Now all the hard work of preparation of the beds is done we can start to enjoy the planting . This is to give us summer long colour whether it’s on the patio with tubs , baskets , planters ,beds and borders.
The fertiliser has been worked into that prepared soil and now all we have to think about is what to plant.
Think and look at the aspect of the bed before deciding on a plant is worth thinking about and perhaps if you could become a clairvoyant and let us know if the summer is going to be dry or wet this year, it would be a lot easier to know what to do.
Border and Bedding Plants
Well some would also say what comes around goes around. When I was an apprentice (just a few years ago!) guess what the main plant that was used for summer bedding was? You’ve guessed already Geranium. Still one of the best for colour in beds to show off a bit, imagine a block of red or a variety with bi colours can look fantastic. And if it’s good enough for Royalty (as the beds around Buckingham Palace are usually red geraniums) it should be good enough for you.
If bought as a plug plant, Geraniums will need to be grown on for a little while before exposing them to the weather.
Another favourite of mine is Begonias. Again a great plant for colour all summer long – bright reds, orange, or soft apricots and pinks. Many of the new varieties are scented and the only thing they don’t like is a wet summer, so it’s back to the clairvoyant…
Look out for Begonia nonstop variety Mocca and this has dark leaves to set those blooms off.
Going on from Begonias is Bizzy Lizzie although these have struggled with Downey Mildew recently which is an airborne fungus, worse in humid damp conditions and results in yellowing of leaves and eventually leaf loss.
So now I’ve depressed you all, you’ll be pleased to hear that most new varieties have been specifically bred to resist it!
Bizzies are great for shaded areas and tolerate quite dark aspects in a garden. They need regular watering, but planted mixed or in specific colours they can create a great effect – lovely mauves and soft pinks and not forgetting striped flowers. A low grower as well, bizzies can be used to great effect as an edge to a Begonia bed.
Something I spotted newish was a Bizzie Beacon that seems very resistant to mildew. A walleriana, ideal for patio pots, baskets or just popping in those beds that I talked about. These are supplied in maxi plug plants from many reputable nurseries.
I always remember my Dad buying bedding plants – usually antirrhinums, commonly known as ‘snap dragons’. He would go to a local nursery (a Mr Bretton I recall) who grew them in wooden boxes. Dad would buy a few plants, and these were cut from the box with an old kitchen knife, and wrapped in newspaper. He would buy a few of those, calandula , french marigold, alyssum and lobelia for the edge and if he was feeling rash some nemesia.
When we got home, the plants got dotted around the borders planted with no compost in our heavy clay soil yet sometimes, surprisingly, they would survive and flower. This was all before Dad let me get hold of his garden.
The new varieties are very good indeed still favourite with children as you can squeeze the sides and they produce a mouth shape dragon. Now available, stronger than ever upright, vibrant colours and available in dwarf and even trailing yet still very popular with the bumblebees.
Here’s a tip! Pick out the centres when you plant antirrhinums, and they’ll branch beautifully.
If you have a veg plot, why not grow a few for cut flowers? Good colour mixes are available from a number of online nurseries, and one I like is Antiquity Mixed, and why not try a trailing one for running over the edges of tubs and troughs?
For bright yellow you can’t go wrong with French Marigolds. These flowers came from the Americas to Europe by settlers and travellers, and made their home in France where the Tagetts patula became the French Marigold.
They are bright and cheerful with a range of yellows and orange through to mixed browns and golds.
Then there is Tagetts erecta which originated from North Africa, again settling in Europe to become the African Marigold – a taller version with bright yellows and golds .
If you want a tolerant plant which-will put up with drought and needs little attention other than benefitting from a bit of dead-heading, look no further.
Another drought-tolerant plant often called Marigold is Calendula. These grew well in my Dad’s garden, self seeding each year and therefore a lifesaver for the perennial border in the corners that lacked water and would otherwise have been bare. Bright yellows and orange, but with a less than attractive smell – unfortunately.
How about a bed of marigold with a cluster of Caster oil plants or Ricinus? These are half-hardy but are often sold at this time of the year as bedding plants. I like them dotted through the marigolds and the deep bright red leaves give a fantastic impact.
Some summers I would encourage you to plant a hot Mediterranean border but with this rubbish weather, I’d be wary of suggesting anything, but who knows what is in store!
Yes. Caster oil plants, Bananas, lantana, crocosmia, rudbeckia, hemerocallis, helianthus. And since Dahlias have come back into fashion, the border would not be complete without some of those large flowering reds, oranges and yellow varieties. Fancy some red leaf colour as well as flower? Then give Bishop of Llandaff a try.
Get cracking now, if not summer will be over before we know it.
Vegetables and Salads
Now let’s be more positive as we are promised warmer weather so it’s time to get your runner beans in as there’s nothing better than picked from your garden. Why not try climbing French Bean Cobra or even grow a row of French Bean? Try Amethyst a rich burgundy colour.
The other must is carrot. Lets, face it pulling carrots, a quick wipe and chewing them fresh is a real treat. And I generally sow Flyaway as they high resistance against carrot fly.
Keep sowing salads. Cut again lettuce, radish and spring onions. Sow a few but sow often, and that way you will get a succession of fresh vegetables to enjoy through the summer – whatever the weather.
When will we be able to plant those tomato plants out? The last ones I tried were burnt by cold wind… If it’s not frost, it’s the rubbish autumnal type weather we’re getting instead of warm summery days.
Last but not least it’s proving to be a great year for slugs and snails. I’m not even going to suggest how you eradicate them as the challenge gets harder and harder each year. It’s depressing to see those pests return to your garden year after year but many do.
One that I have spotted already on the box hedges is the dreaded Box Caterpillar, I thought I’d cleared it but alas not. Instead, the unseasonable weather has delayed the emergence of the caterpillar. So get out and check all your box topiary and hedges – rub your hand through the foliage and look for the caterpillars with bright green stripes. Then get out Bug Clear Ultra and spray the foliage checking you get deeply into it. I spray every two weeks and switch to Provado off and on so the pest does not get used to it.
This moth, or let’s say caterpillar, normally has three life cycles in a summer – so don’t think you have eradicated it when you spray the first application. I know it’s frustrating, but aphids are out and active and they breed at an incredible rate so when spotted get spraying with an insecticide. Or use one of the many organic ones like Grazers G3 which can also be used against cabbage white butterflies.
One that always upsets me is Lupin Aphid. This large grey aphid, if missed, gets deep down into the crown of the plant and can kill the plant so easily.
So keep watch and stay on top of those garden pests and diseases.
Gardening With Ken – Why not visit the Dry Garden at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex?
The Dry Garden at Hyde Hall in Essex has some beautiful planting options suitable for any garden. The best bit? Many need little if any watering!
Ken’s Weekly Tips – 20th June
I love roses, but it's important to keep them healthy by dead heading, and tackling pests and disease as soon as it occurs.
Gardening With Ken – It’s been a great year for the greengage
A perfectly ripe greengage is a joy to eat, and the team at Wilkin & Sons in Tiptree certainly know a thing or two about this fruit.
It’s July and time to enjoy the fruits of your labour
July is when you get to enjoy all the effort you've put in to creating in your garden so far this year, but there're still jobs that need doing.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – Pennisetum – The plant that will tolerate a lot!
Pennisetum forms a compact low mound, and it produces lasting brush-like flowers in late summer, and it works brilliantly in these beds.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – 9th June
Remember to train new Apricot growth because it's from here that buds will form next year which will turn into fruit for your table.