Toby Buckland's Garden Cuttings: August 2014
PUBLISHED: 09:30 17 September 2014
Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice
Hello! When I’ve been away in summer and come back to Devon I always think that our county has a summer scent all of its own. It’s a blend of sun cream, mown grass and salty air that’s particularly noticeable when the weather is warm.
In the heat plants are more fragrant as their perfume, created by volatile essential oils in leaves and petals, evaporates. For us to smell anything though, there needs to be moisture in the air too and that’s why roses and herbs seem to be at their most aromatic in the mornings as the air is still soft with the morning dew.
There’s still time to plant fragrant and colourful gap-fillers and at this time of year the late-flowering sages are fabulous. Here in the South West they reliably come through the winters and flower their socks off right up to the first heavy frosts. There’s plenty of gardening to be done, especially with the secateurs, but whatever you do, make sure you take time to sit back, relax and breathe your garden in.
Water is a focus at this time especially for wildlife, so keep bird baths and ponds topped up. If you have a pond, thin crowded water lilies that bunch on the surface, removing older leaves and dividing congested roots.
The same goes for marginals growing at the water’s edge. If you re-plant, make sure to use a specialist low-nutrient pond compost - normal potting compost has too much feed and encourages the growth of pond-choking green algae. Leave pruned stems on the side of the pond overnight before transferring to the compost heap so any wildlife within can escape back to the water.
There’s a lot of pruning at this time including the spent and sprawling stems of herbaceous plants. Cut cranesbills and catmint back to 12 inches of their crowns, water and they’ll bounce back and bloom again by autumn. Give lavender that have finished flowering a haircut too, shearing them over a couple of inches below the base of the flower stalks that’ll re-grow into tight and tidy crowns that look good for the winter.
Prune the whippy summer growth of wisteria, trimming all wiry side-shoots - apart from any you’re training - back to five leaves from the main stem and keep feeding tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and sweetcorn growing in the soil with diluted tomato fertiliser.
In the veg patch dig up and re-plant strawberry runners – the little plantlets that grow from the ‘bootlace’-like overground stems and trim back parent plants to the crowns, removing all of the leaves and any straw to reduce the risk of pests and disease.
If you have the fortune of more raspberries than you can eat place on trays with a small space between each and pop in the freezer. When frozen, bag them up and keep in the freezer for winter treats.
Plant of the month
There are many types of salvia from the hardy sage we use in cooking to the bright red cockscombs grown for bedding, but the Salvia gregii types are less known even though they overwinter well in our Devon gardens and flower right through the summer.
Hot Lips is one of my favourites for its red and white flowers. People sometimes think plants have reverted but it’s just that the flowers can turn all one colour when the temperature drops and go back to bicolour when it gets hot again. Sun and well-drained soils are essential and leave the top growth on through winter as protection from cold.