have an area I want to turn into a planted border, which is currently covered in tall grass, dock and buttercup. I decided to cut it back first and then spray with the weedkiller. It seems to be dying back faster than if I’d just treated it without cutting. The open wounds of the ‘plants’ seem to have sucked in the weedkiller really quickly.
Although there’s plenty to do in the July garden, summer’s a great time for planning – and budgeting – for new borders, hedges, shelter belts or additional vegetable space, all of which can be turned into reality, just a few weeks from now. The garden should be full of colour now – even without the annuals. If it isn’t, then plan ahead to plant shrubs and perennials that will give the desired colour next year. These can be popped in in September and October, whilst the soil is still warm.
What to plant and where
This is one of the most difficult decisions.
Climate is everything and is often overlooked. I have had endless clients who request plants such as Mimosa or Phoenix to plant in their Normandy gardens. But both are highly susceptible to frost and cold winds – both of which are virtually unavoidable here. These plants may well thrive in coastal areas where the weather is relatively mild. But inland is another matter. So I now advise against such choices or joke that perhaps it might be a good plan to move to Provence if these are absolute ‘musts’ for their gardens. Even Ceanothus, which I adore, can be difficult in this region. Its magnificent blue flower is a sight to behold when given the right growing conditions – shelter of a south-facing wall or soft coastal area. But there’s nothing more frustrating than a shrub that has lost two thirds of its shape in frost die-back. So, to avoid disappointment, check the proposed plants’ hardiness and the location you intend for it. Ask a supplier you can trust to give good advice, rather than an outlet whose prime interest is just sales, sales, and more sales.
Natural habitat is also an important factor when planning future planting. We all know that Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas grow well in the acid Normandy soil. But they are also plants that are native to woodland areas, under the canopy of taller trees. When grown in a hot sunny spot, they will probably survive, but will often be stressed. This will result in poor growth rate and reduced resistance to disease. Equally, plants native to warm, well-drained and often impoverished soil of the Mediterranean regions, (such as Lavender and Santolina), will not really flourish in very damp, poorly drained or shady conditions. But plant Hostas or
Astilboides (apple-green leaves that become the size of dinner plates) in these conditions and you’ll be thrilled with the results. Both are brilliant for suppressing weeds too!