July – August, A Time for Maintenance.
July and August can seem like restful months in the garden. Herbaceous displays may be at their peak at this time and warm dry weather will check the progress of weeds in the garden, leaving gardeners with little to do but water, mow and admire their handiwork.
Look closer. The garden might seem to be resting but there are always jobs to be done. July and August can be an important time to undertake maintenance tasks and one of the most beneficial is attending to your roses. A little bit of attention will pay dividends.
The first thing to do is to look at what types of roses are in the garden. This will dictate the sort of attention they need.
These are amongst the easiest of roses to deal with, if the most intimidating. Sharp downward pointing thorns may help them scramble into trees or over structures but they can be vicious even with the thickest of gloves on.
Most ramblers only flower once. Some such as ‘Kew Gardens’ or ‘Francis E. Lester’ can produce decorative hips but mostly, after one flush, the plant puts all its energies into growth. Normally these roses don’t need pruning but occasionally they get out of bounds by falling away from their supports. Once they have finished flowering they can be cut back hard and left to produce new flowering growth for next year. When faced with a large rambler, why bother with secateurs; reach for the hedge cutter and trim off all excess growth. It may be a shock but won’t do the plant any harm.
These roses lack the vigour of ramblers but many have the advantage of repeat blooming. Even ones advertised as continuous blooming will bear their flowers in flushes with some repeat blooming in between. Dead heading is the name of the game here. Trim back spent blooms to the next stout looking leaf joint or shoot.
Multiple new shoots can develop from the same shoot so it is advisable to thin weak shoots or those that are growing away from the support or cannot be trained in well.
Many people complain that their climbing roses go bare at the bottom. This is the nature of the beast I’m afraid. In evolutionary terms these roses have evolved to grow upward toward the light. Any foliage at the base would be subject to shade and therefore ineffective as the plant develops the woody stem needed to support itself. The answer is to hide this baldness with herbaceous perennials or leafier climbers.
The other alternative is to swap your standard hybrid tea or floribunda climbers for varieties of shrub rose that can be grown as climbers without becoming so bare at the base.
Shrub Roses Old and New.
Shrub roses can be divided into repeat and non-repeat flowering.
Non-repeat flowering types such as ‘William Lobb’ can simply be dead-headed, taking off the spent flower trusses with a quick snip of the secateurs. This ensures that the rose remains tidy for the rest of the year. If, however, the rose produces decorative hips like R. moyesii, leave it well alone and enjoy the extra decoration which can be just as effective as the flowers.
Repeat flowering roses which include hybrid teas, floribundas, shrub roses and the ‘English’ roses need to be dead headed more carefully. Remove spent blooms or trusses to the second or third leaf joint down. The exception is where the rose produces decorative hips AND flowers like R. ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’. Then it is up to you whether you sacrifice the hips for more flowers or enjoy the exciting combination of pink flowers and red hips together!
In The Kitchen Garden
August is the month when insect numbers seem to reach their peak, both ‘beneficial’ and’bothersome’ ones. There are a lot of hover flies around this year which should be good for those of us gardening along organic principles. Warm dry weather has encouraged, amongst other things, large populations of gladioli thrip which are now busy ruining the flowers of these plants (what a pain). The fascinating Humming bird hawkmoths have been seen in the garden moving from plant to plant searching for high energy nectar that the flowers provide as a reward for spreading pollen.
Many of the apple and pear trees in the garden have set an incredible amount of fruit this year. So much so that, even though the fruits are only partially developed, several branches have snapped off due to the weight. In order to avoid further damage we have carried out fruit thinning in late July, reducing the crop to one fruit per cluster. It is still not too late to do this job if you think your own fruit trees may be in danger of loosing branches in this way.
Summer pruning of apple and pear trees is needed in order to restrict the growth and maintain the form of trained trees such as cordon and espalier. Summer pruning can also be carried out on untrained trees that have become too vigorous. Summer pruning checks root growth and encourages development of fruit buds near to the base of the shoots. Extra light and air is allowed into the tree which ripens wood, encourages well coloured fruit and helps to prevent disease.
In order to carry out this type of pruning, cut back laterals of the current season’s growth that are longer than 12 inches (30 cm) to 3 or 4 buds from the base. For detailed information about fruit tree pruning consult a good book such as The RHS’s The Fruit Garden Displayed.
This month I will be hedge cutting, as well as continuing to keep weeds under control. Keep sowing quick growing crops such as lettuce and carrots, there should still be time to see these reach a usable size this season.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.