14 July 2023
I am delighted to be taking on this column from Pete White, whose 30 years of work at Furzey Gardens have transformed it into a stunning woodland garden. It is an honour to step into his shoes to continue his work in the garden and in this monthly column.
I hope to be able to bring you plenty of tips and insight to help you in your own garden in these pages. I come to Furzey having previously served as the Head Gardener of Houghton Lodge near Stockbridge and more recently as the Garden Manager of Chawton House near Alton, the residence of Jane Austen’s brother Edward.
With warmer and more humid weather recently, it’s important to address pests and diseases in the garden using organic methods that harmonise with nature. Cultivating a diverse range of healthy plants suitable for their respective environments promotes biodiversity and attracts beneficial predators to naturally control insect pests. Healthy plants are better equipped to withstand minor disease issues compared to struggling ones, so it’s crucial to consider the principle of placing the right plant in the right place.
If you plan to go on holiday during the summer, make arrangements for your garden and plants. Houseplants can be temporarily brought outdoors, with their pots partially submerged in the soil to reduce water loss. Consider the sun exposure in your garden and relocate pots to shadier areas if they won’t be watered as frequently during your absence.
Water management is essential. If you don’t have water butts for rainwater harvesting, summer is an ideal time to plan ahead and install them to collect free water from your house downpipes, shed, or outbuilding roofs. By mulching beds and borders with organic mulch, you can retain moisture effectively. Only water plants that genuinely require it, such as newly-planted ones or freshly laid turf, while established plants can generally withstand longer periods between watering.
Here are some gardening tasks you can focus on this month:
Regularly mow your lawn to maintain its health and encourage thick grass growth that outcompetes weeds. Adjust the cutting deck height to only trim the tips of grass blades if the weather is exceptionally dry. Leaving the grass clippings on the lawn acts as a simple mulch, retaining moisture and providing nitrogen feed.
Now is the time to plant autumn flowering bulbs that will add vibrant colour to your garden from September through November. Consider species and cultivars carefully, such as the stunning Nerines from South Africa or the diverse range of autumn flowering Crocus.
We have a lovely collection of bright pink nerines along the front of our 16th century cottage at Furzey Gardens, which are a welcome burst of colour in the shorter autumn days.
Trim fading flowers where seed collection isn’t desired. Many perennials will reward you with fresh foliage and potentially more flowers later in the summer or early autumn if pruned now. For example, Geraniums can be cut to the ground after flowering, and with watering and light organic feeding, they should regrow quickly.
Disbudding Dahlias by removing side buds allows the central bud to develop into a larger, more robust flower, perfect for displays or local flower shows.
Apply a light organic fertiliser to herbaceous perennials to support their health throughout the remaining summer. Sprinkle granular feed between plants and lightly hoe or rake it into the soil where possible.
Prune Wisteria and remove unwanted stems, leaving five or six buds on the main stems to encourage flower bud formation for next year.
Take cuttings from Clematis and other desired plants to propagate more of them. Cuttings are a satisfying way to expand your plant collection and provide gifts for friends and family.
Trees & shrubs
If not done in June, prune early flowering shrubs like Weigela and Philadelphus.
Remove any new shoots or suckers at the base of trees to maintain tidy growth and preserve the strength of the main trunk. Species such as Sorbus are prone to this issue and require regular monitoring.
After the ‘June drop,’ thin out the remaining fruits on your Apple/Pear trees to allow them to develop fully.
Support heavily laden branches of fruit trees to prevent breakage and potential disease entry points, such as canker.
Prune summer fruiting Raspberries, cutting the canes that have fruited this year down to the ground and tying in the new canes for support.
Vegetables & herbs
Regular watering, preferably in the early evening or early morning, is crucial for the vegetable garden during this time. Keep on top of weed control, as weeds compete with your vegetables. Frequent hoeing is not only good for the soil but also for your well-being.
Sow autumn and winter salads and complete the planting of winter brassicas that were sown in April/May.
Harvest herbs regularly to encourage fresh new growth.
Visiting Furzey Gardens
If you are thinking of visiting Furzey Gardens this month, don’t miss the Artists’ Fairy Door Trail, featuring 25 uniquely decorated four-foot doors scattered throughout the gardens. Obtain a trail map for £2 to keep track of your discoveries and vote for your favourite door via text message.
As a special treat for the kids, ‘Tales from the Trees’ on 27 July is a captivating performance by Squashbox Theatre, featuring puppetry, live music, comedy, and storytelling, perfect for young families.
Enjoy leisurely walks amidst the garden’s trees and shrubs, savouring the cool shade on hot days. Marvel at the Giant Brazilian Rhubarb with its enormous leaves, admire the blooming Hydrangeas, and keep an eye out for Dragonflies gracefully skimming across the pond.
Thank you for reading my first column – I look forward to sharing the gardening year with you in the months, and years, to come.
Andrew Bentley, Estate Manager, Furzey Gardens.
This article originally appeared as the monthly In The Garden column in the Lymington Times, buy the paper on the second Friday of every month to read the next column first.
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