MY GARDEN by Phillipa Thomas

With our evenings getting longer every week, is this not the ideal time to get out into our gardens and do all those jobs we have been putting off? We probably do not need a list of ‘What to do’ because it will be staring us in the face, every time we walk into our garden.  So, let’s enjoy every single day as our late spring/summer borders surge into new life.  Without the slightest pang of guilt, I personally find it almost impossible to sit still for long in the garden without spotting the odd weed or withered something that needs snipping.  Think, most of us find chores therapeutic and I guess pottering is my way of relaxing in the garden.  So, as it’s becoming clear to us that summer is approaching and our herbaceous borders are growing leaps and bounds, why not try to take a few soft wood cuttings.  They are generally easier than seeds – Hydrangeas, Geraniums, Pelargoniums, Abutilons etc., all root so easily right now.

Aren’t our gardens really in progress throughout our lives and choosing the right plants that will thrive in tricky places is all part of the plan. I like clashing funky colours in some clothes and lately likewise find I’m beginning to like more pink, purples and oranges flowering and spilling into each other.  Plants seem to have the power to change our mood, then ‘ones’ that have a scent as good as they look, seem to give us an instant emotional boost, would you not agree?  Are we not spoilt for choice with a paradise of scented plants on this green earth.  Mock orange (Philadelphus) has one of the strongest scents, then Thyme, Mint, Honeysuckle, Rosemary, Jasmine, Chamomile, Scented Geraniums, Dianthus (old fashioned small Carnations), Phloxes, Sweetpeas, Nicotianas, (the scent of Nicotiana Silvestor is one of my absolute favourites – plant near your hall door or bedroom window as its scent is most pronounced at night).  Peonies, only some are scented.  Are Peonies, quite simply not the most glorious flowers of early summer and so long lived.  Peonies take time to settle in but should flower in their second year; a feed of seaweed pellets in midsummer is hugely beneficial.  And then we have masses and masses of different varieties of Roses.  Isn’t it impossible to define beauty in a Rose but you definitely know when you see it.  Roses are brilliant for providing colour and scent, often flowering well into autumn and even winter.  Some are resistant to disease, others will need protection against mildew, rust and black spot.  Best to deal with ‘these’ now before disease takes hold.

Might Do, Maybe May Jobs

It is time to check for nesting birds before clipping hedges. Bindweed and other such similar weeds can be a nightmare to stop.  Any small piece of root left in the soil will grow so try and remove the lot whether by hand or with a spade.  On the other hand, do not be tempted to cut away the foliage on spring bulbs, no matter h0w messy it looks, as this is essential for the formation of next years flowers.

1. Trim Lavenders and Heathers with a light trim as pruning keeps them compact, bushy and flowering well, better not to hard prune as they won’t reshoot from brown wood, then give them a good feed of rose fertilizer.

2. Tulips: To Lift or Not To Lift – should we lift tulip bulbs after flowering or leave them in the ground? Tulips give such a gorgeous riot of colour, coming into their own between our daffodils going over and our early summer plants establishing themselves.  Some gardeners say, tulips should be discarded at the end of each season or lifted and stored to be replanted in autumn.  If you intend leaving them in the ground, always deadhead after flowering and again, let the foliage die back naturally, so that the plants energy is restored.

3. Scale insects, mealy bugs, red spider mites, whitefly and greenflies can build up rapidly and may need to be controlled.

Be Careful: I read in an up-to-date garden magazine recently that it is illegal to use substances that have not been officially tested to kill garden pests.  This includes products such as washing-up liquid, baking powder, vinegar and even coffee grounds.

Organic Garlic Deterrent

2 chillies, 1 onion, 1 garlic bulb & water. Blitz everything, add hot water, leave to brew for 24 hours, strain and transfer to a labelled spray bottle.

Alternative to Slug Pellets

Orange, lemon & grapefruit skin halves with a little salt are said to be a well worthwhile snail & slug repellent. Also: Horticultural grit at the surface of your pot will likewise prevent slugs and snails making their nightly journey to nibble away your tender shoots.

4. Alstroemerias, Agapanthus & Dahlias do extremely well in terracotta pots, as do Hostas. Then Pelargoniums, Impatiens (Busy Lizzies), Petuniias, Zinnias, (I just adore them) and Begonias can also be potted up to give masses of colour all summer long.

5. Run a sharp knife weeding tool along paving cracks and cobblelock to remove and dislodge moss and weed seedlings.

6. Late May is generally the time to put your seedlings outside. Make sure your plants are well hardened off.  I bring mine in and out when we are told frost is expected.

7. Maybe, try sowing the herb Summer Savoury. It is related to Thyme.  Rubbing a sprig of Savoury on an insect bite will bring instant relief.

“To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life, this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.”     Charles Dudley Warner

“All gardening is landscape painting.”   Alexander Pope   Joseph Spence