Brighten up Your Borders In July
English Flower Gardens usually reach their peak for colour in May and June followed by a final floral flourish in August and September leaving a ‘flower drought’ in July when the garden can look rather flat and green in comparison. By adding a few select perennial and bedding plants the colour in your borders pots and containers can be kept going.
When we think of Verbena the smaller bedding or trailing hanging basket types come to mind but there are also hardy varieties. If planted in normal well drained soils they will flower profusely from June until the first frosts. Verbena White Blush is 45cms tall with pink and white bicoloured flowers while V. Edith Eddleman has claret flowers and is more compact or V. La France is a lovely pale lilac pink.
Verbena rigida is 60cm tall with spaced branches topped with small mauve flowers that bloom all summer. The very fashionable V. bonariensis is taller at 150cm and looks similar providing a dramatic airy and rather modern addition to the classic cottage garden.
All verbenas grow best on an open sunny site in well drained soils and are great for attracting butterflies and bees. This month you might even see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth that has ventured from South Africa all the way to our shores and your Verbenas.
Osteospermums are a family of evergreen sub-shrubs native to Africa that are perfect for adding exotic colour to our more temperate summer gardens. They come in many colours from orange to purple, pink and yellow and more. Most are frost tender however so are often best grown as annuals with cuttings taken from them and overwintered like geraniums or by buying mature plants each year in May. Some hardy varieties do exist though but come in a smaller colour range from white to light pink and purple.
Varieties include O. Snow Pixie which is a low growing spreading variety that will flower during the hottest and driest summers and O. Tresco Purple 40cm tall and with bold dark pink flowers that open with the morning sun. These can also be grown in containers or shallow bowls using John Innes No.2 compost with some extra grit added.
Another favourite plant is the Dahlia. It might be frost tender and unscented but it more than makes up for this with its fantastic range of rather exotic flower shapes and colours. There are single, blowsy doubles, neat balls, decorative types and extraordinary cactus flower varieties with the colours ranging through white, yellow, orange, red and purple to nearly black. Grow them either from seed or cuttings in February or buy them in pots from late May to early July. They like a rich compost or an addition of well composted farmyard manure or soil conditioner while John Innes No. 3 is best if growing in containers. Some varieties can grow up to 6 foot tall and need the support of a good sturdy stake as they grow. Remove the spent flowers and stalks to encourage more and feed as with fish blood and bone before switching in summer to a higher potassium liquid tomato feed to increase flower colour. Once the first frosts have blackened the stems in Autumn it is time to dig up the tuber like roots and store them in trays with frost protection in a shed or greenhouse before replanting them again the following April. Dahlias can therefore give many years of summer colour.
A garden centre favourite at this time of year are Nemesias which with modern culture techniques are now available in a huge range of colours. Nemesias are perfect for pots and containers as well as the front of your borders. They like full sun and will flower from the end of May until November. They are classed as perennials but are tender so most will perish with the first heavy frosts. There are however a few hardier types that will survive in a sheltered sunny spot. Plant them in a peat free equal mix of compost grit and soil and feed them with a high potash feed in the Summer. Deadhead regularly to keep the flowers coming. My favourite varieties include the N. Wisley Vanilla which has one of the strongest scents and white flowers, N. Anya which is light pink and salmon and has a good scent, ' N. Cream Surprise which is yellow and pink and N. Sapphire which is dark blue with a white eye.
We look forward to seeing you at the Garden Centre to discover even more colour to enhance your garden this summer.
It’s January and our Gardening Year begins again.
Here in the darkest winter days there’s a fresh enthusiasm and plans to be made for the garden in this whole new Gardening Year.
Venture to the Garden Centre and you will see some of the delights that could be colourful and exciting in your garden even in the middle of winter.