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Something for the Weekend #6

“Some of the most lovely perennial and shrubs flower in June, returning reliably year after year with little effort once established. Think Roses, Poenies, Irises (I adore Irises) and Lillies alike. However, these can always do with some supporting acts as they tend to stand quite alone in a border; with the hangover of spring withering beneath their dresses and the summer party swishing on a rising tide. There aren’t many plants that readily bloom in June so I fall on a cast of biennials, foxgloves, honesty, sweet william’s and sweet rocket.

Biennial's are those that grow from seed the first year, creating leaf then flowering the next. In fact, our biennials are even better the third year. Often highly scented, creating movement and height, these plants help blur the edges, with naturalistic drifts of planting and gently self sowing. Easily germinated now in trays or pots outside in a sheltered spot and by September, you can plant out, so that they can spread their roots before bursting into flower late next spring. By adding these plants to your garden, the edges to the seasons are softened and one gently rolls on to the next achieving that oft desired tapestry of colour and texture" From June, Cambridge Edition

Three for the Weekend -

1. Last go for sowing biennials - always worth a try - the sweet rocket in our gardens is just going over, the wallflowers have dried seed on their stems yet the foxgloves aren’t exploding yet. In reality biennials are sporadic germinators. If you have the space, clear a spot in the soil somewhere for these welcome mid season plants. Or sow into trays and leave in a sheltered spot, not too hot but warm, little sun and water often and see what comes up. What does can be potted up or transplanted this autumn.

Biennial Foxgloves in the walled garden.

2. Keep cutting back and lifting poppies as they go over. These have been utterly magnificent this year. This is the same for sweet peas. I am finding that this heat is accelerating their buds popping like champagne corks, flowering in just a couple of hours. These plants are some of the shortest lived so water deeply, tie in, feed every week and cut off the flowers. Certainly take off the seeds otherwise they will completely stop. I cut the whole stem of flowers of poppies and sweet peas once I see a slight split in the poppy bud, or slightest colouring in the sweet pea flower. The flowers all develop on the branch in turn and you get far more interest with the developing buds, leaves and tendrils than you do with a single flower. Just pinch off the flowers as they go over, or let the seed pods develop in the vase too.

Sweet Peas in the tunnel, there are more following behind outside in raised beds.

Annual poppies popping. Cut these with the nascent buds on the stem to open in the vase. Sear in just boiled water for 20 seconds to help condition.

3. And where you clear spent plants, follow on with another direct sowing of courgettes, carrots, sugar snap, french beans, borlotti beans. You can fit these plants in between others in small rows or scrambling up other climbers in the border. I love mixing flowers with veg and permanent planting. Growing lots of varieties keeps the soil covered but also increases diversity of soil microbiology not to mention tasty produce! Whilst you are at it, sow some companion plants too for late summer edible flowers including calendula and nasturtiums. You can also sow chicory for winter (yes I said it) leaves.

Nasturtiums make create companion flowers in the kitchen garden and I adore lengths of these as cut flowers. All parts are edible if a little spicy!

Borlotti Beans

Beans growing in the walled garden with achillea. The beans will fix nitrogen in the soil for the following crop. I use the flowers and tendrils that wave over the top of the hazel poles in arrangements.

Have a great weekend, Anna


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