This current spell of hot weather has started to take its toll on our gardens, but you don’t need to water everything and most established plants will be perfectly ok.
There are a few things you can do to focus your watering on the most important areas and plenty of tricks to make the most of every drop of water.
Watch your plants, the most susceptible plants will be those that are newly planted trees and shrubs that means within the last 18 months or so. If they start to wilt then it is time to water. But do it at night.
Don’t water in the heat of the day. Wait until dusk and then water any plants that are newly planted or that are showing signs of stress. Established trees and shrub and most perennials should have put down strong roots deep into the soil and unless the hot spell lasts for weeks, these plants should survive without additional watering.
Concentrate your efforts on plants in containers and fruiting plants that need the water to swell and mature their fruits, such as beans, courgettes and strawberries.
It is better to water once or twice a week really thoroughly than superficially daily. Really soak the area around your plant roots. When you’ve watered have look to see what difference it has made, that will help you to understand the importance of watering thoroughly, simply dig down gently into the soil to see how far the water has soaked in. You might be surprised how shallow the wet layer is. Continually wetting the surface of the soil encourages surface roots which are much more prone to damage from scorching sun and winter frost.
Unless your lawn has been newly seeded or freshly turfed in the last year or so, there is really no need to water it in dry weather. Even if it goes brown and looks dead, most lawns will still recover when the first rain falls. If you need to water it, then remember to soak it really thoroughly twice a week making sure that the water reaches the down to the roots to avoid surface rooting.
Prepare your plants for drought
When planting new plants you can use the excavated soil to build a wall around the hole to keep water trapped inside when it rains. It also makes it easier to water them and retains the water around the root ball of your plants. If you are planting on a slope then build the higher wall around the part of the hole that is facing downhill so that any running water will gather around the precious tree or plant.
You can also create a depression in the soil around your plant, so that if you add water via a watering can, it puddles within the depression, over the plant roots and then filters down through the soil without running off. This is also useful after heavy rainfall.
Fruiting vegetables such as peas, broad beans and runner beans, need lots of water. French beans, chard and carrots are more drought resistant. Cabbages need less water than sprouts and cauliflowers. Sweetcorn and pumpkins should not need watering unless newly planted, if any of the above start to wilt then water them thoroughly in the evening.
Save Time Watering the Garden - YouTube
Group pots together to make it easier to water. Image: Martin Mulchinock
Some of the most demanding things in the garden in terms of watering are containers and hanging baskets. If yours are already planted then there are a few things you can do to make your life easier. These are also useful tips for when you are away on holiday.
Move them into the shade while the hot weather is at it’s peak, this slows the water evaporation from the compost and porous planters and keeps your plants cooler.
Group them together to make it easier to water them.
Place containers into a saucer or tray to catch any excess water that runs through when you water them.
Mulch over the exposed compost surface with gravel or composted bark to protect the roots at the surface from sun scorch.
Keep a couple of large planters of vegetables or herbs by the kitchen door so that when you have water used for washing vegetables you can pour it straight into the planters. Plus they are handy when you want to harvest some fresh herbs or salad quickly.
Container planting tips for drought
Add a wetting agent to compost to help with water retention. Image: Martin Mulchinock
If you are still going to plant containers then here are a few tricks you can use to ensure your pots and planters are more drought tolerant.
Think BIG. The larger the container the less quickly it will dry out in the sun and wind.
Soak clay pots in water before planting so that the porous surface does not draw water from the compost.
Choose glazed pots, plastic pots or metal pots that have surfaces that are not porous and so are less susceptible to drying out in windy, hot conditions.
Line the pots with polythene, making sure there are drainage holes.
Add water retaining gel or crystals to your compost to absorb and hold water near the plant roots.
Place a layer of gravel at the bottom and on top of this use a plant pot saucer as a mini water reservoir within the planter to trap excess water when you water.
Use a dedicated container compost. Choose one that has added wood fibre and a good wetting agent as it will hold the moisture for longer and be easier to rewet such as Richard Jackson’s Premium Multi Purpose Compost.
