This month our garden landscaping expert Janet Bligh shares her tips on how to keep your lavender looking good year after year, saving seeds from summer flower seedheads to sow next year, and introduces us to the concept of ‘Yellow Book’ gardens… small private gardens across the British Isles which open their doors to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme.
Plant of the month: Geranium Rozanne ‘Gerwat’
As the Geranium family is so large, you can pretty much guarantee to find a variety to suit your own garden – whether it’s sunny or shady, dry or moist. But don’t be confused – those lovely bright red flowers planted in window boxes and pots which are commonly referred to as ‘geraniums’ are actually Pelargoniums and true perennial Geraniums are a completely different kettle of fish. For one thing they don’t come in red! They will also cope with the British climate and after dying back over winter will reappear every spring happy as Larry.
Geranium Rozanne (pictured below) is a truly hard-working plant which will flower from May or June until October, if not November. At this time of year when all the early razzmatazz is over and many gardens are already lacking interest, Rozanne is invaluable to inject colour into the garden with its lovely blue flowers. It’s quite a large plant and will spread to about 1 metre across if happy. It’s good to grow in sun or some shade, and it’s a sprawler and therefore ideal to keep weeds at bay. It’s also really easy to look after – simply cut back the leaves in autumn when they die back.
If you’re looking for more inspiration about plants to grow at this time of year, take a look at Janet’s blog on Fabulous plants for August.
AUGUST tip: Save your seeds to grow free plants next year
It’s always satisfying to get something for free (well I think so anyway!) and this is the ideal time to collect seeds from your plants, or someone else’s plants for that matter, to grow free plants next year. This works particularly well for those lovely annuals we grow for cutting – Love in a Mist or Nigella as it is also known (pictured below), Sweet Peas, Nasturtium, Marigolds, Sunflowers and Poppies.
Simply gather semi-ripe seedheads such as the Marigold seed heads (pictured below) in paper bags – ideally labelled! – and hang the bags up in a cool dark, airy corner to dry. Store any seeds you collect in paper bags or envelopes in dry airtight containers until you are ready to sow them. And if, on your travels, you also see seedlings which are already taking root in the garden, simply pot them up and keep them somewhere cool until they establish, and then move them to the right position when you and they are ready.
If you only do one thing in the garden this month… clip Lavender plants after flowering
Lavender is a lovely plant to grow in a sunny spot, and there are very few people in my experience who don’t enjoy the sight and scent of this archetypal summer plant. But the downside to Lavender is that it can get quite scruffy, quite quickly. The answer is to clip it twice a year to keep it as compact as possible. Once it’s got ‘leggy’ and all the new growth is on the end of long woody stems, it’s generally too late to bring it back to a good tidy shape.
So when flowering is over, clip over all this year’s growth quite low down (but always avoid cutting back into the woody stems). There’s still time for a little re-growth before winter so the plants won’t look too bare. And of course, while you’re at it you can save the old flowers for drying to keep the moths from chewing your woollies over winter. If you grow other herbs such as Rosemary or Santolina as hedges, this is also the ideal time to clip them over too.
Don’t miss: Steal ideas from your neighbours!
If you haven’t already heard of the ‘yellow book scheme’ you’re in for a treat! It’s such a great way to see what other people are doing with their gardens, and having a look around private gardens – many of which are tiny – is a fantastic way to garner ideas for your own space. In many ways it’s more useful than wondering around acres of public gardens which although always a treat, aren’t necessarily so easy to replicate in a domestic space. Some Yellow Book gardens are open regularly throughout the year, and others concentrate on opening just over one weekend when they are at their best (for spring bulbs, rhododendrons, summer flowers, or autumn colour for example).
The ‘Yellow Book’ reference comes from the fact that The National Gardens Scheme produce yellow books listing all the gardens (by county and also nationwide) which are open to the public at different times of the year. The books are available at garden centres and often local book shops too. Entrance fees go to charity and you can often buy tea and cake too so it’s a win win situation! In this digital era of course, you can probably dispense with the books altogether if you prefer, and check out their website to find gardens which are open near you. Personally, I use the website to discover open gardens while I’m away, but when I’m at home I really love to sit down with a cuppa and pore over my local county books to find gardens to visit whenever I have a spare hour.
For advice and information on garden design in Hampshire, visit www.janetbligh.co.uk.
All photography courtesy Janet Bligh and Firgrove Photographic.