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Last Month in My Garden, July 2018

July 1st came in with sunshine and blue sky but by midday it was far too hot for my liking; however, a skylark sang on the hill behind the garden, which was uplifting. The heat continued with little rain until the 28th. I have spent hours watering vegetables and plants in pots but some parts of the garden have had no visits from the hosepipe. Sadly, phlox have withered and crocosmias browned. Leucanthemum have persisted but, unwatered, the flowers have been smaller than usual, especially doubles. Solidago mainly look good but, in one better-drained area, ‘Fireworks’ started to toast; I saved the rest of the (large) clump by watering but am left with an ugly gap. It is next to Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Hortensia’, which always droops in a heatwave. At the front of the border is Rudbeckia fulgida var. sulivantii ‘Goldsturm’, probably the first perennial to need water every hot summer: the foliage browns and flowers die without it. I suspect this is because it is in sun all day but it looks good and has a long season so I am happy to keep it there. Behind it (and in front of ‘Fireworks’) is Papaver orientale ‘Türkenlouis’. In June, when it has finished flowering, I cut it back and plant dahlias so the area has to be watered. Two of these dahlias overwintered this year but sadly many, in other parts of the garden, did not. The two established plants, ‘Murdoch’ and ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, are looking good but the newly-planted additions, although healthy, have grown very little and the patch looks embarrassingly empty – not the exuberant growth and colour I had planned.

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Hortensia’

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sulivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

Establishment before the heatwave, which started in June, has been the key to plant success. For example, tomatoes, although well-watered, have not grown as much as usual but perpetual spinach, self-sown from last year’s crop, has never been as good. The spinach has had far less water but produced an abundance of huge but tender leaves. (It was not my intention to leave it to self-sow; it just did not get cleared away.) In recent years, I have tended to be late planting out vegetables, mainly because May is an extra-busy month. This avoids late frosts and cold spells but is clearly not ideal for later droughts. We are told that these are going to be the norm but last year I lost late tomatoes to blight because it was wet!

Perpetual spinach

In June, I put in a lot of plants in one small border and have watered them but they are looking increasingly ill. The ground was difficult to dig and I did not always get soil properly in contact with the rootballs; I thought that rain would break the lumps down. The roots have not grown out into the bed. In these days of containerised plants, we assume that we can plant at any time. I have not planted anything since then but have an increasing area of newly acquired treasures standing on watering trays at the back of the house.

A hay crop is taken from the Old Hills every year but the farmer does not bother with the strip in front of my house. This year, however, it has been mowed and the grass baled – the result of a shortage of feed for stock. Eventually, the Malvern Hills Conservators will come to trim the parts the tractor did not reach but probably not until the willow herb and docks have seeded! Also outside the garden, it is noticeable that some young elms in the hedges have browned, although many are still green. I have one tree inside the garden but shall probably remove it next winter, before it gets too large, because it is not in an ideal position. It grows next to two mature ash, Fraxinus excelsior; they have shown no sign of disease and I am hoping that, at about 50 years, they are old enough to be resistant.

Campsis grandiflora

Agapanthus inapertus

Patio plants July 11

One success last month has been Campsis grandiflora. Planted many years ago, it at first languished – not dying but putting on little growth. The first flowers appeared fairly recently and, since then, growth has been exponential. This year it is thriving. The flower trumpets are 7.5 cm long and 6 cm wide, occurring in highly visible clusters. It is a lax climber which needs support. Agapanthus have done well. I have admired them in gardens I have visited (such as Coombe Fishacre, which was looking wonderful in late July) but grow mine in pots; plants in the ground have never succeeded. I noticed one flower of Agapantus inapertus in particular as it opened slowly over several days. The pots of annuals/tender perennials I mentioned in the May blog have continued to flower, having received daily watering. In the unwatered parts of the garden, eryngiums have prospered and, surprisingly, many clumps of “asters”. The resilient ones are forms of Symphyotrichum laeve, including ‘Les Moutiers’ and a white-flowered form. Both seem untouched by the drought, although they may be shorter than usual.

Eryngium bourgatii Graham Stuart Thomas's selection

The rain at the end of the month has been a useful amount (1 cm) so the parched areas will return to green but I do not want such a hot dry July again.

Margaret Stone

Posted by Margaret Stone

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

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