The best tip I can give anyone thinking of creating their own garden is to forget the word design. If you have little or no experience, creating your garden can seem a bit daunting.
That was where I started, back in 2007, so it was even more frightening. Take look at my garden before I began working on the plot and then how it looks now, not bad for a non gardener. On that basis you must trust me! If I can do it then anyone can do it. Prior to moving to my house by the sea I’d not really done any gardening at all, so it was all “learning as I go”.
The plain canvas we started with. Image: Geoff Stonebanks
The whole of my back garden is on a slope up, away from the house, so there were no level surfaces upon which to put tables and chairs. While I loved the idea of the sloping garden, I needed to create some level areas hence the initial idea to go with smaller spaces or rooms.
I also wanted to make the garden seem bigger than it actually was. It is 100 feet long and 40 feet at its widest. So scale was quite important. For me, the concept of having lots of smaller spaces, or rooms, felt right. Along the left side of the garden there are now 6 small rooms, each with a different theme or planting. The same applies on the right hand side now too.
How things have changed! The garden in 2009 and 2017. Image: Geoff Stonebanks
The other key thing for me, as a novice, was not to have to think about it all in one go. While I knew I was looking for several areas, I still planned it all in small stages, over the course of 5 years and I let it develop organically, not to a grand plan at the onset.
My garden is by the sea, so I needed to have some first line of defence, to prevent the strong, salt laden winds damaging the plants. That’s another reason why small rooms seemed a good idea. Take the room in the foreground of the picture with the green table and chairs, a perfect small garden in it’s own right. The hedge, with the tea cups, is an Olearia hastii ‘Tweedledum’ and the hedge up the central path, behind the horse, a Grisolina littoralis, both good seaside shrubs, with leathery leaves, that don’t mind the salt.
Overview of the back garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks
Linked to the concept of different rooms, the use of various types of screening also reinforces the movement from one area to another. In the centre of the image on the right you can see some grey, vintage French shutters. They are pinned to the side of small raised beds and almost create a doorway, moving from one room to the next. This is achieved elsewhere in the garden with rusty old gates and railings too. The use of tall objects, to create height, works well. In the beginning, the wind was a real problem and I was not able to plant anything tall, so metal arches were a great addition to give a 3rd dimension. You can see over the years, the planting has become established around it and now I have become accustomed to the environment and what will grow best here, but I’ve learned from my garden and from the plants that will and won’t grow here.
Driftwood Garden, in Seaford, East Sussex is open by appointment from June 1st to September 1st 2018. It is also open to the public for special NGS and the Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail on 14 separate dates this summer. Visit the Driftwood Garden website for more information.
I take my hat off to all those hard-working nurserymen and women who get up early, pack their vans with plants and head off to another plant fair. It’s exhausting work having to move stands, load, unload, drive home and then water hundreds of plants on the nursery before hitting the pillow. The stamina of these plant experts is notable, even on the wettest of days. Nursery folk often continue to smile and enthuse about their plants from under a waterproof while clutching a grey cup of tea from a flask. These are hardy folk who certainly deserve our support. Without them the plant world would be very dull and uninformed. The many plant fairs across the country are what keep these nurseries going, so we must attend them.
Country Gardeners’ Day
15 nurseries attended our Gardeners’ Day. Image: Tamsin Westhorpe
At the end of May I held our annual Country Gardeners’ Day at Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire. Each year I invite about 15 nurseries and garden suppliers to join us. Herefordshire is rich in horticultural talent, which allows me to restrict our exhibitors to those local to the area.
The forecast predicted heavy rain and thunder and that’s what we got. The event was far from a washout though as keen gardeners poured in to look for plants. Passionate gardeners always arrive as the gates open – it could be compared to the start of a race. They’re enticed by the chance to talk to the specialist growers and enjoy shopping within the heart of a garden.
