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Friday, June 14, 2024
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GardeningJune in the Garden

June in the Garden

Having had a very dry, bright, April, with frosts persisting much longer than usual, and then a May which, at the time of writing, has been pretty soggy, I am fearful that June may be less than ‘flaming’. High light levels, for a large proportion of spring, should have promoted plant growth, although correspondingly cold nights may have held back the growth of any plants which have a requirement for a degree of accumulated warmth.
I am finding that my tulips have persisted longer than they would in some years, at least until the recent heavy downpours battered the remaining blooms, and the floral handover to the Allium tribe, ornamental onions being the bulbous mainstay of early summer, is only just taking place. If, like me, you have a somewhat informal garden then this period at the beginning of summer provides an easy kind of floral abundance when rapid growth seems to bring forth new flowers on a daily basis—whatever the weather.
I have a weakness for delphiniums, the cottage garden plant if ever there was one, although the move towards non-chemical control of slugs means that these are almost impossible to keep going, year on year, as they are complete martyrs to being grazed into oblivion by our slimy little friends. On the other hand; roses, honeysuckle, clematis, irises and perennial geraniums come into their own and are less easily annihilated by voracious molluscs. Also, the aforementioned alliums are popping up all over the place, they are prodigious self-seeders, so it’s easy to gloss over all the weeds that also boom as soon as we have any warm weather.
Weed control, like pest control, is one gardening activity which is unavoidable. I find that in a garden that has different areas of interest, large enough to support a variety of planting styles, there has to be a correspondingly varied approach to weed control. In areas of floral excellence, flower borders with lots of herbaceous perennials, then weeds have to be kept to an absolute minimum and constant vigilance is essential. In areas with a more relaxed planting style, where mixed borders meet the meadow area, then a certain degree of weediness is allowed.
Where annual weeds do not detract from the overall effect, ‘Hairy Bittercress’ and ‘Herb Robert’ spring to mind here, I can tolerate their presence. What cannot be tolerated, in any ornamental plantings, is the presence of perennial weeds which would take over and out-compete the more choice species if allowed to get established. Docks, nettles, dandelions, brambles etc. are particularly troublesome if not weeded out at the first opportunity. Although it’s tempting to sit back and just enjoy the blooms, at this most precocious time of year, it’s always a good idea, whenever venturing out into the garden, to have a trug and hand fork on one arm.
A bundle of string and a few peasticks may also come in handy. Whenever there is a strong wind, or heavy rain, in early summer there will be perennials and climbers requiring a little assistance and propping up. Staking and tying in lax or floppy growth, as the season progresses, will pay dividends when it comes to prolonging the flowering season as long as possible. The same is true when it comes to feeding and watering anything growing in a pot or container.
Using a liquid feed is essential to keep your displays of annual and tender perennials flowering profusely. I tend to use one of the granular formulations that is added, at the recommended rate, to the watering can. Non-chemical versions are available these days which avoid the need for you to brew up nettle teas or confrey infusions (both of which are hard to get right). It’s an energy sapping business, producing pretty flowers over a long period, so keeping them well fed, watered and dead-headed is a good use of your gardening time.
Regularly mowing the lawn, where a formal lawn is an important constituent of your chosen garden design, is another activity worth doing whenever weather conditions allow. If you don’t have room for a compost heap of your own then taking advantage of the Council green waste collection, or bagging up your clippings and taking them to the ‘Recycling Centre’ (formerly known as ‘the dump’), means that your grass need not go to waste. Warmer temperatures mean that compost heaps are particularly active and need to be fed with your veg peelings, soft prunings, grass clipping and annual weeds—they soon rot down.
From compost heaps… to fragrant flowers—June should be one of the sweetest smelling in the garden. Roses are getting into their stride, as will the likes of sweet scented Philadelphus and variuous Daphne species and cultivars. To inject more scent into your garden, especially where space is at a premium and large shrubs are out of the question, add some summer flowering annuals. Tobacco flowers are a classic because they add an extra dimension to the garden in that they come into their own at dusk. Nicotiana sylvestris can grow to about waist high and its scent hangs heavy on warm, still, nights. Being a naturally occurring species, rather than a fancy named cultivar, it should seed around once it’s been introduced. In garden centres it might only be possible to find named varieties which may or may not be as scented as the straightforward species.
It may not be too late to pick up a tray of Nemesia from the garden centre, even from a ‘DIY’ warehouse, and these annual bedding plants, especially the paler flowered forms, often have a surprisingly strong, vanilla, scent which, like tobacco flowers, really fills the air on warm summer nights. With lockdown easing (as I write this, fingers crossed) and ‘normal service’ beginning to resume, then the evenings, after work, may be the only time that you get to relax in your garden so scent really comes into its own… and soon there will be wonderful lilies, especially Lilium regale, to ramp up the perfume levels to eleven… June is only the beginning of summer!!!

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