Since I last wrote a blog we’ve had one of the longest winters on record, we’ve had some lovely spring weather which has helped the gardens to catch up and some mixed weather for the end of spring, beginning of summer. Hopefully we’ve planted our seeds, pricked out and potted up, then planted out our seedlings – some of mine are still very small for the time of year because of the delayed spring. We’ve begun mowing the lawn regularly, dead headed the spring bulbs so that they send their energy back down into the bulbs for next year, spring pruned any early flowering shrubs that need it, such as Forsythia, and, hopefully started staking tall perennials such as Delphiniums and Hollyhocks, and any that are prone to flopping such as Peonies, and sometimes larger Sedums. It’s not too late to look round the garden and do any staking required, if you haven’t done this. Many of our later flowering perennials such as Echinops (Globe Thistle), Astrantia and Sedum spectabile could have been given the Chelsea chop if you wanted to prolong the flowering season (cut the tops back by about a third around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show – late May, to produce stockier growth that flowers later).
So now it’s time to really enjoy the burst of summer colour in the garden. A lot of things are blooming late this year, so flowers we would have expected to have been over, are still in bloom, alongside our summer staples – we have Aquilegias, Irises, Roses, Poppies, Ceanothus, hardy Geraniums, Peonies, Laburnums, Syringia (Lilacs), Weigela, Spireas, Cistus, foxgloves all blooming at the moment. The Alliums are just over but leaving attractive seedheads. The Lupins are on their way along with the Lavatera, Penstemons, Delphiniums and Hollyhocks.
But there is still plenty to do in the garden. Most of it is mowing, weeding, deadheading and staking. Any shrub that has begun flowering before mid summer, such as Weigela, Rosemary, Berberis, Ceanothus, Ribes and early flowering Spireas can be pruned, but do take care to make sure there are no birds nesting in the shrubs. It is not safe to assume that they have fledged until the middle of July. If your shrub does not come into flower until after mid summer’s day then don’t prune it until spring. Topiary and many hedges can be pruned in summer – these include Box, Yew, Laurel and Beech. I wouldn’t prune the bigger hedges such as Beech until I am sure all the nesting birds have fledged. Keep picking sweet peas once they come into flower to encourage more flowers. Cut back leaves and stems of Oriental Poppies after they have finished blooming, to promote fresh leaf growth and get rid of scruffy overgrown foliage. Cut back foliage of hardy Geraniums and Alchemilla mollis in the same way once the flowers are over – sometimes you get a second flush of flowers as well as leaf growth by doing this. Aubretia also needs cutting back, if you haven’t already done this, but leave any foliage from bulbs such as Alliums and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) to die down naturally, as the leaves will feed the bulbs and ensure next year’s flowers.
Other than that, enjoy the garden and look forward to all the later flowering perennials such as Achillea, Echinops, Echinacea, Michaelmas Daisies and Sedums.