Music, cake, and tea are all part of the day and a good plant fair is fun. Brush the frivolities aside however, and the reality is that these events are so important for the nurseries in particular. Here they get to highlight their specialism without having the expense of opening their nurseries to the public. Those that offer a mail order service get the chance to talk to their customer to establish what the up and coming trends are and they can also discuss the challenges of the season with other growers.
For the customer, the benefits of attending a plant fair are priceless. They can hear first-hand from the experts how to care for a plant and they can buy rare and unusual plants that you won’t find at the average garden centre. It’s a great help to be surrounded by plants that have been produced in the local area as it’s likely that they will suit the customer’s soil and site too.
The annual Country Gardeners’ Day at Stockton Bury Gardens in May. Image: Tamsin Westhorpe
We should all be focusing on shopping local for environmental reasons. Low mileage plants make sense and by buying those produced in the UK you avoid the risk of importing pests and diseases from afar. The Royal Horticultural Society is keen to encourage us to buy local for this reason. There is a bacterium that is causing great concern amongst gardeners – Xylella fastidiosa. It restricts water movement inside the plants, which results in death. The UK is free of this devastating disease at present but in other parts of Europe it has caused great damage. It affects hundreds of plant species – most notably lavender and rosemary – and it is likely to arrive through the importation of infected plants. Buying locally from nurseries that produce their own stock is the most responsible way of gardening and will hopefully go some way to keeping the UK free of this problem.
Next time you see a sign for a plant fair don’t drive by. Whatever the weather pull in and do your bit to support our exceptional nurserymen and women.
Summer wouldn’t be the same without the perfumed flowers of lavender, seasoned with buzzing bees and elegantly wavering and whispering in the summer sun.
There are so many great reasons to grow lavender in your garden. Here are five garden worthy varieties chosen from the RHS Gold Medal winning Downderry Nursery stand at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
1 Anniversary Bouquet
A splendid, vigorous lavender that flowers a bit later in July and August, with stout stems and superb blue-purple flowers. The brilliant blue flowers are held on stout stems making it a great choice for cutting, bundling and drying in bunches. Perfect as a hedge or specimen plant. Excellent for cutting for drying in bunches.
Grows to around 75-90cm (30-36in).
Anniversary Bouquet. Image: Jean Vernon
2 Melissa Lilac
A real marshmallow of a lavender with beautiful furry calyces and powder purple, mildly scented flowers. It’s so sumptuous you feel you could eat it! Broad grey-green foliage and an early flowerer too. One of the few angustifolia types that doesn’t set seed. It’s robust, has great winter foliage and it’s a good choice for adverse weather conditions too. Grows to around 60cm (24in).
Melissa Lilac. Image: Jean Vernon
3 St Jean
This is an early flowering lavender with a more open habit. It has the longest pale pink flower heads of any angustifolia lavender and attractive grey-green foliage. It’s the best choice to complement ‘Royal Purple’ or ‘Twickel Purple’. French selection. UK introduction by Downderry 2006.
Grows to around 60cm (24in)
St Jean. Image: Jean Vernon
A little known, but outstanding lavender, with a colour bluer than most, making a superb bushy hedge of mid-purple-blue flowers which are mildly aromatic. Grey-green foliage. The vibrant blue look makes the flowers appear almost ultra-violet at dawn and dusk as the colour appears to lift off the plant. Introduced in 1933. Another good choice for adverse conditions and wet winters.
Grows to around 60cm (24in)
Folgate. Image: Downderry Nursery
A splendid fan-shaped bush lavender forming a perfect dome of white flowers and making a stunning feature in mid summer. It’s a particularly good variety for bees when there is a shortage of other forage in the area. Known in Europe since 1880.
Grows to around 75cm (30in).
In the words of Audrey Hepburn ‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’
Gardening can help with depression and be tremendously beneficial for people suffering with bereavement, loneliness and illness. Green therapy.
There is always something requiring attention in the garden. It provides a great distraction to occupy your mind. It gives purpose, focus and an end result for your effort.
Discussing planting schemes and developments all express optimism and allow our minds to think positively about the future. Image: Debi Holland
Scientific research has proven that getting dirty is actually good for us. Soil contains the harmless bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae which releases dopamine and serotonin a natural anti-depressant in the brain and makes us happy.
