Summer seems finally to have arrived though if you are like me you will want to plan ahead. Spare a thought for next spring and order bulbs for the autumn. Bulb catalogues have been landing on my doormat like early Christmas presents. They are full of exciting things. One thing I always bear in mind is that bulbs look better en masse so I always buy as many as I can afford. It has been a lesson learnt through experience that it is not worth ordering a few and expecting them to go a long way so I always estimate how many I will need then double or even triple it.
In the last few years I have started using narcissus in containers instead of tulips so that they can be planted in the grass or borders afterwards. I still use some tulips though as they are just that bit more luxurious.
August is a good month to keep those secateurs sharp as there is a good bit of summer pruning to do. Top fruit such as apples and pears will need the growth reducing this month to encourage fruiting spurs. Wisteria also builds up more flowering spurs if it is summer pruned and after it has reached the required size. The old rule of thumb was to cut a hands breadth from the old growth or six to eight leaves. This should then be cut down to two fingers or one or two leaves in the winter. Long shoots can be tied in to cover more space where needed.
Repeat flowering roses should be deadheaded (which, after all, is a form of pruning), in order to encourage new flowers and once flowering roses should be deadheaded just to give them a bit of a tidy. Whatever you do remember to give them a good feed afterwards. I prefer an organic fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone. It gives them all the energy they need to perform again. Deadheading will also work wonders on that all important summer bedding, keeping it looking fresh. Begonias are apt to crumple in wet weather but will soon perk up if the flowers are removed. Pelargoniums also keep performing if spent flowers can be removed before they go brown and mushy.
Double dahlias look better and keep flowering if you remove the spent heads although it is not so important with the single flowered bedding types or the Bishop series which don’t look as bad with a few faded blooms hanging around.
August can be a bit of a loose time in the gardening calendar. If your passions are for roses, foxgloves and all things which shout early summer then good for you but by now I am guessing that the party is more or less over. Planning is key, it is good to start of some half hardy annuals from seed in the spring and growing them on to fill gaps. So while you are perusing the build catalogues it is worth flicking through a few seed catalogues as well. If you have the space to keep things frost free over winter then dahlias are excellent and cannas are statuesque. They will need to be stored in a frost free space over winter and brought out in the spring when they start into growth. I grow foliage cannas and put them in the border where they reach six or eight feet in a sunny spot.
If you don’t have the time or the room for either of the above there are perennial alternatives. Ornamental grasses are beginning to flower now and can hold up a border when some of the perennials are looking tired and floppy around them. If you grow miscanthus, especially the larger varieties then just be aware that they need a bit of shoulder room otherwise they are likely to dominate the things around them.
August can be a tricky month but with a few tricks up your sleeve and a sharp pair of secateurs it can also be a wonderful time in the garden.