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Moe's Summer Newsletter

“June is busting out all over” Rogers and Hammerstein   Carousel 1956

What a coincidence that I have chosen to use a song title as a heading again for a summer newsletter! If I remember correctly it was the Vera Lynn classic “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when” that I used LAST year! What a difference a year makes! I think it is a fitting heading as we will all be busting out in June after a very long lock-down. Many restrictions were lifted in May and for me the opening of the new RHS garden Bridgewater was a fitting celebration to mark the date too. The whole garden is a wonderful sight even though one had to use ones’ imagination to envisage what it will look like in late summer when all the plants in the Paradise Garden would be blooming and the sun might be shining. You can deduct from this comment that it (the sun) wasn’t out when I went to look around in the middle of May! RHS Bridgewater will put the north of England firmly on the gardening map, which can’t come too soon. There is still much to do but what has been completed is fantastic and well worth a visit now we still have some time on our hands.

 

Things have been going at full pace in my garden this year with the renovation of one of the ponds. As well as  having a brand new pond that doesn’t leak any more, the undertaking of its drainage before a new liner was fitted certainly made me realise just how much life there was in what was left of the water and sludge at the bottom. There were many frogs, newts and even leaches lurking in it! After the completion of the laying of a new liner and the replacement of the stones around its edge, I spent a happy afternoon planting the marginal shelves and restocking it with water lilies. I will just need to sit back and watch them all grow now! I don’t imagine it will look as ‘full’ with plants as it has done in the recent past but in time the water lilies will be as lovely as I remember them. If you have a pond, summer is the time to be topping it up when the weather gets hot as they lose a great deal of water through evaporation. Covering the pond with annual floating plants helps keep the temperature of the water down. If you have fish in your pond then don’t forget to aerate it well with moving water or a bubble fountain. Fish such as golden orf need high oxygen levels and will jump out of the water if starved of oxygen!

Plants in pots will of course need watering regularly to keep them growing well. However, don’t forget to water the vegetables and fruit in the kitchen garden. Blueberries and raspberries in particular need to be kept well - watered throughout the growing season.

Other tasks to undertake in the garden:
  • Plant out brassicas in firm soil. Stake sprouts and protect all from pigeons that will strip young plants.
  • Plant carrots during summer to avoid carrot root fly
  • Sow swede and plant leeks
  • Pinch out side shoots of tomatoes. Pick soft fruit.
  • Water and damp down the greenhouse at least once a day in hot weather
  • Keep the weeds at bay by hoeing regularly.
  • Keep lawns well cut but not too short in very hot weather
  • Plant our dahlias in their permanent positions in the border. Stake with canes and string
  • Keep a look out for lily beetle and vine weevil on potted specimens.
  • After natural drop has taken place thin apples on trees to get bigger fruit at harvest time
  • Summer prune (essential for trained trees) by cutting back laterals to admit light and air
  • Pick and store herbs by drying in an airing cupboard. They are ready to store when brittle

For my pots I will be using some of the many lovely annuals in the garden centres now to brighten up the summer garden. Top of my list are the Argyranthemums, particularly ‘Grandaisy Pink Halo’. These are such a lovely pink colour with a darker ring around the base of the flower. When I buy them I take off all the buds so that the plant can build up some height and spread. This applies to all annuals because delaying gratification enables plants to put on lots of sturdy growth that will flower much better later.

Seed sowing will also be a time consuming but very enjoyable task for the next few weeks. I use a mixture of sieved John Innes No 1 and multi-purpose compost for all seeds. Seeds don’t need nutrients to germinate but they do need a compost that doesn’t dry out too rapidly yet has good drainage. I always use sieved compost to achieve a fine textured surface on which to sow. Containers need to be clean but this is never a problem for me because I wash mine in the autumn when I get the greenhouse ready to over-winter tender specimens. As seedlings develop it is important that they are pricked out and re-potted into new compost with more nutrients to keep them healthy and happy. By mid- spring trays of seedlings will be filling up the greenhouse benches.