If you do not have a garden consider putting your name down for an allotment. Transforming weeds and neglect into a fine tilth is extremely satisfying, provides purpose and goals. Sowing, growing and harvesting crops is incredibly therapeutic and rewarding.
We should never under estimate the power of nature to calm and centre thoughts and to inspire hope for the future. The anticipation that there is something to look forward to whether it is a new bloom or a fruit and veg crop works wonders on lifting spirits.
We all juggle numerous tasks in our fast-paced modern lives. Gardening requires us to slow down, contemplate and appreciate the little details in life that can be easily missed if racing around at full-speed. It reminds us of our connection with nature and the wonderful cycle of life that is going on right under our noses. We just need to take time to appreciate it.
Gardening requires us to slow down, contemplate and appreciate the little details in life that can be easily missed. Image: Debi Holland
Gardening can reduce anxiety and gardening with someone else can help combat loneliness and shelve worries for an hour of two.
Discussing planting schemes and developments all express optimism and allow our minds to think positively about the future. Sit back and admire all your hard work and enjoy the sense of achievement.
I work with people who have experienced bereavement or long-term illness. Gardening has been a tremendous respite, an escape from the house, provided achievable goals with visible results from a few hours toil when other aspects of life may not be so straightford.
So how can we plant hope?
There’s something about growing your own food which is very satisfying. Image: Debi Holland.
Plant bulbs. Long winters can be demoralising but a splash of early spring colour brings hope. Plant successively, as one flower fades another emerges for months of blooms. Consider crocus, fritillary, narcissus, snowdrops and bluebells followed by tulips and alliums.
Whatever your garden size or budget add some new plants to your plot for some instant gratification.
Choose personally relevant plants to add nostalgia to your garden.
Inhale. Scent is such an evocative sense. It can propel us back to times gone by and remind us of people and places.
Roll up your shelves, step outside your door and tackle the weeds. Like a spring clean, half an hour of weeding can be liberating and will improve spirits.
Join your local gardening club to meet like-minded people.
Put your name down for an allotment.
Keep fit. Gardening can improve overall health by getting you out of the armchair and save you a trip to the gym.
Phone a friend. Gardening can be incredibly social so call in help. Have a good chat and dig.
Garden with children. Whatever age, flower power is magnetic. Passing knowledge to the next generation is immensely satisfying.
Hire a professional. Get regular help from a professional gardener. Discuss plants and garden aspirations. Moving projects forward can be incredibly liberating.
Gardening has such a positive effect on mind, body and general wellbeing. We literally can plant hope.
If you’ve got the kids in tow, well done. There’s a lot at this amazing flower show to enthral, inspire and excite little green fingers of all ages. From the fabulous Scarecrow Competition, to the Family Trail designed to keep the kids amused – let them seek out the crocheted wheelbarrow, flowerpot, watering can and the rest of the tools within the showground. Give them a fresh challenge to discover the Lego insect eating plants in the floral marquee. It’s a fabulous take on Toyland to Wonderland by one of the nursery exhibitors and well worth seeking out. Carnivorous plants are a great gateway into gardening.
Crocheted watering can at the show
Whatever your tastes in plants you won’t fail to be completely and utterly wow-ed by every single display of plants inside the Floral Marquee. Especially when you consider the extreme challenges that the growers, plants and exhibitors have faced. You can buy a huge diversity of botanical wonders and if you trek down to the end, you can learn about some of our amazing NCCPG plant collections and heritage plants.
There’s plenty of food for thought for the garden cook, the GYO’er and the kitchen gardener at this year’s show. It’s tucked away a bit, but seek out the Dig In Theatre where celebrity chefs will be cooking up some culinary delights. Check out the Dig In Marquee where you’ll find a mini Borough Market and a fabulous display of garden ingredients from evocative herbs, full of flavcur garlic and some amazing heritage vegetables from some of the leading experts in vegetables, herbs and edibles.
