Time to stand and stare.
July weather started very wet indeed, so wet that it was difficult to get out into the garden on many days. This allowed the weeds to grow unrestrained and as a result some areas became ‘rather weedy’. As well as this, large areas of grass were not mown for nearly 3 weeks. I know that many of you were in the same position. Now that we are having a bit of summer (at last), for the last two weeks it has been noses to the grindstone trying to put things right again.
August will be a month of ‘steady as she goes’ in the garden here. It is a time of little change; a time of anticipation, waiting for autumn to arrive. Try to enjoy your garden this month, keep on top of things, but spend as much time as you can just enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and ‘spirit’ of your garden.
Herbaceous Heaven in July.
Summer weather seems finally to have got around to arriving and there is no better time to get out and about and see other gardens. July and August are some of the best months to see herbaceous displays.
Perhaps the most historic herbaceous borders in the country are at Arley Hall in Cheshire; indeed they claim to be the first such borders to have been planted in England. There are double herbaceous borders backed by tall hedges to give a contrast. Refreshingly, most of the planting is permanent, hardy perennials, though there are of course annuals mingled in to fill gaps. I am all for annuals but it does often mean gardening more intensively and greater demands on time.
Yet the herbaceous border is not the only feature of this outstanding garden. From the car park, visitors approach the garden between the towering 8m high pleached lime avenue. Planted in the 1850s, the avenue has been kept juvenile by constant pruning.
There are a number of smaller garden ‘rooms’ within the garden including the discrete ‘Flag Garden’ planted with roses and clematis and the ‘Fish Garden’ which, as its name might suggest, contains a small pond and fountain planted with sun loving plants.
For me some one of the most striking features of the garden is the Ilex Avenue which is in fact made up of huge columns of evergreen oak, Quercus ilex. They are massive and imposing things and I certainly don’t envy the gardeners the job of cutting them!
My own favourite part is the walled garden. Originally a kitchen garden, it was the most recent area to be re-designed and now the ancient fruit trees along the wall form a backdrop to other stunning trees and shrubs including some Fagus ‘Dawyck’, a fastigiate beech first grown at Dawyck Botanic garden in Scotland.
Further along in the glasshouses I encountered one of my favourite climbers the giant Burmese honeysuckle, Lonicera hildebrandiana which has 2in long mango scented blooms. Although only suitable for a greenhouse or conservatory, it is worth growing if you have either.
Yet as I mentioned, now is the time for herbaceous plants to be at their best; here are some of my favourites.
July and August can be a peak time for Hemerocallis, the daylilies. I am not too keen on those with too many different colours in the flower preferring blooms to have a more solid hue and a good purity of colour. One of the best for me has to be ‘Gentle Shepherd’ which is almost pure white with a green tinged throat. Some people go mad for daylilies others not so much and I do agree that they are not always good front of border plants but they make excellent fillers adding plenty of body.
Bistorts, or Persicaria will be lifting their tall spires of flower now above large leaves. They certainly thrive where there is year round moisture in the soil but I have found that if well mulched or given some manure when planted they are surprisingly adaptable. P. amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ is a red which positively glows in evening light. Yet if you want something more unusual try P. polymorpha which reaches up to 6ft and has creamy white flowers.
For a really hot combination try under planting Perovskia, the Russian sage, with its silvery foliage and spires of bright blue flowers with Echinacea purpurea in shades of purple or Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ which is as vibrant as the name suggests. My favourite Echinacea is E. pallid which is wonderful to grow through something like Perovskia because it has loose pink flowers which sway in the gentlest breeze giving the movement that the Perovskia lacks.
Ornamental grasses are in their stride by now, though perhaps somewhat battered by the rain. One of my personal favourites is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forster’ which has an upright slender habit and attractive golden brown flower heads.
Whatever the weather, there is plenty of herbaceous inspiration to enjoy this summer, wet or otherwise!
In the kitchen garden
Keep on top of the weeds; when produce comes ready harvest it, make time to stand and stare.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.
Time to stand and stare.