18 August 2021

Head Gardener Pete White’s monthly blog.

Welcome to my monthly article where I share some tips for your own garden and answer horticultural questions, as well as keeping you informed on some of the latest goings-on at Furzey.

We are hoping for some good weather in August as we welcome summer visitors to the gardens to enjoy a riot of colour.

The tail end of summer always brings with it a quieter period for our trees and shrubs, but nonetheless there is still plenty to enjoy. While our trees are certainly less flamboyant, they are worth a visit for their unusual leaves and bark features. One in particular that has been gaining a lot of attention is our snake bark maple. As the name suggests, it features a smooth green/red texture, covered in lots of long vertical stripes which looks just like snake skin. Move on over to our himalayan birches (also known as the betula utilis) and you will see the most exceptional glowing white bark. This specimen in particular is far smoother than the native birch, and the bark peels off as it grows.

Another tree that I would encourage you to visit is the tetracentron sinense. This is a very rare and graceful tree; in fact, it is one that I have not seen anywhere else in the UK. Every plant name has a story, and this one is no exception. The tree has four-sided spur-like shoots, each one a few inches long; they look like the spurs on cockerels’ feet. Hence the name tetra (which is Greek for four) and centron (which is Greek for spur). This magnificent tree also has huge heart shaped leaves which are serrated around the edge and long, flailing flowers – it looks as if it is covered in strings.

Snakebark maple and tetracentron sinense are some of our unusual trees to look out for

Our shrubs are also attracting a lot of attention from our insect population. Lavender is now in full flower, and as many of you will know this is a real hotbed for hungry insects. However, a more unusual shrub currently looking very beautiful is the leycesteria formosa. This is a robust plant that attracts a wealth of wildlife. It was introduced in the 1800s in the Himalayas and is also known as the pheasant berry. The berries won’t appear for a little while, but once they are really ripe they taste of caramel.

All of our plants are having to work harder to stay healthy in the heat, and your garden will undoubtedly be the same. Now the intense heat has passed, it is time to help your plants cope should another hot and dry period of weather arrive.. When watering, I would always recommend a really good soaking either once a week or once every two weeks rather than little and often. Sadly, some plants won’t last the heat – they will expire the water too quickly, wilt and die. Give them as much water in one go as possible to try and avoid that.

For those plants that can never seem to soak up enough water, don’t be afraid to prune and cut them back. You may lose some of the size, but you may keep it alive by reducing the bulk. Likewise, be quick to deadhead your plants – not only will this help them to stay alive, but it will also encourage more chances of a second crop.

If you are weeding, it’s always a good idea to mulch as well – once a week is a great amount to aim for. In addition, when cutting the grass, try to avoid cutting it with a box. Instead, use a mower where you can ‘cut and drop’; this is far better for your lawn at this time of year. The excess grass will protect your turf, and once it dries up you won’t even notice it. It’s a brilliant way to give your lawn a much-needed rest.

Remember that if you plant anything now, you must be prepared to water it all season. It isn’t the best time to bring in new shrubs and trees, however many patio plants will survive the summer and add a welcome burst of colour to your garden. Dahlias and zinnias look great and are easy to grow; they’ll flower right through into autumn.

When it comes to your vegetables, you can plant out your rooted strawberry runners and – in the south of England – you still have time to sow quick maturing salad crops. You can also keep sowing spring cabbage, turnips, Oriental vegetables and overwintering onions; but again, this tends to only work in the south of England. Keep an eye out for any aphids on your plants, as well as tomato and potato blight – the second you spot it, deal with it. You may also find that some of your tree fruit starts to rot; if this is the case, remove them so it doesn’t impact the rest of the crop.

People with learning disabilities mulching and watering plants at Furzey Gardens

In the past few articles I have talked about how insects have been struggling; this month, wildlife is at every corner. A recent butterfly count at Furzey Gardens went from 1 to 170, with dozens of species reported. We also had another sighting of a grass snake curled up on a lilypad in the sun. While this isn’t unusual for grass snakes (also called water snakes), it was a treat to see it once again.

Our wildflower meadows are also erupting – they are bursting with honeybees, bumblebees, hoverflies and much more. We are so happy with the way this new addition to Furzey Gardens has embedded itself into the environment; it’s now a firm staple of our woodland landscape.

If you have any gardening questions that you would like me to answer next month, please do write in and I’ll try to cover them in the September edition.

Butterflies and bees enjoying the pollen at Furzey Gardens

We are (as always) grateful to everyone visiting Furzey Gardens, especially as we all navigate restrictions lifting. Our inside seating in the tea rooms is still closed for now, but there are more tables on the terrace for refreshments. Remember; our gardens and tea rooms are open seven days a week and we would love to welcome you into our woodland hideaway.

Pete White, Head Gardener

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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