Dig In marquee
Iconic Horticultural Heroes
Let’s hear it for Dutch Landscape Designer Piet Oudolf, who is the 2018 Iconic Horticultural Hero for RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2018. It’s the first installation of this type and is a stunning spectacle with the backdrop of the Hampton Court Palace. Huge bold drifts of herbaceous perennials and grasses have been blended together to create a romantic scene of colour and texture.
Piet Oudolf inspired drifts
Evolve: Through the Roots of Time
Find the dinosaur head and follow the evolutionary path of plants with this time-travelling display, housed inside a giant time capsule. Evolve: Through the Roots of Time starts with the barren landscape of the Cambrian period, some 500 million years ago and moves through the junglesque tropics of the more recent Jurassic era (just 200 million years ago) and into the nearer present day meadows that first bloomed in the more recent Cretaceous period, just 66 million years ago.
Designed by Steve Dimmock and Paula Holland
This sensory garden ticks all the boxes. It’s a contrasting mix of fragrant and aromatic plants presented in a soft palette of beautiful mauves and yellows. Hard contrasting corten steel dividers have been cut with filtered windows to offer a glimpse of impaired vision to the onlooker without detracting from the whole effect. The staggered heights of the plants, together with their see-through presence adds texture to the whole and gently whispers in the summer breeze, but it is the volatile oils, released under the heat of the sun that adds the final dimension to the creation. It’s packed full of fabulous agastache, lavender, nepeta, perovskia and verbena. Stand a moment and be mindful of the sounds, sight and smells of this garden, a conscious reminder of the preciousness of our senses and how lost we would be without them.
The RNIB Community Garden
Best of both Worlds 335
Designed by Rosemary Coldstream
What do you do when your garden tastes are in total contrast with your partner? You create a design that offers the Best of Both Worlds. Which is exactly what Rosemary Coldstream has done with this show garden. On one side is the evocative, soft and ethereal country garden full of fragrant roses and behind the neatly clipped hornbeam division on the other side lies a more contemporary space with harder lines and simpler planting. It offers plenty of ideas for most garden situations, including a water feature that suits both extremes and plants that conjure just the right effect and capture the essence of each design.
Best of both Worlds
Apeiron: The Dibond Garden 805
Designed by Alex Rainford-Roberts
The planting in this garden is simply divine and most of it is actually inside a large, rusted metal box. It’s a textured mix of Ammi majus, veronicastrum, alliums, cornflowers, verbena, scabious and a mix of exquisite botanics that create a soft and beautiful dreamscape. Reflected in multiple it’s a reminder to be in the present moment and experience and enjoy the perfect present through our own eyes and not through a lens of a phone or a camera. This is not the place for selfies, or recording the moments, but a snapshot of beauty filled with our own memories and our own take on its beauty. Outside the darker, starker planting evokes contrasting emotions. It’s an evocative creation, offering an immersive experience and well worth a closer look.
Apeiron: The Dibond Garden
The Santa Rita Living Garden 452
Designed by Alan Rudden Garden Design
I love the simplicity of the colour palette in this garden. The clear, fresh rich oxide yellow walls and screening lift the design and contrast with the fresh lush green evergreen planting, with blue agapanthus accents. It’s a contemporary space offering a taste of Chile. Arid planting of agaves and aloes contrast with the soft silver and pink spires of lambs ears (Stachy byzantina), rich purple salvias and the strikingly elegant velvety leaves of the on-trend Angels Wings Senecio.
The Santa Rita Living Garden
Elements Mystique Garden 655
Designed by Elements Garden Design
There is something quite hypnotic about this small show garden. In the early morning light the contrasting colours and textures stand out spectacularly. The garden is inspired by the work of Belgian sculptor William Roobrouk and showcases a corten steel sphere, representing a fallen meteor. The surrounding planting has a charred and blackened effect, scorched vegetation and ruptured paving from the impact from outerspace. A mix of black foliage plants and brick red heleniums add rich accents to the design.
