Written by Alison Levey – award winning Garden blogger
The Summer Solstice has passed and now the mornings and evenings start to close in. It feels like a moment to pause and reflect as soon there will soon be the first signs that the year is beginning to wane. This could feel like a sad moment yet thankfully the garden ignores such feelings and is reaching its summer crescendo. The recent warmth and rain has made the garden explode into froth and so many plants seem taller than usual.
I always think of July as the month of roses and abundance. I have become more brutal in my shrub rose-pruning in recent years. I used to clip them back politely and clearly ineffectually and now I take a more brutal approach trimming them down to be about 6 inch stems. This delays their flowering a smidgeon and they grow a little less tall, but they flower magnificently. I also prune Mme Alfred Carriere, a good climbing rose, quite hard in the winter. She is a big girl and she throws out long whippy stems with huge speed. Mme responds well to such harsh treatment and will flower all summer long. My Rosa Hyde Hall hedge is attacked with hedge clippers, way back in the day I saw the renowned Geoff Hamilton on one of his television programmes test this method of rose pruning and he found it worked very well. I am not going to disagree.
The stereotypical cottage garden will include vegetables amongst its flowers. Indeed it may well have been more vegetable than flower in its origins as needs must; but the flowers played their part in attracting pollinators and acting as companion planting to restrict the march of the aphids and other garden pests. I grow ornamental rhubarb and cardoons in my main borders and salsify self-seeds itself greedily throughout the garden. I edit out what I do not want and enjoy its purple flowers followed by spheres of fairy-like seeds.
In the veg garden I always grow nasturtiums. They are such wonderful annual plants and for me the garden is not complete without them. In the veg garden they give added value as they attract black fly away from my beans.
Back in the main garden perennial geraniums are stealing the show. This dark pink one (name lost, it is not Ann Folkard, that is the best I can manage) is taller than it has been before and spreads her elbows out decadently taking up as much space as she can. Once the first flush of flowers is over I chop her back to 6 inches or so and she will respond by growing back a little less large and will flower again. The perennial poppies, Papaver orientale, get the same treatment. It keeps them a bit tidier as much as I love them the foliage is quite scrappy once they have finished flowering.
Elsewhere in the garden I am finding plants emerging I thought had perished over the winter. There is a perennial pea planted as a tiny scrap last year, a gift from a friend and it arrived unnamed. I am looking forward to its eventually flowering as I do not know what colour it will be. Having climbing/scrambling plants wandering through my borders is a key part of the happy jumble I like my cottage planting to resemble. Similar to the salsify, I like things to pop up where I did not plant them, they often choose the best places for themselves don’t you find?
How are your borders looking at the moment? I hope the recent rains have given them a refresh.
Enjoy your gardens and stay safe.