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Friday, June 14, 2024
GardeningJune in the Garden

June in the Garden

The easing of lockdown has certainly made gardening a little easier. The ability to visit garden centres has relieved some of the frustration of having the time and opportunity to tackle the garden but without the normal means to stock up on plants and horticultural consumables. Online ordering is all very well but when you run out of potting compost, in the midst of potting on, waiting to have it delivered is like torture.
June is the month when the freshness of spring gives way to the blousiness of summer. I guess roses are the plant of the month, in English gardens at least. Roses, like any garden plant, come with a set of rules to be followed if they are to perform at their best; proper planting in the right place, correct pruning at the correct time, good soil preparation and regular feeding, constant vigilance to guard against pests and diseases—you get the idea. Generous flowering is the reward you get for having followed the rules diligently. I tend to fail to adhere to every single rule, they are comparatively high maintenance, so my roses are not always performing at the top of their game. I don’t mind, there are so many other flowers to hide my embarrassment at this time of year.
In established gardens, once you’ve learned how to spot what is a weed and what is not, there is plenty of ‘self-seeding’ going on. I love how Alliums (ornamental onions) tend to pop up all over the place in parts of the garden where I’d never have thought of planting them myself. They often bulk up to flowering size, without ever being spotted, due to their strap-like foliage. It’s only now, when a drumstick bloom suddenly appears, that I realise what prodigious self-seeders they are.
Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleabane) is a spreading ‘daisy’ that certainly seeds itself around. It likes a good baking, in well-drained soil, so it tends to colonise any crack, crevice and potted plant that it can seed into. This isn’t a problem. As with any plant, if you don’t like where it’s put itself then weed it out! As I’ve said many times before : gardening is simply ‘nature manipulated’. If you do nothing your garden will be a wilderness. Any degree of intervention, commonly known as ‘gardening’, will modify this wilderness towards the sort of ‘garden’ that suits you. Complete control freaks will have manicured lawns, perfectly edged borders and not a single unwanted interloper (‘weed’).
There is every level of ‘nature perfected’ between the two extremes. Your own garden will probably ebb and flow between states of ‘perfection’ and ‘wilderness’ depending on what else is going on in your life and your own time of life. I’m guessing that, in the current weird situation that we’re in, many gardens may have reached peaks of perfection that they’ve not seen for a long time—this can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, weeding is one of the tasks that tips the balance away from wilderness and more towards perfection. Hand weeding is a time consuming task so, if you’ve got time on your hands at the moment, it’s possible that you can get more on top of the task than you normally would in June. The same goes for manual removal of pests and diseases. I’m in a constant state of picking off lily beetles, the little buggers, which is really worthwhile if you are planning to keep growing lilies in your garden. I know numerous gardeners who have totally given up having lilies in the garden because of this introduced pest.
In contrast to the bright red (for ‘dangerous pest’!) lily beetle, I am overjoyed to spot the emergence of the iridescent, green, beauty that is the Mint Beetle (Chrysolina herbacea). This is a UK native beetle and looks like animated, though often stationary, emerald jewels. There is a non-native near relative, the ‘Blue Mint Beetle’ (Chrysolina coerulans), which has recently become established here but it’s not as arrestingly beautiful as our green native so I hope that it doesn’t out compete ours. Neither are likely to cause disastrous damage, to established mint plants, so, unlike the lily beetle, it is fine to just leave them alone.
There’s plenty of tasks that need doing at this fast growing time of year. Keeping the lawn cut, if you have one, and the beds edged, if you have borders in grass, is paramount. Remember that, however dry it gets, you really shouldn’t waste water on irrigating lawns. They may turn brown, in extreme drought conditions, but they always bounce back once the rains return. Watering a lawn, to keep it green, just keeps it dependent on high water availability which make it less able to cope if we then have a heatwave or a hosepipe ban.
Prioritise your watering; containers dry out almost instantaneously on sunny days and rain is seldom enough to sustain. With plants in the ground, water them if they are newly planted. Give them a occasional thorough soaking rather than frequent sprinklings. When making new borders, especially if you know that watering by hand is likely to be a problem, weave ‘soaker’ hoses through them (but mark where they are so that you don’t put a spade through them at a later date!). I’ve got a soaker (aka ‘leaky’) hose installed in a bed 20 years ago which still works. I water, at low pressure, during the night when water loss by evaporation is minimised and the bed can be slowly saturated from below soil level: perfect.
As lockdown, fingers crossed, eases it should soon be possible to visit gardens once again. Garden visiting is a really good way to find inspiration for your own plot and, in the case of those opening for charity, it benefits you and others. Make a note of plants and plant combinations that you like, camera phones are a real boon here, then research them online, the RHS Plant Finder is invaluable here, to see if any local nursery sells the plants you need.
I know you don’t want to be looking towards autumn, right at the start of summer, but autumn plant buying and planting is something that you can start planning for now. Summer is not the best time to be planting new perennial plants and borders. Restrict your impulse buying to all those wonderful semi-tender beauties—Salvias, in their infinite variety, are chief amongst these.
Happy gardening !!!

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