13 July 2022                                                                        

July brings longer, warmer days with daylight continuing late into the evening. It is wonderful to have the extra light to continue gardening or to sit and enjoy your borders as the summer flowers reach their peak.

If you water your garden at dusk, you will reduce evaporation.  Try to water the soil around the base of plants rather than the foliage. Mulch will help to retain moisture around your plants in the warmer weather and it is preferable to give your plants a good soak once a week.

The key job for every garden in July is to feed and deadhead to prolong flowering. Regularly deadheading bedding and perennial plants will encourage new blooms for as long as possible. I don’t think there is a more quintessentially English summer scent than that of sweet peas. Regular picking is essential to keep them productive, so you’ll never be short of a vase of the scented blooms.

Now is the time to cut back faded perennials to keep your borders tidy. You can sow biennials such as foxgloves, honesty, forget-me-nots and wallflowers for blooms next year.  Feed your hanging baskets weekly with a good quality liquid feed.

Foxgloves and rose

If you are fortunate to have a greenhouse, check on your plants daily. You can damp down your greenhouse on hot days to increase humidity and deter red spider mites. Open vents and doors daily in July to provide adequate ventilation.

Keep an eye out for the scarlet lily beetle on your lilies – remove and dispose of any that you see. One beetle that we will definitely not be disposing of at Furzey is the Scarlet malachite beetle (Malachius aeneus).  It is one of the UK’s rarest and most beautiful insects. It is now only found at two sites in Essex and in our very own Furzey Gardens. The beetles require a specific combination of old thatch and adjacent meadows in order to breed successfully.  As their habitat is disappearing, so is the beetle. We are very excited to be part of a programme to reintroduce the beetle back into more sites across the UK.

If you would like to increase the number and variety of beetles in your own garden, consider the following ideas. Build a beetle bank (mounds of soil to provide shelter), make a dead hedge (structured piles of branches and twigs) or create a beetle bucket (a bucket filled with rotting wood and leaves). Add log and rock piles, plenty of pollen rich flowers and avoid cutting back dead plant stems until late winter. These will all make your own garden more beetle-friendly. The endangered stag beetle requires dying wood underground for their larvae to grow, so keeping stumps in place when trees or woody shrubs die or are cut down is the single most important action you can take to help them.

Female stage beetle and rare Scarlett Malachite beetle

As planting for insect biodiversity should be at the forefront of our minds as gardeners, one species to consider is Eupatorium maculatum Atropurpureum, a cultivar of the British native herbaceous perennial. Its purple flowers are very attractive to pollinators, especially butterflies.  It has whorled, oval leaves and purplish stems which support flat, terminal clusters of small, deep purple flowers throughout July. They prefer a sunny position in soil containing abundant organic matter such as leaf mulch or well-decomposed manure.  It is important to water abundantly in the summer, as they are a moisture-loving plant.

A tree which is very attractive to bees, is Eucryphia x nymansensis ‘Nymansay’. It flowers from July to September, producing white, bowl-shaped flowers, 6cm in width, with prominent stamens. The blooms are honey-scented and stand out beautifully against the glossy, dark-green leaves. You can expect it to reach around ten feet tall in the average garden. However, the specimen we have at Furzey is incredibly happy and has far surpassed that height. Eucryphia prefer acidic, moist soil, are extremely low maintenance and are generally pest and disease-free.

At Furzey, we have been busy coppicing the hedgerow between the garden and the wildflower meadow. Coppicing is an ancient method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down to the base. In your own garden, you can coppice many trees including Dogwoods, Elder, Hazel, Holy, Willow and Yew. They will re-shoot from the base very well, extending the lifetime of the tree.

Look out for non-native invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed spreading in your garden. At Furzey we have been busy trying to discourage our American skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) from spreading further. It has huge attractive leaves and was previously limited to about six specimens. However, with the temperature increase over the last 10 – 15 years, they have spread rapidly along our ditches. We will be busy with our waders on, removing the long leek-like stems and roots, to control their spread.

Skunk cabbage and the beautiful cottage garden at Furzey Gardens

This month, you can collect the seeds of plants that have finished flowering. I remember one visit I made to Kew Gardens’ arboretum in 1992. They had a rather splendid Indian horse chestnut (Aesculus indica). I was very keen to germinate this tree for Furzey Gardens.  As Kew Gardens had its own constabulary who were able to search bags to make sure that you didn’t ‘liberate’ any seeds, I gave a couple of conkers to my son who was a toddler at the time. With the shiny treasure hidden in his pockets, we made it out of Kew Gardens and I successfully germinated them. These trees will be in flower this month and have gorgeous white flowers, spotted yellow and flushed purple-pink. Of course, I am not encouraging you take part in such dastardly subterfuge, but maybe you have friends or neighbours with whom you could arrange a seed swap?

You may have a special plant in your garden dedicated to a person or special memory. People often choose a rose for this purpose, so this month is a great time to keep feeding and deadheading to prolong flowering. At Furzey, a 1930s cultivar Rhododendron called ‘Elizabeth’ was planted in 1977 to celebrate the silver jubilee. Unfortunately, I have recently had to cut it down as it was dying. However, I plan to replace it with the same Rhododendron very soon. This time to celebrate the platinum jubilee!

I’d love to hear about plants which have a special meaning to you, so do get in touch if you’d like to share that with me or if you have any questions that you would like me to answer next month.

There is also an opportunity to have your very own special oak tree planted in the gardens this year. There are 100 centenary oaks being planted in autumn, each can be sponsored for £150. To find out more go to www.minsteadtrust.org.uk/centenaryoaks

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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