This enchanting soft white rose is Rose of the Year 2019 and will be unveiled at this year’s show. It’s a climber from Harkness Roses that grows to 2-3m tall and about 2m wide. The open flowers are gently scented and have striking red stamens that stand out against the white softly frilled petals. And it’s a healthy disease resistant strain, so it won’t need spraying for disease issues.
Peter Beales Roses celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with this stunning fragrant climbing rose. It’s a really reliable repeat flowerer with large, blousy blooms with a rich fruity rose fragarnace in good generous clusters. Grows to around 8-10ft.
Tottering by Gently
This soft, primrose yellow rose from David Austin Roses is a delight. It has masses of small, delicate single open flowers (good for bees) in clusters creating a mound of summer colour. Grows to about 4-5ft tall and wide.
Tottering by Gently
This compact rose is plastered with uplifting, bicolour pink and red open flowers. It’s a new variety from Harkness Roses and blooms from June to autumn. It grows to around 3ft tall and wide and could be grown as a low hedge or trained against a low fence or wall. Good disease resistance.
This new variety from Fryers Roses is named after the Goddess of Peace. It a modern, floribunda rose with clusters of soft creamy white flowers that are softly apricot in bud. It has a gentle fragrance and grows to around 2-3ft tall and wide, so it could be grown in a large container if required.
One of the easiest garden annuals to grow, marigolds are not just vibrant bedding plants they are an excellent choice for pots and patio gardening too.
Marigolds in a mixed border. Image: Fleuroselect.
Marigolds are part of the daisy family and originate from north, central and south America where they thrive in full sun. They are best planted into rich, well-drained soil in a sunny spot in your garden.
Marigolds come in a fantastic array of flower shapes, colours and plant forms and are ideal for adding zingy citrus tones to your pots and containers.
There are a rich variety of plant types from the large flowered African Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) to the smaller French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) and including the wild-origin type, single flowered signet Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia). They are all prolific flowerers.
Choose to grow Marigolds for their reliable production of flowers from late spring into autumn.
Marigold flowers are bright and beautiful adding glowing shades of yellow, burnt orange and rustic reds to your pots, beds and border.
Grow single, open flowered marigolds to attract butterflies and bees that will feed on the pollen and nectar.
One of the great things about these plants and flowers is that they put on a fabulous, fiery display right through into late summer and early autumn when many other garden plants are starting to fade away.
Plant low growing French Marigolds at the front of the border for a river of colour around the lines of your garden.
Create an impact; grow compact French marigolds in hanging baskets for a sunny, bright and colourful display at the front door.
Stagger your plants; use the taller African marigolds in the middle or towards the back of a display to add height, interest and depth to your display.
For a low maintenance container, plant three marigolds into the pot in late spring and allow them to fill the space.
Think about the containers you are using for the best effect, why not marry marigolds with rustic woven baskets for a natural look.
Some marigold foliage can be deeply musky or verging on pungent and can be used as a good deterrent for greenhouse whitefly. Plant them with your tomatoes and other crops to deter these greenhouse pests.
Easy to grow
Marigolds are a bright addition to hanging baskets. Image: Fleuroselect
Marigolds are mostly annuals that grow, flower and set seed in the same season and are really, really easy to grow from seed. Seedlings quickly develop into strong, sturdy plants with masses of vibrant orange, red and yellow flowers. If you are new to growing plants from seed, or a little nervous, you may prefer to buy ready grown plants from the nursery or garden centre. Look out for ready to grow plants that are widely available at garden centres after the last frost of spring.
You can plant your marigolds into your pots and containers, beds and borders after the last frost of spring. If you’ve bought plants early then plant them into larger pots with a quality compost, keep them moist and feed them well with Flower Power.
When all risk of frost has passed, move them out into the garden. It’s a good idea to harden them off first. Move them outside during the day and bring them in at night for about a week.
Protect your plants from slugs and snails using a formulation safe for pets and wildlife such as Richard Jackson’s Slug & Snail Control.
Remove dead flower heads regularly to keep the plants flowering.