And just like that, we find ourselves in the midst of a new season. The height of summer is here and with it an entirely different set of plants. The transition has been firmly felt here at Furzey Gardens.
While our azaleas and rhododendrons have eased into a quieter, calmer period, our primulas have burst into life; they’ll be looking exceptional right through the month of July. We are also enjoying a range of new trees and shrubs in flower, including two eye-catching species of Catalpa. The first is the bignonioides (also known as the Indian bean tree). This is a medium sized tree from North America and is typically covered in clusters of white flowers with yellow and purple blotches. Our own variety is golden and features huge yellow saucepan sized leaves – it’s a real sight to see. We also have the ovalta, and this is a slightly gentler variety. A Chinese species, the ovalta has smaller flowers and leaves in white with yellow and red markings. It also boasts a beautiful soap like aroma; the scent hangs in the air as you approach along our meandering paths.
Another tree that is sure to strike up your senses is a fine old specimen – the Eucryphia. It towers above the garden at 40ft tall and is full of big white flowers; flowers of which are particularly popular with our resident bumblebees. By late July the tree will be covered with them, their buzzing filling the air.
We usually see a lot of interesting varieties of cistus at this time of year – a Mediterranean plant which thrives in hot and dry conditions. We deliberately place these in drier, well drained parts of the garden to help them flourish, unfortunately this year we have had to cut back a lot of our specimens as they have not done so well over the wet winter. However, for anyone with a south facing garden and sufficiently drained ground, I would recommend bringing them into your outdoor space; they’re unique and add an interesting dash of colour thanks to their yellow and purple splodge right in the middle of the flower.
Moving onto my July gardening tips, now is the time to start deadheading your flowering plants. All you need to do is nip flowerheads off as they start to die; this will encourage not only more flowers, but a longer flowering season. Likewise, you will want to prune any of your spring shrubs. You do this as their flowering starts to come to an end – this will encourage further flowering next spring. Shrubs that may fall into this category include deutzia, philadelphus, forsythia, weigela and chaenomeles.
While you are looking to the future of the garden, you can also collect the seeds of plants that have finished flowering and resow them; for example, any bi-annual plants like foxgloves, verbascum and forget-me-nots. This doesn’t have to be an onerous task. All you have to do is cut the dead stem and shake it out over the areas that you want the seedlings to grow.
In terms of your vegetables, July is a good time to sow spring cabbage, turnips, fennel and your autumn/winter salads. It is the last chance to sow French and runner beans (in the south of England only) and you can still plant out your leaks and brassicas for a winter supply. July is also primetime for fruit coming into season; anyone growing blackberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries and bramley apples will have their pick of the bunch this month. Vegetable wise, you are once again spoiled for choice. The list of vegetables ready to eat is extensive, with everything from your aubergines to your turnips ready for you to enjoy.
Although we certainly have experienced a duller and wetter end to the spring and start to the summer, remember that July can be incredibly dry. Keep your trees, shrubs, fruit and vegetables well watered. If possible, it is better to give them a good soak once a week rather than a little bit every day. I like to leave a hose trickling at the base of the plant.
Due to the unpredictable weather, insect life has struggled throughout this year. I mentioned in last month’s article that butterflies are in low numbers and this is still the case at Furzey Gardens. Saying that, we still have the rest of the summer for numbers to pick up, and once the temperature increases they will be joined by an abundance of bumblebees soaking up our nectar producing plants. We look forward to greeting them, hopefully alongside more snakes too.
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 August edition.
What to see at Furzey Gardens this month.
This month, the team are hard at work identifying areas of the garden that have remained a little unloved; some for over a decade. We will be going into these spaces to identify any plants and shrubs that have outgrown the space and running what we are calling a ‘renovation pruning project’. This will include taking out any plants that are struggling to thrive, and replacing them with the reams of great plants waiting patiently in our nursery. By the end of the month, these spaces will look very different – we are looking forward to hearing your feedback.
On your next visit, don’t miss our cottage garden as it is really coming into flower. You’ll see hollyhocks, foxgloves, dahlias and a vibrant collection of wild flowers. We have also been sowing poppies randomly among the beds; the burst of red adds a sense of warmth and depth to the garden.
As always, we are grateful to everyone visiting Furzey Gardens as we all navigate changing restrictions and a move ever closer to normality. Remember; our gardens and tea rooms are open seven days a week (with social distancing measures in place) 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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