Asiatic Lily ‘Foxtrot’, Dower House garden early July

Musings on Mid-Summer’s Magic in Gardens

Every season in a garden has its peaks and troughs and they do not necessarily come at the same moment for everyone – they depend, of course, on the chosen planting, on the orientation of the garden and on the degree of care that can be lavished upon it.   

For some gardens, mid-July will be a peak period of sumptuous flowering – stately lilies, towering delphiniums, steely blue eryngiums, perhaps a riot of clematis, late roses, sweet-smelling lavender, tumbling pelargoniums and that reliable delospermum as good as ever.   For others, it will be a lull – a time of cutting back to ensure colour returns later in the year – a lull between the fresh blooms and gleaming foliage of late May and June and the August re-emergence of late summer colour.  It is, after all, the time to prune early summer’s flowering shrubs such as deutzia and philadelphus, the time to cut back nepeta, pimpernella, geums, knautia, Astrantia and roses that need a feed and haircut, giving all of them the opportunity to re-appear in August/September.

Taken in early July at The Dower House, it is time to cut this lot back.

Now is a time too to remove early summer annuals like ammi and echiums to allow the cosmos and nicotiana to take their place.   It is almost, but perhaps not quite, time to cut back the ubiquitous alchemilla before it turns golden and self-seeds everywhere.  So, if the garden seems to be in a bit of a lull, enjoy it, get in there and make room for the plants that want space to come to the fore in just a few weeks – asters, salvias, penstemons, dahlias, grasses … all of which will repay attention now.   

I was considering where we are in The Dower House garden – we do have lilies but they are almost over, the white willowherb is still waving its wands about but they need to be cut back, a lot of things are saying ‘give me space, give me space, I need room to expand’.  Certainly, there is a lot of deadheading – it is a bit like the Forth Road Bridge – when you have been round once you have to start again immediately.  The waving wands of Thalictrum lutea are almost over which is just as well as the dahlias are beginning to throw their weight around and if I want delphiniums again this year, albeit smaller, I must cut them back now.    And I know when I have cut back plants past their best, both the borders and I will feel a lot better.  I kick myself when I find I have held on to dregs of colour.  There are lots of things to engage the attention now anyway – the California poppy Romneya coulteri is in flower, many of the hydrangeas are looking beautiful, the lavender is wonderful and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ has sprung into life in the hot border.  How quickly the year moves on . . .

Be sure to meet up with fellow gardeners this weekend at the Open Gardens event at the Dower House. Ed.

Griselda Kerr
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Griselda Kerr

If not in her Melbourne garden, author Griselda is probably designing, judging, writing or talking about gardening.

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