The Garden in August.
August - is it the height of summer?
I’ve always considered August as the height of summer, when actually, the longest day has been and gone over a month ago and Autumn is only round the corner! I suppose this goes back to childhood when the summer break is in August (well, for us here in the UK anyway), six weeks off school and the days stretching endlessly ahead. Trips to the seaside in the sun, lots of ice cream and everyone relaxing and recharging the worn-down batteries.
Forty years later things are a bit different (the need to recharge the batteries a slightly more regular occurrence...!) and my priorities have changed slightly. August is still summer to me though, and I always hope its going to be warm and sunny in the day and a good dose of rain at night. There is a garden to water after all, but I know it’s rather wishful of me. With the crazy weather we have been having the last few years anything is possible and we are all having to adapt.
This means expecting different things from the garden. I have found this year a bit of a challenge and it seems I’m not alone. The cold weather over spring that seemed to go on for months has had a definite affect on our gardens. Plants that need a gentle spring struggled to get going so lots of things were out of kilter. Everything seems to be very late and some just not getting going at all.
Expecting everything to perform when it normally does has led to disappointment and head scratching. I’m sure we haven’t done anything wrong, it’s just we are all having to become more adaptable and patient. And you really can’t be an impatient gardener, all though I quite often find myself wishing the weeks away to get to see the first tulip or sweet pea or dahlia.
This article from The RHS is about Gardening in a changing climate, with recommendations about plant choice and garden design and how to cope with extremes of weather.
Anyway, it seems I’m digressing about the weather which I have very little control over, so I’ll get back to the garden...
Highlights of the garden this August.
Right this moment, as I write this, I’m super happy with the way the garden looks, like it is having its second flush. There are a few bare patches, it is August after all, and the garden has been working hard to give me the joy of colour and flowers for some months now so I should expect a few patches that have done their bit and gone over. Some of the roses are blooming again and all the hydrangeas are in full pom-pom mode
The Gaura is looking like floaty butterflies on their long stems and the bees are loving the Echinacea. Agapanthus, Geraniums and Nasturtiums are throwing out their strong Mediterranean colours too.
Last year the Agapanthus were a disaster, only the odd bloom on one I had in a pot. Nothing from the ones in the raised bed. I know they like to have restricted roots so thought maybe they didn’t like being in the raised bed. This year though, they are all blooming beautifully, who knows why? The same with the two in pots. With these I took them out of their pots in early spring, both were completely pot bound, sawed off the bottom two inches and then put them into very slightly bigger pots. Both now looking gorgeous! So a bit of an oxymoron, do they like being pot bound or happy in a bed…?? I found this trick on the Sarah Raven Instagram page, Arthur Parkinson was doing it to some of the Agapanthus at Perch Hill. I've put a link here if you fancy a watch!
Two weeks ago, however, I was very unhappy with the way the garden looked, so I took down the raggy Sweet Peas and cut down the cornflower that had gone over. Things started to look better, and it seemed to give those parts of the garden a chance to breathe. On one of the obelisks of Sweet Peas I’d also grown a Cobaea, or the Cup and Saucer Vine. As the common name suggests the flowers look like a cup and saucer, with a large cup shaped flower that opens out of the flower bud which creates a “saucer” around the base of the flower. I have a white one and a couple of the blue/purple varieties dotted around the garden. They like sunshine, being native to Mexico, and will quickly cover a fence or other structure once they get going! I saw an amazing one just last week covering a metal, spiral staircase in the glass Temperate House at Kew Gardens. Anyway, I carefully untangled it from the sweet peas and once I’d got rid of those, I wound the Cobaea back around the support. It will continue to grow, they are quite prolific, and I hope to have the obelisk covered in blue flowers in the not-too-distant future. Fingers crossed…!!
Still to come!
Of Course, the garden naturally looks overgrown and a bit messy is August, and I love it when it’s like this. I don’t want things to be too neat and I’m learning to let go of plants when they have gone over instead of hanging on to them. One such conundrum often discussed by gardeners is Lavender. To cut back, or not to cut back, once the flowers have started go brown at the edges. To maintain a nice, rounded clump of lavender that doesn’t get leggy, it’s advisable to cut back as soon as they have flowered. But not into the dark, woody stem as it won’t grow back. This also gives the plant a chance to put on a bit of growth to protect it a bit over the winter. You might like the look of overgrown, leggy lavender though, and then there are the bees to consider. They will keep bobbing over the flowers until they are completely brown and dead. I usually do a bit of both! Cutting back where it’s most needed and leaving some going for the bees. I’ll cut it all later in the month.
One of the highlights of this time of year for me is the arrival of the dahlias! They are very late this year, but they are a late summer/autumn flower so I’m not overly worried about it. There are definite signs that they are waking up and I hope to have blooms for the house very soon. I have made a bit of an error with them though this year. Not entirely sure what I was thinking, but I usually put them in a bed of their own and a few smaller varieties in pots. This year I decided to put cosmos, verbena and daucus planted in with them. I had images of floaty cosmos and verbena bobbing above the dahlias but that hasn’t worked, has it?! Possibly because the Dahlias have taken longer to get going, but the Cosmos particularly has outgrown, and swallowed up, the Dahlias.
Not to worry though, I’ve taken out some of the cosmos stems to give the dahlias some light and they will catch up eventually. The cosmos does look lovely though, bright flowers bobbing about on their green, foamy, foliage!
Enjoying the house and garden.
Something else I look forward to over the summer months is being able to merge the house and garden together. Unless the weather is bad, the doors into the garden are opened wide in the morning and usually stay that way until bedtime.
I bring the garden into the house by having cut flowers dotted about the place, it's lovely to have sweet roses by the bed or a big vase of lots of different flowers in the living room and kitchen table. Around the garden we have seating areas so we can follow the sun as it moves across the sky, with either a morning coffee or afternoon cup of tea. We try to eat outside as much as possible too, there's nothing like dining al fresco is there?!!
It’s so important to stop and enjoy the garden that you have created too, whatever your garden may be. Its very easy to get wrapped up in the growing, planting, deadheading cycle and not spending time to sit, admire your work and watch nature do its thing. Although, if you’re anything like me, you sit down for a relaxing moment and before you know it, you’ve spotted something that needs your immediate attention and jump up to get it sorted. Relaxing moment forgotten…!
So for now, I need to remind myself to enjoy the garden while it is looking fabulous! Do the necessary deadheading to prolong the flowering, keep my fingers crossed the tomatoes will ripen (did I mention the tomatoes that refuse to ripen…?) and sit and take it all in. A few weeks from now things will begin to fade, apart from the dahlias and late chrysanthemums which will just be getting in their stride, and I’ll be sorry I didn’t stop and stare.
We would love to know how your garden is doing in August. Have you had problems this year too? Do leave us a comment below, we love to chat!