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June Notes

These few weeks between Whitsun bank holiday and Midsummer are some of the best of the year.  Frothy hedgerows, air warm on your skin, buzzing with insects and golden hour late into the evening are a few of my favourite things. I can work all day on the plots, and still have time for a late dinner and hang in the garden.

This is where it pays to have a seat just where the last of the sun hits your face. When planning yours, benches, loungers, tables and my personal favourite, hammocks, should be used to best effect dotted about to catch those rays.

You’ll only know this by living with and observing your garden for a good year otherwise it is guess work. A bench for morning coffee in the sun about 11, lunch under dappled shade in high summer and ideally a spot to lay almost horizontal on these balmy dreamy evenings.  Add some scented honeysuckle or pots of sweet peas and you have created a little heaven for yourself.

Great design is all about creating these spots of sensual idyll. Gardens are to be experienced, notice where it is nice to sit, consider the vista from the kitchen sink, some scented shrubs to enjoy when sticking the bins out in the winter. Anticipating for these moments makes the mundane delightful. It’s like soft fluffy towels, a bud vase of flowers and a pile of good books for a guest bedroom.

June brings that with abundance so I want to be out in the garden at every possible moment and if not, then outside by the river in town, swimming at Grantchester, picnicking on the meadows or on a rooftop terrace. Staying in right now is bad for your mellow, man.

There are still plenty of tasks and this month it’s a tidy up job. Yellowed spring bulb leaves can be cut down now, annual planting out finished off, staking stems before they need it and tying in wayward tendrils of climbers. A grass cut after ‘no mow May’ makes everything look gorgeous when the grass isn’t tired yet; even the fluff of weedy beds looks soft and joyous.

With the threat of frost now passed, tender plants can perform and fill the garden with colour for the next four months or more. I am planting my favourites, nasturtiums, nicotiana and coreopsis in pots and gaps in the borders. There are lots of vegetable seeds to grow now too including lettuce leaves, annual herbs ( I love coriander and basil) with runner beans and peas. I grow all of these to fill gaps and provide texture and interest to planting especially in productive flower beds.

There is one job not to forget though; that’s sowing biennials! Get it done today and feel smug for the rest of the summer. Foxgloves, Sweet Williams, wallflowers and honesty will be going to seed now so collect the seeds and sow straightaway. These plants must be germinated now (I sow into pots, prick out into modules in July) to ensure root balls are developed enough to plant out in their final spaces in September. Biennials flower little in the first spring but the year after will be glorious. These are brilliant but oft forgotten plants that bridge a tricky gap between spring bulbs and early perennials with the larger summer ones. They provide great foliage and some of the prettiest scented plants from April through to now. It’s the last sowing job to do, then you can get back to enjoying your garden right now know that you have already started next years flowers!

Originally published in Cambridge Edition June 2024


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