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.

After an intense riot of colour in May, June brings with it a sense of calm at Furzey Gardens. And whilst I love the abundance of mid-spring, I’m looking forward to watching the garden soften as we step into summer.

On your next visit, you can expect lots of pinks and purples, especially in our beautiful collection of azaleas and rhododendrons. These vibrant bursts around the garden throughout spring, will gradually start to shift their hue to something far gentler. Similarly, our hydrangeas are beginning to bloom and they’re showing up in soft pinks and blues – a perfect sight to ease you into Furzey Gardens this coming month.

As you make your way around the garden, you’ll be greeted by some impressive shrubs and small trees. My personal favourite, the Styrax, is looking exceptional and is well worth a visit. This graceful Japanese tree is covered in thousands of petite white flowers, all dangling like bells – it’s best known by the name ‘Japanese snowbell’. It isn’t the only oriental plant on display; the cornus kousa is a small bushy tree which was planted back in the 1920s and is now a stately feature of the gardens. It boasts an impressive cloud of white, highlighted by cream-pink flowers – it really is a must see!

Cornus Kousa peppered with flowers and pink and purple hues of rhododendrons

You may remember in a previous article that the team was working on a wildflower meadow; the project is now in full swing, with thousands of wildflower seeds sown into the ground starting to germinate (thanks to the rain!). We chose an interesting mix of native wildflowers to lay into the bank of a ditch; they’re all bee-friendly and starting to shoot, so be sure to look out for this near the alpaca field on your next visit.

Which leads me perfectly onto my first tip for your own June gardening – allow your outdoor space to get a little wild. If you can bear it, leave a corner of nettles and a patch of grass. The nettles are a fantastic breeding ground for over 40 different species of insect – the peacock and tortoiseshell caterpillars in particular love to feed on nettles, so keep a bunch thriving and they will be very happy indeed. Similarly, even just a square metre of grass left uncut will provide a nourishing environment for dandelions and buttercups to grow. Not only do these look lovely, but they also provide an insect habitat, bird seed, nectar for pollinators and a safe home for butterflies to lay their eggs.

Wildflower meadow and Horse Chestnut tree basking in the sunshine

If you haven’t done so already, I would recommend that you take the time to put in support systems for your taller perennials. The emerging shoots sprouting at just a few inches could soon tower four to five feet tall, and so it’s worth supporting them before any growth spurts. You can do this in a way that actually adds to the overall look of your garden. I like to pull together any cuttings from around the garden and put appropriate twigs – thick end down – into the ground and create a network of twigs. As your plants grow, they will automatically take hold; come autumn, you can then use them for mulch.

A few other jobs to get stuck into include bringing your summer baskets and containers outside (now is the prime time for them to flourish!), planting your summer bedding, pruning spring-flowering shrubs and shading your greenhouse to avoid any scorching. You may also want to harvest lettuce, radish, other salads and potatoes and pinch out the side shoots on your tomato plants.

For those wondering which plants to buy and plant, the answer is anything you want. Any chance for a final frost has now passed, and it’s prime time to plant all of your tender species. Explore local gardens and check in on what is looking especially eye-catching – most gardens will have labels, but if not you can take a photo on your phone and research once you get back home. You could also pay a visit to local nurseries, as anything flowering in a pot at this time of year will grow happily in a garden. We have a good selection of quality plants in our plant sales area at Furzey, so be sure to take a look when you next visit.

High quality, low cost plants cared for by people with learning disabilities in our onsite nursery

If you do manage to get outside to many of the beautiful gardens available to visit (and you’ll certainly experience this if you visit Furzey Gardens), keep an eye to the sky for the many groups of fledglings soaring above. We keep seeing plenty of blackbirds and starling parents out followed closely by their young. As the weather warms, we will also see more species of butterflies. The team does a species count every week and numbers have been low, but we’re hoping that as we move closer to summer these will rise; we expect to see a bounty of brimstone, peacock, small copper, speckled wood and orange tip species.

The colder spring has not only meant fewer butterflies frequenting the corners of our gardens, but also fewer tadpoles. Normally our ponds and lake are full of frogspawn which then turns to tadpoles and, eventually, baby frogs hopping around the garden in large numbers. Despite a warm patch at the start of the spring season, the cold burst afterwards killed the frogspawn, meaning we are now facing a tadpole free year – a real shame!

Readers questions

This month, we had a couple of questions from readers – the first was about the best plants to grow in pots that won’t be eaten by deers. Fortunately, there are lots of plants that deers won’t touch; in particular, those with scented foliage. However, they also dislike furry foliage, such as stachys lanata and scabiosa, also called “pincushion flower”.  Both make a brilliant addition to a garden, especially the scabiosa that comes in bold and brilliant colours. The alchemilla is another bright plant that deers tend to steer away from, as is the agapanthus.

The second question asked which plant – a camellia or rhododendron – would cope better with full sun for most of the day. You’ll be pleased to read that both have species that deal well with full sun. For the camellia, both the sasanqua and the sinensis can handle sunshine, although sinensis more so. There are a number of rhododendrons that will thrive in a sunny space. The impeditum – a blue/purple plant that thrives well in the open – and the racemosum – with pink buds and sweet flowers – are popular choices. You could also try an evergreen azalea; these look similar to rhododendrons and cope well with full sun. Two of my ‘go to’s are the hino-crimson and the hinodegiri… Both would look great on a sunny terrace.

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 July edition.

We’re happy to see visitors steadily growing as restrictions lift and normality eases ever closer. 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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