“Jobs in the garden this month will revolve around gently tending the flower borders and kitchen gardens as they simmer away. Pinch out the main stem of annuals such as cosmos, nicotiana, snapdragons and sunflowers. Take out the tip to encourage them to bush out. Keep picking flowers from plants every week to prevent plants running to seed. Gather a bunch of flowers for your table, bedside or for a friend. Cornflowers, nigella and calendula are essential cottage garden flowers and a jug of these is so evocative of the English summer. Ensure to tie in dahlias and sweet peas, feeding once a week. ” July 2022
July smells like freshly cut flowers. Jasmine, honeysuckle, sweet peas and nicotiana, sweetly releasing their heady scents on hot summer nights. The first flush of roses is waning, early summer perennials slowing and it doesn't seem time for dahlias yet; even if they have started flowering. This month, schools out; there is an indulgent atmosphere where summer is taken for granted. Doors and windows wide open, shorts, cool drinks and eating outside; almost anything gathered from the garden right now looks gorgeous together in a vase.
I learnt this when I cut flowers this week when a large Flower Club visited the garden. To demonstrate cutting and conditioning, I had picked sweet peas, ladies mantle, poppies, corncockle, cornflowers, roses, scabious, phlox, oregano, basil, mint and lemon balm. Stripped, seared and rested, I simply transferred them from the bucket to a large glass vase to demonstrate with. They thought I had arranged them and a little aghast when I pulled it apart to show treatment of the flowers to prepare them. Used to uniform stiff stems from an industrial unit, it was wonderful to show them these flowers, in this very different setting. A cliche perhaps, but garden grown flowers do arrange themselves in July!
Three for the Weekend
1. Cut flowers from your garden
For most annuals and perennials, this will encourage more flowers. For others that flower just once, cut just a few stems to open the plant and create a beautiful balanced shape, leaving the rest for the pollinators and the plant.
Top tips -
Cut first thing in the morning or late in the evening. When the sun isn't felt on your neck.
Cut the stem at a sharp angle, strip the lower leaves and any old flowers.
Place into a bucket of water straightaway.
Rest the flowers in the cool and dark until the next day.
If the flower is sappy or woody, the stem will need help conditioning. Sear in an inch of just boiled water for 20 seconds or more, then rest in cool water. This helps the uptake of water, by opening up the stem cells. The next day, the stems will be vibrant, full of water and ready to perform in a vase.
Conditioning flowers before arranging is the trick to long lasting flowers, that dance, exuding scent, energy and personality!
2. Prune early summer perennials
Ladies mantle, geraniums and heucheras flowers will be going over. Cut to the ground, water and feed well. New lush foliage will grow back.
3. Clear Biennials and collect seed
The sweet rocket, wallflowers and honesty has gone to seed now. Yellow, dry foliage and firm seed pods show that the plant can be cleared. On a dry day like today, I will cut the seedbeds into a paper bag or envelope, label and store somewhere cool and dry. Or, you could scatter the seed on a prepared seed bed. Most of these biennials will self sow, so why not get in first and spread where you want to grow them. This morning (Sat 9th July) is a biodynamic flower day, so great time to collect and sow seed.
Flowers waiting to be arranged.
Fallen hard for Sweet Peas again this year
Waiting to be arranged - maybe necessarily!