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Argyranthemum ‘Grandaisy’                                             Pelargonium ‘Contrast’
I like to add sub shrubs and perennials to the mix for added interest when planting pots. Recently purchased has been a new salvia called ‘Royal Bumble’ – This is a charming name for a nice, compact plant with grenadier red flowers that is perfect for the terrace. I do have Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ which I like very much. Purchased from a plant sale at the club, I planted it several years ago in a pot containing soil based compost. It flowers its socks off from June to September. In winter I give it a little protection by placing it near a south facing house wall and in spring I top up the compost and give it a fairly hard prune. I love the smell of its unmistakably aromatic foliage! A summer garden wouldn’t be complete without Cosmos and Coleus. Cosmos bipinnatus comes in all colours now but I can’t see the point of the orange and yellow ones and wouldn’t use them! Most are easy to grow from seed. The ‘Apollo’ series comes in pink, carmine or white, and, being about 60cm in height are perfect for pots as is Cosmos ‘Antiquity’. This variety starts deep red and fades to pink so the plants look multi- coloured. Taller, for the border or pots are Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’, 2m (white fringed with pink) ‘Rubenza’, 1.5m (Red), ‘Veloutte’, 1m (pink) and ‘Sonata White’ or ‘Sonata Pink’, 1.2m. ‘Sonata Cup Cakes white’ has a cupped flower which is charming. I use these lovely varieties in mixed and single specimen plantings. They go very well with achilleas because the flower shapes are so contrasting.
I think Coleus are an under-used and under- rated annual in our country, although I have to say it may be because they do not appreciate our British summer weather very much. They like it hot and humid! There are so many beautiful varieties to use if only I could get my hands on them. Many have wonderful names such as ‘Inky Fingers’ ‘Ghost Rider’ ‘Kiwi Fern’. I have managed to get a few this year from the seed suppliers. I do have favourites, namely ‘Wizard Scarlet’ (red with a yellow leaf border) ‘Palisandra’ (a purple-red) and ‘Red Velvet’ (deep Crimson red).All look very good associated with silver foliage plants and most will make good sized bulky plants if the growing tips are pinched out frequently. If long periods of rain are forecast I put the coleus under cover for protection. Pelargoniums fit in well in a Mediterranean theme and there are many to choose from. This year I have the trailing variegated ‘Evka’ in the hanging baskets with ‘Mystery’, ‘Ashby’, ‘Frank Headley’ ‘Contrast’ and the Regal ‘Lord Bute’ in pots on the terrace keeping company with the scented leaved ‘Orange Fizz’ and ‘Candy’. After I have potted all the annuals I ensure they get a good watering initially and continuous feeding during the summer.
Not to put too fine a point on it, with our new found freedom we could all with a bit of retail therapy and a few days out. After taking care of the garden, why not go to a Flower Show (or two) and recharge the batteries!
There will be plenty to see at Tatton Park Flower Show which is open from the 21st to 25th July  and Chorley Flower Show is bigger and better than ever this year, promising something for everyone. Starting on July 30th and finishing on 1st August this three day event will be welcoming us all back after a hard year. There will be competitions to enter in many classes in the amateurs’ tent so why not give it a go? You can find details on the website http://www,chorleyflowershow.com. Look in ‘Applications’ for the competition rules. You can also find actual copies of the schedule in and around Chorley. Birkacre Garden Centre, Polegreen Nursery, Malcolm’s Music Land, and ‘Eden’ of Chorley Florists are some of the venues where you will find one. The show will be a COVID- 19 safe environment with measures put in place to make everyone feel safe and relaxed. Good luck!

There will also be gardens open for the National Garden Scheme from July onwards that you can go to without having to book anymore! All N.G.S. gardens will be giving their takings to worthwhile charities that have been very short of funds over the last year, so try to support them if you can.

I hope that we will be able to welcome you all back to club very shortly so we have that to look forward to as well. We will keep you posted! Until then ………………

Enjoy your summer gardening!

Moe

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Coleus ‘Wizard Scarlet’ with Fuchsia                                                  Cosmos ‘Antiquity’ and Achillea millifolium
‘Korale’ and Leymus arenarius                                                            ‘Pink   grapefruit’