Hello, and thanks for clicking the links to my garden journal – a place for recording some of my gardening activity, tracking my horticultural journey and waxing lyrical about gardens. This week I’m writing about the incredible growth just now in gardens, some border renovation in my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, and I have a timely message about growing in containers.
Gardens are growing well at the moment aren’t they, at least they are in middle England. Summer warmth has seen temperatures in the twenties pretty consistently since my last post, and with frequent rainfall, herby growth in particular has been lush.
Wilder areas have been flattened by the rains and are spilling over the otherwise neatly mown paths – the grass itself seemingly springing up behind me as I walk. Then there’s edging-up; will it never end?!
Roses, although still completely gorgeous, have fended off the heavy downpours as best they could, but need regular attention from my snips to delete dead heads and mushed up petals. Weeds are lurking amongst the borders, waiting, then waiting some more, only to shoot up to flower and seed when my back is turned. And then there are the hedges…
It’s all good though, of course, where despite the heavy workload the conditions have delivered a garden that is very green and vibrant, and really looking wonderful. It has also ensured that soil has remained workable – after a day or two of draining that is. In some of the Sulgrave borders this has encouraged some border renovation where we’re looking to get on top of bindweed and ground elder, as well as rethink planting for 2022 – exciting planting opportunities are ahead!
In terms of border renovation, there was a feature area at Sulgrave we turned to last autumn that I’ll cover briefly. It has two compact, banked areas that are visible from the ‘events’ barn – a hireable multi use hall (A very smart one if you have a wedding or conference requirement in Northants!) They had become pretty congested and unbalanced in what was essentially a formal area, with lovely stone walls either side and box and yew topiary features.
Initially we cleared and weeded the spaces to reveal two planting beds of around five by four metres. Some plants were deployed elsewhere in the gardens, but in amongst were some randomly planted sweet box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana), which we moved to the side, hoping that in due course their scent would be unmissable right beside the steps.
We then moved in with some Rembrandt tulips, which drew many admiring spectators in the spring. As the tulips were just getting going and temperatures rose, I moved in on the low box hedges to the front. They had suffered much crowding from the old shrubs and there was a good deal of die back. I chickened out a bit and didn’t go as low as I really wanted to, but did give the box a serious hair cut both to level and to try and encourage new growth. It’s touch and go if some will come back to be honest, but early signs are good after regular feeding.
Moving right up to date, I selected and this week planted a good few Hydrangea quercilfolia ‘Snow Queen’. These I hope will join together in due course to offer a long season of interest that includes beautifully textured, oak leaf shaped foliage, that colours well in autumn. In addition, the large flowers will be of the colour that should go with almost every wedding under the sun – white!
This week, whilst based on observations, I’m going to deviate a little to offer some advice that might prove useful.
Many folks, myself included, grow regularly in pots and containers – flowers and produce and more. We spend lots of time and good money selecting plants, growing them from seed even, and plant them up with high hopes. We then go on to water and feed them with the best of intentions.
Sometimes though, despite the above, there’s cause to take our eye off the game, and watering might just get a miss here and there. Even the best of us have other, more important things to deal with once in a while.
Plants have what I know as a PWP, or Permanent Wilting Point. Science aside, it basically means that each plant needs a certain amount of moisture in the soil in order to retain its turgidity. Once the soil or growing medium dries out, and each plant has its limit, it can reach its PWP – from which it can’t return.
We’ve all done it, heck I still do frequently, and my potted Hydrangea would certainly have a few tales to tell on that score! But it can be really serious, especially if you have, as I said before, spent valuable time and money on a prize specimen. Right now however, when many of us have a range of potted plants in our gardens for summer, and especially with so much intermittent rainfall, it’s all too easy to think those pots are getting all the moisture they could want – although that’s not always the case.
Rainwater is often shed away from the surface of the pot, from its own leaves that create a rain shadow. Eaves of a house have the same effect too, and overhanging shrubs – there are lots of things that can keep that lovely, even frequently falling rain from actually dropping into the pot.
To conclude, all I shall say is be vigilant, and observe. Are the leaves wilting or discoloured? Are leaves smaller than usual or flowers slow to appear? Has the pot blown over unexpectedly because it’s quite light? These are some key signs that a container plant isn’t getting quite what it needs. Give the container a rock to see if it’s lighter than usual, and if it has dried out completely, try and re-wet it by sitting it into a trug of water until its sufficiently wet and heavy again – and pray that that PWP has been avoided!
Many thanks and well done for reaching the end of another of my garden journals. I do hope you’re enjoying your moments in the summer garden.