This month is our late summer period when many gardens reach their full beauty. Even though many hydrangeas are now past their best, others such as roses and the silk trees are blooming as talked about last week. Flower beds and borders are rich in colour as summer flowers are in bloom. English lavenders produce another flush of purple-blue flowers, summer lilies give off a fragrance that makes the air heavy with delicious scent, many roses will produce another flush of flowers and grace many a garden with a blaze of colour.
Bedding plants or annuals are at their best and brightest and the orange and yellow marigolds and all colours of petunias, lobelia and geraniums brighten many a border pot or container and hanging basket. Some gardens also grow nicotiana (tobacco plant) just for the scent they give off every evening. Another flower at its best now is the impatiens with their bright red, pink and white flowers making a stunning display.
Often at this time of the year gaps can appear in borders. Planting a selection of perennials that flower later in the summer will help keep the borders bright over the next couple of months. Dahlias are a great choice and will bloom well into the autumn months.
Many climbers such as clematis, honeysuckle and pandoreas envelope fences and scramble up pergolas, trellises and over arches, to offer privacy and seclusion.
Roses require attention at this time. Spent blooms should be removed at frequent times during the flowering season, not only for the tidiness of your plants but also to prevent the formation of seed heads which is a waste of the plants' energy. When flowers or spent blooms are cut, a reasonable length of stem should be removed. New shoots have generally started to develop on the old flower stem and a clean cut should be made just above one of these. New growth will then come away quickly resulting in more flowers. It is a good time now to feed roses using Yates Dynamic Lifter, Novatec or Tui Rose Food. This will encourage healthy growth and more flowers.
Applying mulch to the soil during the summer season will help to conserve moisture and to keep the soil cooler; it will also reduce weed growth. It is best to apply mulch after the garden area has been thoroughly watered and cultivated.
If your soil has acidic tendencies or if heavy dressings of organic materials are applied annually, then a light application of lime will be of benefit. When feeding make sure the fertiliser contains potash — it helps to harden growth and makes the plant less susceptible to disease. Potash will aid flowering and may also help to intensify colour in the flowers.
Keep an eye out for the spread of pests and diseases on roses. Maintain regular sprays to control aphids, rust and blackspot. A good spray is Compat 3 in 1 for Roses — a combination spray insecticide, fungicide and a natural fish fertiliser with minerals and trace elements.
February is the first of the bulb planting months. In stores soon will be new season's ranunculus and anemones in mixed and individual colours as well as crocus, hyacinths and a number of daffodil bulbs too. They are excellent for borders, garden edges, pots and tubs as well as great to grow as a cut flower.
Ranunculus corms resemble a claw which must be planted downwards 3-4cm deep in a sunny well drained position. Their blooms come in reds, rose, golds, lemon, yellow, white, etc, doubles on strong 30-50cm stems. They are very effective planted in bold clumps 6-8cm apart, as ribbon borders in pots, or as cut flowers.
Anemone corms will display brilliant single or double flowers in full colour during mid-winter to late spring. Plant 3-4cm deep and 10-15cm apart making sure that the flat part of the corm is uppermost. in a sun or part shade position. Best in a cool spot if planting now. They look great when planted between roses also.
Both anemones and ranunculus can be difficult to germinate. Here are some tips which will dramatically increase your success rates. They should be chilled for 5-6 weeks in the fridge (not freezer), then soaked in fresh running water for 10-12 hours prior to planting.
Our climate encourages weeds to grow at any time. A garden looks well cared for not only when the lawns are regularly mown and hedges are neatly clipped, but by an obvious absence of weeds. In any garden the control of weeds is a continuing operation. Weeds can be controlled by cultivation or by the use of chemicals. In a mature garden it is seldom possible to use chemical methods except in areas such as lawns and paths. In flower beds and shrubberies hand work and mulching is often the best answer.
Perennial weeds which have a tap root such as docks or a creeping root from which stems arise, eg. convolvulus, are best dug out with a trowel or border fork and burnt in a hot fire. They should never be composted. Roundup Tough is a new spray that is effective against convolvulus and other hard to kill weeds.
Annual weeds which flower and seed freely within the space of a few weeks should be hoed off in dry weather before they flower and seed. In wet weather they should be pulled out. Many gardeners use special hand tools for this purpose ranging from old discarded kitchen utensils to a piece of bent No 8 wire to sophisticated hoes and weeding and cultivation tools.
Provided the weeds are not already seeding they may be composted in a well made compost heap. If they have reached the seeding stage it is better to dry and burn them or, if there is a quantity, send them to the tip. One of the most efficient methods of weed control of course is to cultivate the soil regularly before weeds are seen. Annual weed seeds are germinating or perennial weed roots are growing virtually all year round and hoeing even what appears to be a weed free surface will expose many germinating weeds, which will soon die in a few hours of sunshine or dry weather.
Have a good week
Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre