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Last Month in My Garden, July 2017

My main impression of the last month is of growth – amazingly fast and lush. Of course, the weeds grew fastest, flowering and seeding almost before I had noticed they were there. My greatest nightmare was Lesser Willowherb, a really successful invader; I even have a white-flowered form, as well as the usual pink. The apple-trees put on a mass of new growth, which was subjected to summer pruning in the hope that it would reduce the vigour. I am not an expert pruner but try to keep the tree fruit and soft fruit under control. Some of the blackcurrants have been pruned before picking because it is easier to remove fruit from the cut branches than to bend and stretch for it on the bush. The currants were overripe before I had finished picking so, frustratingly, many fell off the branches. Gooseberries and redcurrants hang on for longer but do not keep forever so they had to be picked, not a bad occupation on a sunny day, although some days were too hot. There have been just too many tasks for me to do; if only I could catch up with them all and start afresh!


Wisteria sinensis

Tomatoes needed regular attention but did not always get it. I grow mainly cordons so the side shoots have to be removed and the stems tied in. ‘Roma’ is the only variety I have grown as a bush in the ground this year but I have some ‘Minibel’ as bushes in pots. All the plants in the ground have put on considerable growth; fruit has developed but not yet ripened. My courgettes were planted out early in the month, later than usual but they established without a check and were producing a fortnight later. Runner beans started at the same time. It is always exciting to pick the first of each kind of produce but it has been time-consuming to get to that stage; there has been a lot of hot, dry weather in July so I have had to water. The 20th brought some welcome rain, which was repeated for a few days, doing a far better job than my hosepipe. It has made an enormous difference to the crop of raspberries and blackberries (and everything else).

One plant that has put on unwelcome growth is Wisteria sinensis – many whippy new shoots. Books recommend one summer prune but I have been attacking it all month! It is trained on a trellis to hide a garage, a path running between the two. The young shoots grow across the path, the higher ones tending to soak me after rain and the lower threatening to trip me up. I remove them frequently, leaving short spurs. It does no harm because there is a good display of flower each spring.

Patio pot

Patio pot

I used to plant up hanging baskets and pots each year but stopped doing the baskets long ago and have recently been remiss about pots. However, I made an effort with some pots this year and have been pleased by the results. Planting was in June and growth has been good so that they had filled out by mid-July. I was generous with plants – nothing unusual but a good mix in plenty of garden compost. Two clumps of lobelia died in the dry weather so I must remember to water lobelia sufficiently in future. I have not had time to deadhead frequently but have been pleasantly surprised at how most plants were self-cleaning, presumably breeders have been working to improve this property in recent years. One exception was cosmos – not a suitable plant for a lazy, or busy, gardener. Behind some of my pots is a Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’. Cut down to around 30 cm each winter, this always puts on rapid growth in July and was in flower for the last part of the month. It has flourished for at least 20 years but should last for many more because Bob Brown mentioned, at the recent Western Counties meeting, that a plant recorded by Parkinson (early C17) is reputed to be still alive!

Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’

Phlox paniculata Peacock Neon Purple

As usual, July flowers have included Phlox paniculata. I have been particularly pleased with the fairly new Peacock Neon Purple, which has had long-lasting trusses in a bold reddish-purple (my photograph looks too pink). About 60 cm high, it does not need staking (I do not stake any phlox) and would be suitable for any size of garden. Another good plant has been Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’; it has black stems to contrast with the large bright pink bracts and makes a well-shaped bush. I have come to realise fairly recently that hydrangeas are valuable for July colour but, if I want to plant some of the larger ones, I need to clear more overgrown shade borders.

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

Vist Margaret's garden on one of the NGS open days.

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