Last month finally saw the arrival of summer, the enthusiasm of a first burst of heat quickly quenched by torrential downpours. In more recent years the weather has seemed to become more extreme with our temperate summer turning from a period of drought in to flooding in an instant. Although two days off work due to impassible roads and sodden gardens was a welcoming break, the extreme fluctuations can make gardening more difficult, especially if your soil is on the very thin or on the heavy side. Luckily here in the garden our soil contains a good balance of clay so it retains good moisture but also drains the worst of the water. Despite the extremes the garden has loved the combination of heat and moisture and June has been full of colour.
One of the most useful plants for the garden is the hardy Geranium whose range of species cover most aspects and locations. They are tough and hardy, one of the few plants that can seem to out compete the ever present ground elder weeds whose roots, while satisfying to pull at their seemingly endless strings, can never seem to be fully eradicated. One of the most interesting flowers is the relatively new double flowered Geranium Pratense ‘Summer skies’. I am not often a fan of the double forms of many flowers opting for the elegant and more wildlife friendly single forms, however the colour and form combination of ‘Summer Skies’ is striking. Another favourite is Geranium Psilostemon which climbs up through other plants to make a tall specimen with beautiful cerise flowers.
We are very lucky to have a fairly large garden and plants can often become easily lost in the abundant growth of summer. There is nothing better than rediscovering a plant you had forgotten planting. In fact I was very surprised to see the nodding crimson heads of the Martagon lily ‘Claude Shride’ peeking out from amongst the border. These came as a free add on to a plant order and I thought I had lost them.
Another plant which has been flowering throughout the month is the exotic looking Primula Viallii. While most Primula flower in Spring, Viallii can flower from May up until July. The red poker shaped spikes are gradually clothed in small pink flowers opening from the bottom of the spike and working their way up giving a long flowering period. As with other Primula it thrives in the shade but likes a damp soil.
June also saw the start of the first flush of rose flowers. The garden is full of roses, nothing can quite compare to the scent of an English rose, even here in Wales! One of my favourites is the crimson red of the David Austin rose ‘Darcey Bussell’ which forms a small shrub which repeat flowers. No flower is more romantic with its perfect blooms and heady scent conjuring up images of rambling old gardens and arbours. However, the rose is a very versatile plant which can be grown in the border amongst perennials. Small climbers can adorn posts and pergolas or up a house wall where the scent will drift through an open window. Ramblers can cover unsightly buildings but can also be used to grow through mature trees to add further interest through the year.
On the pergola we have used ‘The Generous Gardener’ another Daivd Austin rose which has a really strong fragrance and beautiful nodding pink flowers.
Many roses are now bred for their repeat flowering ability and summer flowering roses can often become overlooked. However, many of these old varieties are among the most beautiful. Climbing next to The Generous Gardener on the pergola is an old rose called Laure Devoust. I bought this immediately after seeing it clothing an an archway at the famous Mottisfont Abbey rose garden in Hampshire. It rewards with a profusion of clusters of flowers each in changing shades of pink.
Similarly if you have space and a suitable tree there is nothing quite as impressive as the sight of a vigorous rambling rose intertwining with the branches. Although most ramblers are once flowering new varieties such as ‘Malvern Hills’, which we have trailing up and over an old crumbling stone wall, have the ability to repeat.
It is important to remember to feed roses during July as the first flowers come to an end to encourage repeat flowering and deadhead unless they re also being grown for the decorative rosehips.