Moe's Summer Newsletter
“We’ll meet again- don’t know where, don’t know when………." Hugh Charles
Who would have believed that I would be writing this newsletter in very different circumstances to those in which I wrote the last one? Gardeners are good at anticipating change, usually those of temperature, rainfall and day length but now there are other challenges. Covid 19 has made an impact on all our lives. We find ourselves in lockdown, unable to engage in the normal activities we all take for granted and many of you will no doubt be ‘shielded’ and housebound, with little chance of being with your friends and loved ones.
Well, Coronavirus might have restricted our social lives but NOT OUR GARDENING lives! I like to think that we gardeners are able to cope with such adversity slightly better than many others because having a garden, is, in itself, a wonderful distraction. It is in times of stress that we all turn to nature to give us solace and being able to go out into a garden of our own can make such a difference to our daily lives. Of course gardeners have always known how extremely beneficial getting out and working in a garden has on their health and well- being. Gardening feeds the soul………… It also develops skills and attributes such as planning, organisation and improvisation that are very useful in times of crisis! I don’t need to ‘go out’ from my enforced containment to exercise because I can do this in my garden, as many of you will no doubt be doing your daily workout in your own personal space, back yard or allotment.
My garden is certainly benefitting from the additional attention I’m lavishing on it. I am of course missing a few items I could have bought in spring in addition to my usual essential gardening buys of manure, course grit and seed compost. Basket liners, water retaining gel, enough potting compost to see me through the potting on of vegetables and ornamentals, gravel and fish food are in very short supply! These are hard times………….. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere near my home that either has these for sale or is open to sell them to me. So I’ve used capillary matting instead of basket liners and large squares of bubble wrap plastic at the bottom of my baskets to help retain water. I found some beautiful potting compost at the bottom of the compost bins (after laboriously removing a fair amount of vegetation from the top two feet of each bin). After sifting and mixing with fertilizer pellets (a supermarket find) it has worked a treat. My lovely neighbour has come to the rescue with the fish food. No doubt there will be items you have not been able to get for love nor money. Many of you will have planned ahead and organised your shopping so may not have issues finding plants and materials for your garden. We generally buy our seed well in advance and are able to keep it viable for longer when we store it in cool, dry conditions. However there are always items we forget and it normally gives us an excuse to have a lovely day out at the garden centre or nursery. For me these excursions have been sorely missed this year.
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Other ‘sorely missed’ events have been the societies’ plant sale in May, our organised trips and club nights. It was distressing to have to cancel the wonderful speakers I had booked for the spring calendar and it is highly likely that our speakers Steve Mees (booked for June) and Adam Alexander, (booked for July), will also have to be cancelled. We’ll have to see about the autumn programme!. However I hope that you are enjoying the monthly newsletters you are receiving until we can get back to ‘normal service’.
Having planted most of our kitchen gardens in May we will have the fruits of our labours to look forward to and be happy in the knowledge that if we water when needed in the summer months we can look forward to tasty crops of fruit and vegetables later in the year. I’ve noted that gardening tips for each month have been included in our newsletters so I haven’t taken up space in this one by duplicating them except to say that watering will be a major summer task if the weather is as hot as we would like it to be. Our crops, hanging baskets, pots and ponds all need topping up with the life giving H2O! Watering herbaceous borders is not a priority for me because having mulched them well in spring to conserve moisture plants will be sending strong roots down into the earth to find their own. Watering the borders only increases the formation of fine surface roots that will eventually die when the watering stops. This weakens the plants. The only exception I make is for newly planted specimens that need to get established. I know it’s hard to ignore plants that are wilting in very hot sun but they will recover when the temperature drops. However if you really can’t leave them and must water, put your hose at the base of the plant and leave it a while to give your plant a really good drink.
Elsewhere in my garden new plantings have improved things. Luckily, even in the lockdown I was able to purchase a few new perennials and have them delivered. One of these was the new Aruncus ‘Guinea Fowl’. I’ve placed the plants beneath some tall ferns in my little woodland garden where the beautiful bright green filigree foliage adds textural interest to the area. I am looking forward to seeing the abundant upright white flowers that are typical of the genus later in the year. Sitting alongside the Aruncus is a clump of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Silver Spear’. The colour and shape of its foliage contrasts well with it. Brunnera is a very accommodating group of plants for a shady border and there are many to choose from. ‘Emerald Green’ and ‘Jack Frost’ are two other good varieties. Plenty of organic matter around the plants will result in really large leaves. The tiny blue flowers borne in spring are a bonus.
Gardens in shade don’t have to be a problem or boring. As long as there is sufficient moisture in the soil there are plenty of plants that can be accommodated in areas that lack sunshine. Hostas are made for shade and with the addition of pulmonarias, ferns, lamiums and dicentra will make a lovely picture and create a calm, tranquil ambience. Just watch out for slugs and snails. Kirengeshoma palmata is a handsome upright perennial autumn flowering plant that will grow in the deepest shade. Its’ waxy lowers are pale yellow and bell shaped. The tall plant brings an elegance to a cool and damp shady border with acid soil. It needs shelter from cold winds and a good mulch of leaf mould in spring. All these plants will give beautiful foliage interest for the whole year.
In the sunnier parts of my garden the perennials including achillea, phlox and agastache that were planted in early spring are now well established in a border, part of which I cleared of weeds last autumn. In the ‘hot’ border I have included a few new additions to liven things up a bit. I have been growing the annual tickseed Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’ from seed this year. The red and mahogany flowers with an upper tier of yellow petals sit on top of tall wiry stems making this a very striking plant that, when peppered through my established border will add more drama and interest.
The three newly acquired Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ will add a contrast to the Verbena bonariensis that will live along each specimen together with Achillea ’Walther Funcke’. There are still dahlias to plant for additional summer flower power. New varieties I have used this year include ‘Don Hill’, a deep burgundy red collerette and ‘Seduction’ a medium sized decorative type with long stems and white flowers strongly outlined and suffused with lilac. I’ll take photographs to evaluate the success (or not) of my ideas. Why not take your camera or smart phone out into your garden this summer and capture some of your favourite plants or successes?
This year I will have opened my garden for 20 years and had planned a special event in July to celebrate. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic this will not be possible now. It is very disappointing but I’m still looking forward to seeing the new annuals I have grown from seed and as usual am trying out new arrangements of pots on the terrace. Planting goes on -I’ll just have to wait another year to celebrate. -Gardening has certainly developed patience in me.
Enjoy your gardens over the summer until the safe time when I know we’ll meet again………..